Hello! February went by in a blur, and here we are, almost 4 weeks since I last blogged. I’m doing well for the most part. Still adjusting to the “new” job — I went to a work meeting/conference in Dallas during the 2nd week of February, came home for 36 hours, then T and I went LA to see Mike and Katie (of RaceRaves fame!) for President’s Day weekend. I logged my lowest weekly mileage ever during half marathon training — 2.3 miles, on a treadmill, in between work meetings. But, you know, what’s done is done. Or rather, what’s not done isn’t done. 😉
I came back from that 2.3 mile week and got back on the training horse, doing my usual ~10 miles during the week. That Saturday (the 24th), I headed to Richmond to pace the 2:20 group at Brazen’s Victory Half Marathon. This is one of the newer Brazen races and I had yet to run it. It starts up near Richmond Marina, then runs south along the shoreline to the Albany bulb (just north of Golden Gate Fields), then back again to Richmond. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting course — I’ve run these paths many times during marathon training and it’s often a “let’s put on headphones and put one foot in front of the other” kind of slog. However, it is extremely flat, and on a clear day (like last Saturday), there are beautiful views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I got to the race at 7am, when I was supposed to meet my fellow Trivalley Running Group pacers, but no one was there yet. It was unusually cold (real feel 32 degrees F!), so I went back to my car to stay warm. Eventually, it was time to face the weather and I met up with the pacing team at 7:30 for a group photo.
After some more shenanigans (I was unusually disoriented that morning — * foreshadowing *), I did a short warmup and lined up in the start corral at 7:50.
So the two things I regret about pre-race preparation (or lack thereof): not looking at the course map and not knowing where the aid stations were. Not a huge deal, but I feel like, as a pacer, I should be able to give runners some basic information. There was also a huge gap between the 2nd and 3rd aid station (and subsequently, the 4th and 5th aid stations), for which I felt it would have been good to be mentally prepared.
At 8:00 a.m., the airhorn sounded and we were off. I was really lucky during this race to have people running with me almost the whole time. There are some races where I’m pacing no one — not even someone who might be following me, like 10 seconds behind. Sometimes there are people around but not all of them want to engage in conversation. So, it’s a total crapshoot.
For the first couple of miles, I was running with A. My legs already felt heavy and it was only mile 2. Oh well. I lost A at an aid station, but picked up M, who was using the race as a training run for the L.A. Marathon. We chatted on and off until the halfway point, where she decided she needed a stretch break. I noticed that we were running just a tad faster than 10:40/mile (according to my Garmin), but my time elapsed was on track at each mile marker. So, I went with the mile markers instead of my Garmin, which is what I tend to do when I’m pacing.
After I completed the lap at the Albany loop, which is the only section that’s not on pavement, I ended up talking to W. We ran together pretty much for the rest of the race. W told me that if he stuck with me, he’d have a 4+ minute PR. Challenge accepted! At about 9.5 miles, I pulled off course to make use of park restrooms (yay flushing toilets). I sprinted for a few minutes to catch up with W. I was happy that I made up my time lost (about 3 minutes) and maybe that’s what led me to zone out a bit. I somehow missed a turn and ran through a set of red cones.
Thinking back, I must’ve seen the aid station in the distance and subconsciously decided to run towards it on the shortest path possible. As I approached the aid station, a runner came from an adjoining trail came up and yelled towards me, “Hey, you cut the course!” I was completely stunned and confused. One of the aid station volunteers confirmed that I had come from the wrong direction. What made it worse was that I had about 5 runners following me. The aid station captain was just about to call Sam, one of the race organizers, to ask him what we should do when W pointed out that we didn’t run too far off course — we could just go back to where we missed the turn and get back on course. Thank goodness for W’s clear thinking! It was probably a 100 yards, so not that bad of a mistake. I was pretty annoyed at myself nonetheless.
I ran hard back to the missed turn and tried to make up for lost time, apologizing profusely to those who followed me. In the craziness of it all, I stopped my Garmin out of habit, so now I had no idea how much time I lost during that whole debacle. I decided to estimate chip time based on time of day — assuming that we started right at 8:00 a.m., and that I crossed the start line about 30 seconds after. I still felt like I was running (time) blind, something a pacer shouldn’t be doing. Even though I picked up the pace, I was relieved to see that W was still with me. I managed to pick up a couple more runners in the last mile, too, who seemed happy to be finishing with the 2:20 pacer.
This is the first time I’ve crossed the finish line as a pacer with no idea what my finish time was. So, I was super relieved to see that I finished in 2:19:37, 23 seconds off my target. Even better, I helped W achieve a 4+ minute PR. Victory indeed! But still, there were some valuable lessons learned — I need to be more on top of things before and during races. And never, ever stop my watch!
About the race:
- Organizers: Brazen Racing
- Cost: (n/a, I was a pacer)
- Course: Out and back course: starts at the Richmond Marina, runs south along the shoreline to Albany, and back again. Completely exposed, so can be warm if the sun is out. Total elevation gain/loss: 125 feet according to my Garmin. I was surprised to see that because it seemed completely flat. Asphalt/cement for a most of the course, with a small gravel/dirt loop at the turnaround in Albany.
- Parking: Plentiful and free.
- Aid stations: 6 with water and Ultima electrolyte drink. There was probably food, but I didn’t look for any. There was a large gap (about 4 miles) between Aid 2 & 3, and Aid 4 & 5. On a warmer day, that would have been brutal.
- Bathrooms: Many porta potties at the start and some park bathrooms en route.
- Swag: Nice looking war ship — Richmond was where ships were built during WWII (and home of “Rosie the Riveter”). If people ran the Bay Breeze, they got a special connector piece that connects both medals for the B2V challenge. Lots of food afterwards, as usual. Free race photos taken by volunteers.
- Misc.: This race has decent PR potential, depending on the weather. Though it was cold at the start, I eventually warmed up. The scenery is a mixed bag — there are a few nice views of SF and the Golden Gate Bridge, but also quite a few lackluster areas. As always, Brazen puts on a good race. This would be a good race to try to PR (weather permitting), or for those looking for a easy, fun run that’s not super crowded.