US Half Marathon San Francisco Recap

Past Sunday I ran my #7 Half marathon! (11/4/2014)

Overall, I feel satisfied and accomplished, which is the feeling a runner strives for after a race. NO, my time wasn’t great and my competitive spirit (read: ego) is not too happy about it. But I am slowly getting over the idea I have to PR every time I race. It is not the (only) end goal of running. New distances, endurance, fun, new experiences, adventure, destination runs, and much more - are all bona fide benefits of running that will land a huge smile on your face as you cross the finish line!

The best memory I walked, or limped, away with was the beautiful scenery and very cool route. We ran the famed Golden Gate Bridge! Twice! Well, there and back that is. Since I just moved to the Bay area about two weeks ago, I am still a total tourist and this was a huge plus. I enjoyed the scenery, the weather was nice but a different climate than were I came from and it all made me feel like I was on a run-cation. My biggest realization was:

Enjoying the race makes time pass faster and the running feels so much easier!

Making our way to the Golden Gate Bridge[/caption]

Shocker, right?

Some races, I start suffering at the mile 1 marker, and just continue to puff and huff till the very finish. But this Sunday was great from the get-go! It wasn’t too cold at the start, I dressed perfectly for the conditions and felt very comfortable the whole time (more on the dress code later). Whenever I felt tired, I gazed into the distance and saw either that beautiful red bridge, or the blue ocean, or the small islands around - including the infamous Alcatraz, and my mind just wandered off.


Taking pictures while running is quite an art![/caption]


Start Line


I sometimes imagine what would happen if I was a famous marathoner, getting interviewed for Runner’s World magazine, sharing my tips and tricks. (shut up, all runner girls imagine stuff like that!) So the interviewer would ask me: _It’s five minutes before the start of the race! What are you doing? _My response: I’m in the port-a-potty. Question: Ok, the gun is off and the race is starting!! Where are you, on the front of the pack? The middle? Taking selfies? My response: Still in the port-a-potty. Every. Singe. Time. No matter if it’s a 5k or a marathon, down the street from my house or hours of driving away. My nerves (and drinking) get the best of me and I am always in that super long port-a-potty line at the start.

I did have time for a start line selfie nonetheless[/caption]

I think it is safe to make sure your bladder is empty, I just hate seeing nervous runners in lines during the race! Specially the potties on mile 1, which were pretty crowded this time around if I may add. As long as I’m not loosing precious minutes of my already weakened race time, I will wait in line patiently as long as it takes! And that is why I crossed the start line over 5minutes after the gun went off!

There are benefits to starting the race a bit late. I avoided the start line crowd and got to pass a lot of people during the first mile or two (ego boost!). There is no time to be super nervous waiting for that gun to go off, because you are making your way to that start line which is usually like half a mile away. Once you are there, just check if your shoes are tied and off you go! No thinking, no nerves, just run.


The Race

US Half Marathon starts at the Bay and you enjoy water views throughout - very few race features can beat that if you ask me!

I was just excited to be running again! This was my first longer distance race in about 6 months, and the running rush was stronger than the nerves.

I did not know what to expect from the terrain. I knew there was a decent climb, by analyzing the race course map online, but being that I am not a hill or mountain runner, I do not really know what 300ft is and how will I feel trying to run that uphill.


Here is a mile by mile recap, for those who are into that kind of stuff!

MILE 1: 8:49 I decided I will pace myself, though I logged the first mile in a sub-9 pace, quite quick compared to my current training pace. I believe in negative splits but always get worked up with the crowd!

MILE 2: 9:17 Passing a good chunk of people at the tail of the race. Starting late feels good right about now.

MILE 3: 9:28 Feeling strong and avoiding the crowds as much as possible. Over 5k people at this race - not too big, not too small!

MILE 4: 10:35 We hit a nice climb at this point, making our way up to the Golden Gate bridge. The run felt easy up to this point. It felt like a preparation for the real race - the bridge!

MILE 5: 10:19 Still on that climb. Yes, I will blame it on that. I honestly can’t remember, but the trip up the bridge was pretty long and up-hill, down-hill.

MILE 6: 9:38. Back to what is a decent pace for me in a half (hint: if it starts with a 9, it’s all good). I am almost half way, yay!

MILE 7: 9:17. We ran the bridge! It was fun and beautiful, although navigating people on the narrower side walk wasn’t easy at times. They did not close the bridge for the race (of course, I guess), so we ran on the side and got a few encouraging beeps from the passing cars. Funny story: at one point we hit a pole and were trying to avoid it, and I of course ran into another runner. I tripped on her feet and was convinced I was going to FALL! We both grabbed onto each other and managed to stay standing - I am laughing as I am writing this. I am just super clumsy.

The view of the Bridge on the other side.[/caption]

MILE 8: 10:23 Coming to Marin county was beautiful, with a close-up view of the mountains ahead. We ran a super steep downhill, under the bridge, and an equally steep uphill on the other side.

MILE 9: 9:23 Back on the bridge and on our way to the finish line! Closer with each step.

MILE 10: 8:57 Not bad Matea! I was surprised to notice the bridge isn’t flat as it seems, there was a climb and a descend after half way - hence the pace. Since when are bridges uphills? On yeah, since always.

Loving every minute of this beautiful race[/caption]

MILE 11: 9:31 YAY, we ran the Bridge. This is the point where the race started feeling a bit tiresome.

MILE 12: 9:49 That felt like way longer than just 10 minutes. I was pretty tired and felt my legs where giving up on me. The way back from the bridge was a different route than on the way there - which is great because it was flatter. We ran on a trail surface next to the water.

MILE 13: 9:52 Correction. This felt like the longest mile ever! There was some down hill right before the end and it hurt my knees and lower back. I was feeling the impact and was tired of that up hill down hill business already!

MILE 0.27: 8:53 FINISH!!!! According to my Garmin I ran a bit longer than 0.1 (each mile marker it vibrated way sooner than the physical markers on the course). In any case, I was happy to be done with it!

I finished the race at just 2:08 according to net time, 2:07:54 according to my Garmin. That is about 12 minutes slower than my PR of 1:56. Not my slowest either, so I’ll take it!

Finish!!! Hilarious face finish line photo: check![/caption]

Bling bling[/caption]

The hardware for this race is very nice and in my taste - the medal spins!!! Overall, all the race swag is pretty and practical! LOVE my tech, long sleeve black shirt with red accents, I have seriously worn it a few times in the last few days. Love the red reusable bottle, and the medal. We got a few nutrition samples at the race, that were ok but not spectacular (feed me and I will be happy!).

The “after” shot[/caption]

The Gear

I always go for comfort as opposed to looks!

I know I look pretty hilarious, red and puffy when I run no matter what, but I might as well feel as good as possible. I follow the old runners’ rule: NO NEW STUFF ON RACE DAY! I’ve had extensive experience with chaffing, heartburn and bad stomach issues to know I should follow this one every time.



Cap with lightly tinted sunglasses. I can’t help myself - running in Florida taught me to be vary of the sun and keep my face protected.



I started with the most comfy sports bra I could find, I am not sure of the brand as I have had it for some time already. Top was a moisture wicking hot pink tank (to keep me cheered up) with some ventilation on the back, that I got for a great price somewhere once.

I brought my Zensah arms sleeves, expecting it to be a bit cool. I layered my Big Sur race shirt with long sleeves on top, and was comfortable at the start. I only took it off at mile 3-4, as we got out of the shade and the morning started to warm up.


I wore my Zoot triathlon shorts - to avoid chaffing! They didn’t ride up much, I adjusted them a few times. But they are great if you are a sweater like me because the fabric is designed to go from wet to dry. They also have side pockets where I tucked my phone.



I wore Zensah compression leg sleeves, Balega ultra light socks (I never knew just how important good socks are until I started racing and buying nice gear), and my Kailua trail Hokas. I was contemplating about wearing my Brooks PureCadence, but since I am coming from a year of some pain and injury, and I expected hills, I chickened out last minute and wore my “safe” shoes. Boy did I love them in the last 2 miles! The final downhills took a toll on my legs and I actually felt like even Hokas didn’t protect me from the impact enough. Running hills, up or down, is a skill!



I have an Amphipod handheld bottle, the smallest size it comes in (10.5oz), covered in fabric for insulation. It is my best running buddy as I am very thirsty always, specially in hot weather!

Garmin Forerunner 910x - it’s a triathlon watch that works great for running only.

Music! I brought my iPhone to take pics and I definitely listen to music, specially on longer races. I am not sure if it was officially allowed on this race (some forbid it), but I saw plenty of people jamming to their music. I always make sure I can hear my surroundings, by pulling one earplug out if needed. This race didn’t coincide with any traffic and it was a safe course.



To the most important topic: what and when to EAT !

I eat breakfast pretty late in the day, I take my time waking up my metabolism. If I can afford it, I like to wake up to a nice detoxing warm lemon water, maybe some herbal tea, and then eat fruits, smoothies and my usual breakfast. In Ayurveda, I have a vatta digestion which is dry, slow and takes time to jump start.

So on a race day, when I am up at about 5am, and racing at 7am, I usually do not eat breakfast. If I feel the need for energy, I will eat something light, and keep my focus on hydration by drinking water upon rising, and then coconut water or a drink with electrolytes on my way to the race.

I only started using gels, chews and fizzes a couple of years ago when I was working in a running store and was constantly surrounded by that environment. Adding electrolytes was the biggest change, specially when I lived in Florida because the danger of dehydration is pretty high there. I used to get headaches after races and long hard training days, and after adding proper hydration (read: more than just water), and breathing properly, my headaches went away.



I tried a few Gu chews before the race but didn’t like the taste. I added Nuun to my handheld water bottle at start, which I refilled at water stations twice during the race with only water.


I took my first GU gel at mile 3-4, and the second at 9-10. I took one cup of electrolyte drink on the race, and it luckily wasn’t Gatorade but a Vega powder! Gotta love San Francisco!


We got a beautiful reusable bottle at the end of the race, and there were big tanks of water for us to self-serve using the new bottle. Again, the eco-conscious mentality at this race made a very positive impact on me! I drank a good amount of water, and grabbed a banana, mandarines, a Chia bar and a small Kind bar on my way out of the finish line area. I took a finish line photo with my hubby, and we slowly made our way to the car, where I ate my treats to gain back some energy.

FINISH LINE!!![/caption]

I hope you find my recap useful and if you are intrigued by this course, I highly recommend this race for next year! It was fun, challenging enough yet beautiful and the scenery did all the work distracting me from any pains and suffering that running a half marathon brings. Now onto new running adventures!