Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Race Review: Nike Women's Half Marathon SF 2013

I had such a great time and experience at the inaugural Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC this past April (review here), that when the lottery opened up again for what would be the 10th anniversarial running in San Francisco I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring.  I honestly didn't think I would get in...I thought that luck probably couldn't strike twice since I had already been chosen by Nike once this year.  I already had registered for another race the same weekend, The Army Ten Miler- another coveted DC race, as well as already had registered for the Marine Corps Marathon the weekend following.  So I entered the lottery for the half knowing two fulls back to back weekends could very well lead to disaster...especially since I was out for 14 weeks due to injury that mysteriously popped up following my full in March.  

Then I got in!  So exciting!  I sold my Army Ten Miler bib (as did my supportive hubby) and we planned our trip to San Fran!

We arrived on Thursday night (Friday was a day off for our school district).  We headed out to the airport after school on the East Coast which meant by the time we actually arrived at our hotel room it was 1:30am PST but 4:30am for us!  A long exhausting day especially after teaching all day!  

We got a bit of sleep but were up around 6 am PST, got breakfast and got in line for the expotique to open at 8am.  I loved this experience in DC and SF didn't disappoint.  Once it opened the line moved very fast and efficiently to get our bibs/packets.  Thanks volunteers, you rock!!!!  Then we headed up the red carpet into the festivities.  Couldn't have been welcomed better:
The sign picked up the signal from your bib as you entered.  Very cool.


Knowing the drill from last time, I went and put my name in for the free hair styling right away and my appt would be in 20 mins,

so I used that time to get my free shoe laces, Nike sweat towel, buy Nuun and get the SF water bottle like I did in DC.  The lady who did my hair did a great job and she parted it to the side and added a little braid- something I've never done before, but ended up re-doing myself for race morning!  Then I went over to Neutrogena to get my make up done.  So many great free things- free full size sport sunscreen and a tube of lip gloss.  Yeah!  

Then we headed over to Nike Town.  Huge multi-level store very similar to ours in DC.  I really wanted a long sleeve to commemorate the event but I really preferred the men's design with the Golden Gate Bridge on the back.  The Men's small was way too big so I gave up on that.  I did get a NWM SF black tank with Tiffany Blue writing.  I needed new shoes anyway as my current blue/orange pair have lots of miles and I mysteriously lost my bright yellow pair :-(. I decided to go for the limited edition NWM SF pair in Tiffany Blue.

Afterwards we headed up to Muir Woods where I took my new shoes for a spin on a hike through the Redwoods.  My husband and I kept talking about what a perfect trail run it would have been!

Then we stopped by Stinson Beach to round out the day.
I miss living in California sometimes!

Saturday morning, we did breakfast bright and early then at 8 am meet up with some online friends from the Distant Runners blogging community!  What fun!
Colene, Courtney, Kat, Me and a little photo-bomber

Then we hit the road for a busy day with stops in Berkley, downtown Sacramento, Davis and Concord to visit my sister and have dinner with her and her husband.
Family sushi dinner
We headed out on hour long drive home exhausted.  We got to our room and realized we had not planned out breakfast for the next morning...getting to my corral at 6 am wouldn't leave much time to get something in the morning and our room didn't have a microwave, etc.  I double checked with the front desk and they said there would be NO continental breakfast only coffee, so we decided we'd try and hit the 24 hour diner for toast in the morning.  I laid out my clothes and tried to get some rest :-)

The next morning, I got up at 5 am and with the current 48 degree temps I made a last min decision to forgo my shirts and wear capris.  I got dressed and had my throw away zip up on top of my arm warmers.  Lo and behold in the lobby were bagels, peanut butter and bananas.  I forced down a very dry half a bagel with pb and half of a banana, had a few sips of coffee and I was out the door.

What I was not prepared for was how hard it would be to GET to my corral.  From where I was, I had to cross through corrals to get to mine. It was wall to wall people and they were not happy about me trying to wiggle through them.  I found another racer with my green bracelet and we decided to join forces to make it there together.  That helped immensely!  We made it just in time.  Just like DC, it was so nice being in that corral because it felt like VIP entrance...they would only let you into it you had the sub 8:00 min pace bracelet on.  Once in- there was so much space and room to move around.  Yeah!  I took off my throw away before the race even started, it felt so much warmer than I expected.
The start line
Once again, a great Nike experience at the start...great music I was grooving to, they got us pumped up and motivated!  Then they set off the fireworks and we were off!  The early 6:30am start meant that my first 5 miles were in the dark.   at mile 1 there were rows of empty porta potties so i stopped there so I wouldn't have to later and risk a line.  I know we ran by the piers and the park that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge but it was dark and I really couldn't tell.
Daylight was barely breaking when I caught sight of my hubby and daughter at mile 5....I had to stop for a kiss!  How could I resist?  (And to pass off my arm warmers!).
The best cheerleaders
Mile 6 we headed up THE hill.  There were already two smaller hills in the early miles but this was the doozy...it was steep and just kept going for over a mile.  The NWM website admits its a big hill but says "you will be rewarded with great views of the city"....yeah not so much.  The whole race was socked in by fog so we had ZERO views of anything.  Running through fog was cool though.
Heading up hill into the fog
The hill was long and steep but I just kept telling myself "you are strong, you are powerful".  A girl passed me on the hill wearing a shirt that said "HILL YEAH!" on the back-LOVED IT!  Then I got to the downhill....it was painful!  Due to my foot condition, the pressure on my forefoot caused by downhill running is the worst.  I kept thinking to myself that I'd much rather be running up another hill than have to go down it!  We had another big uphill through neighborhoods, then a downhill where I could tell we were oceanfront, but couldn't actually see the beach or water.  On this down hill was thinking about how awesome those heelie shoes with the wheels in them would be right about then!  (Right Kat Robey?)

We then passed near the finish and headed out for a final 3 mile loop through a park and the campus of USF.  On the campus, there was a tunnel we headed through called "party animal tunnel" and the quality of the sidewalk there was so poor and uneven that it caused the nerve in my foot to act up.  I always have to try and run on even surfaces to avoid pain.  I also can't run over sewer grates etc.  So for the next half mile I was dealing with sharp pinching foot pain.  

Then I knew I was in the final stretch.  We had another down hill and I turned a corner and saw the large finish sign...I usually have gas in the tank to gun it to the finish line, but I just kept pace this time.  Between those hills and not fueling at all during the course- I didn't have the extra gas.  

I crossed the finish line and paused my Garmin at exactly 1:49:00 even.  No PR, but that was not a PR course either.  Add in lack of sleep from traveling and not eating my regular foods...I was still happy.

Then I headed onto the red carpet to get my little blue box from the firemen in tuxedos
got my finishers shirt and bag of food.  I was excited to see bananas and chocolate milk!  I had asked Nike to do chocolate milk after doing the DC one- and here it was!  :-). I grabbed a Mylar blanket which I've never done at a race and I'm glad I did because it got freezing cold quick!
look at that fog!
I was top 3% of my age group!  Wahoo!

I got in touch with Jim by text and realized it had taken them an hour to find parking near the finish so they missed me finish.  My sister and her husband were trying to catch me at the finish too but couldn't due to difficulty finding parking.  Logistically, it was a tough course for spectators.  We decided to meet at an intersection that was at the half/full split.  I think it speaks to the difficulty of the course because in just those five minutes I was watching, I saw at least ten full marathoners divert to head to the half marathon finish line.  

modeling my new finisher's necklace, I wore my DC one the whole race!

This was included explaining the meaning behind the design this year
We had brunch and headed off to be tourists for the day.

We took an open top bus tour and man did it get chilly!  When we were down all I wanted to do was take a warm shower- I just couldn't shake the cold!  I took a warm shower and then we met up with Colene from Distant Runners again and her boyfriend Todd in town from Oregon for happy hour in our hotel lobby.  They are such great people!  Colene was going to run the full, but was dealing with a stress fracture in her foot and diverted to the half finish.  Her story here
Colene and Colleen

Then we found pizza by the slice for dinner and headed to bed.  I woke up the next morning at 5 am with extreme abdominal pain.  It only felt good to lay in the fetal position in bed.  I went and joined my family for breakfast, but was so painful.  I walked the whole way bent over at the waist.  I wanted to lay in bed all day but we had a 10am check out.  We checked out and drove to see a few more sites.  It hurt anytime I moved or twisted like to reach behind me.  At Golden Gate park I lifted my leg to get into the car and it caused such sharp stabbing pain near my belly button that it caused tears to form.  Jim quickly looked up appendicitis and we headed over to Golden Gate Urgent Care just to see what they thought.  The doctor poked and prodded and told me she thought it was my appendix.  She told me not to get on our flight but to head over to the Emergency Room two miles away.  She called them to let them know I was coming.  It was pretty scary- everything just kept running through my head- surgery? Stuck in SF?  Work?  

I was at the ER for about 5 hours in a hospital gown, with no cell service so I couldn't let Jim know what was going on and so bored with no tv, no magazine, no phone, no Internet :-(. They decided to do a CT scan to check my appendix so I had to drink a terrible tasting fluid and then they hooked up my IV to a fluid that made me feel warm and funny, then they did the scan.  I had to wait an hour for those results.
Finally at 6pm, I was discharged after CT, blood and urine tests were normal.  They said they aren't sure what caused it.  It made for a really long, painful day.  Now we were stuck in SF with no hotel and no flight home.  We booked another hotel and rebooked flights (having to pay the difference which was much more expensive last minute and a $200 change fee which will be refunded eventually when I send them my medical paperwork).  

$1400 later, we are currently on our way home.  It stinks, but I'm glad I was safe rather than sorry.  A teacher on my team said her sister's appendix burst because she fought through the pain and didn't want to make a big deal.  I just didn't want to be caught in the middle of a 5+ hour flight if things went south :-(. 

Overall, it was a great race and a great trip.  Just stinks it ended the way it did....but hey- now I have a Tiffany necklace, an ER bracelet and a CD of images of my insides to remember the trip by right?  


  1. Hi Colleen- I'm so sorry that things didn't end well, but it sounds like you made the best of your trip! I'm so glad you got to meet up with friends and Erin too! I have never been to California, but would love to go sometime, and SF seems like it would be a great place. Boy, that course looks brutal! You had a great time with all those hills, wow! I hope that you are better soon, and that you figure out what is going on. Take care of yourself!!!

  2. Oh no!! So sorry to hear about your ordeal! First thing I thought of was appendicitis, but that is usually your left lower quadrant. So bizarre...sounds strange to say, but maybe just gas? I've had gas pains that have left me in tears before. Glad everything came back normal. How are you feeling now?

  3. I live in the Bay Area, and even I don't do that many things in a weekend - let alone in one day! And since I live near here, you would have thought I would have been prepared for the fog and chilly weather. It had been unusually warm and nice a few days before the race. But duh, this is San Francisco we're talking about. Last year the race was fogged in, but not cold. I took a hot shower when I got home this year, but seriously took me a few days to warm up!

    Glad it wasn't your appendix, but how scary! You feeling better? Did they ever figure out what it was?

  4. That sounds like a great race. I definitely want to do it sometime! Too bad it was foggy and you didn't have good views though.
    So sorry about your stomach pains. I think you did the right thing by getting checked out before heading home.
    Congrats on your time too! You're SO fast!! :)

  5. The race sounds fantastic, but the ER trip sounds scary! Glad everything was okay.

  6. So glad you're ok! Sometimes after my longer runs I have severe stomach pains/cramps. I haven't fully figured them out yet. If you do, let me know! ;)

    Tell me, what is your running watch that you use? I'm not too sure if I want one or not. I use my iphone as my gps/timing accessory.

    I really enjoy reading your blog!

  7. I had such a great time and experience at the inaugural Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC this past April (review here), that when the lottery ... enikewomen.blogspot.com