San Francisco Marathon 2005

Well, I finished, which is great, but in 4:25, which was a little disappointing as I was shooting for under 4 hours. I ran the first half in exactly 2 hrs, and kept the pace through about 18. Then I slowed a bit, and was hit with crippling hamstring cramps around mile 21. So I walked and ran the rest whenever I wasn't howling and hopping in pain from cramps. I guess maybe 6'7" 225lb guys weren't meant to run marathons...

It all started when I thought I would run the Napa Valley marathon before our daughter Eliza was born, but then we had to go to a wedding that weekend. Then I found out my brother-in-law was running the SF Half, and that meant I would have some family out here to cheer for me, so I decided to run the SF Marathon.

I did a pretty good job of training, despite the fact that we had our 3rd child about 3 months before the marathon. I was definitely low on sleep a lot, but still managed to get in weekly track workouts, tempo runs, and long runs on the weekend. I did 2 20-milers, at 5 and 3 weeks before the marathon respectively, and figured out that I need lots of food and water to keep my energy up. A few of my long runs were done up at altitude in the Tahoe national forest. In general, I felt like I trained about as well as I ever had, and was in the best shape I've been in for years.

I found out that they were starting the marathon ridiculously early, my start time was 5:24am. Apparently this was because the run went across the Golden Gate, and they wanted to re-open it in a reasonable timeframe. The end result was I slept on a cot in a hotel room in SF shared with my brother-in-law. On the way up, I stopped at the expo to get my bib, and very cool t-shirt and hat. The rest of the goodie-bag was worthless. The expo was pretty good - I saw nearly all of it because they make you walk through the whole thing to pick up your shirts and hats.

On the morning of the race, I woke at 3:30 to eat some granola with yoghurt and a banana, which is my usual breakfast. Then I went back to bed for about 20 minutes. David and I got up and dressed at about 4:15, then grabbed a taxi to the start line, arriving around 4:50. The weather was not too cold, about 60 or so, so we definitely didn't need sweats for the run, and didn't really need them at all at the start.

I did my routine, waiting for a port-a-potty, then checking my sweats, and stretching a bit. We lined up in huge corrals based on expected finish time. They started a bit strangely, with the walkers going off at 5am, then 20 mins later starting the actual race with the fastest folks (including David) in the first wave. I was in the second wave, and crossed the line at almost exactly 5:24am, in a huge crowd of people.

We started with an easy, crowded run down the Embarcadero, then up and over Fort Mason. I saw Sarah Reinertson there, doing her thing - she was really nice, and said some encouraging things to me. According to my watch, and the mile markers, I was a little slow the first few miles, more like 9:20 instead of the 9:00 pace I was looking for, but I wasn't worried yet.

We trudged up the hill towards the bridge, then were all packed into one lane going over. Unfortunately, this was about the time we started to catch the walkers, so it made passing especially difficult. The bridge was really crowded, and I found myself checking stride and running around people quite a lot - very annoying. They also didn't have mile markers on the bridge, which was doubly annoying - I had no idea how fast or slow I was going.

I did see David as he was cruising back over the bridge at 1:01, and shouted to him but he didn't see me. I was able to pick up the pace a little on the way back, and on the downhill mile 10 ran my fastest mile, an 8:10. We then headed up into Golden Gate Park, and passed the halfway mark at almost exactly 2:00. On pace, and since most of the up hills are early on, I might be able to make up a little time.

I saw Louisa, David, Kira, and Lola at mile 15, and got some more goo and a replacement cytomax bottle. After that, I met another runner named John who told me a funny story about his wife watching her dad run a marathon, and commenting that "He'd better hurry up, or he won't win!"

I ran with John through the park and around the lake, chatting a little to take my mind off the pain. I knew I was slowing a little, but still thought I could makee a 4:05 or 4:10. By mile 19 on Haight St I was definitely slower, when I saw Louisa and Kira and the kids again, this time accompanied by David W.

I got ahead of John on a downhill on Haight, and kept trundling on alone for a while. Then I got hammered by painful quad cramps at mile 21, and had to limp around for a little while until I could walk. There were no mile markers for quite a while, so it was discouraging to keep going and have no idea how much farther I had to go, but I kept at it. John caught up with me when I was hit with crippling hamstring cramps a few minutes later. I was screaming aloud, and hopping around, attracting a bit of attention, but it eventually eased and I walked some more. John walked with me, and then we ran a bit more, until my calves began seizing up too. We walked and ran, picking out markers to run to, then walking. We finally passed a mile marker at 24, and knew we were going very slowly at this point.

At mile 25 I saw Jash and got a high five, which made me determined to run the rest of the way, but I got one more killer hammy cramp that just leveled me. I finally finished relatively strong over last half mile, but cramped as soon as I stopped. I managed to walk it out for a bit, and not yell aloud. I did see everyone cheering for me at the finish, which was great. After the logistics of getting a medal, turning in the chip, getting a pic, etc., I headed for the food table. I got some cytomax, then found that bananas were one per runner - crazy. Even the bars were one per runner, and that was basically it. Fortunately Kira had some extra food - I was famished. Then I tried to stretch, but my abused muscles weren't that psyched about it. I felt okay after a while, though.

Later that afternoon I got an hour massage, and it felt great. I think it really helped my recovery.

For the record, I ate 9 goos (PowerGel mostly, some Cytomax gel) and drank cytomax at every water stop, as well as nearly all of 2 bottles that I carried. And I still got the cramps. I guess I need to take salt pills.

Maybe my new distance is the half marathon...

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