Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Category Archives: bay to breakers

Across a City In Under an Hour

For the fourth time, Mark and I accompanied some friends to the Bay to Breakers run. Last year I accomplished my goal of running the 12K race in under an hour (59:37, I think), so people kept asking what my goal for this year would be. “To do better,” I said. I don’t know. I’m not a runner, and so I’m not going to get much more off my time. The best finishing times are around 35 minutes; the best times in my age group are around 40. So while I could maybe–maybe–get down to 50 minutes with a lot of training and work, I am pretty happy just to keep generally fit and be able to run a 7.7 mile race with very little specific preparation.

For the first time, we didn’t stay in the city before the race. Caltrain ran special trains, and we took the first one up, which got us about a mile and a half from the start in just enough time for us to walk there and join the press of people surging toward the start. The train itself was amusing, very much a party train inasmuch as any train can be at 5:45 in the morning. We couldn’t sit together, and David ended up sitting with people who were shaking glitter over everyone and drinking. There were costumes: a seahorse, a cow, a couple in mock-wedding clothes with “Just Married” taped to the back, and all kinds of crazy, colorful garb. We’d thought we might nap on the way up, but that proved pretty impossible.

The weather this year was about the best since the first time we ran it: sunny and warm, and I know that’s not ideal running weather, but at 7 am it is. (For better or worse, I think the weather was responsible for the much greater incidence of naked runners this year.) We crossed the starting line around 7:08 in a mob of people and I immediately tried to build up speed, which involves a lot of running back and forth to get around people who are conserving their energy. This year, I used the Nike+ app on my phone to give me mile-by-mile updates, which was helpful: over the first two miles, it told me my average pace was 7:20/mile, which was great considering I just need to average 8 minutes per mile to finish in an hour.

Then we hit the hill. That’s always a killer, and this year, like last, I tried to run up it. Made it last year, didn’t quite make it this year. The last block wore me out. But then we got to run down the other side. There’s a long flat run to the park, and in the park the first mile or so slopes uphill, which I hadn’t really noticed before, but it did hurt my time; my average at mile 5 was 7:54/mile. Still on pace, but up from 7:53/mile the previous mile, and I thought I’d been doing pretty well. The track sloped downhill from there, and with the determination of improving my time, I made full use of the assistance of gravity.

Once again, it was a huge lift to see the ocean come into view. I love the ocean anyway, and seeing it at the end of the race is pretty sweet. Gives me a good lift for that last stretch, with the finish line right there. So I pushed, and crossed the line (the clocks read 1:12 on one side and 1:13 on the other, having been started at some oddly arbitrary point before 7 am), and when I pulled up the Nike+ app to stop it (after fumbling to get the phone out of the hip pouch and so on), it showed my time at 59:51. So I was pretty sure I’d beaten my old time, and sure enough, when Mark found me and scanned the QR code on the back of the bib, my official time was posted at 58:58.

So that was my race. We had a couple first timers with us this time who both did really well, and three repeat runners who did pretty well except for poor David hurting his ankle partway through. And the weather held all the way through–San Francisco is really a beautiful city, and it was being shown off perfectly (it has its charm in the rain and the fog, too, but that’s a different kind of beauty, and one that’s harder to appreciate when you’re wearing short sleeves and runner’s shorts in an ocean breeze). On the bus to the Caltrain, we talked to a guy who’d run in the 75th race (that would be 26 years ago) and was now walking the races, posting a 13-minute mile walking, which is great. He talked about how the race used to be, in the days before they capped the tickets, and although there are still a lot of people there, he seemed to think it was an improvement.

And when we got home on the train, it was twenty to one and the farmers market was still going on. We felt a little odd that so much of the day remained, considering what we’d already done. Grilled burgers for lunch, and then people scattered to finish off their Sundays. And yes, we got to see the partial eclipse later that night.

And today I’m sore, but happy. Bay to Breakers is always lots of fun, and something you should put on your bucket list. :)