The Bay to Breakers 12K race took place on Sunday but for me the race seemed to go on all weekend long. Friday was the elite athlete press conference, my first ever! When my coach Mark told me I was to run Bay to Breakers two weeks ago I never expected to get treated as an elite athlete complete with all the bells and whistles. I arrived at the Hyatt on Friday not quite knowing what to expect.
The press conference took place in a nice room off of the hotel lobby and consisted of an opening speech by the race director, introductions of the athletes and then an open question and answer session. Most of the questions were directed towards the defending women's champion Lineth and one of the top American male runners and a personal hero of mine Meb Keflezhigi. However towards the end of the session a reporter wanted to hear from us local first time runners and get our thoughts on the race. The press seemed to enjoy my response about the race being a party event for a number of my friends in the city, and after the formal session a couple reporters wanted little interviews with me! I tried to be charming, intelligent and not too self conscious.
After the press conference was over we got treated to a delicious lunch. The food was really good and very runner friendly. I even got to sit next to Meb and gush at him all through the lunch.
The next day, Saturday, we had a pre-race dinner meeting which I attended with Val. It was also at the Hyatt and during the dinner we filled out paperwork, signed posters and figured out race morning logistics. Val and I were checking our watches all night to see when we could get out of there and get into bed! It was going to be a very early morning, we were supposed to be gathered in the hospitality room at the hotel at 5:15am.
I fell asleep pretty quickly Saturday night and felt like I slept deeply and well. I woke up feeling excited and refreshed but of course it was still dark out. Just to make sure, I checked the time on my watch. It read 1:59am! Oh boy, I was ready to go but I was supposed to sleep until 4am! So then I laid in bed and tried to go back to sleep but it didn't really happen. I snoozed on and off for the next couple hours and when the alarm finally sounded I was out of bed like a shot. First things first I trooped upstairs and turned on the coffee maker that I had pre-filled the night before. As the coffee got brewing I made sure my timing tag was on my shoes and also made a couple hard boiled eggs. Once the coffee was done I poured myself a cup and started drinking it. Even though I was pretty awake at that point I like my coffee too much to not have any!
Then I went back downstairs and got suited up: compression socks, race shorts, sports bra and singlet with my number already attached. I put on a couple of layers over that including a rain jacket and hat and took my backpack upstairs. Sean had gotten up at this point and was wandering around with his coffee muttering about how early it was. My stomach was grumbling at this point so I ate one hard boiled egg with salt and finished up my coffee. After one last check of my stuff we left the house at 4:40 to pick up Val from the park and ride.
Val was waiting for us by the time we got to the park and ride so it was a quick stop to let her hop in the car, and then we got on the freeway towards San Francisco. Traffic was minimal but still there were a lot of cars for 4am on a Sunday, clearly a lot of Marinites were heading towards Bay to Breakers! The night before Alexa Glencer had asked if we could pick her up in the Marina on our way to the Hyatt race morning so of course I said yes. We picked up Alexa on Lombard St. and Sean then took his super secret way to get to the front door of the Hyatt. We got to the hotel at about 5:20am and there were already lots of racers and runners milling around on the streets outside.
When we got to the hospitality room it was packed with the elite runners and all their gear. Everyone was wearing full rain gear and pants in anticipation of crummy weather. Val and I got to assure everyone that it had in fact stopped raining and was warming up to a perfect racing temperature. I drank some more water and sat in the chair reading the paper until about 5:40. Josh then came in and rounded us up for the walk to the start. It was quite a procession as all 30 or so of us trooped through the lobby of the Hyatt and through the revolving doors. We walked the 4 blocks or so to the start and were led to Howard street, just in front of the starting line. There were a ton of barriers up with lots of security checking our bibs. We did not have a tent but did have dedicated bathrooms that were a step up from just porta-potties. After putting our bags down, Val and I did a warmup. Howard street was completely closed for about 1.5 miles so we jogged to the end and back.
By the time we got back from the jog it was 6:30 and time to put our bags on the sweat bus. I reluctantly gave up my jacket, long sleeve, pants and hat. It was a bit cold but once I was moving it was fine. I also ate a Gu and drank some water with it. Now that it was getting close to race time I started doing striders. The top seeded runners were able to use the warm up space with us so I saw a lot of area runners too. The centipedes were out warming up and practicing staying together! I also saw Andy Chan and Time Wallen and Dan Shore. I chatted with Magda a bit, and told her I was so nervous! She was so sweet, she told me not to worry and that I would do great.
The announcer finally called us to the line and we lined up behind the starting mats. Us Elite Women were starting at 6:55:24am and the men would start at 7:00am along with the first wave of seeded runners. I lined up next to Magda and Kaitlin and we all stood with our timing watches ready. The gun went off and I flew out of the start. I made sure to definitely stay behind Magda and Annie! The Kenyan and Ethiopian women formed their own little pack and were gone like a shot. I would only be see them for the first mile or so of the race. Then they were completely gone!
The first mile is very flat and on a very wide street so we all had a lot of room. I tucked in behind Michelle Frey and alongside Laura Bennett. The three of us were only a couple feet behind Annie and Magda. About two blocks in I heard Sean on the sidewalk cheering for me and yelling my name. The night before Mark and I had discussed strategy and he told me to tuck in with someone and get pulled along for as long as possible. We went through the first mile in 5:31, pretty quick! At this point Annie and Magda started to pull ahead. As we made the right hand turn onto.. 8th? and then crossed Market, Magda made a bit of a wrong turn. She made a sharp left instead of an easy left and had to backtrack back onto the course! It was a bit dicey in this intersection because of the tracks in the street and there were some big potholes.
I stayed with Michelle and Laura to the bottom of the Hayes Street hill. Magda turned it on going up the hill and opened a big gap on us. She ended up catching Jane Kibii and running with her for the rest of the race. We saw all the Elvises at the bottom of the hill and they cheered quite loudly for us. There were tons of people lining the street at this point and it was very loud! That helped me go up the hill. Laura and I pushed together and dropped Michelle going up the hill and we also caught Annie on the way up. I felt strong climbing the hill.
Once we reached the top of the hill Laura really bombed it down the other side. I couldn't stay with her and feel safe and comfortable to I let her get ahead. Annie also bombed it down the hill... I wonder how they could do that! At that point I was running alone but could see both Annie and Laura ahead of me. At the next little uphill I caught back up to Annie and stayed with her for the next mile or so. We got to Golden Gate Park and I saw Mary cheering for me. My legs at this point felt sooo good and hardly tired! The elite men started passing us and were just absolutely flying.
As we ran through the park I tried to really work the rolling terrain. Just before the 6 mile marker however I felt a stomach cramp coming on! Oh no, I had a moment of panic and had to ease up a bit to try and let it pass. It never really got too bad but I did feel a bit constricted in my breathing. At that point I had to let Annie go because I was afraid to make my cramp worse and be unable to breathe. I just wanted to keep my pace and run strong to the finish. Meb passed me and said "Good job! Way to go!"
The last mile went by really fast and before I knew it I was making the turn on the Great Highway. As soon as I rounded the corner I hit a huge headwind! The wind was whipping south to north, making the finishing straightaway a battle. I tucked my head down and pushed as hard as I could into the wind and got passed by the Aggies centipede just before the finish. I saw my time, 42:35 and was really happy. At the finish I felt really great about how I ran the race, and how well I felt during it. Aside from the cramp in the later part of the race I felt so fit and so strong! I think next time I won't be eating any eggs before the race... too hard to digest.
I then went into the elite athlete tent and started putting on my sweats since it was quite cold and windy at Ocean Beach. I talked to Laura Bennett and her husband Greg a lot at this point. They are both amazing triathletes, Olympians and national champs!! I finally found Sean at the finish area and we all went for a cool down run. As we entered Golden Gate Park, Meb joined us and chatted with Sean and Greg. We did a short cooldown, about 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back.
I think Greg and Laura win for Fittest Couple
Meb, will you be my new BFF?
When we got back from the cool down, I saw Mark and we talked a bit about the race. He was so happy with my run! We then went to the VIP tent and had a nice hot breakfast with other racers and some press people. By the time 9am rolled around I was finally getting tired and ready to leave. Val, Sean and I said our good-byes to Josh and the other athletes and got on out of there. There were thousands of runners streaming through the finish line at this point, including some very naked ones and it was quite a battle to avert our eyes when one was approaching. Sean had park about 3/4 of a mile away so we walked to the car and then headed on home.
After a short stop at home, Sean and I went to the Civic Center Famer's Market for second brunch. We love The Taco Guys and stopped at their tent first. The guy saw my pink B2B sweater and was so excited that I had run the race. Sean told him I finished in 9th place and he was so flabbergasted he said the tacos were on him. He gave us a free drink too. It was delicious and he kept gushing about my run to everyone else in line.
By the time we got home from the farmer's market I was read to drop. I wanted to take a shower but fell asleep on my bed for 2 hours instead :-)
All in all it was an unbelievable weekend, it was exhausting but so much fun. I got to meet such incredible people and run a great event. I am definitely eager for more high profile events like this but they are quite draining. It is another step in my journey as a runner and I am ready for my next great new experience!