2016 Race #6: The Giant Race 10K, San Francisco, CA

Date: September 11, 2016
Gun Time: 41:29
Chip Time: 41:17
Placing Overall: 17th out of 5497
Placing in Age Group: 2nd out of 260
Theme Song: Embarcadero“, Paul Desmond

My son and I are both big baseball fans, and several months ago we were having a conversation about which big league parks we’d most like to see a road game in. He is a rabid Toronto Blue Jays fan, and I’m, well, still a fan but slightly less emotionally involved than I used to be (22 years between playoff appearances will do that to one). As I recall, the list we came up with went something like this:

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. AT&T Park
  3. Camden Yards
  4. Dodger Stadium
  5. Fenway Park

We actually checked off the first one this summer on a road trip to Chicago, and now my son has a crazy plan to see ALL the MLB parks (he’s ten, so it may take him awhile). Much to his chagrin, however, his old man beat him to AT&T Park. Though, I didn’t see a game there. Perhaps I should explain.

I am not really a San Francisco Giants fan, although I have nothing against them – they play way over in the NL West, and we Blue Jays devotees tend not to pay much attention to the senior circuit. However, I do travel to San Francisco for conferences at least once or twice a year, and I love running there. Not only is the temperature usually ideal, but it’s a beautiful place, and though Nob Hill is a bit daunting, I could happily spend every day running up and down the Embarcadero (if I could actually afford to live in the Bay Area, which I can’t).

Running in San Francisco is not without its quirks, of course. Aside from the fact that the hills take some getting used to, I’ve been accosted by a schizophrenic screaming incoherencies at me at 5:30 in the morning (“What an asshole”, muttered a city worker to me, having observed said encounter, and I wholeheartedly agreed) and had my shoes thrown up on once by a homeless guy on another early run. These rather gritty incidents aside, at least going for a run in the city has the virtue of never being boring. Usually I’m in town in January, when events seem to be few and far between, but my recent September conference coincided with the SF Giant Race, which not only fit my schedule but was run right along one of my favorite routes in the world, and finished on the outfield warning track of AT&T park. Sign me up, I thought.

My son was envious, but mollified by the fact that I would take lots of pictures and would give him the Brandon Crawford bobblehead that was included in the race kit (he loves those things and I really would have little use for it). I took a break from my conferencing on the Friday morning before the race to visit the stadium and the expo and pick up my race kit, which gave me an early peek at the stadium and its environs.

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AT&T on a typically sunny San Francisco morning.

The kit pick-up was well organized, and I wandered through the concourse looking at some of the exhibitions, which included the typical pre-race odds and sods. It was a beautiful day, and I lingered a bit before heading to the lower level of the stadium to pick up the bobblehead, which was handed out beside the exit, and then left to return to conferencing. The race organizers suggested coming outside of peak times (identified as late afternoon Friday and Saturday) and I’m glad I did, since the various races included nearly 20,000 participants between the half-marathon, 5K, and 10K.

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Brandon, in all his bobbly head, scraggly-haired, short wearin’, flag-wavin’ glory.

Sunday morning dawned cool and cloudy, and I warmed up by trotting the mile and a half or so from my hotel down to 2nd and King in front of the stadium in anticipation of the 7AM gun. The race would start in waves, with the sub 45 minute 10K and faster half-marathoners in the lead corral, followed by two corrals of slower runners. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find the bag check, as it was situated way down 3rd Street on the other side of McCovey Cove in front of Parking Lot A, but eventually I got my stuff dropped off after snapping a few blurry pics with my cruddy phone camera.

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Ooooh, twinkly palm trees.

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Team RWB, ready to roll.

This being Patriot Day, team RWB was given the prominence it deserved, leading the charge out of the start gate after the anthem was played. I settled into a fast pace with the Bay Bridge looming ahead. It was maybe 50 degrees by now, and the cool weather was a blessing after the heat I had been training in. I felt like I could be pretty fast, given that I’d been doing 35 mpw lately with a lot of tempo running. Settling in behind a team of four female runners who were moving at a good clip, I watched the landmarks roll by; the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, the various piers. In front of Pier 9, we were serenaded by a full-on marching band, which I thought was pretty cool.

I felt strong, was still comfortably using a 3/2 breathing pattern, and really quickly seemed to be getting closer to Fisherman’s Wharf where the turnaround was. As we branched off from the Embarcadero onto Jefferson and I saw the clock at the turnaround, I was initially a bit taken aback that it was at about 18:00. I hit the timing mat at about 18:30, but realized that actually I was a bit short of 5K, so I wasn’t quite as fast as I thought (though doubtless I hit the 5K mark, which was about 300 yards back down the street, in under 20 flat).

Coming back was, well, interesting. Because, see, when you have a combined 9,000 runners running up one side of a city street, it gets a bit crowded. By now there was a thin line of leaders in the 10K coming back to the finish, and we hit the glut of second wave runners head on at about the 6K mark. They basically took up the whole width of the street, which meant that we had to depend on them to get the hell our of our way to avoid flattening them. In theory, we were supposed to be given the extreme left hand side of the sidewalk; in practice, that really didn’t happen. I was slowly catching up to the runner ahead of me, and so in addition to cutting wind resistance she was kind of acting to part the crowds for me as well. The nice part was that we were getting tons of encouragement and smiles from the runners we passed, and that helped a lot as the legs started to complain.

I had switched to a 2/2 pattern by now and was trying to maintain the pace, but it was getting difficult with a somewhat brisk wind in our faces. Nevertheless, I still seemed to be passing people on the back stretch, and eventually the last of the slower stragglers coming in the opposite direction were out of our way and things were wide open to the finish. I had settled in behind another female runner as we approached the stadium and passed the start gate, and unfortunately for her she took a wrong turn, not going wide enough going around the corner to the entry gate to the stadium, and I was able to pass her (her consolation was she was the female champion anyway, as it turned out). I started sprinting as I hit the inside of the stadium and the covered warning track leading to the finish line, and noted with glee the clock was still at 41 minutes, and my PR was toast.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with my result. I guess San Francisco brings out the best in me. Second in my age group was a definite surprise, and I got a wicked award on posterboard that I can put in a frame if I want. This was a fun race, with lots of goodies, and I would absolutely recommend trying it out, whether you’re a Giants fan or not. And as for me, I can tick off a couple of my to do items for this year – I ran my age (and then some) in a 1oK, and I got to hang out on the field of a major league ballpark. Sorry, son. Hope you enjoy your bobblehead, though.

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