Without a doubt, this was the best race of my entire life. This was basically a complete opposite of my experience in LA! The weather was perfect, the course was awesome (the hills were tough, but kept it interesting), and I loved all the signs with fun facts about San Francisco. Starting at the beginning...
The alarm went of at 4 AM. I'd actually slept pretty well so I popped out of bed, got dressed, and had my usual breakfast (soy milk, rice chex, and raisins. Mmm). We started walking to get a cab when I realized I didn't have the timing tag on my shoe. Oops! I ran back to the room, put on the tag, and we were off in a cab.
It was dark and cold at the start, and at this point I wasn't really nervous or excited. I was kind of dreading having a repeat of LA, and I wasn't sure what to expect.
I headed into the 3rd corral for my 5:42 AM start. The waves before me went off and I was still kind of out of it. Then before I knew it we were on our way...
Things got better as we worked our way past Fisherman's Wharf and up into Fort Mason. There was a pretty steep hill at mile 3 but it was short. At this point the bridge still looked really far away, but I was starting to feel good. I went through mile 4 in about 32:20 and was concerned it might be a little too fast, but I tried not to worry about it.
The bridge was awesome! It was foggy and seeing the elites coming back the other way was really inspiring. The hill up to the bridge wasn't as bad as I remembered, and I felt strong and relaxed. I had a Gu at the turn-around, and on the way back ended up chatting a little with another runner. We'd been near each other most of the way so far, and she asked what pace I was trying to run. I said I was running 8:10s but was worried it was a little fast. We talked about qualifying for Boston, which she had done before. I admitted that was my goal, but wasn't sure if I'd make it.
There were some hills I wasn't quite ready for going from the bridge to Golden Gate park. At the halfway point I was still feeling strong, and went through at around 1:46. That was about when I started thinking I had a decent chance of running a BQ time, but I knew there was still a long way to go.
The next 6 miles were up and down hills in Golden Gate park. It was beautiful, but I kept kind of expecting to hit the wall. I remembered how dead my legs started to feel around mile 15 or 16 in LA. When we left the park at Mile 19 I was still feeling really good. There was a steep downhill at about mile 20 and at that point my legs were starting to feel kind of tired. I was still taking Cytomax and water at every aid station, but realizing that I could slow down to almost 10-minute miles and still BQ was a really comforting thought.
The last few miles were L O N G but at that point I was just in shock about my time. I couldn't believe I would finish in under 3:35, and I still hadn't hit the wall. I kept thinking a mile marker was wrong or I had taken a shortcut on accident!
I crossed the finish line in 3:32:46, which was a 14 minute PR! (12/428 in my age group!)
I was not feeling like eating AT ALL, but grabbed some Pirate's Booty for later. The finishers medal doubled as a coaster, which I put to good use at brunch.
So...what was so different about this race?
Weather: The conditions were absolutely PERFECT. It was cool and not too windy, even on the bridge
Training: I pretty much followed the Pfitz 12/55 plan to the letter, only skipping 2 or 3 runs over the whole 12 weeks. With the base I built up training for LA, I think I was just in MUCH better shape than back in March. Also, that 5K PR on the 4th of July definitely didn't hurt my confidence!
Fueling and Hydration: I got REALLY dehydrated in LA, but this time I walked through every water station so I could drink the whole cup without spilling. I grabbed a Cytomax, then a water, and drank them both. I really didn't feel like I lost any time, and I know I took in a LOT more fluid and electrolytes
Nerves: They were OUT OF CONTROL before LA, probably because I didn't prepare enough. This time around, I was relaxed and confident because I knew I'd put in a lot of effort training. I wasn't fully convinced I'd BQ and my attitude the first mile was actually kind of crappy, but overall I was just a lot calmer about the whole race.
So now I'm not sure if I'll run CIM in December...I got my BQ and I kind of want to focus on half marathons and 5/10Ks through the fall, keeping my base up until I start training for Boston sometime in the winter. I'm not sure what plan I'll use yet, but I'm doing some research.