Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Hills are Alive With the Sound of Rock 'n' Roll - Rock 'n' Roll San Francisco 2014

Anyone who lives or trains in San Francisco encounters some pretty significant hills. Races in the city are no exception. With plenty of hill training opportunities, you would think that we would be pretty strong at maneuvering hills, but after climbing 44 hills during the Bar Harbor marathon in Maine, we know that “HILL” can quickly become a four letter word.

The Rock 'n' Roll San Francisco Half Marathon gave us the opportunity to climb some challenging hills and also cross the roadbed of the Golden Gate bridge on foot. What was unique about this year’s course was that we crossed San Francisco “backwards” compared to other races. Both the Wipro San Francisco Marathon and the Nike Women’s Marathon courses approach the Golden Gate Bridge from the East. For those races, we happen to think the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge come on Lincoln Boulevard by stopping to turn around at the top of the hill to look back. Most people are focused on the road ahead and miss the view.

Oh, did we mention that there are a few significant hills (or inclines) along the way before and after the bridge? San Francisco East Bay Team in Training Coach Alphonzo Jackson posted a great resource for hill running and hill training. Coach Al always told us not to go up a hill but to rather, “Run/Walk THROUGH the hill.” This visual image of moving forward while moving upward does help. As Coach Al would say, “Mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter.”

The big race was actually getting onto the bridge before the course cut off. Participants were instructed to be at mile 4 by 7:50 am or they would be diverted to mile 7.9 and miss the chance to cross the bridge. An average page of 17 - 20 min/mile was recommended, but CGI also offered a 6:15 am early start for participants expected to finish between 3:30 and 4:00. Race officials stationed a monitor at mile three who counted down the time and distance to the cutoff. Keep in mind that there are several steep hills along the way for the first four miles and some amazing photo opportunities once the Golden Gate Bridge is within sight so maintaining this pace was a challenge for some. If you're in that speed group, plan ahead! It turns out fewer than 20 were listed in the 9.2 mile Diverted Course results out of 8550 total finishers.

The race took up three lanes of the bridge - one lane going north, one going south and an empty buffer lane to protect the runners from traffic. This was crowded until the last participant passed going north and race monitors opened the second lane to the returning, southbound runners. Hopefully, next year the bridge course can be widened or participants can be staggered even further if the race grows. Even opening the pedi-path might be a good idea since the views are actually a bit better than from the road.  Remembering course etiquette is key in these types of situations. Never walk or run more than two people side-by-side. Walkers and slower runners should always move the right. Faster participants should call out that they're passing on the left especially if things get tight. And for pete's sake, pull over to the side if you're going to take a picture!

This race was more training for American River Parkway at the end of April. We worked on heart rate training so we can be at our best for the Walk division race and take a shot at winning our age groups again. Given the pacing and the scenery, Ron decided to wear the Garmin Virb for more hat-cam moments.

We have a bet going for how many races John Bingham calls out for Kevin Gonzalez. Apparently, John was busy interviewing former 49er great, Roger Craig when Kevin crossed the starting line and missed him.

We ran into The Marathon Show host, Joe Taricani near the end of the race. With Joe branching out into the new TV Pilot, we expect his audience to grow.

And just for grins, a bunch of the old #SA2LV gang got together near the toll plaza to do the hustle. YouTube video here.

Though the title says otherwise, CGI made the choice to use circus performers at the early miles instead of bands. At 6:30 AM, I'm sure the locals appreciated the chance to sleep in.

Faces in the Crowd:

This year, the "Chaser" Melody Jones raised $7569 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. That's one dollar for every person she passed after starting at the back of the pack. The way I see it, having a bigger event can only be better for the charity.
Congrats to our friend Tawni who reached a milestone with her 50th Half Marathon! (Left to right: Ron, Susan, Al, Tawni, Caryn, Bridge, some random guy)
Thanks for another fantastic half marathon Competitor Group! Next up, Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh!


This year's Rock 'n' Roll San Francisco was held for the second year under the Rock 'n' Roll brand name. The new course is definitely a departure from the former loop course that started and finished in Aquatic Park. There were 8550 finishers in 2014 with 18 people completing the 9.2 mile diverted course. Median finish time was 2:21, slower than the typical RNR course which is probably because of the big honking hills.  

The course started at Ocean Beach, went north and east up Lincoln Boulevard, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, down through Crissy Field, the Marina Green and over the hill to the finish at Civic Center. There were a few significant climbs between miles 0.5 and 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5, and 10 and 11.5 with a few smaller but still steep hill climbs in between. The longest and steepest climb on the course was 300 feet over approximately one mile. Since the courses seem to be changing year to year, I'm downloading the latest maps as GIFs and storing them for comparison at our Marathoning For Life page. Weather was clear and sunny with temps starting in the low 50's and warming to 65 at the finish. 

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It spans the Golden Gate strait, the mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. While the clear day made for postcard-perfect pictures, having a half foggy day can be just as nice a backdrop. Heck, the whole city has a lot of good photo ops!

Susan and Sylvia at the top of Lombard Street
We had a few in-room meals this weekend but wanted to highlight one: Hot Spud
If you're looking to fill up and still eat light, check out this hidden gem just off Fisherman's Wharf on Beach Street. Hot Spud uses Jacket Potatoes the size of your head and has all local ingredients and a great range of gluten free offerings for less than $8.

If you're headed to Rock n Roll Raleigh with us next week, be sure to check out Shayne's CGIEats - Raleigh Edition for dining suggestions!

We haven't signed up for RNR San Francisco 2015, but with the Tour Pass program, we plan to do so as soon as we can. 

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