Thursday, January 14, 2016

In The Moment - Hot Chocolate San Francisco 15K, 2016

I know that some people will give me grief for calling a 15K race a 'down week'. It was our first event since early December and really my only speed training we've done other than the ill-advised unsupported 50K. When you look forward to seeing friends more than the actual event, then your focus shifts. Our Team Numb contingent from the White Continent/Punta Arenas trip two years ago was finally getting together for another race!

We met Esmail and Parisa at a park and ride off 280 so we could avoid the parking nightmare that race officials were warning about in Golden Gate Park. The civilized 8:20 AM start gave us plenty of time for a drop off and for Esmail to grab a good parking spot close to the finish line. The California Academy of Sciences building was ringed with porta potties with almost no lines. Turns out not having toilet paper is a major turn off.  Gear check was well organized. Though the lines were quite a bit longer than the porta potties, they went quickly. 

Note to self: Bring a roll if you want to do this race (and you'll likely make a lot of friends!)

Directions to the start line were well marked and the corrals were big enough so that there wasn't a typical crush of people waiting at the fences wait to get in. The event drew over 12,000 finishers - about 60% of them in the 15K and the rest in the 5K. Results, including finish line video, are on the Ram Racing site here.

Corrals A through G were for the 5K that started at 7:30 AM. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the signs when we passed N. At least we didn't have the sign in corral L.

We found TNT Alum Karen and her friends in the starting corral. We chatted a little about RNR Portland and the likely cancellation since it's not on the schedule and would normally be less than 4 months away. We've all done it every year since the inaugural. It'd be a shame to lose a legacy race.

Wave starts were staggered a couple minutes apart. Susan was still ramping up from a long rest to get her heel back to training pain-free so we were on our own pace for this race. The first quarter mile was pretty crowded and uphill so things bogged down for a bit. After that though, we were on a good decline for the first 5K. 

I learned a lot on the 50K walk I did a few weeks earlier. One thing I did to pass the time was clear my mind and focus on my surroundings. In the last few weeks, I'd changed jobs, reviewed finances, did a lot of house de-hoarding and generally tried to clean up my physical life as much as I could. I found that doing the same for your mental life is just as valuable.  

I noticed a lot more than I usually do on a race. I could hear the sound of my feet (mental note: my hips need some strength exercises). I heard conversations around me ("yeah, he's walking. Did you know that's an Olympic event?") and noticed how many shirts from other races there were. I wasn't breathing hard, but after a while I could actually start feeling my heartbeat. It was too fast, up in the mid 170's. I wasn't ready to push this race. After walking a 34:30 first 5K I hit the Great Highway and pulled back into the low 150 bpm. I started noticing how absolutely beautiful it was to be outside. The windmill on JFK rose above the trees.

There was only a light wind when we took the turn south on the Great Highway and we were surrounded the sounds of pounding feet and high surf.

The course turned back north at Vicente. Susan spotted me over the ice plant after she caught up to Team Numb veteran, Anne and her friend Tricia. The middle 5K turned into a series of photo ops.

Tricia mentioned that the Mavericks surf competition was taking place this weekend in Half Moon Bay. The El Nino storms were kicking up 50 foot waves. It was a bit calmer up north, but still made for a good California winter picture.

Oh yeah. Most races we've done have Gu or gel stations. Hot Chocolate had TWO marshmallow stations (Strawberry and Chocolate) and an M&M's station. Replacing calories wasn't going to be a problem.

After the M&M stop we crossed the 10K mark. My heart rate was back in the 130's so I decided to see how it would react to a last 5K push going back uphill into the park. I spaced and missed this picture somehow. It might have been the strawberry marshmallow.

The buffalo paddock at mile 8 was right behind the Chocolate Marshmallow stop. I always felt cheated if they weren't roaming when we went by. They were enjoying the sunny dry weather for the first time this week. I guess I don't blame them. My last 5K came in at 38:30 with my heart rate well into the mid-170's. It's back to building aerobic capacity for the next month.

There were no official pictures for the race, but the had a finish line video and a pretty enthusiastic finish line announcer. Those of you with a sweet tooth would like the big plastic finisher mug. Other than the hot chocolate, you get a small dipping bowl of chocolate with a banana, pirouettes, pretzels, a rice krispie treat and a wet nap. Quick tip: dip the banana into the chocolate and do it while it's fresh.

We did have a bit of a snafu with the parking afterwards. Julie wasn't able to get back to her car for nearly an hour and we were already seated at Squat and Gobble before she got back to the lot. Anne and Tricia had to get home. Hopefully our next get together on Super Bowl Sunday will be easier, but with the game taking place in Santa Clara, we'll be sure to leave a lot of time.

Fiona and Soren flew back from Ireland the night before the race. Barb and Esmail gave us a recap of the Z-Marathon Western Caribbean Cruise (5 marathons, 5 countries in a week). We talked over our future plans. Esmail's 150th marathon will be in early April at Napa assuming he can find one more race in the next 7 weeks (6 of them are already scheduled). His first marathon was at Napa and his 100th was LAST year at Napa. Why break with tradition?

The funny thing was when they asked us what we were up to, we mentioned Victoria Falls, what we hope will be our sixth continent for full marathons. They all know we'll be on the Rock n Roll circuit for 12 races before then. For some reason those feel like they're under the radar for a group that's been around the world several times over.

My phone died halfway through brunch, but for some reason it didn't freak me out like it usually does. I remember it was warm upstairs at the restaurant. I remember seeing footage on TV about this year's Spartan race circuit and seeing Misty Diaz on her amazing running canes. I remember the breakfast burrito made it even warmer with the spicy chorizo and that I was really full coming away from the table. I remember Soren saying it's been two years since we met in on an airport bus in Santiago. Most of us thought it must be longer than that.

I just spent the time being in the moment.  I'm looking forward to our next meeting, our next race. Our next big adventure.

Next up is Rock n Roll Phoenix Remix. It'll be another 4 medal weekend with the Double Down medal after doing Vegas. In the meantime, I'll enjoy taking another bite out of the HC15.

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