One of the many reasons that San Francisco is completely awesome is that if you are a runner, there is always a race to sign up for.
There are many high-profile races to sign up for throughout the year, but even when there isn’t a huge event going on, you can always count on Dolphin South End Runners for a good race. They are a local running club that puts on a race just about every weekend. The races vary in lengths, the cost is super cheap ($5 for non-member, $3 for member) and they encourage people of all abilities to come out.
(When I say all ability, I mean it….they allow self-timers and once a month they even have a kids race…so cute!)
If you all recall, my very first race back in September was a DSE run and after having such a positive experience, I decided that I would try and do as many of their runs as I could in 2011. Unfortunately, I had already failed at this goal when I skipped out on the Arts & Sciences 5K in January. I could’ve gone, but having just battled two back to back head colds, I wasn’t really interested in running a race in the rain.
So I slept instead. It was awesome.
Yesterday, however, I was much more dedicated to my original plan.
I had been tossing back and forth the idea of doing the Strawberry Hill 5K, but given the fact that the course is essentially running up a big scary hill in Golden Gate Park, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit. What convinced me was the fact that I had been tweeting with Average A (from Diary of an Average Runner) for quite some time about potentially meeting up at Strawberry Hill. I didn’t want to be super lame and not show up (again….we were supposed to meet at Arts & Sciences…my bad…), so on Saturday night I set my alarm.
Come Sunday, I still wasn’t all that jazzed at the idea of running up a hill, but I had some coffee, peanut butter banana toast and laced up my sneakers just the same.
At about 7:45am I headed over to the bus stop, tweeted with Average A, confirming that she was also going and giving her a run down of my wardrobe so spotting each other would be easier. I got to the park way too early…at maybe 8:20am or so? I leave really early just in case I run into any transit issues and normally, this would be fine. On Sunday, however, it was only 39 degrees when I left my house! I paid for my race entry and then stood around FREEZING to death. I decided to head to the bathroom to give myself something to do. I got back and still had 15 minutes to kill. I stretched. I hopped up and down. I blew into my hands, cursing the fact that I am a native San Franciscan, thus a person who doesn’t own a pair of gloves.
When there were just a few minutes to go, I walked over to the start line. I headed dutifully to the back of the pack. Although the club encourages all levels of runners, a lot of people who run these races are super fast, so I didn’t want to be in their way. The announcer made a few remarks….including a “no headphone” rule. Now others were still plugged in, but I felt awkward, so I put my headphones in my pocket. Just a minute or so before the air horn sounded someone came over to me and asked if I was Alexa. That’s right, Average A found me! We shook hands and she wished me luck just as the race began. In two seconds flat I lost sight of her in the crowd. That girl is fast!
The race itself was hard.
Going into the race, I had no idea what the course was like. I looked at the course map and description (you can click on the race link earlier in the post), and still had no idea what to expect. Here is what the race looked like on RunKeeper:
(also, ignore that there is no mile 3. Not entirely sure why RunKeeper thinks this run was only 2.6 miles….Maya’s theory has to do with inclines, and I am…inclined…to agree. Cough.)
Pretty much, we ran up Kennedy Drive and then started a loop around Stow Lake. Then, we ran a loop around Strawberry Hill (that green area in the middle of the lake), then we ran this death incline up to the top of the hill, then we retraced our steps back down and around the hill and finished the loop around Stow Lake and back to the Start/Finish line.
Oh em gee. Hills.
I have only recently started incorporating incline running into my routines and they kill me. I was forced to take several walking breaks, but I followed my “always keep someone ahead of you in your sights” rule. This is for two reasons: 1) It motivates me to not completely wuss out and 2) It’s for my own safety…I have no sense of direction and get lost every single time I go running in Golden Gate Park.
(Unfortunately, the people behind me weren’t following the same rule….as I ran down Strawberry Hill, we saw others still coming up……taking the wrong turn and not running to the top of the hill. Those around me were yelling “LEFT!” at them and I was pointing up the mountain, but a bunch of people went the wrong way….)
In addition to all of the killer inclines, very little of the course was paved. That would be fine, except for the fact that it rained for most of last week…..that’s right, we were running in mud. My poor Brooks were filthy after finishing. It also made making up time on the downhills hard because I was afraid I was going to fall to my doom.
Despite the difficulty of this course, I finished.
As I saw the finish line in front of me, I noticed the clock was heading towards 35 minutes.
My reaction: “Oh hells NO!”
I booked the last little bit of the race and Average A was nice enough to snap my picture as I crossed the finish line with an official time of 34:53. I felt pretty good about that given the amount of walking I did and how difficult a course it was. I felt even better after the following announcement was made:
Announcer: In true DSE fashion, this course distance wasn’t calculated correctly….it isn’t a 5K.
Announcer: It was 3.3 miles! So if you were thinking your times were a little high, that’s why!
As per usual, everyone receives a finishing ribbon, so Average A asked someone nearby to snap a couple of pictures of us together, showing off our bling.
We hung out and chatted for a bit and A introduced me to one of her other DSE buddies. We talked about maybe meeting up again at the St. Patrick’s Day 5K….it’s all flat, baby, all flat! I can’t wait!