About a week and a half ago, Sean & I headed up to San Francisco to do a different kind of race. The San Francisco Summer Solstice Run is a race that is based on running (or run/walking in my case) for a set number of hours vs a set distance. It’s a unique type of run in that you can do whatever you want with the hours that you run/walk. It’s put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, which does a lot trail races in the Bay Area.
We flew up to SF on Friday, unfortunately we were delayed because President Obama was flying around California which backs everything up. We finally made it up around 7:30p, and happened to drive past SF City Hall, where we will be getting married in less than a month now.
We got checked into our hotel, went to carb up at a yummy Italian place down the street from where we stayed and then headed to Safeway to get a bunch of drinks for Sean since he was going to do the 24 hour run. We happened to see a beautiful sunset on our way to Safeway, it was a super sunny nice evening and I was hoping that the weather would remain the same for the next day. It was an amazing view.
The run started relatively late on Saturday morning compared to a lot of the races we’ve done lately with an 8am start time. Which meant we didn’t have to get up so so early.
We were able to leave the hotel at 7:30a ish and got to Chrissy Field within 10 minutes, scored an awesome parking spot, got our race swag, which was pretty nice. A glass beer mug (we’ll are using our for smoothies) and a nice race shirt. They had 2 different colors, grey & light blue and a women’s specific shirt too. Sean & I both got the light blue. Sean wore his for the first part of the race.
The race started after a few quick race announcements by one of the race directors and then everyone was off. Sean & I didn’t start together because he was going out a lot faster than me to get as many miles in as possible before it got too late and his ankle started hurting. The Jester was there too, last year he set the world record for most number of 100 mile races in a year.
The interesting thing about this race is that it is a 1.061 mile loop around Chrissy Field. Outside of running track back when I was in grade school/high school this is by far the shortest loop course I’ve ever run on.
There were 3 different times that you could participate in, 6 hour, which had 3 different starting times, 12 hours (2 start times) and 24 hours. They had about 130 runners/walker, most of which started at 8am.
You could set up your own station, even with a small tent if you wanted, Sean had a cooler bag which we set up along with another bag with clothes so he could change as needed.
The weather wasn’t nearly as nice in the morning, it was pretty chilly and very foggy. My iphone weather app said that it was supposed to be foggy all day, but that wasn’t the case, fortunately. I took photos as the day progressed and this is what it was like when we were about an hour in.
We started out with hats and gloves on because the course is very interesting as far as the weather. As we left Chrissy Field for the paved potion of the loop, it was super windy and pretty cold, for me at least, then we turned and it was still windy, but the next straight area, closer to the water, had very little wind so it was significantly & surprisingly warmer, which makes it interesting as far as clothing choices.
I took my gloves off at the end of the first loop, and my hat at the end of the second. I did keep my long sleeve shirt on the whole race because as I got further along, I was pretty sweaty which was keeping me cool. Although I did end up with a burnt neck because while I put sunscreen on my face, I forgot my neck, oops. Rocking my nuun truckerhat.
As far as my run went, I started out ok, just some mild pain in my hamstring. I ran the first 3 miles without stopping. They had a nice aid station at the start of the loop so I really didn’t need to bring anything since I was just doing the 6 hour run.
At mile 4 & 5 I took a few sips from my water bottle and kept going, I think around mile 6 I picked up my bottle and started running with it. It was just easier so I could drink whenever I wanted. I would refill my bottle at the aid station and eat some watermelon when I would see it.
I was doing ok up until about mile 13 when I started getting some real pain in my upper hamstring. I finally stopped to stretch it out a bit at around mile 17 and that’s when I knew I was going to have to start walking.
As I left the aid station area, with tears running down my cheeks from the pain, I was proud of myself for making it almost 17 miles this time vs 8 at M2B but I knew it was time to admit that I needed a break. As much as I would like to be like Sean and be able to run 100s of miles on little training with very few rest days (he’s really amazing), my body needs a bit more rest.
However, because of the type of race this is, I didn’t feel horrible about walking, so I revised my goals and I decided I would had to at least get in a marathon and see if I could get further, I had just under 3 hours .
That first loop wasn’t easy and had a bunch of tears, but once I sucked it up and kept going, I met and chatted with a lot of really awesome other runners. I was talking with an older man who was doing the 24 hour run, he was really funny and telling me stories about sparkling cider bottle caps hitting the ceiling. Then I was talking to another guy who was telling me about some options for dealing with my hamstring, then another lady who was taking a walk break and was like if I’m going to walk, I need to walk as fast as you, lol.
By this point it was getting a little sunny 🙂 These were my shots around noon.
There was another younger girl who was walking as well and I was trying to catch her for a while, she gave me a great idea to speed walk using my arms. Funny enough, a little sidebar here, when I first started doing distance races back when I went to Indiana University, well 5ks, which at the time for someone who only ran the 400 meters, is a really long way, I did a little speed walking myself. True speed walking is not the same as just walking fast.
So I just kept moving, changing my music to fast, upbeat songs and trying to move as fast as I could. I would calculate in my head how much time I had and how many loops I could do before I hit the 6 hours.
The nice thing about this race is that they counted your laps for you, there was a TV screen that you could see what your time was and how many laps you did every time you passed thru.
In the end I was able to do 27 loops, which was just over 27 miles, which technically puts me at my 2nd ultra race 🙂 which is anything over a marathon. Originally I wanted to hit at least 30 miles, but considering the amount of time I walked, I’m so happy to have finished as much as I did.
Sean did amazing, when I went for dinner with my sister, who lives in the Bay Area, he was at 53 miles at around 5pm and it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. We would be gone for about 3 hours, I know, but traffic in SF is horrible, it was sooo foggy, you couldn’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge, and he was at about mile 65/66. His mom came and ran with him for a loop and then we would cheer him on every loop from there out.
When they left around 9:30p or so, I left to go get some more Ensure for Sean. When I came back, I ran/walked 3 loops with him before I got too hot, I was wearing a lot of layers and I didn’t want to get too sweaty because I didn’t have a lot of extra clothes to change into if I was going to stay all night.
I decided to go take a short nap and then was going to go back out to keep him company. It was about 11:30p at this point. I went to the car and had just fallen asleep when I was awaken by a knock on the door and Sean was telling me he was done. I was like you hit a 100 miles? He said no, he got to 75 laps/79.9 miles and called it a night. It was around 12:30am. By that point he was exhausted, his feet and ankle weren’t doing great and he had a bunch of blisters on his toes.
After I fully woke up, I got myself together and drove us back to the hotel. We attempted to sleep because we had to meet up with the florist we would be working with for our wedding in the morning. It was definitely a long day.
Two very tired but happy people on Sunday :).
All in all this was a unique run/race, would I do it again? Hum…I’m not sure, I wish that the loop was just a little longer, maybe 3 miles to keep you from getting bored. But it was, once it got nice out, a beautiful location, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco.
Since I finished my race, I got a cute coaster that has the race info on it and for the first 6 hour group, I was one lap off tying for 3rd woman overall, which was really amazing considering, I also got 3rd in my age group for my 8am start group. I believe that I ended up 21 overall and 4th in my age group for 6 hour finishers.
Pros: Great Race Team/Aid Station Volunteers
Great race swag
Ability to set up a tent & mini aid station of your own
Cons: Lots of other runner/walker/cyclists on the course
Super windy weather conditions
One mile loop gets monotonous very quickly
Notes: Wear gators, 2/3s of the course is trail and the little rocks get in your shoes, I had to empty out my shoes at least 4 times. Having a chair is a great idea, since we flew up, obviously that made it a bit of a challenge to have the appropriate gear