Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Bay to Breakers

I flew into SFO the Thursday before the race so I could have some time to hang out in the Bay Area with my brother. We managed to take in an A’s game, tour the Berkeley campus, do a wine tasting, drink some beer with some folks from the Boston forum, and eat tons of good food.

My brother and I drove into San Francisco (we were staying in the East Bay) and parked at the same place we did last year. He wasn’t racing—he had a box of wine in his backpack—but I had a sub-seeded bib so we got to the start area by 6:30. After scoping out some excellent costumes by the port-o-potties, we parted ways. 

Getting to my corral was a lot harder than expected because the sub-seeded and A corrals have the same narrow entrance but I managed to fight my way forward. I was disappointed to see that no one was really throwing tortillas (a B2B tradition) in the front, but I had picked up some earlier so I caused a little mayhem with my cornmeal frisbees. They announced the start for the elite women, and before I knew it, it was time for the rest of us to race!

At 55,000 participants, B2B is bigger than all but one race I’ve done so the initial start was a little slow. We ran down Howard Street where there where spectators were slowly stumbling out of their apartments. They were most excited when they saw their first runner in drag! I ran mile 1 (mostly flat) in 6:22.

I hugged the turns as we zig-zagged onto Hayes Street before mile 2, still pretty flat, in 6:25. I felt like I was getting warmed up as we passed bars getting ready for more revelers. Unfortunately, the worst part of the race was coming up, the Hayes Street hill! It’s an 11.15% grade that lasts about 1/3 of a mile. Near the crest, I saw runners dressed as salmon (I remember them from last year), waiting for the larger crowds so they could run “upstream to spawn.” Mile 3 had slowed to 7:23!

Coming off the hill, you get a short spurt of downhill followed by a gradual incline, but you’re soon passing another park and more revelers. I managed to recover to a 6:38 for mile 4 but I could still feel the hill in my quads! At this point, we entered Golden Gate Park. I guess I did realize last year how much of the race was actually in the park. It’s beautiful, but there are far fewer spectators. At least there’s a lot more downhill!
Mile 5 went by in 6:25 and by Mile 6 I was pushing myself again, doing it in 6:09. Around this point, I passed the Bison padlock, but unlike last year, I didn’t see any roaming bison. As we neared the giant windmill, I did mile 7 in 6:13. We turned onto Great Highway, the final stretch right along the water and the wind really hit me. Nevermind, I gave it all I had and ran the final .46 at a 5:58 pace. 

I finished in 48:23, a 6:30 pace (13 seconds per mile slower than my half PR) but this race is much more about the experience than your finish time. What did I learn? 1) Bay to Breakers is much more fun in costume. 2) It’s much more fun when you “run” with people you know. 3) It’s much more fun when you pregame with something other than just Gatorade!

I hope to be back next year!