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Race Report-San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon 2014

I immediately got online and started searching for endurance-related races after receiving word that I would be attending the Microsoft Build Developers Conference in San Francisco. Low and behold, the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was running the Sunday immediately following the conference on April 6th. The best part was, it was running back-and-forth over the Golden Gate Bridge. How could I pass that up? I would need to do a two-hour run anyway that day, so might as well.

MS Build, San Francisco
Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Expo

Everything continued to fall into place with this too. The packet-pickup and expo was in one of the Moscone Center buildings, which was where the Microsoft conference was. The race ended in the Civic Center Square, which was only a couple blocks from my hotel. The race also provided bus transport from the Civic Center Square. Logistically perfect!

Packet Pickup and Race Expo

We headed over to the Moscone Center on Saturday morning after fueling up with some breakfast at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Dottie’s is reknown for their breakfasts and TripAdvisor had warned of long lines to get in. We got there early enough and we were seated right away. Getting to Dottie’s is a bit of a treat too. It is right in middle of one of the scarier sections of the city. If you go there, beware of having to walk amongst some of the street folk making random outbursts as you sneak by. The food was pretty good, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. That is until we left. They had some amazing looking baked goods in the case when we left. Guess I didn’t order correctly.

After breakfast we headed over to the Moscone Center to for Packet Pickup and the Race Expo. The packet pickup was a bit over-organized. They almost had too many volunteers because it was highly over-specialized. Each item of swag was handed to you by a different volunteer instead of prefilling the swag bags. Then they force you through the race store to try to persuade a purchase out of you.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run
Trying on a pair of Hoka’s(aka dork shoes). I am slowly warming up to these, but am still not ready to buy a pair. They look like those goofy rocker shoes women wear.

The race expo was actually pretty good and a decent size. It was much larger than most of the Ironman triathlon event expos I have been to. We spent a bit of time there too listening to some sales pitches and even trying on some Hoka’s. I am still not up to buying a pair of these things yet, but there freakish looks are starting to grow one me. My wife is actually entertaining the idea of buying a pair since she thinks it may help her knee pain.

Places, San Francisco, city, garden
Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco

We walked through the Yerba Buena Gardens after the expo which is right in front of the Moscone Center. It is a pretty little oasis amongst the concrete jungle of the city. There are also a couple restaurants and shops that surround it too. It was getting to be around lunchtime now so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our road ride to Sausalito and Tiburon, which you can read more about in my previous post.

Places, San Francisco, city, garden
Pano view of San Francisco from Yerba Bueno Gardens. Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco

Race Morning

I woke up around 4:45am on race morning and immediately fueled up with a Vega Performance Protein Bar, an Amrita Bar and some Starbucks Via coffee. I had prepared and laid out all of my clothing and race bid the night before so getting ready was pretty easy. Running races are generally so much easier to get ready for compared to triathlons. Plus, this was a casual run for me, so not a lot of pressure here. I was tip-toing around the hotel room with my headlamp on the whole time so not to wake Denise up. She was actually sleeping quite soundly which is odd for this time of the morning. She is typically an early riser. Around 5:15am I headed down the elevator and out the main lobby towards the Civic Center Square, which was where the race transport was, to get to the starting line. The Civic Center is located right in the heart of the shadiest part of San Fran, so I was a bit anxious about getting there by myself. I was hoping I could join up with some other people that were going to the race as well. To my misfortune there was no one leaving the hotel at the same time. As I started into the thick of the scary sections I started jogging a bit. I needed to warm up and this would get me quickly past most of the folks lying about in the streets. I eventually located a couple a few blocks ahead of me, so I sped up a bit to try and tag along with them. I passed one homeless fellow sitting on a hydrant or something that looked at my as I scurried by and said “good luck!” I laughed and said “thanks man!” as it took me by surprise. There was also one street corner that had a bunch of homeless folks congregating on it and they were all yelling at one another. I found this a good opportunity to cross the street here. I soon caught up with the couple, but by then we had reached Market St. which is well lit and was pretty full of runners heading to the square. Whew…Safety at last! The lines were pretty long at the Civic Center, but they were rolling and loading the yellow & black school buses through pretty quickly. Before long I was on a bus headed to the start line. The ride was around 25 minutes or so and I had a seat all to myself to spread out. When I finally reached the starting line area which was situated along Ocean Beach on the west side of San Fran, I was in a B-line for the port-a-loo. There were a ton of them, but they all had huge lines. I walked down to the farthest one thinking the lines would be less, but no such luck. I settled into a line and waited. It seemed like forever. There was a couple girls behind me who did not shut up the whole time. It surely made my patience wane even more. I was a bit more disturbed when they continued to talk through the National Anthem. The race was a wave start, so each finish time-based corral would start every couple minutes. I didn’t realize this at the time, so I really wasn’t that concerned about starting with the race clock. I had my Garmin so that is all I really cared about. And…I had to pee really bad. I eventually got a port-a-john and let the floodgates release. I quickly dropped off my post-race gear bag off and headed to the start line for the 2:00 hour finish corral. I still had plenty of time will my wave went off.

The Race

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run
San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon start

And we were off. We headed down Great Highway and quickly made a right turn up Balboa St., were we encountered our fist hill of the day. It wasn’t terribly steep, but just kept going up and up. The first mile was pretty slow since I was dodging people as we ambered up the hilly course. I am also not one to start out too fast. I need to ease into my pace and sometimes it takes me a half hour to settle into a groove. Guess that is why I like the longer distances.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run
San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon sunrise

My times gradually increased as the crowd sorted itself out and I got into my groove. The exception to that was on Lincoln Blvd, right before the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a pretty healthy climb. This and the fact that there was a lot of picture taking going on with its unique view of the GG Bridge. This helped sort out the crowd for the very narrow cattle chute that we had to endure crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a bunch of jugglers and guys riding huge unicycles too which helped distract you from the pain. San Francisco Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Elevation Profile

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run
San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Each direction had one full lane of the bridge. As we made the first cross towards Sausalito, many were drifting over into the opposite lane since the fast runners had not made it there yet. I stayed mostly on the left side up against the yellow rope that separated us from the bridge traffic. Both directions on the bridge were tight and it was difficult to find any open running room. There was a girl running in some rainbow-colored hairy boots that I found myself following for a while. It was pretty cool running across the bridge though and I took the opportunity to snap a few pics along the way.

Once across the bridge, the crowd thinned out quite a bit with the wider road heading down into Crissy Field. We were now at least half way through the race and we finally encountered a band playing. I almost forgot that this was a ROCK ‘N’ ROLL event! The band was playing so quietly though that you may have missed them if you didn’t see them. We did encounter a few more bands after this which got subsequently louder after this.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run
San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon-Heading down to Crissy Field

We then headed through the city again on our way back to Civic Center Square finish. With the city came more hills again…ugh! On one of these hill I started getting so nauseated that I thought I was going to puke. I managed to keep it in though and it eventually went away. I also started getting down into the 7-8min/mi pace as the raced thinned a bit and we hit some flatter sections. I started to pick it up a bit too since I felt good and I thought I would try to negative split the race.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run
San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon-Rocker Dude

As we were heading down Polk St., towards the last mile or two, they diverted us straight where others had been making a left towards Larkin St. This was kind of cool because it felt like we were in the front pack of the race for a little while. Eventually we were sent left to Larkin and joined in with the rest of the bunch. The last mile was a downhill cruise to the finish where I was running in the low 7’s. My wife took a picture of me and it looks like I was severely putting the brakes on.  I crossed the line in 1:55:11 which isn’t too bad considering I wasn’t really going for time. It was more of tourist sightseeing tour. I grabbed my finisher medal, a couple of waters and searched around for some decent food. I managed to find some banana’s and pisctachio’s among all the other post-race crap they call food. Some of the worst was the Cheez-Its and of course the worst of all…Chocolate Milk!!! Yuk!! The worst thing was people were grabbing it like it was going out of style. It kills me how they can push this crap off as some kind of health food. Why don’t they just hand out some Mountain Dew while they are at it!

Post Race

I claimed my gear bag and we headed back to the hotel to pack and check out. The race was really fun with great views and a challenging one with the hills. I would recommend it as one to check out, but not if you are going for a PR. The lack of music along the course was a bit of a let down for a Rock ‘n’ Roll branded event. The local St. Lukes Half Marathon in Allentown is Far better with regards to course music. This race made me appreciate how good a race that is. I believe there was a concert and free beer after the race, but we weren’t going to be sticking around to find out. We were on route to Yosemite this afternoon. Thanks for reading!

San Francisco Trip-April 2014

I had the opportunity to head out to the Microsoft Build Conference in San Francisco this year. This consisted of a 3 day event so I decided to take advantage of the airfare and make a longer vacation of it. I had been itching to get to Yosemite the past couple years so now was my chance. My wife also decided to take advantage of a free place to stay and spend time in the city and visits friend who lives nearby.

We flew out on Tuesday afternoon from Newark and arrived at SFO in the evening of the same day. The flight was about 5 1/2- 6 hours and was a little delayed due to sitting on the runway for about an hour or so. There was some bad storms in San Francisco which they were going to wait out. The flight went pretty well and they had WIFI on board which I decided to try out. Good for killing some time. We took a taxi from SFO airport to the Hilton Union Square where we were staying which was about $40. Glad I wasn’t paying for that!

Since we arrived late, I didn’t meet up with any of my work mates and instead Denise and I hoofed it down to the Bay and have dinner at The Plant Organic Cafe on Pier 3. I had wanted to check this place out so no time like the present. The walk was a bit longer than I had anticipated and it was getting kind of late. It had started raining pretty heavily by the time we got to the waterfront and we were getting soaked by the time we arrived. I had the soup of the day, which was a Southwest Tortilla soup, and the Quinoa Bowl with tempeh for my main course. Both items were really good. I paired that up with a Green Flash IPA and life was good. We made the walk back to the hotel, grabbing some things for breakfast at a Walgreens on the way.

The next couple days I was pretty consumed with the conference. Typically when a group from work goes to one of these conferences we go out for at least one meal together. Not this time. I did go out for a quick pizza with a few of the guys, but it was pretty low key. Most of the meals are provided by the conference, buy the food was not that great so we usually hit the food court across the street at the Moscone Center for lunch.

I did get to meet up with our one friend, Nate, from our recent Haute Route trip in Switzerland. Nate, who actually works at Microsoft, was in town for some other business and not the conference. We enjoyed a couple pints of Murphy’s and chatted about our common interests. There is no shortage of things to talk about when you are both into travel, photography and software.

MS Build, San Francisco
Nate and I enjoying a couple pints

I Need to Run

On Thursday, I decided I needed to get out for a nice run after sitting in sessions all day. I skipped out on the last session of the day and made my way down through the city out to the Bay Trail that runs along the water. Running in a city really sucks! Dodging people and stopping at almost every light really breaks up the momentum. It makes me appreciate where I live!

Eventually, I got out to the Bay trail but I still had to dodge people most of the way. Fortunately, the scenery was pretty cool. Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Downtown San Fran and Fisherman’s Wharf where all along the way. It became more of a sight-seeing tour than a training run, so I didn’t break any speed records here.

Swim Time

On the way back from my run, I headed up Mason St. to the Club One Fitness at Union Square to see if I could reserve a lane for Friday to get my long swim in for the week. They require that you reserve the lane ahead of time which is kind of nice since you won’t have to worry about waiting around. The conference ended around 3pm on Friday so I got a lane for an hour starting at 4PM. It was $20 for a day pass which is kind of steep if you are just going for an hour, but in the grand scheme of things I need to get my swim in.


The pool consisted of 3 lanes of 25 yards long. It was a little dingy, but not real bad. They had towels and lockers which were all pretty nice. Gotta thank the Swim Radar iPhone app for hooking me up with a place to swim. It felt good to get my 2 miles of swimming in which kicks the weekend off to a good start.

I was planning to hook up with the work guys after my swim, but they blew me off so I ended up going with my wife down to Roam Artisan Burgers on Fillmore St. It is always a little difficult finding places to eat for a carnivore and herbivore, but Roam was the ticket. I had a killer veggie burger with the “French and Fries” topping selection and my wife was raving about her meat burger topped with an egg and no bun(I say “Yuk!!”). I paired my burger up with another Green Flash IPA which always makes everything taste so good.

Cycling the Paradise Loop

On Saturday, we headed up to Blazing Saddles bike rentals which was located just below the Club One Fitness on Mason St. I wanted to rent a higher performance road bike which they did not have at this location, but they hooked me up with a hybrid to ride down to their Columbus Ave location to get something a little nicer. My wife stayed with the hybrid. On the way down, we stopped at the pier and had a quick lunch at a couple of the little shops in there. Once at the other shop, they hooked me up with a Fuji road bike and put my pedals on it. The bike was a little long for me, but it was ok for the time being.

MS Build, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge

My plan was to do the Paradise Drive Loop which was supposed to be a really nice bike ride. My wifes’ friend had recommended it to her and it looked like a good ride. It seems there are several variations on this ride and I created my own by getting mixed up several times. My wife headed straight down Tiburon Blvd to Tiburon while I headed north up to Paradise Drive in Corte Madera. We would then meet up in Tiburon and take the Ferry back to San Francisco. We had to have the bikes back by 7pm and the last ferry was at 6:30pm, so if we took that one we would not make it.

Denise kept riding along the Bay Trail to the Golden Gate Bridge while I picked up the other bike. I ended up catching her about halfway over the Golden Gate Bridge where we stopped to take a couple selfies. The bridge was pretty congested with bike traffic, so it was a relief to get off of it. Some guy almost clipped Denise while going the other way.

I had heard Sausalito was really nice, but I have to say it was very touristy as I rode through. It was also very congested with traffic and I was more than happy to get out of there. Much of the route after Sausalito to Corte Madera was on a bike path which was nice that I didn’t have to deal with traffic. Once in Corte Madera I got a bit mixed up. One bike trail I was on had no one else on it and eventually dead-ended. I then turned back and found a turn off that I missed(Lomita Drive/Alto Sutton Manor) the bike route wound through some streets and up besides Hwy 101 for a bit.

After wandering through the streets of Corte Madera for awhile I eventually figured out that I needed to cross over the Hwy 101 overpass to get to Paradise Drive. Once on Paradise Drive it was finally a nice ride winding down the coastline. Much of the ride was also shaded too which I enjoyed since it was a pretty warm day. I received a text message from my wife along the way where she found that there were no more ferries until 6:30pm in TIburon. This would complicate things a bit with the bike returns. I would figure this out in TIburon when I got there. For now I just wanted to enjoy the ride.

I eventually got to Tiburon and met up with Denise there. I called the bike shop and they said just drop bikes off at there other store on Hyde St. We had a almost an hour to kill waiting for the ferry, so I hit one on the shops for a chewy coconut macaroon. Mmm! I ended up doing around 30 miles which was pretty lame given it took 2:30 hours. Oh well, it is a rest week and at least I am still getting some training in. How often do I get to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and around the Bay area.

The ferry eventually showed up and we made our way back to the city. They had a little bar on board so I took full advantage and enjoyed a local microbrew IPA for the cruise back. We headed right past Alcatraz Island which was pretty cool. I took advantage of that by turning my Garmin on to record a “swim” from Alcatraz to the San Fran Pier to trick my coach. He had texted me the day before asking for a swim report from swimming from Alcatraz, so I had to play along! I am sure he didn’t fall for it too long when he saw the 22secs/100 yds…I wish I could swim that fast!

We headed quickly over to the Blazing Saddles shop on Hyde St. to return our bikes. It was a bit of a madhouse with everyone from the ferry returning bikes and then trying to explain to them how we rented at Mason St., then I swapped bikes on Columbus and now I am returning to Hyde St. Hmmm…oh yea no chance of this getting messed up. I will be calling Mason St. shop tomorrow to make sure they credited my account correctly.

We then walked up the street to catch a bus back to the hotel. It was a pretty long ride and by the time we showered it was getting late for dinner. Hmmm…we ended up taking a taxi back to Roam Burgers again! Hey if it is good, gotta stick with it I guess.

Tomorrow I will be running in the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon which will be a story in itself. I continue that in a separate post. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!