On Sunday, October 20, I woke up at 5:30am after having a scary dream that I drove off a cliff. I was driving my car but it was like 3rd person vision in a video game. As I was hovering hundreds or thousands of feet above a body of water, I was so regretful and just wanted to turn back. I was jolted awake and happy that I was in my hotel bed, still alive. Mantra/song for the day: (“No I don’t even know if I’m alive. Oh, oh, oh without you now” from This Is What It Feels Like).  If a scary almost-death dream doesn’t make you excited to run a half marathon, I don’t know what does (*insert sarcasm*).

We stayed at the Handlery Hotel on Geary so it was literally a block from the start. Unfortunately I booked us a double bed, which feels like the equivalent of sharing a college twin XL bed. Next time I need to keep in mind King size or no size. **note: stay in Union-Square. There was no host hotel (maybe for TNT [Team In Training]) and no runner discounts.

This was the earliest race I have ever run (6:30am), but the longest I’ve ever slept in. Usually I have to wake up super early to drive and chill out in the parking lot for several hours. I also wasn’t hungry when I woke up (very unusual for me). So I snacked on some ProBar chews and finally ate my Quest Bar.  My dinner the night before (SF eats post to follow) was the perfect proportion of protein-to carbs-to lightness (no scientific backing for this claim).

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I didn’t have to deal with the porta-potties or lines with our hotel so close to the start. Around 6am we went out to check it out, then I went back up to the hotel room to pee and was back out by 6:15am.  I had a hard time getting into my corral originally, probably because I should’ve gotten out there a little bit earlier. They didn’t have an opening in the line-up for 7:00-7:59 pace wristbands to enter, so I had to enter from the 8:00-8:59 corral and push my way up to the front before the race started.

It was a fairly chilly morning, but after the adrenaline/panic of almost not getting into my corral, I was warmed up and dropped my throwaway jacket before the start. I decided to pin my bib to my shorts in the chance that I would run with my sweatshirt for the first couple of miles.  The corral panic made me realize that I have a lack of self-motivation– basically, I was ready to give up from the beginning (but I didn’t!).

Also, did you know Shay Mitchell was running this race (#PLLFanatic…mildly just kidding)? Of course I did after stalking her Instagram. I was partially on the look-out and thought I saw her within the first half-mile. I contemplated sticking around and running by her before I realized it def was not her!

There were some smaller hills around mile 3 (near Ghiradelli Square) but I moved up these seamlessly, and made sure to take 10 good steps after reaching the top which helped refresh my legs and kept me moving (got this tip from the November Runner’s World I read on the plane ride over!).  The biggest hill was around 6-7 through Golden Gate Park, but it was definitely nowhere near the difficulty level of Torrey Pines.  I didn’t think the course was as hilly as people made it seem (or maybe compared to La Jolla nothing will be as hilly).  There weren’t any of those “signature SF hills.”

Around mile 9 I was starting to fatigue and there were some small hills through residential areas. At mile 10 I felt really good, but by mile 11 that feeling started to fade off.  At mile 12 I finally gave it my all, especially around the 12.5 mile mark.  Once I turned the corner towards the finish line, I came in fast with my knees driving (6:25 finishing pace). Then I flew and ate shit. The worst part was that the fireman looked at me unapologetic like it was all my fault (okay, so maybe it was). But by the time I registered, high-five, no high-five, I had already fallen flat on the ground. Today my right knee is pretty poorly bruised and I have rug burn all up my forearms. This was probably one of the most embarrassing incidents of my life. But I guess it makes for a great story (too bad there’s no finish line footage).

The spectator shuttle system was pretty messed up, so my dad and boyfriend didn’t arrive until 45 minutes after I finished. They were dropped off at the 11.3 mile cheering station and was told it was the end, so they ended up having to walk the 2 miles to the finish line (thank god for the Verizon “call your friends” tent. I didn’t run with my phone so it helped to have some way to contact them).
I realized I got blood on my finishers t-shirt and that my arm was scathed. So I made my first ever trip to the medical tent (which was also just very warm). I also drank my bodyweight in nuun while I was waiting. I probably had close to 8 cups I kept walking back and forth to drink.

Throughout the race I only stopped for water twice (around mile 4 and 7) and only walked through these stations (I have a hard time drinking from water cups and running/not choking). I didn’t walk anywhere else which is a small victory in itself since for the past 3 half marathons (AFC, RnRSD and La Jolla) I’ve felt the need to walk at least a few strides. Especially after AFC, I feel like I’m back on the right track.

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:45:18):
1 – 7:56
2 – 7:54
3 – 7:58
4 – 7:43
5 – 7:49
6 – 8:05
7 – 9:15
8 – 7:37
9 – 8:45
10 – 7:39
11 – 7:45
12 – 8:06
13 – 7:02
Last .25 – 1:36

My chip time was 1:45:07.

From my perspective, I thought this was a well-organized race (except for the corral thing). Of course there is going to be chaos with 30,000 women running (and shopping everything Nike).  From my dad’s/bf’s perspective, the spectator shuttle was a nightmare. It basically took them 2 hours to get the finish line, from waiting, to taking a detoured bus route, to walking to the finish line. They didn’t even make it to see me finish. However, I thought Nike did an excellent job of personalizing the experience.

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The Niketown exterior window had every runner’s name listed. And as you entered the “expotique” after checking in, your name went across a big digital screen “ASHLEIGH YOU INSPIRE US.” They also had a wall where pictures hash-tagged with “werunsf appeared.  Overall, I thought it was a good race with a fun and refreshing course. Even though it was a new course (to me), I think unintentionally running part of the route during our July trip helped familiarize certain places. The only thing I would change would be training a little bit more for the hills. Mentally I felt good and I would probably like to run it again next year.


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