Sunday, September 5, 2010

Race Recap: Marina Green 5k

This week I got my California driver's license in the mail, and I got it on the same day I celebrated my 1-month anniversary of arriving in the city. I've had my "papers" for a while, but seeing my name and new address on a thick piece of stocky, shiny cardboard is making me feel like I'm not just here on vacation.

They couldn't have zoomed out on my ID picture any more, but in this case that's quite alright.
This morning, I marched my brand new ID down to the Marina neighborhood and signed up for my first race as a San Franciscan. My half marathon training program had me doing a step-back weekend, where I spent more time resting than I did running. During this long weekend, I had just a 30-minute tempo run, a couple days of rest, and a 5k race on the docket. While I was originally planning on sprinting 3.1 miles for my "race" workout, I figured there had to be some sort of Labor Day 5k happening in the city. I searched and searched and searched and found nothing -- but I did find a running group, the Dolphin South End (DSE) Runners, the oldest running club in San Francisco; a group that just happens to hold unofficial races almost every weekend.
This morning, I headed over to the Marina for a "flat, fast out/back 5k course along the Marina Green and Golden Gate Promenade." Because it wasn't a get-a-tech-shirt-and-medal kind of race, I paid my $5 non-member entrance fee (when's the last time you paid for a race with spare change you find in your car?!) and joined a handful of people on this short scenic run. You know it's a quality race when they do hand-scoring and their course map says things like "turn around at the fourth sandy beach entrance."

Just a little haze on Alcatraz this morning.
Runners registering; the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
The countdown clock with the Palace of Fine Arts behind it.
The haze lifts as we get ready to run.
I haven't specifically been doing any 5k training lately, so I wasn't expecting to do that well. I have done plenty of hill training and even some tempo runs in the past month, but I didn't know what to expect for this 5k. I knew it would be flat, but I had no idea what kind of terrain we'd be running on. And since it was an unofficial race, our path was not immune to bikers, joggers, dogs, tourists, and strollers getting in the way.

I'd guess there were maybe 150 people who showed up to toe the line. After deciding I'd like to finish in under 24 minutes, I pushed my way to the front of the crowd. I heard some mumbling, saw everyone duck down like they were about to sprint, and in the blink of an eye, everyone was off. No gunfire, no one shouting "Go!", no "Star Spangled Banner", no nothing. It was such a calm way to start a run! There was no time to anticipate the start or even get nervous.

Mile 1: 7:37
I took off with the front of the pack knowing I was going to get dropped quickly -- most of these guys looked awfully serious. I picked out a lady wearing a DSE singlet and decided she was going to pace me. I followed her closely for the first mile; then we hit some turf that apparently she nor I were anticipating: gravel. I was definitely not wearing the right shoes for a gravel run, but I watched my step and kept up with Miss DSE.

Mile 2: 7:43
At the fourth sandy beach entrance turnaround, I continued to curse myself for wearing mesh racing flats, but I got ahead of Miss DSE. I started to get a side stitch and knew I was going to lose my breakfast, so I tried to watch my breath and slowed down a bit. There were some great water views with the Bridge close by and I tried to look up to take the sights in. Right around this time, I watched the first runner finish up ahead -- his official time was 15:59. These people are fast.

Mile 3: 7:38
The one thing I both love and hate about 5k races is that it's basically a really long sprint (well, at least this pace is pretty close to sprinting for me...). Miss DSE caught up to me while I was slowing down, and I decided that I didn't want to give up that quickly. I picked my pace back up but wasn't able to catch her once we were off the gravel.

Mile .1: :43
It's no surprise to me when I gag or vomit after crossing nearly every finish line, but this was the first time I actually started gagging before I completed the race. With just a few feet to go, I almost lost it. My "don't puke, don't puke" mantra kicked in and I was able to finish in one piece.

Just barely holding it together.
While I didn't PR, I'm really surprised I ended up finishing in under 24 minutes. Without proper 5k training -- and with having to dodge people and having more than a few non-racers randomly stopping in front of us -- I feel like maybe all these hill runs have been making me stronger.

Another reason you know when you're running in a quality race: I got a finisher's ribbon. Yes, a ribbon! This brings me right back to those 3-legged gunny sack races we did during our elementary-school Track & Field days where everyone was a winner. So exciting!
After swearing off paying for short-distance races, I have a feeling I'll be making an exception for these cheap, unofficial DSE races. It was well-organized for being so tiny, and it was a lot of fun.

Happy Labor Day!

3.1-mile splits: 7:37, 7:43, 7:38, :43 (average speed: 7.85mph)
Overall time: 23:42
Air temp: 63F


  1. Congrats on a great race! Happy Labor Day!

  2. Those races are the best! Of the seven races I've participated in over the last year, four of them were exactly like you described! Even down to the $5 entrance fee. (Or you can splurge and preregister for $12 and get a cotton shirt! haha)

  3. I love it! What a fantastic race!
    And how exactly did you manage to look so cute in your driver's license picture?????

  4. I love that ribbon! Well done, that is a super time! I’ve never run a 5k race. 10k is the shortest distance I’ve raced in 29 years of running.

  5. Woo-hoo! Good job! Relaxed, low-key races are fun. Were you able to meet and visit with any new people? Have a great week!

  6. Dear scarf wearing cool you already fit in the San Francisco setting girl:

    TOTAL high five on the RACE! That is AWESOME! Great job, and a ribbion? Seriously? I don't know whats more amazing that or the 5 buck entry fee?~

  7. This may be my final comment on your blog.

    I was under the impression that you were an “average’ runner who ran at an “average” pace but this 5K race report contradicts your “average” status.

    And to think I was going to invite you to run with me and my friends. Imagine what they would say if I invited a fast person……..

    Great race report!


  8. Wow, how awesome is that! I wish we had some cheapie 5ks hosted by our running group. Maybe I can suggest it and try to convince them... hmm.

    And let's be honest, your pace is pretty badass... agree with above commenter who points out you're not-so-average after all ;) haha.

    I want to move to California so badly! I'll probably be starting to look for jobs this fall and will be searching that entire state pretty intensely for any kind of opportunities. I think I'm secretly a west-coaster at heart, even though I'm from the midwest.

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    Great race report! Look forward to reading more :)

  10. Great race report! Look forward to reading more :)

  11. Great pictures! I love that you got a ribbon. I have never gotten a ribbon in a race. Great time!

  12. Good race recap, the race is so good I can see it in the pictures. I like the ribbon too, that was a great running collection.

  13. This sounds like my kind of race! I love the slow start and the course map. Congrats on your official California ID!

  14. Hi A,
    I don't know how and the hell I missed this post!

    I miss you! Are you planning any trips home anytime soon?

    Congrats on the killer 5K race! I get excited with any time under 23 minutes! You rocked it:) I need to start calling you Miss Speedy!

    I wish that my drivers ID looked as good as yours! I swear they just snap the picture when they feel like it and then they don't care if people look like Homers:)

    Take care A!

  15. This was my first ever 5K!

    I'm really glad they give a ribbon to everyone who finishes, because it took me an entire 33:17 to finish.

    So much fun though!