Bay to Breakers is a San Francisco tradition - a 99-year-old tradition to be exact. It's one part elite road race, one part carnival, and about 100 parts drunken debauchery on the third Sunday in May. Residents of my fair city - the ones who aren't really racing, or at least throwing in some registration money to slowly stroll 7.46 miles across town, dress up and assemble floats and drink their way across the race course. Or halfway across the race course, until their floats fall apart and they run out of beer, and they're entirely too drunk to keep going. It's not all pretty, but it's still an awesome race.
Last year, I registered at the last minute, and, still not well enough to complete the entire race, met my teammates at the halfway mark and strolled slowly to the finish line. It took me well over an hour to walk about three miles. This year, I joined my teammates in running short sections of the race each time we met each other on the course. What a difference a year has made!
I got to the race start to find huge crowds of drunks and unattractive naked guys with a smattering of some serious runners, and a few walkers too. The lapse between gun time and my time over the starting mats was about 25 minutes, but I was able to watch some of the show and get hit by a few flying tortillas as I waited. Can anybody explain the tortillas? I just don't understand why people throw them around the starting corrals.
By the time I crossed the starting line, I think the winners were almost to the finish. I spent the first mile dodging runners, walkers, drunks, and a huge group of people dressed as bacon. I saw all variety of costumes, and a bunch of people wearing nothing at all.
I went into mile two feeling fantastic, and, having gotten all the tortilla remains off of my sneakers, was able to pick up the pace. I had to stop to remove my windbreakers, but otherwise I was able to sustain a comfortably hard pace, and approached the toughest point of the course - the Hayes St. Hill - feeling fantastic. I crested the hill, which is roughly an 11 percent grade over one city block, and looked back behind me to make sure I was at the top. I ascended about 200 feet in just a few blocks, and my first thought was "wait, is that it?" The hills I've been training on are much steeper over the same distance, and I wasn't too phased by the Hayes St. monster. I smiled and took a minute to survey the scene. The crowds along the sidewalk and hanging from windows and off of fire escapes were awesome. They were distributing snacks and drinks to everyone out for the party, and I think also to any racers who wanted 9 am mimosas at mile 2.5. Everyone was cheering and screaming and waving motivational signs. I'm pretty sure most of the city was out on Sunday morning. It was a little overwhelming.
As I descended the other side of Hayes St., I got a text message from my teammates. They were a few minutes behind me, and I expected we'd catch up in a few blocks. I walked towards the Panhandle and paused for a few seconds in front of the corner where, last year, I waited for my friends before joining halfway through the race. The girls hadn't caught up with me yet, but we met a few blocks later and I jogged with them into the park. We parted ways, and I continued my descent through the Park to the ocean.
My teammates, after stopping to stretch, caught up with me a second time about two miles from the finish. We jogged together for a few more minutes before I send them on ahead. We figured I would finish about 10 minutes after them, and they would be waiting, with our friends and a few backpacks full of beer, at the finish line.
The last few miles were nice. I maintained a pretty strong pace, got to watch the show around me, and thought a lot about last year's race. I crossed the finish line in 1:44:20, about seven minutes faster than my target. I averaged a 13:42 mile, and that's not including the running. I met and far exceeded all my goals for this race, and I did it without having to push too hard. I was in great shape to walk all the way home afterward, putting roughly 13 miles on my feet on Sunday. I think it's safe to proclaim this my comeback race.
If you want to see the rest of the photos, they're here.
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