Hello everyone! I hope you all enjoyed a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday. We had a wonderful time baking up a storm before celebrating with friends here in Berkeley.
Tuesday morning I headed into work early with some coworkers and decided to get my 3 miler in before starting the work day. An easy 3 miles along The Embarcadero were the perfect shakeout for sore legs following Sunday’s race, and watching the sun rise along the Bay was beautiful. It was a wonderful 28:39 of running beauty.
Yesterday afternoon, Matt and I headed over to the track to get in a pre-Thanksgiving workout (good thing because we ate WAY too much), and I was surprised to see so many people and families getting a workout in! I loved it! We ran there to warm up and then did 4 x 1200s, keeping close to an 8:10/mile pace. Our last 1200 was 5:55 (a sub-8 pace)! I was amazed by how well my legs held up, considering I thought they’d be pretty tired from the race, still, but I held strong the entire time. We finished up with a cool down job home. And the best part? We were able to leave Pepper on her own for the entire hour we were gone!!! The complete workout ended up covering 4.11 miles in 36:28.
On November 24, Matt and I headed to downtown Berkeley to race the Inaugural Berkeley 10K, which was part of the Berkeley Half Marathon and 10 Miler. We learned about the race shortly after moving to Berkeley earlier in the summer and knew it had to be on our racing calendar for the fall.
The race offered two options for packet pick up: Friday at Sports Basement in San Francisco and Saturday at Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley. I stopped by pick up in San Francisco on Friday on my way home from work, and it was the easiest packet pick up I’ve ever experienced. There were no lines and it was straight forward. After grabbing our packets and shirts, and picking up the necessary tags for bag check on race day, I was out the door. (You could also register for the SF Marathon, the sister race of the Berkeley Half.)
I absolutely love the long-sleeve tech shirts we received. Not only are they a great color with a fantastic design, but they were also purchased through an organization called Greenlight Apparel, which provides women and children around the world the opportunity to get ahead of poverty through work and education opportunities, like Microfinance Loans.
On Saturday night, I found myself feeling pretty anxious since it had been a while since I had last prepared for a race. I ended up laying out my clothes and preparing a bag to take over to a friend’s for Pepper while thinking about how insane I was for thinking I could break 52 minutes in the morning.
The half marathon started at 8 am at Civic Center Park, but the 10K didn’t start until 8:45, so we aimed to get there around 8:15, which was when bag check closed. After dropping off Pepper, we walked a few blocks to the park, found the school buses for bag check (which were not actually marked as bag check), and then found a spot in the sun to stand in while waiting for the race to start. One last bathroom trip (at the only race I’ve been to that has had more portapotties than were necessary!), and we were in the start corral around 8:35 waiting to get started.
The organization of the waves was really well done, and I was very much impressed with how smoothly everything ran considering it was an inaugural event. (I’ve run plenty of inaugural events that I was less impressed by.) Knowing we were going for a faster time, Matt and I tried to line up near the front. Once our corral was brought up to the start line, we waited about 10 minutes before one of the Berkeley City Council members sent us off on our way.
We took off on a loop around downtown Berkeley before heading west on University Ave. A few times throughout the course we took a left to do a bit of a U-shape down some of the side streets. There was a mile marker at mile 1, mile 3, and mile 4, as well as the mile 13 marker for the half marathon (which indicated to us 6.1). I assumed we’d have markers at every mile, which made it a little difficult to gauge how we were doing. The course was essentially a reasonable downhill along University, which allowed us to maintain a strong pace throughout. About halfway through mile 4, we hit the one hill I was expecting: the bridge crossing over the interstate.
Looking back at the elevation chart, I should have realized there was something else waiting ahead of us, though.
Once we came down from the overpass, we took a left for a few yards before flipping a U-turn to cut off part of the 10 miler and half marathon course. We were fed into the race at a point where everyone around us not doing the 10K was a slower runner, and I thought we’d be a little screwed trying to dodge people the rest of the race. Shortly down the trail, we saw the mile 4 marker, and realized that the hill for the overpass had slowed us down slightly. Given that we were now running on gravel, I focused on maintaining as strong of a pace as I could while my legs were screaming at me.
Maybe a quarter to a third of a mile down the trail, we veered off again to meet up with a different portion of half and 10 miler runners, this time running just a little slower than us. We were stuck behind a few slower runners on a narrow dirt path, but my legs were at least thankful to have gotten off of the gravel for a bit. About half of a mile or so later, we ended up peeling off of the half marathon runners to meet up with a different group of half runners; these runners were now running faster than us, and we stuck with them for the rest of the race.
The course took us out along the marina up behind the race track (horses, not cars). Despite the frustration you’d feel coming in and out of different packs of runners, I was impressed with how well-marked the course was for the different distances, and it was really helpful to have volunteers out indicating which way to go. Unfortunately, as we headed towards the final portion of the course, there ended up being two switchbacks, which I’m assuming were done just to get in the last bit of the distances. After pushing hard through the whole race, this was the second worst thing that could have happened: I lost all of my momentum that I was trying to ride to the finish line on the very abrupt U-turns.
After coming out of the switchbacks, I forced myself to push with every ounce of energy left in my legs…but as I looked up ahead trying to find the finish line, my stomach dropped when I realized there was a steep incline right ahead. I’d been pushing so hard, I didn’t think I had anything left to get myself over the hill and still beat 52 minutes. We approached the hill and I buckled down, dug deep, and just listed as Matt tried to help me keep pushing despite thinking I couldn’t do it. Near the top I found myself on the verge of puking (the photos at this point are just UGLY) and started searching frantically for the finish line. (I am now kicking myself for not realizing that the hill was NOT the overpass on the elevation chart.) Finally, I spotted it at the bottom of the hill, and I fought to push my legs forward with everything they had left, while also not trying to fall because it was a pretty steep decline! As I made my way down the finish shoot and crossed the finish line, I had to blink back tears as I watched the clock hit 51:16. I had been nervous about breaking 52 minutes, let alone completely destroying it! If you haven’t been reading for long, I’ve spent most of this year recovering from a series of injuries, so to FINALLY make it through a training plan and demolish my goal time, setting an almost 5 minutes PR in the process, I was in heaven.
Oh yes, those are the highest placings I’ve ever had at a race, hitting top 12% of total racers, top 5% of women, and top 10% in my age group! Not a bad way to kick off our racing careers in NorCal .
Once we finished the race, we grabbed plenty of food, water, chocolate coconut water, and chocolate milk, before realizing we needed our gear bag to hold everything. It was easy to get our bags (with no line), and we headed back to the sponsor tables, where we received plenty of other goodies – lots of free snacks and a reusable shopping bag – before heading into the best part of the post-race festival: the Pyramid beer tent. All runners over 21 received a free beer following the race, and we were more than happy to do our part in consuming the beverages .
We finished our beers, which apparently was enough to get me drunk before 10 am, and enjoyed the scenery, while taking in the excitement of our accomplishments.
If you look on the horizon in the photo above, you can see the skyline of San Francisco across the Bay. I completely failed to get more photos, but the course along the marina really was beautiful.
After finishing our beers, we jumped on a bus to head back to the start line (I was really glad they had transported our bags to the finish line, even though there were shuttles back to the start), and while we really didn’t have to wait for a bus back, there was a lot of traffic getting out of the parking lot and it took quite a while to get back to downtown Berkeley.
My overall assessment of the race is this: for an inaugural race, they did a great job with logistics. I loved that packet pick up was available in two locations over two different days, and the cost was very reasonable ($50 for the 10K, $60 for the 10 miler, and $75 for the half marathon). The course could have been more interesting (I would have loved to run more of downtown/north Berkeley before heading out to the water), and adjusting the course to get the distance in better would be great for future races. All of that considered, we loved participating in this race and are planning to run the half marathon next November.
Thank you, Berkeley, for an amazing first race in our new hometown!
Your Turn: What’s your favorite hometown race to run? Are you a fan of the 10K distance? I think I might be addicted to it now!