The start line was crazy crowded, packed to the point of not being able to move. It was the same last year so no shock there. This year, they handed out start corral bracelets and only let you into the correct pace corral, which helped at least a little. There were still people walking out of the start, stopping abruptly and traveling in long rows of 5 people, but it wasn't as bad as 2011. I was in the 9:00-9:59 pace corral, which is definitely not a walking-from-the-start pace.
Start line! Here I go.
After fighting through the initial start line cluster, I was able to navigate in and out of the crowd fairly well. The first few miles go toward and then along Embarcadero, one of my favorite places to run. Mile 3 took us over the short but steep Fort Mason hill and down the other side. I made up for the uphill on the downhill with no problem.
Mile 1 - 9:47
Mile 2 - 9:37
Mile 3 - 9:51
Next we headed through the marina on flat ground where I could keep a happy pace for a couple of miles. The end of mile 5 started up the hill toward the Golden Gate Bridge, with most of that uphill falling into miles 6 and 7. I walked through the water stop at the top of the hill to take water and Nuun, which was the first aid station I used on the course (hence the way worse mile 7 split.) You could say that particular hill is my nemesis.
Mile 4 - 9:36
Mile 5 - 9:29
Mile 6 - 9:44
Mile 7 - 11:42
Heading downhill on mile 8 made up some time and I felt like I was flying - I love this part of the run on both this course and the SF Marathon one. It's fun to take the tangents on the twisty turn-y road. Mile 9 went back up into the Presidio, where it got harder again. I swear the uphill segments through this section feel never ending, although knowing where the end actually was this year helped me a ton. Last year I remember trying to save energy because I didn't know what was coming, and I didn't need that mental save this time around. I also realized I was on PR pace or close somewhere around this time.
Mile 8 - 8:54
Mile 9 - 11:04
At mile 10 we again got to fly downhill along the water. This is normally a view of the Cliff House and Seal Rocks, but the fog took the views away this day. That's ok - I'd so much rather have the foggy, cool weather! Around this time you see the finish area on Ocean Beach, but then you take a left turn into Golden Gate Park. I slowed down in Mile 12, although I can't really say what happened there. It might have been the long slow grade in the park.
Mile 10 - 9:33
Mile 11 - 9:32
Mile 12 - 10:06
I knew if I could hang on around a 9 minute pace I'd be in for the PR, even if only by a few seconds. The last part of this is mostly a downhill grade so that was easy to do and I was in under my best time. I crossed that finish line as happy as could be - I PR'd in NWM? That's a challenging course and a huge win for me!
Mile 13 - 8:43
Last 0.1 (0.2 by my watch) - 7:49
Final - 2:09:07
Of course, the finish chute brought the highlight of the day - the custom Tiffany NWM finisher necklace. Ah, best race bling ever. Thank you, dear firefighter in a tux, for being there to hand it to me!
On the inside of the box...
After finishing I met up with two other Oiselle team ladies, Lauren and Ashley, to say hello. Sadly we missed the fourth teammate post-race. I'm so happy and lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of Oiselle team!
Oiselle team photo - Me, Lauren, and Ashley post-race.
Later I found my friend Julie and we headed out to cheer for the marathoners around the beginning of mile 25. For the next hour we jumped around, cheered, and ran up and down the Great Highway to help pep people up. I love cheering for races and was able to get cute photos of friends running the full.
Julie looking super strong at mile 25!
Julie (different Julie) and I showing off our necklaces at our cheer spot.
All in all, NWM turned out to be better than I could have imagined and I'm glad I added it to my races last minute.
Now, the race details and logistics.
The Expo-'tique'. For the first time ever, I didn't go to a race expo to pick up my packet myself. My friend grabbed it when she went on Friday during the day, and I'm glad she did. I heard stories of lines going around Union Square two times just to get into the expo. Yikes! I know from last year that this expo is focused on Nike merchandise only, plus some hair and skin related booths, which have terribly long lines. To purchase merchandise, you have to go across the street to the Nike Store.
The Course. This is the hardest half marathon course I've done, which is why the PR was such a surprise. There is quite a bit of flat and downhill, but the uphill portions tend to feel never ending and the Presidio is a mental challenge for me. That said, it's also one of the prettiest courses I've run with views of the water, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, and Seal Rocks. Many of these sights were hidden by fog this year though. The other important detail of the course is that it's insanely crowded. Many people walk or run in groups, so it's easy to get stuck behind these groups and to have trouble passing. This drove me crazy last year, but this time I knew what I was getting myself into.
The Support. The aid stations had water and Nuun (YES!) which totally rocked, and the solids were Clif Shot Bloks. It's like they designed it with my ideal race fuel. The support at the aid stations was so-so; some stations were great, ready and handing out cups, but others were not with it and you had to go to the table to get cups. In some cases, it would have helped a lot if the aid stations spanned a longer stretch so that people could spread out to hold cups to avoid back ups. Now for the most amazing part - gear check. This was by far the easiest gear check I've used. Each start corral had a school bus or two parked at the corral entrance, so you handed them your bag when you entered. They placed a sticker on the bib with gear check info such as bus name and window. At the end, you went back to that bus name and window. This resulted in no lines and no wandering around looking for the gear check before starting. Loved it!
The Finish Line. NWM had a good finish line area and good swag. It gets crowded, but I didn't see any issues with back ups across the finish line. They handed out the necklaces, race shirts, mylar blankets, water and Nuun tablets, fruit cups, bananas, Luna bars, Ghirardelli chocolate (hellooo dark chocolate salted caramel...), coconut water, and reusable NWM shopping bags to hold it all. Neutrogena gave everyone face cleaning wipes to freshen up, and Verizon handed out little packs of freshening wipes and yoga mats. There was a Verizon friends and family meeting area where you could call people, although I wish there had also been the family meet up letters. The Oiselle ladies planned to meet at the 'O' but it didn't exist, causing us a little difficulty. Last, I enjoyed the mirrored RUN letters for a photo op.
Celebrating with Julie!
Finisher shirt, nice and bright green.
If you happened to talk to me about NWM or to read my race report from last year, you might remember this was not my favorite race due to logistics and crowding. I'm happy to say that giving it another chance was the right thing to do - I had an absolute blast this year!