it was a hot chocolate party
it was a hot chocolate party

Yesterday was the first official race I’d done since last June (See Jane Run). I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy. I started myself on the couch-to-5k program again a few weeks ago, and as of this week I’m up to Week four. I told myself I’d just go at whatever pace felt comfortable, and I just wanted to finish and celebrate being back in the (sort of) running world again.

I was a Hot Chocolate Ambassador for this one, meaning they sponsored my race registration (thanks Hot Choco folks!). I have to say, for someone living in the East Bay, this was one darned inconvenient race. First of all, there was no same-day packet pickup, so all race packets needed to be picked up at the San Francisco Presidio Sports Basement beforehand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am still not back to my job yet! I LOVE Sports Basement the store, and the Presidio is absolutely gorgeous, but MAN, it is not an easy place to get to. I was giving it directions from THREE separate GPS devices (two apps plus my car) and not ONE of them could locate the store correctly. Fail. I kept driving PAST it or OVER it on the freeway. So, that was a pain. Once inside the store, though, the place was teeming with Hot Chocolate volunteers and there were virtually no lines. I was able to present race information for a dozen people and get EVERYone’s goodie bag. BTW, the goodie bags were AWESOME.

pile o goodie bags!
pile o goodie bags!

The biggest item (aside from chocolate!) in the goodie bag was this fantastic fleece HOODIE complete with thumb holes. So great for a chilly January day. So much better than the (hardly ever used) stack of coupons and protein bars that come in most goodie bags…

The race folks also sent out a dozen emails warning us to NOT park in or near the race, and to take these shuttles, but there were no East Bay shuttles (cough: for next time, please) and BART trains did not start running until half an hour after the start of the race. So it was a real trick getting over twelve East Bay runners over to the park for start time.

It was emotional starting the night before, setting up my pre-race pile. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it is such a beloved ritual.

pre-race pile
pre-race pile

One of our Team in Training honorees, Justin, recently passed away. This was such a heartbreak for our team. Justin came out at the start (and end) of many of our race trainings and he was so inspiring and encouraging and… relentless. I was so so sad to hear about this loss of such a good young guy. His memorial service was yesterday also, so I made sure to wear our team shirt with his name on it, and this run was in his honor.

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I couldn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up about every hour, worried about sleeping through my alarm. Four-thirty came soon enough and I got up, ate my traditional whole wheat English muffin + peanut butter, and then went to pick up Lily for our carpool. It felt so great to be picking her up in the pre-dawn hours again! So many times we did this during our triathlon training, and it made me feel all emotional and nostalgic.

We met up with Annie, Lisa and Mary for our carpool and then headed over to the city. My friend Caroline had posted a welcome sign (Happy Running, Susan & Friends!) on her garage door. Awww! We could see lots of people on the streets all headed to the park. One last stop at Starbucks for hot coffee and bathroom, and we were off! I was toting my big inflatable gold “5” with me. (for my fifth year of running and 5th healthaversary!)

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The race itself was BIG. I had no idea how big it would be, but they announced something like 10,000 runners. Pretty awesome! I lined up in the last corral which was the one that allowed walking. There were LOTS of people there!

Corral E/Start line
Corral E/Start line

I had that nervous happy butterfly feeling when we inched toward the start line. Then the air horn went off, and we start shuffling off! It was one of the most crowded races I’ve been at – similar to Bay to Breakers – and the road we were on  was so narrow, we could not help going pretty slow. I hung with Lily, Mary and Lisa (her first race! Ever!) and we got nice and warmed up until the course spread out and then we did a little bit of slow-running intervals. There were a few loops so we got to pass the faster runners going the opposite way on a few occasions. That’s always inspiring and exciting.

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!
Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

This race had some rolling hills – some flats – going through Golden Gate park, which I LOVE. For the first three-four years I lived in San Francisco, I was always just a few blocks away from the park. I spent a lot of time in there, getting lost in the trees and paths. It felt like coming home.

We did alternating jogging and walking, whatever felt right. (mostly depended on up or down hills!) It felt like a push from my regular workouts, but also not painful. Julie and Anne met us right at the the finish line and urged us to push through the last bit. It felt good to do a little sprint but then I was panting! In a few minutes, Lisa and Mary came through. It was so exciting to see Lisa cross her first finish line!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!
Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Victory chocolate! We had little chocolate fondue cups with bananas (ergh) and other stuff to dip in. Marshmallows, mmmm.

hot chocolate fondue, mmm
hot chocolate fondue, mmm

We took a bunch of photos, met up with the whole group.

 

It's @sarahlou1976!
It’s @sarahlou1976!
Team Weight Watchers!
Team Weight Watchers!

George, who had been my first mentee when I was a mentor for Team in Training, is now a traithlon mentor himself, as well as training for his first 50-mile ultra marathon race. BEAST, George! So happy to see him again.

Triathlon Team reunited!
Triathlon Team reunited!

All in all, I was really happy to return with this sweet not-so-little race. I was really glad to be surrounded by friends. After all that happened in the latter part of 2013, this felt like a great way to start the year. Yay for chocolate and running!

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