“The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” (Bay to Breakers Race Recap)

William Blake.

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I registered for my first Bay to Breakers last year. Traditionally, I kept my distance from the shenanigans. I don’t mean to be a party pooper — it’s just not my scene. I’m more of a quietly-get-drunk-in-a-sad-piano-lounge kind of gal than a topless-jelloshot-guzzler.

This is why at the 2013 race I was rather shocked at the relative mellowness of the event. That May morning was beautiful and bright, one of those shiny San Francisco days. An uncongested B Corral, silent pajamaed spectotors, the familiar eerie quiet of an early-morning Golden Gate Park jog…the shuttle back downtown was a piece of cake and I was home by 10am. Mostly uneventful save for the stark naked middle-aged dudes beside me for the first half mile or so (talk about motivation to pick up the pace). But it was Bay to Breakers, after all.

Suffice to say that things were different this year.

I arrived at the start line with no pacing plan and itchy feet. Earlier in the week I’d been organizing my schedule for the remainder of 2014, so the combination of this obsessiveness coupled with the excitement of the tortilla toss, helicopters, great weather, and the fired up runners beside me had me ready to go. My fellow racers and I seemed a little cozier than last year — and in fact, according to my results, 28,253 runners finished, compared with 22,268 in 2013. After a 25 minute delay, I crossed the starting mat and decided to aim for a 9:00 pace. Not too fast, not too slow — a clip that would reward me with a decent course PR.

The first two miles were absolute mayhem. Costumed drunks, screaming and wandering Howard Street, runners smashing into one another trying to find a clear path. I had to slow to a walk once or twice because the crowds were that thick. But once we left downtown, the celebrations kept (mostly) to the sidelines up the hill. Parties were starting. Jello shots offered, sidewalk barbeques lit. But Hayes Street is no joke, and I kept mentally focused by segmenting the challenge into 5 steep inclines to push through, breathlessly cresting the hill in five and a half minutes.

After the panhandle (whose elevation chart always surprises me — I really feel that incline even though it only nets about 60 ft), it’s a speedy downhill to the ocean finish. On training runs, I make sure to stay conservative, but I love bombing down this hill at Bay to Breakers. A good looking twenty-something wearing a giraffe costume pulled up next to me and said something like, “This downhill is great, isn’t it?” “It sure is,” I replied, “But ice your knees after!” Sure enough, the race gave me some crippling shin splints last year. But it feels like flying and it’s worth it. Giraffe man smiled and passed me by.

After a speedy final mile, I sprinted to the finish just behind the pink gorilla.

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Ape Hashbury and I moving through the chute.

Ape Hashbury and I just moments after finishing. I’m apparently shocked by something in the distance…

Finish Time: 01:05:38

Here are splits from the 2013 race compared to 2014.

Miles 1-3 in 2014 (above) & 2013 (below)

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Miles 4-7 in 2014 (above) & 2013 (below)

I pushed it harder this year effort-wise, still, another race where it’s obvious how much I’ve grown in the past year. Last year’s marathon training really changed how I run. I’m looking forward to my summer of speedwork with the hope of improving even further!

Although the expected insanity of Bay to Breakers is a little beyond me, I do love the course and the energy. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t run it every year that I can! Also – the medal is awesome. Very impressive, especially given the fact that there were none at all last year. Even Darwin was impressed.

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6 thoughts on ““The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” (Bay to Breakers Race Recap)

  1. Congrats on the great race! Glad that you agree that the first 2 miles were mayhem on the course, what were all these police doing to allow all these crazy people on the course? lol. I’ve done the race 13 times now, and never saw that many crazy people on the course before. And you are a great writer, not sure what you do for a living, but you should be a writer. Glad you enjoyed my sportphoto email rant, I just couldn’t handle it anymore – because honestly I was ready to pull the trigger on buying photos, since this race probably had the best photos of me in a race ever. But for $80 – I’ll save my money and simply do print screen. I really hope Sport Photo responds, I’ll post the email response next post for sure lol.

    • Thanks for the compliment! 🙂 Your race photos are super good. Mine are always beyond awful, but I find these pics of the gorilla and me totally hilarious. I was seriously tempted to buy one but had the exact same reaction — no JPEG is worth fifty freaking dollars! Maybe your email will knock some sense into them. It’s never occurred to me to actually call them out on it — I can’t wait to hear their reaction (assuming they man up and email you back). Well done!

      • haha yea the gorilla pics are awesome, such a bummer that they are so expensive! Though the pics above are good enough quality.

  2. Congratulations! You really improved dramatically over the previous year. That has to be a great feeling.

    Bay to Breakers always sounds like a really interesting time, even for me, who is, like you, not a Jello-shots-and-boobs-out kind of lady. However, I have to say that hill in the second photo looks beastly. Is that in the last mile? That might be what keeps me from ever doing this race, not the naked dudes and gorilla suits. My quads weep just looking at it.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Caitlin! 🙂

      B2B’s quirks don’t disappoint, and the course itself is entertaining and scenic. The placement of that second photo is somewhat deceptive, as “Hayes Street Hill” actually happens closer to the start of the race. About 2.5 miles in, it’s a series of 5 steep inclines at an 11% grade. Thankfully, this portion of the route is lined with some of the wildest spectators and parties, so that can be a fun distraction. I find it also helpful to mentally segment it into five blocks, and remind myself of the glorious downhill waiting from Golden Gate Park to the finish. Even so, a big hill’s a big hill. But at least you get over it sooner rather than later. Definitely run Bay to Breakers if you have the opportunity!

  3. Pingback: training diary: half marathon prep – week 1 | well and warm together

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