San Francisco Ultra Marathon – My First Double

As I write this the day after my first San Francisco Double Marathon (a charity run), I’m still so high with the endorphins and adrenaline. And incredibly stoked to pace my buddy Yadhu who managed a sub-5:00 on his first marathon. I’ve done this distance before, sure, but never this much asphalt in one go. And the last couple of weekends have been busy getting PADI certified and pulling down some 5.10d’s and 5.11a’s with my older son at Planet Granite. Not as much running during the week, but again that seems to be my thing. To get away with low weekly mileage and still manage to survive this distance without injuries. Here’s my first 26.2 on Strava and the second one.

First midnight 26.2

I tried napping twice during the day for a few hours and just lay there eyes closed, heart fluttering, anxious and excited about what was to come. At 10:30pm headed to the Ultra tent to checkin. Was great to see Mary Bernsen (Bike Marshall) and Chris Blagg (support crew). There were about ~70 of us slowing pouring into the tent. Was surprised to see Scott Dunlap there, but apparently he registered just the day before!

Dean Karnazes did the intro talk and how he got started on this idea 6 years ago. My overall plan for the first 26.2 was to really just pace myself (9:00 min/mile if not slower). I had about 8 VFuel’s stashed away in my vest and a zip-lock full of sliced Tofurky Sausages. After 10+ miles of gels, I always crave for salty food and this worked out amazing. With low-fiber content (1g), didn’t trigger urgent bio breaks either! 🙂 Also had some dark chocolate espresso beans for a delicious caffeine shot along the way.

The other thing I absolutely nailed was to load the GPX file into my Suunto Ambit3 and drop waypoints on all the turns. This pretty much meant I had to run while keeping the arrow on the line and getting alerted when approaching a turn. Especially with contacts on, I would’ve been hard pressed to see the tiny print on the turn-by-turn. I think I missed one turn by about 20 yards before backtracking. Win! The midnight miles were amazing, the weather cooperating and we had the whole city to ourselves. I had my GoPro Session attached to my wrist, but unfortunately it didn’t do so well in the low-light conditions.

At the top of Haight (mile 7), Robert Rhodes was there to meet us. Quickly refueled and descended into the mostly dark Golden Gate park. The waypoints were super useful in navigating, especially around Stow Lake. Onto Martin Luther King Dr. to the next aid station by Great Highway. I don’t think I ever looked at the pace nor the time. Just the arrow on the line, hydrating and eating. After the out-and-back, @KarlTheFog caught up with us towards the end of 27th and it was the best thing ever.  I think the toughest segment was the flat mile or two between Crissy Field and Fort Mason. But there were 3 or 4 of us that stuck it together nudging one another. Ghirardelli Square lit up in the morning welcoming us on the home stretch. Pulled into the ultra tent 4:30ish. One down, one more to go.

After a quick (but awesome) massage, change of clothes, reload food, mostly waited around until Yadhu’s wave started at 6:20. While I ran the first 26.2 with my $30 PR shoes, chose to run the second in Luna Sandals. I was feeling fairly upbeat and my legs weren’t as trashed as I thought they might be.

Second 26.2 with Yadhu

I headed to the corral around 6:00am and met up with Yadhu. He had a simple (and very effective, first-marathon plan). Run for 2 miles and then walk for a minute. Keep it around 10:30 min/mile. Repeat, rinse. I have to say, we pretty much stuck with that plan till the finish. Well, except maybe the last few miles.

@KarlTheFog was rocking today and had covered the entire city almost until we reached mile 20. There’s something to be said about the energy you get with 27,000 runners pounding asphalt. As we entered the Golden Gate bridge, it was nice to see that for the first time, the city had shut down the northbound lanes. And I was recalling my first ever race, the San Francisco Half Marathon where I ran the whole race barefooted!

As we went up Lincoln and down on 27th ave towards Golden Gate park, I was approaching my mile 40 and was definitely hitting a low point. I was dragging my feet and trailing behind Yadhu. We were still sticking to the 2 mile run, 1 minute walk cycle. If not for him, I would’ve walked a lot more here. Just kept his cap in sight over the crowd and tried to follow as closely as I can. We were nudging each other to keep to the schedule. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

By mile 20, I was getting second wind, my spirits were soaring. Might’ve been the downhill from top of Haight, but I was feeling absolutely awesome. We broke down the distance to ‘next turn’, ‘next stop light’, ‘1/4 mile more’ and then we would walk and keep up the shuffle.

Best sign ever: “Pain is temporary, bragging rights on social are forever”. Sun was out now and the miles kept ticking. 6 to go, 4 to go, just one more mile! As we rounded the last corner, I urged Yadhu’s kids to join us and we crossed the finish line just shy of 5 hours. That was an amazing run. H/T to Luna Sandals. I bought this pair 3 or 4 years ago and they are still going!

Last but not the least, this is the most I had to work to get my better half the most amazing race tee! 🙂 Serious brownie points, I’d say.

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