May 15, 2015

San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers Race Recap

Honestly, I didn’t want to run the Bay to Breakers race at all. I heard the stories. The debauchery of an event that gives the residents of San Francisco a headache.

I paid to run this race simply because I registered so early that it was only $40 for everything. I figured it’s worth doing once. As a runner, every race is worth doing once and as a Bay Area native, I should be able to say that yes, I ran Bay to Breakers and lived to tell the tale.

Bib Pickup

I usually have my bibs mailed so I can avoid driving out somewhere far the day before a race. Bay to Breakers wanted $20 for mailing bibs and shirts though. Total bullshit. I can suck up $10 for the convenience but $20 to mail something from SF to the East Bay is gross.

Pickup was at Fort Mason which we’re familiar traversing. The key to avoid the nightmare parking situation is to park up on the hill by the meadow off Franklin St. then walk down the stairs into Fort Mason. The line to get in the expo literally WRAPPED the entire Fort and out to the parking lot. Thankfully, the line moved. The expo appeared to have a lot of vendors but I didn’t stick around. Got my bib and t-shirt and left. I was in and out in 20 minutes.

Race Day Planning

To make this day overly complicated, we also had planned to attend the A’s Little League Day at the Oakland Coliseum. Miles and I would get to walk around the field then watch the game. I had to be in line by 11am or we couldn’t go on the field. Miles had been looking forward to this so the pressure was on.

With the race starting at 8am, I figured I could run it in about an hour, MUNI buses were planned to be stationed at the finish line area to take runners back to the starting lines then I could jump on BART and meet Jen at the stadium.

This was going to be cutting it close…

Jen had the car so I had to take everything I needed and run the 3 miles to the Dublin BART station. I wore my race attire and packed all my necessities into the tiny little pouch on my water bottle:

  • Clipper card (BART & MUNI fares)
  • VISA gift card (better than carrying cash or credit cards)
  • Driver’s License (ID in case of emergency)
  • GUs (racing fuel)
  • Mophie battery backup (in case the GPS or Apple Watch drained my phone’s battery)
  • drawstring shoulder bag (to carry finish line freebies and snacks)

I hadn’t trained for this nor had I been actively running given some craziness at work. My legs felt like total shit on my way to the BART station. Maybe it just too early for my liking. Everything was tight, I couldn’t find a rhythm and my knees starting to ache. For a brief moment, I thought “Fuck this, just go home” but I figured, just get to SF and see how you feel during the race…

That early, the only people on BART were runners. Runners with friends. Runners in costumes. Runners everywhere.

Pre-race Ridiculousness

Coming out of BART into the city was laughable. There were so many people, everyone walking in different directions. All I knew that I was looking for Spear St. which was where the Corral B entrance started. Not that it mattered because people were jumping fences from every angle you looked.

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Waiting for the race to start was some great people-watching. Clever costumes everywhere you looked. Newbie runners, couples, groups, old, young. You name it, you saw it.

Tortillas were being flown like frisbees over the crowd. Beach balls bouncing about too. Admittedly, it was a fun vibe waiting for the race even if you take a tortilla to the dome every once and a while.

Run!

The Elites and Corral A went out first… oh, how I wish I could have been with them. By the time Corral B went out, the walkers and party people were already crawling the streets taking up a lot of space.

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For the first four miles, I was bobbing and weaving the crowds. Walls of walkers, spectators just wanting to be in the mix, cheering squads smack dab in the middle of the course trying to give high-fives to everyone going by. I thought I would have been ahead of that considering the corral groups went up to letter G!

Hayes Hill

This is the dubious hill around miles 3 everyone talks about destroying people. Anyone that’s run any trail races knows hills and this one isn’t that much of a challenge. It’s basically 5 small hills with a break between each one. For the party-peeps, I get that this can be challenging, especially if you’re in costume. Any serious runners can tackle this without issue though. Don’t believe the hype.

The Course

Admittedly, the route you run goes clear through the city and you see some really great neighborhoods. Some folks really embrace the event and party on their front balconies or sidewalks. I remember seeing the entire cast of characters from Star Wars at one house. You eventually make your way to Golden Gate Park, running past the waterfall and buffalos (although they kept them back due to year’s past participants jumping the gate and trying to be one with the animals).

You’ll also see plenty of older, naked men. Seriously. They were everywhere in their neon yellow hats running about. Seems uncomfortable to me with everything flopping about. No females that I saw took part in embracing their birthday suits though.

Finish

The finish takes place at the edge of Pacific Coast Highway and Golden Gate Park. The same place that the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon ended. The finish line was crowded with runners funneling into the area collecting bag of Kettle chips, almonds, boxed water and other randomness. They had a very small beer garden area that I couldn’t imagine 30,000 people standing like sardines.

The finishers’s medal is rather small and unimpressive. Its about as generic and boring as you could make. Given the creativity and excitement about this race, the finisher’s medal and t-shirt design really fell short of embracing that.

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Lets Get Outta Here!

I’m glad I brought that shoulder bag after all. I threw all the freebies and snacks I could grab into and headed straight to find those MUNI buses to get back to the other side of the city. Upon exiting though I saw a transportation company offering rides for $12… Again, I’m glad I brought that VISA Gift Card. Instead of futzing around finding MUNI and dealing with that, I bought a ticket and walked right on to a rather nice tour bus for a quick and comfortable ride back to the Embarcadero.

The BART ride back to the Coliseum was empty. I made it back to meet Jen and the kids already in line and had a great time walking the field with Miles and watching the A’s!

Overall

I felt pretty good throughout the race. Maybe the early morning run was a good pre-race warmup! The course route is nice but there’s just way too many people to enjoy any of it. I’m glad I ran but…

The only way I would run this again is if I had friends that want to run this event for a semi-serious run and fun day in the city… MAYBE I’ll consider it. Don’t run this event by yourself. It’s just lonely. Don’t run this looking to set a new PR. Don’t run this hoping for cool race schwag either.

Run it if you’ve never experienced Bay to Breakers but lower your standards. Then lower them again.

Official Standings

  • Official Time: 57:37
  • Pace: 7:44
  • Overall: 1148 out of 29,969
  • Age Group (30-34): 218 out of 2343
  • Gender: 964 out of 13885
  • Hayes St. Hill: 4:46.76 (rank 1333, M3034 rank: 240)
  • Of all Dublin, CA runners, I was 2nd out of 45!

Splits

  • Mile 1  08:37 min/mi
  • Mile 2  07:49 min/mi
  • Mile 3  08:07 min/mi
  • Mile 4  07:56 min/mi
  • Mile 5  07:25 min/mi
  • Mile 6  07:09 min/mi
  • Mile 7  07:01 min/mi
  • Mile 8  06:46 min/mi

Holy shit! Negative splits?!?! I have no idea how that happened…

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