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Bay to Breakers 2019

Started: 2019-06-09 16:15:24

Submitted: 2019-06-09 22:11:44

Visibility: World-readable

19 May 2019: In which the intrepid narrator runs from the bay to the ocean

The morning of Sunday the 19th of May dawned cold and gray. The weather forecast threatened rain throughout the morning, the remnants of the storm that swept into San Francisco the previous morning. The rain encouraged the organizers of the Bay to Breakers to delay the opening of the starting area ahead of the race, but they stuck to their promise that the race would go on "rain or shine".

I did not come prepared to run in the rain, probably because the forecasted timing of the rain was still vague when I packed (and I packed my single carry-on suitcase with an eye towards compactness, notwithstanding the fact that my running shoes took up about a third of the total volume of my suitcase). I wore a long-sleeved base layer over my 2010 Bolder Boulder tech t-shirt (my go-to running shirt for most of the nine years I've owned the shirt), pinning my bib number to the long-sleeved shirt on the assumption it would be cold and rainy all morning.

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero, a couple of blocks from the starting line in SoMa. I joined the other runners emerging from their hotel rooms, many wearing the bright blue race t-shirt, spilling out onto Market Street to head to the starting line. The streets were wet and the skies were gray, and the air hung heavy with moisture as if it might resume raining at any moment, but it wasn't raining (and didn't rain for the rest of the morning).

In a moment of optimism when I registered for the race, I chose an estimated race pace in the seven-to-eight minute range, which I could probably maintain with a couple months in a moderately serious training regime. This placed me in starting corral A, with a couple thousand other runners waiting on Howard Street between Spear and Main, within sight of the newly-completed Park Tower at Transbay.

A corral starting line of the Bay to Breakers
A corral starting line of the Bay to Breakers

The threat of rain put a slight damper on the exuberant Bay to Breakers costume scene, but as I made my way to the starting line I saw a large group of women, perhaps fifty in total, each dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, wearing black running skirts and black shirts that looked like judicial robes, with their hair pulled back in buns tinted with gray, each carrying a gavel in one hand and a rope in the other to tie themselves together so they could run as a team. As I passed they were practicing running up and down the empty streets trying to get the hang of running together as a team. As far as I cared they had already won the costume race.

The threat of rain put the damper on another Bay to Breakers starting line tradition, the tortilla toss. For reasons that elude me runners came to the start line carrying bags of corn tortillas that they proceeded to throw like frisbees while waiting at the starting line. I saw fewer tortillas than last year, but when they fell to the wet ground to be trampled underfoot they produced an even more slippery mess than last year.

We advanced to the starting line and, at the sound of the starting gun, slowly shuffled towards the starting line as the runners in front started the race. By the time I reached the starting line I was, more or less, running.

The first part of the course ran straight down Howard Street. In Corral A I was running with people who were (mostly) running at a pace I found comfortable, though I still did have to watch out for slower (often costumed) runners cutting in front or stopping abruptly. Spectators lined the streets and the buildings overlooking the route, including on the bridge over the street linking different parts of the Moscone Convention Center.

The course made its first turn to cross Market Street around Civic Center, then resumed our route west to the ocean. This put me at the bottom of the Hayes Street Hill -- taller than any single hill in the Bolder Boulder, 128 vertical feet tall. Last year I wore myself out trying to race up the hill, with two-thirds of the race left to go; this year I ran at a sustainable intensity, and felt myself slowing considerably as I approached the top; but I wasn't exhausted when I reached the top, which seemed like a good thing when I still had four miles left to run.

The route jogged onto Fell Street (past the San Francisco DMV) and ran along the north side of the Panhandle. I settled into an easy aerobic pace through the mid-point of the 12 kilometer race. As I ran into Golden Gate Park the sun began to peek through the clouds and I began to feel too warm in my long-sleeved shirt. (This directly contravened the morning's weather forecast, but I would rather have sun than rain so I wasn't about to complain; but if I were to have sun I would prefer to know about it in advance so I could dress appropriately.) My bib number was attached to my long-sleeved shirt, so I resisted the urge to shed the thermally-unnecessary layer for longer than I should have; but then I decided I could tie my shirt around my waist in such a way that it would still show my bib number.

At the fifth mile, passing Stow Lake, the course began to descend gently to Ocean Beach. I let gravity carry me down hill, under Crossover Drive and past Marx Meadow and the Bison Paddock. At mile six I began to pick up my pace, testing my limits to see how much energy I had in reserve. By mile seven, when the course took a series of sharp turns towards the finish line at Ocean Beach, I was running flat out. I crossed the finish line in triumph, having run twelve kilometers through the city, from the bay to the breakers. I finished the race in 1:06:22, for an average pace of 8:55/mile.

Jaeger at the finish line of the Bay to Breakers
Jaeger at the finish line of the Bay to Breakers

I accepted my finisher's medal and hung out at the finish area, eating snacks to refuel after the race, before catching a bus back towards my hotel on the Embarcadero.

Looking down at the California Academy of Sciences
Looking down at the California Academy of Sciences

After a shower and breakfast, I had a couple of hours before meeting my brother Willy for lunch in the Mission (on his way between SFO and Angwin, where he now lives). I took MUNI to Golden Gate Park and walked to the de Young Museum. (For a brief moment it rained again, then subsided.) I skipped the special exhibit (I didn't think I had enough time to see it properly) and focused on some of the new regular exhibits that had appeared since my last visit. I finished my visit by taking the elevator to the top of the observation deck, giving a wrap-around view of Golden Gate Park and the city beyond from the striking angular copper-clad tower (proving again that the art museum is itself a work of art).

I caught a Lyft to the Mission (because I didn't trust San Francisco's radial transit system to get me from Golden Gate Park to the Mission in a reasonable amount of time) and picked a shared ride, which showed up with one other passenger already in the back of the car; but I got dropped off first, so as far as it mattered to me it was effectively a direct ride for me. I met Willy and two of his colleagues at Udupi Palace, a vegetarian South Indian restaurant, my favorite restaurant in San Francisco. Neither of Willy's colleagues had eaten dosa before, so we took the opportunity to introduce them to the delightful South Indian meal (along with various appetizers).

I bid Willy and his colleagues farewell for their drive up to Napa County. I walked to Dolores Park and sat on the grassy hill overlooking the city, then walked to the Castro for coffee.

In the evening I attended the SF in SF event at the American Bookbinders Museum. This was a regular event while I lived in the city but I never quite got around to attending. The night's event featured readings and q&a by Guy Gavriel Kay, Simon Vance, and Ransom Stephens. I am not especially familiar with any of these authors but I enjoyed the reading and the questions and answers (and looking around the tiny museum dedicated specifically to the binding of books).

By the time I left the SF in SF event it was after 21:00 and I hadn't eaten supper, and almost everything in SoMa was closed. I headed back to the Mission and ate a quick supper at Curry Up Now, the weird-but-delightful fast-casual Indian fusion restaurant, before heading back to my hotel for one last night in San Francisco before heading back to Seattle.