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Bay to Breakers

Started: 2024-06-02 20:39:44

Submitted: 2024-06-02 22:20:39

Visibility: World-readable

From the Bay to the Breakers, San Francisco will be (I don't know how to finish this joke and I'm not sure it's even funny)

In May I ran Bay to Breakers across San Francisco, marking the third consecutive post-2020 year I've run the race while living in Santa Cruz.

When I registered for the race I self-selected a seed in corral B, with an optimistic estimated pace of 8-9 minutes per mile (a pace that shouldn't be out of reach for me for a 12-kilometer race if only I managed to train for it). But when I picked up my bib number the day before the race, they had already run out of corral B bib tags (as well as corrals C and D) and offered me either of the remaining corrals. I picked A, not because I could hope to run that fast, but with the hope that the starting line would be somewhat less crowded.

(I am reminded of the "this is my race pace" sticker I saw in my grandmother's kitchen years ago, which I assure you is a hilarious running joke.

I stayed overnight in Union Square, getting me closer to the starting line so I didn't have to wake up at some ridiculous hour and drive across the mountain from Santa Cruz. (My alarm went off at 07:00, the same time the BART special service was scheduled to arrive at Embarcadero.) As I walked down Market Street to the starting line, past early-rising tourists out and about before the rest of the city awoke, I began to see other runners heading in the same direction. Some were in costume; many were dressed simply as runners. (I feel like I saw fewer people in costumes, and fewer naked people, than previous years.)

Walking down Main to start Bay to Breakers
Walking down Main to start Bay to Breakers

At the start line I joined corral A, looking down Howard Street, dwarfed by the massive glass facade of the Park Tower (which I watched being built in SoMa six years ago). The timestamp on the photo tells me I was waiting at the starting line for 15 minutes, but it didn't feel like it was that long before the announcer welcomed us to the race and the starting gun gave the signal to start.

Starting line at Bay to Breakers
Starting line at Bay to Breakers

It took a minute for the crowd to slowly shuffle forward towards the starting line to actually begin the race. By the time I passed under the starting arch, accompanied by a chorus of beeps as the radio receivers registered the starting bib numbers of everyone crossing the starting line, I was walking briskly, in the awkward speed where it's almost too fast to walk but much too slow to run. After a few steps I was able to start running, as the crowd thinned as people began to pick up their own pace heading down Howard Street. There were still people walking and taking selfies and photos; and people trying to run much faster than I was, weaving awkwardly between everyone on the road. I settled into a comfortable aerobic pace, running with the bulk of the crowd a the beginning of the race.

I kept up my comfortable pace through the second mile mark, past the turn across Market Street, right up to the bottom of the hill on Hayes Street. I tried to pace myself up the hill, running slow and easy to avoid wearing myself out, but I made it two-thirds of the way up the hill before I had to stop and walk the rest of the way. I coasted down the far side of the hill, too tired to make much out of the steep descent, and pushed on past the Panhandle into Golden Gate Park.

Every time I run the Bay to Breakers I think that entering Golden Gate Park ought to indicate the race is almost over, but every time I have to remind myself that it's barely half over. I walked for another, longer segment in front of the Conservatory of Flowers (which gave me slightly more time to admire the street art placed in the middle of the mostly-pedestrian-only JFK Promenade) then resumed running once I'd rested.

The route began its gradual descent under Crossover Drive and I gradually picked up my pace, taking advantage of the gentle descent and trying to find whatever reserves I had maintained this far into the race. I ran negative splits for the last three miles (running each mile faster than the previous mile) as I recognized that the end was near. I pulled out everything I had for the last half-mile to the finish, as the course zig-zagged awkwardly onto MLK Drive then turned abruptly north to finish on Great Highway. My final official time for 12k from the bay to the breakers was 1:13:20 (not great, not terrible, but good enough).

I picked up water and snacks at the finish, along with my finisher's medal (and, because Waymo was an official sponsor of the race, a Waymo sticker and keychain).

Jaeger at the Bay to Breakers finish
Jaeger at the Bay to Breakers finish

I left the finish area to head back to my hotel in Union Square (which proved surprisingly easy; an inbound 5-Fulton bus pulled up just as I exited the park, and dropped me off on Market Street two blocks from my destination). Once I'd showered (and snacked again) I headed back to Golden Gate Park to celebrate a friend's toddler's birthday, along with a group of people who had run the race. This proved much harder than I hoped it would; the N-Judah (which ought to have been unimpeded by the race above it on Market Street) was delayed due to reports of someone in a tunnel, and the outbound 7-Haight/Noriega was ambiguously delayed. Google Maps' live arrivals seemed to bear very little relationship to reality; MUNI's website was far more helpful, but was somewhat harder to navigate on my phone until I figured out what I was looking for (and even then it was tricky to compare arrivals on multiple services side-by-side). I eventually caught a #7 bus and made it to the Koret Children's Playground in time for the party.

Next to the restroom near the playground was a telephone network interface box attached to a tree, leading me to conclude that the tree must still have a land line.

Telephone network interface box on a tree
Telephone network interface box on a tree

I ate tacos in the Haight on my way back home after joining San Francisco's 12k party once again.