Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bridge to Bridge 7k - San Francisco - 10/5/08

@Alcatraz & Pier 39

views of the Golden Gate & Marin County

@the expo and the last 50 yards

I first got acquainted with this race in the fall of 1996. I was a newbie on the Lassen College cross country team and we ran a 4 mile race in Golden Gate Park on Friday. As is typical of younger runners, I'd go out at 5-flat pace and then slow for the remaining 3 miles. What was cool about this trip was that the race was on a Friday afternoon, as opposed to Saturday, so we still had the weekend, and our coach, Ross, would take that opportunity to take a mini-vacation with the team and his family (he had a son, daughter, and future son-in-law on the team that year). We'd stay at the Red Roof Inn by the SF airport, burn our meal-money by Saturday morning, do the tourist thing on Saturday, and ghost run the Bridge to Bridge on Sunday morning before heading back to Susanville. I did the 12k that first year at 6-something per mile. Comfortably hard, and scenic enough for me to fall in love with the race. It was also only my second time in a race of that size and talent. There were over 10,000 in the 7/12k that year, and both races were usually won by foreign runners, with an American runner lucky to be in the top 3 in the 12k. I'd run it for real in 1997, although I can't recall my time...but I do remember the mass amounts of food and product giveaways at the expo. Each person on our team had a stuffed goody bag, in addition to a case of yogurt (each)! Talk about a cramped van on the way home.
I'd run the 7k again a couple times after college, running well enough twice and struggling home with cramps another time. I never quite broke 24 minutes (5:31 pace). There is one major hill on the course, with the rest being flat, before a 0.4 mile uphill grade to the finish. Not quite steep enough to be a "hill" at the end. I think I managed a 24:0-something for 8th place in 1998 (when the course record of 20:43 was set by Wilhelm Gidabuday of Kenya). I moved up 2 places while running about 10 seconds slower in 2000 (24:13-6th), and didn't get another shot at 23 minutes before Achilles surgery sidelined me for a few years.
Fast forward 8 years and several "comebacks". Speedwise, I've been getting close to where I was earlier this year. The endurance is lacking, but I wouldn't be needing as much for 7 or 12k. I'd signed up on-line for the sole reason of choosing the 12k, so I wouldn't wimp-out and run the 7k on race day, can't choose a distance when you sign up, soooo...after week long stomach trouble leading up to the race, I (you guessed it) wimped-out and ran the 7k. No difference really...they both run the hill and finish the same-the 12k just does an extra 5k out to Fort Mason (at the base of the Golden Gate) and back.
For some reason, as sponsors have changed since I ran it back in 2000, attendance and competitiveness have dropped as well. When it was one of my 3 favorite runs 8 years ago (the others being the Squaw Valley Mountain Run and Tahoe Marathon/half/10k/5k, etc...), the attendance topped out between 12-13,000. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, there was an average of about 4,000 (split about 40/60between the 7k and 12k). The super elites seem to have gone elsewhere. In the previous two versions, there were one or two elites in each race, and then it was wide open. My goals were to run at 5:30 pace and hopefully be in the top 3. The races start together, so you don't really know where you stand until the 12k runners split to the right about a mile before the 7k finish, and even then I was guessing. There was a pack of 6 that separated almost immediately after the gun. I wanted to go with them to keep my pace fast, and also to draft, as we'd be running towards the ocean (and therefore into a headwind) for the first 6+k, but their pace was too brisk. We ran west on Embarcadero past Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Aquatic Park, etc... The two guys leading the pack were teammates (matching jerseys and all). Just as I thought all 6 were going to pull away, 3 of them started to come back. I'd run between 4th and 6th overall for the remainder of the dual courses. I ran the hill reasonably well, and without completely spiking the heart rate. The 3 leaders were now mostly out of sight and I was parked in 5th, just a few yards behind 4th, one of the original 6-pack. He appeared to be a HS cross-country stud from Lodi. When he split off to run the 12k, I had conflicting thoughts. Relief in that there was one less person to race against. Disappointment because we would have had a great race to the finish at either distance. We both ended up running solo for the remainder of our races, and I'd bet we'd have pushed each other to be just a bit faster if we'd run the same distance. He'd slow slightly & finish third in the 12k. I soon turned left to climb up the last (longer than I remembered) road to the finish, not knowing if I was in first, second, or third. As it turned out, after running together for 3 miles, the teammates split up and won both distances. I was well off the leader, but came in second place in 24:06 (5:32 per mile). I'd have been really happy to break 24, but as I saw I wasn't going to make it, I actually pulled up a little early (the finish was past the clock), costing me 2 or 3 seconds, but not 7. Rookie mistake, I know. 3rd was not too far behind, before a big break between 3rd and 4th.
I did a 2 mile cool-down on the 12k course with Jason Lee (3rd place) about 10 minutes after we finished, and talked a little with Robert Brown. In an "it's a small world" moment...Robert is from either Britain or South Africa, and flies for British Airways. Not only have I ran two of the same races as he has over the past month, but I've actually talked to him after each. I actually lined up next to him at the start, and we wished each other luck. We talked a little more after before he spilled that he'd also placed 4th in an obscure little 20-mile trail race in Placerville last month. If you look back a few entries on the blog, you'll see that obscure little race was the Run On the Sly, where I also ran the 20 miler...and also talked to Robert (briefly) at the finish line.
Hannah, Abby, and I enjoyed the music, kid's area (complete with clown and Captain Jack), and samples at the expo, although it too was smaller than it used to be. We'd planned on joining Jim (Abby's Dad) at Golden Gate Park for a Bluegrass concert, but after circling/dissecting the park for over an hour looking for a parking spot, we gave up and went to the wharf for food and fun.
In our surreal meal of the weekend, we had dinner with Abby's cousins, Eric and Sue (who met at circus school...yes, circus school-you heard me right). He is a trapeze artist/computer genius/all around good guy, and she too is a multi-lingual smarty-pants (in a good way). We had dinner with a. pork chops direct from a pig they bought at auction b. cheese imported special order from Italy and c. plum sauce from the plum tree in their San Francisco! Not half bad! Monday morning I did an incredibly hilly 6 1/2 miler on the streets around the Castro district. I even found a trail (in urban San Francisco) with 360 degree views of the city and bay from the "peak".
No breweries this weekend, but on the way home we passed a corner market (Healthy Spirits-they're on blogger too) that had a sign in the window for mui hard to find Dogfish Head Brewing Co. They are based on the east coast, very rare, and very good! In addition to a never before seen Full Sail Dopplebock, a Drake's Imperial Stout (one of my absolute favorite beers), and an Oak aged Arrogant Bastard from Stone, I brought home three 4-packs of Dogfish Head. Midas Touch (a cross breed of mead/beer/wine), 90-minute IPA (the name says it all), and Punkin' (a 4th beer added to our soon to be held Pumpkin Beer taste-off)! After today's speedwork, where I actually chopped 38 seconds off of my race time with a flat 23:28 7k, I plan on doing a longer training run this weekend, possibly on the Tahoe Rim Trail again, then going back to Nevada City on the 19th for the Run Through the Colors. I ran a 35:03 there last year, and would really like to see a 34: this time around! On the morning of Sunday, October 26th, Peter Lubbers and I will be doing a Blue Planet Run 30-mile challenge, to raise funds for drinkable water in Tanzania. If you're interested in joining us on our 24 mile run from Mt. Rose Meadows to Spooner Summit that day (or Run Through the Colors-the aforementioned 10k in Nevada City to get us over 30 miles) or just want to donate to a great cause, visit Pete's page @ or go to and do a search for it by location.
Here's the link to Brightroom for dozens of race pics (although most are the last hundred yards)
One more item. Amidst all the racing goings on this weekend (Amber and Turi also ran with 4,800 other runners & walkers at the Northern Nevada Race For the Cure, as well as Bridge to Bridge), not to be outdone, a certain 5k runner that some of you may know, got hitched over the weekend. Are his 007 days over??? Here's some photos-
Well, Happy running...and drink more (good) beer!!!


Turi said...

Sounds like a cool race; super scenic. Nice job there.

SnowLeopard said...

Cool beans for you Chris! Congrats on your super fast pace, even if you were off by just a few seconds... Those are some great pictures too! Thanks for sharin'~