Don’t Look Over There: Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers 2015There are plenty of unusual sites to be had at the century-plus old Bay to Breakers event that are only “normal” on race day: tortillas flying like misguided frisbees, stark naked men sporting clear backpacks full of clothing, entire gaggles of spectating gents dressed as prima ballerinas, groups of ‘centipede’ runners literally bound together with bungees.

This year, I was a Bay to Breakers oddity myself: a sober, pregnant runner.

(For the record, I only saw two other mothers-to-be taking on “Baby’s First Bay to Breakers” on the course, which means yes, we were sorely outnumbered by naked men. More power to you two, whomever you ladies were!)

With the Clif Bar house band

While I had been hoping to eek out one more race before running becomes uncomfortable, I hadn’t thought that Bay to Breakers – a race this Bay Area native has always wanted to do – would be a consideration. Early in the final countdown week, Clif Bar had sent out a tweet noting they were giving away some VIP entries for Sunday’s event. On a whim, I entered. I didn’t expect to check my email on Thursday night to find a congratulatory email and two codes for VIP entry to the race!

Enter excited whirlwind mode. Who was I going to invite to run with me? More importantly, what were we going to wear? Holy monkeys, BAY TO BREAKERS! IT WAS HAPPENING. Thankfully, my friend Erin – the same Erin whom I convinced to run the Across the Bay 5K – is a Bay Area transplant who also had Bay to Breakers on her bucket list. We signed up immediately and started making plans.

Here’s a few things we did that were smart:
– Acknowledged a lot of walking before and after would be involved no matter what. This set expectations… but we’ll revisit this later.
– Reserved parking ahead of time via Parking Panda. I’d never used Parking Panda before, but it was super fast and easy to find a spot near the start line and know that we wouldn’t have to worry about sleuthing one out when arriving in the city. Leaving afterwards was just as simple: we just handed the attendant our reservation and parking ticket, and we were on our way! (They serve locations all over the Bay Area, including SFO, so if you want to try for yourself, use code ‘christinaig’ and receive $5 off your first parking reservation.)
– Approached the Hayes St. Hill knowing that we didn’t want to zap ourselves with more than half of the race to go. With three days notice, neither of us was properly trained for the distance or climb, so we jog-walked our way up.
– Took advantage of our VIP status pre-race. This meant bagels, bananas, coffee, Clif Bars, less-used porta potties and exclusive bag check (which we’ll revisit later,) which wasn’t offered to anyone else. It also meant we had primo seats to watch the elite runners warm up, which I will say, I found rather neat.

In contrast, here’s a few things we did that weren’t as smart:
– We didn’t train. Naturally, that’s what happens when you find out on Thursday you’re running on Sunday. I definitely don’t recommend that to anyone on a regular basis, and especially don’t recommend it if you’re nearly six months pregnant.
– We didn’t utilize bag check. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by runDisney events and am biased by my history of helping putting on Title 9K events annually, but the whole “VIP” thing wasn’t super clear. We never received the ‘commemorative item’ denoted online though Erin went to VIP packet pick-up at Fort Mason, and there was nothing on our bibs that reassured us we’d easily get into VIP without having to show our emails again. Because of this, we were wary of bringing a bag just in case we were denied and had to bring it back to the car — which in turn meant that we didn’t have our jackets or extra snacks we’d brought immediately post-race. In the end it turned out we would’ve been fine.
– We didn’t take advantage of the finish line VIP area. This is partially our own faults, but there wasn’t any signage we spotted immediately after the finish that showed us where to go after, nor had we seen any maps pre-race to give us an idea of where to go. Once we figured out where the VIP area was, we went about entering it from the wrong side — which meant oops, we’d left the finisher’s area and couldn’t regain entry. D’oh! So much for eats and massages with the elites.
– Wanting to save a few bucks, we waited over 45 minutes for a MUNI bus.
– We didn’t always heed one another’s warnings of “Don’t look left/right.” There are some things that, well, you just can’t un-see… if you know what I mean.

I had grand plans of raiding my Sparkle Corral'd and readyAthletic stash to whip up some My Little Pony themed run costumes for the two of us but sadly was sidetracked by an unexpected call: my 98 year old grandmother was hospitalized. The news of several seizures and a possible stroke stopped me in my tracks, but I realized there was little I could do. Life is for living, for experiencing, and it was her husband who had inspired me to run through the good and the bad. We instead went for our back-up plan of “world’s slowest cheetahs,” with Erin decked out in a slew of pink and purple sparkle with my pink and yellow cheetah sleeves, and a contrasting outfit of blue and green for me complete with green and blue cheetah skirt. Topped off with visors, if nothing else, we felt festive!

Folks in our corral were friendly enough – and sober enough, save some folks who pushed their way through right before our corral started. We made notes to actually train and choose a faster corral should we repeat the event as a means to avoid such people, and then, before we knew it, the tortillas were in the air and we were off.

While we had mentally prepared for the number of inebriated non-runners there would be on course, I don’t think either of us really considered the congestion it would cause. We spent the first two miles weaving in and out of groups, through groups, around groups walking slowly seven across down the middle of the street — you get the idea. Luckily, even with all the costumed folks about, our visors made it pretty easy to find one another. We added at least a tenth of a mile just weaving before we reached Hayes Hill. Not having run much as of late, my legs were starting to talk, so after a quick stretch, we made our way up the fabled hill. This is where we lost most of the non-runners, presumably either because they were so inebriated they couldn’t make it up the hill, or because they were absorbed by one of the many street parties that were underway. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of security persons on course, visibly checking bibs as we passed. It gave me a certain sense of safety in knowing that while a good time was fine, nothing was going to get out of hand.

Selfallo (aka bad jokes with distant buffalo)While I didn’t bring my GoPro, having been told Hydraquivers weren’t course legal (lies! I saw at least three!) we did see a number of great get-ups, including women dressed as souvenir snow globes from various cities, some folks dressed as Mario Kart characters (carts included) and one of the most elaborate, rave-ready unicorns either of us had ever seen. Naturally, for every dozen great costumes, there was at lease one fully-nude man. A coworker who ran with her daughter later laughed and noted, “And it was none of the young, good looking guys either! And it was COLD – things were a little small.” While yes, it was brisk out, and no, the nude persons were not of traditional Adonis builds, I’ll give them credit for confidence… but Erin and I definitely peppered our run with calls of “Look left and ONLY left,” “Don’t look over there,” “Lookout, there’s one ahead on your right” and the like.

As we made our way into the last three miles, my legs were definitely talking. Running further than I have been with an extra 20+ pounds on my front was proving taxing on my body. I stopped and stretched as needed, but ultimately, I knew I just had to push through and finish. As we both began to tire, we got a little punchy. Excited to see Golden Gate Park’s fabled buffalo, we were sad to see they were playing the “Oh hell no, we don’t want to have anything to do with your race” game, which resulted in the picture above. I called it a “selffalo” at the time and we thought it was hilarious. Oh, the things that happen when you’re beginning to feel a bit of fatigue.

Bay to Breakers 2015We were certainly barn-powered and motivated by talk of hitting up Homeroom for mac’n cheese on the way home as we made our way through miles six and seven. The course wasn’t flat, I admittedly hadn’t drunk as much Skratch as I intended as I only brought a handheld, and while my mix of EnergyBits and RecoveryBits proved helpful, I needed to eat real, solid food. My body told me it was ready to be done and my mind was starting to agree when we finally saw the big screen – which meant yes, the finish line was just around the bend! I may have felt wiped, but I had a buddy with me who stayed upbeat and understanding through all my stops (including one bathroom pit stop,) which made me feel extra joyful as we made our way over the finish line. Admittedly, I’m rather proud that my official race photos look like they normally do: genuinely smiling and moving seemingly fluidly. The only difference is I’m a little rounder these days.

We had made it! Our first Bay to Breakers was complete. Chilly in sweaty tech tees sans jackets, done and hungry, yes we were, but we were happy and feeling accomplished. Naturally, this called for a medal picture by the beach. Hello, breakers.
Obligatory beach medal picture

On Monday, we agreed that it felt like the event itself had been eight days ago: where we ran the first day, waited two days for a MUNI bus, rode the overly-full bus full of oblivious and inconsiderate passengers for four days, and then on the eighth day, finally made it back to the car. Dramatic, maybe, but we were tired — me especially. When all was said and done, my FitBit said I had traveled over 12 miles for the day. I will fully admit part of the reason we waited so long was because I wasn’t sure I could make it two blocks uphill to catch the Geary bus line! Thankfully, our long MUNI ride was rewarded with clean, warm bathrooms at the Ferry Building and fresh baked ACME Bread. Mmm, bread. (Erin was sensible and got an olive roll. I went for a herb foccaccia slab to eat and share later, which, was a-maz-ing.)


Drama and fatigue aside, we both had a great time. Big dishes of Homeroom vegan mac with artichoke hearts, peas and mushrooms sure hit the refueling spot to boot! Should we try a second go at Bay to Breakers in 2016, we’ll have a great game plan next time around based on what we experienced — and great costumes to boot.

Bay to Breakers 2015Thank you Skratch Labs and EnergyBits for seeing me through another race, FitSplint for literally supporting me, and huge, special thanks to Clif Bar for granting me the opportunity to participate in such an incredibly memorable event.

Bay to Breakers 2015Race results
Time: 1:43:37
Overall place: 16574 of 29969
Gender place: 7544 of 16077
AG place: 1590 of 2760 (F 30-34)
Hayes St. Hill: 10:14.80 (rank: 18548, F30-34 rank: 1772)

For a few more Bay to Breakers pictures,
please visit my Flickr album.

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