Sunday 15 May 2011

The 100th Bay to Breakers 12k

Living in the Bay Area means I'm spoilt for choice with the races held locally. Last weekend there's the most historic/prestigious/scenic trail 100k in the US with Miwok, then this weekend there's the 100th Bay to Breakers 12k. I believe it's got the record for the most people in a race when it had 110,000 around the time I was born (I read that in the local paper so may be wrong). And it's a huge party of costumed, drunken and nude debauchery...normally, anyway. This year they said no drinking and no nudity and I saw both.

Now it may seem like this is the perfect race for me to wear one of my costumes, since most people do, but I wanted to race it as fast as I could so didn't opt for that route. However, I felt a little flat after the hard training for the past seven consecutive weeks. The whole year to this point has been aimed at getting in shape for Comrades, which is just two weeks away and it's going to be close whether I'm overtrained or not. Such a fine line to tread and I was probably pushed over it by the Big Sur marathon two weeks ago. However, all the races were fun, unlike today.

I wanted to run fast, hit a 10k PB and stick to that pace for the last 2k. However, it felt like I had anchors attached to my heels. And at around 2.5 miles was an 11% gradient hill, called Hayes Street Hill, with 200 ft of vertical climb. Sounds easy if it's an ultra, but I hit it at speed and my legs virtually gave way. I crawled up and knew that my jelly legs weren't going to give me a good time.

It had been great to get to start with the front guys and to walk past Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic Marathon silver medalist. But after the gun fired, it was just a hard slog of feeling slow and sluggish with little fun and not even helped by the party atmosphere, since most of that was way behind me. I was surrounded mainly by serious runners although they must have looked happier than my grimace.

At least I saw fellow ultrarunner Scott Dunlap around halfway and he cruised past me as I struggled to stick to almost a minute/mile off pace. I decided to take it easy to the finish and not work my tired legs too hard, but then I saw Scott on the horizon and thought that maybe I'd be able to keep him within eyesight without having to wreck myself. A slight downhill made everyone speed up and I was suddenly going at a decent pace, but so was Scott. It became a game of trying to stop him getting further away, which mixed in with a mainly downhill finish to the race.

I felt much better, pushing hard and wishing I'd have been in this groove earlier in the race until I caught Scott and just pipped him to the post. My final time was 44:30, averaging just under 6 minute/miling. Disappointing, but after how negative I felt mid-way and the minutes I lost off my target, it was a good save and may have turned out to be a useful training run. But I'll be resting well for the next 14 days.

Luckily I found out the real fun of this race after the finish line. Due to the fact that the (pointless) shuttle bus ticket I purchased didn't leave until midday and my race was over at 7:45am, I decided the quickest way to get back to the BART station would be to jog. However, the closest station was basically right next to the start line, 7.5 miles away. So why not watch the whole race in reverse (and have about 10,000 people tell me in varyingly rude ways that 'You're going the wrong way')?

I got a great view of the costumes and music along the route, plus an eyeful of the handful of naked fat guys running it. No nude women for some reason...No photos, I'm afraid as I didn't have my camera, but here're some race photos through the years.

Finally I got an enjoyable run in, just by jogging along the course and seeing everyone have so much fun. As I got nearer the start line the people were less likely to have entered the race and have a bib number, plus they were generally more drunk. Somehow it took two hours for the last people to cross the start line and I almost made it back there before they did. So that makes the delay at races like London or New York seem speedy.

And I wasn't the only one to do the reverse route since the winning 'centipede' team (i.e. 13 people linked together) were jogging back too. They had also won the previous year and were a team from the networking site, Linked In. So, how quickly do you think 13 guys could run 7.5 miles linked together?

I bet you didn't guess sub 5 minute/mile pace in a time (and world record) of 37:00! And that's with a hill that would cost even the elites 30+ seconds extra. They finished in the top 10 overall (well, the ones at the front did), a fair way into the professional solo runners. These guys were fast.

But not as fast as the winner, who wasn't the favorite, Meb, but was Ridouane Harroufi in 34:26 of Morocco. Meb was a minute back in sixth. Full results here. I'll be back to redo this one the right way, starting further back and dressed like a tit (that just means dressed stupidly, not like an actual tit).

If you'd like to donate to the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, which I'm raising money for since they help AIDS orphans around the Comrades course (see my Miwok posting) then Brits can donate here and everyone else here. Any donation is much appreciated.


  1. "Good save" -- I like that. I'm sure you'll be ready for Comrades. Can't wait to see the photos of next year's B2B when you're dressed like a tit.

  2. Great report as always. Rest well and I hope everything goes according to plan at Comrades.

  3. Great to see you out there, and I appreciated you having an "off day" so i could run with you! Best of luck at Comrades...

  4. Ian, Next year for B2B, you will have to put up a poll for your costume choice. Good luck at Comrades.

  5. Nice idea, Greg, but I only have 3.5 costumes to choose from. Mind you, combining stuff is fun. My favorite is SpiderElvis.

  6. Two errors in your post.

    First, the race organizers did not ban nudity. In fact, they made a point of saying it was okay (e.g., the headline of the Wall Street Journal article on the race said, "Run Naked, Not Drunk").

    Second, the shuttles back to the starting line started leaving at 8:30am, as did the shuttles to Bart and Caltrain, and ran every 30 minutes from then on. It was only the roundtrip "park and ride" shuttles to Mill Valley, Millbrae, and Emeryville that had a single departure at noon ... but they made this very clear when you bought those tickets (in bright red all caps text). And the shuttle buses were very luxurious, for what it's worth.

    Note that I'm not affiliated with the race organizers at all - I just ran it and thought I'd set the facts straight.