Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bay to Breakers 100th Year 12k Race

100th Anniversary of the Bay to Breakers 12K Race

Quote of the Race: "Now I am really a Russian Hero," - after playing around with fake accents to talk with while in costume and thinking of the movie Armageddon. Yeah... it's strange, but it's also Bay to Breakers!

- San Francisco, California
Cost - Varies by date. See website here.
Year of Running - 100th Annual
Sponsor/Race Directors - Zazzle, Mich Ultra, Virgin America, Volkswagen, T-Mobile, Barefoot Wine, American Red Cross, Hyatt Regency San Francisco and many others.
Charity - Breathe California
Number of Participants - 55,000 (officially registered), 65,000 to 75,000 estimated total including bandits.
Available Races - 12 K or bust!
Course Condition - Concrete and asphalt street with a very steep incline.
Pace Groups - Unknown.... perhaps alcohol pace groups.
Expo - Yes, but kind of a joke compared to other races of this size.

ORGANIZATION, SUPPORT & SPECTATORS: - Organization is priority when you've got a race of 50,000-plus partially or fully intoxicated runners on your hands and Bay to Breakers has done this year-after-year adapting with the times. This year the big new rule was "no floats." In previous years decorated parade style floats were allowed to be pushed, dragged or kicked along the course. Often times these floats served as transportation for moving alcoholic bars. Also new for the centennial race was a stricter crack down on public alcohol and drug consumption, although alcohol was officially banned several years ago. This year race organizers hired private security forces along with law enforcement to help regulate this rule. San Francisco being the city it is still was slack on enforcement when compared to other parts of the country. From what I witnessed if you were drinking blatantly out in the open you were asked to pour it out. If you were drinking some Gatorade or Redbull that smelled suspicious you were told to carry on.
There is more than enough support along the course with multiple aid stations handing out water and sports drinks. The spectators are usually just as spectacular as the participants, however, the number of house parties along the course were drastically down this year when compared to the previous year. This may have been a result in the city's crack down on alcohol. Despite the "man" trying to put them down San Franciscans still showed up along the course to cheer on runners, dawn crazy outfits and be just as much a part of the event as the participants.

Like any major city this race takes some strategic planning. There are major airports in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose all within striking distance. Sacramento is another option. Plan for traffic if you're driving into the city no matter which way you come from and be prepared for crowds. There are the MUNI and Bart public transportation systems and they are efficient. The race sells transportation vouchers for after the race on its website and they can be purchased with race registration. There are road closures and public transportation schedule changes on race day so reference the website and parking is extremely limited.

Mediocrity at best. The expo is more focused on wine tasting and automobile manufacturers than the sport of running. With a standard registration you get a cotton T-shirt that is low quality and will shrink after washing. For about $30 more you can get a short sleeve tech-shirt that is also poor quality in the world of $30-price-range technical shirts. This year's logo and design on the shirts was 300 percent better than the previous year, but the shirts still lack quality. 2011 was also the first year race organizers awarded medals to all finishers. That was a nice touch being the 100th year. Participants can also print out a personalized race certificate from home after the event on the results page of the website.

Excellent. The full gamut is available. The only drawback is the three-quarter mile up hill walk/hike from the finish line to the post-race celebration area. This was not a big deal for me as I like to walk a while after a race, but for a lot of the intoxicated runners it can be a struggle. Plus, it always seems to be chilly at the finish line so be prepared.

After running this race last year with my cousin, Robert and friend Jeanie, as a bucket list race I knew immediately after that I must return the next year. For one, it would be the 100th year and for two, I wanted my girlfriend to experience it. Fast forward 365 days and we are back! This time with Jenny, her friend Tracy and my cousin, Robert. We definitely learned from our mistakes last year and got a nice hotel room. Note to the wise: It's well worth an extra $50-$100 a night for a good bed in the city. Those $100 per night hotels pretty much suck when you want a nice night of rest before a race. We went for the guarantee and stayed at the Omni Hotel in downtown San Francisco, which provided only the highest service.
For costumes this year (a MUST at Bay to Breakers) we collectively decided on "Bathrobes" as the perfect outfit. It allows for you to look like you might be naked under it (we were wearing running clothes) and at the same time can be warm enough for May weather in Northern California, but also opened up if it gets too hot. For whatever reason, Robert and I almost got identical robes completely separate from each other. We both went for the satin kimono-style robe decorated with dragons. Jenny and Tracy both opted for nice and warm cotton robes. As we were getting dressed at 5 a.m. and drinking the standard hydration fluids for this race (RedBull, Gatorade & Vodka followed by a champagne toast), Robert and I started goofing around and somehow came up with the idea we were Russian douchebags. Robert's girlfriend, Athena, helped us draw pencil-thin mustaches on us and we slicked our hair back with gel. I don't know what got into us, but it was down right hilarious. Between this point and the race start we talked to everyone with our horrible fake Russian accents.
The race start line was epic. 50,000 plus people spanning about six city blocks starting at Pier 1. The normal tortilla tossing was happening everywhere along with beach balls and "other" inflatables. Being in corral C it only took us about 10 minutes to get to the start line, but for the first time this year they wave started the corrals behind us and that took nearly an hour from what I heard.
Bay to Breakers does a great job with this race, but my only real gripe about the race itself are the corrals. If you're going to have a race this big with this many corrals then organize them a little better! The race organizers simply state on the website what pace time you should run in each corral and leave it up to the people registering to pick their corrals. This would be great if all runners were responsible, but in a race like this with a lot of the field not even being runners it simply does not work. Instead the corrals fill up and sell out in alphabetical order - A - B - C - D and so on. The end result is a mix of all types of runners and walkers in each corral. In other words, unless you're an elite you're going to be doing some weaving.
Jenny and I had decided to split this race up; her running with Tracy and me running with Robert. We would rendezvous at the finish line. My cousin took off from the start just like last year caught up in the excitement of the moment and began frantically weaving and passing, weaving and passing. I followed in fast pursuit. Our splits increased the entire race, but the crowd did not decrease. Just when I noticed that there were very few corral C bibs around me we encountered the slower crowds of corral B. We passed people for the entire race from start to finish. In fact, the only people I noticed passing us were three Spartan warriors in the last half mile running in perfect formation with each other. It was almost as if they were marching a 7 minute pace. Every so many strides they would bang their swords upon their shields and yell a chant from the movie 300. I was impressed.
We saw the normal chaos throughout the race like the dozen or so people dressed up as salmon running the wrong way down the middle of the street. Or the posse of smurfs cheering people on from the side of the road. Naked people here and naked people there. The funniest one I saw was a middle aged man completely naked standing in a grass field about 40 yards off the race course talking on his cell phone. He was waving his free hand around as he talked. It was so retarded looking that I couldn't stop laughing for a full minute.
This year Robert and my mothers both decided to come watch. We found then a mile or so from the finish line in Golden Gate Park along with Athena. After the race we found Jenny and Tracy and headed up the hill to the post race celebration area. Jenny and Tracy both had an equally insane race experience. We found our mothers and tromped through a few hidden trails to the edge of the park were we had a rented mini van waiting for us. This beat the shuttle transportation 100 fold. From there we drove down to the Cliff House, which is an amazing restaurant with 100+ years of history just north of the park and finish line along the beach. We had the most glorious breakfast/brunch of all time! If you're ever in San Francisco make sure you go eat at the Cliff House!
And that about wraps it up! I'm not sure if we'll do Bay to Breakers again as there are so many more races to do, but I'm completely stoked I got to be part of the 100th year running. Next year I think we will make our way to the Bay area again, but hopefully to run the Dipsea. I'll leave you with some pictures!

The best part about the running expo? Seeing Meb!

Standard Pre-Bay to Breakers Hydration fluids!


The start line!

La la la la la.... la la la la!

Check out Pooh Bear... no really, I was taking a picture of Pooh Bear!

A look behind me from atop the Hayes Street Hill.

Our magnificent supporters!

This is Sparta!
Momma TallGuySurfing and Me at the Cliff House looking back toward the finish line.

My official stats:

2,806th out of 43,913 finishers
714th in my age division (30-39) out of 5,222 (top 13%)
Chip Time: 1:04:09 (a new 12K PR!)
Average pace: 8:35
Zazzle Bay to Breakers 12k TallGuySurfing grade = B+

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