Oakland Marathon – Running with Pacers

I ran Oakland Marathon back in March – about a week after my birthday. I signed up for it because I was looking for some fast, local courses to tackle. This one ended up being super fun.

A quick side note: ever since I ran the Lake Tahoe Relay a few years ago, I’ve wanted to run around the lake solo – it’s 72 miles. It’s always been in the back of my mind as something exciting I wanted to do. So, when I was at the Expo for Oakland, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that, in fact, a race like this does exist – The Lake Tahoe Midnight 72 Mile Express. I immediately signed up and was rewarded with a Lake Tahoe bottle of Vodka (pictures on request).

The morning of the race, I took an Uber across the bridge to the start line. It was pretty chilly without any heat lamps, but I found a generator and stood next to that before the start.

Today wasn’t going to be a PR race, but I was feeling pretty well-rested. I decided I’d try to stick with the 3:40 pace group for as long as I felt like it, so I found them at the start.

The first few miles were pretty easy. Around the first or second mile, I noticed some guy – also running with us – taking selfies with him and the pace group. At first I was somewhat grumpy about it – very few people look good running, and who was this guy? But then I recognized him as an ultrarunning friend of mine – Peter! And he was taking pictures of his son, Garrett, who was one of the pacers for the 3:40 group! It was really fun to see them both, and a reminder that running is such a small community.

Who is this guy taking all these selfies?! Oh, it’s Peter!

Flying in the early miles (Photo credit: Peter)

The gang’s all here

Around mile 7 or 8, one of my toes started hurting fairly badly – like I had pinched a nerve. I tried a few different gaits, but none of them really worked, so I just powered through it. It ended up being fine later, but was a weird pain that I hadn’t experienced before.

This arch was on fire – with literal fire!

The draw for this particular race is the opportunity to run across the new portion of the Bay Bridge to Yerba Buena Island. The miles leading up to that, though, were … very industrial. Lots of old train tracks embedded in asphalt, and some very uneven concrete, required us to be careful with our steps.

The bridge was very fun, but definitely a challenge. The whole out-and-back portion of the race on the bridge was a couple of miles. The “out” portion of the bridge was a slow, but inexorably steady, climb.

I was still with Garrett, and decided I’d try to stick with the pace group until bridge turnaround point, which was around mile 16 or so. We slowed down a bit going up the bridge, but still kept a pretty solid pace, and I kept up with the group. When we turned around, the downhill was very rewarding, and we were able to pick up our pace a bit. These were some of the fastest miles of the race for me, which is surprising, because they are usually some of the hardest!

Run da bridge

Coming on down (Photo credit: Peter)

Garrett killing it with his pace sign

Leaving the bridge, we were about 19 miles into the race. At this point, I figured I could probably gut it out with Garret & the other runners in the pace group for the next seven miles. So, that’s what I did.

Running under some bridge 

 

Home stretch – working hard

We picked up the pace a bit at the end, and I ended up finishing in 3:38:56 – not a bad time for a pretty hilly course, and 4th in my age group. Also my 3rd fastest marathon time.

Crossing the finish line

I was very pleased with this outcome. The best part was sticking to a pretty consistent pace throughout – I have never started and finished a race with a pace group before! Even more exciting was getting to do it with folks I knew.

The pace crew at the finish line

 

Finished!

Overall, super fun day. Very cool to get to run across the bridge and see some new streets near my home city!

Splits, for the nerds

Hardware

As a reminder, I have a discount code for the San Francisco Marathon – use “AMBOLISA25” at https://www.thesfmarathon.com/ for 25% off.