This weekend, I was thrilled to be able to run the United RnRSF half marathon in my hometown. This would be my third time running it.
While the last blog was about the support getting TO the race, this blog will focus on the support AT the race itself.
|Wait--I was just there!|
Friday, 24 March
United had offered a "VIP Experience" for some of its selected MileagePlus Members. Naturally, I signed up.
|Aaron, the man who gets things done!|
|Susie, United FA|
And then.... POLARIS!!
I have been looking forward to flying in the new Polaris Class and planes for months. There were actual seats at the Expo for us to try out and experience Polaris Class without booking a flight. As I am a savvy traveler, I saw online that the new Polaris Class 777 was making a few trips from SFO-EWR and snagged a ticket on the flight, and put in for an upgrade. We'll see how it goes in two weeks! In the meantime, I know everything I need to know about being in complete comfort for my transcon flight, and will definitely look for these aircraft when I fly to Europe or Asia in the future (Chengdu, maybe??).
I had a great night of sleep in my own bed that night and woke up Saturday refreshed and relaxed.
Saturday, 25 March
|Giving a United Airlines Testimonial|
I met up with my team for the usual pre-race shenanigans and was in bed by 9:00.
Sunday, 26 March RACE DAY
I woke up about 1:00 AM feeling excited and nervous, but rested. I had run this course several times over the past three years and know it is a tough one. Hills. And the Golden Gate Bridge. And a big hill at the end.
|Definitely Running While Branded|
I took an Uber out to Beach Chalet where I was greeted by Aaron at the entrance (does he ever sleep) and welcomed by more United staff for the breakfast. Coffee, juice, pastries, yogurt, etc. All the things that one needs to fuel up before a race. And I was thankful that it opened at 4:30, as I need to have food in my stomach early to calm the nerves. Oh--and indoor toilets!!! That, alone, is worth getting a VIP ticket.
We were shuttled to the start line where I joined up with the rest of my team for our pre-race pictures and took my spot to the side of the group, as I'm a little slower than the rest of the pack. I drank my Glukos, finished stretching and waited for the countdown.
|Black Sheep getting ready to Run|
The race was as magical as it always is. The first mile is always slow and congested as people fight to find their pace and space and get ready for the first hill. Three blocks uphill, then on the flat. And then a downhill mile. This is where you push yourself as fast as you can go and burn through the shinsplints...as there is a punishing hill right around the corner that can own you if you aren't prepared.
|Cresting Lincoln Hill|
A little chance to breathe on a small downhill drop and turn to the Golden Gate Bridge. Time to drink another Glukos and fight another uphill slope. This was the first time I have reached the bridge and not had any runners already on the way back. Part of it is because the starting line was moved in slightly, but a major factor was that I was really pushing myself up that hill. I looked at my Garmin and saw that my time was great and I was on track for a new PR.
Over the bridge, around the rest stop, and back on the bridge. At the peak of the bridge, we just passed 10K. As I train on this course, I know that the next two miles are downhill. Time to run as fast as possible to balance out the time the hill at Mile 11 will counter. And I did. I ran my first official sub-9 minute mile. The time flashed on my Garmin and I knew there was no way this course would beat me...at least I hoped it wouldn't. I knew that last hill was still waiting.
On the Marina Flat I caught up with my teammate and friend, Sherry (and another United 1K member). Sherry holds the record for the most RnR miles run, and has been a mentor of mine over the past year. I was out of breath from the downhill and just looked over at her and said, "I'm trying to PR. Get ahead of me and guide me in." She's quite the quick runner and I knew that if I stayed on her tail, I would finish strong.
Another Glukos stop on the flat and we turned for the hill. It doesn't matter how many times I train for this race, this hill always tests me. I looked at my watch. 2:02. I started doing math. I needed to beat 2:24. Can I get up this hill and to the finish line in 22 minutes? Oh, I'm sure going to try.
I crested the hill, saw the finish line, looked at my watch and started to cry. I still had six minutes, and I knew that this part of the course would take three. I lost Sherry on the uphill, but caught sight of her on the way down and just glued my eyes on her back. I started to panic because this road has potholes and if I fell it would cost my PR. I fell last year on the GG Bridge and broke my toe. No, I was not going to fall again.
|Victory! And a new PR!|
I collected my medals and went straight to the United VIP Lounge where the faster members of my team were waiting, hugging and congratulating everyone for finishing a tough race.
And right there was Aaron--there must be three of him--congratulating every person and welcoming them into the lounge to have breakfast and refreshments and sit in the sun to relax and share our victories. There were also many United Flight Attendants walking around the area, chatting with the runners, and a few of them even ran the race themselves. Well done!
I sat with my friends eating bacon, hydrating, and stretching out my legs. United offered free medal engraving--a luxury that I have never afforded myself--so I took advantage of that. And massages....ooooohhhh....yes, please!!
We closed the place down, lol.
|Team Black Sheep Run|
Thank you, Adrian Mauricio for the pic
|Team United RnRSF|
But I know the service does not stop now that the race is over and the medals are hung. I was asked why I love United so much and enjoy flying to and from races on that airline. I remembered the time when I earned my (now shattered) PR in Seattle last June. I flew home right after the race and had a horrible cramp in my leg. The Flight Attendant noticed my limp and my medals when I got on the plane, and as soon as we passed 10,000 feet, she jumped up, brought me a bottle of water and told me to use it to roll out the cramp...and congratulated me for my achievements.
Life is Good. Life is better when you run with a team of hundreds, or even thousands.
|Celebrating with Sherry|
I want to dedicate this race to my friend, Sherry Ricker, who got me up that last hill and to a PR...even if she doesn't know that she did it. Sherry, you are the BEST!!
Miles Run: 181
1K Qualifying Miles: 26,601
Actual Miles Flown: 31,451
|Wouldn't it be great to have a RnR here??|
|One of the founders of Black Sheep Run,|
|I did it!!!|