I get my thrill on Hayes St. hill – Bay to Breakers 12k, Part 3

The big day arrived for my first race, May 15, 2011. Dan and I woke up bright and early and got ready to run the 100th annual Bay to Breakers (the longest consecutively run footrace in the world!). Here are all of the rookie mistakes we made:

  • We didn’t follow any type of training plan. We just ran a few times a week to prepare for this.
  • Our street was horrible to run on in the winter so we did most of our running on a treadmill.
  • We didn’t prepare for hills.
  • I decided to try a new fuel belt for the first time ever.
  • I decided to run with my iPod mini (yes I still had one) because it had a belt holder, even though the battery wasn’t good. I also made this decision because I had nothing to hold my iPod touch. (not really sure why I didn’t buy an armband for my iPod touch!)
ready to run

My shoes, timing tag and race bib!

I was so new to running that when we got our race bibs in the mail, I had to message Kristen and ask her how we were supposed to  wear them (she said I was really cute and the answer was to use safety pins. duh).

race ready

Race ready. Note the new fuel belt and iPod mini. Big mistake!

We headed outside and towards the start. Our hotel was so close that it only took a few minutes. We missed the beginning of the run when the elites started, but we could hear the announcer counting down from inside our room. As we got closer and closer to the start, people started throwing tortillas around. We were getting pelted left, right and centre by tortillas and people were picking them up from the ground and whipping them around. I looked it up afterwards and it turns out the tortilla toss is a Bay to Breakers tradition where runners toss the tortillas around to pass the time as they make their way to the start line (or wait for the race to start).

starting line

I took these pictures as we made our way to the start. You can see the tortillas on the ground, the crowd and some discarded clothes.

As we got closer and closer to the start I realized we had missed our corral and were stuck in the corral below us. This didn’t really matter to me because I wasn’t aiming for a time. My goal was to finish. Little did I know that missing my corral and getting into the slower corral was going to become a trend.

When we started running I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me. I was so excited! However, there were a few things I wasn’t prepared for. I’d never run with such a big crowd before, so that was a little claustrophobic at first. I found I couldn’t maneuver really well around people. I wasn’t expecting other people to be that much slower than me, but they were! I should have known better though because Bay to Breakers is known for its mix of those who come to run seriously, and those who come to dress up/party/run in the nude etc. and then probably for amateurs like us. So, because some people weren’t really conditioned to run the race at all, they would just stop suddenly in front of us. We had to dodge a lot of people and found ourselves running up sidewalks to get around and running in and around the slower runners/walkers while trying to stay together. (For the record, I’m really good at dodging people when I run now. Or I think so anyway.)

blurry running pictures

Taking pictures while running is hard work. Most of them ended up blurry. Little did I know that this would become a recurring thing for me.

selfie while running

Taking selfies while running is also hard work. This is something I actually got better at later though.

As we got further up we passed the salmon running upstream. This is a group of people who dress up as salmon and run the race in the opposite direction (from the breakers to the bay) so they end up running against the crowd.

salmon running upstream

I just barely snapped this picture of the salmon running upstream as they ran by. They were fast!

The weather was originally supposed to be cold with thunder storms. Fortunately for us there was no thunder and lightning (something that could have jeopardized the race due to safety) and it held off from raining. It also wasn’t cold. I tend to overheat when I’m running and about halfway through I was really happy when a little light drizzle rained on us. It was just enough to cool me off and then it stopped raining again.

Postcard Row

We ran past many of San Francisco’s famous sites including Postcard Row – the painted ladies. I tried to look for Uncle Jesse from Full House, but he wasn’t there. I know, that’s a lame idea, but I grew up watching Full House so that’s what I thought of!

We passed a lot of high energy spectators and live bands along the way.


Spectators dressed up as royalty.

Haye Street hill was really difficult for me. It was the steepest hill on the course and I almost had to walk. I hung on though (I might as well have been walking, that’s how slow I was running!). My iPod mini also ran out of battery so I was stuck running without music. I used to run with Kristen without music, but that was 5k, this was 12k. At this point I felt like I needed it to help distract me from my screaming body.

As we approached Golden Gate Park I could see people who had already finished the race walking by wearing the medals. The organizers had kept the medal design a secret and the minute I saw the medals around their necks, I wanted it with every fibre of my being. Another thing that threw me off during the race were the mile markers. Based on the course map, I assumed the mile markers were in miles. Just to double check, I asked Dan “are these in miles?” Dan got confused because it’s referred to as a 12k (not a 7.5 mile run) so he said they were in kilometres. Because of this, I thought we had a lot further to go and it took me way too long to realize that we were almost done. Looking back now, this was another stupid mistake. Who’s ever referred to an organized 12k run as a 7.5 mile run? (maybe don’t answer that, because somebody probably has!)

Getting close to the finish line.

Getting close to the finish line. I just had to hang on a little longer.

Then we were there. It felt like an eternity but before I knew it we were crossing the finish line.

crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line. Absolutely ecstatic.

We did it!

We did it!


I took this non-running selfie. It turned out a lot better than my running selfie. We were so happy that the running was over.

At this point we still didn’t have our medals and I was anxiously looking around to figure out where to get them. I saw a random line and got in. Then I realized we were in line to get our photo taken. Because I love cheesy souvenir photos this was also an acceptable line for me.

This man was in front of us in line. He was really nice and had apparently run as a bandit (hadn’t registered). There were only a few runners showing skin like him. Historically Bay to Breakers has a lot of nude runners but we only saw a few that year (fully nude I mean).

official race pic

Our official race picture.

After getting our picture taken, we finally got our medals! It was more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed (I know I sound a little dramatic, but I worked hard for that medal!). We began to make our way to “Footstock” where we would be able to pick up our t-shirts.

This is Harry Cordellos. We saw him earlier on Hayes St. hill. How awesome are their shirts? Even more awesome is the fact that this was Harry’s 44th Bay to Breakers and he is also blind! What an incredible runner.

mission accomplished

Proudly wearing our medals. Mission accomplished.


It was a bit chilly (especially if you weren’t running!). The volunteers who gave us our medals were pretty awesome.


It felt like we were walking forever. Someone said to “follow the turtles!”

When we got to Footstock, volunteers gave us our t-shirts. Dan and I didn’t stay long though. We took a look at some of the booths, enjoyed some of the live bands and ate some free snacks. We decided we should catch a shuttle bus sooner rather than later and headed out.


In our new t-shirts at Footstock! We saw some other Canadians and later on we saw people in Star Wars costumes. There were a lot of people in costumes in general, but I love Star Wars so this one caught my attention. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi!

We lined up and eventually got on a bus. The bus system was really well organized and I don’t remember waiting long for a bus. Because it was pretty full we had to stand. This ended up being really challenging because my legs were sore, I had to pee and we were going down a lot of really steep hills. I had to keep my knees slightly bent and concentrate on my yoga breathing while hanging on for dear life in order to keep from falling over. When we made it to downtown San Francisco it was a pretty quick 15 minute walk back to our hotel room where we showered and got dressed.

In the shower I discovered the result of my rookie mistake (wearing something new on race day). My fuel belt had rubbed against my stomach right below my belly button. My shirt was a little short and had ridden up so my fuel belt was rubbing for almost the entire race and I hadn’t noticed. I definitely noticed in the shower.

My poor stomach! This was really painful. Almost 2 years later and I still have a mark from this.

At the hotel everyone greeted us by saying “Welcome back!” I felt really special even though we weren’t the only runners staying there. The first thing we did after showering and changing was go look for food. Once again, I was starving. This time I had a craving for oysters. It may have something to do with Jeff telling us about all of the oysters he ate a few nights before this. We went to Hog Island Oyster Co. and my wish was granted.

oysters and gumbo

Oysters and gumbo at Hog Island Oyster Co. om nom nom.

Feeling tired after this we went back to the hotel and had a nap. Big mistake. When I woke up my entire body ached and I could barely walk. I was in so much pain. We probably should have walked for a bit afterwards to get the lactic acid moving. Oops!

I was hungry again so we went for dinner. (this was a really long day for me. There was a lot of activity and not a lot of food!)


Dinner at Pier 23 with live music (the Hot Pocket Crew). I had the shrimp and crab sandwich with sweet potato fries. om nom nom. Great view there too!

After wandering around a little we went back to the hotel and called it a night. The next day we had breakfast at Perry’s again (I wanted to try the waffles Dan had on our first morning there).


Waffles were well worth the repeat visit to Perry’s. om nom nom. We also got sunburned/tanned on our trip.

Before heading to the airport, we walked down the street and picked up a copy of The Examiner, which featured a story on the 100th Bay to Breakers!


A nice souvenir to take home. And it was free.

So that was my first run. Some of the highlights for me were getting to see the city in a different way (running through it), running with a huge mob of people (it was really thrilling), the feeling of accomplishment when I crossed the finish line and the medal that will always remind me of that feeling. Also the t-shirt. Can’t ever forget about the t-shirt.


Daisy wearing our new race bling. This became a tradition too. Poor dog.

Next trip recap on the blog will be of my trip to New York City to visit Alia and eat amazing food. After that, I’ll have a race report on my first 10k, the Toronto Zoo run! More food, running and travel to come.

2 thoughts on “I get my thrill on Hayes St. hill – Bay to Breakers 12k, Part 3

  1. Pingback: Crush it! – Disney World Half Marathon trip, Part 4 | Plain Can Be Lovely

  2. Pingback: You never forget your first race – Race for Health 5k, 2014 (Sarnia) | Plain Can Be Lovely

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