Tuesday, June 7, 2011

WIN, FAIL, LOL - San Diego RnR Race Report

I love running the San Diego Rock and Roll Half-Marathon. I love running through the center of the city in the morning, the smell of bacon emanating from the yet-to-open restaurants, and the smell of coffee from the ubiquitous Starbucks and other coffee houses. I love running down Park Avenue and through Balboa Park and not having to worry about cars and traffic. I love the opportunity to run on one of our most scenic highways, the 163 and under the Laurel Street (or whatever it's called) bridge. I love running over the Tecolote bridge and feeling (finally) the breezes blowing off of Mission Bay.

Yes, there are parts of this run that are not too scenic (Morena Blvd...parts of Friars...for the marathoners, having to run on Fiesta Island, but even that was a shorter run this year).

Yep, I love this race, but it doesn't always love me. I vowed that this year would be different.

But before I get to that, I do have a bone to pick with the weather-people.

As you know, I obsessed about the weather all week. I was so happy when I read the forecast which called for morning haze and drizzle on Sunday morning?


Woke up, stepped outside, not a cloud in the sky.

ah well...

Last year's San Diego Marathon and 1/2 Marathon was fraught with some new course & new race director difficulties, challenges, and downright bloopers. The two biggest (IMHO) were the lack of porta-potties at the start (this year? still a fail...not an EPIC fail like last year, but still not enough). The larger problem was on the course mostly on the 163, where both the half-marathon and marathon were on the course at the same time. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem, only by the time the marathoners got to the freeway, they'd run an additional 5 or 6 miles through downtown San Diego. This resulted in 8 - 9 minute mile marathon runners running alongside (or over, or mostly around) 11-12 (or slower) minute mile half-marathoners. There were LOTS of complaints about this. It was bad.

This year, Competitor solved the problem; both north and south bound lanes of the 163 were closed for the race with marathoners on the south-bound side and half-marathoners on the northbound side.

This also gave the half-marathoners the much kinder, less-cant-y, less hilly, more shady, north bound side...which I enjoyed a great deal.

So, once again... here was the route
And, here is the full report in terms of WINS, FAILS, AND LOLS

Pre-race WINS!
  • Walter dropping us off (again) on the east side of the park - no traffic at all.
  • Joining up with the track club for the pre-race warmup (sorta) and stretch, running into all my track club peeps.
  • Getting two nights of good sleep and feeling extraordinarily chipper on race morning. Let's just say that most of the time, pre-race, I am not particularly talkative. On Sunday, I was a complete motormouth. 
Pre-race FAIL
  • Getting separated from Mik and Kat when we were checking our bags, and not seeing them until the end of the race.
  • The porta-potty line itself...still ended up standing in it for close to 30 minutes. I was (once again) in line when the race started (yeah, yeah...not a big deal, but for once I'd like to be at the START when a large race like this actually STARTS...)
Pre-race LOL
  • Irene's hubs spotted us during his warmup and out  "IRENE'S IN THE PORTA POTTY LINE. SHE'S WEARING GREEN!!!" I'm sure Irene appreciates knowing this.
I mean...do we look READY or what?
So...like I said, after the warmup, Mik, Kat and I went to check our gear and then we ended up in different porta potty lines. I think I went toward their gear check trucks, and they came back to where I was...and we didn't cross paths...sigh.

We definitely needed to work out a better plan for that aspect of running big races, but it didn't bother me too much because we would have run our own races anyway.  I did get a text from Kat that they were in a corral, but when I couldn't find them, I just blended into somewhere around corral 16 or 17 and started the race.

Mile 1-4 - A Great Start
Mile 1- 4 WINS
  • Deciding that I was going to run my own race... to start off slowly and still have some energy for the last couple of miles, and letting LOTS of people pass me.
  • Enjoying the first five miles of the 1/2 marathon, which were the best. The bands on 6th Avenue, University, and Park were plentiful and LOUD. I didn't even feel compelled to listen to my shuffle. I just ran along, and listened to the tourists around me chat about race strategies, adventures and ask each other cute questions about where they were, and waved to the less fortunate, who were cheering the runners on. I'm sure we were quite the parade.
Mile 1-4 FAIL
  • Running down Park Avenue and already my sunglasses were fogging and I was sweating... probably NOT a good thing.
  • Thinking WTF? I have to pee again?
  • Getting a Sunday morning, hell-fire-and-brimstone sermon, even though I wasn't in church. As we ran back into Balboa Park and through the Prado, which is just the coolest place ever, there were a group of Christian Fundamentalists, shouting or maybe they were preaching, at us as we ran past. OK...fine, they have their beliefs and their rights; I have mine, but does your God really want you shouting "YOU ARE WEAK!!!!" through a bullhorn at me as I am in the early stages of a half marathon? Not sure they got many converts that morning. 
Mile 1-4 LOL
  • Thinking of sending Betty and Elsie a text message as I ran down Park to ask them WTF they were...but I figured they were still in bed... Next time girls, next time.
I pilfered this from the race photographers site. First, It may be one of the only decent running pictures of me EVER! We were in front of the hall of champions at this point. I remember running past the dude in the American flag shorts....
It took me awhile to figure this out, but I think this must be the 5K mat that we ran over.  Green stands out in the crowd doesn't it?
Mile 1 - 10:38
Mile 2 - 10:32
Mile 3 - 10:00
Mile 4 - 10:11

Miles 5 - 10 - The 163 and Friars Road

Mile 5-10 WINS
  • Running up the north side of the 163 was AWESOME. First of all, by entering at the foot of Balboa park, we bypassed the larger hill that we ran up last year when we started at the foot of downtown. Second, who knew that the north going lanes had much less cant to them than the south going lanes. And third...the shade. Oh yes, the shade.
  • Cresting at the Washington Street Exit, which is the top of the "big hill," and thinking "that was IT?" 
  • Looping on and off the hotel circle on and off ramps to get back onto the south-going lanes...never done THAT before. 
  • Being thankful for the trees planted on the meridian on Friars.
  • Being even more thankful for the TAR-JAY water station at mile 9ish, which had ICE WATER!
  • Seeing Irene's hubs, Michael at Mile 10. He was really the first person from the track club that I'd seen.
  • Reading my Garmin after 10 miles and seeing 1:47. Thinking...OMG I can run three miles in thirty minutes and come in under 2:20...maybe even 2:15! Clearly my math faculties were suffering at that point. It was probably a sign.
Mile 5 - 10 FAIL
  • Noticing the sun... It was out and on my back. Even though the morning was relatively cool and there was a slight breeze, I could feel the sun sapping me. I tried to steer myself toward the shade, but it added miles. It's always depressing when my Garmin buzzes, as it does every mile, and I am not even close to the mile marker...
  • Being handed Blueberry GU and taking it. I shoulda held out for the vanilla.
Mile 5 - 10 LOL
  • Laughing about the "stuff" left behind on the road by runners. At the race expo on Friday, we spent several minutes looking for the "perfect headband" for Kat. It was sparkly and green...very pretty. On the freeway, I spotted a similar one and didn't pick it up when I realized it was more a teal green than the emerald green Kat had. Later on a friend from the track club (Kate) told me that she also saw the headband on 163...funny the things you notice as you run.
  • Reading the signs...the signs...the signs... I love people's signs. My favorite this year (or maybe its the only one I can remember) said "Stop reading and keep running!
Mile 5 - 10:56
Mile 6 - 10:49
Mile 7 - 10:09
Mile 8 - 10:37
Mile 9 - 10:38
Mile 10 - 11:00

Miles 11-13 

Mile 11 - 13 FAIL
  • I'm gonna start off with fails...because there were lots of them in the last couple of miles. 
  • Realizing my plan to start off easy and have energy for the end sorta wasn't exactly going to work out as I'd planned. Right after the turn around and the 11 mile marker, I just felt empty. Within a 1/2 mile, my legs just stopped running. I don't even remember telling them to; they just did. And when I stopped running, I felt lightheaded and dizzy, which I figured was NOT a good thing. There was a water station at about 11.5, so I ate about 1/3 of one of the blueberry GUs (yuk) and chased it with some water. I felt immediately better and was able to start running again. I did this at least one more (maybe two...I can't remember) times in the next two miles. 
  • Walking for 20 steps, then do 10 more, then running again. I guess this could be considered a WIN, but I really, really, really wanted to not have the 11 mile melt-down in this race. I know it's mostly mental, and I'm not sure what to do about it.
  • Watching some guy in an orange shirt fly past me, high stepping and arms flailing.  I just figured he was happy to be almost done, but then he just dropped....to the ground. A few of us spotted a SDPD and shouted to him that a runner was down. It was scary. A few seconds later, I heard the ambulance. More scary. 
Mile 11 - 13 WINS
  • I'll end with the wins, because even though the last two miles weren't the best, some really good things happened and those are the things I want to remember most.
  • Seeing and hugging Irene at about 10.5 miles, right before the turnaround. We both hurdled the meridian to give each other a big, quick, sweaty, hug. She looked GREAT, and I knew then that she was having a great race. Seeing Irene gave me a boost...that boost lasted almost exactly 3/4 mile.
  • During one of my "walk-breaks," a woman from the track club touched me on the shoulder, smiled and said "you make a difference in my life." This may sound all dorky, but throughout the track club season, Coach Paul says this to us, and he makes us say it to each other. It feels odd at first, telling a complete stranger that they make a difference, but on that day, at that time, that woman made a HUGE difference in my life. I started running again, and thinking about it, even now almost makes me cry. 
  • Hearing Coach Paul on his bullhorn at Seaworld Drive...another miracle of the day. He was there, yelling out to all the runners that they make a difference, that they looked strong, reminding everyone to relax their shoulders, and that we make a difference. There was no way on God's green earth I was going to stop and walk after that. I shouted out to him, "I love you Paul!" and he shouted back "I love you too!" and that's all it took...so much of this running thing is mental.
Mile 11 - 13.1 LOL
  • I don't know if I have an LOL in these two miles. At first I thought the flailing guy was funny, but then when I saw him go down...not. so. much.
Mile 11 - 10:45
Mile 12 - 11:58 (ouch!)
Mile 13 - 11:18

Mile 13 - 13.1 (or in my case...13.3) - The Finish

  • Heading toward the finish and finishing strong. At the time, I was sorta disappointed that I'd walked in the last couple of miles, and that I hadn't run all 13.1 the way I'd wanted to. But when I look at my time and splits now, I'm actually pretty pleased that I had some kick left (my pace for the last .3 miles was 9:01).
13 - Finish (actually 13.3) - 2:50

The aftermath...

I finished the race...pumped my hands a few times (as if I were a first place finisher), downed the first water almost immediately, collected my medal, skipped the photo-op, and made my way to the post-race buffet.

There was some pretty good post-race food. I grabbed a bagel and some hummus (yum!), and a Cytomax (which I don't really like, but figured that I needed the electrolytes). I made my way to the gear check to get my stuff, then I went to find the SDTC tent, which is where I found Mik and Kat and Irene and Michael.

The track club tent had some additional salty stuff for us, and chocolate milk (which is just a miracle!). I took off my shoes, put on some flipflops and just sat for several minutes. It felt SUPERB!

Mik, Kat and I also found Irene and Kate at the track club tent. Thanks goes to Irene because I pilfered this photo from her FB page! I NEVER take enough pix...
We hung out there for awhile, ate bagels, relived our races. Kat, who hadn't trained was disappointed in her time, and she made the promise to herself that I made at last year's Surf City, to never run a 1/2 mary without training for it. Smart Girl. Mik was, of course, a rockstar and ran a stellar race. I dug up this from the race photographer.

Like last year, Walter, Turbo, and DramaGirl spent the morning at the SDTC water station at Mile 25, which was on Fiesta Island. For some reason I felt like I had enough energy to walk over there to see everyone, so I did. Kat and Mik waited in the shade, under a tree, on Seaworld drive. Again, I have no idea where the energy came from.

Mik and I trying to figure out where to go.
Mik and Kate (who we adopted for the rest of the morning as she needed a ride back to her car, and I was happy to help out), leading us across a field to Fiesta Island...see those trees in the distance? There's blue tent to the left of them. I think we were going that way.
Yeah...I really have no idea what got into me, but I did walk another mile and then some out to the water station and then back to the car. Clearly I should make sure I sleep before a race all the time.

DramaGirl and Turbo...at Mile 25, some runners just wanted water thrown at them. Turbo was very happy to oblige. Also, the biggest story of the day was the adventure of a caterpillar that managed to cross the road where the marathoners were running...twice...without getting stepped on. 
Edith was there with her two boys (She's gotta be standing on a chair or something... The girl is just NOT that tall!)
I'm still thinking about what happens to me after the 10th mile. I think I may need to do a few more 11, 12, or even a 13 mile training run. Maybe part of it is fuel. I'm not sure. I do have another 1/2 Marathon in July (YIKES!), the Napa to Sonoma run. I hope to have it figured out by then.

Until then, I am actually very pleased with my 2:22:58 finish. I also know that I can improve upon that, and maybe next month I'll be able to do it.

It will definitely require a good night's rest.


  1. What a great race report - I nearly teared up myself when you said that bit about the woman tapping you on the shoulder. How amazing! I'm pretty soppy at the best of times, in a race I'm just terrible.

    Love the kids helping out at the water station - what fun!

  2. Wow great recap, I too almost teared up about the "you make a difference in my life" what a great thing to do and obviously very motiviating. I am going to try that.
    Blueberry GU does not sound good on a normal day, but during a race even worse!
    Great running pics, I love the breakdown of win, fail, and LOL.

  3. Way to go. I hate the sound of ambulance sirens in a race, but to be that close must be tough.

  4. Great race report! Bummer about the dude and the ambulance-hope it turned out okay.
    I get "that" feeling around mile 9, but by mile 11 I'm back into it-not sure what to do with it. I did notice though when I was marathon training and as my long runs got longer, the "crash" mile came later and later as well...so I guess that means for you to make your long runs longer too!!

  5. Great report! I hear ya about the mind thing on Mile 11 (or 10 for me).

    And wow about that guy. Hope he is ok.

  6. That's so awesome Alice. I had no idea they closed down the northbound 163 this year. I will probably never run this race, but always like to read about it and see pics.

    Great R.R. and nice "win".

  7. Congrats on the half! Great report.
    In every picture you look fast and in the first ... yes....you look ready.

  8. You have some great photos from the race. I'm so jealous!

    (I have nothing great, other than the green shirt that's a dot in a sea of people. The line of Elvis' (Elvi?) got in my way at the finish. The cheesy photo with the medal that they take afterward is all I have.)

    You did beautifully, even with all that sunshine and walk breaks. Seriously, walk breaks and you came in at 2:22? Nice.

    PS - It was such a boost to see you at almost the same place as last year! Talk about boost!

    Maybe we can squeeze in some Friday morning runs this summer when I have to work on a Saturday?

  9. Everything I heard was there were some *huge* improvements at the finish area. Maybe I'll give this a shot again next year....