Originally when we signed up for this race it was going to be a redemption race for Ryan and a training run for me (seeing as the Dopey Challenge is in less than TWO WEEKS from now!). Ryan's IT Band was acting a foo' and made last year's race an extremely painful one so he wanted to come back and eat the hills for breakfast (although the course touts a 700+ foot net drop there are definitely rolling hills just about the entire time).
|Obviously downplaying the rolling hills ;)|
A few weeks ago I realized that I hadn't actually raced a half marathon since March and thought it might be nice to be able to run this one for time (seeing as runDisney races aren't exactly the best place for a PR attempt). I asked Ry if he would be okay with me actually racing this one and he said he was totally fine with it (this would be the first time we had run the same race but not run together).
Let's start at the beginning. This race is a point-to-point race. We decided we would park at the finish line and ride the shuttles to the start (we would prefer to to be able to just leave once we were done rather than having to ride a shuttle back to our car). With that being said we needed to leave the house around 5:00am to be to the parking lot at the finish by 5:30am (which is when they said they would be closing it). And when we left the house it was CHILLY WILLY!
When we got to Del Mar it was still FREEZING! We parked in the parking lot and made our way to the bus line. Ryan said it was the coldest he had ever been (and that's saying A LOT, seeing as we grew up in the frozen tundra that is Michigan). The cold air just blows down from the mountains and pools in the valley. Thankfully I had on my Brooks PureProject Seamless Tights under my Sparkle Athletic Skirt and Pro Compression Socks to try and keep me warm (and also used a Mylar blanket from a previous runDisney race to retain a little of my body heat).
Last year the bus we took from the finish line to the start was a PARTY SHUTTLE (complete with stripper pole), but thankfully this year they were more legit greyhound type buses. Ryan and I lucked out and ended up getting on the very first bus (which meant less time standing in the cold... or so we thought) - I heard some people had to wait up to an HOUR for a bus... It probably took us about 20 minutes to get over to the starting area - just enough time to de-thaw a bit. Then it was back out in the cold.
There is an Albertson's at the starting line. Last year we were able to sort of huddle in the front of the store to stay warm. This year.... NO SUCH LUCK! We got off the bus and made our way towards the warm store. There was a lady patrolling the entrance and told us NO RUNNERS ALLOWED IN UNLESS YOU ARE SHOPPING. Okay, so I guess that means 2 hours IN THE 30 DEGREE WEATHER... It would have been nice if someone would have warned us (we definitely would have taken advantage of the bag check option and layered up if we would have known we would be standing in the parking lot of a grocery store for 2 hours in 30 degree temps).
Thankfully with this being a local race I got to see some hometown friends while we waited around (for the sun to rise and hopefully warm us up and for the race to start). Ryan and I were able to chat with Henry (my barefooted running friend) for a little bit while huddling to try and conserve our body heat. (I have no idea how we forgot to grab a picture together though - it must have been my cold fingers not wanting to dig my phone out...) Smitha and Erica mentioned they would be meeting up at the Jack in the Box around 7am, so a few minutes before then we made our way over. We were able to chat with the ladies for a while, which was super nice.
|Erica, Smitha and I|
|Some of the folks before the race|
Before we knew it (okay, not really, seeing as I didn't have much feeling in my toes), it was about race time, so we made our way over towards the start. Ryan and I grabbed a quick picture before we split up and he went to find a port-a-potty (from the sounds of it, they needed a few more... I heard folks were using the bushes because of the incredibly long lines...).
|Yes, Ryan was wearing my SPIbelt on his head...|
I ended up finding Erica in the corral area and we were able to chat a bit more (isn't it awesome that she was the one who won my Phoenix Marathon Giveaway, was in San Diego for the holidays from Chicago, and is an AMAZING woman to boot?!). Let's be honest, self seeding corrals never work the way they are supposed to... But it is pretty bad when the DJ had to call out the pacers because the 1:45 pacer was in front of the 1:40 pacer who was in front of the 1:35 pacer... Thankfully the pacers got themselves situated (even though most of the runners really didn't pay much attention).
|Erica and I|
The race ended up starting about 20 minutes late. No one ever really told us what we were waiting for, why we weren't starting or when to expect things to kick off... we all just kept looking at our watches and wondering when we were going to get this show on the road. Can we say DISORGANIZED?!
Obviously every year an event is put on they try to fine tune aspects. One thing that they changed which was a BIG THUMBS DOWN (at least for me) was the way the corrals were laid out. Last year they had the corrals in front of the store (which, granted, probably wasn't the best for the grocery store shoppers, but at least folks were looking at the starting line). This year they had us going AROUND THE BACK OF THE STORE (in the shade and extra cold). This means you had to take a 90 degree left turn from the corral to the starting line. So not only were people self seeding incorrectly, were there huge hoards of people, but we all had to fight the stage to turn a sharp corner...
Like I mentioned, the race boasts about the net 700 foot drop in elevation, but there are quite a few rolling hills throughout the course. Also, there is a pretty decent hill in the first mile or so (lasts for what seems to be about a half mile), but thankfully at this point most of the runners have the energy to conquer the biggest elevation gain on the course, so it isn't too strenuous. The course isn't too beautiful (for being in SoCal, you would expect some better views), since it is on the bike trail along the 56 Highway, but at least that means I didn't miss many photo ops while I was trucking along.
I told Ryan on Saturday (which means I actually had to vocalize it instead of keeping it inside like I was planning on doing) my goals for the race. Goal A: Sub-1:45. Goal B: Sub-1:47. Goal C: Sub-1:50:45 (my current half PR time). Goal D: Finish with a smile on my face. Although I hadn't raced a half since March, I had been trying to work on my speed a bit (along with adding on distance while marathon training and back-to-back runs for some of my upcoming challenges). I thought I would LOVE to finish under 1:45, but wasn't sure how realistic that would be (seeing as I would need to keep about 8 minute miles the whole time).
I consciously tried to reel myself in for the first couple miles. I know me and know that I tend to go out too quickly (thankfully the hill at the beginning inadvertently helped keep my pace in line with where it should be). Mile 1 was about 8:03. Mile 2 was about 8:10. I knew this pace was a little slower than I needed, but hoped I would be able to make up for it once we started bombing the down hills. My shins started tightening up around mile 1.5 and I was slightly worried that this wouldn't be my race. I dialed it back a bit more and told myself I would listen to my body (after all, this was supposed to be a training run, not necessarily a race).
Around mile 3 the 1:45 pacer caught up to me. My shins started feeling good again so I thought I would try my luck with sticking with the pacer as long as I could. At first it was pretty annoying. There was a pretty big pack running with him, so I felt like I couldn't really get into a rhythm because I was trying not to trip over people or bump into others. After a while I got into a groove and decided I would run with them (but honestly figured I would probably start falling behind them around mile 8 or 9).
The pacer had gone on Google Maps and looked at each mile. He then figured out (based on the elevation) what each mile should be (so instead of just taking 1:45 and dividing it by 13.1 miles, he was trying to see which miles we could make up time and which miles would probably be slower based on the hills). I thought this was pretty genius of him (let me preface this by saying I have never been or run with a pacer, so maybe they all do this, but I guess I figured he might have done it on his own since he wrote all of the mile paces on his hand) - I am all about conserving as much energy as possible! I think our fastest mile was 7:20ish and our slowest mile was 8:15ish.
Other than my shins in the first couple miles, everything else felt great. By mile 4 I had started to warm up a bit and tossed my mittens at a water stop (although looking back I probably could have worn them the whole time without getting too hot). I was worried about how the colder temps would effect my breathing (sometimes cold air makes my chest and lungs burn), but thankfully once the sun started coming up it took the chill off (even though it was still only in the 40s when we finished).
I didn't grab water or electrolytes along the course (when it is on the colder side I tend to "forget" about hydrating as much as I would if it was warmer). I have to be honest though, I'm glad I didn't need to. The water stations seemed pretty poorly staffed. There were maybe 4 people at each - with one person pouring water and three handing it out (with one cup in each hand). Obviously there is limited space along a bike path, but when runners are coming through constantly (or even in groups bigger than say 5) it seemed to overwhelm the volunteers. They might want to look into adding additional volunteers at the aid stations for future races.
Around mile 9 I was surprised I was still with the pacer. He would call out the mile pace and let us know if we were still on pace for the 1:45 goal (which I believe we were the entire time). It sounded like I might have started about 10 seconds before him, so I figured when we got closer to the finish I might need to kick a little faster than him.
There were a few places along the course (one specifically that I remembers before mile 12) where they seemed like they were trying to add distance, so instead of going straight we had to go down a side street for a while and loop back to the main road. Those little jaunts tend to play mind games with me. You think you are going straight and then when you have to add on an extra half mile or so it can be tough mentally.
At mile 12 the pacer started urging us all to give it our all. He said whatever we had left we needed to kick it in with that. I still felt like I had a bit in the tank and also knew I needed to be at least about 10 seconds ahead of him to still hit 1:45 (if he was going to finish right at that). It seemed like a few of the runners were losing steam so their friends were trying to cheer them into the finish. I just used their encouragement to their friends as though it was meant for me ;) I felt like I really gave it all I had at the end.
My watch kept beeping after the mile marker, but when we got to mile 11, 12 and 13 my Garmin was beeping a bit before the mile marker. I figured I would stop my watch when I saw 13.1 miles on my Garmin, figuring the course would be a little long, that way I could actually cross the finish line without having to deal with my watch.
My Garmin had me finishing the 13.1 miles in 1:44:09. I still had a little under a quarter mile left in the actual race though, so I stopped my watch but kept on trucking. I was hoping my official time would still be under 1:45, so I made sure to keep as much gusto in my legs as possible.
Erica saw me at the finish line and cheered me in (she is a speed demon and ended up finishing in 1:36). It was so nice to have someone cheering for me, so I knew I had to do it for my friends (and fellow runners). My official time was 1:44:42 - which was 6 minutes and 3 seconds faster than my current PR.
|Crossing the finish line and NOT messing with my Garmin ;)|
A FIRST for sure!!
I grabbed a water, a banana, and a couple crackers and made my way to find Erica We chatted about the course for a few minutes, grabbed a picture together, and then I made my way to the car. Although they were giving out Mylar blankets I wanted to grab my coat before heading back to the finish line to cheer in Ryan.
|Super stoked to see this lady again at Phoenix!|
I wasn't sure what to expect from Ryan, since this was his first half marathon he was running without me. He had PR'ed at the Avengers last month in 2:11, so I figured I would start looking around 2:10 (clock time, but wasn't sure how much time was in between corrals since I went out in the first one).
In case you didn't know, I LOVE cheering runners on! I try to give high fives to anyone on the course (I think I gave out about 10 during my race - mostly to kids and a couple to police officers). I was stoked that I could cheer on my fellow runners heading into the finish line while waiting for my hubby.
AND THEN I SAW HIM! HE WAS ROCKIN' IT! HE EVEN HAD A SMILE ON HIS FACE (which was MUCH better than last year when he was cursing the course and wanting to cry with every step due to his IT Band).
He ended up finishing with ANOTHER PR! 2:07! Shoot doggy, maybe me running with him has been holding him back this whole time ;) Of course we had to celebrate with a photo!
|The first number is his place in the division (M 30-34), then his name, bib number, time from 0-10K, 10K-Finish, gun time, chip time, overall pace, overall place (out of 2745 finishers), gender place.|
Since it was still a little chilly Ryan decided to head to the car and I went back to the finish line to cheer in Smitha! She is currently training for the Phoenix Marathon (duh - #ItsGoingDownAtPHX) so she actually ran 3 miles before the race and made it a 16 mile training run - WHICH WAS HER DISTANCE RECORD SO FAR! CAN YOU SAY AWESOMESAUCE?!
After pictures I decided it was probably time to head back to the car and then on home. I had been up since 4am and I really just wanted to sit in the sunshine.
All-in-all, if I can register for this race around $50-65, it might be one I would do again (if I am in town), but there isn't much special about the course and with the disorganization at most aspects I think this one probably won't make it on my short list of MUST-DO races. (Not to mention, for a holiday race the costumes and themed outfits were pretty lack luster...)
Did you run a Christmas race this year?