Tuesday, June 11, 2013

San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Ryan and I decided we would go down to the Expo on Friday night. They had it going on both Friday and Saturday. We figured, since we get off early on Fridays from work, and because we wanted Saturday as a ‘lazy’ day, we would shoot for Friday as the Expo Day.

The Expo was down at the San Diego Convention Center. The area to pick up bibs and swag was large and open – which was nice, especially when it got busy, I'm sure. It was a quick pit stop to pick up everything I needed. The Expo itself was HUGE. I think it took up two or three of the Exhibit Halls. There were a TON of vendors and booths set up. Ryan and I meandered through most of the rows and isles picking up free goodies and taking fun pictures.

Sunday morning started EARLY. And by early I mean 3am EARLY. One of the awesome perks of living in San Diego County was that they had the trains running early for the race – which was AMAZING. Earlier in the week I had asked some folks if they would suggest driving or taking the train. I was told that the course was changing this year, so not only would there be 30,000 runners and probably 60,000 spectators downtown, but they wouldn’t really know where they were going. We quickly decided that the train would be early, but well worth it.

The train was leaving the Oceanside Transit Station at 4:10am – they had to make sure they were down to San Diego in time for the full marathon (which started at 6:15am, 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the half). We left our place by 3:45am, but probably could have waited a little longer, seeing as it only took about 3 minutes to get to the train station (but I would ALWAYS rather be early than rushing). We got on the train, found our seats and waited a bit for the train to pull out of the station.

By Carlsbad and Solana Beach the train had really filled up. There were runners and spectators standing in the isles because it was so full. I was actually surprised it was so full, especially because they said that the train tickets might sell out, so I figured they would only sell enough for the number of SEATS on the train.

They had us get off at the Old Town Station and then take ‘shuttles’ over to the start. The shuttles were actually big greyhound buses. They had everything pretty well organized. We walked off the train (with the cattle herd), went over and got right on a bus. They had lines and lines of shuttles. We were on the first round of buses, so I don’t know how many rounds there ended up being, but it seemed to run pretty seamlessly.

We got down to the starting area with plenty of time (although Ryan was bummed about all the extra time we had, since he would have rather been sleeping, I was glad that we had time to check out the surroundings, use the port-o-potties, etc). They had UPS doing the bag check, which I thought was awesome. I didn’t check anything, but I thought the idea was a great one. They had a ton of UPS trucks that were labeled by last name. The UPS trucks were able to drive to the finish area (since the start and finish were not close by each other) and have all the gear safely packed away. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, I mean moving packages form one place to another is what UPS does J.

They opened the corals for the full marathoners 30 minutes prior to the race start. I thought I read somewhere that there weren’t going to be corals or a wave start for the full marathon, but I guess I was wrong. They let the corals go about every 3-5 minutes. Once everyone was on the course for the full they let the half marathons start entering the corals.

Here is where I have my first CON for the race. No one was checking or monitoring the corals. Your race bib number notated which coral you were in. I had a bib number in the 5,000s, so I was in coral 5. Now mind you, this is my first NON-runDisney half marathon, so I am used to the way they run their events. I was very surprised though, seeing how big and ‘prestigious’ the event is. When folks don’t obey the coral it really messes with the system. People were WALKING right out of the 'gate', which means you have to do a lot of weaving. When people obey the coral placement the faster folks are up front and the slower folks are in the back and the flow of the race runs smoothly.

The race started about 10 minutes late because they were giving late coming marathoners time to make it across the start line (if they didn’t cross the start line by a set time they would have to run the HALF instead of the FULL – I guess it was because of the time limit on the course and having to re-open roads and such).

The course was pretty fun. The main reason I liked the course was because it went by where I used to live. I LOVE Hillcrest, Normal Heights, and all of those surrounding areas. We ran by the grocery store I used to walk to, the coffee shop Ryan and I used to play games at, the restaurants we would ride our bikes to for brunch, etc.

The first mile I knew I was going too fast. My time was about 8:15 or so. I knew I would have to slow down. The second and third miles were extra slow (my shin was a little tight so I slowed way down) – closer to 9:30 minute miles. At that point I threw my PR, personal record, out the window. I was really hoping to have my fastest half marathon time yet at this race, but once I saw my pace for the first three miles I decided I wasn’t going to stress about it. I decided to just run the race thanking God for the ability and opportunity, but not push myself too hard. After those first three miles I didn’t really look at my pace. I would check my watch to see the distance every so far but wasn’t really watching the time or pace.

Here is where I have my second CON for the race. The mile markers were NOT clearly marked. Again, maybe it is because I am used to the runDisney races, but I was surprised they didn’t make a bigger deal out of the mile markers (not that they needed characters at them, although that would have been fun J). Around mile 6 or 7 I realized that they only had the mile markers on the right hand of the course. I don’t know if that was because they could only afford one per mile or what, but I think I missed seeing every one of the mile markers for the first half of the race. This wasn’t a big deal since I wear a Garmin and it gives me the distance, but for folks that are depending on the markers to gauge their run it would have been a bummer.

Here is where I have my last CON for the race. Along with the mile markers only being on the right hand of the course, the water (and Gatorade if applicable) was only on the right hand of the street. This was an issue for the first couple water stations – mainly because I was running on the left hand side of the street and therefore missed them. Then when I would actually get water at the station on the right, that side of the course was so full (and littered with the empty cups). Of course I am comparing this to Disney, who seems to go above and beyond with their volunteers, accommodations, etc, but I was pretty disappointed to see the lack of liquids.

I had overheard some folks on the train talking to some other runners and mentioned that they had actually driven the course the day before (they said they didn’t want any surprises). They said that the people that laid out the course must have been looking out for us. They said that you could see uphills ahead, but then we would turn the corner to avoid them. There were quite a few turns on the course (weaving through neighborhoods and such), but I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of uphills (especially since I had run the Hot Chocolate 15K a few months back and felt like the WHOLE RACE was uphill). There was a fairly steep downhill around mile 10, which was nice, since it gave us a little boost to cruise into downtown.

At this point I checked my watch and realized that I was still doing fairly well (compared to what I was expecting when I decided to just run the race without paying attention to my splits). I thought I would try to push it and see if I could still hit my goal time. (My previous PR, personal record, for the half marathon distance was 1:58:53, which I got at the TinkerBell Half Marathon in January.)

To my surprise I was able to PR the race – whooo hoooo!! My Garmin had me finishing at 1:59:37 and my official time was 1:59:38, which is 15 seconds faster than my previous record. I was SOOOOOOO stoked – especially since I had sort of ‘given up’ on a good race so soon into the race. I found Ryan, which took a while with all of the people in the spectators around the finish line.

Since we rode the train down to the race, we had to ride it back home. I thought I had remembered seeing that the normal northbound train was at either 9:30am or 9:45am. I finished around 9am, so we thought we would rather try and make the early train, as opposed to waiting for the extra ‘runner’ train that they had going back around 11:30am or 11:45am. Ryan pulled up his map on his phone and saw that the train station was about 2 miles from the finish line and that walking it would take us about 40 minutes. I looked at him and said, “I can do it”. He had brought his skateboard with him so that he could get around from the starting line to the finish line (since they were a good distance apart), so he jumped on his board and I RAN.

Yep, I ran another 2 miles after finishing my fastest half marathon – so did a total of a little over 15 miles – wowser!

We got to the train depot around 9:25am and ran into the station. I asked one of the employees about the train and he said that it wasn’t there yet, but that it would be on the middle set of tracks. It ended up that the early train was at 9:45am and the later train was at 11:30am – but I knew I didn’t want to chance it and show up 5 minutes late, so I guess running was fine.

It was funny though; there were many comments along the way. I had someone tell me I was crazy. I had a couple other folks ask me if I knew the race was over. And the best I thought was a kid that was sitting by the mall and asked me if I had any change for him. I looked down, seeing that I was holding my medal so it wasn’t bouncing off my chest while running, saw my bib and my running shorts and told him that I didn’t have anywhere to carry any money…

Riding the train home was very nice. We were able to kick back and relax. Since not a lot of people had finished the race by 9:45am (remember the train station was about 2 miles from the finish, so they would have had to finish and then still get over to the train depot) so the train was pretty empty. We were able to get nice seats and just watch the coast out the window for the trek home.

All-in-all it was a fun time. The course was nice (seems like the runners time was kept in mind when charting out the twists and turns), the weather was lovely (about 65* and hazy – but still a little too humid for my taste), the organization was decent, and HEY I got a PR!

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