Monday, June 5, 2017

Fontana Days Run Half Marathon Race Recap

Saturday morning was the 62nd Annual Fontana Days Run Half Marathon (Or should I say "1st Annual Fortana Days Run Half Marathon"?! Yup, they spelled the city name wrong on the bibs - OOPS! Guess they didn't have spell check.)

This is my second year running this race (and the second time making it a race weekend with a Rock 'N' Roll San Diego race the next day - #Fontana2SD). Last year we had a whole crew doing it, but this year there were only a few crazies.

If you saw my post on Thursday then you know this was a "goal" race for me. (Meaning, I run a lot of races, but most of them are for fun. This one I actually went in with the intent of 'racing' it, with a time in mind and a goal to chase it down.) Although my MAIN goal of working with a coach is to PR and BQ my marathon time at Chicago in October, I figured if I had one half marathon on the calendar that was PR-able it was Fontana. I wouldn't say I put all my eggs in the Fontana basket, but I definitely amped up training to give me the best chance possible to run down a new personal record.

But enough chit-chat, let's get into the recap of the race, k?!

And if you know me, then you know that after putting in the training, picking out your race gear is the next most important part ;) Thankfully with all the Sparkle Athletic skirts, PRO Compression socks, Handful bras, and Brooks shoes, it's easy for me to find something that is tried and true (not to mention sparkly and fun).

My #FlatCarlee: #TwoPairDontCare PRO socks, black Handful bra, rainbow
checkerboard Sparkle Athletic skirt
, tank I got at TJ Maxx two days prior,
purple Road ID, PROBAR BOLT chews (strawberry flavor please),
black QALO silicone wedding bands, Knockaround sunniesblack and grey
Momentum Jewelry wraps
, my Garmin Forerunner 735XT, Nathan handheld,
and my Brooks Ghost with reflective Shwings.

Fontana is about 90 minutes away (with no traffic jams or wild fires). Originally I was going to stay with my friend Linzie, but decided I might get better sleep if I was in my own bed (even if it meant I'd need to shift my sleep up a few hours).

As always, I was up before my first alarm went off... Thankfully I was able to get more rest than I was expecting, even with rolling out of bed a few minutes after 2am... but I guess laying down at 6:30pm on a Friday night will do that.

Having everything laid out made getting ready quick and quiet (which is preferable when you have a sleeping hubby and pup you're trying not to wake). I was able to do a little social media perusing, eat a Clif Bar and get ready without having to rummage through drawers or search for items I forgot. The goal was leave by 3:30am and I was right on time.

I appreciate that the race allows for morning of bib pick-up (especially since it isn't just around the corner for me). The instructions said they would be open from 5-6am and the final shuttle to the start for the half marathon would be leaving at 6:15am. My thoughts were to get there around 5am (obviously leaving wiggle room in case there were some early morning shenanigans on the freeways), grab my bib, use the potty, eat my banana and relax in the car until I needed to make my way to the buses. Everything went off without a hitch - traffic was great, port-o-potties were clean, bib and t-shirt pick-up was smooth and efficient, and my car was comfy as I waited for "GO" time.

The sky was waking up when I got into town

Since this race is point-to-point, you need to ride the shuttles to the starting line (which is 13.1 miles up the road). I decided to get out of the car around 5:45am to go jump in line for the buses. They had a ton of them, so the line moved pretty quickly (thanks to the volunteers who were counting runners off and shuffling them into seats at record speeds).



When I got up to the campground where the runners congregate before the race, I decided to b-line it to the bathrooms. (Yes, I used the port-o-potties at the finish line before I got on the bus, but I can't be the only one who gets that "nervous pee" feeling before a race, right?!) I think most folks see the port-o-potties and stop there, but since this wasn't my first rodeo I made my way to the campground bathrooms (complete with a sink and flushing toilets!). Once I got out I saw some friends (Casey, Richard and Tony) so we hung out till it was time to head to the starting line.

If you read my recap from last year's race, you know that this is a "no-frills" sort of race. When I registered it was $50, so you should sort of expect that. The starting "line" is a piece of caution tape over a timing mat... No National Anthem, no big inspirational speech, just everyone lining up on the road around 7:30am and an air horn to signal people to RUN!

When CaseyRichardTony and I made our way to the starting line we found Linzie and Leslie. We chatted for a few moments and all of us quickly commented on how warm it was in the sun (prior to finding Linzie we were in the shade, which felt great, but when we went to the road the sun was loud and proud!). I was slightly nervous because I knew all the stars needed to align and warm temperatures were NOT one of the ingredients in my "PR recipe".

These temps might not seem high, but I promise you, in
direct sun is not a walk in the park...
PS When I got in my car it said 79* and that was around 9:30am

When I had originally talked to my coach, he mentioned that I should run the first half with 7:25/mile pace and then the second half "drop the hammer" and see if I could knock out 7:15/mile pace. There were a couple issues with this. First, the course loses the most elevation in the first half of the race (the second half is flat), so I was a little nervous about "holding back" and not taking advantage of the downhill. Next, although I am decent with progression runs, I have NEVER run a negative split race (running the second half faster than the first). Once I voiced these concerns the game plan became more of a "Be smart the first half, be brave the second half."


The race started off great (and by "started off" I mean the first mile and a half). I felt like I was running my race and wasn't focused on all of the people speeding by me (figuring I'd catch them when they ran out of gas). Things started to change shortly after we hit the Mile 2 marker... The sun was out in full effect and we were running with no shade. I was thankful I brought my Nathan handheld with me, but knew it was heating up a lot sooner than I was hoping.

I was on pace (I needed to run around 7:29/mile pace over the race to hit a new PR) till the course started to flatten out. I knew by mile 7 this was NOT my race (and, honestly, I probably knew earlier than that). I felt like I was overheating (I started dumping cups of water on myself by the second aid station) but wasn't really sweating and was worried about dehydration. Although my legs felt great and my heart rate was under control (my average heart rate for the race was 146 bpm which seems crazy low for a PR attempt), I didn't want to risk my health... I started letting off the gas around mile 8 (remembering that I still had a race the following morning and if a PR wasn't in the books then I wanted to leave as much in my tank for the next day as possible). A little after I hit mile 10 I got a bad side stitch (which NEVER happens to me) and decided I'd walk it out and use the time to take fuel (I had 5 of my PROBAR BOLT chews around mile 5 and then another 5 once the side stitch came on). Once the cramp went away I kept trucking along. I chatted with some runners around me (about how bad our "positive splits" would look from this race and how some of us were doing #RnRSD the following morning) and tried to take my mind off the disappointment of not hitting my goal.

Splits from my Garmin Forerunner 735XT

My finish time ended up being 1:41 (and change), which was NOT a PR, but did hit my "B" Goal for the race. And actually I think it was my second fastest half I've run, so I'll take it.

Definitely a time I should be proud of!

I think had the temperature been cooler, I definitely could have come closer to my goal (who knows if I would have been able to go sub 1:38:38 or not)... but I do believe I gave it all I had and should still be very proud of what I was able to do.

I asked a spectator if she'd take a picture of me with the balloons and
the finish line... Guess she didn't really like the balloon idea ;) 

My main disappointment is that I tend to be a CRAPPY racer... I can hit paces easily in training that I struggle to hit in races. It seems as though having a good "race" is the exception to the rule for me, which is a bummer because that is what folks tend to focus more on... But hey, it's all about the journey, right?!


I did want to mention a few things that I think the race needs to improve for future events. First, they definitely need more bathrooms at the starting line. I would even suggest talking 4 or 5 of the ones at the finish line and moving them up to the campground if they can't splurge on more budget for potties. Next, they need more water stations on the course and more folks manning the aid stations. The last two years the temps have been in the 80s (or above) when I've finished. Having tiny cups half filled and only two or three volunteers at a table to hand them out doesn't cut it (at least in my opinion). Finally, I truly believe they should start the race earlier in the morning. And, remember, I was up by 2am, so I do NOT say this light-heartedly... But starting at 7:30am gives the sun too much time to warm up.


As of right now, I don't plan on running it next year... but that could change by the time 2018 registration opens ;) Don't get me wrong, it's a fast course and a cheap (and well organized) race, but with the heat, the drive and the fact it lands on the same weekend as RnRSD, it's hard to commit to unless I know chasing down a PR is in the cards.

PS It would be rude of me to wrap up this recap without saying a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who had supported and encouraged me along in this PR journey. Running may be a solo activity, but the community is what makes it AMAZING (and I mean that from the bottom of my heart!). So, THANK YOU! You truly ROCK MY FREAKIN' SOCKS!

Do you prefer small town races or big events better?


Sarah Miller said...

You rock! I can't even imagine running in that heat would've been like! Enjoy the journey

Chelsea B. said...

Great job!
I am really starting to enjoy the small town races. My local race (RNR Nashville) has become one of my least favorite. It has just gotten too large (and the streets are still small) and the price tag has gotten hefty.

Small town races can be so much fun and relaxing.

Bree at Clarity Defined said...

Congrats again and way to race smart!

I've mostly only done big events and I think I prefer them, but I have appreciated the couple smaller races I've done. There are some local races that I'd like to do at some point though (mostly ones in here in San Diego or in my hometown of Ventura... they have an almost all downhill "super fast BQ course" as a heads up, I was considering that course as my first full, but went with RnR SD as I mentioned on IG :)).

chiara said...

I had the same final assessment that I think I'm done with Fontana. 7:30 is way too late to start with the risk of heat; the aid stations, there was a 2 mile stretch with none (I think it was like mile 8-10 or something). IF I didn't have my handheld with me, it would have been a disaster.

I was kind of kicking myself the next day when I saw how awesome the weather was for RnR.