Tuesday, December 19, 2017

San Diego Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap

Saturday morning the hubby and I ran the San Diego Holiday Half. This was our third time doing it (recaps: 2013 / 2014).

The course may not be that scenic, but the finish ends at Torrey Pines and the beach is FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC!

Although I'd love to say our final race of the year ended on a high note, that'd be a lie! But, let's not get spoil the ending... 

The hubby asked me a couple weeks ago if I would help pace him to his first sub-2 (meaning running a half marathon in less than two hours). I was ecstatic because normally he is totally okay with "just running", so to see him wanting to hit a time goal was pretty out of the norm for him (and really exciting for the type-A, goal oriented runner in me ;)). Obviously I agreed to it and we figured this would be the perfect course to attempt it at because it was net downhill (there are definitely rolling hills throughout the race, but overall the course loses more elevation than it gains). 

The race even touts itself as a great course to nab an end of the year PR (but more on that later)

Thursday afternoon I made my way down to San Diego to grab our bibs. I really was bummed that there's no race-day pick-up because it took me all of SEVEN MINUTES to grab our bibs and our shirts, yet with traffic it took me TWO AND A HALF HOURS to get down and back. At least I was able to donate some used running shoes at Road Runner Sports while I was down there (we're trying to simplify, so even though I'd love to hold on to my old shoes FOR-EV-ER, I figured someone else could get some miles out of them... and I probably don't need eight pairs in rotation at once ;)).

This #FlatCarlee was all about Christmas! Vintage Ugly Christmas Sweater PRO Compression socks, red Handful bra, red Sparkle Athletic
, baseball tee that I made (grabbed a blank one from Dick's Sporting Goods, then the hubby mocked up a spoof on Elf's "Smiling's my
favorite" and my friend printed it on her cricket so I could iron it onto the tee), a hat I made out of felt and hot glue, white and red QALO
silicone wedding bands
, red Momentum Jewelry wrap, red RoadID, PROBAR BOLT chews, a Nathan Handheld, my Garmin
Forerunner 735XT
, and Brooks Ghost 10 with Sparkle Athletic Shwings.

Saturday morning came rather early. The course is point-to-point, meaning you start 13.1 miles away from the finish so either need to park at the finish and get bused to the start (which is what we did) or park at the start and get bused back once you're done. The buses were running from 5:15-6:45am. With limited parking spaces at the finish, our game plan was to be at the parking lot by 5:30am, then sit in the car until about 6:15am before jumping on the bus to the start.

The weather was much cooler than the weekend prior (we ran the Del Dios Trail Half Marathon less than a week prior and it was dry, windy and HOT) so we stayed in the warm car as long as we could (with a stop to the finish line port-o-potties).

When we got to Del Mar (where the race finishes), it was 46*,
which may not sound cold, but to us weather wimps it is ;)

When we went to the bus line around 6am, the parking lot was already closed because they were out of spots. (They mentioned you could park in the neighborhoods, but I'm glad we got there plenty early to nab a convenient spot.) 

Funny faces on the bus ;)

The buses seemed to be running smoothly (we had to wait a couple minutes for another bus to arrive, but they seemed to have the shuttle system down to a science). This year the buses were legit greyhound type rides (in years past we actually took a party bus complete with stripper pole to the start). The sunrise on the way to the start was GORGEOUS (but since we were about 10 rows back from the windshield I wasn't able to truly capture it).

I think even had we been in the front, the picture still wouldn't have done it justice

Since the last time we had run this race, they changed the starting line slightly. In previous years it had been in the grocery store parking lot across the street, but this year it was on a side street in front of a hotel. The course distance didn't change (it was literally across the street), but the hotel did open up their ballroom for runners to hang out in - which was SUPER APPRECIATIVE! In years past this race has been VERY COLD (especially for SoCal standards), so to have the option to stand inside before the race can be a game changer!

I had an AMAZING idea while waiting for the race to start... If you tuck
your mylar blanket in your PRO Compression socks, the bottom won't blow
around and you can keep in your warmth easier! (Although the hubby said I
looked like a burrito, but I was a warm burrito, so I didn't care...)

Eventually it was time to jump in our corrals and get the party started. There were 4 corrals. The way they designated which corral you should be in was by the first number on your bib (1000-1999 in Corral 1, 2000-2999 in Corral 2, 3000-3999 in Corral 3, and 4000-4999 in Corral 4). I believe this was based on your estimated finish time that you provided during registration, but there was no one checking bibs to make sure folks went into the proper corral. 

The hubby did a little stretching, we sang the National Anthem, and then we were off. 

We look ready, right?!

The only BIG hill during the race comes early (within the first 2 miles), but we were ready for it. Like I always say, I would much prefer hills to be in the beginning of a race than at the end (I'm looking at YOU, Chicago Marathon), so it wasn't a huge deal. With the adrenaline of the race pumping through your veins, it is fairly easy to tackle at a decent pace. We crushed it and I kept telling the hubby how proud I was of him and how strong he was running. 

Overall downhill, but you can see the ups along the way (the elevation chart from my Garmin data)

Now, let me be clear - this is NOT a scenic course. For the majority of it, you are running next to the freeway. But, I guess since there isn't much to look at, you can just put your head down and charge to the finish line. 

Not too inspiring, right?! And if even rained on us for a bit!

The bike path isn't super wide (maybe 6 or 8 feet), so it can get congested in areas (particularly around the small aid stations), but thankfully it seemed like most folks around us self-seeded properly and were going a similar pace so we didn't have to worry about going around too many people. The race did offer pacers (ranging from 1:25 to 3:00 finish times), so when pace groups came through you'd have to watch out because it could be a tight squeeze, but only one of them passed us (and it was the 1:45 group around mile 4... which we shouldn't have been in front of anyway - OOPS!).


Because we have run this course before, we knew what to expect. For the most part you are running in a straight line, inland to the beach. There is a short jaunt off the main drag where they have to add in some extra distance, so you do a little out-and-back down a side street. Well, in years past this out-and-back was longer than this year. As soon as we turned, the hubby mentioned that it was short. Where we normally would run there appeared to be a gate now, forcing us to turn sooner than in years past. This is around maybe Mile 11.5 or so. Well, since we knew they couldn't be making up the distance by running past the finish area (since cars had to be able to get out of the parking lot), we knew with about a mile and a half to go that the course was going to be short. Up until that point my Garmin was spot on with the mile signs... Then the Mile 12 marker was gone (I'd assume it's because they knew the course was short and would be wrong).


The closer we got to the finish line, the more frustrated the hubby got. You see, his previous fastest time during a half marathon was 2:05ish and he was on target for a HUGE PR (personal record)... but now it would be on a course that was less than 13.1 miles. He was ticked that he put in all of this work and it "wouldn't count" because it wasn't going to be official. I told him once we got closer that we would grab our medals and then finish the distance in the parking lot before grabbing our post-race goodies. #RealTalk - For a guy who rarely every cusses, there were a few f-bombs dropped. 

My friend Asia was spectating and caught a couple pictures of us

So, we grabbed our medals (which I will get back to in a minute), and finished A QUARTER MILE in the parking lot! Yup, it wasn't just a few feet short... it was WAY SHORT! I know that a lot goes into getting a race USATF certified... and this race is supposed to be certified (USATF Course Cert. CA13132RS), but they didn't stick to the originally approved course!

I think I was saying "Thank you" to Asia... NOT sticking my tongue out ;) 

And here's the thing... It has now been over 3 days since the race finished... AND THEY HAVEN'T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGED THEIR ERROR! If you remember, the hubby and I ran the Del Dios Trail Half Marathon less than a week prior. Due to the unexpected wind and heat we had, they ran out of water at some of the aid stations. Not only did they admit the mishap (which they announced both at the end of the race at via email the following day), but they offered everyone a 25% discount for one of their upcoming races! The limited water didn't effect everyone, yet they still did their best to make up for it... This short course effected EACH AND EVERY PERSON running! And yet nothing has been said on their Facebook page, via email, etc... (PS I'm not expecting a discount or refund or anything, but addressing the issue would be nice... because if they don't, who says they will correct the error for future races?!)

I'm not sure if they think "if we ignore it, it'll just go away" or what...

Anywho, after we finished the legit distance, the hubby still had an AMAZING PR! We finished in 1:47:57 (our time with the race was 1:46, but the hubby said he will go off what my Garmin recorded since it was the proper distance). 

Do you see those paces?! We had SUB 8 MINUTE MILES!!

I joked and told him that I think he has been playing me a fool this whole time... We ran an average pace of 8:14 (even with over 800 feet of elevation gain) and he ROCKED IT! Sure there were a couple times he had to stop to stretch his calves or a few spots where he was laboring a little more than he wanted to, but overall he felt STRONG! 

So proud of this guy! He is a FREAKIN' ROCKSTAR!

Let's get back to the medal real quick. Seeing as I donate the majority of them to Medals 4 Mettle (I have kept my full marathons and Disney ones), I am not huge into what the bling looks like, but I've gotta say, I was disappointed. Had it only been the part that said "San Diego" it would have been fine... but when they added the cheap surfboard that has a "Holiday Half" sticker on it, it made it look chintzy. Again, not a make-it or break-it point for me, but seeing as we were already disappointed when we reached the finish line, this was just one more bummer to add to the list.

I just wish it didn't have the cheap surfboard dangling down...

Oh yeah, and while we are at it... the participant shirts... HOLY CRAPOLY! I think they may be the ugliest I've received! At first I thought they were a gradient from red to black, but seeing them on the course they're more pink to black... And the long sleeve shirts had a HUGE hood on them... Ryan and I joked that maybe they went with whatever was on sale... and maybe the hoods were "in style" because they're sort of like Jedi hoods and Star Wars had just come out... U-G-L-Y!

I don't even know if I want to use it in a future quilt from Project Repat...

So, I'd say we will not be returning. From having to drive over an hour each way to pick up our bibs and a pretty boring course to chintzy medals, ugly participant gear and, most importantly, a SHORT COURSE, this one gets a MAJOR FAIL in my book! Normally I'd say maybe you could do it as a no-frills race for a fast time, but with a short course, you can't even use it as a legit PR (and this isn't a cheap race {we registered in September and it was still over $100 for the hubby}).

Have you ever run a race that was short?


Katy C. said...

I have only done a few and luckily to date none are short, that would be so frustrating. I will say that I greatly appreciate your honesty, esp. knowing that you were given your entry. Congratulations to the hubby on the PR!

BarkingMadRun said...

Ugh Poor Ryan! I'm glad you got to finish in the parking lot for his official PR, so frustrating!

Anonymous said...

I ran this one on Saturday, too. Thank you for keeping it real and being honest about what a bummer this race was. Those shirts were awful and the surfboard part of the medal was super cheap. I didn’t even instagram a picture of it, it was that bad! ;) I was suspicious about the course length when my watch was off and when I PR’d and shouldn’t have. Thanks for confirming! I won’t be signing up for this one again either!

Unknown said...

One thing I will say is that they do offer to mail your bib to you. The cost is $10. I live in San Clemente so the price was well worth it to me.

Amy Lauren Scott said...

Thank you for keeping it real with your review even if you received a free entry. Others did pay and it's good to be honest about what happened for all of those who spent their money and time on the race. I feel bad for Ryan because he obviously trained hard for this PR and didn't feel like he earned it with the short course.

I actually like the shirt though, but we can agree to disagree ;).

To me a short course or not following the USATF course in a race is just unacceptable. Was there a reason why, like one of the leaders taking a wrong turn or the course was badly marked?

As for the medal, I don't think it's bad but I can only see the picture and not the minute details, so I can't tell if the bottom part looks like a cheap sticker. I will say that it kind of seems like they made the medal to where it is reusable with other races due to the surfboard being attached.

Anonymous said...

Gen looks so different without the beard. They said a policeman might have moved the turn around or closed the gate. Sorry that happened. But that's not a 1:59:59 sub 2. He killed it!

Niki said...

My very first ever BQ was on a short course and after the fact we were told Boston wouldn’t accept our times. It had been USATF certified but the lead motorcycle led us off course and cut a turn. THAT sucked. I bet your husband goes sub-1:45 next time on a legit course!!!

Erica @ Erica Finds said...

I remember that weird loop when we did it in 2014. Looks like they skipped that this time (remember - right before the finish? It was a very random and not scenic out and back.)

Bummer on the short course but WOW on Ryan crushing his goal!! I can't wait to see how he does in Phoenix! It's going to be awesome.

Kathleen said...

WOW! I am so sorry that happened to you!