Thursday, August 23, 2018

America's Finest City Half Marathon Race Recap

This past Sunday morning was the 41st Annual America's Finest City Half Marathon!


And, although I've lived in San Diego since 2006 (wow, can you believe it's been over 12 years?!), this is the first time I've run the race. Now, because I believe in transparency, I need to let you know that I received a free entry to this race in return for a few social posts, but that will not change my recap in the slightest - you know I've always gotta #KeepItReal!


I'll be honest, one of the main reasons I've never run this race is because it is in the middle of August... when it tends to be HOT and, in recent years, HUMID. But, if you remember, this race fell on the exact weekend I needed a half marathon for my Ventura Marathon training plan so I decided to suck it up and go for it. #MotherNatureBeDarned

If you haven't read last week's post with my goals for this race yet, I'd suggest popping over and giving them a peruse before you continue with this recap so you know what my game plan was going into the race. Don't worry, we'll wait ;)


And now that we're all on the same page, let's continue ;) As you saw, one of my main goals was to "be brave". I figured, I might as well go "all the way" and make this the first race as part of the #SportsBraSquad. Yes, I've run around town in my sports bra many-a-times but showing up to a race without a shirt is something I've never been bold enough to do - till now.

My first #FlatCarlee without a shirt (EEKS) included: Navy Dot PRO socks, navy Brooks FastForward Crossback sports bra, royal blue
Sparkle Athletic skirt
elite Road ID, sunshine trucker I made, black and blue QALO silicone wedding bands, navy and teal Momentum
Jewelry wraps
, Nathan handheld, PROBAR BOLT chews, Garmin Forerunner 935, and Brooks Ghost 11 (with navy Shwings).

This race is a point-to-point race, meaning you start 13.1 miles away from the finish line (instead of starting and finishing near the same spot), so there were a few logistics that needed to be worked out. All of the runners had to take race supplied shuttles to the starting line (the start was at a local national monument so due to safety and security purposes you couldn't get there by walking, ubering, etc) which were scheduled to run from 4 to 5:30am. Since I was able to work into my agreement that I could pick up my bib on race morning, I knew I needed to allot myself some extra time to get to the parking lot, grab my bib from the finish line festival, put my participant tee back in my car and then get to the shuttles to head to the start with ample time (I would much prefer to be an hour early than feel even the slightest rushed). With that said, my alarms had to start MUY early! (My game plan was to be up around 2:15am so I had time to eat, get ready, use the potty, etc, and be on the road by 3:15am, getting me to San Diego by 4am and hopefully on the buses by 4:45am.)

Thankfully there is like ZERO traffic on the roads at 3:30am so it was easy peasy getting down to Balboa Park. I got to the parking lot right around 4am and made my way to the finish line festival. Let me tell you, I'm SUPER APPRECIATIVE when events offer race-day bib pick-up (especially since normal weekend traffic to San Diego and back would probably take 2-3 hours for a 2 minute bib retrieval) - although, $20 does seem a bit steep for this feature if you ask me.

As you can see, there was no one else around so I flew through check-in

And on my way back to the car to drop off my participant tee I stopped to use the brand new port-o-potties. Sometimes it's the little things that make runners people happy - like port-o-potties that haven't been used before and have NO LINES!

It's the thing runner's dreams are made of ;)

Since grabbing my bib took no time, I had a few extra minutes to hang out in my car before heading to the bus line.

Eventually it was time to walk over to the buses (they were filling them two at a time, which was nice, so we didn't have to wait more than say 3 minutes before we were boarding). The ride over to the start was a breeze (although the bus was a little chilly due to the A/C blasting - but I knew soon enough I'd be begging for the cooler feel so didn't get too upset ;)).

It's not the temperature but the HUMIDITY that is killing me...

When I got to the starting area I jumped in line for the potty (even if I don't have to go, I always get in line because the wait normally tends to get a bit out of control the closer to start time it is) and then made my way to find folks I knew. One of my friends, Megan, was helping to pace the 2:45 group and I wanted to see her so went to track her down.

Around 6:15am I said my goodbyes to Megan and made my way up towards to the start. They had large banners on the sidewalk with estimated finish times (1:30, 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, 2:45 and 3:00) and then the pacers were spread out within that area. I had originally told the hubby that my goal was to start behind the 1:35 pacer but try to keep them in my sights. Well, although I could have sworn that the website said there would be a 1:35 pacer, there wasn't, but, I think it worked out for the best. I situated myself between the 1:30 and 1:40 pace groups and got ready to go.

A little nervous, but when you're chasing goals they should feel a little out of reach, right?!

As I mentioned, my game plan was to try and #BeatYesterday (if everything worked out, I would be running away with a shiny new PR) while I did my darnedest to #BeBrave... I wasn't planning to run to the point of puking or anything like that, but I still wanted to know I did my best and left it all out on the course (a couple of weeks ago I ran the Balboa 8-Miler and finished disappointed because I felt like I gave up on myself when it got hard, so I wanted to try to avoid that at all costs).

Since I was "racing" this one, I kept my phone in my Nathan handheld - so you'll just have to trust me when I say that the course was pretty beautiful. I have run my fair share of San Diego races but the fact that this one started at the Cabrillo National Monument made it special. The first two miles you are running through a national cemetery. I'll be honest, I was worried that it would feel creepy, but it was awesome (and the perfect time to reflect on life when starting to get into the groove of the run). I've run other parts of the course during previous races, but that doesn't make them any less amazing just because I've "been there, done that". San Diego is truly a stunning city and it was on full display during this race.


The first 8 miles of the race are downhill. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some rolling hills thrown in there (which I guess I wasn't 100% expecting), but overall you have a decent net drop for the first two-thirds of the race. Looking back, I probably should have reigned myself in a bit at the start because I knew the uphills came in the last third of the race, but I figured I'd rather go "balls to the wall" and fade than play it safe {FYI this is NOT a pacing strategy I would recommend ;)}.

A friend of mine, Eric from San Diego Running Co., snapped this action shot of me around Mile 7.5

Seeing as the first 8 miles were downhill, I felt strong during them. In fact, after the race I looked at the "achievements" and it showed that I beat my current 1-Mile, 5K and 10K PRs during this race thanks to the loss in elevation. {FYI - These are not necessarily things you want to see when racing a longer distance... it normally means you're running too fast.}

My current 5K PR is 22:26 and my current 10K PR is 47:02.

Once I hit Mile 9, though, I could tell the fatigue was setting in. The temperatures were starting to rise (when I got to my car it said it was 83* out), the humidity didn't appear to be backing off and the hills were coming quickly. My quads were starting to feel like rocks and my left hamstring was tightening up on me. Let's just say it didn't appear to be the recipe for success... but no matter what the clock said when I crossed the finish line I knew I wanted to keep fighting the good fight (at this point I stopped looking at my watch... I knew that no matter what it said I wasn't going to be able to give it more gas and didn't want to be bummed if I saw a pace slower than I wanted, so I just averted my eyes... #IgnoranceIsBliss).

How rude to put a hill at the end of the race... 

I knew the BIG hill started around Mile 11.5, once we turned onto Sixth Street, so I had prepared mentally for it (in fact, during my #Carlees31 project the hubby and I went down and spectated this race and stood on the hill to try and encourage runners to keep pushing). I told myself that if I needed to walk, I could, but I wanted to make sure it was a physical need and not just me giving up because it was getting tough... And, you know what?! I ran the whole thing! Now, looking at my splits I didn't run it fast (especially in comparison to my other miles), but I ran each and every step!


Once we finally crested the hill, it was on like Donkey Kong. I tried my best to give it everything I had left in the tank and make my way to the finish line. Once I got close I heard Rudy, my favorite announcer, give me a shout out (I love when he's at the races - he truly is THE BEST), I pointed up at him, said a little "thanks" and crossed the finish line!

You can see Rudy up in the announcers booth in the shadow ;) 

Like I said, I hadn't been looking at my watch for the last 4-5 miles so I had no idea where I was at. Once I finally had a second to check I had to chuckle... You see, my PR going into this race was 1:38:38 from the 2016 Fontana Days Run Half Marathon. Well, my watch showed 1:38:37... Yep, one second faster... I normally try to start my watch before I cross the starting line and stop it as I'm crossing the finish line so I was hoping I had a little wiggle room, but there was a possibility my watch was off from the race time and I didn't get a new PR - only time (and the official results) would tell.

Runner's High - Still Legal In All 50 States ;) 

But crossing that finish line I truly felt like I had succeeded. Races aren't about times for me, they are about running with friends, enjoying life and seeing what I can do when I put my mind (and body) towards a goal. I am definitely happy with my effort - especially on a difficult course! (I would be lying if I said I gave 110%, because, let's be real, I never got to that "I'm going so fast I am going to puke if I push any harder" place, so maybe I was still a little too comfortable in my pace and could have given more, but I am still going to consider it a win in my books because I never gave up on myself!)

Starting around Mile 9 I was dumping cups of water on myself to try and cool down, hence
the sweaty, glistening mess ;) 

And, in case you were curious, the official results came out and I actually did PR by TWO seconds - 1:38:36. Overall I came in 151th place (out of 3,528), 34th female overall and 10th in my age group (which is a very competitive age if I do say so myself). You can see from my splits that once the flat and then uphill hit my fate was sealed, but I will be proud of my valiant effort and say "a PR is a PR is a PR!" I know I have a faster time in me, but on a different course (hills, heat and humidity are not your normal equation for PRs). But, with this being a check-in race for my fall marathon PR attempt at the Ventura Marathon in a little over 8 weeks, I will say we are progressing nicely and I'm happy with where I'm at!

A big thanks to all the volunteers, spectators and race officials on the course making sure we had the best experience possible - YOU ALL ROCK MY SOCKS! And MAJOR PROPS to the team at In Motions Events for the comped entry!

Would you prefer to race on a flat course or a downhill course?

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I LOVE reading your race recaps! You have the positive outlook I want so badly while running. I took a (somewhat accidental) 9 month hiatus from running because I got into a real negative spot but I'm doing my first half in almost a year in December and, besides being crazy excited, I'm going into it with your have fun mentality. You're killing the run game! Keep it up :)