Monday, October 11, 2010

Primo's Run for Education Half Marathon - 10/10/10

I had to get back on the horse so to speak after my last race. I figured what better place to do it then at the Primo's run in my hometown of Danville. Even though it's been around for 27 years, I've never actually run it myself. Being the daughter of two runners, I knew about all the races in Danville when I was younger, sometimes even participating in a 5k. Growing up, one of my chores was to fold the laundry. I remember folding my parents race shirts, some of which were from the primos run. Primo's is an Italian joint in downtown Danville that I've been to countless times as child, often for pizza after soccer games with my team. Back in the day this race used to be called the Primo's to Primo's, but then the second Primo's in San Ramon shut down, so now they just make everyone run to a school in San Ramon.

I spent the night in Danville at my folks house so I wouldn't have to drive down in the morning. Plus, it gave me a good reason to hang out with them, and to offload some of the 8 packs of Tim Tams I still had from Sydney. I had a late soccer game, followed by a few beers, and then got stuck in major traffic, so didn't end up making it there until 8:30p. My dad, who knows me so well, had recorded the Men's USA vs. Poland soccer game, and saved it so we could watch it. We barely made it to half time before I decided it was bedtime. The race started earlier than most, at 7:15a, so I needed to be up by 5:50a and I was fairly exhausted so I figured why fight it.

This was a point to point course, which I'm typically not a fan of because it means having to take a shuttle to get back to your car. My parents were leaving for Utah to visit my sister for a week, but luckily my dad still had time to help me drop my car off at the finish and then drive me to the start so I wouldn't have to deal with the shuttles after the race. Much to my dismay, as soon as I picked up my bib at the start, I realized I'd forgotten my watch in my car. That makes two races in a row I've been without the use of my watch. I really needed it for this race if I was going to try for a good time and possibly even a PR, but at that point it was too late. I'd have to run without it. Sniff. Sniff.

As I stood around waiting for the race to start at Primo's, I thought it odd that even though this is where I grew up, I knew not one runner out there. Not one. A few minutes before the start, about 15 students sang the National Anthem, which was a nice change from the usual recorded version that smaller races do. And then at 7:15 on the dot, off we went through the streets of Danville. I have to admit, I was excited about running a race in familiar territory. It's something I haven't done in my adult running career, and I pretty much had the course memorized and have run the majority of it.

For the most part we avoided downtown Danville. We passed the old Danville library, where I spent a lot of time researching for papers when I was in grammar school, before the days of the interwebs. From there we headed back into the residential area surrounding Old Orchard. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about this race. Before the San Jose Rock and Roll the previous weekend, the last road half marathon I ran where I was properly trained was in May. Part of me was worried that maybe that race wasn't a fluke, and I'd lost my half marathon mojo. Thankfully, I wasn't more then a mile or two in when I knew that wasn't the case. It was reassuring to know that I just really wasn't ready to race so soon after getting back into the country. I was feeling good and I knew it wouldn't be a repeat of the weekend prior.

By the time we headed down Old Orchard Rd, the race field had long since spread out and we had huge open roads to run down the middle of. There was a group of young elementary students cheering everyone on. They meant well, but they kept yelling out "You're almost there!". Um, do they know we're only on mile 2?! That's just cruel, we're not even a quarter into this race. Soon after we passed the mean children (ok, I'm being harsh, it was nice they were showing us support), we crossed over Sycamore Valley Road and headed into Greenbrook, which is the area where my parents house is. The same house I grew up in.

Not having a watch was killing me. I knew I was running fast, but I had no idea what my pace was. We hit the 4 mile marker and I could hear everyones watches beeping on the split which made me jealous. That's when I met Ron. I asked what our pace was, and he said we were averaging an 8:15 min/mile. I was apparently doing a decent job pacing myself, even though that was about 10-15 seconds faster than what I wanted to be running at that point. I liked Ron. He was a talker, and a racer. We started rattling off all the races we'd done recently and the ones we had coming up, finding we had a lot of overlap. He definitely rivaled me for the number of races he was running . He lives in San Ramon, and he said this race is a bit of a family event for them, and his wife and kids all participate somehow, either by running or volunteering each year. The race goes to benefit the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation and the money is disbursed to all the schools in the area. Last year, it raised over $175,000, and this year they were hoping it would raise over $200,000. Chevron, who is headquartered in San Ramon, is the biggest sponsor of the race, this year donating $35,000 to help put on the event which included nearly 7,000 registrants, though only 600 were running the half marathon.

I stuck with Ron for about two miles and he kept me updated on our pace. Despite having been hospitalized for gallbladder surgery just six months prior, I couldn't keep up with him. We separated as we ran through Osage Park at mile 6. This was one of the main parks were I played soccer as a little kid, and sure enough, two decades later, the park was already full of youth soccer teams getting ready for their games. I didn't want to leave Ron, we were going at a great pace, but I was just feeling I wasn't going to be able to sustain it, and that I should probably back off and save some energy for the end. As we exited the park, there was an aid station, so I decided it was time to try my new GU flavor, Chocolate Mint. I typically don't like chocolate flavored things, but apparently you add a little mint to it, and it's the best thing ever. I've already purchased a six pack of them. I was getting bored with my strawberry-banana flavor anyway.

We ran up El Capitan and turned onto Greenbrook again. This was the point in the race I was closest to my parents house. We were just three blocks away. I know my parents would've been there at that point to cheer me on if they hadn't already left for the airport. Unfortunately it was bad timing, and I would've loved for them to have been there. Maybe next year, and perhaps I'll even talk my dad into running it with me.

It was almost mile eight when we hit the Iron Horse Trail which runs along the former tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad. This trail spans two counties and nearly nine communities, and his hugely popular amongst runners, cyclists, and walkers. Whenever I visit my folks, this is where I run. And down the familiar trail I ran, but this time as a runner in a race. I was starting to peter out around mile nine and I'm pretty positive this is where my pace really dropped, though I had no way to know how far I was letting it drop, and I couldn't monitor it to make sure it wasn't dropping to low. The problem is, later on in races, you ALWAYS feel like you're running faster than you really are.

When we hit Norris Canyon Road, we turned off the trail and headed down towards 680. It was then that we joined up with the 5k'ers. They looked like a solid cloud moving as one in their white t-shirts. I couldn't believe how many people there were. As we got closer, I could tell that it was students and their parents walking to represent their schools, all wearing the white race shirt, some with their school names written on it. Thankfully, they kept a side path open for only the half marathoners, as weaving through them would have proven impossible because the road was so dense with people. With the exception of the occasional preteens that would sometimes dart out in front of the runners, for the most part everyone stayed to their sections helping to avoid slowdowns and collisions.



I knew exactly where we were, and I knew were the finish was. I had maybe a mile and half left. Running alongside all of the people actually gave me additional motivation to push on. I was pretty tired at this point, but sucked it up and made it to Bollinger Canyon where we turned right before the Chevron headquarters. We made one last turn onto Alcosta and the finish sign was up ahead. I strained to see what the race clock said. For all I knew, I could've been running in for a PR, or I could have been way off it. Although I suspected I'd be somewhere in the middle, which I was. I finished in 1:53:49. Not a PR, but I was happy with it, especially since pacing was a bit of an issue without the watch, and the fact I had a late afternoon soccer game the day before.

I picked up my race shirt and got stuck with an X-Large which is HUGE, because everyone had picked up their shirts well before the race, and all the smaller sizes were taken. Not that it mattered much. The shirt was long-sleeve cotton which meant I probably wouldn't have worn it anyway. Usually I would've been disappointed, but cotton is understandable when they're trying to keep overhead low so that more proceeds go to the schools. I couldn't complain. I did have one hope left for a cool t-shirt though. The first 50 runners of each sex were awarded a tech shirt. I stood around waiting for the list to be published with the other runners. Some were over two hours, and I knew they wouldn't be close, but I figured I was right on the bubble. This field of runners was one of the strongest I've seen in a lot of races, and there were a lot of very fast females. The list was posted and I saw my name. Number 52. So close, but no t-shirt for me. I saw all of the runners that I'd spent a good portion of the race running with carrying shirts, and I joked that I shouldn't have stopped to tie my shoelaces back at mile nine. As it turns out, once the results were officially posted, I was actually number 54, which made me feel slightly better.



After I literally inhaled the banana, apple, cliff bar, and luna bar that came in my goodie bag, I hit the road feeling much better than I did the previous Sunday. I did think I'd be able to sustain a faster pace for longer than I did though, but I should've known running 6 miles at an 8 min/mile is far from being able to sustain it for over twice as long. I probably have one more good shot for a PR this year, and that's at the Livermore Grape Stomp which I know is a very flat and fast course. I'm beginning to wonder how I ran a 1:49 and if I'll ever be able to do it again. Granted, that was set while I was marathon training so I was putting in a lot more weekly miles. Perhaps I'll start working in a mid-week semi long run again. I should also probably look to find a running club to join. I need to run with people faster than me, and I need to do speed work, preferably with a coach.

Next up, the Nike Women's half marathon.

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