Thursday, June 14, 2012

San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - 6/3/12

A trip to San Diego had been on our list for quite some time. Annelyse had never been and it'd been ages since I'd last visited. When we discovered this race fell on her actual birthday we decided it was the perfect opportunity to go. I knew how much fun I'd had on my birthday last year when we did the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll and I thought it would be great if she got to experience the same thing on her birthday this year.

We arrived on Friday night and were staying in the Gaslamp Quarter amidst all the restaurant and bars. On Saturday morning we went to the expo at the convention center to pick up our bibs. A lot of races these days let you personalize your bibs when you register. Annelyse was surprised when she picked hers up and it said "It's my birthday". So was I. Apparently I completely forgot I'd done that when registering both of us. I commended myself for doing so. After all, what fun is it if it's your birthday and no one knows. Now everyone would know. 

The race started at the ungodly time of 6:15. I don't believe I've ever run a race that started so early. It forced us to go to be VERY early and get up at 4:00 to start our pre-race routine. The good thing about it though was that it made Annelyse's birthday seem extra long and allowed us more time to enjoy the day. As race time neared we walked the 1.5 miles up 6th Ave to the start alongside Balboa Park and made it to our assigned corrals after checking our bags with some time to spare.

As with all Rock 'n' Roll races it was a staggered start based on expected pace. I was in corral five. Corral one was filled with a few elite runners such as Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Kim Smith who were all using the half marathon as a tune-up for the Olympics. For once I actually wished the race was an out and back because it would have been great to see them running. 

We first made our way north on 6th Ave then east on University Ave before turning on Park Blvd down into Balboa Park again. We ran passed the San Diego Zoo on our right and while we didn't get to see any animals Annelyse and I made it to the zoo the next day and saw plenty. That zoo is huge and quite hilly in areas. Perhaps not the ideal activity the day after a half marathon but we couldn't resist. Who doesn't love a good zoo?!

We continued through the park and ran down the El Prado promenade which is lined with buildings that are of Spanish Colonial style architecture. Some of these buildings we passed housed such museums as the Museum of Art and the San Diego Natural History Museum. Immediately after we ran by the Spreckels Organ Pavilion which features one of the largest outdoor organs. This being a Rock 'n' Roll race we were treated to our own concert as we ran by. I can easily say this was the most unique musical act of all the races I've run.

After we broke off from the marathon runners at mile four we ran around the San Diego Air & Space Museum as we turned onto northbound 163 Cabrillo Fwy. Here we encountered the first significant downhill and it turned out to be my fastest mile of the course. The next four miles along the freeway were also my least favorite of the course. Running on a freeway is bizarre. Not only was there not a whole lot of scenery, but it banked to the right which puts a lot of uneven pressure on your downhill side and my calves were definitely feeling it. 

After about a mile of elevation gain as we finished up mile six there was a very long downhill section that lasted at least a mile. At this point the lead male marathon runners who were at mile 10 joined us and ran alongside us on the other side of the freeway. And by running alongside I really mean that they flew by us. There were about 7-8 of them in a pack and they were flying down this downhill section with no other marathoners near them. They're energy was infectious and all of us half marathoners picked up our pace a notch or two. 

At one point on the freeway we ran around an offramp and got back on the freeway on the other side. In the middle was a Taiko drum group playing in unison. After the organ this was my favorite musical entertainment on the course as my pace easily fell in line with the beat. From mile seven on the up and downs stopped and the course was basically flat. Near mile eight we exited the freeway and headed north on Friars Rd before turning onto W Morena Blvd. Just before mile 11 we turned around and headed the opposite way. At the turnaround spot there was a karaoke station set up where runners (or spectators) could sing along before continuing on. 

The last mile we ran on Sea World Dr and headed to the finish. I stopped my watch at 13.1 miles which ended up being about two tenths of a mile short of the finish line with a time of 1:40:04. My official chip time was 1:41:07. I was shocked that I'd run the race in that time as I was still building up my base again. I credited most of this to the course being a net downhill. I ended up finishing in the top 1.2% of my age group and overall for females. It felt good to know I was getting some of my speed back.

After I grabbed some chocolate milk, my sweats, some free t-shirts, and a birthday flower for Annelyse I headed to find a spot along the course to watch her finish. When I found a spot I got to see a bunch of security folks chasing down bandits with no bibs and plucking them from the course which was most entertaining. I almost missed Annelyse as she ran by, but saw her at the last minute so was able to cheer her in. I hadn't expected her to finish so fast considering she'd gone from zero to 13 miles in only a month after battling a pulled muscle. I was so glad she was able to run the race on her birthday especially considering she had to miss Nashville a month earlier!

After the race we grabbed a taxi and had a delicious eggs benedict breakfast before taking a much deserved nap. The rest of the day included oysters, red velvet cake balls, and a celebratory drink (or two). The only thing that could have made the weekend better was if the sun had been shining. Maybe next year we can escape the June gloom. 

Race Stats:
Overall female: 135 of 11,221
Age Group: 25 of 2,157
Chip Time: 1:41:07 (pace 7:43 - course .2 miles long)
GPS Time: 1:40:04 (pace 7:38)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nashville Country Music Half Marathon - 4/28/12

It's good to be back! While I intended to drop my mileage and take some time off racing during the beginning part of the year it was never supposed to be this long. I can thank neck problems for the long racing hiatus I've been on since mid-December. Thankfully I was able to keep running through most of it, but I did have to keep my mileage fairly low. On a whim in November, Annelyse, my sister, and I decided that we wanted to run the Nashville Country Music Marathon and registered on the spot. We soon learned that a lot can happen in the five months leading up to a race. I'd signed up for the marathon, but after the long battle with my neck I found myself extremely thankful I was even able to run the half marathon. Unfortunately, my sister and Annelyse were not so lucky and both had injuries that made them unable to run.

After a short, but fun trip to Arkansas to visit Annelyse's parents we headed to Tennessee on Friday. There my sister, Sully, nephew Colton, and Sully's sister, Beth, had all arrived as well. After hearing we were running Nashville, Beth, having become quite the runner herself, decided to join us. We met at a local brewery for pizza and beer and all retired early in preparation for an early start time in the morning.

I woke up at 5:30a thrilled I was getting to race. I was really only able to start upping my mileage in the last four weeks leading up to the race so I wouldn't necessarily say I was well trained for it, but I didn't care, I was just glad to be able to run it. Annelyse and I met Beth in the lobby and all walked to the start of the race at Centennial Park less than a mile away. After a few pre-race pictures we each went to our appropriate corrals. As I entered my 1:45 corral I did feel a bit like a fraud knowing I wasn't in that kind of shape yet. 

One of the things I love about the Rock 'n' Roll races is that they do a great job of implementing a wave start with each corral starting a minute behind each other. With over 30,000 runners it does a surprisingly good job of spreading out the group. Annelyse was standing right past the start to see us off. Even early on it was clear that it was going to be hot. I was thankful the race started at 7a, because by the time I was three miles in the sun was really beating down on us. 

In our first two miles we ran down West End Avenue past the old Union train station, a massive cathedral, and the Center of Visual Arts. We soon found ourselves in the heart of Nashville's nightlife district on Broadway. Country bars galore! And these country bars weren't just going off on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday afternoon we came back to explore and get our two step on and practically every single place had live music. While I'm not a huge country music fan myself, we had a great time dancing and trying to sing the songs. My sister, on the other hand, knew every single word and could have been mistaken for a true Nashvillian. 

Just after we hit mile three we ran through the Music Row Roundabout. Music Row houses hundreds of music related businesses, including recording studios, and is the heart of the country entertainment industry. This being a Rock 'n' Roll marathon there were of course many bands on the course. My favorite band was near this roundabout. They were a bunch of teenager girls (band name: Hangin' with Stogie) singing country rock and were pretty fantastic for being so young.

The day before I had decided to run with my phone so I could take pictures of the course. It's not everyday that I get to run in Nashville, and I figured I wasn't going to set any PRs so no reason not to enjoy myself. This had the advantage of letting me also send text updates to Annelyse letting her know what mile I was on so she could make her way to different points on the course to see me. Even though she didn't get to run, she definitely put in a number of miles just getting from point to point around the course to cheer us on. She had made it to mile 3 just in time to see me pass.

Most of the remainder of the course, except for the last three miles or so, was through residential areas. The course entertainment continued with not only race organized bands, but also numerous homeowners and spectators along the course. Many were playing their own music, either live or by stereo, and a number of people were handing out water, fruit, and even beer. It seemed to be a party for the residents of the area. People gathered on their lawns with friends, eating and drinking as they watched us all go by. 

As the morning wore on the sun started blazing down on us. There was decent shade coverage in some parts, but not everywhere. It was hot and I was not used to running in the heat. Luckily the humidity wasn't as bad as it could have been. Being that I didn't want to dehydrate, I did something I normally don't and took water from all but the first water station. The rolling hills didn't make it any easier. I wouldn't say that any of the hills were killers, but the up and downs were constant. For the most part though I didn't mind it since it made the course a bit more interesting. 

The last couple of miles we found ourselves in more of the downtown area. We broke off from those running the full marathon at mile 11.5 and I remember thinking that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I couldn't run it. The heat alone would have been torture. There was one last push up a long hill that took a number of runners down. I saw at least four on the side of the road getting medical attention. Luckily none of them looked too serious, just dehydration and exhaustion, but still scary. 

Just before mile 13 we crossed a bridge over the river and headed toward LP Field where the Titans play. It was a fast downhill that let all the runners finish strong. As with almost the entire course the streets were lined with spectators, and about a tenth of mile from the finish, Annelyse had a prime spot to see me come in. After I finished I joined her to cheer in Beth who had a strong race herself and ran by with a huge smile on her face. Kim, Sully, and Colton also had made it just in time to see Beth finish as well. After we all stood around listening to one of the bands that was playing at the end while drinking our free beer. And while it was sad that not everyone was able to run the race, it didn't take away from the fun we all had exploring Nashville together for a long weekend. I'm so lucky for the amazing family I have. 

As for my time, I did better than I thought. I wasn't even close to a PR time, or even a typical time, but considering the lack of training and the picture taking along the course, I was pretty happy with it. I finished in the top 4% of my age group with an official time of 1:50:50. I can say for certain that I've got the racing bug back. I can't wait to be able to really start training with my running group again and get my speed back! Next up: San Diego!

Race stats:
Overall female: 418 of 14189
Age Group: 95 of 2511
Chip Time: 1:50:50 (pace 8:28)
GPS Time: 1:49:32 (pace 8:21)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Walnut Creek Half Marathon - 12/10/11

I'm going to make this entry short and sweet since it's been over a month since I ran it. I found out that Walnut Creek was having it's inaugural half marathon over a year ago, and I knew I would run it. The timing of it ended up not being ideal. Annelyse and I were leaving for Tahoe on a week long trip with my entire family the next day, and that afternoon we were going to be doing santacon. I knew with all the drinking and eating I had coming up, getting in this race before it began would make me feel much better about it.

We must have woken up at 4:30a on Saturday morning to make sure we made it to Walnut Creek with enough time to find parking, pick up our bibs, and walk the mile to the start of the race. As soon as we exited the car, we were freezing. The temperature was in the mid-30s, and neither Annelyse and I were dressed that appropriately. Living in San Francisco, I often forget that it can get really cold early in the mornings in the East Bay. Since we were early, we had to wait around for 20 minutes for the race to start. When we finally had to give our sweats up, I said my goodbye to Annelyse and made my way to the start.

The race course itself was pretty boring. We started off running through downtown and then immediately turned onto Ygnacio Valley Rd. We ran out all the way past Cowell Street before turning around and retracing our steps back to the finish. This was not an easy course. In fact, some of the hills were some of the toughest I've seen, with the worst one being about a mile long. You couldn't tell where it ended because you kept curving around turns, and around each turn there was yet more uphill ahead. I'd say total there were four significant hills throughout the course, but that one was by far the worst. I handled it surprisingly well, and while that mile was my slowest split by far, it was still just under a 9 minute mile.

As I was heading out on Ygnacio Valley Blvd, they had a lot of cheer groups on the side. You had your usual group from Sports Basement (they have a location in WC apparently), and then there was another that I couldn't tell who it was until I heard someone call out my name. Low and behold, my good friend Maura was standing there cheering me on with the rest of the Lululemon group. It's always fun to see someone you know that you weren't expecting to during a race.

At some point on the way back I realized that my pace was quite good. In part, because what goes up must come down, and there were some good downhills to make up some time. I knew I was a bit off from a PR, but that I could still break a 1:40. My official time ended up being 1:39:04. My watch clocked the course to be a bit long, probably from weaving in and out of people at the start, and I did the calculation, and while not officially, it was actually my second fastest half marathon time. I was pleased.

The post race treats were great. Chocolate milk, fruit, and coffee, amongst other things. Coffee...nothing sounded better at that moment since it was still extremely cold out. When Annelyse finished we grabbed some more coffee at a local coffee shop, and then headed back to the city to get dressed in our santa suits to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city drinking beer and getting in the Christmas spirit.

Race stats:
Overall female: 16 of 703
Age Group: 8 of 247
Chip Time: 1:39:03 (pace 7:34)
GPS Time: 1:39:03 (pace 7:31 - course .10 miles long)

To explain my lack of upcoming posts, I've decided that I'm going to take a break from racing this winter and let my body recover from a year that was full of them. I'm still running, but I'm decreasing my mileage and then slowly going to start to bring it back up to marathon training level again. I'll likely start racing again in late March.