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)