November 14, 2011

Silver Strand Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran my 5th half marathon of 2011, the Silver Strand Half Marathon. As I wrote last week, I was oddly unemotional about this race. Even as I toed the line at the start, I wasn't feeling excited, nervous, anxious, happy....nothing. I hadn't trained specifically for this race, as my husband was supposed to run it but then didn't end up training for it, and transferred his bib to me. Even at the packet pickup the day before, where I usually get a jolt of excitement from all the other runners, I felt emotionless. Regardless, I carefully prepared for the race, eating a carb-filled dinner the night before (which happened to be my 11-year wedding anniversary!) and laying out my clothes and gear.

I got up early on Sunday morning, waking at 3:45 despite my alarm clock being set for 4:05. I was thrilled to see it wasn't raining; it was raining so hard all day Saturday! I got dressed and tried to eat my customary peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, which I had prepared the night before, but could only choke down 1/4 of it. I knew I had to eat, so I opened a Clif Bar. This, too, was unappealing to me so early in the morning, and I only had a bite. I ended up not really eating anything, which would later come back to haunt me. A girlfriend of mine, E, was also running the race, so she came by at 5:00 to pick me up and carpool down to Coronado Island.

me, pre-race

Logistically, parking was a breeze! I was really worried, as I thought parking would be a nightmare. But we easily found a parking spot at Silver Strand State Beach (this is the same place where I did the Super Seal Sprint Triathlon in March) and hopped onto a waiting shuttle, which took us to the start line. Once there, we hit the port-o-potties, which only had 2 people in line for each, then hung around for a while (we got there at 6:30, and the race didn't start until 7:30). I decided to get back in line for the potties, and was shocked to see that suddenly the lines for each had grown to at least 20 people! We waited in line for 30 minutes and used the facilities. I decided to gear-check my jacket and gloves, which I normally just toss, as it was already getting warm. At 7:15 the skaters started (yes, this course was also open to skaters!) and at 7:30 promptly we were off and running.

The first mile of the race was nice, as we were leaving Coronado and ran past the famous Hotel del Coronado....the place where J proposed to me some 12 years ago! But all too quickly, we were on the Silver Strand, a stretch of highway that connects Coronado Island with Imperial Beach. Despite living in San Diego since 1987, I have only been on the Silver Strand once; whenever I go to Coronado, I take the Coronado Bridge, which is much faster. I was envisioning a beautiful run with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay on the other. But I never saw the ocean...and while I did have a view of the Bay and San Diego, it was on the other side of the highway so we weren't right next to it. I suppose it was pretty enough, but I was pretty bored by it.

Around mile 2, I started to bonk. Mile 2? Who bonks at mile 2? The girl who didn't eat a good breakfast, that's who! I knew that not eating my sandwich in the morning would come back to haunt me. I stopped to walk and eat a Honey Stinger Waffle---I needed fuel! I took a GU at mile 4, a few miles earlier than I normally would have, and another GU at mile 11. It was getting hot, and I was going through my Gatorade on my fuel belt pretty fast. I felt bad for lots of the runners, many of which were overdressed in pants and long-sleeved shirts. I was hot in my capris and tank top! I even ended up pouring some water from aid stations on my head as the miles got on.

I started to have a lot of pain during this run, too. Not so much in my foot, where I normally have pain due to my plantar fasciitis; rather, this pain was in my thigh and my glutes. I had a lot of walk breaks, many more than I usually take, as I was just in so much pain. My chiropractor, who is doing ART on me (Active Release Technique), is having me re-learn my running, as apparently my form is wrong and that is causing my plantar fasciitis. As a result, I am using my glutes more than I ever have before, and suspect that this re-learning process contributed highly to my pain yesterday.

There were more things that I didn't like about this course. I had heard it was boring, as it is very straight and flat---and that was no lie! It was so straight that I could see the upcoming mile marker far ahead of time. No changing views, no veering off in a different direction. The worst part was at mile 8, when we were still going straight, there was a hill to the right of us in which we saw runners going in the opposite direction doing an out-and-back. So from mile 8-9 we had to run parallel to faster runners doing their out-and-back, then we made a turn into a residential neighborhood before entering the Silver Strand Training Complex. This area, according to Wikipedia, houses an antenna which "was used several years ago to provide directional finding, primary communication links for U.S. Navy submarines.". It is a very ugly, desolate area, and we had to do a mile or so out-and-back in it. I hated this area.

not very pretty

Another thing I didn't like about the course was the lack of crowd support. Most of the races I have done offer lots of spectators, maybe not for every mile but enough of it. It's fun to have crowds; their support gives me a lift and motivation, and it's fun to read people's signs, etc. There were virtually NO spectators on this course, mainly due to logistics---there could be no people stopping on the Silver Strand Highway, and of course people can't go onto the base. Even in the residential neighborhood we ran through, hardly anyone was out! I've run through many neighborhoods during races that have their residents out cheering. It was disappointing. I also thought that there weren't enough aid stations---too many miles went by without water tables. It was ok for me, as I carried my own, but I DID want water to pour on my head, and I know other people who weren't carrying fluid must have been dying of thirst in that sun! (Which is why you always, ALWAYS carry your own liquid!)

Finally, I hit mile 13. Normally at mile 13 the finish line is nowhere in sight, but this course was so straight that I saw it even before I hit the 13 mile marker! I pushed through at the end, and finished in 2:40. Very far from my ultimate goal of breaking 2:30, but since I wasn't trying to push myself in this race, and wanted to use it as a training run for my "A" race in 3 weeks (Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas) I am pleased.

My friend, E, had finished 5 minutes ahead of me and met me at the finish line. We got our medals, found our bag in gear-check, and easily got on a shuttle to take us back to the car. I was miserable on the way home---I had found the race to be very challenging, both physically (pain!) and mentally (boring!). But it's done, and since I have always wanted to do this race, I know never to do it again.


  1. That's too bad! I'm sorry it wasn't a great run and you struggled. Is it time to take a break? Sometimes that helps me WANT to do it again...

  2. Great job! Sorry you didn't hit your 2:30 goal but I'm sure you will soon!

  3. Congrats on finishing another 1/2 marathon! That's too bad it wasn't an enjoyable course, though in my opinion you were mentally psyching yourself up for it to be boring because you heard that ahead of time.
    Now train hard for RnR Las Vegas@

  4. Nice report Sugar. Having a no-pressure event like this could offer insights on dealing with stress in other events by contrast. Potentially a useful tool.

    When not hungry early, try eating some warm Nishiki brand sushi rice. About 100 on the GI, and seems never to cause indigestion. Very clean fuel. Travels pretty well too.

    Know what you mean about crowd support. I did the Canyon Classic Mt Hamilton ride, 91 miles and ~ 11,000 ft of climbing, and 30 miles from home they waited for me (based on radio com) before rolling up the last aid station.

    When the truck and trailer passed me 7 miles later, heading back to the start on an O&B course, it was a VERY lonely feeling. Fortunately, I had trained alone most of the time, so took a deep breath and managed, but not a good feeling.

  5. Nice job gutting it out and using it as a mental exercise!! Invaluable!! And not a bad finishing time either I might add!!! :)


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