March 12, 2015

Divas Half Marathon Race Recap

There are some races (actually, most of them for me) where I sign up just to have fun.  Some races are a challenge type/distance for me, others are goal races where I hope to set a personal record (PR).  But most I run just for fun, for the experience of running in a new destination, etc.

The Divas Half Marathon was this type of race for me when I signed up. I was supposed to run this half marathon over a year ago, but I'd been injured and not ready to run 13.1 miles, so that day I took on the 5k instead.  While it was the right choice at the the time, I felt I had unfinished business with the Divas brand.  So when they announced a special race in Temecula, a town not far from me, I jumped on it.  They promised that registration would not only include what it usually does (feather boa and tiara at the finish, medal handed out by a shirtless hunk, rose, etc) but also a tutu, wine tasting, and free finisher's photos.  I signed up long ago, and wasn't too worried about it. I did the training, but,  as usual, did not pay any attention to elevation profile or course specifics when I signed up. I was running this race strictly for fun---and for redemption. I wanted to be a Divas half marathon finisher!

Race week was rainy.  While I welcomed the rain in drought-affected San Diego, I was worried about rain the morning of the race.  I don't mind running in the rain---in fact, I like it a lot. It's fun.  What I DIDN'T want to do is stand around for a few hours before the race in the rain.  Standing and getting drenched, then running 13.1 miles is not my idea of a good time.  And in checking out the course profile, I noticed that several of the miles were on a dirt trail.  Which, in the rain, would be mud.

The day before the race I drove up to Temecula, about 45 minutes away, for packet pickup. This was at a winery, which took quite a while to get to once off the freeway.  I was looking forward to the expo---when I did the race in 2013 in Ontario, the expo was amazing and I literally had to restrain myself from spending money.  This time--not so much.  There were hardly any vendors there, which was fine with me, as I didn't know if I'd be able to resist this time. I got my shirt, bib, and goodie bag which had a pink tutu in it. They also had a coupon for a wine tasting, which could be done either that day or after the race. Since I knew I would want to go right home after running, I went to the winery bar and got my own Divas wineglass (to keep).  I was allowed to do two tastings, but since I had to drive I settled for a few sips of just one.  Sigh. Note to self---next time bring a designated driver!

 One big question I had---whether or not to wear the tutu. On one hand, I try not to do something new on race day, and god knows a tutu would be new for me. I was also worried about the rain, and how wearing a soggy tutu would feel.  On the other hand, it WAS a Divas race, and if I didn't wear a tutu for it, when would I? I loved dressing up in other races, such as the Hollywood Half Marathon, Tinker Bell Half Marathon and Costume Party Half Marathon--so why not now? I decided to bring it just in case it didn't rain, and to make the decision race day.  The rest of my outfit consisted of my pink Divas shirt from my 5k, capris and my old running shoes (I just got new shoes a few weeks ago, and was worried about the potential for muddy trails). I wanted arm warmers, but couldn't find my black ones, so made my own by cutting the toes off a pair of black tube socks.

It rained on and off on Friday, but race morning it seemed dry. I wasn't sure what time to leave the house.  Because parking was very limited at the winery, where the race started, runners were instructed to park in an off-site parking garage and be shuttled to the start.  Even though the race didn't start until 7:30, the last shuttle would leave at 6:45. I've read on other blogs about other Divas races that traffic can be a nightmare, and I didn't want to get stuck on the I-15 in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I also didn't know if it would start raining, and if it did, I knew rain would make traffic worse. So I set my alarm for 4:00, and was out the door by 4:30.

And....was in my parking spot by 5:05.

Sigh.  Way too early.  But, as I always say, better to be early than late and stressing in traffic.

After frittering away time in my car, I got on a shuttle at about 5:30.  Since it wasn't raining, I decided to wear the tutu, figuring that if it rained during the race and got soggy, or if I just didn't like it, I could ditch it at an aid station. Once I arrived at the winery, I circled around, trying to get my bearings.  There was no line at all for the port-o-potties (and the winery was locked, so their indoor bathrooms were not an option) so I took the opportunity to use it.  After that, I just wanted to get warm. It was cold!  I found a place under an awning and sat, making friends with the woman next to me.  We passed the time chatting, as fellow runners always do. I also ran into a friend from the local chapter of Moms Run This Town. I knew several women running this race, and with it capped at 2000, chances were good to find them.

pre-race, and c-c-c-c-cold!

Finally it was time to line up.  By this time, the line for the port-o-potties was out-of-control long, and I was glad I'd already gone.  I checked my gear (sweatshirt) and shivered my way over to the start. There were two waves, going off 2 minutes apart, and they were very strict about not being in a wave you weren't supposed to be in. I was in wave 1.  I found another friend, hugged, and suddenly it was time to start running!

start line

I immediately started in on my two minute run/30 second walk ratio, which has proven to help me with any sciatic pain.  We passed wineries left and right.  It was very pretty scenery with the vineyards. I tried to take a few pictures, but as I didn't want to stop they turned out blurry. Sorry.


just one of the many wineries we ran by

The sun never really came out too strong. It wasn't raining, but it sure was cloudy.  My kind of running weather. I fell into a groove and ran/walked on.

At mile 4 I noticed I was at 44 minutes, which was a faster than average pace for me in a half marathon.  Hmmm.....I was intrigued, but didn't think much of it, as I've run faster paces before in half marathons and in the end always fade with exhaustion. Mile 5 came, again at a fast pace.

Around this point there were some hills. Not too long, but pretty steep.  On the steep ones I just walked them, even if it wasn't time for my walk break.  Again, I wasn't looking for a PR, I just wanted to have fun and finish.  I thought that taking extra time walking on the hills would worsen my time.  But at mile 8, I realized I was on pace for a PR.  And at mile 10, when I had about 40 minutes left in order to go sub-2:30, and only a 5k to go, I knew I could do it.

I kept going.  There was a long out-and-back portion on trail (luckily it wasn't raining still so it was dirt) and I saw a few of my friends, which gave me a boost.  I kept thinking about the possibility of a PR.  

I was shocked. I wasn't looking to PR this race.  And yet here was an opportunity. I have run a lot of half marathons. This was #23 for me, and I had only gone sub-2:30 in one race.  Most of my half marathons average between 2:31-2:40.  There was a few in the 2:30 range, and a few in the 2:55 (or longer) range when I was injured, but most are between 2:31-2:40.  Only once in my life had I gone sub-2:30, and that was my PR---in 2012---the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, when I ran a 2:29:17.  That was almost 3 years ago!  It never occurred to me that I might PR again.  By this time, it was clear that I would PR.  The question to me became, by how much?

I decided to give it my all. A few days later was my 45th birthday, and I wanted to give a great birthday present to myself: a shiny new PR. I was NOT going to let this slip through my fingers.  Yet here's the thing: whenever I'm in a race, and I'm talking about ANY race of ANY distance, from 5k to half marathon to half Ironman, whether it's a running race, a bike ride, a swim race, or triathlon--when I get to the last mile, I feel nauseous. I rarely finish strong and triumphant. I know it's a mental thing, and I plan on writing a post about this, but it's something that I need to mentally conquer. I decided that was going to rewrite my story during this race. I was NOT going to feel nauseous during the last mile. I was NOT going to fade with exhaustion. I was going to finish strong, and finish proud. So when I inevitably started to feel sick, just half mile from the finish line, I got stern with myself and fought on.

I kept on running, doing more running and less walk breaks. Past the families cheering with cowbells.  Past the cute Girl Scouts giving high fives. I was on a mission.

coming to the finish

Right before the finish they have a tiara station, where they give each runner a feather boa and tiara. I grabbed it and tried to put it on while still running. I didn't care how it looked, I had a finish line to cross! I was hoping to see 2:28:xx on my Gamin when I crossed, which would be a huge PR for me.

Instead, I finished in 2:26:xx.

finally feeling triumphant

Yes, an even bigger PR than I ever thought imaginable.  I crossed the finish line, accepted my medal (and took a selfie with the shirtless hunk, of course), got my rose, and staggered off the to side to cry.  I could not believe what a gift I had given myself, especially one that was so unexpected.

After I composed myself, I got my gear and easily hopped onto a shuttle to the parking garage.  As we were driving, it started to rain.  I was happy I had missed it, but sad for the other runners whom I knew were still out on the course.

Would I do this race again? I don't think so. I do recommend it, and had a blast doing it, but once was enough for me.  I loved getting dolled up in the tutu and being in a women-centered race.  The course was pretty and challenging.  But for me, once was enough.

And I'm thrilled with my PR.  While I may never PR again, having this time as my PR, just a few days shy of my 45th birthday, feels very, very good.

March 3, 2015

On Empowering Young Girls

Last month I played race director for the first time.  My kids' school held their first annual fun run to raise money to buy new technology.  I stepped up to co-chair the event. I was nervous---not only was it my first time being in charge of such a large event pretty much by myself, but as a runner, I know how these events should go.  As a fun run, it wasn't a timed race, but I still wanted it to be as professional as possible. I mapped out a 3.1 mile course and a 1 mile course (we gave both options in  order to maximize the number of participants), got sponsors, ordered medals and t-shirts, had food at the end, etc.  In the end, we netted over $3500 in profit, which made me happy, especially for our first time.  I heard nothing but positive feedback the day of the event and after; it was fabulous and I'm really proud of myself.

But that is not what this post is about.

You see, one of the runners doing the 5k was a 4th grade girl.  To keep her anonymous, I'll call her Susie.  Susie is the daughter of a friend of mine. I am friends with the mom, but not close friends, and therefore I don't know Susie very well.  But when I saw that the mom and Susie were registered for the 5k, I was very happy and excited for them.  I found out that this was to be Susie's very first 5k.

When they crossed the finish line, I was there.  I had my phone in my pocket, and wanted to take a picture of the two of them, to commemorate this achievement.  However, Susie was very upset.  She was crying.  The run had been really hard for her. She had never done 3.1 miles before.  It wasn't a particularly HILLY course, but there were definitely some small rollers that did not make it flat.  And it was a warm day.  All things conspired to make it a hard run for her.

She refused to let me take their picture.

All she kept talking about was how hard it was.  I tried to tell her what an amazing feat she just conquered---doing her first 5k---but all she was focused on was how difficult it was for her.  She simply could not bask in the glow of her accomplishment. It took her quite a while to calm down, and only later, before they left the school, did she let me take a picture with her mother.

While I myself was basking in the glow of MY accomplishment all day, being pleased with myself for pulling off a fun and successful first-time fundraiser, I couldn't stop thinking about Susie. It bothered me that she wasn't able to celebrate her triumph.  I didn't want her to focus on how hard it was. I wanted her to know that BECAUSE it was hard, and BECAUSE she got through it, that made crossing the finish line that much sweeter. I knew that she was at a delicate age---9---and that many girls decide not to try new things, or hard things, because of the difficulty involved.  I didn't want Susie not to run again. Or shy away from something else based on difficulty---real or perceived.

I could not get Susie out of my head.

I know that sometimes hearing from another adult, instead of your parent, who is supposed to encourage you no matter what, can make a more powerful impact.  So I wrote her a letter, and put it in the mail that Monday.  And I wanted to share it with you.  I did hear from both my friend and Susie that they really appreciated it. I hope it helped, and I hope that Susie toes the line of the school 5k next year.

Dear Susie,

I was so inspired by you today after you crossed the finish line of your first 5k. I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you just how awesome you are that you took on that course.  3.1 miles is a long way, and you did it! I know you said it was really hard, and that's true!  That makes you finishing it even more amazing!

I do a lot of races, and often find myself struggling to finish them.  I wanted to share something with you that happened to me last September. I was doing a swimming race, called the Tiki Swim. This was a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean.  Yes, 2.4 mile SWIM---almost as long as your running race today! I had trained really hard for the swim, and felt prepared.  But that day, in the water, I was having a really hard time.  Because it was in the ocean, there were waves to get through, and that day there were REALLY big waves, almost 6 feet tall. I almost couldn't get through them, and I started crying, filling my goggles up with tears.  I almost called a lifeguard over to get me, because I wanted to quit.

Then I made up a mantra.  Do you know what a mantra is? A mantra is something you can say over and over again, to help you concentrate.  And I thought of something right there in the Pacific Ocean that really helped me.  Here's what I made up:

"I'm smart...I'm brave....I'm strong....and I can do hard things."

I kept repeating that to myself, with every stroke that I swam. "I'm smart, I'm brave, I'm strong, and I can do hard things".

And you know what? I finished that swim!  And when I got out of the water I was so proud of myself. I did the same race last year, but this year I was more proud of myself because the waves made it harder this year than last year.  The harder something is to do, the more rewarding it is when you finish.  Whether it's a 5k that is hard, or reading a book with a lot of hard words, or ANYTHING that seems too hard---when you finish, it's something to be REALLY proud of.

Also---next time you face something that seems really hard, think back to your first 5k.  Remember that you CAN do hard things.  Because you've already done something hard.  Because you're smart, and you're brave, and you're strong---and Susie, YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS!

Thanks for reading...and I hope you keep running!



While I'm glad I wrote the letter for Susie, I'm keeping it for my own future use.  It's so easy to lose sight of the sweet reward at the end when I'm putting so much hard work in now. It's true---the harder we work to overcome, the more rewarding it is.