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.


  1. I love everything about this!! Surprising yourself with a PR feels SOOOOOO good and that picture of you running to the finish with your arms raised... that's joy in accomplishment. I already said this to you but it deserves to be said again, "CONGRATULATIONS!!!"

  2. Congrats on the PR!!! Maybe it was the tutu! ;o)


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