June 5, 2015

Rock 'n Roll San Diego Half Marathon 2015

This is a part 2, of 2, posts. To read about the San Diego Rock 'n Roll 5k I did the day before as part of their Remix Challenge, please click here.

I signed up for this half marathon as part of my training for my next half-Ironman, which is Vineman 70.3 on July 12.  I thought a half marathon 6 weeks before would be good in my schedule. It would be my third time running this half marathon (see recaps for 2011 and 2012) and I actually did the full in 2003 as my first (and apparently not last) marathon. (No recap for that, that was done in the dark ages, before blogging).
To be frank, I wasn't excited about this race.  I never thought I'd do another Rock 'n Roll race. I am not a fan of the Rock 'n Roll series anymore. I have done several of their races---in addition to now three half marathons and a full in San Diego, I also did the Las Vegas half marathon in 2011, the first year they had it at night. I have not raced in any other cities, so I can't speak about them, but to me, the series has gone downhill.  I remember back in 2003...San Diego was the ONLY city they had, and they only had the full. They had a great headliner---Chris Isaac---and lots of great bands.  They said there was a band every mile, and while that wasn't quite true (there were several bands clustered together downtown, with a few miles of desolate stretches) there probably WERE 26 bands.  Even a few years ago, there were more bands.  But now? It's overdone. I just don't see the "Rock 'n Roll" in the event.  Yes, there are bands on the course, but very few.  And the price is very expensive (which is why I signed up for next year when it was only $50).  It's so commercialized now, like Disney. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I know there are lots of people who LOVE the Rock 'n Roll series, and the Disney series, but for me, I prefer a small-town race.

I also wasn't excited about this race because of the course.  In 2013 they changed the half course so that it goes more through neighborhoods like North Park and Normal Heights---not the greatest of neighborhoods and I was worried about that. (Spoiler: it was amazing! The course is great!)

Finally, I was running on tired legs.  Not only did I run a 5k the day before and bike almost 18 miles, but I never got a taper. For most half marathons, I do my long runs (I try to do a few 10-11 mile runs during my training cycle) but always do a taper run of 6.6 miles the weekend before. Why 6.6?  It's half the half.  But my friend and coach didn't let me taper, since this isn't an a race.  A few weeks ago I ran 9 miles, then the following weekend I ran 10, and last weekend, instead of tapering, I ran 11 miles.  And that was the day after biking 65 miles and then running 2 miles.  So, needless to say my legs were exhausted. And I'd been sick all week, even with another migraine the day before.

Now that I've set up all the reasons why I didn't want to run this race, and how I wasn't fresh for it, let me recap!

I was set to carpool with my friend T, who was doing the full (his first full since shattering his foot in a cycling accident a few years ago).  I bought a parking pass (another reason I'm unhappy with Rock 'n Roll---shuttles used to be free, now they're $5 to get on---and $15 if you want a guaranteed parking space in the garage as well. I paid the $15 and T paid $5 for himself).  They said the garage opened at 3:30, and to be there between 4 and 5, as the last shuttle would leave at 5:30.  Both T and I are obsessive about being early, so he was supposed to be at my house at 3:15. I set my alarm for 2:30, and of course, slept fitfully. I woke on my own at 2:25. I was thrilled to be headache-free! T was outside my house at 3 (he's even crazier than I am) and I happened to have been ready.  So early!   We easily got to downtown but then got a bit lost as the directions on the parking pass weren't quite right.  Luckily we were PLENTY early.  We finally got to the parking garage at 3:30---and waited in line forever, as even though it was supposed to open at 3:30, it wasn't.  Finally we got in, parked, walked over the bridge by Petco Park, and got on a shuttle.

early morning on the shuttle

We got to Balboa Park EARLY. Like 4:15 a.m.early.  Hardly anyone was there. We wandered around a bit then decided to sit, as we'd have plenty of time on our feet later.  We found a curb by the empty corrals and dozed.

what corrals look like before anyone gets there

selfie in the dark before I took a nap

And we waited.  Between dozing and using the port-o-potties a few times (the advantage of getting there early is there are no lines and they're clean) the time finally passed.   As the full started at 6:15 (an hour before I did) T had less time, so around 5:30 we walked to gear check, shed our outer clothes, and said goodbye.

before separating. See you in 26.2 miles, T!

ready to run!

Meanwhile, I circulated and found friends. I found my friend Smitha and the local chapter of the Moms Run This Town San Diego, and posed for a picture. I then ran into my friend Nichell, who is a rock star with 38 half marathons under her belt, and is the owner of Full Medal Runs (check them out for cool virtual races!).

me and Nichell

the MRTT ladies
Finally, after waiting in a LONG line to use the facilities again, it was time to head to my corral.  I was in 17.  We waited quite a while to move up, and I was happy once it was go time for my group.

fooling around with selfies while waiting in my corral

last picture before the race started

The run was good!  I started immediately with my run/walk ratio of run two minutes, walk 30 seconds. This ratio has proven great in helping with any sciatic pain from my herniated disc.  During the first mile I was feeling GREAT and looking at my Garmin I saw I was clocking paces in the 9's. NOT GOOD! I can't sustain that pace, and knew I needed to slow down if I was not going to bonk later in the race.  I finally settled into a good rhythm.  Ran through Hillcrest, by where I used to live.  Down past the crowds of people cheering, past the men-dressed-as-cheerleaders.  This part is the same as always--the race always goes down University. But in past years, we used to turn right on Park Blvd, and this time we were turning left. This was unknown territory to me. I mean, I know the area well, but I've never run there. I was excited to be running someplace new!

The weather was perfect. It was cool and overcast the entire time. I never saw the sun, not once, which is unusual for this race, which can get quite hot.  It did get a bit muggy  though, and since I overheat easily I got really warm by mile 3.  I had brought a Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad with me, something I've never run with but will be using at Vineman (I've tried it biking and it's heaven) and used that for a mile or so until I cooled off.

When we turned into the Normal Heights neighborhoods, we were in for a treat!  The people there were out in force. Tons of people out on their lawns cheering, high-fiving, giving out fruit, candy, even alcohol (yes, I saw someone in front of me take an alcoholic drink!) It was amazing. I have rarely seen that kind of support during a race.  I high-fived all the kids, laughed at all the great signs (like "running: it's not just from the cops anymore" and "run like someone just called you a jogger").  At mile 6 my best friend in the whole world was out there with his dog, and it was such a high point for me to give him a hug and get encouragement.  By that point, I was getting tired.  Really tired.  But the crowds were amazing.  It was fun to run through lines of cheerleaders, see the little kids, and realize that the neighborhoods were making a party of it.

After running back into Hillcrest, we turned and went down by another part of Balboa Park that I'm not familiar with. We merged for a bit with the marathoners, and it was impressive to see their pace---I saw the 3:30 pacer, and they are FAST! Here is where I came across something horrific, though.. Right before mile 9, I noticed a group huddled to the side, with a police car and lots of people.  Two volunteers were holding up a sheet to block the view of whatever was happening, but as I passed I was able to see.  There was a man down, and someone was doing chest compressions on him. I mean, full-on compressions, practically jumping on top of the man to do them.  It was awful. I only saw a glimpse, but I spent the next several miles in tears and praying.  I did see an ambulance about a quarter mile later, but have no clue if he survived. I know that by the time someone's getting CPR done it's usually too late, but I'm holding out hope that the man was ok. Just awful. It really made me reflect more on not only how lucky I am to do this, but that we never know when it's our time.  I'm sure the man just thought he'd run a race, and had hopefully trained, and was looking forward to it,  then this happened.

Toward the end of the race I started to pick up the pace just a tad. There were some hills, and I may have walked a bit more than I should have, but overall I just felt better.  I got a Jolly Rancher from a spectator. I got a hug from a woman holding a sign that said "free hugs". I ran into Smitha toward the end, and then ran through a tunnel they had decorated like a rave, complete with club music and neon lighting.  The last turn down toward the finish was amazing.  There were cheerleaders on a corner screaming "8 more blocks!" and I knew the end was in sight!  The finish--all downhill--was a blur. I ran the whole way, with no more walk breaks.  There were people lined on both sides of the finishing chutes (there were separate chutes for marathoners and half marathoners.  The people were several deep---there were tons!  The cheering was deafening.  It was probably the best finish line I've ever been through, in any race of any type or distance. 

I crossed the finish line. I had no real time goal for this race, as it was a training run, not an A race. I certainly wasn't trying to PR.  My ultimate goal was under 2:45 (on tired legs) and my hopeful goal was 2:35. I crossed in 2:36, so I was really happy! I know that Vineman will be different, and even though most half marathon I do are between 2:30 and 2:40, I've yet to do a half-Ironman run in under 3:00 (Superfrog was 3:12 and Oceanside was 3:03).  The exhaustion after doing a 1.2 mile swim, then biking 56 hilly miles, then running 13.1 in the heat (it should be in the 90s) will do  me in. But for this race, running on tired, not-fresh legs, I am happy with my time.

at the finish line

Excuse my language, but post-race was a clusterf*ck. Right after I crossed I got my medal and there was food and chocolate milk, etc, but after that area it was chaos. The plan T and I had was, since I would finish first, for me to get the gear check bag (we shared one), then get my Remix medal, and then meet him at the Family Reunion.  Well, gear check was easy to find, but the Remix medals were not!  I was told to go to Petco Park, which didn't make sense, but I made my way halfway over there and then turned back, and asked again, and was once again told to go there. So I followed the throng of people over there---it was so crowded. Finally I got to Petco Park and had to go up to the second level.  I found an escalator, but lots of people were doing the stairs---after doing a half or full marathon!  Once up there, I had to ask several people where the medals were. They halfway around the stadium, pretty hidden.  I was glad when I finally found it, and got my extra Remix medal.

Then I tried to find Family Reunion.  I asked several volunteers and everyone pointed me in different direction. I tried to text T but he never responded, so I (rightly) assumed that his phone was dead.  Miraculously, another racer that I asked pointed right across the street (at Petco Park) and there was the Family Reunion area---and there was T!  He had done the full in just under 4 hours. I was so proud of him!  And happy to see him, as I was scared we wouldn't find each other in this mess.  We got to the car and easily got out of the garage. 

in the parking garage; Petco Park behind me
All in all, I was very happy with this race.  As I'd had nothing but poor expectations, this was great!  I have one more swim race to do (tomorrow, actually) and then the next one is the big one---my A race, Vineman!

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