January 27, 2016

Carlsbad Marathon Race Recap

Well, it's been a week, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the experience!  The Carlsbad Marathon is in the books!

Short story:  I did it! I became a marathoner (again) and this time feel proud of the experience!  I didn't reach my "A" or "B" goals, but I'm very pleased with my "C" goal, and only missed my "B" goal by less than 8 minutes.

Long story:  The Friday before, I went to the expo.  Unlike past times I've done this event (I've run the half marathon twice) I felt there weren't a lot of vendor there.  I met my friend T there, got my bib, shirt and finisher's jacket, made a pass around the expo, and got out of there. I had wanted to buy another shirt that said 26.2, but I couldn't find anything I liked.  I ended up only buying a 26.2 sticker, to be put on my car after the race. I also picked up the packet for my friend Mihael, who would be running the race with me.

Pre-race, I really struggled with what to wear.  I knew I'd be out there for a long time, and comfort was key. And while I knew the morning might be very cold, the forecast didn't look like it would stay that way.  I decided on long capris, a short-sleeved tech shirt (decided on my Divas Half Marathon one, where I got my current half mary PR), arm warmers, and my Vineman 70.3 visor, along with my throw-away gloves and jacket (and handwarmers). Regardless of how cold the morning might be, I knew once I started running I'd warm up quickly.

Also, I was worried about the hills on the course. I've done the half twice (recaps here and here) and LOVE the rolling hills on that course---I got some of my best race times on that course.  But the elevation for the full had me a bit worried.

look at that big peak on Palomar Airport Road!

Sunday morning I got up (of course, before my 3:45 alarm), got dressed, ate a Luna Bar, and was out of the house by 4:20.  There was no traffic, and I parked in my new "usual" spot there---far from the finish line, by the entrance, backed in. I know from experience that getting out of the mall can be a bitch!  I found Mihael and T, and hung out until the race start time, which was 6:15.  The full marathon only had a few hundred runners, unlike the very popular half marathon, and that didn't start until 7:45----so it wasn't crowded at all.  No lines for the port-o-potties.  And it wasn't cold! I was expecting it to be freezing, but it wasn't. 

When the race started, I stuck to my plan right away. I was to do the first four miles at a 1:1 ratio (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute) and then kick it up to 2:1 from miles 4-13 (and then assess from there).  It's always hard in a race to start at a 1:1 ratio, as it's demoralizing to start walking almost immediately after starting---but I knew, especially in order to finish 26.2 miles, that I would need to be conservative.

It was dark when we started, but the sun started to rise very soon.  In fact, about a mile in I was ready to shed my jacket and gloves.  A few miles in we turned toward the ocean (this part of the route is familiar to me, as it's the half marathon route) and it was gorgeous seeing the sun's reflection off the ocean.  I randomly met two women from my local Moms Run This Town group, and throughout the race we'd leapfrog each other.  I was feeling good here---keeping a good pace, doing my run/walk ratio, enjoying the view and the runners and my music---and of course, my friend Mihael, who is crazy entertainment.  Seriously, he kept me laughing throughout the race with his dancing, antics, schmoozing with runners, volunteers and police---he was a gem and a true friend to run this with me.  Early on a saw a port-o-potty with no line and ran in. (I had decided that if I needed to go to the bathroom, I'd only go if there were no lines, unless it was an emergency situation, which luckily never came to pass).

still fresh and happy
After mile 5, we veered off the half marathon course and onto Palomar Airport Road. I've never been on this road on this except once while biking. I didn't remember how hilly it was, but I've heard it's pretty hilly for the marathon. It wasn't super steep, but it was a definite incline, and it was LONG.  By this time we were "only" at miles 7-9, and I was already getting tired. I was keeping on top of my needs. My Garmin reminded me to take a Gu every 4 miles, I was drinking, both from the Gatorade on my fuel belt and the water and sports drinks at the aid stations, and was periodically taking my salt.  But I was getting tired already, and my sciatic was starting to hurt here (it hurts especially on uphills).   We turned around at about mile 9.5, and I took advantage of doing back that street DOWNHILL....let gravity do the work and skipped some walk breaks. I also took my second bathroom break around here.

all race pictures courtesy of Mihael. Thank you!
At mile 13 I took my pickle juice, to avoid cramping, something I have been doing with all my long runs.  I was supposed to try to start doing a 3:1 ratio, and did a few cycles of that, but it was too much.  I started to bonk, more mentally than anything. I started to struggle even with the 2:1 ratio---the pain in my legs was pretty intense. I was having big sciatic issues in my left leg, and my quads were starting to hurt, especially around my inner thigh.  I didn't understand why---two weeks before I had done 20 miles, and didn't hurt until mile 19, so hurting so early in the race was demoralizing to me.

hurting but smiling

Around this time we ran into the half marathoners, mainly the back-of-the-packers. The course got really crowded for a while, but it was nice to have new people to interact with.  I needed to use the restroom again, but because of the crowds, there were long lines.  I stuck to my original plan---it wasn't an emergency, so I didn't stop.  Not too long after, we left the half marathoners and continued on the full course alone.  We were on an out-and-back portion that got really hard for me.  I was in pain, and was really missing my family.  I had seen a girl walking the half with her parents, and as I ran by I noticed she was wearing a hearing aid---the exact same waterproof model that my daughter wears. That got me crying, and thinking about my kids. I was so raw, but Mihael told me to cry at the end, and save my energy for the race.  Around this time I stopped for my third, and final, bathroom break.

Mile 20 was a milestone for me, as I had not run past 20 miles in training.  Of course, we had to stop for a picture.

my initial thought on mile 20. note the finger

convinced to try one smiling

Now I was in uncharted territory.  I was taking a lot more walk breaks than was in my plan, and not doing well.  I continued to take my nutrition, and salt, as planned, and was almost out of Gatorade when I ran by a spectator handing out ice-cold bottles.  That may have saved me, as I stopped to refill my bottles.  The aid stations seemed fewer than I had expected, so I was glad to have filled bottles on my fuel belt again.  I hobbled along in pain, trying to run when I could, and walk when I had to.  I had a marathon race predictor installed on my Garmin 920xt, and would see the predicted finish time hover at about 5:58.  Could I beat my sub-6 goal?

At mile 23 I texted my family  as planned. I assumed I'd be about 40 minutes away from there.  But at mile 24, I was diverted!  On the website it says;

All full marathon participants who are unable to maintain the required 13:44-minute-mile pace will be redirected at Carlsbad Boulevard/Hwy 101 and Carlsbad Village Drive to the finish line via an alternate route. These participants will be using the sidewalk and will be considered pedestrians. The diverted route will be marked and supported, and will equal the full marathon distance.

I didn't know the time, but I heard other diverted runners grumble that they diverted us too early. I didn't know and didn't care---all I knew was that I was not going on the planned route. They had handed out maps to us, but I was too out of it to notice, so Mihael and I were running blind up Carlsbad Village Drive. Luckily he used his phone GPS, and we also eventually caught up with other runners.  We were on a regular street, on a sidewalk.  As promised, the sidewalk WAS marked (we saw where it was painted with "Carlsbad Marathon Mile 25) but it was NOT supported.  There were no aid stations. I was glad I had filled my bottles a few miles back!  Because we were now considered pedestrians, we had to stop at the intersections, which of course added time.  This was frustrating, but as I was exhausted, and this street was mostly uphill, I knew my sub-6 goal was out the window.

almost done!

Finally, FINALLY, we turned left on Monroe street, and it was a downhill toward the finish.  A false alarm, though, as we had to still do a small out-and-back before we were able to cross. I was mostly walking here, but when I turned the corner to the finish, you'd better believe I was running! I saw my family and best friend dressed in their orange team cheer shirts, along with some other dear family friends.  I was so happy to see them!  Mihael slowed down and I think was dancing before crossing, but I sped up and raced through the finish line. I wanted this to be over!  I crossed, was given a medal, a mylar blanket and a bottle of water, and I was done.

26.2 miles later

Finish time was 6:07.  Not shabby at all!  My previous marathon was 7:20, so a HUGE PR.  And only 7 minutes and a few seconds off my sub-6 goal.  Combined with 3 bathroom stops and stopping at all those intersections, I am very pleased with this.  

proud finisher

I saw my kids through the gate and stopped to hold their hands and get kisses, and then continued through the chute. I was very pleasantly surprised to see my friend T, who had finished the full 2 hours before and had waited!  He was with Steve, who had finished the half some time before as well. I was touched that these two friends waited around to watch me become a marathoner.  After reuniting with my family, we all (minus T, but including Steve) went to Soup Plantation for a much needed re-fueling meal.

I told my family (and they got it on video) that I was 90% sure I'd never do a full again.  But now, 10 days later, I'm already contemplating another one for next year.  But I really need to get a handle on my sciatica first, if I do.  That was very painful.

I'm proud. I'm proud of this race.  Yes, it was slower than I wanted, and yes, I wasn't able to stick to the run/walk ratio the way I wanted (more walking than planned)...but I did it. I finished, and finished strong, and felt proud enough to add this 26.2 sticker to my car.\

A huge thank you to Steve for training me yet again.  A huge thank you to my family, who gets my passion and understands my need to run long. And the biggest thanks of all---to my dear friend Mihael, who put up with me for 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning.  You gave me the good marathon experience I desperately needed (despite my pain) and I will never forget that.

January 14, 2016

Looking at 26.2 Miles

Flashback to 2003:

In January 2003, I decided that I wanted to run a full marathon, mainly to cross it off my bucket list. I had started running in 1998, and had done tons of 5ks and one half marathon up to that point.  I don't remember races being all that readily available back then----now it seems that there is a half marathon every month or so in San Diego, but back then, races were few and far between.  Most of my runs weren't training runs, training for a race---they were simply runs done for the exercise, the stress release, and the joy of running.

So by the time 2003 rolled around, I had been running for about 5 years, with only one half marathon under my belt.  I wanted the challenge of a marathon.  I decided on Rock 'n' Roll San Diego----mainly because it was practically the only one around. In fact, back in 2003, San Diego was the only Rock 'n' Roll race in the country! They didn't expand to the huge corporation they are today until a few years later.  And they didn't even have a half marathon option!  Only a full.  Yes, times have changed.  Today there are Rock 'n' Roll events in most major cities, most with both half and full options.  These days many are offering a 5k and/or 10k option as well.

In 2003, it was the dark ages of running, at least for me.  It's hard to believe, because 2003 was not that long ago, but back then there was no social media.  No Facebook.  No Twitter. No Daily Mile. No Instagram. And I don't think really any blogs---at least, not that I knew of. I'm sure there were some discussion forums, but it really wasn't the way it was today.  I had no other friends that ran.  None.  Today, I know a gazillion runners, friends in real life and friends I've met online.  Back then----I was the only runner I knew.

I bought one of the Hal Higdon books on how to train for a marathon, and followed his plan. I had no kids back then (I got pregnant with D a month after the race) so I had plenty of time to run after work and on weekends.  One of my favorite routes was around Balboa Park.  I lived in Hillcrest at the time, and mapped out a 4 mile loop from my house that would take me through the park, past the zoo, etc. I liked it because it had some good people watching, and there was also a bathroom in the park a the halfway point. On long runs, I would do the loop 4, 5 times, often leaving an extra bottle of Gatorade in the bushes by my house for me to refill my bottles.

Back then, there were no Garmins or GPS watches. I had to guesstimate my mileage, and use an actual watch to keep track of time, and then calculate my pace.  There were no iPods.  For music, I carried a walkman (with cassette tapes) or a discman (very cumbersome).  I seem to remember that we had Gu,  or some sort of gel---but I'm positive there weren't that many choices. Not like today. I didn't know about salt. I didn't know about the Jeff Galloway run-walk method. I didn't know really anything, except that I was going to run this thing.

Race day ended up being---excuse my language---a clusterfuck.  I walked the mile from my house to the start line, and was so excited to finally be there.  But I didn't pace myself correctly. I went out too fast, and burnt out really quickly.  Additionally, I overhydrated. It was very hot outside and I drank way too much liquid.  This resulted in me having seven bathroom stops (average stop was at least 5 minutes, with all the line waiting before I even got to go). And of course, after each stop it was hard to start moving again.  At mile 20, I hit the proverbial wall.  I think all the overhydration messed with my body...I felt woozy and not good. I ended up walking most of the last 6.2 miles.  And I when I say walk, I mean shuffle. I vividly remember hot spots on my feet, the pain of the latter part of the run.  It was awful. I finished in well over 7 hours (I believe 7:20 or so)....of course that included over 30 minutes of bathroom stops, but still, I could have done better. I was projecting a 6:15 time (at the time, my one-and-only half marathon was 3:05).
Although I finished, and got my medal, and an official finisher's certificate, I never felt proud of it. I never really talked about the race, I never felt like I could put a 26.2 sticker on my car, and I didn't sign up for another race. In fact, I was so disgusted by running after that race that I virtually stopped running. It wasn't until 2009 that I began to run again.  In the time from the race, mid-2003, until 2009, I only ran sporadically. I was busy with two kids, including one who was in the hospital a lot.  I ran sometimes to burn off stress, and in fact had a jogging stroller I'd use sometimes. But during that time period, I definitely didn't call myself a runner.

Most importantly, I vowed to never, EVER, run a full marathon again.  And while I eventually did come back to running, and in fact love it more than ever and it's now a part of my identity, who I am, not just what I do, and have incorporated triathlon---I have stuck to that.  To date, I have run 26 (I think) half marathons, not counting the 3 half marathons that came at the end of each of my half-Ironmans.  But I never wanted to do a full marathon again, and kept to that promise.

Flash forward to this past summer.

I was doing a lot of biking in preparation for Vineman 70.3 and Pedal the Cause. Most of my rides were with friends, but one day I was biking alone, giving me too much time to think. And I started to think about the possibility of running a full.  After all, I reasoned, if I really want to do a full Ironman in 2020, it would be great to have a more positive marathon experience under my belt.  I decided I didn't want to travel for the race, which left a choice between the two fulls in San Diego---Rock 'n' Roll or Carlsbad. I decided on Carlsbad, which is in January, vs Rock 'n' Roll which is June, due to the heat (although as 2020 gets closer, it may be a good idea for me to run one in the heat for training for Ironman Texas).  I knew in January it could rain, especially with an El Nino year, but I'd rather have rain than heat.  When I got back from my bike ride, I discussed the idea with my husband, and by that evening I was signed up.

I had buyer's remorse almost instantly.

But I knew I could do it.  If my body didn't hold up in training, I could always drop to the half. However,  I'm a better runner than I was in 2003. A smarter runner.  This time is different. I have my friend Steve, who designed yet another training plan for me.  It's not as heavy as other run plans, but it's perfect for ME, as I injure easily and he knows that.  I have a great run/walk ratio that will start me out slow and increase over the race. I have a PLAN to execute, for pace, fuel and hydration. I will have a friend running with me for company, my friend Mihael.  I know about salt intake, and will take it throughout my run to avoid the over-hydration that happened to me.  I have used my Garmin 920xt and my iPod to get me through training.  I have talked about this with dozens of friends, both in real life and online, and have had some great runs with friends as well. I'm not alone this time. I have support, I have knowledge. I can do this.

The race is this weekend. It looks like the weather will be gorgeous, and I'm thankful.

I have goals, which I'll boldy put here:

My "A" goal:  to finish in under 5:50.  This is a stretch. I finished my longest training run, 20 miles, in 4:24, which did NOT include 3 bathroom stops.  This goal assumes no more than 3 bathroom stops, and with minimal waiting at each.  Plus, it assumes I can do the last 6.2 at a decent pace.  After my 20 miles, I could not have imagined doing another step, let alone 10k.

My "B" goal:  to finish in under 5:59.  This one seems more reachable for me.

My "C" goal:  to finish in 6 hours or more, but with a smile on my face, and uninjured.

I'm not going to lie--I'd love to see a 5 in the front of my finishing time. I'm capable of it.  But even if it's over 6 hours, and it very could be, that's ok---it'll still be a PR.  And regardless of my time, I know that on race day I'll do the best job I can do. If it's 5:45, great. If the best I can do on race day is 6:15, or even more, with race day conditions, and what my body can do, that's ok too. I won't beat myself up about it.  The number one thing I want is a good experience, finishing time aside, to be able to draw strength from on future races.

Wish me luck!

January 7, 2016

Bike the Bay Recap 2015

This was done in August----and here it is January.  Wow!  I'm not usually this bad at recapping events!  Just a quick recap here for posterity.

Bike the Bay is an annual event benefiting the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. Although it's been going on for years. I heard it about it for the first time in 2012 when I literally ran into the bikers.  I was training for my first half-Ironman, Superfrog, and since it was in Coronado/Imperial Beach, I was doing a lot of training rides there.  One Sunday, as I drove over the Coronado Bridge on my way over to Coronado, I saw tons of cyclists on the bridge.  I was confused, as there are no bikes or runners allowed on the bridge, except for races.  I came to find out, as I later started biking and talking with people around me, that this was the annual Bike the Bay, a ride that started downtown, went over the bridge, through Coronado, over the Silver Strand into Imperial Beach. and back through Chula Vista and National City. It's a 25 mile ride---untimed, uncompetitive, and open to anyone who wants to ride.

We (my husband, J, and my son, D and I) went with a few friends---my dear friend Todd, and my friend David and his daughter, among others.  We caravaned to the Convention Center, parked, and walked our bikes to the start area. I have never---EVER--seen such a wide array of cyclists. The events I have been in have been either triathlons or bike-focused rides (like my century or metric century).  This had serious cyclists, but lots of recreational ones---tri bikes, road bikes, beach cruisers, kids, riders in tutus....crazy. I loved it.  We check in, put our numbers on our bikes, and waited in the long line of cyclists to get on the road.

let's roll! (yes, I wore my helmet)
waiting to start

Soon after we started was the one big hill---and it was quite a doozy.  The Coronado Bay Bridge.  I've driven this countless times, and ran it once in a race back in the 90s, but never biked it.  Going up was pretty darned steep. I was worried about my son---but I waited at the top and was so happy to see him and J coming up soon after me.  He had ridden up without walking his bike up. I was so proud! 

looking north on top of the bridge
looking south on to of the bridge

The rest of the ride was mostly routes I had done before in various training rides.  The bike path on the Silver Strand, the Bayshore Bikeway....most of it pretty flat and easy.  My son had some trouble, as he tired easily.  I had mistakenly told him it was a 22 mile ride, and he was unhappy to see it was 25 miles.  At one point, he was so frustrated and tired that his face literally crumpled. It was heartbreaking.  But he pressed on, and finished the ride. I thought he wouldn't want to do it again, but he said he loved it and wants to do it next year! I hope we do.  If so, I'll make sure he gets more training in than he did for this one. 25 miles is a long way for a young boy, especially if he hadn't properly trained.

Bumble Bee Seafoods 5k Race Recap

The Bumble Bee Seafoods 5k was my final race of 2015---and one of my most special. It was my daughter's (A's) first-ever 5k! I got the idea several months before that she should walk a 5k with me. I knew she wouldn't be able to actually RUN 3.1 miles, but her walking has gotten so strong that I just knew she could handle walking the distance. And it fell on December 30, which is A's half birthday. She would turn 9 1/2 that day. I've never done this 5k before, and heard it was fun. It precedes the Holiday Bowl Balloon Parade, and is supposed to be a huge crowd. I also signed up my son, D (my husband had to work, so couldn't join us).  Initially he was going to run it and wait at the finish for A and I to finish, but since there would be 100,000 people there for the parade, I didn't feel safe with that option, and he ended up walking with us.

Bibs were mailed to us at no extra charge (!!!) so that was easy!  No packet pickup!  As the race was downtown in conjunction with the parade, I made sure to leave VERY early.  The race started at 9:45, but I left the house at 7:45. I'm glad I did!  We made it easily to downtown, and parked in the suggested lot at Pacific and Broadway, but we had to wait over 20 minutes in line to get our parking pass at the kiosk.  Then we had to make our way to the start. We ended up getting there early, but I would have been stressed had we left later, as the line for parking kiosk got VERY long after I got in line!

While waiting we had fun watching weiner dog races and seeing some of the big balloons that would be in the parade.  Soon it was time to start---and off we went!  The first 3/4 mile or so was fantastic---we were on the parade route, which meant that there were TONS of spectators on either side of us cheering!  In fact, several people called our names, friends that were down for the parade. That was fun!  We gave kids high-5s and did a fast walk during this part. 

After the crowd, we slowed down considerably.  The race loops around some of the downtown area by the Convention Center and Petco Park, then the Embarcadero and Seaport Village.  A was getting tired, but she never once stopped, and never once asked to be carried.  I tried to keep her mind occupied by talking about our upcoming Disney trip and anything else that would get her excited. Toward the end, a policeman suggested we cut the course (this would cut our course by over half a mile) but of course we refused---we don't quit, we don't cheat, and we could do it!  Most everyone was done by this point, but there were a few women right ahead of us that were also cheering her on.

Finally, with the finish line right ahead of us, I had A run on ahead.  She did, and crossed the finish line victorious!  D and I crossed right behind her.  They didn't have medals, but I had something even better for her---a 5k charm and personalized note charm from my dear friend Erica Sara (seriously, check out her race bling).  We got our finisher's shirts at the end, and watched some of the parade that was still going on (D especially liked the USC marching band, as he's playing baritone in the middle school band).  I splurged on a pedi-cab back to the car, as it was several blocks away and I didn't want to make A walk more.

I'm so proud of my little girl.  With all her medical challenges....with the fact that she didn't walk unassisted until she was 3 1/2....with all she has going on....she did a 5k. Better yet, she wants to do more, so I need to find another walker-friendly one (or two) for 2016.  I'm more than happy to oblige.

Jack o Smash 15k Race Recap

So much time has passed since I did this race, but I want to quickly recap it for myself in case I do it again---and for anyone else running it, too.

I signed up for this race, the Jack O'Smash, for two reasons:  it was nearby and supported a local school district's special education program, and they had a 15k option (in addition to 1 mile, 5k and 10k courses). I think the 10k and 15k were new this year.  Regardless, it was my first time doing it the race.  I was just starting to ramp up my running for marathon training, and hadn't really done a long run since my last half-Ironman---in July!  Since Vineman, I'd only been running 3-4 miles max, as I was concentrating on my biking for Pedal the Cause.  I ramped up a bit before this 15k (which was on November 1) and thought it would be good to set a base of 9 miles on that date. In fact, I was supposed to do a 1 mile warmup, giving me 10 miles for the day.

Packet pickup was very easy, at the local Sports Authority.  A quick run in to get my bib and shirt, and I was out of there.  I hate to say it, but the shirt was very ugly---I never wore it and ended up giving it away to Goodwill.  Oh well.  Race morning came too early for me, as it was the morning after Halloween and I had been out with the kids.  I woke early, got dressed, wearing my new Halloween socks, and drove the few miles to the start. I got there early enough to do my 1 mile warm up and then use the facilities.  Pre-race was cool----before the National Anthem they had some Navy jets do a fly-by.

I took the race very slowly. As it was my furthest run in several months, I wanted to go out nice and easy.  Most of the runners were doing the 5k, some were doing the 10k and only a handful did the 15k. I was alone during most of it.  It was hot and hilly, in an area of town (by Scripps Poway Parkway) that I never run on, although I've biked there for some hillwork.  I don't have anything exciting to say about the course, except that I was glad to be done.  Most of it was in an industrial park area, so pretty ugly.  Combined with the heat and hills, it got brutal at times, but definitely doable.  The finish was anti-climatic----a small keychain, in lieu of a medal, which said 5k on it. I don't care about a medal, but to get something that said 5k when I just suffered through a 15k (9.3 miles) was a letdown.  Also, virtually no one was there since I was one of the last 15k runners to finish, and the 5k and 10k runners had long come and go.  While it wasn't my favorite race.  I did love the cause, and the fact that it was nearby, though---so don't count me out in future years.

Bubble Run Recap 2015

This event was so fun!  It was this past November, the day before I ran the Silver Strand Half Marathon.  I had signed up the family as soon as I heard about it.  From what I could tell, it would be like the Color Run, but with bubbles.  As my daughter had missed the Color Run due to breaking her neck, I was excited for her to try this. And it wasn't a race---it was untimed, and not even a full 5k.

Packet pickup was a pain.  It was down at a Sports Authority the day before in Chula Vista.  They did have packet pickup the day of the event,  but as I didn't know what the venue would be like, I didn't want to feel stressed the day of.  I got to packet pick well before the announced start time, but even then there was a long line already.  I felt bad for people coming after me---the line got SUPER long, snaking all around the store!  I got our bibs and t-shirts, which we were to wear at the event.

The next morning we drove down to Chula Vista---the event took place at the Sleep Train Ampitheatre parking lot.  We had to pay for parking, and it was crowded (there were two heats---one in the early morning and one in the late morning. We chose the late morning heat so there were tons of cars both leaving and arriving).  However, once we found parking it was a very easy walk to the start line.  We waited quite a while, as they didn't start until 10-15 minutes past the scheduled start time, which bugged me, especially as it was so hot.  But once we got started, it was fun!

start line
Basically, the course went all around the ampitheatre parking lot.  There were 5 bubble stations to run through, each dyed a different color.  A few of the stations had wimpy bubbles going, probably due to the wind, which was blowing them away. But others had tons of bubbles, enough that we were covered head-to-toe when we went through.  While there were some people running from station to station, most people, including us, were walking.

these were some of the wimpier bubbles

some huge bubbles

By the end, we were soaked with bubbles and our white shirts were stained with color.  But that wasn't the end of the fun!  At the finish line, they had more bubble blasters the the kid couldn't enough of. It was kind of like snow.

We are already signed up again for next year.  It was crazy fun, and the best part is that the whole family got to participate.  It was a very festive atmosphere.  I'm glad we had the later heat--because it was hot, we weren't as bothered at the end by the wet clothes.   One tip----some kids had goggles on, and I can see this would be a good thing.  It would be especially good for any child in a stroller, as the kids in strollers were COVERED in bubbles since they were so low to the ground---goggles would help protect the eyes.

Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap 2015

The San Diego Holiday Half Marathon is now in its 3rd year, but this was my first time running it.  The first year it didn't fit into my training for my half-Ironman, and my coach didn't want me running it and risking injury.  Last year I was on a New Year's cruise with my family.  So I was thrilled when I could finally sign up  for this local race!  The start is not far from where I live, and the course goes down the SR-56 bike path, a path that I frequently bike on en route to the coast.

As I'm marathon training, and it was 3 weeks away from this race (gulp) this actually fit it well with my plan. My coach wanted me to run 18 miles that day, so the idea of running 13 of them supported, with water stops and tons of people, was very appealing. The plan was for me to run the race, then immediately set out to do 5 more. I knew this would be hard, not only physically (this would be my longest training run to date) but mentally---after a half marathon, I want to collapse, not run 5 more miles!

Packet pickup was very easy the day before.  A quick stop at Road Runner Sports gave me my bib, long-sleeved tech shirt, and goodie bag (complete with a mylar blanket and some gloves--which I wore the next day).  It was very organized.

I made a critical mistake on race day. Because the start line was so close to my house, and I didn't need to be there until 7:00 (race started at 7:30, but the local chapter of Moms Run This Town [MRTT] was meeting at 7:00 for a group photo) I decided I didn't need to leave my house until 6:30. I thought I'd have time to spare! The problem was, of course, traffic.  I got to the race site in minutes, but sat in traffic for a while. In fact, the shopping center where I  had planned to park was full! I  ended up having to park a half mile away and hoof it to the meeting place.  A rookie mistake.  Even if the race is around the corner, I should always leave earlier than I think. I  knew better, and was upset with myself for this mistake.

I met the group for pictures, met up with two friends that I'd be running with (Andrea and Beth) and made our way over to the bathroom line, which didn't move at all!  We were still waiting when the National Anthem was sung!  We finally finished right when our corral was about to go off.  Nothing like rushing at the last minute!  As it was cold (in the high 30's), I was bundled in long pants, a long sleeve shirt, arm warmers under the shirt, with a throw-away jacket, throw-away hat, and throw-away gloves with hand warmers stuck in.  Of course, by mile 2, I was so warm I was able to shed all my throw-away clothes and soak up the sunshine.

Steve, my coach, had a plan for me----run the first few miles at a 1:1 ratio (run 1 minutes, walk 1 minute)....the next few at 2:1....the next few at 3:1....then back to 2:1 for the last mile.  The last 5 miles of my run (after the race) would be done at 1:1.  I felt good throughout the run. At times I got a little tired, but I never wavered from my race plan. It also helped to have Andrea and Beth there to chat with!  In fact, it was my first-ever half marathon not to use music at all (except for the half marathons that come at the end of my half-Ironmans---no music is allowed in triathlon). It was nice to have conversation to get my mind off the task at hand.

There were several aid stations with water--- only one had some sort of sports drink, a new one to me that was so disgusting that I spit it out.  I was glad I had brought my own!  We also passed one table over halfway through that had empty boxes of Honey Stingers----but they were all out by the time we arrived.  That was a big fail, as there were still tons of runners behind us.  A race in it's 3rd year should be prepared.  Again, I had my own nutrition and fuel, but know others may not have been as lucky.

Around mile 9 Andrea decided to slow down, as her asthma was acting up (she was also recovering from a cold). We had already discussed before the race that we would stick together as long as we could, but if I were faster, or she was faster, we'd pull ahead. I felt bad, but as we had discussed this earlier and I was using this as a training run for my marathon, not a fun run, I pulled ahead with Beth. I was happy to see Andrea a few miles later looking strong on an out-and-back!

The course is not too pretty, as I knew it wouldn't be---I've ridden that course literally countless times on my bike and knew most of us would be by the freeeway----but the time flew by. Soon we saw the finish line up ahead, and did a small sprint to cross.  We finished in about 2:44---slower than I usually am, but then again, I wasn't running hard, as I still had 5 miles left to run!  I got my medal,  stuffed it in my fuel belt, went to the bathroom, drank some pickle juice, and said goodbye to Beth and another friend I ran into---and was on my way!

 After 5 more miles at a 1:1 ratio (2.5 miles up the coast and back) I made it back in time to catch the shuttle back to the start. I was thrilled to run into another friend of mine waiting. In fact, this friend is currently battling breast cancer, is actively undergoing chemotherapy, and made it to mile 11 before she was pulled for not making the time requirement. So inspiring!

This race was a perfect end-of-the-year event for me. Close to my house, a not-too-challenging course, and a good event to continue training into the later months.  In fact, I am signed up to run it again in 2016---it will be good to have something to train for after my next half-Ironman (I'm doing my 4th, Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3, in September).  Yes, there were a few snafus (running out of fuel, and I heard that the shuttle line was a bit dangerous in the parking lot) but it was fun enough for me to re-enter.