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.
Safety First (and second and third)
2 hours ago