December 20, 2013

Divas 5k Race Recap

Back in March, when I was at the expo for the San Diego Half Marathon, I came across a booth for the Divas Half Marathon.  It looked like a fun, women-centered race.  It promised a boa and tiara station before the finish line so you can finish like a diva, a rose and bubbly at the end, and your blinged-out medal given out by shirtless hunks.  I thought it looked like a blast, and, as I had no half marathons on my race schedule past August, decided to sign up. I convinced my friend Ingrid to sign up with me; it would be a fun girls' weekend up in Ontario (about an hour and a half north of San Diego).

But...I've been injured.  And while my herniated disc is MUCH better, I haven't been training enough to run a half marathon.  I could have muddled through, as I did at the America's Finest City Half Marathon in August, but I didn't want to risk injuring myself further.  I have my eye on the prize:  my second half-Ironman in March.  Everything I do now is for that.  With that in mind, I made the responsible decision to downgrade from the half marathon to the 5k.  Ingrid, too, has been injured, and downgraded to the 5k as well.

The day before the race was a dreary, rainy Saturday.  Ingrid and I drove up and parked at our hotel, the Doubletree, which happened to be the host hotel. This was the best choice of lodging because it was literally right next to the convention center, where the expo was, and right next to the start/finish lines of the race. And it was a nice hotel to boot!  We parked and immediately walked next door to the expo where we picked up our packets and adorable bright pink tech shirts.  The bibs were all personalized with "Diva XXX" (insert your name where the XXX is). It was a small but nice expo. Actually there were a few vendors there I hadn't seen before, with the most adorable running tops.  But as I was on a strict budget, I resisted. I did allow myself two treats:  two keychains, which were only $1 each.  I got one that says "runner girl" and one that has a swim/bike/run picture. 

After the expo, we had an early dinner and made a quick stop at Target for Ingrid to buy some cheap disposable gloves.  It was cold!  The projected temperature for the morning was around 40 degrees, which by San Diego standards is very chilly.  Back to the hotel room to read and relax---and get some sleep.

In the morning, we woke up earlier than we would have because I was supposed to run a mile as a warmup before the 5k. In fact, I had 7 miles on the agenda for the day, as prescribed by my coach (which I'll write about another time).  Ingrid agreed to come with me, so we bundled up and headed out the door.  As we ran, we ran by lots of women coming to the race, walking from their cars.  This is where staying at the host hotel came in handy--we were literally right at the start line.  Our 1 mile run truly lived up to it's name: by the time we came back to the hotel we were very warm, and I decided to not to wear my hat or ear warmers during the actual race. We did put on our sparkle skirts though---I mean, it WAS the Divas race!

Before we headed back down to line up for the 5k, I watched out the window as the half marathon was getting underway. I'm not going to lie---I was bummed. I was sad I was not part of that. I LOVE the half marathon distance. But, at the same time, I was very proud of myself for making the healthy choice to downgrade. At least I was still able to participate, and get a good run in.

Soon we went back downstairs and lined up for the 5k. Even though there were signs for different paces, no one was paying attention.  At the very front were a bunch of ladies who, when the horn blew, started walking, and walking SLOWLY, four abreast!  Not cool.

start line

Regardless, I was able to take off past them with a lot of weaving.  Soon I was running hard, similar to how I ran in the last 5k I did by myself (virtually every 5k I do is with my 9 year old son, at his pace). It's one thing to run/walk with him, but doing 3.1 at a faster pace for me (my fastest half marathon was an 11:22 pace) makes me want to throw up. Glancing at my Garmin, I was consistently running in the low 10's, even the 9's at times.  I did take a few walk breaks, as I couldn't sustain those paces, but for the most part kept it up.

While the course was nothing spectacular (city streets), the finish was fun. Right as I got close to the finish line volunteers were handing out plastic tiaras and bright pink feather boas. Total diva-ish. I put mine on, losing a few seconds when my tiara fell off and I had to retrieve it. I heard them call my name as I neared the finish line.  With a finish time averaging about a 10:45 pace, I was very pleased with myself.  Not my fastest 5k, but considering my fastest 5k had been a few weeks after my half-Ironman and I was in peak shape, I'll take it!  Right after I crossed, I was handed my medal (not as blinged-out as the half marathon medal, but still very nice and pretty) by a shirtless guy with great abs, a white rose, and a plastic champagne glass filled with sparkling cider. That was very cool.

post-race decked out in my bling

After the race I found Ingrid (who was just a few minutes behind me) and we went back to the hotel. I shed my medal, etc and headed out for another 3 mile run, making 7 for the day.  All in all, a great day of running.

Some thoughts about the race:
  • This race was very fun.  The best part was all the women.  It was obvious this was the first race (5k or half marathon) for many women, which was so awesome to see.  I saw a group of elderly ladies on the course---literally, one was pushing a walker.  I saw them again as I headed out on my post-race run; they were still out there heading toward the finish line, laughing and having a good time.  I also saw a woman with a walker; it appeared she had cerebral palsy or another movement disorder.  She was doing the 5k one step at a time, with her friend who was morbidly obese, also doing it one step at a time. I was so proud of them both.  And, while it was mostly women, I did see some men on both the 5k and half marathon courses. Each one was was wearing pink, whether it was a pink shirt or pink tutu. I loved their brave spirit!
  • I heard they had some logistical problems in other cities like DC, but here it seemed pretty flawless, at least for the 5k (I can't speak for the half marathon). That said, two things could be improved upon.  The 5k started 10 minutes past the advertised start time.  While 10 minutes isn't awful, if it were very hot, or any colder than it was, it would be.  Also, right after the runners cross the finish they are shuttled into a line for posed pictures against their Diva backdrop.  I didn't want a picture, and waited for a while before I realized I could move past the other people waiting.  There should be an exit for those runners just wanted to leave and not get a picture.
  • I loved the volunteers!  There was one water stop, which the runners passed twice. Each time I yelled out "thanks for volunteering", and, in unison, they all yelled back "thanks for running!"
  • When I saw the finish line up ahead, when I was mile 3 and still had 1/10 of a mile to go, I felt like I wanted to just stop and walk. I realized this is the case for me at all races!  Regardless of the distance (5k through half marathon) or type of race (road race or triathlon) when I see the finish line I feel tired and nauseous...literally, I usually have to talk myself through not throwing up!  I realize this is all mental, as I'm usually fine until I see the finish line. I need to do some exploring to figure out just why my mind wants to give up, and it affects me so much physically, with only 1/10 mile to go.
All in all, a fantastic race. I will likely not do this race again, as it's not very convenient in terms of travel, but I do recommend it. Very fun, and all the touches to make each women feel like a diva pay off.

December 6, 2013

Oceanside Turkey Trot 5k Race Recap

San Diego has not one, not two, but FOUR Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot to choose from.  So many!  I've only run one, the United Run for the Hungry, which was two years ago. Usually on Thanksgiving morning I'm too busy cooking to go to a race.  But this year was something different and special. My sister, R, was out visiting from Texas with her family.  My niece and nephew (ages 11 and 9, respectively) wanted to run their first 5k with me.  And this year they have an exchange student from Switzerland staying with them, and this was to be her first 5k as well! Also joining the gang would be my 9 year old son, D, and my best friend.  I let my sister's family choose among the four possible runs, and they quickly on the Oceanside Turkey Trot, mainly because of it's location--on the Pacific Ocean. 

Although packet pickup was available the two days before the race, we opted to pick up on race morning.  Normally I like to take care of all this before race day, but with my sister not arriving until Wednesday night, early pickup was not possible. Since Oceanside is a good 40 minutes away, and I didn't know what the parking situation would be like (there was also a 5 mile race starting at 7:00 a.m., which would further add to the parking problem) we left my house at 6:45, which I hoped would be plenty of time for an 8:25 race start.  As it turned out, parking was very hard, so I was glad we'd left early.

I decided to dress up in costume for this race, in a Thanksgiving theme. We saw a lot of people with turkey hats, etc...but I think my costume idea was unique:  we were footballs!  I found football hats in the dollar bin at Target and was able to get enough for all 7 of us.  I wore my Dallas Cowboys football jersey, and a few others in our group wore football shirts as well.  Hey, football is just as important a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey is!


Once parked, we easily found our way to the registration tables where we received our bibs and commemorative timing chips ( t-shirts were given out to finishers at the end).  We then had time to kill, which we spent in the back corral.  This was a mistake.  It took forever for our corral to cross the start line, and that was with all the walkers.  We had a lot of walkers to weave around.  But it was too crowded in the corrals to have moved up.  In the future, if I do this race again, I will get there even earlier and line up in the appropriate corral for running my pace.

Once we crossed the start, and got past all the walkers, we settled into our pace.  By "we" I mean my son and my niece.  My best friend and the exchange student were right ahead of us for the first half of the race, but we took a walk break and lost them.  My sister and nephew were only a few minutes behind us, doing a run/walk.  The first half of the race was on a regular street---but the second half took a turn west, with a spectacular view of the Pacific laid out in front of us. We then turned north and ran the last mile on the street adjacent to the ocean.  The weather was perfect---I was in short-sleeves and got hot. A truly magnificent run.

My son, niece and I ran most of the way, only taking a few walk breaks. I was so proud of them both, especially my niece, who truly rocked her first 5k!  Once we got to the finish line, the kids sprinted ahead of me and crossed.  Once there, we got our medals (a great touch for a 5k) and found my best friend and the exchange student, who had already finished.  Just a few minutes later my sister and nephew crossed.   More pride!  To be there for my sister's, niece's and nephew's first race was amazing.  We got our (cotton) t-shirts, given only to finishers, and proceed to come home, shower and cook.

I would definitely do this race again if I do another Turkey Trot.  It was much better organized than the one I did a few years ago (this year, that particular race was short on distance on both the 5k and 10k...this race clocked me in at a perfect 3.13 per my Garmin).  The views of the ocean are unparalleled. I loved the wonderful costumes people ran in. As I said, the only thing I would do differently is get there earlier to get in a corral of runners, rather than walkers.  All in all, it was a GREAT start to the Thanksgiving holiday!

In January I will again be running with my niece and nephew, this time in Houston. I can't wait, mainly because they were so excited!  They told me the race was one of their biggest highlights from their trip to California.  Maybe they've inherited the racing bug from their aunt? I can only hope