I am so stoked right now! Seriously, our bodies are absolutely amazing. I was really doubting myself this past week. I came down with a cold on Tuesday that left my chest feeling tight, and this was right after resting and working to heal the pain I had in my right foot that started the Tuesday before that. My initial goal with the Operation Jack Half Marathon was to beat my average finish time of 1:45, I finished in 1:42 with an average pace of 7:47 per mile.
This race was very small - limited to only 500 runners. It was started by a father who's son, Jack, is autistic. This was it's fifth year running and I am loving these smaller races. Knowing that it benefits such a great cause doesn't hurt either. Yeah, I love the big races with the amazing expos and finish line extravaganzas, but I like the simplicity that comes with the smaller races as well as the lower price tag.
It was a difficult race to prep for given the holidays. My prerace meal consisted of honey baked ham and scalloped potatoes, followed by lots of cookies. I prepped my outfit the night before and decided to wear my new Pro Compression arm sleeves since the weather would be frigid. The morning of, I drank a cup of coffee, and took the O2 Gold supplement. I'd been really under the weather the last two days with a runny nose and congested chest, so I think the O2 Gold helped with my breathing and opening my lungs. I was able to keep my first 8 miles under 8 minutes and the last 4 just over 8.
This race was held at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa Del Rey, CA - right on the boardwalk. Bib pick up was the morning of - no expo. The weather was perfect. Sunny and clear with temps at 45° F. The race starts out north on the boardwalk and goes along Ballona Creek before it turns around at mile 4.5. You return on the same path, going past the starting line heading south for another 2.5 miles. The boardwalk isn't blocked for the run, but being the day after Christmas, there weren't many cyclists or folks walking. This course is flat until the last 4 miles. There's an incline right before mile 9 and mile 12. Luckily, you get the downhill on the other side of each. The full marathon course just runs the loop again.
Crossing the finish line is very different in a small race - it's very lackluster. There's not the huge crowd and volunteers handing you water and goodie bags. There was a volunteer who handed me my medal (which, by the way, is the absolute best medal I've ever gotten - see picture below), a volunteer who took my timing chip from my shoe, and a table with bagels, pretzels, bananas, and water cups. Simplicity at it's finest, but it's all about you. With a small race like this, I'm able to focus on just running, almost as if it's part of my training. So many running folks recommend doing a lot of races to get used to prerace jitters, understand the way your body reacts to the pressure, not feel like you have to PR every race because they are so far and few between - but that can get expensive when races are upwards of $100 for larger ones. That's also another benefit to finding smaller, local races.
Besides achieving my personal goal of beating my average 1:45 time, I was able to place first in my age group for females (18-29), 8th female overall, and 26th overall. For winning a spot in my age group, I received a handmade painting created by an person with autism! One of the most rewarding prizes I've ever received and I love it.
It was an amazing day and now I'm looking forward to getting back onto a normal nutritional path with the holidays behind us, and focusing on what training method to use for my marathon. More on that in the next few weeks!