My favorite race turned into one of the worst days for racing. The heat on Sunday was insane! I have to give serious props to all of the runners who came out because it was tough. Even with that brutal heat, it was one of the most fun race days I've ever experienced!
So many GRVL Runners were running and supporting! It was Keri, Jose, and Allison's first half marathon, Miguel's first marathon (I didn't get any photos with him!), and I paced Juan to a PR! We were such a strong running family on Sunday and it made me so happy to be a part of this community.
A bunch of us got together on Saturday afternoon to make signs for all of our cheering squad to hold. Finished products:
Normally, the marathon starts at 6am, and the half marathon starts at 7:30am. Due to the heat, we were given the option to start the half marathon with the marathon at 6am. This meant that you wouldn't get the half marathon pacers, and you weren't able to place in your age group. Given that this is such a big race (25,000+), there wasn't a very good chance for an average runner like myself to place. The next goal I have for the half marathon is a 1:30 finish time. The female winner of the half this year came in at 1:14. No way I was going to be in the top 3 in my age group with that 16+ minute gap. So, I decided, like many people, to run at 6am.
Only a few of the GRVL folks decided to run at 7:30, so all of us 6am'ers met at the Renaissance hotel off Ocean around 5:30 that morning to use the very nice facilities they have (heated toilet seats). I started the morning with my normal pre race apple (no Honeystinger chews since it was just a half marathon). For some reason, my belly was a little jumbly though. Once we had the whole crew together, we went down to the start line near rainbow lagoon. Of course, I went to the porto potty line again. There were so many more people because of the marathon and half marathon runners and most of the porto potties were already out of toilet paper at 5:45am! The bike tour had just gotten over the start when I was coming out of the porto potty. Miguel, Keri, and Juan were waiting for me and we made our way to the start.
I was pacing Miguel and Juan to a 1:45 finish. Miguel's PR was 1:44, and Juan's was 2:07, so I wasn't sure how that was going to go down, but I just intended to keep a solid 8 minute pace for 13.1 miles. We said goodbye to Keri and jumped into the front of the pack. The beginning of this race is always a struggle to find your way out of the pack. I led us out hoping that Juan and Miguel could follow me through the crowd until it broke apart. Juan stayed close, but I lost sight of Miguel behind us around mile 4. I wanted to slow down to allow him to catch us, but I realized the point of pacing is to maintain the appropriate pace whether you lose your group or not. Juan was holding it down, so we charged on.
I wasn't sure if the course was long because this was my first year running it with a Garmin. I tried to get a few of our early miles just below 8 minutes so that we could have some time on the back end if it happened to be long. Even though Juan and I have run a few GRVL runs side-by-side, they've been shorter runs averaging 8:30 -9 minute miles. I knew from other runners that he could be fast when he wanted to be. Juan is definitely a person who I've grown very fond of over the last 8 or 9 months that I've gotten to know him. He loves the run because he loves his fellow runners. He'll pace with me at 8:30 and he'll pace with someone else at an 11 minute pace. He loves to run with people. I knew he wanted this PR though and I was so excited to help him get it.
The first 5 miles of the race were easy since the sun was down, and Juan was doing great. We kept our pace on the 2 tiny hills of the course and used the downhill parts to our advantage. Once we got to mile 7, the sun was already up. The next 2.6 miles are straight into the rising sun. On such a hot day, this was a make it or break it spot in the race for a lot of people. This was where Juan's responses to my questions of "Are you ok? Do you need water?" slowed and eventually stopped. This is also where we saw our amazing cheer section!! They really lifted our spirits. Cong even jumped on the course path with us and gave Juan some of his water while we kept running.
I could tell at the turn around to go back to the finish at mile 9.5, that Juan was not going to catch back up to me. He had fallen a few paces behind me at mile 9 and stayed there. I wasn't going to lose sight of him though, and slowed my pace just a bit. I kept turning to make sure he was still there, shouting how much more we had left and letting him know he was doing a great job. Mile 12 was where we saw our cheer squad again! And again this really helped in the final mile of the race when everyone seems to want to quit. The final turn in the race takes you to Shoreline Drive and a nice downhill finish. I sprinted, hoping I could stay in the 1:45 minute, but I ended up finishing in exactly 1:46:00. So close! Juan came in just 48 seconds after me, claiming a killer 31 minute PR! i was so freaking proud of him!!!!!
We were the first GRVL Runners who crossed the finish line, so we waited for everyone else to come in. Miguel came in shortly after us, and then Jolene, and then Peter and Jackie. Keri came in and she was so happy! I was worried with the heat and this being her first half marathon that she would hate the experience, but she was so emotional and happy after seeing everyone cheering out on the course!
We ended up in the beer garden after we got everyone together, and then we all went to eat. By the time k got home it was 2pm and I was pooped, but so happy with the day.
It's been a tough recovery. I've run every day since, but I can't get any speedwork done. So, easy miles and yoga are on the list for now. There's no time to rest with the California International Marathon in just 8 weeks! I think I will reconsider back to back race weekends from now on.