San Diego Half Marathon Race Recap
Holy hills this was a tough race! I knew when I signed up for this race that it would be a challenging one, but this hill was like no other. I like doing at least one race (preferably a half marathon) during a marathon training cycle to give me feedback on my fitness level. It was a huge confidence booster during NYC training to go sub 90 minutes at the Long Beach Half. I had about 4 more weeks of fitness under my belt than I did going into the half this past weekend, so my confidence wasn't all that high on Sunday.
I chatted with my coach a few days before the race and I confirmed I didn't think my fitness was at a 1:28 yet, so my goal was to stay with the 1:30 pacer and hope I had some juice left to take the massive downhill at the end and make up some speed. She agreed that was a good strategy and this wasn't my goal race, so no need to overthink it.
It was raining when Ricky and I drove down to SD on Saturday. The weather said the rain would clear before the race and the weather would be in the 60s on race day. Pretty warm, but the cloud cover would at least prevent overheating. We went to the expo as soon as we got down there. It's a pretty small expo on one of the piers near the water, but pretty easy to get through everything. We didn't have a ton of time since we stopped in Encinitas for lunch, so as soon as we picked up my bib, we went to the store to grab some snacks. We did quite a bit of walking to the expo and the store and back to our hotel, so I didn't do a shakeout run. Normally I would lose my mind over something like missing my shakeout, but I just pushed it out of my mind and focused on what I could do to rest up before the race.
It was tough for me to get enough carbs on Saturday. Not because I wasn't trying, but there wasn't a close option for Italian food that wasn't outrageously priced (sorry, I'm not gonna pay $25 for pasta with marinara sauce), so we went to Tender Greens and I probably should've asked for 2 servings of rice. I made sure to eat an apple when we got home from dinner. At this point, the weather said the rain wasn't going to clear up until 9 the next morning and it was coming down pretty hard. I grabbed a trash bag from the hotel just in case I needed it, but all I had to run in was a sports bra. I was hoping for the best.
We went to bed early and I was having anxiety about the time change. I set like 15 alarms, and by the time they started going off, I felt like I'd barely slept. I got up and did my routine, ate my breakfast, and got dressed in my trash bag. The weather said no rain, just overcast - yah! When I walked outside, it was pretty humid, but I kept the trash bag on just in case. We stayed about a mile from the start, so I jogged down there to get my warm up. I immediately got into the porto pottie lines, and while they moved pretty fast, I didn't have time to do my strides afterwards. I found the 1:30 pacer and chatted him up. I asked what his strategy was for the hill at mile 8. He said he was going to pull back and hold 7:20 or so because there'd be lots of room to make up for it on the downhill on the other side. COOOOOL. 7:20s sounded easy to the 6:40s I wanted to hold. Ahhh I was in for a rude awakening.
We finally got started. The first 8 miles are super flat. We were hitting 6:45s/6:50s and I felt pretty comfortable. I got a little confident and told myself that maybe a PR was possible today and to stay positive. I ran a little ahead of the pacer and held onto a girl who was keeping a solid 6:45 pace. Once we got to mile 7, I kept telling myself, "One more mile until you have to start fighting." Just before mile 8, there are 2 smaller hills that were almost straight up. I stayed confident though and we finally made a turn to the 'big" hill. My stomach dropped because I knew it was going to break me - if you've ever run Boston, this was Heartbreak hill status. At this point, I kept an eye on the pacer. If I kept him in sight, I could catch him on the other side of the hill. Half way up the hill, my quads started to burn so badly. Like nothing I've ever experienced.
My pace slowly dropped and the pacer kept pulling away. I somehow kept pushing, but at this point, my pace dropped to almost a 9:00 mile. I finally saw the top, mile 10 or so, and made it through. I was expecting an immediate descent, but the course flattened out. It was soooo hard to pick up pace again because my legs were so trashed. I got down to a 7:20 and that felt hard AF. I knew there was a downhill coming, so I kept pushing on even though I thought I was now in the 1:32 range. I FINALLY saw the downhill and my legs picked up. I just tried to go as fast as my legs would allow because at this point they were finished. The downhill helped push me into the 6:20 range and I was trying to tell myself how many more laps I had on the track so I would keep trying.
We got onto the straight away and I could see Petco Park. I looked down at my watch and the 1:31 was still in reach, so I pushed with all I had. It was pretty cool finishing in the stadium. I stopped my watch and had 1:31:03 and 13.23 miles. The course seemed like it was going to be long since mile 3. Everyone's watches were going off early at each mile marker, so I really got a 1:30:14 based on my pace. Either way, I was still ok with my results. I walked away feeling a bit defeated by the hill, but I was within the range I thought I was capable of and if it was a flat course, I would've been able to hit a 1:28, which I didn't think was possible going in. Overall, great feedback from this race on my fitness level at this point with just 6 and a half more weeks to sharpen things up before Eugene.
One of the reasons why I picked this race was because I wanted to meet my athlete, Debra. She nailed a 6 minute PR the weekend before at the Napa Valley Marathon with a 3:15:43 finish, and she does this race every year. It fit with my training and I was so excited that she was also going to be there. One of the reasons why I love coaching is people like Debra - I feel lucky to be a part of her running journey and she is seriously badass. She juggles a full time job, 2 small kids, her family, and 60+ mile weeks. And she's just the sweetest ever. Overall, a great weekend!
First race of 2018 is done!