Two posts in one day...wow! But I figured I should share why I'm athlete before I share my first race report....so here it goes. Rock N' Roll San Diego had it's first half marathon today and I was lucky enough to gain an entry...that is reason enough for a party. But in all reality I was pretty stoked to be able to run another half marathon on home turf and to have at least one month of solid tri training courtesy of Bryan Hill behind me in order to back it all up. I ran 1:57 in Carlsbad and knew I could knock a few minutes off that time. I wanted to run 1:50...but secretly I really wanted to do 1:49. But that would be an 8 minute PR in only 5 months. My longest run prior to the race was 8 miles. I've done a lot of speedwork, but no long runs to speak of. So I knew it would be interesting. I also knew I had to maintain at least an 8:24 average to reach the 1:50 goal. Off the bike this isn't too difficult for me, but on cold legs I wasn't sure how those earlier miles would treat me. Also, a time of 1:50 would be halfway to my crazier goal of qualifying for Boston late next year (nuts, I know...but sometimes I like to aim high). So overall, I came into the race today ready to hurt, sweat, cry, and possibly puke...I hadn't ruled that out.
When the alarm blared at 2:45 I crossed the crying off my list. Geez! Why the hell do I do this to myself?! But up I was and quickly dressed and got ready. I had taken my trusty Immodium the night before and all was well in IBS world. So I grabbed some food (egg whites and half and Optimal bar), grabbed my gear check back, said goodbye to the hubby and headed out with mom, Bex, and J. We drove down to Qualcomm where we promptly boarded an MTS bus along with Linda. It was a longer trip then last year to get to Balboa park, but we got there with plenty of time to spare. Bex and I marveled at the massive amounts of porta potties available and the water, fruit, and bagels that were offered so many times (it doesn't take much to impress us that early in the morning). I kept trying to push away the nerves that I had over the idea of really trying to make myself hurt during the race...I just concentrated on getting ready and warmed up.
We met up with the RU crowd and our coach to get a proper warm up and stretch session in. This was probably the first time I did a REAL warmup...and it really did make a difference. After leaving our RU peeps Bex, J, and I headed back to the bathroom line again. While waiting we met a few people trying to BQ...really inspiring...and I kept thinking how happy I was that I still had a year before I planned to inflict that much pain upon myself. Once the National Anthem was sung and the corrals started moving I kept watching for my corral to move. They were doing wave starts and I figured that I still had time to go to the bathroom and catch the 1:50 pace group too. But the next time I looked up I saw the 1:50 sign jogging away. I made a split second decision, hugged Bex and J, and ran to the corrals. I figured I could pee in 13.1 miles.
I spent the next 5 minutes in panic because I was having a hard time making my way through the crowd to catch up to the 1:50 pacer. I knew that I was being chipped timed, but for some reason it was extremely and suddenly important to me to be RIGHT with this group and possibly in front of them. I had my Garmin on, but I wanted and "in your face" reality check with my goal running in front of or behind me for the next 13 miles.
I finally caught up to them and settled in for the ride. I was feeling great as we ran towards Mercy...I glanced at the roof to see if I could see any coworkers, but no one was up there. I had my iPod going at full blast and had made a "PR" mix the night before so I could have all my inspirational songs playing for the whole run. I was feeling amazing and pulled ahead of the 1:50 group as we rounded a corner...now I do not remember many specifics about the course as I was fully zoned for most of the race...
My next memory was coming up to the turn off for the 163, I don't remember what mile this was. As the full marathoners headed straight into downtown, the half marathon peeled off onto the freeway. I have never been so happy to NOT be running a full marathon as I was at that moment...again, thank God I have another year. I was so happy in fact that I high fived the cop sitting on his motorcycle and thanked him. He looked fairly perplexed as I ran away. As I eased onto the 163 I realized that this was a much longer stretch then I had been required to run for the full marathon the previous year...oh well...better crank up the tunes. As I came under the overpass I looked down onto another section of the freeway in time to see the handcyclists doing the full marathon as they came onto the freeway from another entrance. Up ahead were thousands of runners...it was a beautiful site...gave me the chills...ok, moment over...keep running.
The 163 was tough, graded, angled, and long. But there were a few high points on that stretch of race. First was the Navy water station. Seeing all those servicemen and women in their uniforms made me so proud. I teared up a little as I took a Cytomax from one of them. I get a little emotional during races...racing hard and doing my best kind of leaves me a little raw I guess. I downed the drink with a GU and got back into my rhythm. I was still in front of the 1:50 group and feeling good. A few minutes later I started to see trucks, bikes, scooters, etc. pulling up the road beside me as they led the way for the first place males. Seeing those men run was beyond ridiculous. They literally flew...I don't know that their feet touched the ground. They were barely sweating or showing any signs of working hard...superhuman...and so inspiring.
After they passed me and I came up on the end of the 163 I was swiftly passed by the 1:50 pacer. I went into full panic mode at this point. I ran to catch up and was horrified when I glanced at my watch and realized they were running sub 8 minute miles...wait...we only have to average 8:24 to make the time goal...why the HELL are we running this fast. I briefly considered letting them go...but then I stopped and asked myself the same questions I ask Bex when we are running. Are you hurt? Are you dying? Can you keep going? Ok...then shut up and run. So I did...I shut up my head and I ran. It hurt a bit and I knew I still have a while to go...but I ran. I knew my body could do it...now I just had to convince my mind.
An amazing thing happened after that...I passed the pacer again. I think he slowed down, but hey, I'll take it. So as we came up Friar's Road I got my second wind. It was around mile 8 by now. It was at this point that Bryan had said to let loose. I had managed 8:30's up until that point because I knew I would negative split and feel better later. So once I passed that 8 mile mark I sped up to 8 minute miles. I was feeling great, another GU was down along with Cytomax from every aid station. 2 more miles later I was face to face with the 10 mile marker. I glanced at my watch...1:26...ok so to make my goal I have to run a 24 minute 5K. Hmm...my 5K PR is 23:21...this should be a race to watch folks. I gave myself another pep talk...mostly about how it was only 3.1 miles and how bad could it really hurt...and I let it go. I knew I should try to keep sub 8's the whole way to give myself some breathing room. So that's what I did. I also resorted to another race technique I use and just started to pick off runners. I see someone faster, I try to catch them, pass them, pick another runner...so on and so forth. This was how I made it through the next few miles. Around mile 12 I began to see familiar faces. I also saw our Team Excel and that gave me an extra boost. As I rounded the corner and saw the 13 mile marker I knew I was going to make my goal. My watch said 1:49...but since I couldn't see the seconds I didn't know if it would turn to 1:50 as I was coming down the chute...so I just let it all go. I looked later and know now that I was running sub 6's coming down the chute. I crossed the finish line and my watch still read 1:49...nothing like hitting a goal on the head. I threw my arms over my head, mainly because I couldn't breath...and walked to get my medal. I grabbed all the food and water I could and quickly headed out to see everyone else finish and find Bryan.
Overall an amazing race for me. It has been so great to be able to finally see what my body is capable of. I now know I can go faster. I know that I will have an even better time in Vegas in December and I know I WILL make it to Boston...bring on the PR's!