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Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon

Posted Feb 07 2011 1:44pm

It’s official!

I ran my second half marathon yesterday and reached a new PR (personal record) with a time of 1:51:00. As you can see from above, I actually ran further than 13.1 miles, but who’s counting? (That is a TOTAL lie–I was totally dying/ready to cry when I saw that the race didn’t end at 13.1 miles!) It was an awesome race and I really loved (almost) every minute of it.

Yesterday, I woke up bright and early at 6:00 so I could eat, digest, shower, and relax before the 8:00 start time. I know it seems strange to shower before a race, but I showered before every soccer game I played in college and it just feels right to me. You’ve got to stick with what works for you on race day! For me, that means a pre-race breakfast of oatmeal, diced apple, and some peanut butter. I like my oatmeal very soupy, so I cook 1/2 cup rolled oats and 1/2 a diced apple in about 1.5 cups water. I then added in 1/4 tablespoon of peanut butter. This breakfast got me through all of my long training runs, so I knew I had to stick with it on race day. I finished eating around 7:00, and then I had about half an hour to collect my gear, fill my water bottles, and take some deep breaths before heading out the door.

The start of the race was about a 10-minute walk from my apartment, so I met up with my friends Evan and Kelly (Kelly ran the race) nearby and together we walked over to the start. I was totally blown away by the start of the race! At my first half marathon , there were about 500 registered runners, and everyone just lined up near the start of the race right before the gun went off. At the KP Half yesterday, there were over 10,000 registered runners for the 5k and half marathon, so the place was packed. Folks were lined up by pace group based on their anticipated finishing time. I knew I wanted to finish around 1:50, but one of Kelly’s friends–an experienced marathoner and triathlete–suggested that we line up in front of our pace groups because the race start tends to be so chaotic and crowded. I took his suggestion and started the race with the 6-minute milers. Maybe someday!

As soon as the starting bell rang, I turned on my music and settled in to run my own race. I was determined not to start out too fast, so even though people were passing me left and right I kept my first mile to a comfortable 8:26/mile pace. It was incredibly exciting and invigorating to run with so many people! The race organizers closed the streets of the course to traffic, and it was really fun to run down the deserted roads of San Francisco. The first two miles flew by as we ran down the Panhandle, and before I knew it I saw my cheering squad at mile 2!

I feel so fortunate to live in the same city as my parents, but more than anything I am incredibly grateful that they are such supportive, loving people. When I played soccer, they attended as many games as they possibly could and always cheered loudly for me from the sidelines. Since I started racing last year, J has joined my little cheering squad. At my triathlon in September, my parents, J, and our family dog were the best spectators I could have ever asked for. They caught me multiple times during the course, and gave me the extra bit of encouragement and support I needed to cross the finish line. They were just as wonderful yesterday. My parents and J took their bikes and followed the course the whole way. They cheered me on at miles 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, and then met me at the finish. It was so, so wonderful to have them there cheering for me (and snapping action shots!)yesterday!

After seeing my fans at mile 2, I felt instantly re-energized. The next three miles went by quickly as we headed back into Golden Gate Park, and I kept a strong, steady 8:25/mile pace. Around mile 5, the course started to head downhill out to Ocean Beach. Right at the 5-mile marker, I heard the 1:50 pace leader behind me, so I slowed down and joined the group of 1:50 runners. It was so great to run with a pace leader because she actually coached us while we ran. On the downhill portion, she gave us advice about our form (shoulders down, tread lightly, shorten the strides) and helped us keep our pace.

We hit Ocean Beach at mile 7, and I was feeling great. Miles 7-13 were along the Great Highway, which was completely exposed and offered no shade at all. This weekend has been unseasonably warm in San Francisco, and temperatures yesterday were in the 70s. On a whim on Saturday, I had purchased a visor to wear during the race. I don’t think I would have been able to run without it. I was still feeling strong and fast by mile 7, but the heat definitely got to me during the second half of the race. I took my Gu around mile 7.5 and chased it with some water, but I finished both of my water bottles shortly after that and was dependent on the aid stations ofr the rest of the race. Next time around, I will definitely take water from the aid stations FIRST and use my own bottles between aid stations. It wasn’t smart for me to finish both my bottles and be reliant on the stations.

In my first half marathon, I watched my average time sink from a too-fast 8:00/mile at the start to 8:30/mile by the finish. This time around, I was determined to get negative splits, so I was very conscious of my pace in the last 6 miles. From miles 7-13, my pace went from 8:25-26/mile to 8:23/mile by the end. This was a big victory for me but it took a lot out of me to achieve it. Miles 8-11 were unbelievably hot. I was thirsty and definitely feeling overheated, but I pushed myself to stay in front of the 1:50 pacer and not lose time. I took water from every aid station in an effort to stay well-hydrated and just forced myself to stay focused and concentrated on my goal. When I saw my fans around mile 10, I was NOT looking like a happy camper (hence the photo of my back!)!

As soon as I reached mile 11, I knew I just had to dig deep and push it until the end. Unfortunately, my iPod stopped right as I passed the 11-mile marker, so I was left with no music for the last two miles! All around me, folks were slowing down considerably and looking exhausted, but I knew I was close to the finish line. After I passed mile 12, I knew I was almost done, and I gave everything I had until the end. Right before the 13-mile marker, the course went back into Golden Gate Park and up a hill before leveling out at the finish. I almost cried when I saw the uphill and realized that I was already past 13.1 miles, but I sprinted across the finish line and into the chute just a few steps in front of the 1:50 pacer. My Garmin read that my official time was 1:51:00 with an average pace of 8:23/mile–7 seconds ahead of my goal pace! I met up with my parents and J at the finish and we waited for Kelly to finish her race. (Congratulations on a great race, K!) It was so wonderful to see my fans at the very end–they were such a great support team!

The first thing I did after the race was drink a lot of water. I was really thirsty, and I did not want to get dehydrated and sick like I did after my first half marathon. I also stretched and ate a bit as we strolled through the post-race expo. My stomach felt a bit queasy all day yesterday so it was difficult for me to eat a lot, but I managed to have half a banana and a lot of water immediately after the race. I know that drinking water definitely helped with my recovery, and I am glad I learned my lesson about staying well-hydrated!

All in all, I absolutely loved the Kaiser half marathon. I have now run a tiny half marathon and a huge one, and I took home some very important lessons from both races. Yesterday, I learned that in my next race I need/want to:

Drink from the aid stations before I drink from my own supply. I didn’t want to waste time stopping at an aid station at the beginning of the race, but as a result I was left without any water during a rough stretch. I plan to drink from the aid stations first and save my own bottles for later so that I am not completely reliant on the aid stations.

Move out of the way if I’m not stopping at an aid station. The aid stations were like minefields of cups and other trash, and the pace of the whole group slowed down considerably around the stations. If I’m not stopping for water, I should move to the other side of the course so I don’t get stuck in the aid stations traffic.

Be prepared for the weather. It’s usually in the 50s and low 60s in San Francisco yearround, but this weekend was an exception. I’m so glad that I bought the visor on Saturday, and I was really happy to have my hydration belt with me, too. I know now that I really need to check the weather before I run and be prepared for anything and everything! For more tips about running in hot weather check out this post.

Monitor my pace and stay with a pace group. With 10,000 other runners around me and the adrenaline surging through me, I had a hard time calming myself down at the start and running at a pace that I knew I could maintain for 13.1 miles. I monitored my pace very carefully for the first four miles or so to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it. Running with a pace group also really helped me stay focused, committed, and strong. I stayed about 30-60 seconds in front of the group for the majority of the race, but it was wonderful motivation to know that they were near me, and I really felt like they kept me on track, especially during the tough patches.

I had so much fun running the Kaiser half, and I’m glad I learned some important lessons from the experience. I also feel so great that I achieved a new PR without making myself sick, dehydrated, or exhausted. I ran faster than I ever have before for a long run and really pushed myself physically and mentally, but I also made sure to eat a Gu on the course and stay well-hydrated. This is a big accomplishment for me. As a result of treating myself better during the run, my recovery has been really smooth. I felt tired but great yesterday, and I feel awesome today. My legs are a little tight and I am guzzling water like it’s nobody’s business, but all in all I feel mostly fine. I’m waiting for my appetite to kick in, though, and my stomach to settle down a bit–I haven’t been eating enough to recover from my long runs in the past few weeks because I haven’t been hungry, but I know I need to replenish, especially after yesterday.

I don’t know what my next running adventure will be, but I had an amazing run yesterday and I feel so fortunate that I am at a place physically and mentally where I was able to learn from my experiences, work hard, and accomplish my goals. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

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