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AFC Half Marathon Race Report... finally.

Posted Aug 19 2010 8:34am
Ever since I came home this past Monday, I've been a bit under the weather. I think I might have a sinus infection of sorts. Combined with being pretty sore from the race, the first few days back in Ohio weren't especially fun! I am feeling good today though, and decided it's high time I get back to reality and get this (first official!) race report under way.

The America's Finest City Half Marathon is advertised as being San Diego's most prestigious road race with 8,000 people entering to hit the pavement. This was my first half marathon back since my running injury back in Cleveland after the Pittsburgh and Cleveland half marathons, so I was really eager/excited/nervous to get my bid number on Friday at the race expo. It felt like it had been forever since I had been able to get my hands on one of those numbers!

Sunday morning came really early. After carbing up at Chianti in downtown San Diego with my mom, Catie, and her mom, my alarm and hotel wake-up call went off at 4am. Yikes! Why so early? Well, we had to get to Balboa Park (where the race finished) to get a shuttle to the race start which was at the Cabrillo National Monument. Once I was dressed and ready to go, I grabbed a water bottle, 2 gu packets, and a packet of shot bloks (breakfast of champions) and met up with Catie. As I mentioned previously, this was her first half marathon, so I was excited to be there with her.

We coordinated our outfits by accident! We never talked about what we were wearing.

We were quickly able to find the shuttle buses, so I hugged my mom goodbye (she was staying in Balboa Park to run in the 5k race and then to wait at the finish), got onto the bus, and cozied up in a backseat with Catie. I felt myself getting a little sleepy as soon as I sat down, but once the bus started moving I started getting ancy and couldn't wait to run. The bus ride seemed to go on forever, and as we climbed up and over some hills towards the end of it I realized that the beginning of the course was going to have some challenges! When we got off the bus, it was nearly pitch black out... and about two hours from the starting gun. Catie and I decided to entertain ourselves by taking pictures with her iPhone. Here I am, FREEZING at the start (thank goodness for that hotel towel...)

After what seemed like an eternity, the race was finally close to beginning. By the time the race had started, Catie and I had made some new friends (who were amused by our antics since we were cracking lots of inappropriate jokes to keep ourselves entertained), I had used the porta potties about 50 3 times, and I had eaten my entire pack of cran-razz shot bloks just to make sure I was *really* awake and ready to go. The only thing I have to complain about with this race is the start! I had come out of the porta potty and saw that everyone was moving forward out of the start area and into the starting corrals. This was news to me! I said my goodbye/good luck wish to Catie and began weaving my way through the crowd to the start corral.

I had 3 goals for this race1) Finish (ideally without reinjuring myself)
2) Come in sub-2 hours
3) Come in at a 1:55

I knew that if I wanted any shot at goals 2 or 3, I needed to get a good place in the start corrals. Luckily, I was able to position myself in between the 1:45 and 2:00 groups (there was nothing in between!) and proceeded to bend down and tie/re-tie/triple-tie my shoes. I checked my gels and made sure they wouldn't fall out of my short pocket, and made sure my pacing wristband for a 1:55 half was tucked in there as well. I didn't want it on my wrist because I knew I would obsess to much looking at it. As soon as I stood up, we were off! I had apparently zoned out and missed the starting gun, but before I could even process the race starting I was on the course.

The first two miles had some pretty good climbs which I was thankful for to get my legs really warmed up. The first mile clocked in around an 8:40 minute mile which was a little slow, but pretty much right on pace. It felt so good to be running, and it was perfect weather! 50-60 degrees, overcast, a little misty... MUCH different than the humidity I had been training in back in Ohio. After mile 2, the race seemed to fly by until about mile 5 because it was all downhill! This seemed like a lot of fun in theory, and it was, but once the downhills were over I knew my quads were going to be screaming later on. I was just hoping that I had picked up some reverse splits to give myself some "money in the bank" time wise. It was great on those first initial miles to see so many fans on the course! I especially appreciated the older couple that was up drinking mimosas.

After mile 5, the remainder of the course seemed to be flat for about an eternity. I have never been one to excel on "fast and flat" courses because I am so used to hills from all my trail running. At the 10k checkpoint, I had a time of 52:35 which was a 10k PR! I couldn't believe it. I was feeling good, good enough that after taking in an espresso flavored Gu I was able to pose for this shot (which is a running photo I *actually* like!)
Miles 6-8 were a wrap-around near the Sheraton Hotel on the water. It was a little boring, but once I came out of that I was still feeling good and could see downtown San Diego clearly. I knew I was doing well (I had stopped peaking at my timeband at this point) and was feeling really with it. I was running without my iPod, and was really focusing on what my body was doing and how I was feeling. I wasn't breathing really hard, but was sweating a lot so I knew I was going to have to drink more (looking back... I didn't drink enough! I only drank the two times I took in a Gu packet). Before I knew it, I saw the famous "Cheeseburger in Paradise" aid station where they were giving out cheesburgers and knew I was closing in on mile 10. Instead of a cheeseburger, I opted for my blueberry/pomegranate Gu and some water (I was careful not to grab beer or champagne by accident). I checked my watch, and my time was 1:26:25 which was faster than my 10 mile race time from April! At this point, I knew I was going to come in under two hours... it was just how much I could hold on to.

Enter the wall. Or, in this case, the mile and a half incline back to the finish. I started running up the hill and kept checking my watch. I was on pace at mile 10 to run a 1:52 half marathon, which was quickly slipping away. I didn't have enough in the tank, and was starting to get nervous about pushing to hard and reinjuring myself. I wanted to PR, and remembered what my dad had told me. He told me to remember that the Philadelphia Marathon was my end-goal, not a half marathon PR, and to treat the half marathons like good training runs. For the sake of playing it a little safe, I backed off my pace on the incline, and even walked a little to regroup. I was frustrated for doing so, but given how sore I ended up being Monday and Tuesday I'm glad I did this.

With a mile to go, I decided to just go for it. I pushed up the last incline, made a right turn, and back flying downhill for the last quarter mile of the race. I could hear the announcer, and I almost had tears in my eyes because I knew I had PR-ed at this point. I heard my mom yelling my name, and she was able to get this picture as I ran to the finish
Finish Time: 1:56:40!!!
Pace: 8:54 min/mile
Age Group: 55/320
Female: 624/3454
Overall: 1985/6643

As soon as I finished, I found my mom and hugged her as hard as I could. She had been the first person I called crying when they thought I had a stress fracture back in May and wouldn't be able to run Philadelphia. I got it together though, and started looking for Catie to come in. She did AWESOME! Her finish time was a 2:19:07 which is a phenomenal first half marathon time. I nearly tackled her at the finish line.

All in all, this race was amazing. It gave me the confidence boost I needed to focus on my marathon training. I know that I'm not speedster when it comes to running, but I know I've got a little something in me. I'll admit though, my legs were shredded AND I was actually really sore on the bottom of my feet! If you look in the picture of me pummeling Catie, I have my compression socks on to help my calf muscles recover. When I was putting them on, I was awkwardly balancing on one leg at a time because I was watching for Catie simultaneously. As I was doing this, I felt the bottom of my feet cramp up! Has this ever happened to you before? It was so painful, and it took until today to go away! I'm going for a little 5 mile run today on the trails just to see how the legs are feeling.

I have two more half marathons on the agenda this fall (the Buckeye Half Marathon in less than a week and a half and the Akron Half Marathon on September 25th). I'm not sure if I'll "race" them or just use them as training runs, but either way this was a great race for me. Thanks to everyone for the support!
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