What if you planned a race that would take place in the summertime. It would be a half marathon (with a 5k alongside) that would start at 6:00 in the morning. The course would be a huge loop through a parking lot, then out on a boring street for several miles, a turnaround to head back along that same bland route. The last three miles or so of the half marathon would again be through the parking lot. Instead of a t-shirt or tech shirt, you gave out trucker’s hats. You’d hand out no other swag, you’d offer only water and green Gatorade on the course. Oh, and no age group prizes, just over all trophies for each race.
But let’s say you have a concept. Two really. The first is to call your race the Costume Party Run and encourage everyone to dress up. The second is to offer what may be the world’s largest, blingiest finishers’ medal. Ever.
Having experienced this I can tell you. You would have the MOST AMAZING RACE EVER! Or close, anyway. You would have about 2,000 runners, the majority in costume, out there mainly to have a good time, celebrate running, and to get their picture taken.
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have already seen the costume that I chose. I know I’ve been teasing you with it for weeks. I decided on the Shoe Dog, the mascot from Road Runner Sports, both because he is a Dalmatian, and you all know how much I love my spotted running partner, and because as a sponsor and host of the race expo, Road Runner Sports and the Shoe Dog seemed appropriate and fun.
After stopping by the expo on Saturday to pick up my race bib (and trucker’s hat), I found the Shoe Dog and threw down the gauntlet.
He didn’t seem too concerned.
After the expo, we headed to Encinitas to check into our hotel. We almost always stay in North San Diego County no matter where our event takes place. The race was at Qualcomm Stadium, very close to my son’s house, but about a 20 minute drive from Encinitas (that’s at 5:00 in the morning, probably twice as long any other time of the day). It’s just our favorite place to be.
We walked to lunch (full vegan food report coming in a day or so…we ate at some of our favorites, including Native Foods, the Roxy, and the Lotus Cafe), then down to the beach to see the renovations that Encinitas has made at Moonlight Beach. This sounds like a lot of walking, but it was probably about a mile. Not too bad for the day before a half marathon.
When we finally settled in for the night, I laid out my costume (for the photo op of course). Since I couldn’t stand the idea of wearing an actual collar, I had decided to wear a bandana around my neck. I did want the tag though, so I took it off of the collar and tied it into my shoelaces. It is an old one of Sydney’s (my Cattledog), that has the wrong phone number.
With the race starting at 6:00 am, we set the alarm for 3:30. That gave us an hour to drink coffee, have a bite, get the bodily functions out of the way before heading south. I am saying “we” even though I was the only one running the race. For the first time that we could remember, Alan was the official spectator, cheerleader, and cameraman. In the past, he has either run the race or announced it. I kind of liked it!
As I set about putting on my costume, I dug through my suitcase for my sports bra. Uh oh. I’m not sure exactly how I managed to do this, but I forgot to pack one! Not a lot of choice here, I ended up running the race in a lightly padded sweater bra. If you look closely at the pictures, you can probably see my bra straps. Um, if you really wanted to.
We arrived at Qualcomm about 5:10 to see a long snake of car taillights streaming into the stadium parking lot. Fortunately, it moved quickly and it was easy to find parking. I added the finishing touches to my costume, grabbed my bottle of InRefresh, my inhaler, and my Huma gel, and we headed toward the sound of the music. It was pretty easy to see we were in the right place.
It wasn’t long before they called us to the start line, though I noticed the deejay had a few folks still moving on the dance floor (yes, there was a deejay and a dance floor). As I got into the chute, they were just taping down the timing mats, which kind of worried me since it was about 10 minutes before race time, but I needn’t have worried. The race started exactly on time, after instructions that the half marathoners were to follow the cop on the motorcycle, and the 5k-ers to follow Michael “Blackson” on a bike.
As I mentioned, the first two or so miles were around the stadium parking lot, but I didn’t mention that there were two bands and a music station out there. That helped a lot. Since it was a big loop, you passed them twice on the way out and twice on the way home.
As for me, I was a little concerned during the first mile. I felt like my heart rate was too high, and I felt a little shaky. Fortunately, I settled down, pretty close to my goal of about nine minute miles. I drank a little bit at each water station throughout the race. They were available every mile, stocked with water and Gatorade, so lack of fluids was never an issue.
I did notice one little mix up (that didn’t matter to my race). At the point where the 5k was to split off, there wasn’t a sign, just Michael “Blackson” standing there telling the 5k runners to head right. The problem was that a few got by, I heard one ask a photographer as we headed out of the parking lot where was the 5k supposed to run. Oops! I set him straight, but I’m afraid he got an extra 1/2 mile in his race.
The weather was perfect. Starting at 6:00 is a great idea, it stayed cool (around 70 degrees) and cloudy the whole race. Heading out onto Friar’s Road, which fronts the stadium, there is a slight uphill. I should point out that this course is really, really flat. Basically the only hills were when we’d run over a freeway, or the slight undulations of the road. In fact, it was so flat it was pretty boring. It is on the outskirts of San Diego, not downtown, not walker friendly, so there was nobody on the sidelines. There were a couple bands, which helped.
I hit the turn-around at about mile 6.5 and that is when the race started to get fun. Not because I was feeling so wonderful. I had to use my inhaler shortly after the turn-around, but because now I could see all the runners, in costume, coming behind me. It was great! So many people had really taken the time to be creative and have some fun with their costumes. I would estimate at least 75-80% of the runners were in some sort of costume, and as you can see, some went all out.
Right about that time I took my first Huma gel (review coming soon), and I began to feel better. I was on pace for my goal time of two hours, my asthma seemed under control, and I was having a good time. What more can you ask from a half marathon? Doesn’t the timing seem ripe for a “but then…?”
Meanwhile, Alan had taken a short run, then placed himself at the finish line both to support me and to take pictures of the crowd (blogger’s spouse duty). He got some good ones.
Okay, here it comes. But then…I got to mile 10 and I could feel the asthma. As I’ve said before, it’s not a full-on asthma attack. I can just feel it coming. I feel like my extremities aren’t getting enough oxygen, I start to slow down, and I know if I keep going my airway will close. So before that happened I started walking, took a puff on the inhaler and, after about 20 seconds, got started again.
I felt pretty good. With about 2.5 miles to go I was running close to race pace. A lady bug pulled up alongside me and recognized me as the Shoe Dog. I ran with her for a bit, the she slowed down at a water station. I kept plugging along, trying to do the math in my head. If I could hold this pace, I could make it. Could I hold this pace?
About a mile from the finish (I could actually see the finish line because of the looping parking lot course), I saw Alan cheering me on (and taking pictures, of course). He said he’s see me at the finish line and I went on. I again could feel my body starting to slow, wanting to slow. Right at that time three young men came running from behind and encouraged me to keep going. Which is all fine and good, and I really tried, but, you know you have to breathe to be able to keep going. Another short walking break, inhaler use, then back at it. Now I was worried that I would miss my goal.
When I finally got to the last third mile or so, I was able to pick up the pace (I looked at my Garmin and saw 7:38! Kind of scared me!). I wasn’t sure if my lungs or my legs would last, but I was going to give it everything I got. I could see the finish clock ahead of me. Would I make it?
I told Alan to “get my tail” in the picture!
After I crossed the finish line, it took me a few moments to pull myself together, catch my breath, and walk it off. Then I looked at my Garmin: 2:00:10. So. Freaking. Close. Less than a second a mile. The time I spent walking. (My official time is 2:00:11). More on my feelings about that later, but first:
Bah-ling!!! Seriously this baby is six inches in diameter, and weighs a ton! The disco ball is suspended in the middle, and the outside looks like a vinyl record. They kept their promise. This is the biggest, coolest finisher’s medal I’ve ever earned!
I met a couple other Dalmatians:
I also got to meet Melissa, a fellow Fitfluential and Sweat Pink Ambassador! Fortunately she “spotted” me and asked it I was Debbie. She had seen other Dalmatians, so it wasn’t as easy as it sounds (I think I saw about a half dozen other ones). As you can see, she is proudly sporting that Disco Ball Medal too! I’m looking forward to reading her race report.
I came prepared to hand out some information about KindRunner, but the opportunity just didn’t arise. As you know, I’m a KindRunner Ambassador. I thought it would be a great idea to bring some little flyers or a card to give to runners who expressed interest in KindRunner. I mean, free 3-way shipping, a custom fitting process, a huge selection, personal service, plus the chance to give back by returning your old shoes (and receiving $10 Kindness Cash Rewards when you do), what’s not to love? I still think it is a good idea, and I’m going to hand out some of the flyers to my cross country team at our first practice this morning.
After we got back to the hotel, I fixed up another bottle of InRefresh Electrolytes, took a short nap, showered (tried to dry my bra over the air conditioner), then we checked out and met my son and family for lunch (more on that later). I wore compression socks, keeping them on all night, so my legs felt pretty good the next morning. Actually I felt good all over except:
My second toe is sore and swollen, and, I’m pretty sure, black under that polish. I haven’t lost a nail in years, so I’m kind of considering this a badge of honor! In the meantime, though, it just hurts.
What’s Beautiful, Goals, and Accomplishments
As you know, the Costume Party Run was my goal race in the Under Armour What’s Beautiful program. My goal was to run a 2:00 half marathon for the first time since I turned 50. I trained very hard to achieve that goal, and in the end missed it by 11 seconds. Less than a second per mile.
You know what? It doesn’t bother me at all. Not a bit. I did the training, I worked hard, I accomplished what I wanted to do. I ran the very best that I could. As my friend Jody would say, I am Enough. I am completely happy and satisfied with my race.
A little disclosure here. I am an ambassador for the Costume Party Race. I received a free entry, and in exchange I wrote about the event in my training recaps and race report. My opinion is my own. I also chose to dress as the Shoe Dog on a whim, I have no relationship with Road Runner Sports (except as a customer). Although, I think they approved:
— Road Runner Sports (@RRSports) July 7, 2013
And I impressed them with my time:
@LivefromLQ Wow not bad at all..that is GREAT!
— Road Runner Sports (@RRSports) July 7, 2013
Oh, and while they had no age group awards, and many people were there just for fun, they did keep track of the finishing places, and, this Dalmatian just happened to WIN HER AGE GROUP!
Whew! Sorry for the long post. I hope I kept you amused! How was your weekend? It was a long one, wasn’t it? I hope you had great summer fun! Tell me about it!