La Jolla Half Marathon Race Report

Pre-Race Emotions

Finally, the weekend was here. I hadn’t been this nervous about a race for years. For one thing, this was the first half marathon in years for which I actually trained seriously. All the long runs, all the speed work, all with the goal of running a two hour half marathon.  In addition to that, I had picked a challenging race in which to do it. The La Jolla Half Marathon is one of the hilliest and toughest races in Southern California. But frankly, the thing that really made me nervous though, was you.

Yes, that is true. You made me nervous. I had set a standard for myself, told you all about it. I felt like you had hopes and expectations for my race. Could I live up to all that? So yes, I was a little frantic nervous.

Expo

Backing up a bit. Alan and I drove in to San Diego on Saturday. This year the expo was moved to Roadrunner Sports, which was perfect. I had even told Alan that I wanted to stop there (big race=new outfit!), before I knew about the expo.

Off-topic for a moment but this just sprang into my mind. As you know, I have been asking for help deciding on an outfit for the Costume Party Run, my next event, for which I am an Ambassador. A couple people suggested a Dalmatian, which I though would be perfect and a great salute to my amazing 12-year old running partner Penny. White shorts/skirt, and top, add some spots, a tail, ears, and a collar. Easy (important for me), appropriate for running a July race (even more important), and cute (the most important). While at Roadrunner I happened to see a photo of the Shoe Dog and a little light went on in my head. Check out the similarities:

Penny Shoe Dog

Anyway, while at Roadrunner Sports I did pick up an outfit (with an extra 10% discount on top of my VIP discount-woot!) and my race packet.  While roaming the (2) aisles of the expo, I met Laura Mildon at the Island Boost booth.

Island Boost is a premium, all natural endurance energizer, which comes in a liquid form as opposed to a gel. It is formulated with glucose, a fast and easily absorbed energy source, and coconut water for electrolytes. This makes it perfect for quick assimilation during the run, but it also makes it very sweet.  The passion fruit flavor was delicious, but I had a little doubt about the sweetness of it during the run. Laura offered to let me try a sample, suggesting I take a packet right before the hill (she didn’t have to say what hill, if you have ever run the La Jolla Half Marathon you know she is talking about the Torrey Pines Hill, which is at mile 5.5 in the race), and at mile 10.

La Jolla Half Marathon

You may have noticed that I was on the verge of breaking one of the cardinal rules of racing: Nothing new on race day. There I was, the day before the race, planning to test a new energy replacement and buying a new outfit.

race report

Logistics

I had to get up early on race morning. We were staying in La Jolla, which meant that I needed to catch the shuttle bus up to the Del Mar Racetrack for the start of the race. We were told that the buses ran between 5:00 and 6:00, but we needed to be in line by 5:30. Pretty easy, really, since our hotel was right across from where they would pick us up. But Alan, who was announcing the 5k, also need to get to the start line of the 5k. The first bus there would be too late for him, he needs to be there before the runners arrive.

In the past, he was given a ride on a motorcycle, which would then transport him back  to the finish line after the start of the race, so that he could announce the finishers as they came in. This year, the ride back was assured, but the right to the start was not available. That meant that we had to leave about 4:45 so that I could bring him to his start line. I then drove back, with plenty of time to spare, until I was almost back to the hotel. I expected to have to explain myself, because the road around the hotel was closed for the race. What I didn’t expect that I would be blocked by a bus loading runners for about five minutes. That was okay, still time to spare.

I finally got back to the hotel, parked my car, and went up to the room. I was ready to go, I just needed to drop off my keys and wallet, picket up my race gear, and head down to get in line. But then, my key didn’t work. So I marched back down to the lobby, had to wait several minutes because the desk was being manned by the security guard until the desk man got back. Still time to spare, though it was getting shorter.

The key machine didn’t work. After multiple tries, I was finally sent back to my room with the security guard, who let me in with his master key. I just had time to use the restroom one last time, grab my stuff, and head out the door. Good thing the line started right in front of my door!

When I arrived at the Del Mar Racetrack, I wondered what my hurry was. It was 6:10. The race didn’t start until 7:30. It was pretty cold, around 59 (yeah, I know, I’m from the desert give me a break), so I wanted to keep my warmups on as long as possible. I did go pick up my gear bag so that I’d have it when I was ready. Time moved quickly though, and soon enough, it was time to head to the start line.

Race Report

Can you see the start line? In all my years of racing, this is the farthest I’ve ever been from the start line. That is the result of time, injury, and my own words from last year’s race report

My suggestion? If you want to do a wave start, you need to corral the runners by their race pace or expected finish time. You can pre-screen on the application and assign race numbers appropriately. Then block off the corrals and either go with the wave start, or let the natural effect of corralling go to work: The fast runners are out front, and the slower runners are behind, and the walkers are at the back.

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, the race directors took every suggestion I made last year, and the result was a better race. I wonder if they read my post? The start was better, there were a lot of water stations, something La Jolla has never had, the exit after the race was much more open so that you weren’t standing waiting to get out of the finish area on tired legs. Part of this, I know was because the race was taken over this year and managed by InMotion Events after being run for years by the Kiwanis Club. But, a small part of me hopes that they read my post, took my suggestions, which created a better race. A girl can hope, right?

Race ReportRoadrunner Sports provided the pacers. This was the two hour pacer (sorry, I forgot her name).  This may give you a hint of my upcoming story, but I did not see her again after the race started.

Race Report

The Race

I was in wave number three (of six). When the race started, wave #1 took off, then there were three minutes between each wave. It went fast, and was organized, and when my time came, we were off. I was wearing my Garmin, mostly to give me an idea of my pace, to keep me from running too fast, and to let me know that I needed to pick it up if I slowed down. The challenge with a hilly race is that there is no set pace at which to run. Yes, I can say that my goal pace for a two hour half marathon is 9:09, but add a little elevation and none of that counts. And there was plenty of elevation.

IMG_5290

We finally were off. And, even though I was surrounded by a bunch of potential two hour half marathoners, when I checked my Garmin about a half mile into the race, we were running eight minute miles. Um, better slow down.

Overall, the first three and a half miles were great. The course takes you out of the racetrack, through a pretty good uphill along Ville de la Valle, then a left turn onto the Coast Highway. Part of what makes this such an amazingly beautiful race is that much of it is run along this highway, which hugs the west coast of California, offering amazing views of the ocean and the shore. For me, though, mile 3.7 ish, wasn’t so beautiful, because that was my first “asthma incident.” I have dealt with my exercise induced asthma as long as I’ve been running, so this was nothing new, but it still slows me to a walk, puffing on my inhaler until the medication sets in. I probably walked about three minutes, right at the point the road headed back up to the Coast Highway, right before mile four.

When I felt recovered, I started running again, hitting mile four and this view.

race report

Here comes the hill. (That picture was from a couple years ago. I did not take any pictures during the race.)

Actually, I ran strong up that hill. Not fast, but steady, and I did not walk. As Laura instructed, I took my first Island Boost at the base of the hill, right before the water station. It was quite strong and sweet, but I liked the Passion Fruit flavor. And I did feel good after taking in the Island Boost. I felt the fuel kick in and it felt good. I had no stomach problems at all during the race. I was actually looking forward to my next “boost” at mile 10.

One of the things they don’t tell you about “the hill,” is that in addition to that .75 miles of about 15% grade, there is another mile of slight uphill as you run through the park. It doesn’t level off until you leave Torrey Pines park and get back on the main road.

I was running along fine at this point. In fact, miles 4 through 9 were about as good as I could hope for. My pace was good, even though the fear of the asthma makes me want to hold back a bit, and I felt strong. I was close to the mile 10 marker when the asthma kicked in again. Maybe I should describe it. It doesn’t feel like my airway is closing, at least not at first. I start to feel a little lightheaded, like I’m not getting enough oxygen. My extremities start to feel the same way, and my pace will slow down. At this point, if I try to push through, it will become a full-fledged asthma attack. If I stop, walk, and use my inhaler, I can usually recover completely.

When I started running again, I was approaching a water station and it was time for my second Island Boost. And I felt a surge of energy almost immediately afterward.

Of course, that was also partly because mile 10 is downhill. A long, glorious, relatively steep downhill all the way until you hit the mile 11 marker, dropping you down into La Jolla Shores, where you run briefly right along the boardwalk between the parking lot and the beach, causing surfers to make mad dashes between the runners. After that you enter a little neighborhood, where right before my favorite house ever (because it’s purple), I had to stop yet again and use my inhaler.

Purple House

I took that picture a couple years ago, when, I was having similar problems with the asthma (but was not in nearly as good of shape). That year I did a lot more walking and picture taking.

Shortly after I passed the purple house, I turned a corner and saw the 12 mile marker. I also knew that one more turn would bring me to the final hill in the race, one that doesn’t get talked about much, but is just as deadly because it is unexpected, steep, and much longer than you expect. It actually takes you from the 12 mile marker to only about a quarter mile from the finish. I heard a lot of groans (maybe one from myself too) as we turned the corner.

The last part of the race is downhill all the way to the finish. It’s kind of steep, and partly on a brick-paved road, so you have to be careful. I could feel the asthma starting again, but I wasn’t going to stop so close to the finish. I pushed through and finally heard the voice of my husband announcing as I approached the finish line, “Here comes my favorite person in the whole world.” We’d been asked to cross our arms across our hearts as we crossed the finish line, in remembrance of the Boston Marathon, and as I did so, my emotions welled up and suddenly my airway started to close. Fortunately, I was done, so I stopped, grabbed my inhaler, waved off the man who was approaching me with concern, and gradually recovered.

race report

Post Race Recovery and Reflections

After I managed my asthma, I grabbed some water, coconut water, and a little fruit and headed out to find Alan. Actually, he found me because I was still a little hazy. It’s nice to be right across the street from your hotel in these situations, so I headed back to the room, and after a quick photo-op trip to the roof, showered, ate a little and we got on the road. Because we had someone important to see.

race report

So, all that walking…how did I do with my goal? Well, you can probably guess I didn’t make my goal time of two hours. But, I am happy that in spite of the asthma issues that I managed to finish at all, and that I did in 2:05:41. I’ll take it. That was good for 21st in my division.

I didn’t mention this before, but I was running this race for two people. One was my mother, who would have been celebrating her 85th birthday that day.

Wilma 002

The other was my friend Jeff. If you recall, Jeff was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma back in November. He had emergency surgery, where they found the huge tumor had actually pushed his brain stem aside. His fiancee, Amy, was given very little hope of his ever waking up. But Jeff is still with us, still fighting, still being amazing. He has been through radiation and is currently undergoing yet another round of chemo. After a recent hospitalization and another procedure for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, Jeff was not able to get around much, so Amy asked all his friends to dedicate their weekend athletic endeavors to Jeff, who is an Ironman triathlete.

race report

Jeff and Alan appeared on the local tv station this morning to promote the Gem of the Desert Trail 5k which is on May 5 and will benefit Jeff. If you’re in the area, there is a link to the registration in the sidebar.

Thoughts of Jeff kept me going. Because, seriously, compared to what Jeff has gone through, what is a little asthma?

I know a lot of you were racing and at other events this past weekend. How did they go?

Weekly Training Recap, Week 13: Taper Time!

Well, the hard stuff is over (except for the actual race). For the next six days, I’ll reduce my mileage and my effort. On Wednesday, I’ll run a little tempo at race pace, then that will be it until the race (I’d actually like one extra day, but my schedule doesn’t allow it except Saturday, and I’m choosing not to run the day before the race). I’ll be careful with my strength workouts this week, especially my Friday Fast & Furious class, which tends to leave me sore and tired.

I have to say that I’m pretty proud of the training that I’ve done for this race. While I didn’t manage all my workouts, usually only completed one speed workout a week, and totally failed on the yoga, my training was much more intense than it has been for years. When I found it difficult to get to the track for interval work, I made up for it by doing my intervals on the road. I stayed on track with all my distance training too. I’m pretty excited to see the results next Sunday. Here is my weekly training recap.

Strength Training

More of the same on the strength training front. Two Superball classes, which provide a moderate workout, and one Fast and Furious Class, which was challenging, added an extra mile to my running total, and left my back kind of sore for a day. I will definitely skip it next Friday! See the photo below for the workout (we did jump squats instead of split squat jumps).

weekly training recap

Running

As many runners and bloggers did this past week, I dedicated my Tuesday run to Boston. I wore a race shirt and ran three miles with Alan and the dogs. Easy pace on the way out, uphill, pushed it a little on the downhill portion.

weekly training recap

I knew that Wednesday would be my last speed work day before the La Jolla Half Marathon, so I made it a good one. After running three miles with Penny to warm up, I took her home then went back and did three-one mile repeats on the road. The first was 8:15, the second was 8:09, and the third, in which I had just a little breathing (asthma) difficulty, was 8:19. I was happy with that. It still kind of makes me laugh to think that I once did a whole marathon at a 7:30 pace. Age Time will tell!

I skipped my Saturday run. Because I had to work, it was only going to be three miles, but I woke up with a slight headache generally feeling yucky. So, I took an extra hour of sleep instead of the run. When I got home from work I had a package from Roadrunner Sports. New Shoes! I had just ordered them on Friday and I had them in my hands by Saturday afternoon. That’s the RRS VIP treatment alright!

mizuno wave rider 16

My new Mizuno Wave Riders. Aren’t they pretty?

On Sunday, Alan was announcing the Run Through Redlands Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, and Color Splash Run. I only had eight miles on the schedule, so I just took off along the course before the races started to do my run. Redlands is very pretty. My grandparents used to live there, but I don’t remember exactly where. I kind of rambled during my run, got off the race course, and ended up with what felt like my first hill work of my training cycle! There are some beautiful homes in Redlands. I took a lot of pictures last year when I did a similar run, so I didn’t plan to take any this year, until I saw this house and couldn’t help myself.

weekly training recap

When I headed back toward the start, I ended up running alongside the 10k runners, which gave me a little push (plus it was finally downhill!). I ended up with 8.5 miles. After my run, I hung around the little expo while Alan worked until the last runner finished. It was getting warm near the end, so I found a place in the shade and watched Alan work.

weekly training recap

weekly training recap

Even though I didn’t run the half marathon I checked the results. The woman who won my age group ran 2:17! Last week I ran 2:09 in my training run. I think Redlands has a tougher course, but even based on my pace today I would have done quite well. Oh well.

Here are a few more pictures of my Sunday:

mizuno wave rider 16

Before my run. Because they never look this good again.

weekly training recap

Because of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, runners were asked not to leave bags or backpacks on the ground. This got me thinking though. A helicopter hovering very low, then rising with something big and black on the end of a long cable. I learned after the run that it was lifting an air conditioning unit to the top of a bank building, but still strange to see at 6:30 on a Sunday morning.

Week13_9

If you are interested, here is my complete training log for last week (click to enlarge).

weekly training recap

How did your training go last week? Any events, races or competitions? Share!

It Wasn’t All Bad: The Good Part of the Weekend

As you know, I spent last weekend in San Diego while my sister Lisa and I took care of arrangements for my aunt. While it was sad and stressful, I will say that it wasn’t all bad. Here are some of the good parts of the weekend.

When Alan and I spent the previous weekend in San Diego, we stayed at a hotel. I didn’t want to do that again, and I was husband-less this time, so I asked my son if I could stay and sleep on his couch. You know that that means!

weekend

Grandson Time!

I spent two nights, so I got to spend some quality time with Samuel. This was my second weekend visiting in a row, so he was really responding to my voice and face. He is smiling regularly now and seems like he’s almost ready to burst into laughter. Time goes fast, and children grow even faster I think. He’ll be eight weeks old by the time you read this!

weekend Weekend

weekend

#1 Giants fan. “What do you mean Barry Bonds won’t go to the Hall of Fame?”

Running

The previous weekend, when we were trying to get my aunt’s things moved into storage, I didn’t eat right, sleep well, or do any running at all. I was so stressed out  and I’m sure that no exercise had a lot to do with it. I was determined not to let that happen again. I made sure to pack running gear for two days, plus I took a short run before I left for San Diego on Friday morning. My original plan was to run from my son’s house, but when I found out that my brother-in-law, Bill, would be in town, I made a running date with him. So early Saturday morning he picked me up and we drove to Mission Beach, where we met up with a friend of his for a run along the coast.

weekend

Bill and his friend, Miles, were both in the Marines, in Iraq together. They are both younger than I (Miles by about 20+years!). So I was happy that I was able to keep up with them on the run, even though I know that they slowed down considerably for me. We ran six miles, I averaged about nine minutes per mile, and I held on until the last mile when the boys started getting faster and faster. Still, I was pleased with the run. I feel like it gives me a starting point for what I can run right now when I push myself and I can incorporate that into my half marathon training plan (the one I have yet to create!).

weekend

Sunday, Bill picked me up again and we headed back to the same place. He wanted to run longer, but I decided to stick with six miles, that being the longest I’ve run for a while. After the first mile, Bill ran his own pace, as did I, falling back into sluggish recovery mode.  I finished first, thank goodness, while Bill ran 11 miles at a pretty good pace and finished 30 minutes or so after I did. It was such a gorgeous day, I just enjoyed the beautiful weather while I waited.

weekend

weekend

I give you January in San Diego.

Food

Eating was something else I skimped on the previous weekend. Not this time. As I pulled into town (after a quick stop at Road Runner Sports), I decided to check out Evolution Fast Food, a vegan restaurant downtown. Their concept is a drive-thru burger joint that is 100% free of animal products! I have actually tried a few of the items that they send out to supermarkets like Whole Foods and Clark’s Nutrition Center, and I was looking forward to visiting the actual restaurant. Interestingly, when I plugged the address into my GPS, the directions it gave me were the same as if I was heading to my Aunt Lois’ apartment! Turns out, she lived only a mile away.

weekend

I ordered the South of the Border Burger, with their made-in-house bean patty. And fries, of course. It was very good. They have a little patio area in back if you choose to eat at the restaurant.

weekend

There is also a Whole Foods near Lois’ apartment, so I stocked up with some prepared food to bring with me to my son’s house. Oh, and a bottle of wine, too. Believe it or not, I didn’t take pictures of any of that.

Saturday night we all went out to dinner. My son, Nathan, and my daughter-in-law, Sarah, who both follow Paleo diets, me, the vegan, my brother-in-law, Bill, who ordered gluten-free, and my sister, Lisa, who just ate like a normal person. We chose to go to Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, which has options for all of us. Sarah and I shared a vegan, vegetable pizza with a gluten-free crust. It was really very good.

weekend

On Sunday, after Lisa and I spent hours going through my aunt’s possessions, I realized as I started the two hour drive home that I had not eaten since breakfast (very unusual for me since I usually hit a sugar low long before I’m actually hungry). I decided to wait until I got to Temecula, where there is a little restaurant called the Earth Bistro that specializes in fresh, organic food, and has several vegan items on the menu. I was so hungry that my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I order a hummus and flatbread platter for an appetizer, and a portobello burger for my entree. Both were excellent.

weekend

weekend

Yes, I was so hungry I couldn’t wait to take a picture.

Family

And finally, the best part of the weekend was the time I was able to spend with my family. I missed Alan of course, but to be with my sister and Bill, who live in Texas,  was wonderful. Also it was fun to stay with Nathan and Sarah and I always treasure the time I spend with them.

weekend

Sorry for the picture quality, taken in a dark restaurant.

weekend

weekend

And of course, Samuel, who doesn’t have a restaurant photo because he slept the entire time we were there! But I’m sure I can dig up at least one other picture! ;-) .

weekend

Knowing that I would be gone for three days, I brought my “good” computer (as opposed to my slow-poke netbook), fully intending to get some writing done. I did not turn it on once. I don’t regret that at all (though it led to some serious catching up on Monday). The good part of the weekend was really, really good.

It’s hard to beat San Diego (or La Quinta) weather right now. How is the weather in your neck of the woods? What was the best thing that you ate last weekend (yes, I know it’s Thursday, but I’m sure you can remember)?

Thursday Thoughts: On Training, New Mizuno Shoes, and Roadrunner Sports

You may know, if only by the name of my blog, that I live in the desert. That place that is as hot as hell in the summer, but beautifully warm and sunny in the winter. Where the Snowbirds come to spend their winters. Well, it has been cold in my desert lately. I know for those of you living in the snow this may sound like whining, but hear me, it was 26 freaking degrees this morning when I went for my run!

New Shoes 3

Thursday Thoughts

This was me bundled before the run. Underarmour base layer, polar layer, jacket, headband, tights, warmup pants. Oh, and heavy gloves.

Thursday Thoughts

Can you tell I’m wearing two pairs of running pants?

For my Thursday Thoughts vlog this week, I am rambling about running, training, new Mizuno shoes, and Roadrunner Sports, my favorite running store of all time. I bought my very first pair of running shoes from them. That was a long time ago.

 

New year, new shoes, new plan. Exciting!

New Shoes 2

It’s halfway through January. How are your goals shaping up?

Disclosure: I am a Roadrunner Sports affiliate and I might make a few cents if you order through the link above. All opinions are my own. And I did buy my first pair of running shoes from them.