It’s funny – when you hardly race, you forget a) how absolutely awesome it is and b) how much it can hurt. I’ll take the awesome over the hurt any day, but sometimes in order to get to the awesome, it’s just going to have to hurt. I was reminded of this when my quad cramped after the race, while stepping onto a curb.
Well – as I’m here and typing, it’s clear that I survived. And for the most part, my wry sense of humor has remained thankfully intact. And no, this won’t be a multiple page behemoth report like from the past – even I don’t have the patience for that So, without further ado, here we go.
I love racing the Carlsbad Half Marathon. The Yank and I live just off the course, and my favorite place to run early in the morning is along the PCH, anywhere between miles 2 and the course turn-around point. I ran it last year, a gift to myself for surviving our 4th deployment. Without wearing a watch, I finished just under 1:32 and had a nice negative split to boot.
This year, I initially wanted to beat my pr (1:27:11), but Santa’s late gift of Sinusitis and our ski trip to Mammoth had me re-evaluate and adjust. It’s life, whatever. I figured I could make this into a positive – it would force me to rest, and given how, um, overzealous (we can substitute enthusiastic here) I can be with my running when I AM healthy, this was probably good. After discussing with my friend Charisa, I figured I would set off with the 1:30 pace group, and then negative split on the way back. Let the chips fall where they may.
Driving to the race was uneventful. It was probably the latest I have EVER left for a race – exactly an hour before gun time. (SO different from triathlon!) But the extra sleep was good, and I probably would have been unhappy in the car, anyway. Race warm-up was fine, I ate a gel, and before I knew it, I was in the starting corral listening to the National Anthem. I found my 1:30 pace group, relaxed the best that I could, and then we were off!
The first few miles were low key and relaxed, and there was a large group of runners who were with the 1:30 group. We took a slightly slower pace, which was fine with me. The LAST thing I wanted to do was go out uber hard and pay for it in the end. My more successful races have involved negative splits, and I know that if I blow myself out too early, it’s a l-o-n-g way to go on shot legs/lungs/ass.
I pretty much was a champ sticking with my group. I chatted with a few people, tried to look around at my surroundings, but my eyes would inevitably stray to the backs or butts (depending on their height) of the runners ahead of me. The pounding of their feet on the pavement was reassuring, like our own percussion section of runners intent on hitting our 1:30 mark. I thanked the volunteers when I could, and kept track of my breathing. It felt easy, which was the point. In retrospect, I probably could have pushed harder – but I’ll save that for another race. I saw The Yank at mile 5, yelled, “I love you!” and got a lot of, “Aaaaawwwwws” from the guys in my group.
One thing I noticed with my pace group – running through aid stations was challenging. All of us wanted water or whatever was being offered during the race aid stations (duh!), so there would be a clusterfuck of runners jockeying for position to get first dibs. After failing to grab water for the first 3 aid stations, I realized that I would have to either drop back or surge ahead. Or I could be a complete jerk and just elbow my way in. Scratch that. I chose the first, until I made my break later in the race.
Between miles 5 and 6, I dropped my one gel that I was planning on taking between miles 7 & 8. Ooops!
I made a split-second decision to not stop and grab it, figuring that I would get a gel at the next aid station that offered it, and in the interim take whatever electrolyte fluid was offered on the course. Not really sure how the gel popped out of my sports bra – those things are always pretty secure, but there you go. There’s a first for everything. I wasn’t really concerned about the calories – it was more the 200mg of salt that I thought would make things difficult later on.
We reached the half-way mark somewhere around 45:30 or something like that, and I still felt fine. The crowds were awesome at this end the weather just beautiful. I did a quick assessment – still feeling great and relaxed….nothing super stressful and thus far I didn’t sound like I was about to have a baby, like the guy two people over from me.
Just before mile 8, I made my break. I was concerned about getting a gel asafp, and also wanted to grab extra water. So I threw in a quick surge from my pace group, continued to feel good and just stretched it out. I glued my eyes to a few people ahead and focused on the very small rear of the woman directly ahead of me. Saw The Yank again and figured I would give him a big kiss at the finish. The miles 9-10 stretch between Cannon and Tamarak I had pegged as being the first of two tough sections, as the uphill leading to 10 just hurts. This uphill is also where I end a lot of my longer speed sessions on the coast, so perhaps my recollection is a bit, er, tainted. I managed to grab my gel at the top of the hill along with some water, but just couldn’t down the thing for fear of stomach cramps. So I slowly munched on it between miles 10-12, getting about 1/3 of it in my system.
I was dying for salt.
Running through downtown Carlsbad was great – the crowds were FANTASTIC and I just love where we live. And in spite of feeling on the verge of cramping I wasn’t. I felt like I was balancing on a tenuous line, that through years of racing in the past I was able to manage. It was uncomfortable – but I didn’t combust. Looking back on my splits, my mile pace only slowed ten seconds per mile for miles 10-11 and 11-12, hardly disaster. I just couldn’t go faster, like I wanted.
After nearly eating it on the turn off from the PCH, I mentally prepared myself for the second tough section – with 1.75 miles to go, there’s a slight uphill, the crowds were gone, my legs were doing that on-verge-of-cramping thing, and it’s the point of the race where you’re just slightly too far from the finish to kick or think that the end is in sight.
That’s where I saw Charisa. With about 10 minutes to go I passed her on the side of the road with her bike and she yelled that I was doing great and that I should relax. Best words EVER.
So I did.
My stride opened up again, I could feel my shoulders and back relax, and I focused on going sub-1:30. I had been checking my splits throughout the race so I knew that it could be done. At the turn-around I figured 1:28 would be possible and held out hope until my watch clicked over to 1:29. The final downhill was nice in theory, but sealed the fate of my lateral quads. They hurt right now just thinking about that downhill. I was re-passed by one girl and did my best to go with her – but I couldn’t quite hold on. But she did a darn good job of pulling me along past a few other people to the very end. I saw The Yank just before the 13-mile marker and tried to wave or do something so he would see me. He did!
The final stretch of this race is always fun. The crowd was EXTREMELY excited, as the race announcer was whipping them into a frenzy to cheer us competitors onto a sub 1:30 race. I’ve heard a lot of cow bells in my days, but that was nothing compared to the noise that I heard today. It was awesome. When I saw the race clock, I knew I would be 1:29:and change. I fist pumped as I ran across the finish line, officially in 1:29:39, and then did my best to NOT cramp, puke, or generally fall over.
I was able to find The Yank relatively easily and after checking my overall place (6th F30-34), we headed home for an awesome post-race treat of French Toast, Eggs & Peanut Butter Stout from The Belching Beaver. I spun my legs out on the trainer, foam rolled, cursed my lateral quads, and relaxed with PB cups and football.
Overall I’m really happy about how my race went today – it makes me really miss racing, so days like this are extra special. I’ll need to work on my aid station strategy if I’m running in a crowd, and given the potential nutrition disaster, well, I’ll need to secure my gel a little better. But for now I’ve got some great hiking plans and trips planned over the summer, and the satisfaction that I get from visiting new peaks and trails with The Yank and C are, for now, unmatched. Plus, it’s a LOT easier on my body and health when I hike; I know that lupus and my health can derail race training and plans – so finding this balance is important. I’ll definitely jump into races here or there, but it won’t be anything super stressful – more low key stuff, the kinds of races that if I’m sick, I won’t be disappointed about missing. Perhaps when we leave SoCal and head to a new duty station, I’ll think about running more seriously. I still want to break my old PR, and I’ve got a few running goals that I’m tossing around in my head. But enough of that.
So…yeah… there you have it. My first RR in MANY years. Hooray! Thanks to The Yank for his love and support, and great pictures! Now, time to enjoy my Tripel, football, and time with The Yank, House Monster and Shitty Kitty. Tomorrow we’re hiking – can’t wait! Thank you for reading – sorry that it’s been so long.
Its nice to be back – thanks for reading!