Toenail that is going to go=check
Fourth half marathon in thirty days=check
Sit back and get comfortable. This one ended up being a long one.
For a while it seemed like the universe was telling me not to run this race. I procrastinated on registering for this race. I registered for the last several races the morning of, so why rush, right? On Wednesday, I knew that I was going to definitely run the race and was excited about it, so I decided to go online and register. While the website advertised online registration through Thursday night, it was closed on Wednesday afternoon. Hmmm…. I decided to e-mail the race director and ask her about it. As an afterthought, I added my phone number to the e-mail. Within minutes, she called me and explained that for the first time in 55 years, they were on target to sell out. They had about 100 spots left, so she had to close online registration. They have to limit it to 200 spots due to it being a point to point and only having so many buses. Also, it was a narrow road at the top and really couldn’t safely handle a huge crowd. I asked her how I could get some (my friends hadn’t registered either) of those last spots. She explained that they had to have the registration form via mail by the next day or I could register in person in Fontana. Fontana is about 40 miles east of here. That wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that to get there, I would have to travel on the worst freeway around. This freeway is a parking lot even on Saturday afternoons. At three o’clock in the afternoon, I was already risking a horrible rush hour drive. After a few quick phone calls I drove out into the heat of Riverside County* and registered four of us for Saturday’s race.
The second obstacle put in my way by the universe was my wardrobe. We had planned a weekend trip to Canyon Lake with our very good friends. It is located in Riverside County, about 40 miles south of Fontana (approximately the same distance to the race as my house). As I was laying out my running gear the evening before, I realized that I had failed to pack my running bra!!! I had my regular underwire every day bra and a no support sports bra that I sometimes wear under tank tops. Neither would be appropriate to run in—let alone 13.1 miles! My husband joked that we could use an ace bandage like male impersonators. All joking aside, that was my plan B. I quickly texted my friend Kelly (who was also running the race) and asked her if she possibly had a bra that might fit me (we are completely different body types, but I was hoping. She had something that would work!
Then the air conditioner where we were staying wasn’t working. It was really hot that night and I didn’t sleep well at all. I woke up several times throughout the night. At one point, I started getting stomach cramps and was convinced that I had eaten something bad. I woke up twenty minutes before my alarm (I hate that), which was set for the ungodly hour of 4 a.m.
Still, somehow I was able to get ready and get on the road around 4:40. They had no parking at the start and the last bus from the finish area left at 6:20, so I wanted to get there with plenty of time to get my bib, go to the bathroom and find my friends. I wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take to get there. I arrived a little after 5:30 and easily found parking and used a porta potty that was near the parking lot. I think I was the first person to use it that day. Score!
I met up with my friends and we got on the bus to go to the start. After helping me put on the extra bra in the bus (over the light support one), Kelly started realizing how far 13.1 miles are. The bus ride took a while and it drove straight up the course. I have to admit, it did seem like a long ride. It was nice to see the course before running it, so I knew what to expect.
It was comfortably warm before boarding the bus—too warm for 6 o’clock in the morning. When we drove up 2000 feet in elevation, it was much chillier. Rod had brought some garbage bags and I gratefully put one over me while I waited in line, one more time, for the porta potty (which was very, very long).
We hung out at the start for close to an hour (the race didn’t start until 7:30). The sun rose over the mountains and it warmed up considerably. In fact, we all commented that it was getting hot. That is not a good sign before the race.
This was my friend Kelly’s first half marathon. She and I have been running together for months and I have known that she could do it. She was injured in January when we ran the Southern California Half Marathon and was ready to run on Saturday. The best part was that it was her Runniversary! She ran her very first run on June 5, 2009. She ran two miles and thought she was going to die. One year later and over thirty pounds lighter, she was excited to run a half marathon.
They made a few announcements through a bullhorn that sounded more like, “blah blah blah blah, mumble mumble mumble.” I ascertained that they were making sure everyone knew to cross the mat so their chips would register the time. It was the first year for chip timing for this long-standing race, so I guess they assumed it was our first time with chips too. I wished Kelly the best of luck and gave her a hug. After little fanfare, we were off.
My pacing plan was to keep it between 8:08 and 8:15. I knew that my PR was 1:49, so if I kept the pace under 8:15, I would be sure to beat that. I had quickly checked one of my pacing charts and misread it. My top goal was to run the race in 1:45. I mistakenly saw that the 1:45 pace as 8:08, when it is really 8:00. Looking back, I wonder if my final time would have been faster had I had that 8:00 target in my head instead of 8:08.
I had planned on running with Rod. Our goal pace was about the same and he is just a little faster than me, which could push me. He and I started the Palos Verdes Half Marathon together and he pulled ahead of me on the killer hill. He ended up coming in two minutes faster than I did. As we started, the first mile was pretty fast (7:47), despite some congestion at the beginning. I knew I could easily run down these early hills fast, but I had been warned about the latter miles being harder and it was getting warmer by the minute. I wanted to pace myself and keep it closer to 8:00 per mile. Rod started speeding up. I told him that I didn’t want to slow him down and to go ahead. He sped down the hill away from me. Miles two and three were 7:42 and 7:55. I was feeling ok and in good shape.
I relaxed into a good rhythm for the next few miles. It was a beautiful windy road through a lovely canyon. There was a lot of shade from the canyon walls as the sun wasn’t high yet. Miles four, five and six were 8:09, 8:11 and 8:07.
As we hit mile six, we left the canyon. I chatted with a few runners and we all agreed that the shade was done. I chatted with one guy for a few minutes about the race and the weather. I had taken two Endurolytes at the beginning of the race, as I felt the sun beating down and the humidity sucking more and more sweat out of me, I took two more at the next water station.
Miles 7 and 8 (8:09 and 8:04) were uneventful. Right around eight miles I saw Rod ahead. I was catching up to him quickly. I ran alongside him and he said, “I don’t do well in the heat.” He told me that his heart rate had shot up pretty high. Where his heart rate peaked around 180 during Palos Verdes, it was staying up toward 190 during this race. He told me he sped up early because he knew he would need to bank the time. I wished him well and kept going. I hoped that he would be able to finish strong.
Things started getting more difficult once I hit mile nine. I was so thankful that I had worn my hydration belt and brought four full bottles. At the water stops I took water just to pour on me. I stopped for a few seconds at mile ten to take my last two Endurolytes. I was already feeling some cramps in my calf and had wished I brought a few more. The rest of the race is pretty much a blur. The course is straight as an arrow from mile six to the finish. There isn’t much to see like there was in the earlier miles. Miles 9-13 were 8:14, 8:17, 8:29, 8:24 and 8:19 (I was able to muster a 7:40 pace for the last .17 of the race).
Finish—1:47:06!! (over two minutes off my PR)
Rod came in not too long after me in 1:55:34. Jeff, the speedster of the group, ran his race in 1:33:39. I had given Kelly a race plan based on a goal of 2:15 (based on her 10K on Thanksgiving). I made her a pace band and coached her on not going out too fast on the downhill course. Imagine my surprise when she came running in at 2:05:18!!!!! I couldn’t have been more proud! She barely looked up when I screamed like a crazy woman. I think she everything out there. And just like the competitor she is, she told me not long after the race that she wanted to run a half in under two hours.
On the other hand, it was 83 degrees at the finish. I don’t know what the relative humidity was, but there was a haziness settled into the valley and I was really, really sweaty. I saw two people (including the guy I talked to earlier in the race) being helped over the finish line and nearly passing out. It was scary how many people were on the edge medically. I know that heat makes it more difficult to run fast. If I ran that race in 50 degree weather, I think I could run it several minutes faster. I do know I want to run it next year!!
Thanks for reading! Happy running!
*I live on the border of Riverside and Orange Counties, so the temperature was not that much higher. However, it does get progressively hotter as you move east.