Shannon picked me up at the ugly hour of 4:45 a.m. We had to drive to LA and weren’t sure how the parking was going to be. We made it up there in great time and found parking easily. In fact, we parked steps from the shuttle pick up. We donned our fashionable garbage sacks,* walked right onto a bus** and settled in for the ride up to Griffith Park. It turns out that getting there that early was a very good idea. I heard stories later that closer to race time shuttle lines were outrageously long and parking was nearly impossible to find. I heard that one runner paid $40 for parking. Yikes! I thought our $12 fee was steep.
Shannon is ready to go!
The shuttle ride seemed awfully long for a 13.1 mile race. Shannon was starting to get a little nervous. I reassured her that she had done the training and was well prepared for the race.
We got off the bus and walked toward the crowds. I knew we wanted to use the porta potties a couple of times. We still had over an hour until start time. The lines for the porta potties were not long at all. There were a ton of them.
Shannon needed to check a bag. After last week’s bag debacle, I decided to forego mine. I usually don’t need one for a half anyway. She walked up to UPS truck #3 which corresponded to her last name. Simple. Done.***
We were meeting her friend, Lauren, who had my bib. While Shannon waited for her, I got back in line for the potty. Lines were a bit longer now, but the sun was starting to come up and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. The guy behind me was super intense and yelling at people to hurry up and annoyed when they didn’t run to the open door immediately. I wanted to tell him to lighten up. Seriously. It is a Rock ‘n Roll half marathon--everyone but him was in a fun mood. Right as I got to the front, a race official came by with a bullhorn and announced that there were 100 more porta potties closer to the start line. The guy behind me was annoyed with that too. You just can’t please some people.
Shannon was nervous. I was excited. There were a TON of people and the mood was pretty festive. We saw some running Elvi (Elvises?) and knew it was going to be a fun race.
Shannon and Lauren
Still in our garbage sacks because it was still pretty chillyAfter another stop at a porta potty, we got into corral 12. We shed our garbage sacks and were ready to go. Our corral was right around the middle of the pack, which turned out to be perfect. It took approximately 16 minutes before our wave went.
And then we were off. I have run with Shannon enough to be familiar with her pace. I thought we were going a bit fast for her, but as races tend to, it felt like we were barely moving. I struggled with whether or not I should slow her down or let her run. She ran a 10K in July in 1:19:22 (a 12:58 pace). She has trained a lot since then, and she felt great so I let her set the pace a bit. Looking back, I should have slowed her down just a little in the first few miles. I think her time would have been about the same, overall, but she may have felt better in the last couple of miles.
The first few miles of the race went through Griffith Park, somewhere I have never been. It was great. We ran past the LA Zoo and through the wooded park area. The course was a gradual downhill at this point. I was feeling awesome. My soreness from the marathon was gone. Running at this pace felt effortless. I danced and took pictures and was the cheerleader for Lauren and Shannon.
Miles 4,5, and 6 were not very scenic. They were flat and had very little shade. The sun was starting to feel hot. I was regretting my choice of capris over shorts. There was an out-an-back along I-5 for quite a while. Ick. During the 5th mile, both Shannon and Lauren needed to use a potty. There were several at the aid station, but there was a bit of a line. That really slowed things down.
Mile 5—14:17 (potty break)
Things were slowing down to a pace that is a bit closer to Shannon’s normal pace. She was still in good spirits. She was actually pretty chatty. I told her that she didn’t have to talk to entertain me, but we had a pleasant conversation. It was nice.
Lauren stopped for a walk break and told us to go. She is an experienced runner, but hadn’t trained much for the race and knew she would have to go to a walk/run strategy for the later part of the race. We wished her well and ran on. Shannon had worked really hard and I am glad she was comfortable leaving her friend. She was still feeling good.
As we passed the 10K mat, we noticed the race clock. Her 10K split was 1:15, which is several minutes faster than her 10K time from July. I cheered and told everyone around us that Shannon had just run a 10K PR. As you would expect, the runners around us were super supportive.
The race was pretty hilly. Despite an overall elevation loss, the second half of the race had a lot of hills. We made sure to take any walk breaks (they were getting a bit more frequent) on uphill sections. Shannon did a fantastic job of taking advantage of the downhills and let herself fly.
The course went along the Silver Lake Reservoir. It was a really nice stretch. There was plenty of shade and we were still having fun. We ran by an Elvis. I know he was hot, but when I asked him about it, he replied that his outfit was like a “second skin.” He was fully in character and bantered with us for a while talking like Elvis. It was great!
As we hit the later miles, Shannon started hurting. Her hamstrings were bothering her and we stopped to stretch at least once. I keep Tylenol in my hydration belt and offered a couple to her. At first she declined but then asked for them a mile or so later. I could tell that she was starting to hurt quite a bit. I was starting to hurt too. I even wondered if I should have kept the Tylenol for myself. My IT Band was starting to ache. It wasn’t hurting terribly, but I could definitely feel it. At one point, up a steep hill, I jogged/walked up it backwards which felt really good on my legs. I learned a very important fact: even if you are running slower than your normal pace, running a half marathon isn’t easy! No matter what, 13.1 miles is a long way.
The mood throughout the race was very festive. In addition to running Elvi, there were bands and cheerleaders. There was even a giant rocker. It was fun.
The race took us right into downtown LA. For someone who has never really been to downtown LA, this was pretty cool for me. It was flat and shady and a nice area. I am glad there was only a mile or so… just enough.
As my Garmin clicked over to thirteen miles**** we could see where the course turned right toward the finish and could hear the festivities. She needed one last walk break before the final stretch. She had really pushed herself that mile or so.
Shannon had asked me to run ahead at the end to get a picture. I double checked before I left her, to make sure she didn’t want me with her. I am so glad I ran ahead. The picture I snapped is way better than the official one from the race photographer. Look at that smile!
Sprinting into the finish! Her official time was 2:40:21 (16 minutes after the gun time)I was/am extremely proud of her! She is raising two very active boys, volunteers a ton at the school and works. The fact that she found time to train for a half marathon is amazing to me. I love, love, love the fact that my running has connected me with women like her.
This was my slowest half marathon, but one of my most enjoyable. I really like to pace my friends—and I think I may have found a calling. I have a lot to learn, however. Next time, I need to figure out, in advance, how much I should slow someone down as opposed to letting her set the pace. I also need to study the course and elevation profile and maybe even bring a copy of the map with me. I could have been way more helpful if I had any idea what the course was like. I had no clue on this one; I was completely along for the ride and didn’t even look at it.
Overall, I give it a thumb’s up. It was a great day to be running and I was able to share a special running moment with one of my running friends. It was exactly what I needed to remind me of my love of running.
*we thought that the weather would be cold and drizzly as it had been for the past several days. It was a little chilly and the bags did a nice job of keeping the chill off.
**I was a little nervous because her friend, Lauren, was meeting us at the starting line with her husband’s bib. All race literature claimed that you could not board the shuttle without a race bib. I think my garbage sack helped, as well as the fact that runners were filing on the bus and it would have taken a long time for the driver to check under everyone’s jacket, sweatshirt or bag.
***Bag pickup after the race was just as simple. In fact, she walked up to truck #3 and a volunteer told the guy in the truck her bib number before she got to the table. Shannon was handed her bag before saying a word. Flawless.
****My Garmin ended up showing 13.5 miles. We did not run the tangents at all, weaved a bit and I ran ahead a few times to snap pictures and then back to run with Shannon. So all the splits are really just approximations, I suppose.