Monday, January 26, 2009

Carlsbad Half Marathon Race Report

As I stated before, the stars aligned yesterday. I am still feeling pretty darn happy. I am going to enjoy this for a few days.

Here is my very long race report. Please pardon me while I gush with the details *wink*

The day started out VERY early. I discovered last year that in order for me to be able to fully awake before an important run, I need to get up an hour before I leave the house. That way my body has time to react to caffeine so I can use the bathroom in peace in my own home. I woke up around 3:45 (yikes) because I had agreed to pick up Coleen* at 5 a.m. because Carlsbad is at least 45 minutes to an hour away. The website said that there would be traffic delays and to give ourselves an extra 45 minutes (the race started at 7:30). Coleen still had to pick up her bib and neither of us knew how crowded it would be. If you remember my traffic experience at the AFC half, you will understand why we left so early. We ended up with no traffic, a breeze to park and a lot of time before the race. We stretched, warmed up a bit and I used the potty three times before the lines started forming. The potty usage may have been a key in avoiding problems that I faced in both the marathon and my last half.

It felt chilly, but not too cold. Any of you in a cold climate would have laughed at us Southern Californians. We were rubbing our arms and shivering in the 53 degree morning. There were people with tights, hats and gloves. At one point I had wished I had my gloves (my hands get really cold), but probably would have thrown them away within the first couple of miles. I decided to wear a running skirt. It was a good choice because my legs were never cold. I wore a short sleeved running top and my arm warmers. I figured I could take them off and shove them in my fuel belt if I got too warm. I didn't. It was perfect.

They used a wave start. It was my first time with a wave start and I really liked it. There was none of that first shuffling that you get with corral starting or no time differentiation at all. They started wave 1 and then asked wave 2 to move up to the start line and so on. I was in wave 3. I saw the two-hour pacer standing just outside of wave 3 (somewhat between wave 2 and 3). I went over and joined his group. I asked him if his goal was two hours or under two hours. He told me he would have the group in at 1:59. I decided to start with him. We actually started with wave 2. No one seemed to mind if you moved up a wave.

I knew I needed to start out slow. I had a lot of adrenaline and would have sprinted out from the starting line. Instead, I ran next to the pacer. I figured that he would be able to keep me where I needed to be. I ran that first mile pretty much with the pace group. I ran that first mile in just under 9 minutes. Check. I was a bit worried during that first mile. My feet were feeling a bit numb. I have horrible circulation and I guess standing around in chilly weather waiting for the start wasn't the best. Despite the numbness near my toes, I could feel my shoe rubbing a little. I was hoping that wouldn't last the entire race. Also, my calves were feeling pretty tight even though I warmed up, stretched and rubbed them with my stick.

I am not sure what happened after that. I started speeding up a little. I figured I would keep the pacer just behind me to give me some space. Well... I never saw him again. There was a girl with a pink shirt with a sign on her back from the 2 hour pace team. I don't know if she was official or just someone who signed up at the expo. I decided to follow her. Well... she was faster than the pacer. That second mile was a screamin' 8:17. Oops. According to Garmin, the elevation change that mile was only 7 feet, so it wasn't hills that sped me up.

The next few miles were rolling hills and my pace was feeling good. I felt good. As we ran onto Carlsbad Blvd along the ocean, there was a slight breeze. I was glad to have my arm warmers. I wasn't cold at all. I was in a great mood and actually chatted with a few runners. As we were running along the Pacific ocean I said to one guy, "well... we could be in Iowa." He replied that it was probably 70 degrees warmer here. "Yep. It doesn't get much better than this."

The rest of the race was a bit of a blur. I think I was smiling the entire time. I knew that I was on pace to have a great finish time. The miles seem to fly by. I hit the half-way point and literally skipped across the mat. I knew that I just needed to run smart and finish the race. My original plan was to stay conservative in the first half (I wasn't entirely successful at that) and turn it on for the second half. I am extremely pleased to say that I ran negative splits in the second half of the race!! My pace for the first 6.6 miles was 8:45. My pace for the entire race was 8:37!

The race and course were the best! It was not quite as flat as I was led to believe. It was rolling hills. You could definitely feel the hills. I think, however, that I ran faster because of the hills. I tried not to slow down too much while running up them. But I did take advantage of "free speed**" while going down. While some of the hills a little tough, for the most part it was an easy course. In fact, according to my Garmin, almost 56% of the course was flat. There were water stops everywhere. They had two spots where you could get Gu. There were several bands along the way as well as a lot of spectator support. The post-race snack was pretty nice.

I was loving my new playlist! It accomplished everything I wanted it to. It was a bit slower in the beginning and had heavier beat songs in the second half. I think that my negative second half split might be partially due to the music. I think I might write a separate post on some of my surprising running songs. As I was heading up the last major (if you can call it major) hill, Avril Levigne's "Girlfriend"*** came on which was the perfect beat to pound up the hill.

At mile 9, I was at 1:17. I realized that I had over four minutes to spare and realized that I could slow down to ten minute miles and still get there under two hours. This was an incredible realization. It took so much pressure off. I didn't slow down, but it was nice to know that I could.

The only low spot during the race was mile 11. For the first time all day, I was feeling a bit sluggish. My legs felt very heavy. I was beginning to wonder if the Gu and sport beans were a smart idea because I could feel them in my stomach. I started to worry that I went out too fast and I was hitting a wall. It was one of my slowest miles of the race. Ironically, six months ago I couldn't have dreamed of running that fast. I was thrilled if I got anywhere close to nine minutes.

Once I hit the 11 mile marker, I felt a new energy knowing that there were only two miles left. I picked it up. By the end of the twelfth mile I was feeling strong. The last mile is mostly downhill. I gave it all I had. At one point, there was a girl stretching on the side of the road. I almost yelled at her that she could walk and still make it under two hours. But I kept that thought to myself. As I was about 3/4 of a mile from the end, I looked at my watch. It said 1:47. I knew then that my time was going to be far faster than I had thought I could do. I was so excited. That last mile was my fastest mile of the day. In fact, it was one of my fastest miles EVER. I ran the last mile in 7:58!!!****

When I crossed the finish line, I was filled with emotion. I was crying with my relief and joy. I didn't feel this kind of emotion at the end of the marathon. I think I was so glad to have it over that the rush of emotion didn't hit me quite as strong. I am actually nervous to see my finish line photo because it might be one of those ugly crying faces. LOL.

The only bummer was that I never saw Penny or AKA Alice. Alice was supposed to be in day-glo green with her friends. How did I miss that?? Since we all live pretty close (especially Alice and I), I am sure we will see each other in future races.

All in all, it was GREAT. I officially LOVE this distance. I always suspected that it would be my favorite distance, but now I know. Thank you all for the well-wishes and congratulations. I am not sure if I will have a race when I felt such a huge sense of triumph (unless of course I go for that sub-four-hour marathon.... but the pressure was so much, I am not sure I want to do that to myself again).

Before and After Pictures with Coleen

*My friend, Coleen, completed her first half marathon with a GREAT performance. She ran it in 2:16, which is a 10:23 pace!! Other than some pains in her knee and foot, she felt great. I am SO proud of her. I really encouraged her to do this race and had she hated it, I would feel terrible. I am so happy that she did well.
**My friend and fellow blogger, Terri, wrote about how her brother taught her about "free speed" while you run down hills. I thought of her while I was cruising down the short hills.

***I actually think this is a pretty horrible song. I am NOT a fan of pop. This song actually reminds me a lot of an 80's song "Mickey" by Toni Basil (another pretty horrible song). There is something about this style of song that is perfect for running fast.

****My only faster miles were during my two 5K races. I was actually excited while typing that time! Holy cow... who knew?

Time- 1:52:46
Pace- 8:37
Place- 1746/7148
Gender- 581/4284
Division (F 40-44)- 79/584
6.6 mile split- 57:39
6.6 mile pace- 8:45

Mile 1- 8:54
Mile 2- 8:17
Mile 3- 8:35
Mile 4- 8:25
Mile 5- 8:46
Mile 6- 8:26
Mile 7- 8:37
Mile 8- 8:25
Mile 9- 8:35
Mile 10- 8:35
Mile 11- 8:46
Mile 12- 8:25
Mile 13- 7:58
.28- 7:50 pace


MCM Mama said...

I am so incredibly impressed! Sounds like an awesome race for you!

Southbaygirl said...

Awesome Awesome Awesome!!!! Ok one more time AWESOME!!! You rocked it woman!! Excellent race!! I'm really bummed I didn't get to meet you!! One day!!!

Aka Alice said...

Look at you with your bad-ole self. Congrats on a really awesome were smart the whole way!

Yeah...the reason you didn't see me was because I was two waves and about 35 minutes behind you :-)...we'll figure it out next time

La Jolla?

The Alien said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! That's a really FAST time. Great race report, I can feel the excitement from the race while reading it.

Marathonman101108 said...

WOW!! Congratulations!! Nice to see you ran a personal best. Sorry to see it was so "cold" at the start, says I sarcastically! Now you have me "pumped" to run my next half marathon in April. A final "WOO-HOO" for you!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Girl you have earned the right to gush, so hell, if you want to write another race report with more details, I'll read it! I'll read it!!!

Isn't "free speed" awesome?! YOU DID SO AWESOME, I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!

And yes, I would have laughed to see people in tights, and long sleeves, etc.

I'll have to weigh my "base layer" and tell you how much it weighs. It's not the type of long sleeve shirt you guys probably wear in Southern CA (and which I can only wear until October, sadly.)

Alissa said...

I'm going to have to put this race on my calendar next year. Sounds like a fun, fast course. I really enjoyed reading your race report. I agree, music can make a huge difference, especially new music that you haven't heard that many times while running. Congrats again! I'm so happy for you!

Lisa Lucas said...

You go girl!!! Awesome job - you should be so proud of yourself! :)

Anonymous said...

You are a total rock star!

I run to Avril's Girlfriend sometimes too... it is peppy and good energy for that effort!

This does sound like a great race and I'm interested in trying to do the Carlsbad, La Jolla and AFC series sometime. They're close enough to Vegas that it wouldn't be a huge travel ordeal either!

Kristin said...

Again, I am so thrilled for you and so impressed with your splits. (Especially as I feel myself getting slower and slower.) Your race photos are fantastic, too!

Reluctant Runner said...

Wow! I just came across your blog (linked from akaAlice) and really enjoyed reading about your race.

I'm aiming to shave some time off a 1:59 finish at my next half, so it's quite inspiring to hear about your race.

Jenn said...

Coming out of blog hibernation to say congrats! I am beyond impressed!

And um, I'd kill for 53 degrees right now. My car said 5 degrees this morning! Heading to La Jolla (I think in your neck of the woods) next week so excited for better weather!

A Little Of A Lot said...

Damn, you are smoking. WTG !!!

I've just gotten the ok to start running again, why does it make me so nervous ? LOL


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