October 12, 2009

SLO City to the Sea Half Marathon (Race Report)

Another race over, and a new PR to go with it! Yesterday I ran the City to the Sea Half Marathon from downtown San Luis Obispo to Pismo Beach and had a great time, both literally and figuratively : )

Now on to my review. This was my first experience with a small-scale race and there were certainly some big differences - some good, some bad. It was relatively small with a lot of local runners participating, and I was definitely a fan of the 8am start. My first issue, however, was the course. Yes, it was very scenic, but it also was almost completely run on the same road that just kept going, and going, and going... Part of why I had been looking forward to this race was because the website boasted that the last 2 miles coming into Pismo Beach were slightly downhill...and who wouldn't love that at the end of a race? Well, if by downhill they meant rolling hills every couple minutes, then they would be correct. In fact, the last 4 miles had scattered hills throughout, which slowed me down significantly since I'm a bit incline-challenged. Another factor I was unimpressed with was the mile markers...aka chalk numbers that were super easy to miss if you weren't watching for them and made pacing a bit difficult. The water stops also seemed a little too infrequent. Maybe I just need water more often than others, but I found myself wishing they weren't so few and far between.

My last complaint (I swear!) concerns a lie of great significance to me. When I registered for this race, I was excited for the finishers swag: a long sleeve shirt, free breakfast, and most importantly, the medal. Anyone who knows me is aware that the real reason I run races is the medal, and I don't like to sign up for ones without. Many might say to this, "But isn't it about the experience and enjoying the race?" No. It's all about the medal. So imagine my surprise (ok, anger if we're being honest) when I visit the website a few days before the race to check out last minute details and I find that "medal" has been replaced with "prizes". Wtf?! Perhaps this made me bitter about the whole race, hence the above complaints. Instead, we were given a water bottle and a keychain with the event logo. Not the same as a medal (cheapskates), but it's ok because I'm going to make the keychain into one anyway : )

Now on to my performance. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was aiming to at least do as well as Disneyland, with a pace somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30/mi. Without clear mile markers, and being alone, it was hard to monitor my pace, and so I was quite surprised at about mile 3 when I realized I was doing 10:10s! I slowed a bit since I knew I couldn't keep this up for 10 more miles, but was still going faster than I'm used too. By mile 8 I was consistently 8 minutes ahead of where I should be for a 2:30 finish, but then came miles 9-13, which, as I mentioned were so not flat. This closed the gap a bit as I walked short spurts on the uphills, but I still was doing well on time, now back around my 11:30 pace. Early on I had started to think I might PR; then came the hills, and some doubts inched their way in; then came the last 2 miles which were not downhill as expected, and glancing at my watch I sort of gave up on a PR and decided to just have a strong finish. Well imagine my surprise, then, on crossing that finish line at looking at my time - a PR by 2 minutes!! Official results haven't been posted yet but according to my watch I came in at exactly 2:24:00, totally unexpected but a totally exciting turn of events! Considering that this was my first race solo, I didn't have the best training going into it, and the hill factor, I'm pretty proud of myself : )

Some final thoughts. During the race, as I kept passing and being passed by the same people, I couldn't help but think about some things. Like how incredible your first race is. For several women I talked to, this was it, and I couldn't help but think what a fantastic experience this will be for them. I also found myself contemplating the thoughts that keep a runner occupied for 13.1 miles. Seriously, what do you think about when you're running for so long, you're tired and sore, and you forgot why it is you're doing this? Absolutely fascinating, I think. After the race, as I relaxed in the park before hopping on a shuttle back downtown, I reveled in the running community atmosphere that I've come to love so much. Some first-timers, others seasoned athletes, but all with a common interest and passion. Most of all I just love the supportive factor that is so prevalent in this community, and really inspires you to keep going whether that be in training or in a race.

I'm taking tomorrow off to give my sore muscle a break, then it's back to training for marathon #2, just 8 weeks away!!


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