Coming within 9 seconds of my half marathon personal record came as quite a surprise on Sunday, but I am very pleased with how the race went. Since I’d done almost no “speed work” (aside from a few faster-paced tempo runs in the 2 weeks prior), I thought that 7:00 min/mile – 7:15 min/mile would feel fast, but do-able for 13.1 miles. I’m only just getting my bounce back post-injury and am not looking for PRs any time soon.
As usual, race day started early with a 4:00am wake up call. I drove to Culver City and hopped into Cristina’s car along with Ellen to carpool to Ventura. We stopped at a Starbucks to use the bathroom and I joked that I’d had a great… session… in the bathroom and that it was a good sign for my race. After parking, we jogged over to the start line area to pick our race items up. The race start was actually on the upper level, flush with the pier, while the festival was on the lower level, underneath the pier. We received a very nice and high quality race shirt and hat, a durable shopping bag, and some edible goodies. I definitely gave this race a 10/10 swag rating. After leaving our bags in gear check, Ellen and I did a short warm up and lucked out as the pier was just being opened for the day. The combination of ocean sounds and smell, cool morning air, and feeling of running was heavenly.
I said hi to Chris who was pacing 2:00 and positioned myself in wave 1 for the 6:30am start. The first few feet are downhill as we descend down from pier-level and I was immediately thinking “woah, slow down!” I was within striking distance of the 1:30 pace group – way too fast for this early in the race. I was wondering if they went out a bit too slow because I felt too good, but felt the pace of the group quicken as we approached the first mile marker. I dropped back and struck up a conversation with Bill, who was turning 60 the next day. We had a great rhythm going and I was running strongly and smoothly. The course is an out-and-back, which is my least favorite, so I was happy to be distracted by the conversation.
Right before the turn-around, I started to look for Cristina on the other side. She looked strong, happy, and fast, sitting in the 2nd place overall female position. I continued running with Bill until about mile 7.
Miles 1-6 ~ 6:52, 6:53, 6:54, 6:43, 6:48, 6:55 (tight u-turn!)
Reviewing my splits, I see that I sped up. Although I don’t like out-and-back courses, I tend to run faster on the way back simply because I know that I’m running straight to a finish line. I still didn’t feel like I was running too fast or like I would blow up. I kept the 1:30 group in sight while passing runners here and there. I saw a few AREC friends on the other side and distracted myself by cheering groups of runners on.
Miles 7-10 ~ 6:43, 6:44, 6:44, 6:37
I passed the 1:30 group around the 9 mile marker. I still felt really good and knew that I could keep chugging along at that pace, if not faster. It is truly amazing how quickly fitness bounces back. I used to believe that one lost speed before endurance while injured or taking a break, but I’m beginning to realize that it may actually be the other way around. I passed a ponytail, then another one, then a third on the way to the finish line. I took my gel out of my sports bra, but I never needed it. My last 3 miles were 6:2x and I truly didn’t start to feel uncomfortable until mile 12. I’ve been dealing with a painful callus/hot spot on my left forefoot pad for a few months and it starts to burn when I’m running fast. There were a few turns during the last 1.5 miles which aggravated that spot.
Miles 11-13 ~ 6:33, 6:28, 6:23
I passed the third ponytail between miles 12 and 13, and was 2 SECONDS away from a top 3 finish! Not only that, but I discovered that we were the exact same age, which pushed me into 2nd place for my age division. I try not to be that person who cares a bit too much about their finish place, but… 2 seconds! When I looked at the clock and saw 1:27:xx, I was in shock. Though I wore my Garmin, I had it set on distance and didn’t check it until mile 12.5 (I also forgot to stop it at the finish line, oops). I spotted Cristina and learned that not only had she placed first overall female, she earned a 2+ minute PR and ran a 1:24. Ellen had a great day too finishing in 1:36 and change. Collectively, we are a speedy trio, clocking a 1:30 average half marathon time!
Since the vendor area wasn’t open until 9:00am, we ran a 3 mile cool down along the beach. We ended up running with a very nice gentleman who was out doing a 20 miler in preparation for the Long Beach Marathon. In fact, he knew Bill! The running community is surprisingly tight-knit sometimes. Ravenous after 17 miles of running, we stopped at Wildflour, which is the cafe that I visited after running the Cheseboro Half Marathon. Oatmeal, breakfast burritos, and coffee kept us satiated for the traffic-laden journey back to L.A.
I actually felt the effort of the race a bit more on Tuesday than Monday (hi DOMS), but it wasn’t enough to keep me from doing hill repeats. In fact, I was really hungry for the hills this week and ended up logging two quality hill sessions. I suppose I felt I had to make up for missing both of my strength training sessions, which I’m hoping to get back to next week. This weekend started with a 20-turned-21 miler with Cristina and ended with a 10 mile run with Al. For the record, Cristina logged 24 miles on Saturday and Alberto was running 10 in the morning and 16 in the evening, so I feel like the lazy one.