Yesterday, I ran my eleventh half marathon. It was my second time running La Jolla
and although I was really pushing for a PR, I’m satisfied with a PR for this course. I was about four minutes off of my personal best for the half marathon (1:53:15), but I ran 18 minutes and 34 seconds faster than I did last year
at La Jolla (2010 = 2:15:33 and 2011 = 1:56:59)! It’s hard not to be happy about that!
Saying this course is “tough,” feels like an understatement. I tried to downplay the hills in my mind: “Yeah, they’re steep, but they’re short.“ The truth is, those suckers are killer! My hammy’s were screaming climbing the hills and my quads were trashed by the steep descents. Just like last year, the race announcer at the Start Line kept calling them: “Character-building hills,” which was almost as annoying as the half dozen spectators strategically placed along the course, shouting: “It’s all downhill from here!“
I wish I was stronger on hills and I really wish I could accomplish that without having to train on them… sigh…
Knowing the popularity of this race, we registered early and paid the minimum fee of $60, which isn’t too pricey for a race in Cali, but… not worth the money, if you ask me. The expo was a super lame waste of time, the shirts we got are starchy, stiff, white, cotton tees (mine’s heading straight to Goodwill), and they didn’t have any fuel along the course, except for water and Vitalyte. I found it pretty amusing that a boy at one of the water stations was shouting: “Vitalyte, here! It’s just like Gatorade, just with a nasty aftertaste!“ I can’t handle electrolyte drinks during races, so all they had for me was water.
Since it’s a point-to-point course, they provided shuttles and the option to be shuttled from the finish to the start or vice versa. They had a 5:30am cut-off to catch a ride to the start, so Jared and I had a lovely 4:00am wake-up call on Sunday morning. I barely slept due to race nerves, our neighbors’ Saturday night shenanigans and Jared’s and Sully’s incessant snoring (…those rascals). I was a restless mess.
We left the house at 4:45am, parked near La Jolla Cove, then waited in line for a shuttle. The shuttle system they had going on was absolutely stupid. Coming from a race-aholic who genuinely couldn’t care less about blips in race organization because nothing trumps the high of racing, that is BAD. They had a couple thousand runners waiting for shuttles to the start line, a dozen busses were lined up, ready to be loaded and sent to Del Mar, but the officials were only loading ONE bus at a time and they were doing this very, very SLOWLY. Seriously, so stupid and I just don’t get it. It seemed like they didn’t know what was going on.
The 13.1 mile bus ride to the Start Line took an unnervingly long time. Jared dozed, while I tried not to pee myself. And when we finally got off the bus, I was horrified to see the usual lonnng lines for port-a-potties. I did the pee-pee dance while we waited for what felt like an eternity. I kept looking at Jared and saying: “I am going to die before we even get to those hills!“ Fortunately, I made it. We dropped off our warm-ups at the chaotic bag check as a duo sang the National Anthem and the race announcer said what he said last year: “That was the BEST National Anthem that we have ever heard at this race.” The gun went off while I was stuffing a gel in my back pocket and ripping open a sample packet of Sport Beans and I started to relax as we made our way to the Start Line.
Between trying not to pee myself and getting ourselves to the Start Line, I hadn’t had a moment to stretch or warm-up, so I started off feeling sluggish. My pace was well below target and I started to panic a bit inside. It wasn’t an ideal start, but I wasn’t going to hand over my goal that easily. I flashed Jared infinite love and gratitude and kicked it up a notch.
On the bus ride I’d taken one last look at the course map and elevation chart, noting hills at miles 1, 3, 4, 6 and 12. Knowing that the big one was at mile 6, I set it in my mind to churn through the first half, survive mile 6, then cruise to the finish. I clipped off one mile after another:
Mile 1: 9:12
Mile 2: 8:33
Mile 3: 8:36
Mile 4: 9:13
Mile 5: 8:14
At mile 5, I pulled out another sample packet of Sport Beans to fuel-up for the monster hill looming ahead, but as I ripped open the package, the jellybeans went flying everywhere. Only two jellybeans made it in my mouth before we started to ascend into Torrey Pines. Another runner yelled: “We’re coming for you, Torrey!“
I’d resolved to the run the whole hill, but it grew steeper and steeper and steeper as I realized it’d be faster to hike up the hill than to continue attempting to run it. And so I started power walking up that monster of a hill, just like a majority of the runners around me. My PR hopes deflated and I didn’t dare look at my Garmin as it chirped my mile time. I knew it would be atrocious.
The cartoon elevation chart makes it look like you get to the top of the hill, then the course flattens out before descending, which isn’t accurate. There were some rolling hills from that high point, which were tough because my hamstrings were worn out. For the next couple miles, I struggled to pick up the pace again and reached for my Clif gel, praying it’d give me superpowers.
Mile 6: 10:53
Mile 7: 9:27
Mile 8: 9:02
A little Clif gel magic plus a substantial descent, helped me pick up my pace. I was happy to know there were only five miles to go and let my legs fly down the hills thinking: “Give it all now, recover later.”
Mile 9: 8:33
Mile 10: 8:44
Mile 11: 7:26
One of my goals for 2011 is to run a mile in under 7:30, which I’ve never done before. Go figure I’d pull that off during the tenth mile of a half marathon…
Hang on, I told myself as I headed towards the last hill and another cluster of spectators shouting: “Last hill!“ A runner nearby said, “Why do they keep telling us that?!” And I replied, “This time they’re right! Hang on!” As we crested the hill and descended on the Finish Line, I willed my legs to go faster and faster, but still, several runners blazed past me.
Mile 12: 8:07
Mile 13: 9:02
Last 0.28 mi: 1:50 (6:49/mile)
Garmin Results: 13.28 miles, 1:56:59 (8:48/mile)
Official Results: 13.1 miles, 1:56:59 (8:56/mile)
The finish line party was the highlight of the race. Without a doubt, La Jolla has one of the best beer gardens we’ve ever attended because they fence off a gorgeous grassy area right by the ocean AND the beer was unlimited. Being a celiac (a.k.a. gluten-intolerant) girl, I can’t drink beer, so I got to stretch out in the grass and watch Jared coast his way to a “beer PR.”
Five beers later… we wandered into La Jolla for brunch at the Coffee Cup
. It was a 30 minute wait, so we put our names on the list and wandered around the corner to Cups
, where we had dessert first! Life is short, afterall… AND we just ran 13.1 miles…
We each got two mini cupcakes, since the tiny ones are calorie-free. Right? I got the two gluten-free flavors of the day, which were limone ricotta and bunny love (carrot cake). The carrot cake one was heaven! Jarebear got a (vegan!) cookies n’ cream one and one called a brulee-J that had vanilla custard in the middle and a carmalized top… it looked amazeballs.
All sugared-up, we walked back to the Coffee Cup, where we finally got a table and filled our bellies with more delicious food before heading home to veg on the couch all day… at least until we were hungry enough to venture out for Chipotle and Yogurtland!