San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon :: Part I

For the past week I’ve been waffling back and forth on the best way to recap our San Diego vacation and my latest half marathon, lucky #7. I finally decided last night to take a cue from one of my favorite running bloggers and bakers, Sugar Coated Athlete. I’ve only met her once, but she is the sweetest lady and her posts are always entertaining, motivating and REAL. I highly recommend checking out her blog. 🙂 She recently took a trip to Moab, UT and split her race and vacation into multiple posts. This Sugar Coated lady has some pretty great ideas! Thanks for the inspiration Missy!

So, today’s post will be all things race related and tomorrow’s (or maybe the next day…) will be about the food, the fun, the food — the vacation! In January, when I booked our rental condo, I wasn’t registered to run yet, but I knew I was going to run either the full or half marathon.

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Blue line is the half course, red line is the full course.

San Diego holds a special spot in my heart, so taking an early leap to book accommodations (before registering) wasn’t a huge deal. Back in June of 2011 I chose the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon as my first ever marathon. That’s when I discovered the people of San Diego were absolutely AMAZING spectators, so it didn’t take much waffling to come back again in 2012! They are so supportive of the race, that you can’t help but feel energized by their enthusiasm. That same energy brought me back a third time for 2013.

I put off registering for San Diego until the last minute, because in January I was already training for The Phoenix Marathon; a March race. In 2012 I ran their inaugural half marathon and it was incredible, so I didn’t want to miss doing their inaugural full in 2013. This posed a potential problem to my usual San Diego Marathon plans being that the two were so close together, but I always knew the half would be an option. I wanted to see how The Phoenix Marathon would go, and then make an informed decision about San Diego. When my March race turned out to be a great run for me, I immediately thought “Half for San Diego”! But I waited about a month to make a firm decision.

In the end I decided it was best to simply enjoy the personal victory I had achieved at The Phoenix Marathon, and registered for San Diego’s half. It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end I’m very glad I did it. I was worried that doing the half would feel different and that the race experiences out on the course wouldn’t be the same. But San Diego proved me wrong and I’m SO HAPPY for that!

The expo was right in the heart of downtown San Diego; June gloom was in full force for most of this trip.

The expo was right in the heart of downtown San Diego; lots of June Gloom but it was a nice change from the AZ heat.

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We picked up my race packet, goodie bag, race shirt and extra, extra, LARGE bib; I was in corral 1. Y I K E S.

We stopped and listened to an interview with Deena Kastor and I’m so glad we did! I really liked everything she had to say about running, training, goal setting and staying motivated.

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I snapped the above photo during a pivotal moment – for me – in the Q & A session. I honestly don’t remember what question was asked, but her answer included a story of her coach’s pep talk to her before a major race. All he said to her was, “Define yourself.” She went on to explain all the moments where she defined herself during that race. It struck a cord with me and I carried those words with me that night and all the way to the finish line of the race the next day. I wish I could go back and thank her – because that was a perfect little kick to keep me pushing during the race.

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Mr. Zucchini Runner and I weren’t on any type of schedule this whole vacation, so it allowed us to take our time going up and down the aisles at the expo and explore. It was a nice change… but of course that resulted in three impulse buys. 😉

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1. I didn’t really NEED a new Garmin, but I was sold by its new and “shiny” features AND “ONLY THIS PRICE AT THE EXPO” sales pitch.

2. What gal doesn’t need a new running top? I “needed” one that would help me stand out in the running crowd for Mr. Zucchini Runner to easily spot me.

3. And, these Flip Belt ladies sold me on this little gizmo for holding gels, phones, keys – you name it!

I used 2 of the 3 purchases on race day… can you guess which ones?

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If you guessed the tank top and flip belt, you were correct! I couldn’t just toss my old trusty Garmin 305 to the curb just yet! Even if it DID look like I was wearing the world’s smallest desktop on my wrist. =) Sorry 305, but this 610 is just so sleek and small. I promise to keep you around for backup!

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Then of course I had to try on my race outfit and make sure everything fit and stayed in place. Pinning on my race bib the night before is always a must – not to mention helpful in downsizing this particular bad boy. Shaky, adrenaline-filled race hands don’t go well with safety pins, in the wee dark hours of the morning.

IMG_1474And if I wasn’t prepared enough, I then set it ALL OUT so I wouldn’t forget any parts in the morning.

IMG_1457A definite perk of having our own kitchen on vacation and eating mostly vegan, was that I was able to fuel up with my favorite pre-race meal, before hittin’ the hay.

733008-1006-0041sRACE MORNING! Mr. Zucchini Runner and I were in a fast-paced walk to the start line, but not so fast we couldn’t stop for a quick photo opp offered by one of the guys at Marathon Foto. It was in fact chilly, but I was pretty warmed-up from the 2 mile walk and amped for the race at this point.

733004-1021-0026sDID SOMEONE SAY AMPED?! I didn’t even have to stop for this one! Shortly after, I started running to my corral, leaving Mr. Zucchini Runner behind! I said my goodbye’s and took off! Once I got to my corral, I couldn’t actually get IN, cause it was so crowded (I swear I heard some moo’ing). I turned around in pre-race angst to see Mr. ZR alongside my friend Sarah, waiting to send me off! This is the first time any of my non-runner family/friends have ever been at the start line with me – it was pretty freakin’ cool. (Sarah was in town to support her sister-in-law who was running her first full marathon.) Don’t worry, all us “runner cattle” were able to fit into the corral… eventually.

733017-1016-0043sWE’RE OFF! I had my eyes peeled for those photographers on the course and tried to smile every time I saw one! I think this was taken at mile 7-8.

733035-1023-0003sAt this point (between miles 10 and 11) I’m looking wearily happy because we just climbed up a short hill at Balboa Park. Moments earlier some friendly spectator had PROMISED me it was the last uphill.

For the record… she lied. But it got me up the hill faster, so I didn’t care. Some lies are good lies. 🙂

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You can get an idea of the course, and its small rolling hills here. The green line is the elevation change, blue line is my pace – spikes are the water stops where I walked. The large group of blue spikes at the end? I didn’t actually hit the stop button on my watch when I crossed the finish line, I hit the lap button instead. Whoops! There was a crazy downhill between miles 11 and 12, as you can see. I decided to use it to my advantage and just barreled down that puppy. I really enjoyed that part of the course! 733037-1013-0033sMy plan going into this race was to take a back seat for the first half and then turn it on for the second half, while really pushing in the last two. Again, I’m not certain, but I think this was in the last two miles? Maybe? (Good to see that I still need to work on that heel strike at faster speeds! Maybe I can blame it on the downhill?) I also no longer cared about smiling for the cameras, that’s for sure!

picstitchThe race bag provided at the expo came with a Run Now Boston wrist band, with the date of the last marathon/bombing. I wore it during the race and remember specifically at one point, feeling the lactic acid starting to build up and cause some pain, when all of a sudden the bracelet un-lodged from my upper forearm and starting jumping all around. It reminded me of those affected that day – the loss, the pain, the fear. I had two good legs, that were running a half marathon, on a great course, through a great city and there were no excuses to not give 100%. Any pain I was feeling was temporary and completely trivial compared to those at the site of the bombing. I am very grateful for my health and my love of running, I don’t ever want it to go to waste. There WILL come a day when I won’t be able to run and I don’t want to look back with any regrets. It was a perfect moment to push harder and define myself.

733043-1098-0020sNearing the finish, the full course and half course run alongside each other. I remember turning the corner just past mile 12 and saw the full marathon race leader! I immediately turned into a spectator and starting cheering him on – it was so cool! I didn’t know who he was (Simon Njoroge), but it didn’t matter either! (He finished in 2:15 with a 5:09 pace.) I took a drink of water at the aid station and refocused. My spectator attitude was out the window as quickly as it came and I said to myself, “This might be the last time you will get to do this [run “side by side” with an elite, who’s about to take first place], GO!” I kept him in my line of site as long as I could, and pushed as hard as I could. I kept telling myself it was only a mile, and this is what I’ve been training for. I reminded myself again, to define myself. One of the ways I could do that, was with a strong finish, something I always want to do.

(As a side note, Bernard Koech won this race in 58:41 with a 4:29 pace, the fastest half marathon finish time on American soil, and third fastest of all time. CRAZY!)

733050-1027-0010sI make some pretty “good” race faces when I want to. My max speed was 5:38 in this final stretch – apparently a perfect pace for a great race face.

733050-1027-0016sGasping for air preeeeeeety hard here! Virginia looks like he can relate. 🙂

733080-1001-0046sElated that I just PR’d from my previous 1:44:07 to the current 1:41:19. I wasn’t sure I could do it since my previous PR was mostly downhill and a very fast course!

splits_cmgI was very happy with my final splits, my last 1.19 in particular. I set out to PR, and to run smart and I was able to do both. I really like the half marathon distance. I remember thinking at mile 11, “Do I really only have 2 miles left? Do I really start pushing harder now?” It went by so fast, most of the race was a blur. I remember running past an elvis runner, dressed head to toe in blue complete with fringe. I remember a guy on his front lawn playing an acoustic guitar with a mic and a girl singing. I remember numerous people, handing out water, pretzels and oranges – just to be nice – not at an aid station. All the signs, all the cheering, all the support. It was all there, just like the past two years at the full marathon. The crazy religious guy telling us we are all sinners and going to hell was even there – he moved spots from the previous years! I remember smiling ear to ear at the CUTEST little cheerleaders giving it their ALL on the sidelines. The were all younger than 10 I believe. 🙂 Lastly, and one of my favs from the previous years, a drum group that plays nothing but these HUGE drums. WOO HOO! Which reminds me, typically the bands aren’t that great – but this year – they really had some good ones and good SONGS that pumped me up even more than I already was.

photo 2This was the view Mr. Zucchini Runner had from the crowd. Compared to the neon orange and neon green, my pink doesn’t stand out as much as I had hoped! He was so happy that the tragic Boston event didn’t change the finish line area for him. Everyone was there, packed in like sardines to watch for their runner. There weren’t any (obvious) spectator restrictions and that made him SO happy. It made me happy too. On April 15th, when we were watching the events unfold on our television, we were sick to our stomachs at the tragedy unfolding before us. We believed it would forever change future events – at the start and the finish. That thought was sickening too, because it makes you question humanity and the world we live in. As happy as I was at my PR, Mr. Zucchini Runner was just as happy that his viewing experience hadn’t been altered. When we finally met up outside the finishing chute he exclaimed, “They didn’t change ANYTHING about the finish. It’s like a big ‘up yours’ to terrorists!” Well said.

IMG_1477I couldn’t get my cool Rock ‘n’ Roll medal last year because of an injury related DNF. It was so sweet to have that heavy medal in my hand this year, even if it was for a different race distance.

rose_corineOur original plan was to stick around and cheer other runners on, but we are “smart” people and forgot to bring warm clothes to wear at the finish line. (San Diego June Gloom 101 – must bring jacket everywhere.) I did bring a CHANGE of clothes, but nothing warm! Oops! At least I got a rose for my PR efforts, thanks Mr. ZR! 🙂

pretzel_corineAND a pretzel! Carbs! Salt! Yum! See the tiny desktop on my wrist? 🙂

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After the chilly mile walk back to our rental condo, I spent some quality time working out all the race kinks. My calves were about to cramp up when I went up on my toes to hug Mr. Zucchini Runner at the finish!! Ouch!

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I topped my calves off with compression socks for the rest of the day to speed up recovery. Sexy, right? Don’t worry, I rolled my jeans back down after the pic was taken. 😉IMG_1505I know a guy who’s really good at rolling out those tough-to-reach spots. 😉 I’m one lucky gal.

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As always, I want to thank all my family and friends who are always so supportive of my passion for running and races. My oldest sister sent me this picture the evening of race day, to show me that she was calculating my pace as she got the automated text updates. 🙂 Sister love. xoxo

Tune in later this week for Part II where I talk about our excursion to find a specific falafel place… that didn’t exist… and our visit to Extraordinary Desserts (among other things)! Here is a little teaser!!


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10 Responses to San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon :: Part I

  1. Great post and recap. My wife is from San Diego and has run this half a few times. We love visiting and always have a great time.

    I love San Diego for a lot of things: family, running, weather, beaches, and fun. My goal in a few years is to run a race in SD (waiting for the kids to get a little older).

    Enjoyed the post – thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Chris! San Diego is a great place to visit AND run, that’s for sure! 🙂 Because of June Gloom, we didn’t really get much beach time this visit… but there is always next time!

  2. Way to go. You are one speedy lady and look like it’s just too dang easy for ya!

  3. Thomas says:

    awesome and inspiring to read your post about the half marathon…. you did very well and in 1 month I am doing a half marathon in my home city of Brisbane Australia. Looking forward to it…. 🙂 So are these races addictive… I mean it would be cool to travel around the US and run in every state… 🙂

  4. Jessica says:

    Love this post! I’m running the 2014 Rock N Roll half and it’s my first half ever… I’m excited, physically ready, but nerrrrvous. Your post is motivating! 🙂 Do you know if the 2014 course is the same as 2013? How hilly are we talkin’ here??? I’ve been training in Minnesota and there’s nothing but flat land here. Send any tips my way, I’m a complete rookie to all of this!

    • Yay! How exciting that San Diego will be your first 🙂 You will do great, just go out there and have FUN! Run and have fun, that’s all you need to focus on. Running is very much a mental sport, so as long as you remain positive, you’ll be golden. I took a quick look at the course for 2014 and it appears to be the same as 2013. It was some rolling hills from what I remember, and a BIG downhill near the last 2 miles. Let me know how it goes! 🙂

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