My dear readers,
I did it, I finished my first half-marathon…what a journey! In a moment of partial insanity, I signed up for this half-marathon back on June 15th! I say partial, because it was obviously the next step in distance after a 10K and the longer runs will also help with the urban races, whose running distances can be unpredictable. Last week had two anniversaries: 1 year since my first race, the hot chocolate 5K, and 2 years since I started this blog! I always think I am going to have this gorgeous cake recipe to share on my blog anniversaries, but it hasn’t happened yet, instead I was busy brainstorming day before the race meals, what to wear for my half, what to eat in the morning, how to fuel during the run, etc…it was a little nerve-racking!
You would think I would be used to racing by now, but a half-marathon, while it pales in comparison to the marathons and ultra-marathons some warriors run, it was a big achievement for me. In Romania, unless you have natural talent, you don’t get encouraged to exercise/compete, or at least we didn’t at my school. My 5th grade PE teacher gave me an F for not throwing a ball far enough and was ready to fail me, until the principal pointed out it is a little ridiculous to fail a straight A student at PE. In high-school, I got a more reasonable teacher, friends with my Chemistry teacher, who told me to stop attempting hand-stands as it might shake my chemical formulas too much and that I should instead spend my time in the chemistry lab prepping for the national olympiads. Fortunately, things are slightly different in this country, and even back home things seem to be changing. Universities are equipped with nice gyms, free to students, and de-stressing at the gym is quite encouraged. It also helps to have supportive friends (thank you!!!) who encourage you to not give up despite lack of fast running genes 🙂
So here I was, after a bit more of 1 year of running, and a few months of training, at the start line on the beautiful CA coast in Malibu:
If interested in the details of my clothing and food choices: to minimize chaffing (a word I never thought I would use so often), foot pain and overheating, I went with a full Champion outfit tested during training – capri tights, white t-shirt, and socks with compression around my arches. For food, I had greek yogurt with maple syrup and cereal on the drive over and cliff shot blocks before and during the race. I tried to eat a GU gel packet, but it tasted too gross. However, the Accelarade chocolate gel served on the course was quite tasty. The Accelarade gatorade version, not as good, but the gel was nice and I highly recommend it. Plus it has the perfect 4:1 carbs to protein ratio recommended for runners.
Except for a few details, the race was pretty well organized and the volunteers were amazing! There were plenty of water stations (about 2 miles at the beginning, every mile towards the end) which helped keep cool even when it got slightly too warm. Towards the end, I picked up two water cups, one for drinking, and one to cool my face, arms and legs. One kid saw me and tried to offer me more water cups…how cute is that? 🙂 Kids make amazing volunteers!
The course was spectacular, with beautiful ocean views and occasional pelicans flying around. The views definitely helped! I deliberately didn’t want to know the entire course so the novelty can help with the long distance. I knew there was a big hill towards the end of the course, but what I didn’t know was that the hill had other small hills (or peaks I guess) with some pretty steep inclines for a former Chicagoan! It was brutal and I’ve been in pain for the past few days.
I always have difficulty pacing myself. Given my recent 10K, where I averaged just slightly over 9min/mi, I was hoping for a 10 min average pace. Since I couldn’t find the 2:15 pace team, I started with the 2:00 group for the first few miles and had a steady pace between 9 and 9:30. I know they recommend a negative split for races, but I knew that would be hard to achieve given the hills that were mostly in the second half and the rising temperatures, so I just tried to run faster than my pace at the beginning while making sure I am not too tired for the second half. This paid off in the final time, as on one of the hills my pace went to 11 min (ugh!!!). I finished at 2:15, which given that the course was slightly longer (estimated ~13.5 mi) is pretty close to my goal of 2:11. I thought my mapmyrun app jumped at the beginning given all the runners, but a lot of runners with fancy GPS watches confirmed the course was longer. Google maps computes it at 13.5 as well. The marathon course was measured properly, but some people did get slowed down/slightly rerouted at the finish line since a power line fell down. Hopefully, it won’t affect their chances at getting into the Boston marathon.
Speaking of marathoners, they got to start 30 min before us, 13 mi further down the road, but we were barely half way in our half-marathon when we got passed by the first guy!!! He finished in 2:35, amazing!!! Since the prizes were not too high and the course was hilly, I was not sure how many people will travel for it, but the beautiful course attracted quite a few people from Canada, Mexico, UK, etc.
It was a long run, and I was in pain at the end, but it was all worth it! I got pretty tough towards the end and I remember thinking when I got to the 12 mile marker, how I am so close, I can walk to the finish, but upon stopping and walking at the water station I realized walking hurt more than running! I guess that was all I needed to finish strong! What a relief to cross the finish line and hear your name called out! They had lots of water and carb loading food for us. I walked it out for a bit, and after I got re-united with my husband, I handed him my carb snacks and my shoes, so I can soak my feet in this beautiful cold water:
It is hard to tell, but those people in the distance were doing the SUPathon!
Overall, a great race! Beautiful views at a bargain ($65 for the half before June 15th, compared to $100+ for other races), amazing volunteers, great snacks, perfect weather (low 50s to low 70s, slight ocean breeze at times), and a beach towel to show for it 🙂