Santa Barbara Half-Marathon Recap!

What an exhausting weekend! And a lovely one at that, full of friends, pasta and PRs. I love Santa Barbara.

The expo on Friday was fun – I finally tried a clif shot gel. I’ve never had a gel before. The vanilla was really tasty, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about ingesting one in the middle of a run. I’ll have to practice! Erica and I met up post-expo with her co-worker Scott. I devoured a huge plate of spaghetti, my garlic bread AND Scott’s, and topped it all off with a cone of Chocolate Therapy from Ben & Jerry’s. I went to bed very full.

The hotel Matt & I shared with Erica was pleasant enough. The dog, however, decided that it would be best to jump on the bed and walk around at 3:40 in the morning, a full hour and 20 minutes before I had to wake up. That part sucked. When 5am did finally roll around, I jumped out of bed, made a bowl of oatmeal, chugged some coffee, and suited up. Annie had stayed in Oxnard the night before and I had picked up her bib at the expo, so she stopped by the hotel to gather her goodies. With Matt at the wheel (he really is a wonderful race supporter), we were off just a few minutes later to gather Scott and head over to the starting line by 6:15/6:30 for a 7:15 start. And here is where I started to FREAK OUT.

I like getting to a race start early. I usually need to pee more than a few times, and I need a few minutes to get into the zone before the gun goes off. Figuring 45 min to an hour would be more than enough time, we asked Scott to be ready and waiting at his hotel at 6am. We got there at 6:10 to no Scott. We called him only to find out that he was across the street at Denny’s, waiting for his food. Ok, we’ll come over there and grab you. (Also – who orders something from Denny’s right before a race?? My stomach was turning) We sat outside in the idling car as I watched him stand in the front of the restaurant, waiting for his food. My watched ticked to 6:15. 6:20. 6:25. Matt lent me his hand to squeeze as the terror crept into my eyes. At 6:30, knowing that not only were we still 5-10 min away from the start, and that if it was anything like last year’s drop off, we were going to have a half-mile walk to the start, I ran into Denny’s, where Erica was already trying to get some sort of food delivery timeline from the poor hostess. “Matt is just going to bring me and he’ll come back for you!” I blurted out, caught between wanting to keep to my pre-race routine and not wanting to make an embarrassing scene in front of this nice man I had just met the nice before.

Scott left his food and followed us back to the car. It was at that point that I started feeling guilty for acting like a maniac. But, come on. Denny’s?? Ahem. For some reason, when we finally made it to the long line of cars near the drop off, we were waved into a different line. This line of cars was completely stopped. Scott jumped out and asked what was going on, only to be told that the start was RIGHT there and so we all jumped out. By some grace of God, a nearby firefighter surveying the traffic saw us scrambling across the road and told us how to sneak through the hole in the gate behind the station. Before we knew it, we were standing in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by porto potties galore. While I was using said potty, I heard over the loudspeaker that it was time for us to start lining up. We finished up our business and ran to the start, dumping our bags in the user-friendly bag drop boxes located along the side of the road. I finally found Annie and then my old co-worker Tim popped up out of nowhere! And THEN they pushed the start of the race back 15 minutes! It was all meant to be.

After jogging back to the bathrooms 3 more times, I positioned myself in the back of the 5-8 minute corral. My secret goal was 1:45, approx 8:00 min/miles. Before I knew it, we were off. My first 2 miles were around 7:35 min and so I forced myself to slow down. Around mile 4 I had to pee again (what is WRONG with me??) but I pushed the urge out of my mind and made it through with little annoyance.

I had brought a canned good with me to the expo and was given a pace tattoo in return. I love these things. It was so helpful to look down at my wrist and see exactly where I was in relation to my goal. I tried to leave myself a good minute of buffer for the dreaded Killer Cliff Drive hill at mile 10, until I reached the 10k mark and saw that at 52:32 I was now over a minute behind my goal! After a brief moment of panic, I realized I wasn’t necessarily in a bad position. I was a bit behind my goal pace for the first half – so, if I ran this race correctly, I’d be able to kick it in during the second half and get that negative split I was looking for (I’m still learning how to race…can ya tell?? :)). I amped up the effort just a bit and within the next 2 miles got myself right where I wanted to be – 1 minute under goal pace.

Soon I arrived at mile 10: the 1-mile ascent. For some reason, this hill was not nearly as frightening as it had been last year. I saw a girl in front of me struggling and tried to encourage her on up the hill. Not sure she heard me, but I know I appreciate when fellow runners cheer me on, so I hope it helped her a bit. I read somewhere that cheering on another runner or interacting with the spectators will take 3-5 seconds off your mile! Now I don’t think that is quite possible, but it did truly make me feel a tiny bit faster 🙂

Could the end of this race be any prettier?

Before I knew it, I saw the girls holding the “It’s all downhill from here!” signs. I smiled as I ran past and out onto the stretch overlooking the Pacific. It was the most beautiful sight. Being that it was Veteran’s Day weekend, the last mile was decorated in American flags – there were even volunteers handing out mini flags for us to wave through the finish. When I looked at my watch at mile 12 I saw that I was 1 minute 30 sec ahead of pace. I don’t know what happened that last mile, but I must have flown down that hill, because I ended up just over 3 minutes faster than my goal. I finished, smiling, in 1:41:51.

I made my way, slowly, around the track, hoping to catch my friends coming in. I managed to see Annie coming in down the chute and yelled for her as loud as I could. I was so so proud of her. This was her first half-marathon and the longest she had ever run. Girl finished in 2:02. I was almost more excited for her than for myself.

It was so nice to finish with a group of friends, especially a group of friends who had all PR’d! The rain had held off, the air not tooo chilly, we made it to the start on time, and everyone finished with a smile on their face. What more could we have asked for?

Official stats:
time: 1:41:51 [10k – 52:32 / finish – 49:18]
overall: 284/3541
ladies: 73/2279
age: 17/663

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SBIM, Here I Come!

Getting ready to leave the mountains and head on over to beautiful Santa Barbara!
I am very much looking forward to running the half tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed the rain holds off and the temperature bumps itself up maybe 5-10 degrees? (Currently the forecast is at 40. Chilly!) This is the first time I’ll have a little crew of racing buddies with me and I’m super excited. Nothing like knowing you’ve got friends experiencing the same joys and pains you are 🙂

I went for a beautiful 4-mile trail run yesterday evening through the clouds. It felt so nice to run in the rain and the run was honestly one of the most enjoyable ones in recent memory. I’m at the point where I know I’ve done all I can do to train for tomorrow, so to just relax and enjoy a rainy day run was just what I needed. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle tomorrow! Here’s to tonight’s pasta dinner!

13, Baby

I did it. I ran my longest distance up here in these crazy mountains. I had plotted out yet another route at the bottom of the hill, but paying $4.79 for each gallon of gas just to get me there scared me more than the prospect of exploding lungs and legs of jello.  So, after looking at my bank account ‘just to make sure I couldn’t swing it,’ (who am I kidding? There’s nothing in there) – I suited up and just did it.

I figured my route out to be approx 11.5 miles. I was adding 2 miles onto my 9.6 run from last week. Or so I thought. Skip ahead to the end of my run when I took out my GPS and saw that I had instead gone 13 miles. whoops. It wasn’t my intention to run race-distance before the big day, but I guess I’ll take it. I still have 3 weeks to taper down and rest my legs. I was pleased to see that a. My average pace was better than my long run down at sea level last year and b. I didn’t want to die (as much as last time) during certain hellish points in my route. My left knee was causing me pain, as was my right hip. I think I oughtta stretch those areas more thoroughly before I go out and do something like this again. This body ain’t used to these hills. I’m getting there, though, (very) slowly but surely. Anyhow, this post is mostly so that when I tell myself I can’t do it, I can look back at this and know that I did and I can.

I Can Fly! (Not Really)

Since being unemployed, I do my best to run like it’s my job. The first few weeks up here were a veritable hell. Running 1 mile higher up in the sky than where I had been running for the last year and a half was just…sodamndifficult. Thanks to trusty ol’ RunKeeper, I am able to go back in time and look at past running activities and my subsequent paces. I longed for my days of 8:00 min/mi training runs down Chandler in the valley.

My very first run at 5500′ ft was 3 1/2 miles and my average pace was 8:54. Also I’m pretty sure I died for a minute somewhere between miles 2 and 3. And that’s after my lungs exploded from just putting on my sneakers. For the month of September, running was not fun. I would go to sleep anxious about the run I would inevitably go on the next day. Not a good sign for a ‘runner.’ Reading a study that said it would take me 6 months to adjust didn’t help, either. Oh! Silly me, I forgot to mention the hills! Down in the valley, my average elevation climb was around 50-70 feet. MAYBE. I just went back and looked and saw that on one 7-mile run, my elevation climb was 6 feet. You get the point. Just the other day I went on a run. I came back to an email from RunKeeper: “New Personal Record For Running! Biggest Elevation Climb!” Oh no bigs, just 1575 FEET. That’s why I’m dying.

However, I have some good news to report! My pace for my 10-miler the other day was exactly the same as my 10-mile training run this time last year. Holla! Also, my regular runs are now staying steady at around 8:15, a number I am elated with. Oh and my calves are huge and I’m pretty sure my thighs are actually made out of steel.

I have my second half-marathon in just a few weeks. No, I haven’t registered yet, but that’s only because I am quite literally out of money. If anyone has an extra $80 to toss my way, I will begrudgingly accept. I’ll even wear your name on my back. So…that’s what I can offer. Who knew this hobby of using my own legs to run on my own street would end up costing me an arm and a leg? (ha! let’s hope not!   ……….  )
I’ll be running up in Santa Barbara at the same race I did last year. I had a blast and am a creature of habit, so I will be returning. Except this time I’m dragging friends along with me. You know you’ve got good pals if they agree to run 13.1 miles just because you tell them they should and omg it will be so much fun!!!!
I hope we stay friends.