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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