Days before the 2019 Carlsbad Half Marathon, I realized it was extra special – 10 years ago, in January 2009, I ran my first ever half marathon, the Carlsbad Half Marathon. And, after adding up how many half marathons I have run over the last 10 years, I also realized that this would be my 20th half marathon! I love numbers, so to me this 10 year anniversary, 20th half marathon had to be a good one!
After a really great postpartum race at the Rock n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon back in October, 6 months after having my twins, I set my sights on the Carlsbad Half Marathon. At RnR LA I ran 1:58:54 and thought that with a good training cycle I could get down to around 1:50. With about 6 weeks of illness rocking our family, the holidays, teething, and the 8 month sleep regression, the training cycle wasn’t ideal. I had started following the speed workouts from Kara Goucher’s half marathon plan on the Oiselle blog and ended up getting about 4 speed workouts in, along with a few other runs with random intervals thrown in. I knew going into Carlsbad that 1:50 was likely not going to happen so I just planned to run my race and see what happened, with a little bit of hope that a sub 1:55 was possible.
The new program Transform:20 came out the Monday before the race, so I joined my challenge group for the first two days of the program and then took rest days and just ran the rest of the week. Race day came quickly and I didn’t have time to get nervous. I was mostly excited to see so many friends who were racing and to have a good time doing something I love.
As we waited in the corral I finally got to meet a friend from Instagram, Naci, who lives in Arizona and often comes to San Diego. We’ve been trying to meet up for years and finally we did, right before the start! It made me even more excited to race. Once we started running, Naci, and our friend Lauren, took off ahead. My friend Kelly and I (who I ran the RnR LA race with side by side) stuck together and chatted away. The course turns onto the coast around mile 2 and is a long out and back with rolling hills. I’ve run and biked this section of highway countless times and it’s absolutely beautiful.
The entire time though, I felt pretty flat. There was never a time where running felt very easy or even super enjoyable. I tried to stay positive and the conversation helped, but honestly I wasn’t feeling it. I always got a boost when we passed spectators, but there weren’t many out during the first half. I was feeling a little apathetic in general about racing and a big part of me just wanted to make it a fun run and not push the pace at all.
Luckily Kelly was there pushing us a bit and I just kept up with her and didn’t pay attention to my watch much. The course is an out and back and the marathon is a double loop out and back, so we saw friends along the way, including a friend who was running the marathon, and we kept talking the whole way, which was a nice distraction. There is also a band or DJ at every mile which makes it fun!
After the turnaround I was relieved to be more than halfway done. I started to feel worse and slowed a bit, to closer to a 9 minute mile. Kelly asked about our pace and when I told her, she suggested we pick it up. We were headed down a hill so I said we should run faster down the hill and then recover up the hill and we tried that but it was hard for me to keep up. I told her to go ahead and leave me and she said she was going to pull me now and I’d pull her later – we had to work together! I appreciated it but also secretly just wanted to slow down and let her go.
But she wouldn’t let me. She kept encouraging me and it helped me get my mind right. I started focusing on positive thoughts and pushing forward. I told myself I was strong, that I could do this! And then she said we should pick it up again and I told her to just go on again but then I looked down and realized we were at mile 9. 4 miles. I could do this! I passed by a kid with a sign that said “touch for power” and touched it and stated to feel better! We passed a DJ playing a song I liked and I decided to put on my headphones and start more positive self talk. I didn’t want to talk to Kelly anymore, I just wanted to be in my own head.
I knew the course well and knew that the 2nd to last mile is a net incline on a residential road getting back to the mall where we started. But I also knew that the final mile is a net decline and fast. I pushed my way through mile 12 and once we hit that 12 mile marker, I picked it up. Kelly was just ahead of me and I caught up to her and started to pull her with me. We passed runner after runner. My favorite songs on my running playlist keep coming on, back to back. The Gu I’d taken was kicking in and my energy was super high. I was working hard but it felt GOOD to push myself for the first time in the entire race. I’m sure the change in cadence helped my legs feel stronger too.
Nearing the final stretch I saw a kid with a sign that had a Super Mario mushroom and said , “Touch for Power.” I literally hit that sign and burst forward, running faster and faster (Garmin says 6:50 pace for this last section!). I caught up to my friend Naci and encouraged her to push it with me to the finish. Crossing the finish line felt GOOD!!! When I looked up my time and saw that it was 1:54:59, exactly the goal I was going for, I was so happy, but honestly the best part was knowing that I didn’t give up and that I left it all out there on the course at the end. I would have been disappointed in myself if I didn’t try. To me, the effort in a race is way more important than the time on the clock! After too many times giving up on myself during a race, I’ve learned that true satisfaction in racing comes from effort, NOT the clock.
My next race is the Cardiff Kook 5K on Super Bowl Sunday! Excited to see how much speed I’ve got for a shorter distance.
When was your first half marathon? Have you run that same race again?