My runners high from this race was too intense to nap so I decided to bust out this recap during Siena’s nap today. What a great morning it was at the inaugural Encinitas Half Marathon! This race truly felt like my hometown race (we’ve lived in Encinitas for over 6 years) for many reasons, including the fact that the start/finish line was 100 yards from our old apartment where we lived for 4 years, the course was basically my go-to run course, and I saw or chatted with SO many people I knew along the way.
Going into this race, I had a few time goals. My first goal was to run a pace that started with a 7 (basically, 1:45 or less) and my second goal was to run a 1:43. My PR is 1:40:06, on tapered legs and a faster course, and I knew that it wasn’t realistic to shoot for a PR. After three back to back amazing weeks of training I was feeling really confident about smashing the 1:45 goal, especially since in training paces in the high 7s have felt pretty comfortable (or at least, “comfortably hard”). I knew I wouldn’t get much of a taper (in fact, my coach, Jim would have given me no taper at all) given I ran nearly 19 miles the weekend before and had planned a tempo run, speed workout and 10 mile mid week long run the week of the race. Siena ended up coming down with a mild cold starting Monday and despite sanitizing and hand washing like crazy, I woke up Wednesday tired and with that familiar feeling in my throat- I was getting sick!!! I took a nap, skipped the scheduled speed workout, took NyQuil at 8:30 PM and slept 10.5 hours that night. I woke up feeling MUCH better the next day and by Friday I’d say I was back to normal. I guess you really can fight off a cold! I did a 4.5 mile run Friday evening after I picked up my packet at the expo along with a few strides at goal pace (7:40/5o) and that was it until race day.
My other goal for this race was to test out my nutrition/fueling, including using the aid stations for water (I have carried my handheld water bottle in every half and full marathon I’ve done for the last few years) and taking a Gu every 30 min instead of 40 min. I also took a Gu with water 15 min before the race, as I always do.
My friend Ashley (who is also training for M2B with another running group – and PS she is 5 months postpartum and incredible!) had a similar time goal and we decided to run together. My coach Jim emailed me a race plan the night before and it was eerily similar to the race plan I mapped out for myself (given how well I know the course, it was easy!). I told Ashley that I planned to start slower than pace, take it easy up the steep hills (you go up and down 3 very, very short steep hills during the race) and negative split the race.
Race morning was really easy – I woke up at 5:45, got ready and ate a banana and peanut butter toast, poured my coffee and was out the door by 6:15, parked by 6:30, at the start by 6:45 (super short port-o-potty lines), and ready to go by 7:30. I could have probably slept another 15 min if I wanted. I ended up using my friend’s Ashley’s stroller as my bag check but the only negative thing I’d say is that the bag check line was really long!
The race literally starts at the top of one of said steep hills and within a few steps we were speeding down it and then slowing down as we climbed back up to get onto the 101 in Leucadia. I immediately noticed that my legs felt good, definitely not heavy, which was a good sign. Breathing was good too. First mile went as planned, a little slower than race pace at 8:19 and the second was perfect at 7:58. Before the turnaround I saw Kate and her speedy friends who were running for “fun” – they are all so sweet and cheered for me and told me to go ahead (Haha!). I also saw my running buddy Kelly who was spectating and cheered for a few of my fellow Seaside Striders Running Club buddies who I saw on the other side of the course (the man next to me also cheered for one of them and led him to introduce himself – another new friend!). A mile or so later, a woman who recognized me from social media/my blog called “Go Fitnessfatale!”
Ashley and I were still together but she was running a few feet behind me. I definitely got some adrenaline after seeing/running with so many different friends and the third mile was 7:54. I kind of had hoped that I’d feel like I was really hold back here running in the 7:50s, but instead it felt comfortably hard to maintain this pace. I decided to take a Gu a little before 30 min because the aid station was approaching and I knew the next one wouldn’t be for a while. I decided right then and there that I will be carrying a water bottle at M2B – my heart rate went up so high trying to down the Gu, grab the water and drink it, grab another one and carrying it while digesting everything else. I missed the first aid station becuase it was on the wrong side of the street so this was my first stop.
Mile 4 and 5 were back in the low 8s as we headed down and up the steep hill into Moonlight Beach again and then ran down the gradual incline of 3rd street. Ashley had fallen back and I was on my own now. Good old Eminem came on right telling me to “Lose Myself” when I was heading up the monster hill to Moonlight Beach. I started to feel stronger though toward the end of Third street – I think the Gu kicked in! When I turned onto the 101, I saw Siena and Mike cheering for me at the corner (as well as my friend Sharon) which gave me a major boost. I started to feel really good, though still not a great as I have in past PR half marathons, and knew I had a couple miles with some declines to make up a little time (as planned). I ran miles 6 and 7 at 7:50 and 7:47 and this is when I start doubting if even a 1:45 was feasible. I had really counted on those miles being fast and was surprised that they felt as hard as they did. I still had a long way to go and plenty more hills to climb up. I took my 2nd Gu on the flat portion in Cardiff, around 55 min in (again, so much adrenaline trying to navigate aid stations and not choke on my water).
As we ran up the hill into Solana Beach, I started passing people which was a confidence booster. I didn’t realize how far the turnaround was which was kind of a bummer but I started seeing people I knew on the other side of the road (including my friend Lara who kicked ass!) so that helped keep my mind off of it. Once I got to the turnaround I really started to feel good and picked it up. I saw more friends on the other side of the road and looking into the crowd kept me distracted. Mile 8 was a 8:09 pace (uphill) but I made up for it with two fast miles afterward, 7:53 and 7:36. Now I was really passing people who had gone out too fast. I calculated that all I had to do was run 8 min miles to reach 1:45 and that gave me confidence and motivation to keep pushing. I took another Gu right before the 10 mile aid station and kept pushing. While we ran through the flat section in Cardiff, I was getting pummeled by tiny gnats! They were sticking to my face and getting in my mouth and eyes. I’ve run this section literally a thousand times and NEVER have I had this happen! It was so bizarre (at the finish line every one’s necks and faces were covered in dead bugs!).
Next up was the Cardiff Kook hill. A hill I’ve run countless times and one that I still dread. It’s not even that steep or that long, but it’s tough! I kept pushing up it without looking at my watch and tried my best to keep the effort hard, despite the little voices in my head telling me I could back off (and admittedly, for a moment, I did). Soon after that, I saw my coach Jim in the middle of the road and he shouted at me to stride it out (or something like that). Seeing him definitely gave me a boost! I also thought I might see Siena and Mike again near Swami’s but they weren’t there. Since he wasn’t there, I knew Mike would be waiting for me on 4th street, the street we called home for 4 years. Around here I saw two other friends who cheered for me (thanks Kerb and Crystal) and Sharon again. One of the guys who had been running by me for most of the race said “wow you are really popular!” I started pushing pretty hard again but was feeling a little weird, so I slowed down to let my heart rate settle back down before tackling the final steep hill of the race on K street. Miles 11 and 12 were a slightly disappointing 8:05 and 8:08 pace but the final mile was 7:55. As I turned onto 4th street, just a short distance from the finish, I saw Mike and Siena again, which made me SO happy. I had a huge grin on my face as I ran down the finish chute.
My watch pace said 7:59 so I decided that was mission accomplished. Once I got my real results I found that my official time was 1:45:10 (8:01 pace), but I still consider it a win! While I was a little disappointed that I didn’t crush a sub 1:43, I’m happy with my race. I negative split (second half 7:55 avg, first half 8:04), learned a lot about nutrition (I’ll be carrying a handheld water bottle and definitely going to be taking a Gu every 30 min but will likely alternative caffeinated/non-caffeinated otherwise I’m going to be overloaded!), and proved to myself that I can run faster than my goal marathon pace on non-tapered legs, on a tougher course, and with 8 weeks left to train.
The after party at the race was awesome! Ocean views, great medal, free oatmeal (with yummy toppings), free race mug (I LOVE race mugs!!!), free hot chocolate and lots of friends! It was pretty much ideal. Siena basically stole my free banana as soon as she saw me but luckily I had the oatmeal and hot chocolate to refuel.
Would you enjoy running a race on your go-to running route? Have you ever ran a half marathon during training only a little slower than your goal marathon pace and then still crushed the marathon!?