AFC is one of my favorite half marathons. I have run it for the last 3 years in a row and Mike has run it 5 years in a row. It’s a beautiful course in a beautiful city and training takes place in the summer where we can enjoy sunny morning and evening runs. As I mentioned in my race plan for AFC, due to recovery from the Ironman, general apathy toward training and recent humidity and heat in San Diego, I wasn’t expecting a PR. Of course in the back of my mind I thought I could surprise myself and push one out. I went into the race with 1 goal in mind – to have fun and that goal was definitely achieved!
The race started like all previous years – a very early wake up call to get downtown (30 minute drive) and in line for the buses in time. AFC is a one way half marathon and all participants must be bused from the finish to the start line since the start line is in Cabrillo National Park and is closed to the public. we must have arrived later than last year because by the time we parked, walked to the buses, waited in line for the buses and got up to the start line, the sun was already up. Last year we sat in the dark for a very long time before the race began. This time we had just under an hour to kill prior to the 7 a.m. start. Although our friends Vicky and Kelly joined us for the race, I was missing Asia, who due to a recent foot injury, withdrew her entry from the race. Jeremy still raced but Asia couldn’t even come down and cheer us on due to her foot.
The entire morning we discussed how unusually warm it was. Typically I’m freezing in the morning and wear a jacket but this time we were all sweating when we left Encinitas at 4:30 AM! The humidity was the worst part.
We waited in bathroom lines, took photos, checked our bags and warmed up and were ready to go when the gun unexpectedly went off. Mike, who trained even less for this race than me, decided to run with his GoPro camera strapped to his head so he could take photos and video during the race. It was awesome because we got some great shots!
My strategy was to not go out too fast but also not go so slow that I PRing was completely out of the picture. I carried a water bottle with 1 Nuun tab dissolved in it and carried salt pills with me to ensure I didn’t get too dehydrated. I typically rely on course aid for water during running races but I knew this race would require a lot of liquids to keep hydrated.
I ran the first mile comfortably, getting passed a ton since I started very close to the front. I had my new running mix on my iPhone and was just enjoying the scene in front of me – hundreds of runners wearing bright colors (and a lot of white!) making their way through the streets.
The first mile ticked off on my Garmin: 8:52.
I knew this was too slow so I kicked it up a little. The first two miles actually have quite a few rolling hills so I was slowing down on the uphills. The 2nd mile came at 8:49 and I started to pretty much accept that ha PR wasn’t happening (I’d have to run about a 8:30 min/mile for a PR). However, I was happy that I was running in the 8 min/miles since I haven’t been running that fast since many weeks prior to the Ironman.
Mile 3 and 4 have quite a bit of decline and the road is nice and shady for a large portion due to houses and large trees. I high fived kids cheering from the side of the road and ran through the mist of a hose that one of the neighbors was spraying on the runners. I was enjoying myself. Mile 3 ticked off at 8:22 and I figured if I could pick it up for Mile 4 then I could average out and still have a shot at PR. Mile 4 was 7:52 and Mile 5 rounded out at 8:20. Now my average pace was actually below my goal of 8:30, but the bad news was that the remaining miles were either flat or had a net incline. I knew it’d be hard work but I told myself that I needed to at least try.
The adrenaline I had during Mile 5 disappeared in Mile 6 and I once 8:44 flashed on the screen, I was confident that a PR wasn’t in the cards for me. I knew if I really really pushed it, I could come in just above my PR, but I reminded myself that my #1 goal for today was to have fun, and that in order to have fun, I needed to step back a notch. So, I did, and started to enjoy myself more. I realized that having a time goal can be quite a buzz kill during a race and that once I let go of any goal, I had more fun.
I knew I had given up when I walked through the next aid station. I wanted to ensure that I could enough water (my bottle was now gone) and also wanted a cup to pour on my head. This was right when we got on Harbor Island (this race is awesome except for the loop through Harbor Island because you feel like you are making no forward progress!). Mile 7 reflected my small break – 8:51.
The 2nd aid station on Harbor Island also has a mister and I took advantage of that as well as walked through this aid station. I took a half a Gu at the aid station at mile 8 even though it wasn’t time yet because I knew there was a long way to go until the next aid station. I learned my lesson last year when I took a Gu without water and ended up with a stomach ache and dry mouth.
After we got off the island, we had a way to go until the next aid station. We ran toward downtown and this section seemed pretty long. Aid stations really break up a race and when there is 2.5 miles without one on a very hot day, it can get mentally tough!
Mile 8 – 9:06
Mile 9 – 8:57
The aid station at Mile 10.5 was a saving grace. Not only was there more misters and plenty of water, as soon as we passed it and turned onto a busy street in downtown San Diego there was SHADE! It was glorious. I was soaking wet from pouring water all over myself and running through the mist and for the first time in weeks I got the chills from cold. It didn’t last long but it was nice!
Once you are downtown, the slight incline begins. Another fun part about downtown is that there are two points on the course that cross over trolley tracks. If you are unfortunate enough to arrive just before a Trolley crossing, you must wait. Mike has run AFC 5 times and this was his 2nd time waiting for the trolley. He got a good picture at least!
I didn’t get caught at the trolley luckily, but Mile 10 still ticked off at 9:06. Mile 11 is when you start to run up A Street, which is a slight incline. This was the point where I just started thinking about how thankful I was to be in good enough health to run. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am to be in good enough health to easily run 13.1 miles and rather than getting caught up in PRing, I reminded myself to enjoy the race for itself. Mile 11 – 9:00.
Miles 12 and 13 are the tough ones. A Street gets steeper and once you turn onto 6th, the incline is not pretty. It was hot and the hill felt like a mountain. I decided not to look at my watch at all on 6th (I did look at it to see my total distance but avoided looking at the pace). I hit the 2nd to last aid station which was right before the turn up 6th but skipped the one on 6th, knowing I had less than a mile to go. Plenty of people were walking up 6th but I told myself no matter how slow I was jogging, I wouldn’t walk. Once you reach the top and turn into Balboa Park, the incline isn’t over. After a short flat section, there is a slight hill going into the park. I was able to pick it up to a sub 9 min/mile at this point and was happy that I was still feeling fairly good, much better than I did at this point the last two years. I knew I hadn’t pushed myself to my max and that I had some fuel left in the tank. Mile 12 -9:39, Mile 13 – 9:37.
The final stretch has a nice downhill. As I ran through gorgeous Balboa Park, I picked up the speed and finished strong.
.27 mile (I ran .17 extra!): 7:32 min/mile pace.
Official Race Time: 1:57:15 (8:57 min/mile pace ), 68/704 in age group, 1,143/6,635 overall (I actually moved up 2.5% percent in my age group despite running nearly 5 minutes slower than last year – the heat clearly was a factor this year!)
This was my first non-PR race. Before this race, I have raced 2 5ks, 2 marathons, 5 half marathons and 1 triathlon at all distances (sprint, Olympic, Half and Full Ironman). So really I’ve only had 6 “chances” to PR and this was my 7th chance and it didn’t happen. I knew this day would come and to be honest it wasn’t as bad as I thought! I think that you know going into a race if you worked hard enough and if your body is ready for a PR and I knew going into it that it was a long shot so I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t happen! Overall though, I enjoyed the race and had fun and that’s all that matters!
The one not so pleasant result of this non-PR (my time was actually even slower than my half marathon in Oceanside 70.3!) was the realization that I have a A LOT of work to do before I qualify for Boston. So much work that the possibility of it not happening next year has definitely crossed my mind. Although the heat and the recent Ironman was a factor, I know that I should be comfortably running sub 1:50 (or even 1:45) half marathons if I want to run a sub 3:35 full marathon. No matter what, I’m going to try my best to get there and if it doesn’t happen in 2013, that’s ok too. But I still intend to try!
After hanging out in the finishers area, we met up with some more friends and went out to breakfast. After we drove home, Mike and I went down to the beach and enjoyed the beautiful San Diego day!
What was your first non-PR race? Or are you not Type-A and not care about PRs (or still haven’t not PRed)!?