This race was unusual for me because as of 1 week prior, it wasn’t even on my radar. As I explained in my last post, I was expecting to make it a marathon goal pace run as part of a longer training run. I wasn’t expecting to race or to PR, but my coach came at me with a seemingly unrealistic race plan and I went from barely having glanced at the race course to anxiously preparing to run the fastest 13.1 miles of my life.
I did taper for this race, but it was a short one. I ran 16 miles last Saturday and still had a tempo run on Wednesday (with only 20 minutes of tempo intervals rather than the usual 30-45). I skipped strength training and my usual Friday mid-week long run was shortened to 4 miles. the day before the race I only ran 2 miles instead of my typical 6 with 100 m strides. My 2 mile run on Saturday wasn’t great. My legs felt heavy and my hips felt super tight. I stretched them as best I could post run but didn’t have long because we had to get down to Mission Bay before the expo to check out the wedding venue I’ve had my eye on for a while. In case you’re wondering, we did book it and our wedding date is officially September 28, 2013! It’s nice to have one of the typically most time consuming and stressful parts of wedding planning out of the way! We also checked out a couple of local hotels while were in the area before heading to the Expo.
The expo was incredibly well organized and also well-branded. The t-shirt was cute and fit correctly and they even included a reminder about the pending time change in a little zip lock bag with a zip-tie for our bag check number and the safety pins for our bib. The race organizers clearly know what they are doing.
One thing that I did different going into this race was that I did not change my diet. Typically I try to “carbo-load” and avoid high fiber foods to help avoid GI distress on race day. Since the majority of my diet is whole grains, fruits and veggies (hello fiber), I have been altering my diet to allow for things like bagels with cream cheese (not vegan), french toast (not vegan), eggs (again…) the days before the race. Although I did have some veggie pizza on Friday at a company hosted lunch, besides that, I ate really clean leading into the race. From Friday night-Sunday morning I ate 100% vegan, avoided alcohol, dessert and coffee (oh yeah remember my detox?…more on how that’s going soon) and ate my normal fiberlicious food. I always eat a fairly plain bowl of pasta (brown rice pasta from TJs) the night before the race and continued my ritual this time. Without getting into details, I will have you know that I had absolutely no GI distress during or before the race. Instead of getting to the start line bloated with all the crap I’ve eaten in the week before the race, I felt light and great.
Race morning came early. Too early, since we Sprung Forward that night and lost an hour of sleep. Our 5 a.m. wake-up call was really 4 a.m. I had already decided to have coffee on race days, so Mike and I headed to 711 for our brews (although Mike was not racing, any wake up time in the 4 o’clock hour is excuse enough for coffee). Getting to the race was so easy it was bizarre. There was absolutely no traffic (only 5,000 racers) and parking was incredibly easy since there were tons of free-on-Sunday metered spots open. There were NO lines at the port-o-potties so I had time to use the restroom, hang out with Mike, do my dynamic stretches, check my bag, go for a 5-10 min warm-up run, use the restroom again, stop and chat three times with friends I I ran into and still get to my corral all within 45 minutes. It was pre-race heaven!!!
I started at the very front of Wave 2 and actually considering jumping ahead to the end of Wave 1 because I was so anxious to start! My warm-up had felt really good and I was ready to run. Mile 1 wound through the streets of downtown and there were quite a few turns. My Garmin was kind of all over the place with my pace and I actually thought I was running too slow at some points so I consciously picked it up. My coach had instructed that it was important to get to a 7:40 pace right out the gate and I tend to have a slower 1st mile at races so I focused on keeping the pace up without feeling like I was pushing it too hard. I noticed how odd it felt to be running down the large empty streets of downtown with such a small crowd. Unlike many other races I’ve run in San Diego, there weren’t a lot of people around me. It was great! Mike was in the crowd downtown and cheered me on as I ran by which gave me a boost as well.
When my watch clicked off 7:18 at mile 1, I was surprised. I knew it was time to scale it back a notch. Apparently my adrenaline got the best of me but at the same time I was pleased because the first mile did not feel hard and it was really fast. I consciously scaled back my pace and effort and was happy when mile 2 beeped off at exactly my goal pace for miles 1-5 – 7:40. The course was now tracing along the harbor and it was still very flat. Mile 3 was slightly slower than goal pace at 7:47 but I figured that was ok since my first mile was too fast. The next mile did a little loop through Harbor Island and my boss saw me on one of the loops and called out to me. I looked for the Girls on the Run cheer group but must have missed them. Mile 4 and Mile 5 were on track – 7:39 and 7:43. I had taken a Gu at the 30 min mark and the caffeine was hitting my system. I was feeling good and really confident that I was going to have a big PR. My average pace was just under 7:40 and everything was going according to plan!
Mile 6 was when I was supposed to pick it up to a 7:30 min/mile until mile 10. I knew it would be unrealistic to achieve that pace for the miles with the big hill, I wanted to hit them for at least miles 6-7. I also knew that my watch was quite far ahead of the mile markers, which was discouraging. I’m not sure if it was all the turns in the course or something else, but I was hugging turns and making tangents the best I could and I had already run an additional 0.1 miles before I was even halfway through the course.
Unfortunately, the 7:30 pace wasn’t coming as naturally and although I was trying to pick it up, Miles 6 and 7 came around the same as the first 5 – 7:42 and 7:39. These miles were fun though because we had now run over a bridge (the first hill) into Point Loma’s scenic Liberty Station Park and had run on a dirt path along side the harbor (same location as the San Diego Triathlon Classic I did in September).
Mid mile 7 through mid 9 were pretty unscenic. We were running through commercial streets east of the freeway. We were starting to make our ascent, but before we got to the big hill there were a few fairly steep rollers. I took advantage of one of the downhill portions to take my 2nd Gu. I knew I would need a boost for the beast hill that was coming up. I was still able to pull out a 7:47 average on Mile 8 despite the hills. Midway through mile 9 is when I we hit Washington Street and the beast hill. I had driven up this hill before in my car but didn’t register that it was the hill in the race. It was very steep and long. Although not quite as steep at Torrey Pines, the big hill in the La Jolla Half Marathon, it was definitely longer (Torrey is only quite steep for 3/4 of a mile). I was tempted to get out of my phone and take a photo of it but of course I didn’t want to waste energy.
I just focused on keeping my effort the same even though my pace was dropping. I was actually really happy to see that I was still able to maintain a low to mid 9 min/mile up the hill. My legs felt pretty strong and weren’t burning as much as I thought they would since I haven’t done much hill training other than the few small hills that are on my normal route. The best part was that Mike was 3/4 of the way up the hill cheering me on! He got a great video of me running past him. When I saw him I yelled “this hill is really long!!!” It was so nice to see him and it temporarily kept my mind off of the pain! Miles 9 & 10 averaged 8:08 and 9:19.
It took me a minute or two to get my breath and pace back at the top of the hill but once I recovered, I discovered I felt really good! I knew my average pace was now below my goal but I also knew the next 3 miles were downhill! I was actually expecting the downhill portion to start earlier but discovered there was a bit of flat land at the top. I really was hoping to run the next miles all under 7:20 (my coach had instructed me to run the final 3.1 @ 7:20 or better and that was before he knew about the hill). I picked up my effort but that 11th mile was 7:38. At this point I had just 1-2 sips of water left in my handheld water bottle and considered grabbing more at an aid station but decided against it. It was a cool day and I had less than 15 minutes to go.
The hill was still slightly sloping downward for mile 12. I kept wondering when it was going to get as steep as the hill I ran up! It seemed like it was uneven – but of course that’s always how it feels when you run hills. The uphill lasts forever and the downhill goes by quickly! At the 1 hour 25 min mark I took half a Gu and washed it down with my two final sips of water. Time to wrap this up! I was pushing it hard and passing a lot of people now. My watch beeped 7:27 and I was surprised because I really felt like I was going faster!
I still wasn’t very deep in the pain cave. I was feeling great and I pushed even harder. Finally the hill started to get steeper and I used momentum to propel myself forward, passing fellow runners as I went. My watch rarely showed a pace over 7 min/mile and beeped off a 6:50 average for mile 13.
The final 0.32 miles (unfortunately my watch was ahead a full 0.22 miles!!) were much more flat as I ran through the streets of downtown toward the Gaslamp finish line. This is where it hurt. I was running sub 7 min/mile pace on flat ground after running 13 miles faster than I ever had. I saw Mike again on the sidelines as I ran through the finish chute and pushed it as hard as I could (final 0.32 average 6:59).
I crossed the finish line and l looked at my watch: 1:42:48. Despite not achieving my coach’s goal time of 1:38:40, I was still absolutely thrilled that not only had I shaved 4 minutes off my 5 week-old PR from Surf City, but I did it on a tougher course on less-tapered legs! Even better than my official race results below, my Garmin results showed an average pace of 7:43 min/miles for 13.32 miles – nearly 30 seconds/mile FASTER than my BQ MGP. And I still have 7 weeks to get even faster!
Of course when I got home I plugged both my adjusted Garmin time (1:40:59 = 13.1 miles @ 7:43 average) and my official time into McMillan’s pace calculator to see what my estimated marathon time is.
1:42:48 = 3:36:21 marathon
1:40:59 =3:32:31 marathon
My coach validated McMillan by emailing me last night to say I’m “ahead of goal pace” for Eugene!!! Clearly, the work isn’t over yet. I still have some serious training to do but I’m growing more and more confident that I have what it takes to qualify for the Boston Marathon at Eugene! He also warned me that I will have three twenty-mile long runs in the coming weeks! Peak marathon training here I come – I’m ready!!!!