Saturday, January 29, 2011

Carlsbad Half Marathon

Okay, I realize I went into hibernation following IMWI, but what better time to bring the blog back than to report on a trip to Southern California where I participated in a half marathon. I had been looking forward to this race for awhile for many reasons. One was to get the heck out of cold ol Iowa in the middle of winter and enjoy the warm sunshiny weather of Southern California. Another was the chance to meet a group of virtual training partners from We had "met" over a year ago online and decided that we all wanted to get together to run a race. We stayed in a house for several days and it was delightful to finally meet them all in real life. Unfortunately due to a string of maladies, snow induced biking injuries, and home acquisitions, only two of us toed the starting line for the race. The rest made for some excellent sherpas though! Thank you!

Race morning I forced down a bagel with nanners and PB before departing for the race site. The morning was fairly cool so I waited as long as possible before handing my sweatshirt off and making my way to the corrals. I chatted with Melissa until just a few minutes before the gun before heading to my corral. I was surprised that it wasn't more crowded. I edged my way up the front and got ready to go.

So I wasn't sure how to approach this race. I had taken a lot of time off to take care of some pesky shin splints so I was pretty much assured that the chance at a PR was already out the window. There was a 1:35 pace group so I decided to settle in behind them. I figured if I hit the turnaround and still felt good then I could turn things on.

The gun sounded and we were off. The first thought that entered my head was, "I'm running a half marathon in January!" And it brought a smile to my face. I had been having thoughts like that all weekend. I'm wearing shorts in January! I'm walking on the beach in January! All smile inducing happy thoughts.

So I ran and the first few miles weren't bad. Got up the first hill and was greeted by the sun. I had debated whether or not to go with the sleeveless shirt and was happy that I did because it was warm. I'm hot in a sleeveless shirt in January! I did a quick shin assessment and was pleased to find that things were A-okay. I haven't had a problem since I switched back to my old shoes.

Running along the coast was just gorgeous. Waves were crashing along beach and it was serene enough to take my mind off the fact that my legs were starting to disagree with this whole running thing. I was approaching the hill at mile 6, which was a good thing because that meant the turnaround wasn't too far away, but on the flip side it was a bad thing because, well, it's a hill. I powered up it, switched directions and exalted in the fact that I was halfway done. I didn't bother looking at my watch. The 1:35 pace group had been widening the gap on me for the last couple miles so I had a rough idea of how things were going.

Heading back was about the time I noticed my hip starting to bother me. Last winter I had been sidelined with hip bursitis for a few months and don't think I've ever quite recovered from it. From time to time it likes to yell at me just to make sure I don't forget that it's still hanging around.

So my pace was slowing and my hip was hurting. It was going to be a long 6 miles back. But then the 1:35 pace dude loops back to about where I was and says he was carrying them a little to fast. Maybe things aren't so bad after all. I stuck with him for awhile, but my hip was starting to hurt pretty badly. In fact, it felt like it was going to explode. In the interest of my health and the safety of the other runners around me who would likely not enjoy being hit with exploding hip shrapnel I decided slow it down to a walk.

I gave myself 45 seconds and debated the logistics of taking a DNF. I've never DNF'd before and the thought of doing so didn't sit well with me. On the other hand, a full blown re-aggravation of the bursitis would take 2-3 months out of IM run training to rehab. I decided to gut it out to the next aid station and see how things felt then. Running again, the pain was better, manageable even. At the aid station I kept going, not giving the DNF a second thought. I just grabbed a couple of cups of water to dump on my head to cool off. I'm dumping water on my head to keep cool in January!

The rest of the run involved a tedious countdown of the miles remaining that ticked away all too slowly. I hit the last steep downhill (Ouch! Quads! Ouch!) and knew the finish line wasn't too far away. I found the ghoulie support crew just after the last turn and gave them a wave as I passed by. A finish line never looked so beautiful and I was glad to cross it. I finished a half marathon in January!

Final Time: 1:35:05, 7:29/mile pace
Overall Place: 327/7044
AG Place: 58/508

I'm pretty sure with a little more training and a little less exploding hip syndrome I would've have finished with a time closer to my PR. All in all, though, I was quite pleased with how things turned out. I negotiated my way out of the absurdly barricaded finish area to reunite with the best sherpas a guy could ask for and cheer on Melissa as she crossed the finish line. Then the two of us collapsed on the curb in pain. The good news was we were able to drown out that pain with beer and tequila later on.

Excellent race! Excellent weather! Excellent friends! Excellent weekend! That's all there is to it.