America’s Finest City Half Marathon

This post is going to be fairly short because it’s midnight and it’s been an absolutely packed week, but I don’t want to leave y’all hanging any longer. So Sunday morning I woke up super early (again) and drove to Balboa Park in San Diego. Then I boarded a bus with 45 fellow athletes and rode to Point Loma.  I was just happy at this point that A) I caught the bus and got a parking spot close to the finish line and B) I didn’t rip my contact in half when I got off the bus like last time. I also had my running shoes on and my watch and clothes… which after getting up at 4am was an accomplishment.

America’s Finest City was the third half marathon in the Triple Crown Series I have been running this year. The first race was the Carlsbad Half Marathon where I ran 1:57:21 and broke two hours for the first time! It’s a super flat course, which means it’s fast. That was back in January of this year (the whole point is that you run all three races in the same year). Then, I trained through injury to finish the La Jolla Half Marathon in April. This course boasts a huge hill in the middle, I ran half-blind, and my right hip was in a lot of pain. But I managed to finish in 1:59:57 painfully. Looking back, I’m not really sure how but I’ll take it.

So going into Sunday I had three goals in mind:

1. Finish the race and earn my triple crown.

2. Break two hours.

3. Beat my Carlsbad time and PR.

I really wasn’t concerned about number one because I knew from last week that I had the endurance to compete for over three hours, even if it wasn’t all running. And mentally I was prepared to jog as slowly as I needed to if it meant finishing. As far as breaking two hours, I was fairly confident in that if my body held up because I’d done it before as a broken runner and my time for the run last week was right one that pace… after two other events.  My biggest question was if I could go the distance because my longest run since April was seven miles and that was weeks ago.

So my game plan was to “find my happy pace”, a slogan I’ve heard before and bought on a t-shirt at the race expo. I would go as fast as my legs and my lungs would allow. And yes, I was still hacking up a lung on Sunday. Ugh. The start was anti-climatic and we headed downhill from the point. I knew the first four miles would be fast and I really tried to just relax, enjoy the scenery, and use the terrain to my advantage. At first my legs were a little dead, but they woke up eventually and I was able to force them to turn over a little faster. Going through the 10K mark (6.2 miles) I was around 54 minutes, which was 7 minutes faster than last week in the triathlon.

I slowed a little during miles 8 and 9 because honestly I was just tired. I had to keep switching songs to pick up my tempo and I was struggling to find encouragement along the course. We were in an industrial section with less spectators, but I just told myself to keep moving and see what I could do. Miles 10 to 11 were alright and I ran with a solid group for that section, which was nice. A kid that looked like he was 8-years-old and his father, an older woman who was a breast cancer survivor, and a girl my age (ish) who was running her first race of any distance ever. Talk about inspirational and humbling.

All of that last section was just flat down along the bay in San Diego so the views were gorgeous as the world woke up around us. And it was overcast this whole time so the temperature was perfect. Then we came through town and I knew it was going to be uphill from there.  I had at that point 20 minutes to run 2.1 miles straight uphill.  This is where my mental strength took over and I told myself that no matter what I was finishing and most likely I would finish under two hours. So I decided as I trucked up the hill that this was my chance to decide if I wanted to PR or not.

The rest of the hill was slow and steady, but I felt like I was keeping up my pace. Then we turned the corner to head over the bridge into Balboa Park and I’m not going to lie, it was the longest stretch of the whole race. I think because I didn’t know exactly how much we had left once we turned at the end, and I didn’t want to burn out too fast. But once I made the turn and could see the finish I ignore my legs, which were pretty much jello by this point, and kicked it in. I honestly couldn’t remember my exactly Carlsbad time, but I knew it was 1:57 something. So when I crossed the line at 1:57:09, I was fairly confident that I’d broken my record but I wasn’t sure.

After stumbling through the longest chute in history, I paused with my water and looked up the Carlsbad race results. That’s when I learned the importance of 12 seconds, because that’s how much I beat my previous time by. It doesn’t sound like much, especially after almost two hours of exercise, but it was enough. I met my goal without training as I should have, on a more difficult course by far, and with tired legs and lungs. None of those are excuses, they just factor in to my race and make me think that I could drop even more time off… But that’s an adventure for another day.

For now, I’m just happy to say that I ran 39.3 miles of paradise in 5 hours, 54 minutes, and 27 seconds. When I started this journey almost a year ago, I never would have guessed that I could finish three half marathons in under 6 hours. It’s a cool feeling and it makes me glad I live in a place that creates fun challenges like that for me to do. I know the next question everyone will ask is, what’s next? Honestly, I have not currently signed up for any other events. This week I’m taking completely off to let my legs and mainly my thumb heal. Then I’m on vacation for two weeks so I’ll be active but not crazy. Once I get back after that I’ll start to decide what I want to do. But suggestions are always welcome 😉

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Doug Lord
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 06:58:15

    Dear Karen,

    Fantastic! You keep setting the bar higher and conquering it. Once again we are so proud of you.

    Love, Grandma and Grandpa



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