This year has been an amazing year, in terms of my personal fitness and health! I’ve run FOUR half marathons since January of this year. I went from being almost entirely sedentary to running several times a week and ultimately completing 4 races in 8 months! Last Sunday, I completed the America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego. It wasn’t my first time running the race, but it sure did feel like my first time! I was very nervous that the weather was going to be really hot, however, it turned out to be just perfect!
This training was a little more sporadic than the three before. It’s summer and it’s hot. I don’t like running when it’s hot! I did run one evening, about 6 p.m. I did a 10 mile run and I’m pretty sure what I experienced halfway in could be categorized as heat exhaustion. Then, we went on vacation to the Midwest for two weeks, where I did some weight training workouts and Zumba, but very little running. It made for the last month of training to be little than desirable, even though I had an absolute blast in the Midwest—Chicago, Indianappolis, the Indiana State Dunes—all of it was AMAZING!
The weekend before the race, I ran 10 miles with an awesome group of girls. Some I had run with before and some new friends I had never met. We did this beautiful run along the northern coast of San Diego County, along Moonlight Beach and the San Elijo Lagoon. It was gorgeous and it helped me realize that I really could do it!
Back to the Half! At the Expo!
The day before the half, I went to San Diego to pick up my race bib. I spent a few minutes at the expo, cruising around, looking at all the cool race gear I could buy. I bought a hat for the race, which has become somewhat of tradition for me. It’s my little souvenir for the race. I got some pictures taken at the photo booth they have set-up and then, I left.
I was really surprised. I didn’t have any race jitters to speak of. Usually, I freak out a little before the race. This time, I was confident I could do it. Plus, I’ve done the AFC Half a few times before and know the course pretty well. I was feeling good that I could finish. I wasn’t sure how fast this time.
That night, I stayed with my friend Pam. We’ve been training together since the beginning of the year. She ran the Triple Crown this year, too. She was kind enough to invite me to stay with her so I didn’t have to drive from Temecula to San Diego at 4 a.m. that morning. We chatted about running most of the evening, ate hamburgers and fries, then turned in early. I got my race gear ready to go and SURPRISINGLY, slept like a rock that night.
At the Race Start
We made it to the buses to ride up to the top of the Cabrillo National Monument. A few of Pam’s co-workers met her and my dear, dear friend Mollie met us in the line for the buses. It was still dark when we arrived and I still wasn’t nervous. Once we got to the top of Cabrillo, we took selfies, made small talk and waited for the race to start. There was a sea of runners, taking selfies, lining up for the port-a-potties, and stretching. The race was supposed to start at 6:30 a.m., but at 6:25 a.m., the gun went off, and away we went!
The Race Down Cabrillo
Mollie and I ran together the first 10 kilometers or so. We kept an easy, but brisk pace. What I love about this race is that the first 6 miles are almost entirely downhill, the next 5 or so are flat, and you really only run up hill for a mile or two. I was messing around with my headphones, my phone, and everything else. We ended up at a 10:57 minute pace on the 10k. Not too bad, at all! Mollie is super fast and I was feeling like I needed some energy. I grabbed a Gu and let her go ahead. I regret not pushing myself harder and keeping up. One of my biggest regrets of the race. I just didn’t think I could keep up with her.
After the 10K
Once I hit the 10K mark, I started to doubt myself. It’s a little self-sabotage I do on almost every single run—no matter the distance! Once I got to the harbor, I was really struggling with my mental game. I had to get myself in the right frame of mind to finish. I began calculating how much more time I’d be running. I was halfway done. I could do the 10K I’d done again!
As we came into the Harbor, across from the airport, I saw the sun coming out and I began to get discouraged. The temperature was climbing and I just wanted to keep myself hydrated. I got my head wet at every water station to keep myself cool. At mile 8, I found a water station with a hose and the volunteers were more than happy to soak my head. I grabbed another drink of water and off I went.
Once we got out of the Harbor, there’s a very boring stretch of road that goes through the rental car return centers, across the street from the airport. It’s the only part of the entire race that isn’t scenic. I dug deep and kept going, although I was starting to get a little tired. Since I was familiar with the course, I began looking for landmarks. I saw the Star of India, then downtown San Diego. I was getting closer!
The Sprinklers and 6th Avenue
There is a water station on Ash Street, just past the Star of India, and every year they have sprinklers. They also have shots of some sort of alcohol, but since I don’t drink, I didn’t look to see what kind. I got under the sprinklers and cooled off. Mile 10. I’m almost there. Only a 5K left!
After Ash, the course meanders through the streets of downtown San Diego. It’s flat and fast, for the most part, except for 6th Avenue. 6th Avenue is known as, “The Hill,” and it’s the most infamous part of the AFC course. It quite possibly might be the most hated part of the course. By the time you get to 6th Avenue, the sun is out, you’re tired, and you’re ready to be done—BUT FIRST, you must climb the mile long stretch of 6th Avenue that challenges even the elite runners.
I was struggling by the time I got to 6th Avenue, but I just wanted to be done. I tried to run. I’d run a few steps, then walk. Run a few steps. Walk. I did this until I got about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the hill. Then, I started talking to myself, “YOU GOT THIS! DIG DEEP!” I didn’t care that everyone was looking at me. Then, this guy started running with me. He told me I was inspiring him and he needed my positive energy. Well, I needed that boost! I put my head down, passed mile 12 and began to cross the famous Laurel Street Bridge. I was only a few minutes away!
I hit the finish line and I was exhausted! I finished 2:41:44. It wasn’t my best time. I was hoping to do better. I FINISHED and that’s what matters, right? I had a great time and I think that’s what counts.
I met up with my friends and we got these photos together. Another half marathon is in the books! Yay!