Setting My Sites on
Right after I finished my last full marathon (Marine Corps Marathon in October 2009) I was really antsy to get going and train for another full. I come off each race with so much energy and adrenaline and I just want to focus it on the next target! I wasted a few weeks after my last full marathon trying to figure out what to do next ... but then the holidays hit, life sped up, and before I knew it, too much time had passed to run another full marathon in January or February. SO ... I then decided I would run a half instead!
I’ve run a lot of full marathons by now and although my time has improved slightly from one race to the next, it hasn’t improved significantly enough to meet my end goal –
Training – Or Lack Thereof
I put together an 8 week training plan which included speed workouts, hill workouts, and distance workouts. But alas, for one reason after another, I strayed from my schedule. The worst being when I went to the East coast for the holidays and didn’t run for a week and a half, then came back home to San Diego and moved, and didn’t run for another week!! I barely ran for almost three weeks! And, for the first time in who knows how many years, I hadn’t even worked out for periods of over a week! Okay, maybe not a big deal to normal people, but I'm somewhat of a workout/running junkie. I NEED my runs to feel right.
Somewhere during that time that I wasn't training, I think my running spirit broke. :o( After settling into my new apartment I tried to get back on track, and struggled, struggled, struggled. I was now living at the top of a hill leading down to my old running trail. Suddenly running the trail was harder than ever before, and running up the trail back home was the end of me. I pushed through several weeks of poor runs which consisted of me needing to stop to take a short walk break after 3, sometimes 2, and sometimes even 1 ½ miles! What was going on?!? I’m a marathon runner! Completely demoralized, I plugged on as best as I could, but I was WAY off of my training plan and hadn’t run further than 4 miles in months when January rolled around. Three weeks before the race I realized that I needed to push myself back on track. Two weeks out I ran 8 miles as a long run, then 10 miles the next weekend, thinking it was all I could do to even *finish* the race! In both long runs I struggled and walked every couple miles. Again, I was totally demoralized.
Finally, race day rolled around. I have to admit, I was nervous. After running so many full marathons I asked myself again and again how a half could have me so nervous. In the end I conceded that every race is its own beast, a new challenge as far as where you are in your fitness that day, and its up to you to give it what you have, and to try to enjoy it. I knew I could get through the 13 miles, didn’t think I’d PR. I thought oh well, at least I get a really cool finishers medal. With that in mind, I geared up and headed to the start line!
Rating the race
After running so many distance races, I’ve decided that those that I’ve liked the best have rated high on a few qualities that are specific to my racing preferences. I like races that are FLAT (I’m sorry but a distance race is hard enough in and of itself. Hills? No thank you!), that are accessible (easy access to the Start and Finish line), that are in “nice” locations (moderate weather, nice course scenery), and that are BIG. (I just love running in the mass of a crowd!)
How did this race rate?
FLAT. Right by the water with no hills. Perfect!
Huntington Beach, CA – Most of the course was along the PCH (Which for non-Californians is the Pacific Coast Highway which runs right along the ocean), within steps of the beach, with views of the ocean almost the whole time, and topped off with perfect Southern California weather. Sunny and moderate!
The morning of the race I drove to one of the designated parking locations, parked on the street, caught a shuttle to the start within 20 minutes, caught a shuttle back to my car within 15 minutes of finishing, and because of this, I totally rate this one of the top most accessible races I’ve ever run! (Rock N Roll in
The race started right in front of the Hilton which meant I could use their bathroom and skip the portapotties, there was water and Vitalife almost every mile, and entry to the course and exit from the course was smooth and easy. Overall, A+ for ease of racing on this course.
The medal for this race is .. AWESOME!! It’s a wooden longboard surfboard with the metal medal attached to it. LOVE IT!
In addition this we also received a long sleeve technical shirt, and a race bag that was a cute, reusable grocery tote! This must have been a “green” race because the only thing that we got in the goodie bag was the bag, and the shirt. No flyers, no samples, no nothing else! At first I was surprised, then relieved.
I started out the race with apprehension and excitement. I was nervous because I hadn’t run more than 3 miles without walking in months! I was excited because aside from everything else, I LOVE racing!
As I ran through miles 1, 2, and 3 I checked my watch a few times and saw that I was between a 8:30-9:00 pace and noted that I felt good, and decided to follow how I felt and not look at my watch. I didn’t look at it again until I crossed the finish line. That was an amazing accomplishment for me!
With each mile, my confidence built. Side note, but I really feel that my running spirit died over the last couple of months. With each mile I ticked off during this race, I felt it coming back. I loved being part of the crowd, I loved putting my training (or lack of) to the test, I loved running along the beach in the beautiful Southern California sun (knowing others were shoveling their driveways as we ran), and I loved knowing that I knew myself and my body, and that if I just followed how I felt ... I’d be okay.
As with all races I went through many stages of emotions as I ran. I’m an emotional, self-reflecting runner. I like the time alone during a run where I can think about life, myself, and my plans. Throughout those thoughts though, I’m somehow often brought to near tears at a few moments in each race. Why? Who knows. My first near-tears moment was on the brief few miles when we were away from the PCH and then turned back onto it to run the remaining 8 miles. Right as I caught sight of the beach and the waves and the clear sky over the water, Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place On Earth” came onto my iPod. I teared up and though Heaven isn’t just a place on Earth … its
Another choked up moment came when Miley Cyrus’ song “The Climb” came onto my iPod. I know, diss her as you wish, but I love her and her catchy tunes, and think that this song is different from the rest of her bubble gum repertoire. This song talks about ups and downs and struggles and determination, and as her song played on, I thought about my journey training for my first half marathon, my first full marathon, and everything after that.
At some point in my run I must have hit my runner’s high. I’ve read about running mantras and have tried to use them in the past. Unsuccessfully. They have always seemed fake and forced, and really haven’t helped me that much. For some reason in this race, something came into my head, and I repeated it over and over again and it meant many things, and really did help me go forward. What was that mantra?
This is my life.
As I was running and looking around me and enjoying the race, I thought about how much I truly love distance running and racing in general. It’s a real thrill and accomplishment for me, and I think its been the best part of my life. Getting up early morning after morning, week after week, month after month all comes together on one day, and you’re not alone. You’re with hundreds or thousands, or even tens of thousands of other people who share your same goal, for a reason unique to their own life. As I looked around and soaked into that community, I thought wow, THIS is my life. I love it.
As I repeated it over and over again, I then thought about how happy I was that this was something I had made a part of my life by choice. Then, the mantra became This is MY Life. Life is what you make it, and I’ve made the choice to do something positive and healthy. Running is my choice, and its something I’ve done for myself. Its MY choice.
After that, I then thought about how the mantra meant one more thing.. This is my LIFE. My life, my health, my future, one of my goals, my joy, my passion, and something I want to share with everyone.
Cheesy? Maybe to you. To me? Its something that defines who I am.
After this race I feel that I finally have my running spirit back. YAY! Its been gone for a few months, and I’m so happy that its returned. I've missed you running mojo!! My mojo has returned just in time too for me to start training for my next race ... the Rock N Roll Marathon here in
I have a new plan for my next training round. I’ll update my blog soon with the details! For now, I’ll give your eyeballs a break. And in case you’re interested, here is my half-marathon progress below.
- PF Chang's Rock N Roll - Phoenix, AZ - 2:02:55, 9:22 pace - Jan 2005
- Valley of the Sun - Mesa, AZ - 1:56:05, 8:51 pace - Mar 2005
- America's Finest City - San Diego, CA - 1:59:10 9:05 pace - Aug 2005
- America's Finest City - San Diego, CA - 1:56:44, 8:54 pace - Aug 2006
- YMCA Half Marathon - Phoenix, AZ - 1:57:44, 8:58 pace - Nov 2006
Half Marathon - Austin, TX - 1:58:28, 9:02 pace - Feb 2009 Austin
- Run to the Rock - Plymouth, MA - 1:58:03, 9:00 pace - Sept 2009
- Surf City USA - Huntington Beach, CA - 1:54:00, 8:42 pace Feb 2010