The original purpose of the trip was, for me, to chase a PR at the Carlsbad Half-Marathon, about which I'd heard great things. The idea of a half-marathon PR became a distant memory once I started to run using heart rate and rarely saw anything below a 10:-- mile, so I readjusted my expectations and decided that it would just be a fun way to spend the weekend. It also turned out that my parents had made separate plans that included a trip to Southern CA this past weekend, so our plans morphed again to include time with them. At any rate, my half-marathon hopes/goals quickly diminished as the "main event" of the weekend, which took the pressure off me on Saturday. While I still hoped to run a solid race that would be a good training run, I did not expect a particularly speedy-for-me 13.1 miles on Sunday. I did meet up with my triathlon coach on Saturday afternoon - which was a really nice bonus for the weekend - and she urged me to really *race* on Sunday and instructed me to start and stick with the 1:45 pace group. Considering that my recent race pace intervals (during slow runs) felt impossible to hold on to for more than the interval, I seriously questioned this plan.
By Sunday morning, my expectations had probably sunk even lower - I don't know when I've ever slept so poorly the night before a race. Maybe I really was nervous?! Fortunately, the half-marathon start was at the luxurious time of 7:45, so I tried to catch a few more zzzz's. Michael dropped me off somewhat close to the race expo around 7:15 which gave me time to get to the start, do my business (you know...), warm up, and then line up in my corral. I have to admit that I am a huge fan of waved/corralled starts, but even with the different waves, there were tons of people to weave around and through during that first mile. I can't say where my thoughts were during the first few miles - I think that I kept checking in with my pace and with how I felt. The 1:45 pace group was within sight but going faster than a 1:45 pace, according to the Garmin and also according to the time elapsed. So, I hung back at what felt like a comfortable but still fast pace, enjoying the course, especially around mile 3 or so, when we hit the coast which was just beautiful! I also saw my coach around mile 5 and she yelled at me to catch up to the 1:45 pace group - I thought to myself "As if!". And then, just after the course turn-around, I saw my parents, Michael and our dogs for a quick shout out and wave. At that point, I was pushing up to the 1:45 group which I finally caught, stayed with for a while, and then I decided that I needed to move on. The second half of the course was a negative split, and it felt hard but comfortable until around mile 10 at which point I tried to push even harder. While I still enjoyed the run and the pace felt doable, it no longer felt comfortable! During the second half of the race, I couldn't believe that I would finish up with a nice PR, as long as I didn't bonk. By the time, I got to the last half mile, I still couldn't quite get over my time but kept pushing, and even passed a few more people at the end, which made me very happy!
I ended the race with a very surprising 9 minute PR! I use that adjective because speed work has not been a major part of my training, as I said earlier, and if it hadn't been for my coach instructing me to start with the pace group, I would have held back, no doubt. I guess she knows what she is talking about! Also, this race did live up to its reputation of being a really great experience - it was very well organized, the course was nice and varied with plenty of rolling hills but nothing crazy, fantastic crowd support, great fluid and nutrition and plenty of portopotties scattered through the course (which was nice because I did have to make a pit stop and it was a quick in-and-out b/c there were no lines). Needless to say, I am a fan of this race! I'm not sure how the marathon would be - maybe too much out and back, but the half felt just right.
After my race, we were able to get down to other, more serious business - eating, drinking and watching football! My parents were catching an afternoon flight, so the first item up was for me to clean up, and then we headed to Union Tap House in Encinitas. That was a lucky choice for brunch - they served really good food and excellent bloody marys! After that, Michael and I hunted down a bar, and again we felt that we lucked out with the Encinitas Ale House where we scored good seats at the bar. I tried to switch between water and small beer tasters to stay somewhat hydrated while we watched the game. To make a good day even better, the Broncos beat New England and are headed to the Super Bowl! While I was still riding high from my PR, someone else was over the moon for the rest of the day!
Finally we peeled ourselves off the barstools and headed out to enjoy the late afternoon. We don't often to get to that area of Southern CA, usually staying along the LA/Orange County coast or going north, but this trip made me love the Encinitas area. There is a hippie feel to it, and it also seemed that 'normal' people lived and worked there. I realize that I have the outsider/visitor's perspective, so who knows what it is REALLY like. One thing that you can't argue with - the long beaches that just stretch on and on. We took a great beach walk with our dogs both yesterday and today, and I felt that I could have stayed there forever, watching the waves and the surfers.
The perfect day cannot end without a great margarita, which we found at El Callejón in Encinitas. We each had one and split another - they were excellent! At that point, we were totally done for the day, but already plotting a return trip at some point soon!
(Sorry for the complete lack of photos - I know, I'm talking about how awesome it was but showing you nothing!)