Fun times! Source
I always like the idea of a fall race, but it's usually a painful process to get there. This year, that particularly seemed to be the case, and I blame it on warmer-than-usual months of August, September and October. Still, I knew that if I didn't commit to a race, I'd delay getting back into any sort of fitness until who knows when. I had the option of a free entry thanks to California Triathlon, which made the decision easier: Rock'n'Roll it was.
Committing to the race was easy, but recommitting to running was a challenge. August was a slog-fest - every single run felt slow and hard, no exaggeration. I finally seemed to find my running 'legs' at the end of September/beginning of October and felt a bit more confident about this race, until two weeks before the race when my body started to fall apart. It's funny that I've never (knock on wood) had major issues with phantom pains during triathlon taper, but almost every time I'm gearing up for a half-marathon or other race, I seem to struggle. Last week, I had a knee issue which freaked me out a bit. Once I decided that my knee was fine (actually, my ART doctor told me it was), I then came down with a nasty case of laryngitis that developed into a full-blown cold. So much for that last long run. Finally, no joke, I went to a spinning class this past Thursday and afterwards, my right foot/ankle area was swollen and a bit twitchy on Friday and Saturday.
I knew that while I'd seen some speed at a few track workouts, I hadn't put in the miles for a really solid race, and that was okay. I had zero interest in chasing a PR at this point. But, I was talking off my big mouth at this Tuesday's track practice with a few other people who were also running and predicted my finish time between 1:45-1:50. I had no idea why I blabbed that much, probably because I was running fast mile repeats with them and I felt overly confident. Or oxygen wasn't flowing well to my brain, so I was being overly stupid. Whatever the case, once I said that, publicly, I had to commit to that time. Such a dumbass.
Anyway, that's the pre-pre-race story.
As for pre-race, we had to pick up the packet on Saturday, and as much as I kind of hate the day-before-the-race-mandatory-pick-up, Michael and I ended up spending some time in downtown LA. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't remember the last time we'd been downtown, but suffice it to say that it's been a while! Anyway, I checked in, got the goods (tshirt, race bib) and didn't really pay much attention to anything, which continued to race day, to my regret*. I know that a lot of people ooh and aah over expos, and I understand the appeal, but I'm always hesitant to go drop major bucks on anything. So, I refrained from spending money and we made a beeline out of the convention center and went to LA's Grand Central Market which has, over the past few months, gone through a revamp and (because of this?) has become super hip and happening. Again, the last time I went to Grand Central Market was probably 18 months ago on a school field trip. Wow, has it changed! When we first walked in, I couldn't believe the line of people waiting to eat at Eggslut. I thought that I was in a Portlandia episode! And I must admit that I kind of want to eat there now...
We had actually already eaten a decent-sized brunch, so we ended up getting a new battery for my watch and we got some mole paste at one of the vendors. I can't wait to make mole at home! Despite the uber-cool vibe that has changed Grand Central Market, most of the old vendors are still there, which is good to see, and they are thriving. So, the change seems to be favoring them too.
And race day:
First of all, when my alarm went off this morning, I woke up immediately but thought "Why the fuck did I set my alarm for 4:30 am?! I'm a moron!". And then I remembered - oh, yeah, a race. I honestly considered going back to sleep, but decided that I'd regret that decision. So, I got up and did all the pre-race stuff. Plus, I actually arrived early enough to get on-street parking. Total score! I hate paying for parking, so it was kind of worth it to arrive well over an hour before the race started. And then, it was the waiting game until around 7:00 am. Start time! Well, almost - I wasn't, shockingly enough, in the first corral.
But I didn't have to wait too long to start which was nice. So, I crossed the start line and tried to figure out what I pace I should be running that I could sustain. 8:20's? Sure, that feels fine. Also, I was surprised to see a number of people that I knew racing, and while it's nice to say hello and cheer people on, I realized today that I don't like to "race" with other people. Not that I'm competitive with them, but I like to zone out and focus on my own race. Good to know.
The race course was okay - it was fun to run around downtown LA, at least for the first 6 miles which took us over to USC, where we ran around the Coliseum (that was probably the highlight), and then we ran back to the Staple Center area and from there did another out-and-back. I felt really good until about mile 9, and at that point, I decided that I need push it a bit harder. That's all well and good, but right after I had that little pep talk with myself, I then had to haul up a bridge (or hill, however you want to look at it). Also, my Garmin miles were further and further off the race miles, which was pretty frustrating at that point. But I kept trucking along, was happy to hit the turnaround on the bridge, and at mile 10, there was the usual "only a 5K to go" line. However, those last 3.1 miles sucked. First of all, according to my watch, it was longer than 3.1. Also, I had changed my goal pace at some point in the race, so now I had to pick up the pace over those last 3.1 miles to feel "accomplished". Somehow, I managed to sneak in just under 1:45 which felt pretty good. Actually, it felt terrible at the time - in fact, I kept telling myself "This is worse than the IM run". Obviously, going slow and steady after a long swim and bike is much easier for me than trying to run a fast (for me) half marathon on limited training. Who knew?
Once I finished, I thought that I might be sick but managed to keep my stomach together. In general, the finish line food left me fairly unimpressed. As a whole, the race was well-organized, and it was sort of fun to run through some parts of LA that I normally wouldn't venture. However, the post-race food left a lot to be desired. The one MAJOR bonus was that Noosa was there giving away yogurt - and they let people take as much as they wanted. I now wish that I had taken more than the 5 small containers...
Final thoughts - It was definitely not my best race nor my favorite race, but I'm glad that ran it. There were plenty of people sporting Halloween costumes, so that was entertaining, and there was good music scattered throughout the course. It did feel very local to me - despite being a larger race than I usual run, I managed to see quite a few people that I knew, which was quite fun. And I was happy with my final time, which I ended up pushing myself to get. The irony there is that I put the wrong band on my shoe (put the tracker on my gear bag), so according to the results, I didn't even run! I feel like a bit of an idiot, but it also makes me laugh. There are worse things in the world than not having an official finish time. The medal is super silly (Halloween-themed), but I really like the shirt, so I'll call it a 'win'. Also, all of my phantom pains? Gone on race day!
And so ends my 2014 "racing season". I'd say that there were some good milestones. I didn't race a lot, just a handful of times, but they were all quality races, in one way or another. Even this one, which I kind of shrugged off, did give me the chance to push myself fairly hard. And I'm not in the best shape at the moment, but that's okay too. I suppose I'll enjoy the challenge of building that back.
*I totally blame my timing chip snafu on my lack of focus.