Friday, June 10, 2016

Race Recap: RnR San Diego 2016

(I'm writing this on day three of a really nasty head cold, which started with a throat so swollen I couldn't talk on Tuesday morning, so apologies if any of this recap is nonsensical.)

Sourabh and I drove down to San Diego on Saturday around 11 a.m., stopping in Carlsbad for sandwiches before continuing on. Traffic on I-5 is the worst on the weekends for some reason. Every time I've driven south of San Clemente on the weekend I've run into traffic! But we made it to San Diego and I picked up my bib at the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego expo relatively painlessly.

This is exactly what the start line looked like -- it's a big race!

We headed to the AirBnB we'd rented for the night, which was a great little place, just a couple blocks from the start line. When the race starts at 6:15 a.m., you don't want to be worrying about catching a cab or taking a bus to the start line! If anyone is interested in the specific AirBnB, just leave a comment or shoot me an email. Definitely a good place to stay if you're running this race!

Ok, quick aside to say a huge THANK YOU to the kind man at Lenscrafters who took pity on me and gave me some sample contact lenses on Saturday afternoon. As I set my race day items out around 4:30 p.m., I realized I had forgotten to pack contact lenses. DISASTER. I could not imagine racing if the distance was blurry -- it seemed like it would be incredibly disconcerting. Thankfully, after speaking to a local Lenscrafters in San Diego, I was able to get samples. Crisis averted!

There also happened to be a Tender Greens close to the Lenscrafters, which I figured was the perfect pre-race dinner (I got their seared tuna, roasted fingerling potatoes and some sauteed eggplant, for those who are curious).

I did a short jog around the nearby portion of Balboa Park with some strides, just to get the legs moving. It was nice to see a bit more of San Diego!

I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep at all that night. I wasn't even that nervous, and the bed was super comfortable, but I couldn't get my mind to settle, so I never really fell asleep. But that made waking up at 4am a lot easier!

After sipping some coffee, eating a Picky Bar and half a banana at 4:15, and hitting the bathroom the requisite five times, I walked over to the start line around 5:30 and did my warm-up stretches. The race is pretty big (the half marathon and marathon start together, and the half marathon alone had over 16,000 runners), but RnR did a great job of organization at the start line, I thought.

I ate a Honey Stinger waffle 15 minutes before the start because, given the humidity, I wasn't sure how much fuel I'd be able to get down so I figured more fuel early on was a good plan.

Ah yes, the humidity. For the bulk of my running time, it was around 90% humidity, which.... is a lot. It wasn't very hot, thankfully, but I definitely felt the humidity in my breathing.

I actually loved the course route, despite the elevation gain (I think it was ~50 ft more than the NYC half?), which was more than most half marathons I've run. There were so many people out cheering in the first half, especially in Normal Heights, including one older man who was pouring drinks for his friends out of what looked like a fully stocked bar.

I ran the first two miles at a strong opening pace, but I had a hard time really getting into a comfortably hard groove. I was trying to run on effort level, but I just had a hard time dialing into the right effort level.

At the same time, I was really enjoying the race, even though I could tell I wasn't on pace for a big PR. I started having a sharp stitch in my right side. I realized it started after the Gu I took at mile 4, and got worse every time I took a sip out of my bottle of half water/half Gatorade.

Having read up on this, my understanding is that the liver gets larger with glucose, which pulls on the abdominal muscles and can lead to that sharp pain. This is something I've dealt with in a lot of previous races, so in our post-race debrief, Coach Jess emphasized that it's something we need to figure out because it's definitely a limiting factor in terms of effort level. Every time the stitch kicked in, I'd slow down a bit and focus more on my breathing. I didn't take anything after that Gu at mile 4 since I recognized that I seemed to be in more pain after taking any fuel.

The last few miles run through Balboa Park, largely downhill, and finish in downtown San Diego. I felt like I had to slow down on the biggest downhill, though, because the pain was at its sharpest due to the heavier up-and-down motion -- that mile still clocked in at 8:07, though. The stitch actually continued hurting through Sunday and Monday, in a pulled muscle kind of way, but thankfully it went away by Tuesday (slash, was covered up by my overall aches and pains due to being sick).

I'm most proud of the way I pushed in that last mile, where the uphill and downhill evened out and there was no net loss -- I clocked an 8:01! That's the fastest mile I've ever logged in a half marathon.

Sourabh snapped this picture of me at the finish line. Clearly I was working hard in that last mile!

I paid $30 for this picture because (1) it's the best race picture I've had taken and (2) it came with a $20 credit for Shutterfly, so I can use that to buy prints to put in our new house, which means it really only cost $10... right?

Official Time - 1:53:08

I ended up running a much hillier half, in 90% humidity, 34 seconds slower than my PR. So, I'm happy with it, even though it wasn't a PR, and even though I know I didn't give a 100% effort level. The ease with which I walked off the course made that very clear, as did the minor soreness over the next two days as opposed to my typical "OMG EVERYTHING HURTS WHY" post-race soreness.

The big reason I'm fine with not PR-ing is that I feel like I learned so much with this race. I learned that I can run strong on a hilly course and that I need to figure out longer distance fueling better. And most importantly, I finished a 13 week training cycle without a muscle strain. That is HUGE for me! 

Coach Jess and I have also agreed that I should race more, so I am planning on a late summer half marathon and a late fall half marathon, followed by a late winter marathon in 2017. I'm pumped!

Half Marathon #9 complete!
I have some ideas for late summer and late fall half marathons, but do you have any suggestions for me?


  1. You should do the inaugural Truckee half marathon in September! I think I'm going to do it as my first ever half marathon.

  2. I don't know many races out that way but I do think racing often is always a good idea! As someone who still can't eat or drink during a race I know the frustration and will be using all summer trying to figure out how to handle it with Crohns + IBS since I am running another full this year!

  3. Congrats! You'll totally crush a flatter, less humid half! Hope to see you at Summer Breeze. :)

  4. Woohoo! Really glad you did the research behind that stitch stuff. It makes a lot of sense. It's like if I try to take too much nutrition on the bike, then it ends up sloshing around in my stomach and ultimately not being absorbed and used during the race. And like we talked about, the humidity played a role too. BUT you had a great outlook going into the race, on the race itself, and your training cycle. Onto the next! :)

  5. Congrats!! I vote for Portland Half. ;)