Monday, October 3, 2011

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 Marathon Recap

I am not a 1/2 marathon runner, and by that I mean, I have only run two in my running career. I always have this mentality of "If I am going to be out there running 13.1, heck, I might as well keep going and hit 26.2". It's called cruel punishment. However, that is not possible when a race only offers a 1/2 marathon.

Earlier this summer I signed up for the San Jose Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon. A coworker and a bunch of running buddies were going to run, so I thought it a perfect time to break the mold and admit that 13.1 miles is a great distance for a race. I didn't realize how unprepared I would be.

The week leading up to the race, I was at a work conference in Dallas, which equated to zero time for training. Upon my return that Thursday, I picked up the cold and maybe the flu as well. Needless to say, by Saturday night, I was hurting pretty bad. Lastly, my wonderful grandmother passed away the day before the race. I briefly considered not running due to this trifecta of events, but realized I needed to go out and see what I was made of.

Race day brought with it beautiful weather. The sky was a gentle blue with white fluffy clouds and the sun greeted us partway through the race. I had eaten half a bagel with peanut butter on my 1 hour drive down to San Jose. I felt as ready as I could be.

I met my coworker, his son (who was also running) and his great family before hand. We did our usual, fluids, potty breaks, nip guards (well, Jose did) and pre-race chatter.

The start line was fairly easy to navigate. I would say overall the start area gets 4 out of 5 stars. I did not use the bag check or porta-potties, but I didn't hear complaints about them either. The corrals were nicely laid out and easy to find. They did have corral marshals ensuring people were lined up according to their predicted finish time. I lined up in corral #2 with Jose's son, JT. Jose, due to a knee injury, lined up in a later corral with a friend of his.

JT and I spent the next 10 minutes immersed in nervous chatter. JT is in highschool and typically does cross country distances. I believe this was only his 2nd half marathon. I really enjoyed my chats with him, a great kid.

The gun goes off and so do we. It only took 39 seconds for JT and myself to cross the start line. It wasn't until 4 minutes in that I realized I forgot to start my Garmin (stop watch). OOPS!

The course itself was fantastic. It really is a flat, fast course. The streets were all fairly large, allowing plenty of space for the nearly 15K runners. Here is my pros list for this race:
  1. Course was flat and fast
  2. Mile markers were well marked, with electronic boards showing the elapsed time (except mile 8, I either missed the mile marker or it didn't exist)
  3. The aid stations were well staffed. Each water/Cytomax station was long. I mean, they must have had volunteers handing out water for a good 50 yards at each station. That was great. It reduced the bottleneck of runners all trying to vie for the same cup.
  4. I loved the 8am start
  5. Course was well marked. Never a doubt of where I needed to turn next.
I went out, as I always do, too fast. I figured with my illness the past few days, I need to use my energy when I had it. I thought going in I might not finish the course, so I wanted to have a few good miles. Not once during the race did I look at my watch. Primarily because I was being naughty and not following my rce plan. I knew I was going to fast and superstitiously didn't want to see if I was slowing down or how fast I really was going. With each mile I kept saying to myself  "Just keep up the pace for one more mile, then you can slow down". And with each passing mile, I kept saying that to myself  "Just one more".

I thought about my grandmother a lot during this race. She was a great inspiration to me during the times I wanted to slow down or stop altogether. I also summoned up Gretchen Rubin's advice. I finished her book, The Happiness Project, last week and one of her mantras is "Act the way you want to feel". So, when I was tired, I mentally said to myself  "You feel great" and forced a smiled. It honestly worked. I also looked around at the kids spectating and pretending to run with us, the owners and their dogs sitting on their porches waving and summoned up smiles for each of them and focused on how lucky I was to be out there.

I could feel myself tiring, but I knew I could push myself harder. I didn't want the mental part of the race to win. Around mile 6.5, I had a ray of sunshine hit me. I saw one of my running friends on the sidelines and I screamed to her and I did a little jumping up and down as I was thrilled to see a familiar face. She took this picture of me (thanks Alisyn!):

I recall around mile 6, seeing the 12 mile marker on the other side of the road. I mouthed out loud "I will see you soon mile 12" and when I hit mile 12, I said "I told you I would see you". Just part of the mental game I played during this race. Probably around mile 8, I knew I could likely keep up my too-fast pace. I wasn't sure what that pace was, but had a guess it was in the mid-8 minute per mile range.

At mile 11, I saw my friend Jose (who had to pull up lame duck due to his knee) and waved madly at him. I couldn't slow down at all and mouthed/gestured that I had to keep going. I could hear him saying "Go, go".

In the final mile, I played the "Jose game". During a previous race with him, he kept telling me to "pick off a runner" (i.e. get ahead of them), so, in the final mile, I kept picking off runners. I likely shouldn't admit that some of those runners I picked off were walking or completely stopped, but hey, that counts!

I was very glad to see the finish line and Jose's family on the sidelines. I was even more glad to see my final time was 1:47:19. My fastest race ever. I guess I had more in me than I imagined.

Final time: 1:47.19 (PR by 10 minutes)
1203/9831 runners
220/5416 females
49/949 age group

I give this race an A+. After the race, I was lucky enough to finally meet a fellow Twunner (new word, Twitter + runner) @pavementrunner. Always great to put faces to Tweets. I then met up with some fellow runners for a birthday celebration (not mine).

I couldn't stay the entire breakfast and eventually had to leave. But not before I stopped and got myself a post-race treat. Yes, my coffee lite frapp, with 3 pumps sugar free cinnamon, double blended. They don't call me the Frappologist for nothing :-)

I was all smiles the rest of the day. I really was shocked by my finish time. I still cannot believe it. This girl still has a little something left in her :-) Thank you San Jose for a great race!

Until next year San Jose...

In the words of my late grandmother, "I didn't pick you, you picked us, we were the lucky ones". I feel the same about this race. It didn't pick me, I chose it, but I hope I added something unique to the experience.

Next up...Nike Women's Full Marathon in 2 weeks. EEK!


  1. Great recap! It was fun to meet you, thanks for keeping an eye out and spotting my pink bow.

    twunner - I like it it.

    You are going to do great at Nike... see you out there next time.

  2. I am so proud of you!!! You kicked some major ass!!! Great seeing you even if it was but briefly!

  3. Congratulations on running such a great race amidst so much tribulation - so inspiring! I'm so glad you were able to join us - even for just a little bit. See you at Nike!