Third Annual Capitola Half Marathon

The weekend of May 17 and 18, I was lucky enough to be in Santa Cruz, California, and to once again be a part of the Surfer’s Path Marathon and Capitola Half Marathon & Relay.  I have been involved with the race since its inaugural year, and have loved watching the race grow and transform into what is becoming a “must do” race for the Santa Cruz area (recaps of years 1 & 2).  This year, I participated only as a runner but was SO happy to be able to add the race into my race schedule – especially knowing it meant I would get to race with some of the best runners around!

[Full disclosure: my race entry was comped for my contributions to the race from the first two years, but all opinions are my own.]

Race weekend started early Saturday morning with a 4 mile shakeout jog w/ Meg & Rebecca.  Then, after breakfast and showering, Meg (who ran the relay w/ Leslie & won the women’s division – check out her recap here) & I headed down to the expo to pick up our packets and meet up with Alisyn for the tweet-up (which ended up just being the three of us, but that just means there is lots of room for improvement next year!!).

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Alisyn, me and Meg at the Expo

At the Expo we also hung out at the SCE tent, and chatted for a bit before I headed off to meet a good friend for the rest of the afternoon.

SCE at the Expo

SCE at the Expo

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Spent the afternoon enjoying the Santa Cruz coast – and surfers!

After burgers + sweet potato fries for lunch, an afternoon chocolate sorbet and a poke bowl for dinner, I figured I was all carbo-loaded up and hit the hay to get ready for race day.

Sunday morning came all too fast.  Even though the race started extremely close to where I was staying at Meg’s, I woke up at 4am to pop 2 immodium (you can never be too safe) so that I didn’t have the same problem as the time I spent FAR too much time in the bathroom when I ran this race in 2012.  I went back to bed and woke up again at 5:00am to eat breakfast, pack a little and get dressed. Around 6:30, Meg, Hillary and I headed to the start line, where I popped another immodium (seriously, I was worried.  I mean, did you see what I ate on Saturday?!).  And before I knew it, it was go time.

Happiness at the start line

Happiness at the start line

I had made plans with Gaylia and Charmin, two absolutely incredible, sweet and talented ladies, to start out at about a 7:15-7:20 pace, and we all had the goal of finishing in the 1:35-1:38 time range.  Of course, I forgot to turn on my watch, so I only had a vague idea of “current” pace as we were running and what miles 2-13.1 were, since mile 1 was way off.

Running with those two ladies was seriously the greatest gift and experience I could’ve asked for.  They just made the day that much more fun.  And before we knew it, we checked in at the 4-mile mark right on at a 7:15 page.  This was thanks in large part to Gaylia keeping us all honest and not letting us pick up the pace too early, and Charmin for making sure we were all feeling good and knocking it out together.  We saw Rebecca around this point too, who had made it out after her morning run to cheer us all on!  Such a delightful surprise!

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Around mile 5 I took my first gu and shortly thereafter I saw my good friend who had woken up to cheer – it was kind of a surprise since he’s not necessarily an early morning riser, but it was fun and wonderful to see another friendly face on the course.  And we frequently saw Bob on the course with his bike & camera, and I have him to thank for most of these fantastic photos he took for SCE.

Synchronized running

Synchronized running

At about mile 6, you fly down the downhill into Capitola to the around point of the race where the relay has its hand off. I saw Meg who had just handed off the baton to Leslie who ran and started screaming at me about PRs of some sort (she PRed her 10k unofficially in the first half the relay!!, so we’re pretty sure thats what it was all about) and I screamed back at her something about pace, probably getting myself a PR and other sorts of nonsense.  I love that girl and our insanity.

And then it was back up and out of Capitola with Gaylia and Charmin – where the motto was “keep it relaxed and easy” because that hill is a beast.  This is also where we met up with speedster Jenn, who was a sweetheart and got up super early to come run in the last six miles of the race with us.  And Benoit joined us for a “cooldown” mile or two at the easy pace of about a 7:10…during miles 7 and 8.

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Jenn joining the ranks!

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The ladies + Benoit!

The miles flew by, and our paced jockeyed between a 7:03 and a 7:10, and suddenly we were at mile 11, which is on a short but pretty steep hill.  I took my second gu here, and came out of the hill with Jenn just ahead of Gaylia and Charmin.  I didn’t want to leave them since we had been running together the whole race, and it had been going perfectly, but when we turned back to look they waved me on, so I took off with Jenn.  When we got to mile 12 I told Jenn I didn’t want to know the splits.  Thankfully, she kept her mouth shut (we were running sub-7s) b/c otherwise I probably would’ve freaked out.  She just kept telling me to charge on, and so charge I did.

Just after 13 miles, Jenn turned around to go bring Gaylia & Charmin in and as I turned left to run down onto the beach to the finishline, my eyes caught the timer and it read “1:32:xx” and my mind just went “f*&p %s#s jd&*#” because I had no idea that was where I was at.  I mean, Kelley had told me after Cherry Blossom that I could do that, but I didn’t fully believe her…

Running onto the beach finishline

Running onto the beach finishline

Alisyn's instagram immediately following my finish - so fun to see her as soon as I crossed the finishline

Post-finish afterglow w/ Alisyn

And then the PR glow aftermath started settling in.  My official time was 1:32:23, a 12 minute PR from December…  My mind is still a little blown.

After the race, I hung out and celebrated with SCE and the running wives.  We grabbed some coffee, ate some post-race food (which comes from New Leaf and in AWESOME paper grocery bags – you just pick a bag up and you’re on your way!).

Post-race bliss w/ Jenn

Post-race bliss w/ Jenn

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We waited around for the awards, because SCE pretty much cleaned house.  SCE took top place in all the relays categories (open men, women and mixed) and there were AG takings and PRs flying all over the place.  I even managed to snag 3rd in my AG, which was definitely a nice bonus, but really all that mattered to me was that PR.

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It was seriously the perfect race day, with my favorite runners and in one of my favorite places in the world.  I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the most wonderful week.

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The best team in all the land

Actually I could have had a better end to my week in Santa Cruz – not having to run back to Meg’s, shower, pack and head to the airport would’ve been better…  At least I’ll be back in August.

I seriously love the Capitola Half Marathon and have heard wonderful things about the marathon course as well, though its definitely a half-marathon dominated race.  The course is well marked, the water stations are well manned and the volunteers are great at cheering, there are post race massages, lots of good food and a free ice bath called the ocean (which I wish I had taken advantage of.  And the location seriously can’t be beat.  While there are lots of rolling hills making it not a challenging course, the views are pretty hard to beat.  You bet your buns I’ll try to be back again next year.

Women’s Half Marathon San Diego

This past weekend, Meg and I were given the opportunity to run the Women’s Half Marathon San Diego as a part of the X-1 Audio team.  This was my first half marathon race since running Capitola Half in May 2012, and longest race since coming back from my injury.  I was excited to see what I could do especially with all my recent PRs in the 10k and 5k.

Friday afternoon, Meg and I drove down to the San Diego county area, where we stayed with her parents for the weekend.  Having only had 3 hours of sleep the night before, Meg graciously drove the whole way (well she drove the whole trip back too…) and after a few hours in the car, I took a looong nap, and missed a fair amount of the trip.  So the trip really flew by.

Saturday, after a delicious brunch at Beach Break Cafe – which is delicious, btw — we headed to the Women’s Half Marathon Expo at the Sheraton on the Harbor in San Diego.  We picked up our bibs, cute shirts and checked out the vendors (and bought pink argyle adorable socks from ProCompression, which we both wore raceday), before meeting up with the X-1 Audio team at their booth.

549861_10151531046459236_1324134362_nThe X-1 Audio Team in Graced by Grit

X-1 Audio was the headlining headphone sponsor of the Women’s Half Marathon in San Diego.  They gave each of us a pair of headphones made specifically for women to try out.  They’re comfortable, cute and come in so many colors (I got the teal!).  I wore them during the race, and only had to adjust them 2 times!  We then met the wonderful Kate from Graced by Grit, a new women’s athletic clothing company, who outfitted us in cute capris and super comfy singlets. A foreshadow: the singlet was perfect for race day – great fit, great material, breathable.  Perfect, to a T.

421394_10151531046349236_965375899_nGraced by Grit….manikin style
Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.33.13 PMMe and Meg in our Graced by Grit gear

We also were hooked up with these amazing sunglasses from Smith Optics.  They are super light weight, crystal clear, and have lenses that can be easily switched out (rose and clear).  I wore them race day, and throughout most of the run I couldn’t even tell they were there.  A definite win in my book.

577258_10151531046359236_185367719_nThe Smith Optics sunglasses and X-1 Audio headphones

We also received compression sleeves from CEP, which are comfortable and cute, and I can’t wait to wear in the near future.  What I loved about CEP is that its not a guessing game for size.  They measure your calf, and tell you your size for all their sleeves and compression socks.

482276_10151531046439236_2121359530_nThe team getting fitted at CEP for our compression sleeves

After the Expo, we headed back to Meg’s parents house where they made a delicious dinner, and we had a lowkey night before crawling into bed around 8:30pm (heyyyy we were super tired and we had a 4am wake up call).  And by 9:30 it was lights out for me!  A definite first for me in a looong time.

Sunday morning we woke up at 4am, and got ready, ate breakfast (banana + almonds for me) and then headed into San Diego for the race start.  At the start, I met one of my favorite running bloggers for the first time, Skinny Runner.  She was very down to earth and real, just how I hoped she would be – and I might even like her more in person than on her blog.

At 6:35am, the race began.  I love the race, and the idea behind the Women’s Half Marathon, promoting women getting out and exercising together.  The one thing that I was kind of disappointed in was the fact that there was a man pacing the 1:35 pace group.  I mean, if its supposed to be a women’s race…shouldn’t there be a woman pacing?  I know plenty of women who can run a sub 1:35…

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.03.30 PMMe and Meg (running twins!) running strong at the start of the race

Anyway, the course for me was my dream course.  Flat, with minimal hills.  I started out running with Meg, but by about mile 3, we had drifted apart.  I decided to race, and Meg was using the run as a training run for her upcoming marathon.  I was hitting the splits I wanted the first half…I was running a 7:35 pace…

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.00.35 PMRunning toward the finish

I kept this up through mile 7, when my stomach started acting up.  My worst nightmare: the return of runner’s stomach.  I hoped it would be a one port-a-potty stop.  I started running, but it was a no-go.  It meant additional stops at mile 9, 10 and 11.  With each stop, I saw my hopes of running a sub 7:40 pace half marathon drift away…  And after the mile 11 stop, I was disheartened and my mind and body were out of the race.  All I wanted to do was finish.  I knew a PR was still going to happen, but it wasn’t the time I had trained for and/or mentally prepared for.

525368_10151531046684236_1550257580_nAbout to cross the finishline!

I was disappointed when I crossed the finishline.  To say I wasn’t would be a lie.  I knew I had a PR and I knew I should be proud, but my stomach decided to reign (as it often does), and it pushed my goal out of reach.  It took me a full day to get over the disappointment, and I’ve accepted it for what it is…and embraced my PR.  It was a PR by more than 5 minutes and an 8:07 pace…so I can’t be disappointed in that.  (And it makes achieving another PR at another half that much easier – right? ;))

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.01.33 PMAt the finishline with my race bling and a shiny new PR: 1:46:19

All in all it was a great race, with great old & new running friends, and two fantastic companies: X-1 Audio and Graced by Grit!  I loved every moment of our trek down to San Diego and our time spent down there, and am now so happy to come away with that PR.  It is representation of how far I have come in the past year as a runner, which I contribute a great deal to Santa Cruz Endurance and the great running friends I have gained from joining.

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 9.26.47 AMMe and Meg post race – sneaking in a little SFM reppin’ with our headbands!

After finishing, I stretched and massaged my legs a bit since my left calf was a little tight, which I later found out was attributed to this…

Yeah…that’s not good.  That’s something I’m going to work on…and believe might have something to do with my arch tear this past fall.  Le sigh.

Anyway, back to the post race.  The team gathered at the stage for the award ceremony where the fabulous Dana from X-1 Audio said a few words about the company and team, and we snapped a few post-race photos.

150440_10151531046859236_45618706_nThe X-1 Audio girls in Graced by Grit!

After snapping some photos, we headed back to Meg’s parents house for a quick, but delicious breakfast before heading back to Santa Cruz so I could teach a night-before-the exam review section.  Talk about a quick and busy weekend — but one that was totally worth it!

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.32.45 PMMe and Meg post race and cooldown

It was such a fun weekend, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to be a part of the team and run with all these fabulous ladies this weekend!

***A shout out to Meg’s parents who were our chauffeurs and gave us a place to stay for the weekend – thank you thank you thank you!
***X-1 Audio comped my race entry.  Graced by Grit, Smith Optics, CEP and X-1 Audio provided us with their products, but all opinions (as always) are my own and I was not paid nor was I asked to review the products.

Big Kahuna 2012: Race Recap

*I haven’t been able to write this post, even though the big day happened almost a a month and a half ago because I didn’t know where to begin.  Since I still don’t know how to start, and portray all the emotions surrounding this day, I am going to do my best.*

[SPOILER ALERT -  oh wait, that already happened]:

My SCE teammate Johan and I at the finish line.

September 9, 2012 I woke up at 3:30 wide awake and ready to go.  I realized I could still sleep for another hour or so, so I had to coax myself back to sleep.  I was a little afraid when I woke up again I’d be beat, but I was just as excited — apparently anxiety was running full steam ahead through my veins.

I ate my breakfast of banana + almond butter, showered, braided my hair, and double checked my bag.  I don’t know if you know this, but triathlons require pretty much everything you own but the kitchen sink.  Its ridiculous.  I had two bags stuffed to the hilt, and {stupidly} hopped on my bike to ride the two miles down the mountain to transition.

[note: bonus of living so close to the start of so many races here in Santa Cruz is that I can ride my bike to them - especially when they're triathlons.  not-so-bonus of living close is that I stupidly ride my bike to events where there is no way I'm ever going to be able to make the trek home.  thank goodness for good friends who come to my rescue.]

I made it down to transition at 5am, and it was hopping.  I wanted plenty of time for food to digest, the nerves to settle, and to ensure everything was set and ready to go before my start at 7:15am (well I thought it was 7:15…).  I found two of my fellow SCE triathletes, Johan & Julian before we all headed down to the beach for the swim.

Once down at the beach, I thought my wave was starting at 7:15, so I hopped in the water at 6:50 to start warming up.  I said hi to a few of my tri friends both on SCE and outside, and shared race morning jitters with all. However, little did I know our wave didn’t start til 7:24 (they switched this race day morning), so I spent a solid 20 minutes in the water adjusting to the balmy 59 degree ocean water.  Probably about 10 minutes too long…my body was cold!

[For those of you not from northern California, 59 degrees is actually pretty freakin' warm for the water...and it felt glorious on the sunny race day morning.]

The 1.2 Mile Swim:

At 7:24 the buzzer went off and it was off to the races.  I stayed to the inside on the way out on the swim.  I felt strong, and confident, and stayed with the middle of the pack for the entirety of the swim.  I ended up making it out and around the wharf for the 1.2 mile swim in 35:38.  A solid swim, in my opinion.  Especially given that I had probably warmed up a little too much.

Transition 1:

After the swim, there’s a 1/4+ mile run up to transition.  Then once in transition, I peeled off my wetsuit, dried off my feet, threw on my bike shoes (I wear them sockless), grabbed my jersey, poured a pack of sports beans in my both, grabbed a swig of water, threw on my helmet, grabbed my Switch sunglasses, and ran out of transition with my bike.  Somehow even though it felt like I was going as fast as my little legs could carry me, I still ended up taking 7:48 in T1.  Whoops.

The 56.4 Mile Bike:

Let me just begin this by saying that of all the legs of a triathlon, the bike is by FAR my weakest.  And I don’t mean by just a little bit, I mean that I need to get up close and personal with my bike if I want to shave time off any distance triathlon.  I am slow, and inefficient…and apparently know nothing about bikes.

The bike started out pretty good, my legs felt fresh, and I felt hydrated and fueled.  I started taking S-Caps as soon as I got out on the bike [best decision I've ever made in long distance events is taking S-Caps], and 100 calories of electrolytes/carbs in the form of Clif Shot Blocks or Sports Beans or Hammer Gel every 35-40 minutes.  I wanted to make sure I kept fuel in my body for the run.

Unfortunately the bike didn’t stay pleasant for long.  The bike goes 25 miles north on the 1 before turning around back to Santa Cruz at Pigeon Point.  The ride north is notorious for having ridiculous headwinds – and they were there in full force on race day.  Every minute that passed, the winds got just a little bit stronger — in fact it took me 1:57:xx to get to the turnaround point at mile 28.2 — yes, almost two hours to go not even 30 miles.   Yowsa.  It also didn’t help that my chain fell off at mile 20, adding a few extra minutes to my time.

On the way back, the tailwind obviously makes you float right along.  And I was looking forward to getting all this speed and gaining a bunch of time on the way back.  Things were going smoothly, and my average speed was 22mph (including the uphills), and then…then just after mile 40 things started going downhill.  My gears jammed up, making shifting almost impossible.  Then I heard a large thud, and then every time the pedal went around, there was a thud.  I couldn’t figure out what it was [This was my blonde moment...but I claim it was that I was so focused on the task at hand].  With these two problems, my bike started slowing, and I couldn’t get going faster than 15 mph…on the downhills.  Major fail.  After hoping to have a time of about 1:20 or less on the way back (yes, you really do fly on the way back), I had a second leg time of 1:40:xx, for a total time of 3:36:28 — which had already set me up to fail my goal time of 6 hours (I knew it was ambitious, but I also knew it was possible).

What really killed me on those last 16 miles?  The fact that I had to pedal 2-3x harder during those miles to go slower than I was going on the way out.  Talk about physically draining yourself.  And all because I had a flat tire…and didn’t know it.

[See, I told you: blonde moment.  And to be completely honest, I didn't know I had a flat until I went to take my bike into the shop a few days later, and the tires was completely blown.  Apparently I'm not observant...]

Transition 2:

I was mentally and physically exhausted by this point, and had already realized that my goal time was out of reach, unless I miraculously ran 20-30 minutes faster than my half marathon PR time.  Yeah…that may happen someday, but it sure as hell isn’t going to come after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56.4 with transitions in over 4 1/2 hours.  Sorry, not happening.

Anyway, I threw on my compression socks, running shoes, grabbed my race belt and visor, shoved half a banana in my mouth, grabbed my sports beans & handheld, and headed for the road.  I had a fairly speedy T2 (relative to T1) with a time of 4:49.

The 13.1 Mile Run:

When you’re mentally and physically drained, its almost noon, its hotter than your’e used to running in because there’s no cloud cover, the sun is shining bright, and you know you can’t reach your goal time, running 13.1 miles becomes the world’s most monumental challenge.

I started off fairly strong, especially seeing SCE friends Meg & Jenn at about mile 1 my PhD friends at mile 2.  They gave me hope of finishing, not much, but hope.  However, I quickly faded, giving in to a mild calf cramp, and started walking by mile 2.5.  At mile 3 I saw another friend who was finishing, and told me I could do it — I needed to hear it, but didn’t believe it at the time.  I was struggling.

It was from that point on I adopted a run/walk strategy.  I would run as long as I could, and then walk for .05 when I needed to.  I also walked through every aid station, and up every “hill.”  This course really has no big hills — but I didn’t take any chances of having my legs seize up.  This may seem ridiculous, but when you have a calf cramp, are on hours 5, 6 and 7 of a half ironman, its the best idea in the world.  Slowly the miles ticked off, and I started to gain my energy and speed back.  I continued to take fuel every 35-40 minutes with sports beans, and had an S-Cap to go with it.  I carried my handheld with me (the best decision I ever made), and made friends along the way.  Most of the people I chatted with for a bit before passing – which is generally how it works for me in tris: you pass me on the bike, but watch out for me on the run ;)  And I was happy to give out advice to people on the course since the run is on my home turf.

By the time I got to mile 9, my energy really started to return as I realized I would actually finish the half ironman.  And by mile 10 I was back on West Cliff, knew the course by heart and could almost feel the finish — I started picking it up.  I still walked through aid stations (getting sufficient water in was necessary), and up the one teeeny tiny hill on West Cliff, but continued to get faster and stronger as I knew the finish was near.

It was about mile 12 that I saw my friend Maggie who had stayed on the course while everyone else went to meet me at the finish. She gave me a final boost of confidence, and then she rolled up her sign to run to the finish.  What made me feel good?  The fact that she said it took her almost a FULL HALF MILE to catch up to me — meaning I was running about an 8 min/mile pace (or faster) for that last mile on the road.  When she told me this, it made me feel good, and proud, even though the previous 12 miles weren’t very pretty.  So with that, we parted ways and I took off on the last .2 miles to the finish.

The last .2 miles of Big Kahuna are possibly the hardest of the entire race: they’re .2 miles on the beach.  Yes, you turn off the road, onto Cowell’s beach, run under Santa Cruz Wharf, and up to the finishline by the bandstand on the beach.  Holy hell those last .2 miles burn.  But I finished, happy, strong and beaming.

I was still emotional about the fact that pretty much everything that could have gone wrong on the bike did, and thus my time wasn’t what I wanted, but I finished my first half ironman distance, and am now a Big Kahuna.

Maggie, Kate, me & Pia — part of my super fabulous cheer squads!  There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have finished the run if it hadn’t been for my supporters — they seriously boosted me on the run.

I was 14/20 in my age group, 383/522 overall finishers (men & women), with a time of 6:41:20.  I finished under 7 hours, which is still excellent, and while I’m proud of myself for finishing, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed in my performance. But, I am being positive and I am taking this as an opportunity for improvement — I learned a lot of lessons about triathlons, myself and racing in general, and now that I’ve had time to reflect, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

All in all, I’m so proud of myself for doing a half ironman distance, I’m proud of myself for not giving up, and I’m proud of myself for not giving up after such a difficult experience and taking another stab at it this spring.  I’ve gotten my feet wet, hopefully gotten a lot of the bad out of the way, and can’t wait for more!  I will definitely be back at Big Kahuna in 2013.

But that doesn’t mean BK is going to be my next one, I’m hooked on the HIM and I’ve already put the next one on my schedule:  HITS Triathlon Series Napa Half Ironman on 4/13/2013 — I’ll see you there!