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.

SF Marathon Weekend + Fabulous 5k

A little (okay, a lot) overdue, but better late than never, right?!

From October 2013 through this past June, I had the opportunity of a lifetime – to be a SF Marathon Ambassador.

ambassador_badge2013-1Along with a number of prior running friends, and new running friends, I was given the opportunity to promote, be a part of, and just have months to get excited about the wonderful SF race.

Fellow SFM Ambassador Meg & I post-race

Fellow SFM Ambassador Meg & I post-race at SJ Giants Race

Duties included writing blog posts, wearing SF Marathon gear (provided by SF Marathon), tweeting about the race and working expo booths at nearby races.  I had a blast doing all of the above, and one of the best perks of all of the above activities was getting to know fellow ambassadors from all around the country.  I had the opportunity to get to know via the Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes IRL, a number of the ambassadors who have definitely inspired me over the past year with all of their accomplishments and perseverance in running, other sports and life in general.  It was truly an incredible group of ambassadors.  And of course, all of these wonderful experiences culminated in the fabulous SF Marathon race weekend June 14-16.

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Decked out in SF Marathon gear

Friday, June 14, Meg and I headed up to SF after our morning run to work a shift at the Tech Center with fellow ambassador Chris M.  The 3 of us, aka #teamninja, had a chance to tweet up and meet up a number of times throughout the course of ambassadorship, and it was exciting to get together again.  And of course, get together with all the other ambassadors and tweet lots of photos…

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Alisyn, Bruce, Meg & I at the Expo (Photo: Alisyn)

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Bruce and Chris M at the Expo (Photo: Chris M)

After working the tech booth, we hit up the Expo to pick up race bibs and eat our way through the Expo (that’s what expos are for, right?!) – or at least Meg & I did, and the 3rd ninja just mocked us mostly in his blindingly bright Sketchers.  Afterward, Meg & I picked up lunch, headed to my friend’s house where we stayed and then got ready for the Ambassador dinner, which was a ton of fun.

Basically the dinner was an opportunity for the SF Marathon to say ‘thanks’ for all of our work, and for all of us to get together and for many, finally meet IRL for the first time, and for others to catch up.  The dinner was held at Osha, the food was great, and the people were even better.

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All the ambassadors who were able to make dinner at Osha (Photo: Someone)

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Typical. (Photo: Albert)

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Alisyn, Daniela, Me and Meg (Photo: Daniela)

Saturday, June 15, Meg & I got up bright and early to do our shakeout run before heading to the morning info session where we helped runners figure out logistics for race day, and answer pretty much any other random question runners might have.  After a loooooong morning, we had a tweet up at the tech center, which involved more tweets, photos, and lots of tired ambassadors.

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Exhausted at the Expo. (Photo: Albert)

Then, it was time to hit WholePaycheck with Meg & Daniela and we headed back to eat sushi dinner before hitting the hay at — yes, yes this is completely true — 7:00pm.  But hey, with a 3:45am wakeup call, it was perfectly acceptable.

Sunday, June 16 was raceday and we had to be there briiiight and early for the 5:30am start as Meg was running the first half and in Corral 1, so her start time was 5:32am.  Since I was only running the 5k, I had until like 7:30, but it was still fun to hang out and see everyone get excited/ready for their events.

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All smiles at 4:30am…and actively tweeting

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Me, Paulette and Alisyn before they headed out to the 2nd half marathon start in Team Sparkle skirts!

And then finally after hours of hanging out in the VIP area (as ambassadors we were gifted free access, which was amazing and totally worth the $100 — if I have extra income in the future and am presented with the option of VIP, I will TOTALLY take advantage of it.  Clean, FLUSHING toilets?  And delicious pre- and post-race food?  Sign me up!), it was time for my 5k.

I had my sights set high for the 5k.  It was flat (my dream 5k course), and I my paces had been increasing, however as soon as the gun went off, I knew I was doomed.  My legs were heavy as cement.  And holding a 7:00 pace (10 seconds slower than my PR pace) was hard.  I finished in 22:30 (which is NOTHING to cry home about), but it was about 1:30 off my goal time.  But still, I pushed as hard as I could, and that’s all that I can ask for.  I didn’t leave anything behind — a 22:30, that was all I had.

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Meg & I just after I finished the 5k (and after she had finished her 1/2 marathon)

Afterward, we headed over to the marathon finish to see some of the ambassadors finish.  Chris K was pacing the 3:05 team, and Keith S. came in just ahead, and Chris M. finished right behind with a nice PR.  And then we hung around a little bit longer, before heading out.  But not before taking a few shots of the am-BADASS-adors…

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Am-BADASS-adors Mary Kelly, Me and Meg

And not before I was able to see Pavement Runner finish while running my cooldown.  And he knocked out a fantastic course PR!

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Pavement Runner & I at the finish (Photo: Pavement Runner)

And then, Meg & I hopped in the car (which was parked at our super rockstar 4-blocks-from-the-start-on-the-street-so-we-had-free-parking parking spot) and headed home.  We were both exhausted, but it was a wonderful, fun, friend-filled, race-tastic weekend.  Let me tell you, SF Marathon knows how to put on not only a fantastic race, but an incredible race weekend.  I am definitely looking forward to another SF Marathon weekend (whether its next year or further down the road) and tackling another one of the courses — whether its the 1st half, 2nd half or full.  Its definitely a race I’m going to keep coming back to.

Have you ever run the SF Marathon?  What is your favorite race weekend/race ever?

SJ Giant Race

Last week, after some convincing by my good friend Leslie, Meg, Hillary and I found ourselves signed up for the SJ Giant Race on Saturday, June 1.  Yes, my first race in over two months (the last one was when I PRed at the 5k before giving in to my injury.)  With all of two days to mentally and physically prepare myself, my goal was to run hard, to see where my fitness was at.

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Race morning came and we met at 6am, and headed over the hill to San Jose.  We arrived and parked with only about 25 minutes to spare, and by the time we hit the bathroom, Leslie and I only had about 5 minutes to warmup for our 5k before we had to make our way to the front of the pack.  Hillary and Meg were running the five mile race as a progression run, so I did not get to run with them.

I started off really strong in the race.

Mile 1: 6:40

I felt good, and heading into the second mile I was still running strong.  But then, then it hit me.  The stomach of death.  And I started feeling crappy, and slowing down.

Mile 2: 7:01

By the time I was running the third mile, my body was dragging, my stomach was winning, and then we hit some grassy portions and cobblestones that made me watch my step as I was running.

Mile 3: 7:24

Then I saw the mile 3 sign and I started picking up pace — just .1 to go!  Oh wait, it was really like .2 to go.  Though I did love how we finished by running into the outfield of the SJ Giants stadium.

Time: 21:30

Hillary, Meg, Me, Leslie post-race

Hillary, Meg, Me, Leslie post-race

Though it wasn’t my best race, it was a fun one for sure.  I loved spending the morning at a race with my favorite SFM ambassador Meg, and two of my favorite SCE ladies, Hillary and Leslie (who won the 5k with a time of 19:40!!).  And officially meeting another fabulous Santa Cruz runner, Trinity, who took second in the 5k!

Meg, Leslie, Trinity, Me, Hillary post-race

Meg, Leslie, Trinity, Me, Hillary post-race

Once the results were posted, I was surprised to find out that my 21:30 got me 5th woman OA and 1st in my AG!  Nice surprise for a not-feeling-so-well race.  Yay!

Fellow SFM Ambassador Meg & I post-race

Fellow SFM Ambassador Meg & I post-race

I don’t want to downplay this, I know that I have become much faster and a better runner over the past year. I mean a year ago I was excited to run a 22:50 5k.  And now a 21:30 is ‘not-so-good’ race.  I know that I have come a long way, and am so proud and happy of my accomplishments.  But, I’m working hard for — and am really trying — to become stronger and faster.  I’m not disappointed in my performance, I’d just like to (for once) not have a stomach problems and perform to the best of my ability.  One thing is for certain: I need to figure out what the heck is up with my stomach these days.  I even took 2 immodium at 5:30am, and the only thing that did was make me constipated for the next two days.  TMI, you’re welcome.

What’s up next?  The Fabulous 5k at the SF Marathon on June 16, 2013.  And then, I’m headed south to Peru for a month, where I’m trying to find a road race, but will otherwise be focused on crosstraining sightseeing and getting in short runs when I can.

Will you be there SFM weekend?  If so, come look for me and all the other ambassadors at the Expo Friday & Saturday — and on the course, race day!