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.

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler

Why hello!  Its been a while.  This whole law school thing totally got in the way of everything.  Oh wait, I am the one who signed myself up for it, I guess I can’t complain about that.

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Well, to say its been getting in the way of everything would be an overstatement.  In fact, I have been running more than ever these past few months, training for my first ever 10 miler race and going for a long-sought after half marathon PR.  I’ll get to the half marathon soon, but first up – in April I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!

When I entered the lottery back in the fall, I had one goal: finish in 75 minutes – 7:30 min/mile pace.  I new I could do it, so long as I had good base training and put in some solid speed work.  Oh yeah, the other goal was to have fun.  When I signed up I also signed up for the free (yes free!) virtual training plan put out by New Balance and =PR= Running Stores.  I wasn’t sure how well I would end up following it, or if I would like it, but I figured it would be worth a shot.

Training plan verdict?!  That plan was AWESOME and I would totally do it again!  It had 1-2 rest days built in per week (I usually took about one rest day), and had 2 speed workouts or one speed and one hill repeat workout per week.  With law school this meant a lot of early morning tempo and track workouts, and with winter this meant a lot of treadmill miles.

Not really sure about my 5am tempo run.

Not really sure about my 5am tempo run.

Snow + Ice = Lots of track workouts on a TM.

Snow + Ice = Lots of track workouts on a TM.

Plus it had long runs on the weekend with pace miles built in.  I was nervous when I started, but figured – why not let it all hang out.  As my training went along and I hit record weekly mileages (for me) of 48 miles and hit over 200 miles in March alone (say what?!) I started readjusting my goals and started wondering if I could kick that 75 minute goal in the face.

So, I went in with three goals.
“C” Goal: Finish and have fun (this should be the goal for EVERY race b/c the stars don’t always align)
“B” Goal: Sub-75 min
“A” Goal (aka “all the stars in the world align” goal): Sub-70 min

Holla what?!  Sub 70 minutes?  Yes, yes that is a 7 minute/mile pace.  The only time I had ever done that was in a 5k – 7 miles short of a 10 miler. So I had lots of doubts, but also knew I would be happy with anything between a 70 and 75 – because seriously, 3 years ago I would’ve never dreamed that I would run 10 miles at a 7:30 pace.

Race morning came, and I was prepared as I could ever be.  I met up with Kelley and her fiancee at the start.  Kelley and I hit the bathrooms and then went on a warmup jog before hopping into our respective corrals.  I made my way to the front of mine (the second corral) b/c I knew my “A” goal time would’ve put me in the first corral had I known where I was going to be back in November.  At 7:30 the race started, and at 7:33 my corral was off!

My plan was to start out around a 7:10 pace for the first mile or two, settle into a 7:00 pace and then drop from there around the 7 mile mark if I felt good.  Well, no matter how hard I tried 7:10 felt way too slow based on my pace miles going in (all 6:50-7:00 miles) and I couldn’t keep myself there.

Mile 1 – 6:58
Mile 2 – 6:55
Mile 3 – 6:57

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I felt good at mile 3 and so I decided to just keep with the pace.  I saw my friends Krissy & Tim around the mile 4 marker which was a fun surprise, and just kept on truckin’ along.  I took water from every station but the first, never walking but running through and getting whatever small amount of water into my system that I could.

Mile 4 – 6:51
Mile 5 – 6:55
Mile 6 – 6:56

At Mile 6 I took my Salted Caramel Gu and saw Emily with the best law-related sign ever:

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She was a happy sight for me to see!  And then we were running down Haines Point (the most boring part of the race) and I just kept truckin’ – and saw Coach T at mile 8.5!

Mile 7 – 6:57
Mile 8 – 6:55
Mile 9 – 6:56

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Running amongst the cherry blossoms!

And then came the only hill in the whole damn race.  Right at the end, and my body wasn’t ready for it…

Mile 10 – 7:07

And because I can’t run perfect tangents or because the GPS dropped at some point, I had an extra .08, but that is irrelevant b/c I crossed the finishline in 1:09:59.  Yes, 1 second under 70 minutes.

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All smiles into the finish.

I was all smiles and ecstatic.  I ACTUALLY DID IT.  I knew I had the ability to, but I didn’t know if it would actually happen.  I mean, my stomach has notoriously knocked me on my ass over the years, so who knew what to expect.

Kelley and I were all smiles at the end of the race, as we both had great races.  It was so much fun to do a race w/ a friend I had been running with, and who is one of my #runfamily members.  I met Kelley when we both lived in Santa Cruz through SCE once or twice, but only really got to know her since moving to DC. She has seriously become such a great friend, an inspiration and a very important member of my #runfamily since moving out here.  I was so lucky to train with her speedy self and to celebrate after.

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After we recovered for a bit, we headed to the metro and then to a small diner in Arlington for a delicious brunch w/ her fiancee, who is the best spectathlete out there!

It was a PERFECT day, that’s for sure.

Run Your Heart Out 5k

I’ve been doing an insane amount of running these past few weeks, and its been showing – in terms of mileage (39 mileage week three weeks ago and another one last week) and in terms of pace and strength.  Definitely feeling the best that I have in terms of health wise body and mind in a very long time.  And as a result of all this running fun, I signed up for PRR’s Run Your Heart Out 5k Sunday, February 9.

Going into the race, I knew I wanted to push myself to see where my fitness was at, to get a good evaluation of my speed and strength as I began week three of theCherry Blossom Ten Miler training program I am doing with CUCB, New Balance & PRR (Its a free virtual training program they offered to all participating runners).  Other than that I had no goals, other than to try to be somewhere around 21:15 (my PR).

Race morning came, and I hopped in the car with my friends from PRR, Ashley, Amanda and Dustin, and headed out to Reston, VA.  It was COLD out, but we grabbed our bibs, hit the INDOOR bathrooms and hung out til race time.  We also saw a few of our other fellow PRR friends there as well (shoutout to Lauren & Becki!).

At 9:01 it was go time and we were off.

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The race starts on the track, and then heads down a huge hill into the woods, where the course winds and turns and goes on lots of little ups and downs before returning the to the huge hill we went down which we had to CLIMB just about a 1/4 mile from the finish.  That hill was HORRIBLE.  It caused me to slow down significantly and to almost lose my breakfast at the top.  And then I felt awful as I had to run into the finish.

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Evidence of Feeling Awful…And Cold.

Then the course finished on the track, and I felt and finished strong – surprised to see the time of 21:07 on the clock, which meant a shiny new PR!

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All in all I was happy with my performance.  I also know that but for the hill at the end, I would’ve likely broken 21:00, which would’ve been amazing and has been my goal for a long time.  Additionally, I learned that in the case of the 5k, I can’t look at my watch.  I looked 1 or 2 times just to see mileage, but I never once looked at my pace and just kept running hard and trying to pick off the person in front of me (which I did quite more often than being passed), and it worked!  I was able to shave 8 seconds off my PR – and am seeing that 20:xx goal come within reach!

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Lauren, Me and Ashley post race

A nice surprise was also placing 2nd in my AG – something I never expected to happen since the PRR races generally have an extremely fast field (hello, the girl who won it ran it in 16 and some change), but it was a nice way to round out a PR race for me!

Next up?  I’m looking for another 5k in about a month or so — hopefully something without the hill of death at the end to make that 20:xx a little easier.  And then I’m training, as mentioned before, for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler.  My goal for that is to run a consistent race, and hopefully at my 10k PR pace from this fall.  Lofty goals, but something I definitely think is feasible.

What races are on your schedule this spring?  What fitness goals do you have?  I was supposed to run a marathon, but I decided that right now, I don’t have the time or the ability to train and so I am deferring.  I hate doing it, but I know its the right decision for me, especially having been plagued with a series of injuries since fall 2012.  A marathon is in my future, I just need to find the right one and the right time to train properly – I am finally admitting I have too much on my plate.