Breaking the 1:40 in the Half Marathon

Well, it’s crazy but I just ran another PR race. 2014 is gonna be hard to top!

I had signed up for the Santa Cruz Half Marathon a long time ago, wanting to make up for not running it last year. I have run this race twice before, it was my first half marathon, and it a course I really like – along West Cliff where I typically do my tempo runs and mile repeats and then out to the Wilder Bluffs, which is just a stunning view. Seeing all the runners along the bluffs in one the best sights in Santa Cruz (clearly a runner’s bias!). Anyway, there was a little part of me that thought maybe I can PR at this course. That part of me got louder after the Lucky Run where I didn’t officially PR but would have if not for a bathroom break. However, I also knew that I was aiming for a PR at the 5k and would be running Ragnar the week before this race, so a half PR was a little unrealistic.

Start line

Start line

After the Carlsbad 5000 and Ragnar, my legs did feel tired and stiff. This was worsened by an 8 hour drive home the day after Ragnar. I did some 800s on the track on Monday and was pretty happy with them and thought “well maybe, if my legs feel fresh, I’ll try for that PR.” But I also knew my new buddy & co-TSFM ambassador and Ragnar teammate Erin was serving as the 1:45 pacer so I could just run with her and have some fun. All week I was unsure, my legs never felt completely rested but I didn’t feel destroyed either. I literally waffled back and forth on my race plans until the second the gun went off (and maybe for a few more miles).

1:45 pacer extraordinaire, Erin!

1:45 pacer extraordinaire, Erin!

Sunday morning I jogged down to the start line with Hillary (she wasn’t racing but wanted to come down with me before she headed out for her run). We stopped by the Santa Cruz Endurance/Santa Cruz Running Company tent at the finish line and said hello to our teammates, most of whom were running the 10k with the exception of Julie (who I somehow missed seeing all day) and Selena who was also running the half (and had a massive PR!). Selena had a 1:46 PR before so I had suggested that she run with Erin to get a 1:45. She was a little unsure due to some shin splints and lack of loads of speed training. But when we lined up, she was right next to me and Erin. At this point, I figured I would start out with the 1:45ers and pick it up if I felt good.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.06.47 PM

Gun goes off, and there I go – ahead of the 1:45ers (and for about a mile ahead of the 1:40 pace group). After a little hiccup, I switched my watch’s screen from the mile/pace to the clock screen (and until the last mile I never checked my splits/pace). I kept the 1:40 group within sight and tried to just stay comfortable. I didn’t want to go all crazy just to run out of steam in the first miles. Selena shocked me by showing up right next to me! She ran with me for a couple miles, on pace to destroy her previous best half! Around mile 3.5 or 4, I saw Hillary on her run, cheered her on (yes I realize she was just running and I was the one racing). Then it was time to head into the bike path leading to Wilder. (Miles 1-4: 7:44, 7:40, 7:37, 7:48)

I run the bike path a decent amount and knew it was a little rolly with a good downhill toward the end (just about at the 5 mile marker). I came down the hill to see friends Rebecca and Jenn doing their course support/volunteer thing. I hadn’t really told a lot of people I was running the race so they were surprised to see me. They cheered for me and I turned into Wilder Ranch where I saw Fleet Feet Racing teammates Lisa and Nancy. Loved all the support! Then it was into the bluffs where I saw Shoshanah and grabbed a quick sip of water. The bluffs are flat trails, not technical but not super speedy either. I chatted with some other runners, kept it nice and easy. The 1:40 group was about a minute ahead of me. We came out of the bluffs and started to make our way back toward the Boardwalk. (Miles 5-8: 7:39, 7:46, 7:36, 7:32)

Always a tough finish with the last few steps on the sand.

Always a tough finish with the last few steps on the sand.

Back to the bike path and more cheers from Jenn, I started up the one real hill in the course. It’s not long but it’s steep. Lucky me, the hill work paid off and I was able to pass several runners here. I saw the UCSC cross country runners doing their thing followed by my running coach (I hadn’t told him I was racing either, “Hey Aaron! Decided to race today!”). It was back to West Cliff where I took good advantage of running smart tangents. While I felt I lost some steam here, I also knew I would PR, I assumed somewhere around 1:40:30. And then I saw Jose, who I have run with in other races. I caught up to him with 2 miles left, said hi (and thanks for giving me a reason to pick it up a bit) and kept going. (Miles 9-12: 7:54 (hello hill!), 7:30, 7:29, 7:38)

Last mile. I wanted to hold back until I had about .75 of a mile left and then push as hard as I could. I knew it would hurt but I also knew that it would be about 7 minutes long and then I would be done. Unfortunately, there were a lot of 10k walkers at this point and even though they closed the road (yippee! not just the path!) it was hard to navigate that last mile. I came running down the final hill yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!” (Bob is my witness, I screamed at people.) When I turned the corner I was shocked to see the clock said 1:39:XX. I booked it and ended up with an official time of 1:39:38 (my watch had a few extra seconds..I probably stopped it a tad late). I felt like I was pretty steady with my pace, maybe a slight negative split. But hey, I had a half marathon PR on 5 weeks of 5k training! (Final mile: 7:21, last 10th 5:24 pace)

Coming in with 1:39 on the clock!

Coming in with 1:39 on the clock!

Official results

Official results

happy post PR Meg

happy post PR Meg

I headed over to the SCE tent, told everyone my good news and then Laura practically tackled me – knowing I had broken 1:40 and that it had been my goal since last year! It was AWESOME! I saw Erin again and heard she did a great job pacing her group (yay Erin!!). I found out my team members rocked their races too: Selena PRed with a 1:41, Julie beat me by a few minutes, Leslie & Sam took top women’s overall spots in the 10k, and the guys pretty much all took either an overall or age group spot in the 10k. Strong work SCE!!

PR buddies - congrats Selena!!

PR buddies – congrats Selena!!

Can I get your autograph Erin?

Can I get your autograph Erin?

Stellar SCE runners with their prizes

Stellar SCE runners with their prizes

SCE held a post party at member Josh’s house. We had delicious treats and mimosas, complete with massages from our new sponsor Santa Cruz Core. And I got a new Santa Cruz beach towel as a celebration of my PR. What a great team to do that! Thanks all! It was so much fun to see our team running together and then celebrating together. And now, I get a training break before its time to start up again for the SF Marathon!

Post race party

Post race party

Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

 

 

Fun Run: Color Me Rad

This weekend I ran the Color Me Rad 5k for the second year in a row. This year I ran it with a few more friends and the hubby to celebrate our friend (and planner extraordinaire Leslie!). This was a fun run, so no real race report, just lots of fun photos!

The Birthday Girl! (Look at the cute shirts we had :) )

The Birthday Girl! (Look at the cute shirts we had!)

All clean before the race (Thanks hubs for photographing)

The ladies all clean before the race

Before long we were running into dust clouds of color

Before long we were running into dust clouds of color

A typical race experience...

A typical race experience…

Crossing the finish line as a team!

Crossing the finish line as a team!

We got a little colorful!

Birthday girl with some color!

Birthday girl with some color!

Color attitude from yours truly

Color attitude from yours truly

Kevin, uh I mean Steve, rocking post race.

Kevin, uh I mean Steve, rocking post race.

The hubs & I have hops! (check out that blue powder coming off Kevin!)

The hubs & I have hops! (check out that blue powder coming off Kevin!)

Post race mimosas, yum!

Post race mimosas, yum!

Do you run in fun runs? What has been your favorite one?

Wharf to Wharf 2013

This past weekend I ran my third Wharf to Wharf (W2W). For those of you who don’t know about “the best little road race in California,” it’s a 6 mile race along the Santa Cruz coast, starting just past the Santa Cruz Wharf and ending right before the Capitola Wharf. 15,000 registered participants race, run, jog, and walk the course along with an estimated 5,000 bandits who jump in on the fun along the way. The course also includes tons of bands, awesome spectators, and even the house or two who is friendly enough to hose down the runners. Not only was this my third year running, it was also my fastest Wharf to Wharf!

2011 – 52:52
2012 – 45:10
2013 – 42:39

My goal this year was to run the race in 42-43 minutes and clearly, I did it! I’m not going to lie, it was not easy – it was HARD! This was the longest distance I’ve ran a 7:06 pace. And after weeks of travel with little running on real hills, those W2W rollers really felt tough.

The plan was to start out conservative, my goal was a 7:15 first mile. The first mile of W2W is notoriously fast, especially if you are in the elite corral. You have to make sure you don’t blow out in the first half of the course (which by the way is NOT flat, lots of rollers!). Then I wanted to stay in the 7:05-10 range for the next 2-3 miles. Finally, in the last 2 miles, I wanted to see if I could really push myself and maybe even finish with a sub 7 minute mile.

The day before the race, Elise and I did a little shakeout run and confirmed we had similar goals. We decided we’d stick together but in the end, still run our own races. Then later in the day, I learned another good running friend (who is super speedy), Jenn, had gotten the ok after an injury to run (but not race) W2W. She was generous enough to agree to pace Elise and I would reap the benefits!

SCE ladies pre-start

SCE ladies pre-start

Race day, I headed out to the start. I live practically right in the middle of the course, so I ran an easy warm up run from home to the start. I was supposed to run the last 3 minutes at tempo pace, but as I got closer to the start it was getting pretty packed with people so that didn’t really happen. Then I bumped into some of the SCE ladies about to head out on their warm up runs.  We took a quick photo and they were off jogging while I headed over to the start line and found my other running ladies as well as a few of the guys. Before we knew it, the gun was shot and we were off!

Elise, me, Jenn, Emmy, & Hillary hanging out after the race.

Elise, me, Jenn, Emmy, & Hillary hanging out after the race.

We started off well, slightly faster than I had planned though (my Garmin had 7:07 for the first mile and I think Elise’s watch had 7:13). I felt the hills after having little access to hill running for the past few weeks. I knew Jenn was keeping an eye on the pace, so I turned my watch to the clock function so I wouldn’t keep checking my pace. Before I knew it we had finished mile 2 (7:01) and were running down by the harbor and Twin Lakes Beach. I tried to enjoy the bands (I had my iPod with me but didn’t use it) but we were cruising past them. We climbed up to East Cliff and 17th, passing the mile 3 marker (7:03). Kevin, the pups, and a few of our neighbors were out cheering. I was stoked to see Kevin, it’s always nice to have support and hear that “Go Meg!” And then we were back hugging the coast and running those hills that I run so often. As we cleared the second downhill, Elise dropped back to use the bathroom right before the mile 4 marker (7:07, hills!).

Then it was just Jenn and me. I was tired and hurting, I really felt I was pushing my hardest. Jenn kept me going those last two miles. I might have accused her of yelling at me, but really she kept me motivated and focused on my goal – thanks so much Jenn!!!! I could not have run this race without you! Mile 5 is a hard one, while it doesn’t really have the hills like the previous two miles, it starts uphill and then has tiny elevation changes as you race through Pleasure Point and come into Opal Cliffs. I finished mile 5 in a speedy 7:01 minutes. Jenn had started pointing out runners for me to pick off. At the time I thought, “I can barely keep this pace and you expect me to pass people!?” but I pushed through. In hindsight, this was actually really helpful and did give me little goals in the last mile.

yep... this photo shows exactly how I felt coming out of Opal Cliffs!

yep… this photo shows exactly how I felt coming out of Opal Cliffs!

Opal Cliffs is a hard part of the race, you have a nice downhill to look forward to at the end of it but its a hard little road and can mentally really beat you up. Thankfully there are tons of spectators in this section and they cheer on all the runners. In this stretch, we saw a team member having a tough time and looking like she might drop off. Jenn peeled off to help her out and then I was on my own. I had a hard time keeping the push in this section and was passed by a woman or two. I caught at least one of them on the last downhill, heading to the finish. While the last mile is hard, it does have a sweet downhill as a reward. I pushed as hard as I could down that hill! Last mile was 7:07 (so much for that sub 7 final mile!). When I finished I really felt like I gave it my all (a feeling I always want to have at the end of the race but I have to admit I often don’t have).

Coming up to the finish

Coming up to the finish

SCTC and Fleet Feet Racing team member Michelle saw me and gave me a big hug! That was awesome! I also heard Laura cheering me on. These ladies knew this was a big PR for me and it was great to have their support. Then I found more and more of my team, including Leslie who also secured an amazing PR (39:20!!). I saw my coach and was so excited to be able to tell him I actually hit my goal! My official finishing time was 42:39, 135th overall (not top 100 but I’ll take it!).

Jenn, me, and Trinity post race

Jenn, me, and Trinity post race

This year was a great Wharf to Wharf! They really improved the race by adding corrals to the start (elite plus 4 waves) and having a staggered start. I think their corral system will only get better year after year. I’d love to see less people jumping in along the course as that just makes it feel crowded in the middle, which is no fun! But I think as the race continues to improve like the corral system and accurate timing, more people will take it a little more seriously and actually start at the start! (Ok probably not, but a girl can dream!)

 After the race, Julie, Hillary, and I jogged back toward my house as a cool down. Kevin and I hosted a post party. Many of the SCE runners and other friends came by to celebrate their strong races and also send a farewell to Elise before she moves far, far away from us. It was a perfect way to end the morning.

Any of my readers run Wharf to Wharf this year? How did it go for you?

Relay Recap

This weekend I ran my first ever relay race at the Capitola Half Marathon, part of the Surfer’s Path Marathon. I ran the inaugural Capitola Half Marathon last year so I was excited to run the relay this year. While I didn’t really “race” this relay, it was still a great race for me and I met the goals I set for myself. And this ended up being even more fun because seven other members of Santa Cruz Endurance (SCE) also ran in the relay (spoiler: they all did AWESOME!)

capitola half relay sign 2

The day before the race several SCE runners also volunteered at the Girls on the Run 5k in Los Gatos. Leslie and I carpooled and after a Starbucks pit stop and a little walk to our designated volunteer location, we were ready. Ok, not really. There was some serious confusion about the course and we didn’t get it cleared up until a few minutes before the first runners came through. Leslie and I gave out  A LOT of high fives and it was so awesome to see all these girls (and their families) running their first 5ks. They were little troopers for sure! Following that, Leslie and I did some shopping, had some lunch, and headed back to Santa Cruz. I was pretty beat but luckily, my relay partner Hillary worked the expo and was able to pick up our bibs so I didn’t have to… score!

SCE Volunteers with GOTR Coach (& SCE speed demon) Jenn B.

SCE Volunteers with GOTR Coach (& SCE speed demon) Jenn B.

Sunday morning I woke up a little before 6am, battled some small stomach aches, forced myself to eat a little peanut butter, and headed to the second leg of the relay start. I wanted to still have a long run this week and ran that by the coach, so I decided to run/jog to the start line about two and a half miles away. I arrived at the start just before 7am. The race started at 7am, so this gave me plenty of time. I ran into the other SCE 2nd leggers as well as the awesome Michelle (part of the M & M duo) who was racing for Fleet Feet Racing Santa Cruz. I did a little loop with Leslie and Michelle, took some photos with team (thanks Laura!), and before we knew it the first leggers were coming into the transition. The SCE men’s team, mixed team, and other women’s team all powered through. Before I knew it, Hillary’s number was called and I prepped to start my 6.64 mile leg. The race organizers had given us slap bracelets instead of batons and I think Hillary and I had way too much fun with this! Hillary came speeding into the transition, slap bracelet ready, and I had my arm extended, yelling “slap me!” Ha!

Ready to run!

Ready to run!

capitola half relay signs 1

Slap Bracelet!

Slap Bracelet!

The race went well. I really just wanted to see where I was in my training and if I could maintain a 7:30 pace for 6+ miles. I started out a little quick, but the course immediately takes up a decent climb so that sobered my pace. I was surrounded by guys and held my place. I could see a local Santa Cruz runner, Jose, a little ahead of me and decided to keep my eyes on him because I knew his marathon pace would be a good overall pace for me. Around mile 3, I caught up to him and we ran the rest of the race together. It was fun to have him to run next to and help me hold my pace. The course is full of good rollers so having someone to focus on rather than the ups & downs was very nice indeed. My miles were as follows:
Mile 1 – 7:27
Mile 2 – 7:27
Mile 3 – 7:38
Mile 4 – 7:39
Mile 5 – 7:34
Mile 6 – 7:22
Last 0.64 – 4:40

Coming up to the finish with my running buddy, Jose

Coming up to the finish with my running buddy, Jose

Love this photo Elise caught of me coming up to the finish!


I love this course because it’s where I always run. I know it really well and have a good idea of where to be conservative and where to push. The race finishes on the sand but thankfully it’s just a few steps. As soon as my foot hit the sand I could hear and see all my team members at the finish. But the best part was that Kevin surprised me by being at the finish! Love that! The medals were really cool and we got some nice snacks and a frisbee. I saw SCE & SFM ambassador Elise, who did major work volunteering for this event. Seriously, I don’t know if the race could have happened without her. And I also got to see fellow SFM ambassadors Alisyn and Paulette who also did some amazing volunteering (Alisyn also does a ton of work for this event). While waiting for the awards, the SCE women all got some nice chiropractic work and enjoyed the beach.

capitola half relay finish line 1

capitola half relay finish line 2

I checked the results and my team (SCE Chicks) finished with a time of 1:35:58. (I wish I ran that as a real half, ha!) Some Garmin watches read the race at 12.8 miles rather than 13.1 but it’s hard to know. The course is not USATF certified so it is possible it’s a smidge short. Anyway, the official results had the SCE men’s team in first place (mens & overall), the SCE mixed team in first place (mixed team, 3rd overall), the other SCE women’s team (Team Nice) in 2nd (women’s, 5th overall) and Hillary and I finished third (women’s, 8th overall). I am very happy with the results and, more importantly, I had so much fun!! (Results were updated May 21 and I’ve updated this paragraph accordingly.)

Team SCE Chicks!

Team SCE Chicks!

Fleet Feet & SCE Finishers

Fleet Feet & SCE Finishers – Don’t those new SCE singlets look snazzy?

Hillary & I with our fave photographer & volunteer! (Laura & Elise)

Hillary & I with our fave photographer & volunteer! (Laura & Elise)

Post race festivities

Post race festivities

After the race, Leslie and I jogged back to my house for a cool down. Then Kevin, Hillary, Leslie, and I all me up at Greek Festival downtown for some delicious food and cold beers. A perfect way to reward ourselves after a good race!

medal & bib photo

*disclosure: I did volunteering for this race and received a free race entry, but this my honest appraisal of the event.*

Fun at the Big Sur 5k

I know, this has been a sorry excuse for a blogging week. But such is life. However, hopefully my race recap will make up for that. As many of you know, I decided to downgrade from the Big Sur Marathon on April 28 to the 5k. And it was a good decision, even though I do want to run the full again one year.

The weekend began after I finished teaching my Women in American History course on Friday and headed down to the expo in Monterey. When I got to the Monterey Conference Center, I quickly picked up the bibs and t-shirts for Leslie and myself. Then I headed over to the San Francisco Marathon booth where I would work the rest of the afternoon with fellow SFM Ambassadors Elise and Chris. As I expected I had a great time hanging out with these two, even though Elise had to take off pretty soon after I arrived. Following the expo, I returned to Santa Cruz where Kevin and I had dinner with Elise and another SFM ambassador, Daniela. Such an SFM weekend!photo 1

 

Sunday morning rolled around and I headed to Leslie’s house. Since Leslie was bringing her German Pointer, Rosie, she had volunteered to drive. Before we knew it, Elise, Leslie, Rosie, and I were in Carmel. We found parking pretty quickly and headed toward the race area. I had a slightly odd plan for the day as my coach wanted me to use this race as an assessment of where I am and also get my long mileage in for the week. This meant a warm up of 2-3 miles, the race (3.1 miles) and a cool down of 3-4 miles. I planned to run two miles, pick up Leslie for her one mile warm up and then start the race. However, Leslie was worried the start would be packed and headed to the start line before I was done with my two miles (she was the smart one). I ran another half mile and then headed to the start. It wasn’t packed but the race ended up starting about 5 minutes early. I barely had stopped from the warm up when I was beginning the race and weaving through all the runners/walkers trying to get closer to the front.

I did not plan this race out well. The coach suggested I aim for my 10k PR pace (7:18-7:20) for the first two miles and then “race” the last 1.1 mile. Well, I started off good. Ok I was a little quick, but I was trying to get away from the pack. But within a few hundred feet (or so) we were climbing. I didn’t even both to check the course elevation – what was I thinking! The first mile was practically all up hill with a 7:26 pace. Hmm… not what I wanted but ok considering that climb. After that we dropped down to sea level on a short downhill and ran on a dirt path. It’s too bad it was foggy because it would have been a stunning view! But I couldn’t appreciate it because I  knew we’d have to climb back out of sea level and sure enough, heading into mile 3 that’s just what we did! I finished mile 2 at 7:33 and mile 3 at 7:34. Neither mile was a pace I wanted to run. I probably could have pushed more, especially in that last mile but I didn’t have it mentally. I crossed the finish line at 23:40.

Coming up to the finish

Coming up to the finish

Leslie and I handed off our medals to Elise, who happily traded them for Rosie, and we took off for our cool down. We ran part of it on the course and since we had such a pretty dog with us, everyone wanted to say hello. I ended up running a little over three miles for my cool down and it was time for coffee. Leslie had awesomely come in as the 2nd woman so after picking up our Starbucks we headed over to the awards. I thought I’d check to see how I did and found out I placed 2nd in my age group. We had missed our names being called but were able to pick up our additional medals. (Leslie also placed 1st in her age group!) We hung around for a bit and enjoyed a nice Shock Top from the Beer Tent.

photo 2

My 2 medals, one for finishing and one for AG placing

 

Shock Top!

Shock Top!

Overall, it was a fun morning and let’s face it, anytime I get to hang out with Elise and Leslie is good times in general. Big Sur always puts on a good event and while the course was harder than I expected, it was still a fun race!

Next up will be the relay at the Capitola Half Marathon (another assessment run and not real race).