I got to take my first destination race trip earlier this month, to the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon. I was excited for the opportunity to represent Team Chocolate Milk, and the whole weekend was so much fun.
My running friend, Leda, and I took this trip together. We both needed a break from reality for a few days.
This was also my first flight in years! I haven’t been on a plane in so long (pre-9/11) but with kids, etc. it’s just been hard to get away. So my first introduction to TSA involved a full pat down (welcome back to air travel) and then we were ready to head out of Texas. The only issue we had was a short flight delay, but we arrived in San Diego to cloudy skies and cool temperatures. I’m glad I grabbed a light jacket at the last minute before leaving home!
Our hotel was great and let us check in three hours early! We then headed to the expo at the convention center on foot, stopping to eat a slice of pizza on the way.
At the expo we picked up our packets, got some freebies, and bought some new socks.
We explored some more around the convention center, and found a place for dinner. As we made our way back to the hotel, we came across the Donut Bar. One of our running friends had suggested we stop there while we were in town. She said there would be a line but it was worth it. They were closed when we got there, but the sign said there was an encore ropening at 5 pm. It was 4:45 so we waited.
It was worth it.
Since we had decided against running the 5k, our Saturday schedule was wide open. The hardest part was waiting for the breakfast room to open, because we were both wide awake by 4:00 am. 🙂
We took advantage of no time schedule and the opportunity to explore San Diego. I wasn’t too worried about my race time. It wouldn’t be my fastest half marathon, and I didn’t know if I would ever have the chance to come back to San Diego. So we said the heck with it, and looked at our options. My husband (a Navy vet) had suggested we go to the USS Midway since we were so close. It was a lot of walking, but so interesting! As the wife of a veteran, and mom to a Navy ROTC midshipman (she will be a commissioned officer this time next year), the Navy has had a lot of influence on my life. It makes me appreciate my comfortable life so much more, seeing what our service members go through to keep us safe.
After about four hours touring the Midway Museum, we headed down the road for a late lunch/early dinner. We found the park where they were setting up the stage and post race party area.
We trekked up the big hill back to our hotel, and my legs were tired! I laid out my flat runner and was ready to get some sleep!
I had no trouble getting ready for a 6:30 am race start, because we kept our body clocks on our own time zone. We had about a mile to walk to the start in Balboa Park, and it was a cool 62 degrees.
If you’ve ever run a Rock ‘n Roll race, you know the energy at the start line is great. I dropped my bag (with my jacket) at the VIP gear check. Thank you chocolate milk! Then we headed to our corral.
I was excited to run!
Once we started, Leda and I ran together for a minute, then we each settled into our own pace. I couldn’t believe how great the weather felt! I could run and breathe – at the same time! 🙂 I didn’t worry about my pace too much, and just focused on settling into my pace. I gave myself a quick reminder to enjoy the run, and also gave myself grace for having tired legs, but I didn’t give myself an out for it either. I knew the course had some hills, but boy I was not prepared for that many! I think hills are one of my strengths as a runner, but I didn’t want to use up all my energy. I just worked on picking up the pace on the downhills to even it out. I knew from the course profile the last couple of miles were mostly downhill and I could kick it out then.
A little past mile 4 was the wear blue: run to remember mile. Do you know how hard it is to run at half marathon pace and try not to lose it? The combination of touring the USS Midway the day before, being a Navy wife, having a daughter who will be a Naval officer in a year, and knowing service members who have lost their lives, it hit me hard. There are pictures of those who’ve lost their lives. Their name, rank, age, and the year they died. Picture after picture along the road for over half a mile. All so young! I was trying to breathe and not cry. Then when the pictures stop, the people holding flags start. On each side of the road, cheering for you for the rest of the mile. Some of them were in uniform, some were wearing blue. I’m stumbling with my words here, so all I can say is I’m thankful, grateful.
I continued my foot tour of San Diego and navigated the hills with a smooth pace. There were lots of spectators along the way – and more hills. It was still cool and cloudy. I was happy to see that I was staying around a 9:00 pace. There was a huge downhill in mile 10 that I would have liked to fly down, but in my mind I could see me sprawled out across the pavement if I did. So I held back and took it steady. A guy flew by me on the way down, but he was young and it made my quads hurt just watching him.
Then we had to go back up. Again.
Finally, in the last 5k I kicked up the pace. Mile 12 was almost all downhill and I was booking it. I knew I was close to being under 2 hours, and there were no excuses. At the beginning of mile 13, there was one more tough climb, but the rest was a smooth descent to the finish. I crossed the finish line pleased with my effort. No stops, no walks. Negative splits.
I found my chocolate milk!
And why do I love to recover with chocolate milk? You can read the research here. I also like that it’s ready to go. It’s affordable, can get it anywhere, and it is easy on my stomach when I can’t always eat after a hard run. It took me a while before I was ready to eat, so I was glad to have started the recovery process with my chocolate milk.
I then headed over to the VIP tent, which was set up near the stage. I got a post race massage, and a little more food to tide me over. I saw Meb with his family, and some of the elite runners I follow. But I’m a chicken when I don’t have anyone to push me out there to meet them. I later saw where Meb had paced a family member in his first half marathon. How awesome is that!
I found Leda and we enjoyed some time sitting on the grass, listening to the music from the stage, and chatting about the race.
Then we went down to the harbor so I could get a few souvenirs, and my medal picture.
And the trek back up the hill to the hotel with what was left of my quads.
Then we found a great place for lunch and another wonderful place for some gelato. I definitely indulged, and I’m not even sorry.
Also, my Garmin showed I had 22 miles total for the day.
I really enjoyed this trip so much. We had great food everywhere, good service, and no issues at all.
It was a nice break; all centered around doing what I love to do: run.
…and eat. 🙂