Monday, April 30, 2012

La Jolla Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran the second jewel in the Triple Crown race series: the La Jolla Half Marathon. This was my fifth half marathon since giving birth to twins last year, all in preparation for my first post-twins marathon, the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on June 3rd.

The race starts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and runs south to the La Jolla Cove. Most of the race is along scenic Highway 101 (also known as Pacific Coast Highway). The race also runs through Torrey Pines State Park. This is a beautiful park open to the public with great trails and views of the ocean. It's also home to one of the most famous golf courses. And, it is also home to one of the most hideous hills I have ever had the displeasure of running.

I was already pretty familiar with most of the race route. My running partner and I run along Highway 101 every Saturday for our long run. We start in Encinitas and run south. For our longer long runs, we have to run the hills of Torrey Pines. I've run through the park twice now. But on a training run, we stop at the half way point to eat and take a little rest. During a race, this isn't an option. We also run at least a minute to a minute and a half slower for our long runs than our usual pace, not to mention our race pace.

The weather yesterday was overcast and in the 50s and 60s throughout the morning. It was pretty much perfect weather. It wasn't humid, which is often the case when it's overcast here. There was a nice breeze coming off the ocean, which kept the temperatures manageable. We parked at the Fairgrounds, where the race started, and planned on taking the shuttle bus the organizers offer from the race finish in La Jolla back to the Fairgrounds.

The start was great. While everyone is packed together at the start, it didn't feel overly crowded as some other races often feel. Because the race starts on Jimmy Duarante Blvd., which is fairly wide, it was quite a roomy start. There wasn't a huge amount of bobbing and weaving in the beginning, which is always a good thing since it burns a lot of much-needed energy.

After about the first mile or so, we were on 101 and running along the coast. We hit Torrey Pines just before mile 6. As we were entering the park, I had to leap over a snake! This was my first encounter with a snake here and it startled me. It was definitely a race first. It looked to be baby and it was curled up in a pothole of the street. I don't think it was a rattle snake and I don't even know if it was alive. I didn't stop to examine it. But it was definitely weird!

Running through Torrey Pines killed me. As an East Coaster and used to running pretty flat courses, the hills of San Diego still get me. I've been running them for 8 months now and while I'm definitely stronger than when I first started, I still have to do a lot of hill work. After Torrey Pines, I saw my husband and kids, which always gives me a little boost. Though it wasn't enough to really get me back on my race plan. It took me quite some time to recover from those hills in Torrey Pines. Regardless, I managed to recover and run the rest of the race relatively well.

After the Torrey Pines, the route winds it way through La Jolla, passing UCSD, the Salk Institute and Scripps Hospital. While not the most scenic part of the race, I was pretty familiar with the route and it was pretty flat. We then ran down La Jolla Shores Dr., passing by Scripps Pier (a popular surfing spot). That section was a steep downhill, but one I enjoyed. We then turned into and ran through downtown La Jolla. The race finished at the Cove in downtown La Jolla, but not without another annoying incline. There is a great park and that's where the finish line, post-race festivities, beer garden and vendor booths were placed.

My main gripe with this race was the shuttle bus fiasco. We ended up waiting almost an hour for the shuttle bus to take us back to the Fairgrounds. I don't know if they just didn't have enough buses, more people were taking the bus than usual or some other reason, but we waited a long time. It was cold, we were hungry and tired. Once we got on the bus, we made it back to the Fairgrounds quickly and once we were back in our car and on the way home, all was right with the world.

Bottom line, it was a good race and I'm glad I did it. Though, I probably won't be doing it again any time soon :) I'm not discouraged that I didn't run my best race or had trouble with the hills. It's important to learn from bad runs and I know from this race, I need to focus on strength training more and adding more hill work. I have been focusing on building my mileage base while only doing strength training sporadically. I need to build more strength, especially my core which was annihilated from having my twins. And now that my base mileage has been pretty well established, I can do some hill and speed work more regularly.

That's the key: if you've had a bad run or race, learn from it. Be disappointed, but let it go and try to figure out why the run didn't go the way you wanted it to. I'll be posting some "bad run" tips soon, so stay tuned!

Until then,

Happy Running!