Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Half Moon Bay International Marathon

Wow.  I don't think it has ever taken me so long to get to a race report.  Did I ever mention I hate writing race reports?  This will be short and sweet because if I don't get this up ASAP I'll never blog again since I've been putting off other posts until I get this done.

The Mario Recap, Marathon #29:

4:22:12.  Negative split.  Felt awesome.

The Full Recap, Marathon #29:

The important thing first...  I had ZERO leg pain during the race.  Woot!  I didn't have any hard and fast time goals for the race, but I was secretly hoping to run about a 4:22.  I figured if I just kept trucking at an easy pace, that should translate into a 4:22 finish.  I didn't want to take extended walk breaks or stop and smell the roses at this race.  The last two marathons I've done involved a lot of walking and I wanted to prove to myself that I could still play the mental game of running a marathon, if even at an easy running pace.  However, I was not about to beat myself up over having to go slower and would have been content with anything between 4:30-4:40.  I suppose the goals were 1) no leg pain 2) sub 4:40 3) 4:22.

The course was partly trail and partly road.  I am not a trail runner so I was a little nervous about the trail aspect of the race.  I was told by the race director it was not terribly technical and that it accounted for about 8 miles of the race.  The course consisted of two out-and-backs (really there were three out-and-backs and the shortest one we ran twice) but it was billed as being coastal and very scenic.

Above is the elevation chart from my Garmin.  You can see most of the inclines were in the first 10 miles.  I might say that those first 10 miles were pretty challenging.  I recall being thankful that my PR and hard-effort attempts at Half Moon Bay had been derailed because it was not an easy course.  Even the paved sections had short, steep, inclines.

We ran through the start area after mile 10 and started the second, long out-and-back section.  The first part of this section was on a paved bike trail and I was able to pick up a little bit of speed with the firm footing.  I was feeling pretty good.  The lead half marathoners were coming back at us and I had fun cheering them on and telling the women what place they were.  Then we hit another long, trail section.  It wasn't rocky but was uneven and required a lot of attention.  Also, the out-and-back nature of the course meant that there was 2-way traffic needs to be alert about.  I'm sure the ocean views were great, but I was so preoccupied watching my feet I didn't get to enjoy them often.

The last turnaround was just beyond the Ritz-Carlton.  Boyfriend and I had a wonderful getaway at the Half Moon Bay Ritz last year (never did get around to posting about that, either).  I'll delve into my mini-vacation photos for this.  Cue flashback/dream sequence music...

This was the view from our hotel room.  And yes, the weather race day was pretty much the same.  The race actually wound along that path you see below.

We actually went on a walk along part of the marathon course so I knew all about the short-steep climbs.

As I ran by, I stared longingly at the hotel-stayers who were sitting in these chairs.  I had an awesome time sipping hot chocolate and looking at the ocean from them.  Can't say they were really cheering for the runners, though.  They were sort of looking at us like we were either crazy or they didn't understand what was going on.  

The Ritz has a bagpipe player who plays every evening and he was out playing for the runners. He happened to play my favorite bagpipe song ("Scotland the Brave") as I was approaching the hotel and that gave me a good pick-up.

Just another photo from our stay for memory sake :)  Yummers.

The hotel had DVD's you could rent for free as well as board games you could borrow.  We played Operation three times and I beat Boyfriend every single time :)

Since I never got around to posting about our stay at the Ritz, I'm hijacking this race report to include this video (which I actually uploaded over a year ago to share with all of you):

We had access to a hot chocolate machine which made the most awesome hot chocolate.  I believe I drank 21 cups in 24 hours.  No joke.

That was a nice trip down memory lane.  Back to the race...

Finally hit the turnaround and started making my way home towards the finish.  Back through the steep little Ritz walkways and back through the dirt trail section.  When I hit the bike path again I felt good and  found myself picking up the pace.  I was holding a low 9:00 pace and it didn't feel too hard.  I still had over four miles to go and wasn't sure I could keep up that pace the rest of the race.  A few days earlier I had done my first "tempo" workout in months and had knocked out only two hard-fought 9:00ish miles (and honestly couldn't have done another without combusting).

But I decided to go with it.  I thought I'd try to bring my overall pace down below 10:00.  I think at that point I was averaging about a 10:20 overall pace.  The marathon was pretty small (115 marathoners total) but I had found a little groove with a small set of runners.  As I picked up speed I slowly left all my running buddies behind and found myself running alone for the first time in the race.  Overall the course was well-marked, but I arrived at a four-way intersection and came to a complete stop because I wasn't sure which way to go.  There were no tell-tale marathon signs to help me out. I debated just picking a path and going (obviously continuing straight was the most likely option, but I had Mile 24 Brain here).  A biker eventually came towards me and I asked her which way the race was.  She pointed me in the right direction.  I probably only lost 15 seconds or so here, but grrr.

I kept on trucking and marveled at how good I felt.  My low-9:00 pace felt easy.  Maybe a sub-4 hour marathon one day could really happen.  I had obviously not pushed very hard the first 22 miles, but I wasn't really feeling as tired or down as I usually might be the last few miles of a marathon.  I didn't have that mental game of, "Oh my god where's the freakin' mile marker!"  I kept up a 9:05 pace the last 4 miles and kicked in the last 0.48 (bleh) miles in an 8:15 pace.

On my garmin I got my overall pace down to a 9:59 but with the extra 0.28 mile I ran, my official pace was a 10:00.  Boo to the unmarked course!  But I pretty much hit my A-goal right on the nose and felt very pleased with how strong I ran.  I didn't take any walk breaks that didn't involve an aid station or gel-eating.  I got to tap into that part of your mind that has to keep your legs turning at the end of a long race.  I needed a marathon like this mentally after my injuries and after Big Sur and the ET 51K.

The entire race I was thinking about this:

Photo courtesy of Dennis
The main sponsor of the race was Sam's Chowder House. Boyfriend and I had eaten lunch there a few weeks before the race and I saw the seafood paella on the menu and promised myself I'd eat that after the race.  Shock of all shocks the paella is not normally on their lunch menu but Boyfriend asked and got them to make it for us. Yummers.

The shirt. Nothing special. 
Not a fan of word clouds on race shirts. And some of the words are kind of strange. "Moony?"

I did pick up a coveted Headsweats hat!!  Woot!
A lot of other friends were either out running or spectating and it was a really fun day. Boyfriend even ran the half (on in my opinion, sketchy training) and came within 30ish seconds of PR'ing!

I'd recommend the course if you're a fan of running on trails and roads.  It wasn't terribly technical but all the roadies agreed it slowed them down.  Also, I was told by the race director it pretty much never rains in September but it did misty drizzle at the end of the race.  And if there was a big rain pre-race the course would be a sloppy mess.  The organization was great and you can tell the race directors are runners themselves.  I'll probably never do it again because of the trails but I'd recommend it if you know and love what you're getting into.  I do think the race is outrageously overpriced for what it was.  I believe I paid $125 and this thing didn't feel like a $125 race (no running on major roads, just back roads, bike paths, and trails).  There was a limit of 500 runners total across a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon. With the out-and-backs and tight trails I doubt they'll be able to grow this race more if at all without running into serious traffic jams.

I will say, I have a problem with the race's catch phrase:  26.2 Miles of Running Heaven.  Uh, your race consists of THREE out and backs (one of which you run TWICE).  I'm thinking that means it should be more like, 12.35 miles of Running Heaven.


cliff said...

you need to get a hot chocolate machine!

Rachel said...

ahhh first of all congrats on a great race! i think the fact that it went so well means you are running strong these days : ) half moon bay looks like a great place to visit (i love me some hot cocoa!) but the marathon sounds like it has some room for improvement.

A said...

I didn't realize you stayed at the hotel! SO COOL! And you did really great out there considering the course. I remember you saying you were shooting for 4:40, but you had that look on your face like you secretly knew you were going to do much, much better. :) Way to go!

bookitjvb said...


Rabbits' Guy said...

Thanks for the report - good to see yur still out there working on it and feeling good. Damn I want a hot cocoa ...

BikramYoginiRunner said...

hahaha another chocoholic like me. You should run

I like the recap, the hotel and the paella (yummy). You should run RNR Madrid with me. Lots of paellas over there :-)

On the other hand, I completely dislike races with multiple out-backs. I don't think this one is for me.


naomi said...

I love how you incorporated yours and E's mini-vacation into your race report! And I love the cut-out photo too! :)

You ran a great race! I know how important it was for you and I am so happy it went so well.

Alisa said...

Those hotel shots from your trip last year look amazing.

Sounds like you ran a smart race and finished strong.

I had to laugh at the hot cocoa machine...there was one of those in a hotel I stayed in Australia (it had coffee too) and I think I must have had like 25 cups of latte/mochachino/hot chocolate in 2 days. Let's just say, I didn't get much sleep =).

Paulette said...

I'm looking at this marathon for 2013 so now I'm stalking race reports. This was really helpful, thank you! I like trail so I think I'd enjoy the combo race.