Friday, November 13, 2015

Santa Rosa Half Marathon

I was really disappointed to not run the Disney Marathon in 2015.  It was my 10 year marathoniversary and I wanted to go back to the race that had started it all.  So I did the next best thing -- I signed up to run it in 2016.  I have no illusions of a fast time.  My main goal is to build endurance vs. speed the next few months.  I signed up for my fifth Goofy Challenge.  Knowing I am heading out to Orlando in hopefully mileage but not speed shape, I figured I should get the most bang for my buck and run both races again.  I would love one day to run a sub-4:00 Disney Marathon but 2016 isn't going to be the year.  I am not interested in the Dopey Challenge.  It is rather pricey and I did the former unofficial Dopey Challenge a few years back (5K, half, then full) and throwing a 10K in the mix doesn't really interest me.

Disney has a corral system and requires a proof of time to seed you appropriately.  I wanted to run a half marathon this summer in order to have a proof of time to submit.  I also figured it would be a good thing to get up to a half marathon distance during the summer in order to feel confident moving forward with Goofy training.

I chose to run Santa Rosa mainly because of the timing of the race and it actually got me excited to run.  There were closer to home races that gave me a blah feeling or ones that took place a little too late.  My first choice race was a month earlier than Santa Rosa -- it got cancelled and I am happy I had and extra month to train.  I was able to do cut-back long run weeks every other week which I think helped me stay injury free.

After Big Sur I cut out the walk breaks and started at scratch at 1 mile runs.  I was able to fit in two double-digit long runs before the race.  I started pushing my son in the BOB stroller for runs in June.  We started off with just one mile runs and by the time the race rolled around I was pushing him 6 miles twice a week.  I only ran three time a week:  Two stroller runs and one solo long run.

My main goal for this race was to clock a time that represented I ran the entire thing.  After utilizing walk breaks all through Big Sur training I wanted to get back to continuous running.

I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon five (!?!) years ago.  The race has evolved a lot since then.  They have since changed the course (the current half marathon course seems to be almost exactly the same as half of the original marathon course), now have an expo, start an hour earlier, and generally are trying to feel much more "big-race" with the deletion of race-day bib pick-up.  This was a real thorn in my side.  Santa Rosa is not that far away from San Francisco but it is also not so close that you want to drive out there two days in a row.

My friend graciously agreed to help me with bib pick-up since getting to the expo in time with my schedule would have been close to impossible.  We thought we would make a little family get-away trip out of the whole thing but logistics squashed that as a sane possibility.  We thought maybe I could head up there myself for a night.  I had images of languishing in a lush hotel bed with cable TV and eating proverbial bonbons saluting my postpartum night away from baby (never mind the race started so early I'd be getting up earlier than I would if I had stayed home with the baby).  But I hadn't really started committing to a hotel until a month before the race in case I got injured. Ye of little faith. So when I started looking, anything that fit into my hotel fantasy was decidedly sold out or $$$$$.  I'm not that picky.  A good 'ole Comfort Inn would have fit the bill.  Everything available was still $$$ and had reviews that were not so palatable.  So I drove up there two days in a row.

Parking was a breeze in a parking structure a short walk to the race start.  I had to pump on the drive up and after I parked.  The portapotty line wasn't very long and moved quickly and I got to the start area with no stress.  I lined up right in front of the 2:10 pacer.  I would definitely recommend that if you are looking to run a good time for yourself to get to the start on time.  The course is narrow the first few miles and there were a few obviously faster runners who must have started late who were looking frustrated trying to get through the crowd.

My run pace had been in the 9:50 range the weeks prior to the race.  I occasionally got down into the 9:30s for average pace on a couple of runs.  I decided on a great day I could probably squeak a sub-9:30 pace for the race but would have been pleased with anything under 10:00 and was shooting for at least a 9:45 pace.

Mile 1 9:26 pace
Mile 2 9:20 pace

The first two miles I got caught up in all the race excitement and went out a bit faster than I had intended.  I was slightly confused since I thought I had lined up appropriately for a slower pace and yet I seemed to be going with the flow.  I decided to slow it down a little to play it conservatively.

Mile 3 9:35 pace

Oh, heck. I was feeling good and naturally seemed to be falling into a faster than expected rhythm.  I decided to go with it.

Mile 4 9:20 pace
Mile 5 9:26 pace
Mile 6 9:16 pace

I decided to hold this comfortable-yet-working pace until mile 10 where I'd start to let myself push a little.

The marathon started an hour prior to the half marathon and the faster runners started passing us as we made our way to the finish.  Also about this time slower half-marathoners (and one elderly gentleman who was walking the full) were still coming back out and it made it a lot of fun to cheer for everyone.

The race was mainly paved but there were a few unpaved trail sections.  They weren't as troublesome as the year I ran the marathon but still not my favorite.

Mile 7 9:25 pace
Mile 8 9:22 pace
Mile 9 9:25 pace

Let's go!

Mile 10 9:15
Mile 11 9:32 (refilled water bottle and chugged three or four half-filled water cups)

I haven't run a sub-9:00 pace since February 2013.

Mile 12 8:51
Mile 13 8:30
Mile 13.1 7:08

Official finish:  2:01:58, 9:19 pace

I have run something like 29 half marathons but only three times have I run faster than a 2:01.  So this is my fourth fastest half marathon.  I have run four full marathons at a pace faster than this half so it only sounds impressive by virtue of the fact that I haven't really been focusing on the half marathon distance much.  But since I don't run a lot of halves at a good effort I'm not used to seeing low 2 hour finish times much and it felt pretty great.

The same effort a few years ago would have yielded about a minute per mile faster pace.  That is humbling and shows me how much work I have left to do.  But at the same time, I felt like a runner again during this race.  It felt great to keep myself at the edge of comfort and save enough to finish strong.  It has been almost three years since I raced and I forgot how awesome it feels.

I had not done any speed work training for Santa Rosa except for pushing my son in the BOB stroller.  My fastest run training for Santa Rosa had been a 7 miler at a 9:30 pace and it sort of blows my mind I was able to run 13.1 at 9:19 pace.  Resistance running for the win.

I followed up the race with a visit to the Charles M. Schulz Museum.  It is a small museum but worth a visit. I love getting food at The Warm Puppy Cafe which is adjacent to an iceskating rink Schulz built. Meh food but the atmosphere always makes me wish I was a local who could come by every weekend.

I thought this was genius.  At the Schulz Museum, they have solar panels you park your car under.  Keeps your car cool and creates energy. Every place should do this.
A lot of people run Santa Rosa for fast times and a lot are successful.  The course has changed but I did PR the marathon here years ago.  This year the cloud cover stuck around during the race so while it wasn't cool, it was never hot.  Personally, I think it is a big gamble weather-wise to train for a goal race that is held in August.  They start the races relatively early which helps, though.  I am sort of curious about the new full course and may consider it down the road as a non-goal race.  I would race the half again here if only because there probably aren't a whole lot of other great summer options for a fast one.