Monday, August 20, 2007

America's HOTTEST City Race Report

So, I thought 3rd time would be the charm. I've been over to San Diego for this race 4 times now.

The 1st year, my IT band locked up after all the downhill at like mile 5. It was a painful day, but the scenery, etc made up for it. My friend Natalie had been telling me about this race, and how great it was and how the weather is perfect, and the temps are usually in the mid 60's to start, low 70's to finish. Also, cloud cover all morning a key.

So, what happened year 1? Record Heat temps, 100% humidity and a Personal Worst half Marathon of 2:14 and some change...

I sign up again...for year 2, however my IT band injury prevented me from even starting the race. Instead, I brought my bike & rode around the course cheering everyone on. It was a beautiful day. Cloud cover until late am. Mid 60's temps, still high humidity but not enough to damper performance as almost everyone PR'd on this day. THIS could have been my day....

The next year... Well, I didn't do it the following year because I was training for my first 1/2 IM.

Year 3... I went for an all girls trip. I was somewhat just along for the ride. I had just completed another 1/2 IM mid July, and had been training solid since January. My body was ready for some time off. Again, the weather was perfect. Cool start, cloudy morning. Unfortunately my body did not cooperate and take advantage. I wanted to quit at mile 6. I had it all planned out in my mind. My HR avg was in the 180's. I somehow pulled a 2:08 out of my a@@. It felt like I had been out there for 2:45. I hated every minute of that race. Hated it.

Year 4. Race 3/4....... I decided to do this race again, because it would be good training for St. George. Lots of down, lots of up... especially from miles 10.5-12.5. I've heard St. George has a hill around mile 16 or something. This would be good practice.

Most people had other commitments, so it was just going to be Shane & I heading over to San Diego Saturday am, doing the race, then heading back Sunday afternoon......

Saturday morning we left shortly before 8am for San Diego. The road trip was pretty uneventful, just long. It's hard to decide if you want to drive or fly these days. Flying saves so much time, but it is really nice to have a car there. Especially for Shane when he wasn't doing the race.

I found out that our friend Mike was doing the race, so I asked him where he was staying and booked a room at the same place. It was a small little Inn only about 5miles from the Host Hotel. We arrived and it was clean, newly remodeled. Nice enough to stay for one night, but nothing to brag about. It was fairly inexpensive for being right on the water, so I was happy with the decision.

We were all checked in and kinda restless after the long road trip, so we walked next store to a local fish market/restaurant for a snack. Shane got a BIG beer and we both had a cup of chowder. We sat outside along the water enjoying the nice 80+temps and breeze coming off the water...

Now, let me back up a minute. As my normal routine I was obsessively checking for the San Diego race day forecast. It was pretty average, however more "sunny" than I was hoping for. 75high, 68 low. 80ish% humidity. I figured even though it was hotter than I would like, it was still a far cry from what I've been running/training in (83low/110high, anywhere from 30% -75% humidity)....

This assumption was my first mistake....

A phone conversation with my good friend Natalie on Friday night before we left.

Natalie - "How are you feeling, are you ready?" "What kind of time do you want to do?
Me - "Yah, I feel ready. My runs have been going GREAT. My legs are rested, I feel more ready to do this race than ever."
Natalie - "I'm sure you will do awesome, You can break 2hrs. I just HOPE the weather cools down."
Me - "What? It looks like it will be nice."
Nat - "Well, there has kinda been some weird weather here. It's been HOT. Like, unusually hot. Like, even the water has gone up to 74degs."
Me - "OH...... Great.... Not, ANOTHER year like the first time......"

Truth be told, I kind of just forgot about this conversation..... even as we were driving into town and 20 miles outside of San Diego the temperature reading on my car was still saying 98degs - i still refued to believe I would have bad race conditions. I was feeling to good about this race to let the weather dampen my ideas of a PR. It did slowly back down to about 80 as we reached town, BUT, it was also mid afternoon. My rational was we'd already be on our way back to Phoenix by this time... it won't be this warm during the race....

I had made reservations for Mike & his wife Susan, Natalie (she was in town with her family, only was unable to meet us) & Shane and I at this place we have gone every year in Little Italy.
Trattoria Fantastica. We were seated right away, had a glass of wine, salad and a great Pasta dinner.... We were finished with dinner and back at the hotel by 7:30.

I started to get my race stuff ready, and was easily asleep by about 9:30 pm. I slept pretty well until like midnight, but then, as usual when not in my own bed, I just kind of rested, not really sleeping from 12-4:15 when my alarm went off.

I woke up feeling great. Drank my spark, ate a half a bagel, then got dressed and ready to head up to to Balboa Park where we had to take a bus ride up to Cabrillo National Monument.

Shane, being the good race sherpa drove Mike, a fellow runner we had met at the hotel, and myself up to the park. We hit the parking lot at the PERFECT time, about 5:15 as the lines were minimal and we were on one of the buses within minutes.

Mike & I actually passed up the first available bus, because we would have been in the back and lets just say I don't do so well on buses... or back seats of cars... or a lot of moving vehicles for that matter.... So, we hopped on the next bus and were able to sit right up front.

The buses are necessary to get the runners to the start of the race, as you can not drive up to the National Monument. It's an absolutely gorgeous race start. You are up at the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean, with the sun rising right before you.

The first thing I noticed as we got off the bus was that the air temperature outside was actually warmer than the bus was.... Like, I could actually compare the temperature to how I have felt starting a couple of my runs in Phoenix when it was a little cooler out.

The race start was pretty uneventful. I had to use the porta potty before the start, so unfortunately I ended up pretty far back from the start line. Like, once I actually hit the star line the clock already read 7:xx... Man, that means a lot of people were already way past mile 1.

The course starts out with a nice up hill.... like half a mile. I felt great. My legs were so fresh from resting, my music was set and I was in a great mood. A far cry from how I felt last year when I started the race off feeling bad....

The only challenging part right now was trying to get around all of the people I had started behind. There were a few fast people, but mostly it was slower runners lined up solid, walkers, and they were not about to get out of my way. I spent the first 3 miles weaving in and out of people. My legs really wanted to go flying once the down started, but I tried to hold them back some. I think I hit mile 3 at about 25something.

I noticed all the people around me already stopping to walk, and more people than ever stopping at the first aid station for water. I noticed how red-raced and sweaty everyone was - so shortly into the race.

Then I started to watch my HR. Even though I was feeling great, my HR was about 10beats higher than I felt. In the 170s. I didn't' want to slow down because everything felt so good....I know, from past races I can hold my HR high for at least 2 or so hours so I wasn't worried. More surprised than anything because my HR had been so good during training.

The race support was great, however I think they were a bit overwhelmed. It was a record high participation this year for the 30th anniversary of the race. 7750 people registered. As I mentioned above, I've never seen so many people at the aid stations. Usually the first couple aren't very crowded, but this year everyone seemed to be standing there waiting for the water cups to be filled because the volunteers could not keep up....

I had worn my fuel belt, so I was able to bypass the overly crowded stations....

After we were down from into Point Loma & heading our way to Shelter Island Marina for a nice out & back flat area of the race the temps really started to pick up. My pace slowed down from around 8:30's to 9:30-9:45ish. I was anxiously looking for Shane here as he said he would be at the corner so he could see me a couple of times. Somehow, I never saw him. He never saw me... In fact, he didn't see Mike, or my friend Shari, or Lito....... He spent over an hour standing there and didn't see any of us!

Around mile 8 I really started to feel the heat. My HR monitor had stopped reading right, probably because it was soaking wet, and moving around my chest. My cloths began to feel SO heavy. I pulled my tank out from under the fuel belt and away from my skin to get a little air in. It helped a little, but only for a short time.

After the out and back portion of the course, the route takes you threw the rental car return part of the airport. There is NO shade, no breeze, and a lot of people confined to a small amount of space. This was a really rough patch for me. I was trying to go to the furthest point, even outside the course cones to get away from all the body heat. It gave a little relief, but not enough. My pace was slowing even more, which was frustrating the hell out of me, because for the first part of the race, my AVG pace was going to put me well under a 2hr mark..... then it slowed to more like an 8:55... but I could tell it was getting even worse now...

My breathing felt great, lungs great, legs great.. but my body was so hot I felt like my head was going to explode.

Finally, at an aid station around mile 10, I did the unthinkable. I stripped off my shirt and left myself baring my white, not so in shape belly & sports bra. My shirt was Soaking wet and so heavy. I wanted to just toss it away, but it was one of the new shirts, and after all I went through to get them printed I just couldn't bring myself to let it go. So I wrapped it around the fuel belt, and carried the extra 5lbs the rest of the race... Well almost all the way.. but I'll get to that in a minute...

I started noticing how badly everyone around me looked. I've never seen so many girls sweating like this. Water was literally pouring down there backs, their legs... Everyone looked like we just got out of the water. Once we hit downtown, heading our way to the infamous 2 miles of uphill, there was brief period of shade that really helped. Unfortunately it was VERY brief, and as soon as we turned a corner and began the uphill, the sun was really beating down.

I started to feel some twinges in my calves. I had apparently lost too much sweat/salt, something and my body was paying the price. I had chills a couple of times... I was frustrated. I could see my 2hour mark fading away as I slowly ran up the hill. I did much better up that hill than years past, but not enough to make up for the rough patch I had between miles 8-10.

So, now my mission was just to get to the end, without letting this hill get the best of me. I stopped once. There was a woman on the side of the road that had a cooler with ice. I saw someone in front of me stop.. so I did the same. I took a handful of ice and put it in my sports bra. I'm not sure if this was helpful, or hurtful as after stopping in the middle of the hill, it was VERY VERY hard to get back going....

Finally after nearly 2 miles of climbing, I was rounding the last corner for the final stretch. I started to feel suffocated with the restriction of the HR monitor strap, so I grabbed it and pulled it off. Now, I was half naked, my soaking wet 5lb shirt hanging from my fuel belt, my HR monitor strap in hand.. I'm sure I was quite a site.

I was looking around for Shane. I finally spotted him walking pretty fast to the finish line, so I yelled out to him. He spotted and cheered then I said - hey... HERE, as I threw the HR monitor & disgusting shirt to him.

Even through my headphones I heard a "EWWWWWWWWW".... I just laughed.. then felt a little guilty about leaving that with him. Like I couldn't of carried it the next 200yards I had left. But man... were those 200yards of less weight nice :-)

I finished the race and stopped dead in my tracks. Looked at my watch... 2:06. I new it was closer to 2:07 because I remembered seeing 2:06 earlier.

My head was pounding. I was claustrophobic with all the people standing around. I just wanted to get some ice water, some salt and some shade. I had my chip cut off, and headed to get some water. Even the water at the finish was warm, just like the aid stations. I guess they couldn't even keep up.

As I walked to find Shane I really started to cramp. My calves and my quads. This has never happened to me. Shane came up behind me & handing me my baggy of salt pills. I had 2 of them.

He started describing to me how badly everyone looked. I told him I had seen 2 people on stretchers during the race...

We walked around a little bit. I was hoping to get some Aquafor samples like last year, but no luck. None of the post race food looked appealing either...

I spotted Mike and then my friend Shari.... We all just kinda looked at each other like, Man... that was HARD. And we thought we came to San Diego to get a break from the heat...

I started to see stars. The heat had gotten the best of me. I abruptly left my friends, grabbed some water & sat down on a curb with shade.

Have I ever meantioned how bad I do in the heat? I was reminded once again that I do not think I would be capeable for training for a fall Ironman like Wisconsin or Florida because I can't handle the heat (training)? The race is pure evidence of that fact.

There was a man lying on the grass next to me. Shane was asking if he was ok. He sat up & said yah.. just cooling down. It was this man's 22nd time doing this race. So, trying to make myself feel better about only doing a little over a minute faster than last year when I felt so horrible compared to this year, I asked him - "so, of all the 22 races how did this one feel?" He said it was the hottest year ever, and that he had his worst time out of 22.

I immediately felt better... I guess I felt like I needed some sort of reason for not doing as well as I thought. I usually go into races with a very realistic expectation. This year, I had slightly higher, but very doable hopes of a 1:58-2:00 race time.

My final time 2:06:53.

My recovery.... Lots of salt, 6 hours in a car. 2 glasses of wine, bed by 8:30......

My post race day thoughts:

Sore like you wouldn't believe. My quads, my glutes, my SHINS, my biceps...... I'm tired and feel like I've been through the ringer.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. People think this race is easy because of the downhill. I think this race is extremely challenging. On a great day you could PR. But you just never know what the "Finest City" will bring you come race day.

One of these days has got to be mine, right?


Benson said...

Wow, nice job hanging in there. I can't imagine that kind of heat sapping the life out of you. Enjoy recovery.

Spokane Al said...

Good job on a tough, tough day. When you, coming from Phoenix, say it is hot, it must really be hot.

Ned said...

I commend you for running it...if I wasnt' months prego, I would have signed up and I know I would have had a horrible race in those humid/hot conditions..I was praying for a nice cool breezy day. Good thing hte first few times I have raced the AFC it was perfect turn will come for sure in that race though! Congrats!!!!

Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

You are so right, "one of these days" will definitely be yours. My thoughts are, you finished a (really)tough race, doesn't that make it your day? ;)