"You're from the East Coast. You should be used to this," said Sally, one of my race companions, as she watched me shivering in my thin running pants and shirt.
Pasadena Rock n Roll half marathon. My first race of the year. My second race ever.
Sally had picked me up at my house at 5:15 and we got our third companion, Suzanne, right after. By the time we got to the Rose Bowl at 6 a.m. it was still dark as night. We found a parking spot about 20 feet in front of the porta-potty row and the three of us alternately huddled in the car, seat heaters on high, and stood in line for the bathroom as the sky turned from black to deep blue to pre-dawn pastels.
Maybe there is something to the "your blood gets thinner out here" thing I'd heard when I first moved to LA six years ago, or maybe I've just gone soft. Either way, I was damn cold on Sunday morning as we waited for the race to kick off. I wore my thin Lululemon running pants (black with a yellow stripe, for you fashionistas out there) and my favorite running shirt (long sleeved, but the wicking material makes it great in any temp between 45 and 70). The forecast was for sunny blue skies, lows in the 40s and a high at noon of 70. I had figured it would be around 60 when I crossed the finish line at 9:30.
In many ways, my experience for this race was different from the half marathon I ran in October. Back in the fall I was scared and excited enough that I tried to do everything "right". I had trained well and felt really strong by race week. In the days leading up to the race, I ate well and got plenty of sleep. My boyfriend came with me and took care of the driving/parking logistics which, for me, can be a prime anxiety-inducing project.
The main difference between then and now was the prep. I hadn't trained as well for this race. I did a 12-mile training run two weeks ago, but right now I'm just not *as* strong as I was in the fall. My weekly mileage hasn't hit 25 yet, and I haven't run 100 miles in a single month since October. Just considering my lower mileage, I knew I'd run this race a little slower. Also, the course for the Pasadena Rock n Roll is much hillier than the Los Angeles race was in October. I actually like hills, and was looking forward to the pretty scenery, but I knew they'd slow me down a little. I ran the fall race in 1:58:01. I suppose there's a little spark inside me that wants to keep getting faster, but I went into this one hoping I would clock in under 2:05:00.
Despite going in feeling a little defeated about my anticipated timing, I was excited about the event. It felt like an adventure to carpool down to the race with Sally and Suzanne. They are inspiring to me - both have run a gazillion half-marathons and a few fulls, and have a great attitude about them all. We run at different paces so I hung around with them until it was time to find our corrals and then made a plan to meet up at the beer garden afterwards. I ate a Chocolate #9 and took a last sip of water and then shivered over to Corral 3 where I found a place to stand near the Elvis posse.
The Star Spangled Banner started at 7:20, then the first corral went out at 7:30. I crossed the start line at 7:32 and tried to find my own pace among the runners. Pasadena was a lovely course. Beautiful craftsman houses, canopied tree branches over the street. Curving hills. Shady and quiet with just the pitter patter of running feet, sounding like rain drops on the asphalt under the clear blue sky.
There weren't a lot of spectators out for the first part, but it was so inspiring around mile 3 to see two runners holding hands - one of them with Down Syndrome. I lost my Elvis posse pretty early and only saw them once again on a switchback later on. I saw two guys in No Meat Athlete "Runs on Plants" shirts and spent a mile thinking about making some veggie-fueled running shirts. I'd love to see more people out there on the course showing the world how strong we can be on a plant-based diet. The DJs and bands out on this course were really energizing -- much better than the LA rock n roll race. Yes, I did sing along to LMFAO's "Sexy And You Know It" around mile 4. And in mile 5, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed "Who Let The Dogs Out". Mile 6 had the best band - a Taiko drum band - and I ran to the thundering beats for as long as I could hear them.
When running for two hours, every little out-of-the-ordinary thing feels like an adventure. I grabbed water at each station, usually more for the entertainment of trying to drink it than for real thirst. Drinking from a paper cup. Blowing my nose. Eating a Honey Stinger chew (pink lemonade are the best). These were some of the highlights of my morning, until mile 11 when I started to regret digging into the second package of Honey Stingers. Miles 10, 11, and 12 were the hardest. I'd been trucking along okay for the whole time until around that point, and my pace got really slow. Runners began passing me left and right. Although I'd begun the race about a minute before the 2:00 pacer's corral, she and her 2:00 comrades sailed past me around mile 11. I felt a little sick, but I couldn't pinpoint where -- was it my stomach? Or was I just tired? My feet were dragging. I wanted the race to end and I still had another mile or two left. I felt defeated about the 2:00 pacer, and was sure my finishing time was going to be later than I'd hoped.
And then, around mile 12.5-ish, I looked to the left and saw my friend Kelsey with her newborn baby standing alongside the course waving. I looked back at them twice, and somehow that little baby transferred the energy I needed right to me. I looked ahead and could see what I thought was the final bend of the course. I picked up my pace. As I got closer, crowds of people lined the race for the first time since the start. When I caught a glimpse of the finish line I felt another surge of energy through my body. Without thinking, my legs stretched out before me and I sprinted as fast as I could. I felt strong. I felt like an Amazon Goddess. I lifted my arms as I crossed the line in victory. Yes, I actually did do that, just like last time. I'm a little bit of a dork.
As I made my way through the finish line support, I gathered every water, pretzel, Jamba juice, banana, and Gatorade I could carry. I heard the congratulatory text message bings from my boyfriend, my brother, and my dad's wife. One Gatorade bottle and one bag of pretzels later, with shoes off and jacket (reclaimed from Gear check) on, I met up with Sally and Suzanne at the beer garden. Far East Movement played on the main stage as we stretched in the sun and drank a beer.
I did it in 2 hours. Well, 2 hours and 45 seconds. I'm convinced Kelsey's baby shaved at least 15 seconds off my time.
Crossed start line at 07:32:35
5k (3.1 mile): 28:46
10k (6.2 mile): 56:51
10 mile: 01:30:37
finish line (13.1 mile): 2:00:45