I had three main objectives when heading to San Diego in May to run the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon:
1) Have a freakin' blast with the We Run Social crew (aka soak up all the love, laughs and hugs from my West Coast blogging friends)
2) Take as many pics during the race as possible - oh hey mid-run selfies!
3) Be a small part of my girl Sarah from Mom Running On Empty getting a new shiny marathon PR
Now I may or may not have suggested to Sarah that we do the RnR SD 5k as a shakeout run the day before the marathon... but she registered herself, her husband Rob and their son Colin herself! ;) Oh hey multi-race weekend. :P
With my race gear laid out and peace of mind, I dreamt of medals and woke up race morning excited and ready to run!
These beauties would be mine ... just 26.2 miles stood between us!
The entire room woke up early. Rob would be scooting out first with Colin to bring him to RaceKids (camp for kids whose parents would be running the races). Sarah and I would be taking the race-provided bus ($5 per person) to the Start. We would've cabbed it, but were freaked out that we wouldn't get there due to road closures.
Sarah and I did one more check to make sure we had everything we needed - included our Brooks VIP Potty passes before heading out the door and taking the quick walk to the bus loading area.
We arrived at the bus loading area (after the grueling 4 minute walk from the hotel :P) to a line wrapping around the block. The marathon was kicking off at 6:15am and the half at 6:45am. There were strict rules for the marathon folks to be on time - if they weren't, they would be directed to run the half due to road closures.
I just turned to Sarah and said "this kind of back up would never happen at a Run Disney race." I couldn't believe how unorganized it seemed to be. There was limited volunteer support and too few buses. The website said they were stopping the buses at 5:30am, but I don't think that was possible with the amount of folks still there.
Luckily the line moved at a decent clip, but I was worried about the dozens of people behind us getting to the start on time. I'm not sure if the buses were something San Diego has done in the past, but there were some logistics that could be tweaked for the future.
But Sarah and I were on the bus at the Start in plenty of time. We bee-lined it right for the VIP potties.
The Brooks VIP Port-o-potties were sah-weet. They were sort of like trucks with actual bathrooms on them - running water, actual toilets, etc. Plus a mirror for a pre-race selfie! :)
After a quick spray of sun block, we headed over to Corral 2 to meet up with the We Run Social crew for a pre-race photos, hugs and high-fives!
THESE people put my mind at ease!! And I wanted to take that feeling with me during the race so the #WeRunSocial armband came to play!
With time passing quicker than expected, it was time for Sarah, Rob, Linzie and I to head to Corral 4 and get this party started!
The National Anthem played. The wheelchairs went off. The first three corrals went. It was our time to shine!
Good luck to the other corrals - we were ready for fun!
Garmin - clicked!
Race crew - pumped!
Run - ready to be OWNED!
Within the first mile we got hit with inspiration #1 from the Team in Training folks.
I wish the picture came out clearer, but I think you can see that it says "Wave To Nelly" and "Keep Trying and Never Stop Smiling!" So wave to Nelly we did! :)
This would be a different kind of race for me. I was working through how I would balance my love of taking pics during a race and focusing on a friend's timing plan to PR. We were hoping to stay consistently in the low 10s. Sarah was shooting for a 4:30 (10:18 min/mile pace), but we still had a goal of a PR (anything less than her pervious PR of 4:43:54).
The plan? Keep it simple: be consistent and have fun!
And immediately we went out too fast. I had a feeling that would happen as we were in a corral with folks shooting for 4 hours, while we were looking for 4:30. It was my first of many: we need to slow it on down. Good feelings and easy convo can lead to a faster pace very easily. Plus, the weather was perfect - cool and overcast.
There were lots of spectators at the Start giving out some amazing energy!
Mile 1: 9:32
I knew that Harriette Thompson - the woman shooting to the oldest marathon runner (at the age of 92) would be ahead of us on the course. During Mile 2 I spotted her and made my move to get a selfie. It had to be done. She had her son running with her and some race personnel, but I got it done!
She was looking strong and adorable! Not everyone can pull that combo off... but Harriette could!
I bobbed and weaved my way back to my gang, who had kept running their consistent pace while I got my pic in.
Mile 2: 9:48
Yes! I convinced the whole crew to jump in for a group shot with the folks manning the first water stop!
Now during Mile 3, I had to hit the port-o-potty. I let the group know, got in line, snapped a selfie with a blog reader, pottied and headed back out. Only my crew wasn't there. Hmmm...
Lesson: Make your potty plans BEFORE the first potty stop.
I started texting them and heard nothing. So I looked around, waiting another minute then headed out on the course. Maybe they had run ahead of me. Here was hoping. I didn't want to lose my crew this early on in the run.
Luckily Linzie finally texted me back and I knew there were just a block ahead. Hello sprinting during Mile 3 of the marathon. Oops!
I caught up with them and all was right in the world... and a future potty stop plan was set.
Mile 3: 11:44
Rock 'n' Roll races are set apart in part by having bands and DJs along the course. These ladies were workin' it! Plus they gave my skirt a shout out! :P
Mile 4: 8:22
With Mile 4 being waayyy too fast, we brought it back during Mile 5 and even stopped for a couple of photos outside of Petco Park. I was really proud of everyone snapping photos and really enjoying the run - at least to that point. ;)
Mile 5: 10:16
We weaved our way through the streets of "Downtown" San Diego, passing sights like the Sante Fe Depot before making our way towards the Freeway.
Mile 6: 9:25
Linz and I can't pass up a good photo op. I mean I needed something to tweet out to the masses. I love being able to update friends and readers with pics from the race. Plus it gives me something to look forward to along the course.
On the way to the Freeway, we took a tour through Little Italy and saw some special characters along the way!
Mile 7: 10:20
At this point we wouldn't be running ON the Freeway, but alongside it.
It was during Mile 8 that Sarah tried walking through a water stop (not her norm), which I do during every race. It is a great time to give the legs a quick break, actually get water into my mouth rather than all over my face and tweet if necessary! ;)
I also chatted with Linz about racing a half vs a full. It's awesome the things you can learn about yourself and friends during a run especially when you have hours to talk things out. :P
There were gentle rolling hills as we made our way along the Freeway. The overcast weather was a huge help to staying in control of my breathing and fueling. I was stopping at each water stop to hydrate and walk.
Oh and to enjoy a free orange!!
Mile 8: 10:35
Mile 9: 9:49
Mile 10: 10:02
I checked in with everyone at Mile 10 and we had smiles all around! Woo!
During Mile 11, we passed the signs for Mile 17. Oh boy was that tough to see. We had a huge loop - an almost 7 mile loop - until we would see that sign again. THAT was a rough moment, but I shook it off and refocused on the people I was with.
Mile 11: 10:18
Wait wait wait! I thought we were running San Diego not LA. :P
I think it was this point where I was getting notes on Social Media asking me if I was running or just taking pics and was also told to stop taking pics and run. Ouch friends! I was in fact doing both and having a blast. It was hard to shake off those comments, but I did my best to stay present in the moment and run the race I wanted to. If I want to take pics during a race - that is okay - it's my run and to me it's fun!! Okay back to the run!!
Just after crossing the freeway, we entered Mission Bay Park.
Mission Bay Park was pancake flat and offered gorgeous views. We were actually running on a sidewalk. I worried about bottlenecking, but I didn't experience any of that. Thankfully.
Oh and I stopped to see one of my favorite cheering sections of the day!
How awesome is this sign?
Mile 12: 10:03
Mile 13: 10:39
With the halfway mark in our sight, I made sure we were all on the same page for a photo-op with the 13.1 marker.
It was time for another port-o-potty stop for this girl. But this time I knew my crew would continue running ahead so when I got out I could still see them. No fear of having to finish the run alone this time.
I love us! <3
I mean. Hello!
I will take any hit to my Finish time to capture these beauties! :)
It wasn't until we hit Mile 14 that I could really say we were in the back side of the race. We were taking a turn around and heading back towards where we started. Hollah! It will be all downhill from here... well sort of!
Mile 14: 10:51
Mission Bay Drive led us out of De Anza Cove and back to the streets. It was at this point that we lost Linzie. Okay we didn't actually lose him - I knew where he was, but it was his time to do his thing for the rest of the run. I was proud that we were able to run 14 miles together - our longest run to date. :)
It was time to keep the focus on a consistent second half. We knew there would be a hill on the highway during Mile 20 to look forward to. Ummm yay? YAY indeed!
Now Rock 'n' Roll is known for their on-course music, but their race signage is on POINT!
Miles 15-20 were on the streets of neighborhoods with great crowd support, energetic water stop volunteers & familiar faces. Yes that's right! I ran into (literally) friends from both Team Chocolate Milk (Hey Jesus) and a former Red Sox coworker (Go Amy!)
Mile 15: 10:24
Mile 16: 10:08
Mile 17: 10:05
Mile 18: 10:34
Mile 19: 10:22
Just after hitting the Mile 19 marker, we hit the freeway (163) and were approaching the incline we were waiting for.
But first? A Mile 20 selfie. Duh!
Mile 20: 11:15
Just after the Mile 20 marker we noticed the awesome cooling station bus. This was one awesome idea from RnR! Thankfully we didn't need to stop in since it was overcast and perfect racing conditions. Phew!
Now with a 10k to go, it was time to make this incline our b*&%h!
I was worried for the incline since I hadn't done much hill training since Boston (6 weeks prior). I was putting a lot of faith in my legs. I tried to stay just ahead of Sarah to try and motivate her up the hill - which she was dominating! I made sure to keep Rob in our sights as he plugged away towards the top.
And we three were victorious!
Mile 21: 11:56
Once a top the hill, we took a left on to University Avenue, which we had run on at the beginning of the race. Oh hey deja vu! :p
As we headed to the Mile 22 marker, Rob finally shared with us pain he had been keeping quiet about since like Mile 2. At this point, he told us to go ahead and he would finish on his own. This was a fairly emotional point as the couple was determined to finish together. But I could see Rob needed us to continue on so he could finish the race on his terms. So I gathered Sarah up and we pushed on.
Enter tough love Dani! Sarah was feeling a lot of emotions over what went on and my job was to keep her focused and reframe the situation for the positive. Thoughts of PRs, her goals and her son were all I could think about. So I threw out everything I had. She had to focus on those final 4 miles.
Mile 22: 13:36
With Sarah looking strong, it was back to business.
Mile 23: 9:56
What helped? Knowing we had the We Run Social crew to look forward to seeing just before Mile 25.
Oh and thinking about the post-run beer as well.
During Mile 24, the race added a little out-and-back on Redwood Street. Not sure why, but it kicked off with a local band rocking out with a motivating sound. Check the video out here.
Plus the little detour featured freeze pops and a sweet turnaround!
Now it was time to see our friends!!
But first - another shot of inspiration. This race was not lacking inspiration let me tell you. The amount of firefighters out running the course in full gear was outstanding!
I made sure to thank this gentleman for his service and applaud him on his accomplishment.
He was certainly enjoying the downhill as much as we were.
We also met up with the half marathoners at this point. Marathoners on the left of the yellow rope and half marathoners on the right.
Mile 24: 10:33
Then there they were - the We Run Social crew - a sight for sore eyes... and legs! The enthusiasm was radiating, the high-fives crisp and the hugs sweaty! I wanted to stop for photos, but Sarah and I were in a good place.
Mile 25: 9:41
The final mile was a complete blur. I know I threw out some cliches to Sarah and told her even if we ran a 20 min/mile pace final mile she would still PR. Other than that we were on a mission. :P
Mile 26: 9:41
Now the final 0.2 was like running on a treadmill. I could see the Finish arch, but it wasn't getting any closer!!
We started this journey together and e would be ending it together... to the tune of a PR!
Finish Time: 4:34:42
Sarah ROCKED it!! Rob pulled a 4:44 and Linzie a 4:54! Sub 5 for all - HEY-O!
After celebrating with some low-fat chocolate milk, we headed to the tent to get our free marathon finisher's jackets (hello endless line) before walking to PETCO Park to pick up our Remix Challenge medals.
Once the bling was secured, Rob, Sarah and I headed to pick up Colin from RaceKids camp. He had made us personalized medals (pictured at bottom of post) and it was awesome! Since there were limited cab options, we decided to take the walk back to the hotel. Normal after a marathon, right? Of course! It really was a nice way to shake out the legs.
After a shower, Rob and Colin headed home, while Sarah and I met up with the We Run Social crew for the after party! Hollah!
Overall the race was amazing!! I had a great time with Sarah, Rob and Linzie! I think I did a great job of keeping the vibe loose and fun, while making sure we kept our eye on the end prize. I made sure that I stayed true to my idea of a good race - lots of pics, walking through water stops, snacking on my KIND bars - while keeping in check with the group.
26.2 miles of fun, smiles, laughs and selfies!