Earlier this year I got inspired by watching the San Diego and Vancouver marathons and decided I needed to run the San Diego Rock & Roll marathon next year. As a first step I ran the Scripps Ranch Old Pros 10k on July 4, 2009. The next big step was to complete the Silver Strand Half Marathon, a course that takes runners from Coronado, down the silver strand, through a loop on a military base, and finally to Imperial Beach.
After having good results at the 10k, I knew I wanted to train reasonably hard for the half marathon. I felt like with all this running I should definitely be in the top half of my sex and age division. Looking at previous results that meant finishing in around 2 hours (9:00 per mile pace), which is also conveniently a nice round number.
I looked at a number of different training plans online to see how I wanted to approach this. I liked the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) plan because it would have me running only 3 days per week. My knees were hurting when I was training for the 10k so I definitely didn’t want to run more frequently than that. The thing I didn’t like about the FIRST plan was that it lasts 18 weeks and I thought it might be overkill for what I wanted to achieve. So I combined the 3x-per-week aspect with the distances and schedule of Ryan Hall’s plan that I found at RunnersWorld.com. That left me with about 15 weeks of training starting at the beginning of August, including 2 weeks of drinking beer in Belgium (always great for training).
The other part of training that I wanted to get right was nutrition. Early on I read Performance Nutrition for Runners, which I found to be packed with great information and an excellent reference over the course of my training. Among the most useful parts of the book were helping me to understand what I needed to be consuming during and after my runs as well as what supplements I should take. It also coached me through how to time your eating and bathrooming before the race. It’s impossible to know what it would have been like without following the advice in the book, but I can definitely say the Accelerade kept my hydration and energy at good levels during the run and the Endurox R4 helped me recover afterward–I only experienced mild soreness the day after my long runs.
Training, Training, Training
Overall the training went according to plan with the exception of my long runs. For the first several weeks I was having trouble keeping them at my target 9:20 mile pace and slowed to 9:40 or so in order to complete them. Part of this was because I was wearing a running belt with water and its motion and weight slowed me down. For the last 2 weeks of training I went without the belt and instead brought energy gels and stopped at water fountains by the harbor. This got my long runs back on pace and gave me the confidence I needed for race day.
Over the course of my 13 weeks I ran nearly 220 miles with long runs between 7 and 14 miles. I hit another milestone along the way of running 100 miles in 30 days. I even joined a gym along the way so I could do my interval workouts more effectively.
The race was scheduled to begin at 7:30am at Sunset Park in Coronado on 11/15/2009. Amanda was my official designated race chauffeur and got us there about 6:50am. That was a good thing, because the line for the bathrooms was hundreds strong and took 20+ minutes to get through. At 5 minutes to start time I got in place fairly close to the line and chugged some sports drink. Soon enough, we were off!
There were a few things that made the race particularly difficult.
- It was very sunny. Even though the temperature was in the mid-60’s, the sun was beating down on me nearly the whole time from beautiful clear blue skies. I had done nearly all of my training runs either in the dark early morning or on overcast days.
- The water stations were unpredictable. They were supposed to be 1.5 miles apart, but some were closer to 2 miles. I ate an energy gel shortly after mile 4 (thinking there would be water at mile 4.5) and had to wait another mile to get water to wash it down.
- There was an unexpected surprise mini-hill in mile 11 on this “flat and fast” course. I had to slow way down once I got to the top of that.
Amanda was waiting for me at mile 9 in Imperial Beach with a welcome dosage of sports drink and encouragement. I made it there in 80 minutes (just slightly under 9:00/mi pace), but things progressed more slowly from that point onwards.
I passed mile 11 (after the mini-hill) right at 1:39 (9:00/mi pace). I was able to pick up the pace going downhill but by mile 12 my legs were pretty shot and I was just shuffling along.
The water stand at 12.5 miles was most welcome, and seeing the finishing line ahead on the final 1/4 mile on Seacoast Drive gave me the motivation to pick up the pace a bit and finish in 1:58:24 (9:02/mi pace). This is just a bit slower than the pace for which I was training (8:50/mi) but I did (barely) accomplish the goal of being in the upper half of my age division. In the final results I placed 86 out of 173 males age 30-34 (50.3%); 855 out of 2631 overall (67.5%).
Every finisher gets a cool medal and gets to select from a variety of healthy post-race snacks.
After donning my medal I headed for Amanda who had Endurox R4 standing by. I then hobbled back to the car and am currently looking forward to a steak dinner paired with Belgian beer as I write this.
Would I have wanted to turn back around and run back to Coronado? Probably not today, but I feel great about setting the goal of the half marathon and hitting it. I now believe that I could do the same with the Rock and Roll Marathon next June. Obviously the training would be different (longer) but I’m confident and enthusiastic about hitting that goal. Overall the half marathon took a lot of training time but was an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience.