Tag Archives: half marathon

What a Second Half: Wildcat Half Marathon

UPDATE 5.30.13 – see my gear-intensive version of this post now on Timeout with Title 9.

This race started with an aid station and ended with a heavy medal.

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A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Brazen Racing‘s Western Pacific race (full and half marathons, 10k, and 5k on the trail.)  Brazen Racing is nearer and dearer to my heart than I had thought: they hosted first-ever trail race (Dirty 5k 2011) as well as my first trail 10k (Nitro Turkey 2012 – and more to come!)  Why wouldn’t I want to be on the other side of the “Water!” “Sports drink?” “Where’s gu?” equation? From understanding what is left (or isn’t) in a runner’s head at mile __ in a race to how I prefer to have a cup handed to me when I run by, it seemed only natural to have fellow runners aiding one another.

(As it turns out, this was an especially good thing: I happened to have some nuun in my bag when a bonking grape-flavor-hater stumbled into our station and of course I happily shared. It was quite hot out there!)

As we distributed snacks into paper cups, cut up bananas and accidentally huffed grape electrolyte powder mixing up tubs, I got to chatting with my new friendly and welcoming Brazen Racing family members. A full day’s volunteering wasn’t actually volunteering; we could request to be ‘paid’ by having the race entry to the Brazen event of our choice waived. Stellar, no? Some of you may have noticed that up until recently I had “Nitro Trail 10k, sign up pending” listed as race 6. However, at aid station three in the 90 plus degree heat, all that changed: Mickey convinced me that I had run a half before, it didn’t matter that it was my only half; I should forgo the 10k and just go for the half.

Before I could balk, the next day I emailed the race director. BOOM: second half registration done. Let the countdown and panicking commence: after the Tinker Bell Half at Disneyland in January, I essentially took a month and a half off from running and come late April I was running pretty short distances (about 2-3 miles and one 5 miler) and all on pretty flat road. The longest trail race to date I had done was one 10k. While I do regularly hike at the entrance to Wildcat Canyon where the race started, it’s usually a hike involving indulging our two dogs off leash with my husband, not 13.1 miles for time. Part of the course was unassisted and I had never run with a hydration pack. The term “shitting a brick” comes to mind.

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The view up as I ascended.

Clearly, I thought I was totally fucked. At times like this, eloquence and grace are secondary to primal instinct. Mother Nature told me to suck it up, buttercup, you signed up for this. Let’s find that magical place you always tell others is outside the comfort zone.

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Go on, ask me how I felt about this hill. At least I had my Team Sparkle visor, right?

With less than two weeks till the event, I hunkered down: kept up my training, thought more about my fueling and more than anything else, I mentally prepared. Researching the elevation and the like helped me really wrap my head around what I was about to endeavor, or if you’re a a masochist, how bad is bad. I took some reassurance from reading that the hills were not even recommended to run up, but instead hiked up and then straights and downhills run. The addition of a hiker division also appeased my ego. It wasn’t so much that I thought I’d DNF the race, bonk or barf: it was that I didn’t want to put up anything but my best showing. I sucked it up. I did it anyways.

Helium Hydration Pack” (decoded: Camelbak Spark10) borrowed from Customer Service at work with the promise of a thorough review upon return, I began to prepare. I filled the pockets with ClifShot, stashed some BodyGlide and a tick stick (among other things) in other compartments and tried to remember to breathe. Compression sleeves, check. Beloved, still new-ish PureGrit2 runners, check. New Brooks raceday singlet and Headsweats Team Sparkle visor, check. My Garmin charged and RoadID secured, if nothing else, I certainly looked ready.

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From whence I had come (down to the left, past the electrical tower – that way.)

After getting my bib and checking my bag there was no time left for a pre-race photo. I chit chatted briefly with some friendly folks at the start and could feel sweat in my palms. This was really happening; before I knew it I was crossing the timing line and starting my Garmin: race 6 of  103, half marathon #2 was underway.

Immediately, we pushed through a single-file funnel and were dumped out onto my familiar, well-worn path. Despite the excitement, I knew better: we were five minutes or less into the race, and I was walking. If this was the start, I knew we were probably in for it.

In short, I was right.

Over 13.1 miles, like my first half, I had revelations. I laughed. I may have teared up once, and, yet again, I had to bail out and make a little pit stop (but I made it past mile three this time!) Encouragement was given and received on the out and back course, lost 10kers shepherded back to their paths. A kind gent whose pace was close to mine played tag with me and even asked how my calves were as he held a cattle gate for me, mentioning that he had seen me stretching earlier. For a bit I even had a half-a-mile-or-so-maybe long companion made pushing up a hill before the last 5k. We laughed deliriously as the sun beat down, we sipped from our packs and trudged on. “My glutes quit about a mile back,” she told me. I countered that I didn’t think I was using my calves, hamstrings, possibly quads or glutes since I couldn’t quite feel them, so how I was even moving was a wonder to me.

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I am truly surprised that I look like not-death, likely thanks in part to the hydration pack.

Before I forget, as promised for Carrie and the rest of the gals in CS: prior to the race I had never, ever run with a full pack, only a hydration belt that is really a fancy water bottle holster. If you saw me running through the building at work and around the parking lot prior to the race, it’s because I was adjusting all the straps. After that, I made zero adjustments, just filled the bladder, secured it, put my supplements in the side pockets and just went for it at the half marathon. I had no problems with chafing, shifting or leakage and definitely found it a great first-time hydration pack experience. It was easy to use and being able to take more frequent sips without any mess definitely helped me hydrate on the hot, dry course. Hope that helps you all!

Yet we pushed on. I caught and passed the nice gent and we wished one another well. As I rounded a corner (over the river and through the woods, essentially) and realized I was back at the top of my old familiar fork in the paths, my heart sang: thus far, I had accomplished my goals of not bonking or barfing and was most definitely going to finish before the sweep. A quick check of my Garmin told me I was definitely close to clinching my secret personal goal: sub 3 hours.

Okay, so I do my best to practice good run etiquette… but if you’re the gal in the blue in this picture, I am sorry I was so rude. We were getting so close to that single-track path and our paces were awkward for passing. It wasn’t my intention to walk on your heels on the single track path and then blow past you in the last 100 yards; I am simply a jerk who tries to kick it out in the last half a mile and stride out at the last 100 of every finish because it makes me feel like I really left whatever I had left out there. And remember how I was trying to get my secret personal goal accomplished?

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Beep beep, jerkface coming through!

And this time, I was determined to try to have a more fun finish picture, so double jerkface on me. Double sorry, girl in blue.

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Thank you volunteer photographer who caught my moment!

I FREAKING DID IT. And, bonus! I ran into the couple I had chit chatted with at the start and the gal won her age group. I encouraged her to apply to be a model at work. (Yes I mean it, if you’re out there reading!)

I was ecstatic. I didn’t see my official time at the finish but knew it had to be sub 3. But more importantly, I had done it: 2,240 plus feet of elevation over 13.1 miles only 48 minutes slower than my road half. It felt good to be done, but more importantly I was thankful that I had pushed myself and just went for it.

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Medal selfies: of course.

Post endorphin high and lolling about in the sun, there was of course the aftermath: exhaustion, nut butter and trail ‘anklets’ (dirt anklets, that is.)

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With the Wildcat Trail Half under my belt and two more races coming (a 5 mile trail race and a 5k fun run,) my confidence is up. My closet is full of gear, my pantry full of BCAAs, Clif everything and nuun. The training calendar has been penned: Dumbo Double Dare, I am coming for you!

While I happen to be an employee of Title Nine, my hydration pack review is my own personal opinion; Camelbak is a vendor Title Nine works with who has in no way been involved in this review.

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Thirteen Point One and Done

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Before my first half marathon and after: thirteen point one miles done and still smiling.

It was here and gone before I even knew what happened: race FOUR of 103, my first half marathon, is now complete. But what of the other three races?

Race 1, the Title 9k, was definitely a big one. My mom and I ran together and, like a fine wine, she’s only getting better with age. She hit a distance PR, with the two of us crossing the finish in just a touch over an hour. Every year, she’s faster! Perhaps next year is our sub-hour year. The video from the race tickles me in that you can hear my father giggle – he was surprised to see us so soon – but I’ll admit I was just happy for that big hug when we came across, no matter what the time.

Races 2 and 3 were trail races and, in my opinion, my ‘first’ real trail races. I had done a trail 5k before, about a year nitroturkeyplus prior, but the 10k was a whole different animal! Race 2 was a very small race and I was such a fan that I’ll definitely race the Run in the Park Series again. The second trail 10k was a much bigger race, put on by an event crew notorious for having courses that are harder than indicated. Naturally I pushed myself super hard through that one – despite not feeling ready, being a bit fatigued from not taking rest days, having to stop to walk and stretch more than once – but I finished upright, somehow, and didn’t barf on the nice lady who was trying to take my timing chip and give me a medal. Happily I managed to keep my gu down and smiled for a picture with the Nitro Turkey, of course while proudly wearing both my No Meat Athlete shirt and a Team Sparkle skirt. (Trust me: men, women, children alike, no one likes being passed by the lady in the sparkly skirt.)

Race 4 snuck up on me. In the wake of the holidays and a much needed rest week and a half, the neverland5kdays flew till suddenly it was time for me to fly to Anaheim! Everything I had done training-wise, all that “my first half marathon is coming up” talk was about to be put into action: it was go time. Notably while there, my old college roomie and longtime good friend Kari rocked out her first 5k in ages. Happily I can say she was bitten by the race bug and now has a medal rack she’s itching to fill up. Get ’em, Karebear! I also had a fangirl moment when I saw Kelly from Team Sparkle finish. (Yes the pictures are bad, but hey – it was a very early morning wake-up call and freakin’ cold for Anaheim! It’s hard to take pictures with an iPhone wearing run gloves. Try it. You’ll see how right I am.)

But yes: the race.

In short, it was amazing, beautiful, fun, not terribly painful, happily ‘easy’ and surprisingly very emotional! More than once, I definitely teared up, and more than once I wasn’t expecting to! There was something simply magical about the cold, quiet darkness as we set out at 5am. A few miles went by and next thing I knew, I was headed straight down the middle of a semi-deserted Main Street, running straight towards the fully lit castle. Out of no where, it hit me, a wave of emotion and the sting of happy tears. It was truly a powerful thing! There were other times where in my mind, my papa was joking with me and encouraging me in his low, raspy voice. It made me smile and tear up, but helped push me through the hardest bits and for that I am thankful.

Other notable moments:
– Team Sparkle was EVERYWHERE, which I loved. I rocked rainbow race legs, gold sleeves, a lime sparkle skirt and my T9k run angel tulle ‘mohawk’ hat, which helped Kari spot me in the crowd! Definitely a new race favorite.
– My original corral was E; for whatever reason I had quoted myself as finishing in 3:15! The man at the expo totally surprised me by checking my finish time on a previous race and immediately asking “Okay, A or B? A?” While I thought it’d be a push, it turns out Corral A for 2:15 and faster was the right fit!
– after flying all the way to Anaheim, I made friends with a gal at the start who was from San Jose.
– I’d never done a race this long or big. While I did a good job waking up and immediately cramming in black coffee and a banana, having to wait around at the start and in my corral meant that by mile 3 I had to bail out for the bathroom. I wasn’t alone, but for the rest of the trip, that one spot in California Adventure was known as “my bathroom.”
– Disney cast members, high school cheer groups, dance teams and bands, and random spectators totally made the race. The cheers were incredibly uplifting and I saw some pretty funny race signs including “Running: It’s not just from the cops anymore” and “Hurry! I hear they’re running out of wine at the finish!”
– There was a lady backstage near the Clydesdales who had two baby goats (kids) she was feeding as we ran past. Dorky, but that was totally a highlight. They were so cute!
– Planning ahead was super easy! Kari found herself a spot about 5.5 miles in. Seeing her and hearing her cheer there and right before the finish was great. Don’t get me wrong, all the spectators along the course were super encouraging. It just really meant a lot to have a familiar voice in the crowd yelling my name!

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me at the still empty corral A, pre-race, lookin’ nervous!

Throughout the whole race, what with the costumes and cast members and behind the scenes sneak peeks, I smiled a whole lot – as proven by the fact my cheesin’ for the many course photographers came out genuine – and luckily didn’t truly feel fatigued until the last 5k. (HUGE thanks to Clif for that Clif Shot at mile 8. I needed that badly!) That last 5k was definitely completely mental, especially considering my longest training run heading in was only 11.1 miles. Luckily I was able to get into my own head, remind myself that the last 5k was all mental because my semi-shot legs would do whatever my brain said, and carried on. The last 1.1 miles were just a trip: maybe I was hallucinating, maybe I was tired, maybe it was adrenaline or maybe it was runner’s high, but that last mile and change was everything all at once: glorious, painful, terribly long and wonderfully short. As I hit the 13 miles marker and started heading towards the finish, my mind was blown: I had hoped for a sub 2:30 race. As I noticed my pace at each well-marked, complete-with-a-clock mile marker, I thought, “Hey, maybe I could make it in 2:15!”

In that last .1, I saw the clock and knew that anything I had left was more than enough to ensure I finished in less than 2:09.

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I cruised through the finish beaming, accepted my medal, an emergency blanket, water and snacks. I took pictures. I smiled more. Finally I met up with Kari – and couldn’t believe it. Race four, my first half, DONE.

tradersamsYup. I totally deserved both the fun cocktails from Trader Sam’s, where we met a fellow runner to celebrate post-race, and that beautiful glass of wine and dinner later at Napa Rose (big thanks to the chef for cooking me an off-the-menu, special vegan meal!) I was aching, but thrilled – and still am. Ten toenails in tact, the worst damage being some residual soreness and a couple of blisters more likely from walking the parks after the race. It was nothing some stretching, walking, hot showers and a couple of bandages on toes couldn’t fix.

At the Tinker Bell expo, we were given the chance to sign up early for a new runDisney event in late August, the Dumbo Double Dare: Saturday Disneyland 10k, Sunday Disneyland Half Marathon. You run them both, you get a THIRD medal. And you’d best believe, I signed up early, and a good thing too! They opened registration yesterday morning and now everything – the 5k, 10k, half and the Dumbo challenge – are all completely full.

Here’s to knocking out races 5 and 6 as a 30th birthday gift to myself!

Race Stats
Bib Number: 9883
Women’s Open Division Finishers: 10,553
Division Place: 148
Gender Place: 938
5k Split: 32:35
10k Split: 1:02:36
15k Split: 1:32: 53
Clock time: 2:08:56
Net time: 2:08:40