USA Half Marathon San Diego {Recap}

I’m so freaking proud of this race.

It was tough and it was ugly but I finished–leaving nothing on the course. Nothing.

I knew from seeing the course elevation map that it would be hilly in the beginning, but I was really unprepared for how hilly it actually was. I knew as soon as I started that my goal of sub 2 hours would be a long reach.

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I began with brf Runner Jenny and we took the first hill slowly–it was seriously right at the start. And the next one too. Except it wasn’t really all that slow for me as the first two hilly miles were 9:35 and 9:42–for me, that’s a really good pace going up.

For Runner Jenny though, that was cruising and at mile 3 I told her to go on her own. I just couldn’t keep up. I could see her every now and then turn around to see how far back I was ❤ , but I kept falling farther and farther behind. And then I couldn’t see her anymore 😦

So I decided to run my own race, only checking my watch when the mile would beep.

At mile 3 I settled in my own pace and miles 3 and 4 sounded off at 9:21 and 9:25. I had  left my goal behind at the start so I didn’t have that pressure of trying to maintain a certain pace–I was just running. But I surprised myself at mile 5 with an 8:51.

Mile 6 was a downhill and I just rolled with it. Again, I wasn’t looking at my watch and when it beeped, I was shocked to see 8:03!!! Whoa!!! Slow down, Hell!

It was right after this mile that as I was running along, I saw someone on the sidelines cheering people on. He had no sign or crowd and seemed to be cheering everyone, not just one particular person.

It was Meb!!!

I veered to the right so I could high five him! I was surprised he wasn’t surrounded–I totally would’ve stopped to take a pic if I had had my phone.

Mile 7 sounded off at 8:54 and I was shocked again to see it be a sub 9–the downhill definitely helped.

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It was here that the course seemed to flatline but there were still some baby hills along the course. I cursed each and every one of them.

I managed a 9:13 mile 8 and was really happy to have it be a lowish 9. I started doing some math (I’m really not good at it) and I realized I still had a shot at a sub 2–I’d have to work though.

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Mile 9, 9:24. Not as low as I would’ve liked but still good.

Then the cramps started.

Miles 10 (9:40) and 11 (9:42) were me struggle bussing but I refused to stop. I stuck my tongue out at the photographer at the top of a hill (because really, who puts a photographer at the top of a hill?) The 2:00 pacer reached me at mile 11 and I told myself I could stay with her for two miles. Just do it, Helly.

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Mile 12, 9:01.

And then……. the mile from hell.

I knew I had one mile left. If I could just get through this mile, I’d get a sub 2. It would be ridiculously close, but it was possible.

Except it wasn’t. My legs cramped up into rock solid masses of crampage–it almost brought me to a complete stop. I was in so much pain, pain I hadn’t felt ever in a race. I saw the pacer roll past me and I wanted so badly to hang on. But I couldn’t. For the life of me, I could not run faster.

I turned the corner towards the finish line broken. My teammates were on the side line and I yelled for them to call for my husband. I knew it was going to be an ugly finish. I was limping, dragging my right leg (that one hurt the most). I had cramps everywhere–toe cramps, foot cramps, ankle cramps, shin cramps, calf cramps, hamstring cramps–my entire legs were cramping.

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The announcer saw me approaching and said through his mic, “I don’t care if you walk, limp, crawl across the finish, just do it!!”

And that’s exactly what I did, screaming in pain and collapsing as soon as I crossed.

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I was immediately picked up by the medics and my husband found me not too long after. I was screaming so loud; I’m sure there are people who I traumatized, but the pain was so intense–I felt like my muscles were ripping apart.

I was giving water and electrolytes and they placed ice all around my legs and it was a while before I started to feel better. Just when I thought I was in the clear, the cramps came back on both legs in full force. Screams again.

The medics asked what I had consumed throughout the race and I told them I had been carrying Tailwind (electrolytes) and had taken water at a few of the water stations as well–even my Gu at mile 7. I had no idea why this was happening; I felt like I had done everything right.

I know I need to get myself checked. I think my diet might be my issue–maybe I’m deficient in some vitamin or nutrient?? I don’t know, but it was definitely scary what happened to me and I def don’t want it to happen again.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 2:01:15 and I was so proud of myself for getting that close to two hours on a hilly course I was so unprepared for and with cramps the entire last mile (which I ended up running in 9:13 and realized I really had no chance of a sub two unless I had ran an 8 something last mile–I’m really bad at math).

Several of my teammates walked away with PRs (included Runner Jenny) and my husband snagged a new PR as well 😀 It was nice to have so much good stuff to overshadow my awful ending and once I was out of the medic tent, I was all smiles.

my AZTNT team

my AZTNT team

with my favorite <3

with my favorite ❤

The Bad:

  • The Expo left A LOT to be desired. Granted, we got there on the second night about 30 minutes before it closed, but there were maybe 5 booths open?? I saw nothing with the race’s name on it that I could purchase.

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  • Little to no crowd support. But you got Meb and maybe that’s really all you need.
  • The jacket is of poor quality (in my opinion) the letters look like they’ll fade after a few washes but it’s cool to have a jacket –even though it has no pockets 😦 and they gave it to you in a cheap plastic bag (no race swag bag). So yeah….
  • They said they’d cap the race at 5,000 but only half registered. I definitely felt there was very little hype about this race. Someone needs to hire a social media person (I’m available, USA Half Marathon!).
  • Very little crowd support.
  • San Diego is expensive.  (Holy cow, parking=$)
  • Finding your official time after the race was confusing. The website said “Coming Soon” the entire day–I was able to find it through a friend who registered for tracking through Chrono Track.

The Good:

  • The race had a 2:30 time limit so you really felt the competitive atmosphere (which I liked). Going uphill, I seriously saw no one walking and that motivated me to not walk.
  • Meb.
  • The medal is pretty sweet. It’s nice and heavy and the ribbon is pretty.

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  • Free pictures. Soooo nice in a day and age where race pictures cost a fortune.
  • Post race snacks a plenty!! They had so much left over, they let runners take boxfulls home with them–made for great road trip snacks.
  • Shout out to the medical staff! xoxo!
  • San Diego is beautiful. The weather was absolutely amazing–I mean, 70 degrees in mid November? Yes, please!!!
  • The host hotel, The Westin San Diego Gas Lamp Quarter, was beautiful and worth every penny.

Notes:

  • This is a qualifying race so for my age group 30-35 I had to have ran a sub 2 hour half marathon. They plan on making the requirements more competitive in the future but I’m not sure if that’ll happen soon considering they barely got half of their estimated entries this year.
  • I would do it again. 🙂

–Have you ran an inaugural race before?

–Do you like the idea of a qualifying half marathon?

–Ever high-fived an elite?