Over the last few months, I've been training to run the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon. A couple of factors went into my decision to fly cross-country to run the race. First, I've signed-up to run the Florida Ironman 70.3 in May and need to get ready for the run. Next, it's cool in California! With temperatures in the 50's in the mornings - it just seemed like the perfect way to beat the Florida heat and humidity. And best of all, my daughters live in California, so this race would allow for a reunion that is long overdue.
Friday afternoon, I hopped on a plane and was in San Jose by 9:00. Saturday was a rest day that included packet pick-up and some shopping at the expo. After a light dinner, it was off to bed and a good nights sleep. As expected, the weather was cool and clear when Sunday morning rolled around. I was up very early and spent some extra time making sure that I had packed all of the gels and Shot Blocks I planned to use during the run.
About 90 minutes prior to race time, I walked down to the starting area. Let me say that the organization of the race was outstanding! The entire layout was designed to move runners efficiently through the process of dropping off clothing and other items for secure storage, past an area where food and drink were available (all free) and finally into the numbered corrals. I was in corral #10. This area is for runners that expected to complete the race in 2hours and 45 minutes.
By the time I got into my corral, the crowd had really stared to build. There were over 11,500 runners at this event and I have to admit - I was pretty jazzed to be part of the crowd. After doing triathlons that typically number 800 - 1200 participants, the size of the crowd was something to marvel. When the gun fired . . . . . no one in corral 10 even budged. For that matter, I looked as far forward as I could and couldn't detect anyone moving!
After at least 5-minutes, we began to shuffle towards the start line. When we finally made it to the official start line, everyone was cheering and waving at the cameras. I was just moving with the crowd trying to take it all in. After a few minutes, the crowd began to thin and I started to settle into a comfortable pace.
Long before the race, I had decided that I would use my pulse to determine my pace for the day. I know that I can comfortably run at a heart rate of 130 - 135. It's not a fast pace, but it's sustainable for me. My thinking was that the cool weather would allow for a faster pace - while keeping my pulse on target. So, after about a half mile at my slow, comfortable pace - I looked at my Garmin and noticed that my pulse was at 155. I slowed and my pulse dropped to 152. Okay, time to re-evaluate my race plan. I was feeling good and my breathing was easy - so I quickly decided that my race pace would be based on a 150 - 155 heart rate. With that decision made, I put my head down and tried to get into a comfortable rhythm.
There were a few memorable moments during the next few miles. First, around mile three, I caught up to a guy that had to weigh 350 pounds. Imagine Santa Clause, sweating profusely in a bright yellow tee-shirt! I had two immediate thoughts: First, "OMG - he's going to kill himself". Next, "OMG, I'm barely faster than him!" I picked up my pace for a few minutes to clear Santa.
Next, as I approached an aid station at mile 4, there was a runner sitting on the ground surrounded by paramedics. It was difficult to see much, but he appeared to be young and very very out of it. I spent some time thinking about what might have gone wrong to put a young, healthy looking guy on the ground this early into the race. It occupied my mind for a while.
By mile 5, there wasn't much passing going on. I had fallen in with a loose group of people that were running at the same pace and everyone seemed content to just hammer out the miles. There was a little chatter at times, but mostly just the sound of shoes on the pavement. As the miles went by, I was pleased that I didn't have to stop and walk. I think the cool weather was the biggest factor in keeping me on pace. Up until the race, I had never run more than 9 miles - so I wanted to be careful to keep some energy in reserve.
By the time I reached mile 10, I did the math and determined that I was well ahead of my 2 hour 45 minute goal - but was not going to be able to finish in 2 hours and 30 minutes (which had been the best I thought I might be capable of doing). I was feeling good, so I picked up my pace and decided that I would shoot for a negative split on the last 3.1 miles.
At mile 12, I was making good time and passing people when I (we) came upon a fire truck parked at a 45 degree angle on the road. There were at least 3 motorcycle policemen beside the truck - blocking the road. As the group came to a stop, an ambulance made a U-turn from behind the fire truck and headed out with sirens blaring. It didn't add much time and at the time I thought how close someone had gotten to finishing the race.
I finished the race and was very happy with my result. Given that I've never been a "Runner" - I was thrilled to finish and was very pleased to have do it right between my two goal times. My official race time was 2 hours and 38 minutes. I'm pleased to say that I could have gone harder and felt great the next day! The day was capped off with a Jonny Lang concert in the park and the finishers "Free Beer". All in all a great weekend and something I will do again (before May)!