Revel Canyon City Half Marathon Race Review

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Ellen and I ran the Inaugural Revel Canyon City Half Marathon on Saturday and WOW it was amazing! I was not so secretly (what’s the point of keeping a running goal secret? Who cares if you don’t make it?) hoping to break 1:30, but the thought of running a 6:50 average seemed impossible. I texted Gisele, my running friend/mentor/guru the night before saying “6:50. There is NO way.” Her response, “Go watchless.” I ALMOST took the advice. I wore my watch but rather than obsessing over it I started with the 1:30 pace group for the first 7ish miles and was flattered when the pacer looked at me and said, “You really need to be ahead of me right now.” So a new friend I met in the pack (we were all talking as a group the first 7 miles which calmed my nerves and made it feel more like a training run) said he would push the pace with me. He told me not to look at my watch and just run. We made our way down to Azusa (yes, this is a net downhill course..my next goal is to run this time on a flat or hilly course) and we kept talking most of the way (the last two miles hurt so I didn’t really talk) and when I turned the corner and saw the finisher clock at 1:27 I thought “Ohhhhh myyyy gooodnesss.” Never did I imagine I would EVER run a half this fast. My final time was 1:27:33, averaging a 6:41. I finished first in my age group and was awarded with a box of yummy powerbar chocolate wafer treats. All the other runners ahead of me were older, which makes me hope my best running years are ahead of me! Ellen also had an awesome race, finishing 2nd in our age group with 1:34:44. She’s getting SOOOO FAST! We’re going to ROCK the LA Charity Half! The race was so well organized, and it was fun to run so close to LA but to feel completely way from it all in the mountains. I am definitely running another Revel event in the future.

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Not my pic 🙂 Stole it from facebook!

Thinking of running this race next year?

Pros:

  • Fast course
  • Point to point finish
  • Choose your size t-shirts
  • Headbands, pre-race blankets and gloves
  • Easy parking and shuttle to the start
  • BEAUTIFUL mountain course
  • Lots of pacers
  • Post race massages
  • FREE photos and race time cards
  • Easy transfers if you’re unable to run the race

Cons:

  • Course did not allow for many spectators
  • Quads and knees might hurt if you aren’t used to downhill courses
  • A few hills in there that surprised me!
  • I made friends and talked the whole run, but it had potential to be a lonely race
  • Bag check truck was late and was apparently stuck in the canyon. We waited about 20 minutes. It honestly didn’t bother me but some people seemed annoyed.
  • Might be an intimidating crowd if you are new to running. Mostly serious runners.

Here’s what I ran last week:

  • Monday: Three Mile Run with Back on My Feet
  • Tuesday: Four Mile Run with Brent and Two Miles at 6:48
  • Wednesday: Three Mile Run
  • Thursday: Three Mile Run
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: Canyon City Half Marathon
  • Sunday: I’ll probably only end up doing a lap at Lulu 🙂
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San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon: A Different Kind of Race Review

San Diego is my happy place. It’s hours from the L.A. grind and you can feel yourself unwind as you jet south and watch the smog shrouded strip malls give way to cozy beach towns like Carlsbad, Encinitas and Carmel. So when I received an email blasting San Diego’s Rock and Roll Half Marathon, I signed up within seconds. It would be the first time in over two years that I could race without also juggling work and graduate school. Usually I run a Sunday race and come home to project deadlines, unfinished stories and mountains of stress.

It had also been a while since I had run a happy, stress free race. I told myself that this one, this half, was going to be my race. Running the L.A. Marathon last March (in about 81 degrees) had really knocked my confidence. The experience of training for months and crying after I crossed the finish line, not from joy, but from frustration, was a tad scarring and had induced some kind of running anxiety that I had only yet begun to shake. That race mentally broke me. About halfway through, I panicked that I wouldn’t finish in my goal time, and my strumming nerves produced so much anxiety I actually vomited. Yea.

Fun fact about me—I have been battling every day, and sometimes debilitating, anxiety for most of my life. As I got older, it became a new kind of monster. I have tried everything, holistic stuff, therapy, yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, a handful of crazy psychiatrists and a few different types of daily medication that yield unwanted side effects and sometimes do more harm than good. I eventually swore off all medication and have tried to handle my anxiety all on my own.

My favorite photo after a beach run.

My favorite photo after a beach run.

Running was always my fresh air, my escape. But lately, running had been adding to the overwhelmingly negative, frantic thoughts about my own ability: “why is my pace off/my breathing is labored/I seem slow/ why are my legs tired/my friends are better runners than I am/ my friends are getting faster and I am not.” You get the picture. I had developed running anxiety and lately, races had become panic attack triggers.

So signing up for San Diego was a big moment for me. I wanted this race to be light; something that racing had not been for a long time. And as I descended into the crowded cusp of downtown San Diego, driving through streams of racers carrying Rock and Roll bags stuffed with samples and bibs, I broke into a huge smile. This could be good.

 Rock and Roll is San Diego’s ultimate race baby. The entire city shuts down for the 35,000 plus runners who take over it’s rolling hills and laid-back neighborhoods. The half and full marathoners actually run two almost entirely different courses– talk about strategic city planning and dedication. Plus, 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi, an icon of the San Diego running community, was leading the 1:30 pace group.

The expo (held at the San Diego Convention Center) was nothing special and I was in and out in about 20 minutes—but not before convincing myself to visit the pacer’s table.

Let me remind you, I had no training for this race. I had been running, but without a watch, a strategy, long runs and true grit, for about two months. Yet, because I always want to push myself harder and farther, I thought it would be a great idea to sign up for the 1:45 pace group. My half marathon PR is about 1:46:45, or something like that. I knocked that out while training for the L.A. Marathon, and it still was a beast to accomplish.

But deep down, I knew I could pull off 1:45 if I let myself. I have the strength and physical ability—and I was feeling confident and happy. I grabbed a 1:45 bib, swapped corral five for corral two and walked out of the convention center without a second thought.

Normally, I am a wreck the day before a race. My breath is shallow, nerves are bubbling. But not that day, because that day, I was in San Diego with Jimmy, my boyfriend, and we were enjoying the sun, a few drinks (what? The day before a race?! I know) and each other. As I said, the entire city parties for this race. The restaurants are packed with runners, “pasta specials” signs are taped on almost every window and the energy is electric.

Rock and Roll Marathon San Diego Race morning. I stayed at the Palomar (so amazing) in the Gaslamp District, so I was able to walk to the start line along with thousands of other brightly clad, excited runners. At 5:45 a.m., San Diego was overtaken by a kind of runner-apocalypse. We were pouring out from every crevice—cabs, cars, hotels and trains, morphing into a huge throng of water chugging, GU sucking creatures marching uphill at dawn to the start line.

And then it started. The panic. Anxiety. Fear. The closer I came to the start line, the harder it was to breathe. Then I met Don—a 47-year-old Japanese teacher who was running his second half marathon ever and could not be more calm and thrilled. We walked and waited in the inevitable, epic porter potty line together, and he told me he would be content to race anything from 2:09 (his PR) to 2:30. He was just happy to be there. I marveled at how he put no pressure on himself, or the day. Before parting, he smiled, eyes crinkling and said brightly, “Have fun, Brianna San.” Fun. What I never let myself have at these races.

(Start line, corral 2)

(Start line, corral 2)

I found my way to corral 2 (there were about 35 corrals, no joke) and joined the 1:45 pace group. The gun sounded, watches beeped and we took off. I tried to find my stride, breathe from my diaphragm, listen to that one song that is supposed to lull me into a running trance, think of graceful Don but nothing was working. I panicked, feeling that I was going too fast, I would never hold this pace.

I averaged 6:57 miles for my first 10k, and then it happened. I felt it coming on. A panic attack. In the middle of the run. Just like L.A.

I cannot really explain what it feels like to those who have never experienced it. But just know, it’s awful. You literally cannot breathe. You are sobbing. Hysterical. The world around you is blurry and your thoughts are racing so fast you cannot process what your brain is doing. It’s as if you are sinking. I called Jimmy and his happy, groggy voice turned to concern. I remember saying, “I can’t do this,” over and over, hyperventilating. I stopped running, hand clutching my heart, listening to him say, “Just breathe—in and out.” I watched the 1:45 sign bob further and further away until I could no longer see the thin, black letters, or my dream of PRing.

Lululemon volunteers

Lululemon volunteers

Five minutes later, I was back in the race. My thoughts pinged back and forth between “take it easy, just run to run,” and “you need to PR, people are watching you, people are tracking your time.” This is what happens. I lose myself in my thoughts I forget why I am running. For me. For fun. Because it makes me feel good.

I don’t remember what miles one through eight looked like. But I remember the feeling. The feeling of the city and the crowd, of residents handing out licorice, water bottles and Jolly Ranchers. Of 12-year-old cheerleaders with red bows high-fiving and spinning. Of glee and race magic.

The last three miles of the race were perfection. Mostly downhill, winding through parks and packed crowds, my shoes gliding towards the ocean carried on a high that only runners know. Miles 11-13.1 were mostly downhill, and one of the best finishes I have ever had in a race. It’s as if the roads want you to go faster, to fly.

Finish line!

Finish line!

I finished in 1:49, and despite the beauty and happiness, I felt defeated, angry and utterly disappointed in myself. I had let my anxiety ruin my race. I sat down, burrowed my head in my knees and cried. I felt as if I lost another battle with my own mind, my anxious, doubt-ridden brain.

Looking back, though, I learned a valuable lesson. I cannot keep racing to erase the running anxiety, to cancel out the bad races of the past. I have to race for myself, and let everything else go. It’s a challenge I have yet to master, but I will. I have to re-learn what racing really is. The 1:45 will come, potentially a 1:40, a 1:36. But that is not why we run. As fantastic as races are, I attached too much importance and self worth to numbers that shouldn’t haunt, because they are just numbers and do not define me as a runner.

So what did I do Sunday night when I got back to L.A.? Looked up other half marathons—but this time, not for redemption. This time, for happiness. For me. Until I stop doubting who I am as a runner, and leave the anxiety scattered like crushed water cups across the pavement.

Race face intensity

Race face intensity

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After-race face exhaustion. Me and Jimmy

Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon Race Review

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The Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon is a fun family running event. They have a half, 10K, 5K and the most adorable 1/2 mile race for kids. Ellen, Jackie, Gisele and I ran the half decked out in USA gear. This morning Brent decided to sign up for the 10K, and my friend and co-worker Krystal ran her first official 5K.

The half marathon was hot and hilly. Don’t sign up for this race expecting to PR. It’s not crazy hilly, but the hills are rolling throughout. I felt pretty good for the first 10 miles, but my stomach bothered me for the last three. Not sure if it was the sun or something I ate but I definitely wasn’t feeling great at the end. I finished in 1:34 and was pleasantly surprised to have won my age group. I was the 5th female to cross the finish line which feels kinda cool because I made the website leaderboard. Woo hoo! Gisele finished in 1:36 (she ran a 3:05 at Mountains 2 Beach Marathon yesterday, so this was a shake out your legs kinda run for her), Ellen finished strong with 1:47 which is AMAZING considering she wasn’t feeling great and Jackie ran a 1:51, finishing with a huge smile on her face. Brent had a great race too! He averaged a 7:30 pace for the 10K which is incredible considering he just got back from a trip London where he did very little running. He also beat his time from the El Segundo 10K from a few weeks ago.

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I felt happy and positive throughout the race, but my legs did feel a little heavier than they usually do when I’m racing. I’m thinking it was probably because I didn’t do any tapering. I did a hard track workout this week and broke my rule of not running the day before a race. I couldn’t NOT go to Lululemon Run Club! (Fun fact: We saw Hilary Duff after Run Club yesterday) Because the course was hilly I didn’t have a goal time. I just went out to have fun and didn’t really look at my watch. I ended up averaging a 7:05 pace. Gisele might have me converted to being a watch free runner one of these days. It really is more fun and less stressful that way.

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The Lululemon Run Club Paparazzi

I am SO proud of Krystal who finished her first 5K today. She started running in March, and she’s worked her way up to running three miles after school on a regular basis. Doesn’t she look so happy! She’s totally converted. I’m sure you’ll see her here on future posts running 10Ks and halfs. As I type she is texting me about wanting to run the next race. Oh racing endorphins!

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Instead of brunching in LA, we decided to drive down  to Laguna Beach (any other MTV Laguna Beach fans out there?) We ate at The Deck overlooking the water. It was so beautiful. Spending time in Laguna Beach really feels like you are on vacation.

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Thinking of running this race?

Pros:

  • Great community/relaxed feel
  • Scenic Course
  • Cute t-shirts (they’re not tech, but sometimes you just want a nice cotton tee)
  • Easy parking at the start
  • Easy shuttle back to the start after the finish
  • You can register on race day
  • Inexpensive compared to many other halfs

Cons:

  • The 1/2, 10K and 5K all started at the same time which was nice, but the bathroom line was crazy long. We started 4 minutes late and had to weave past everyone who started towards the back
  • Not a fast course
  • Limited freebies, although that seems to be the norm now
  • Did I mention lack of bathrooms?