San Dieguito Half Marathon Recap

Date: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Location: San Dieguito County Park in Del Mar, CA
Start time: 8 a.m.
Course: HILLY (perfect training course for Boston)
Field Size: Close to 1,000 half marathon participants
Price: $50-$70 depending on when you register
Packet Pick up: Road Runner Sports (5553 Copley Dr.)

This post is almost three months overdue. I'm late to the party but I still want to include it because the San Diego Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) and Kathy Loper Events threw one heck of a shindig.

In February, I celebrated turning 28 with back-to-back half marathons. It may sound crazy but running on my birthday weekend...running in my kind of fun.

I had already registered and planned to run the Mermaid Series San Diego Half Marathon on February 8th because I ran it in 2013 on my birthday (Feb. 9th), but then like any crazy runner I got down on myself that I wasn't running on my actual birthday. Seriously, who thinks like this? All runners are nuts.

So, the mind began to turn. A balloon of thoughts began to form:
I'm not in shape to run a marathon...
What if I ran back-to-back half marathons? 
I've never done that before.
What a great way to kick off 28, with back-to-back halfs in San Diego!

Insert logical thinker, Casey, with a needle ready to pierce that balloon:

You're just getting back into running [post injury], I thought you said you were going to come back the 'right' way and slowly build your mileage?
I think if you want to stay healthy and not be injured again, then this is a bad idea.

Casey won for a brief moment. After all, he had to deal with the repercussions of me being sidelined from running for 7 months. Listening to me complain, and watching me burst into tears on numerous occassions when I'd try to run again but it just wasn't happening. He would feel guilty going for a run when he knew that's all I wanted to do. He's pretty much a Saint.

Usually when my mind is made up I'm going full steam ahead with no emergency break, but this time Casey's wall of realism blocked my tracks...

for a few days...possibly even a week (that's a record for my patience).

You see my fingertips had a mind of their own, opening Google and typing in..."half marathon San Diego February 9, 2014."

And there it was, a present wrapped in a shiny, red bow-the San Dieguito Half Marathon. There was a half marathon on my birthday. Back-to-back halfs could be accomplished and it was fairly close to our hotel. A sign? 

Again, I approached Casey. And again, he brought me back down to Earth (we work perfectly in this way. He reigns me in when I need it, and I push him to get outside of his comfort zone). But then he said...

Whatever you want to do. I don't care about going to two half marathons, it's your birthday. I care about you getting injured again.

For some reason the above sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts. A bunch of gibberish and gargling, but translated into my twisted thought train as "All aboard!"


My mind was set. My fingers ready to punch in my debit card numbers to seal the deal. Despite never running 13 miles post injury (began running again at the end of November) and my furthest run, 9 miles, raced just a week prior on February 2nd...I was ready to throw my body back into the endurance furno and burn my muscles. Happy Birthday to me. Only a sick thought other runners could understand.

Fast forward. Sans watch, looking to stay injury-free and fall in love with running again a.k.a. having fun vs. giving a hoot about my pace/time (gasp!) I ran the Mermaid Series Half in a surprising time of 1:45:58. I had taken it fairly easy, didn't carry water and even took a walk break to clear a side stitch and still managed a PR. Then after any race, the soreness set in. My muscles were tight. I hobbled on my creaky knees. My runner's high quickly dissipated with a big storm cloud of "What was I thinking? Casey was right. How can I run San Dieguito tomorrow?"

You see...the wrench in this plan was San Dieguito is notorious for it's hills. Large, RoLLiNG hills. Dead legs + rolling hills=doubt.

Elevation chart

Thanks to my dad, I have a very stubborn gene and there's nothing I like more than proving someone/something wrong. I wasn't going to back out, I was going to do this damn it. Cement legs and all. My stubborn ways smashed my self doubt. As part of my 2014 goals, I was out to have fun anyways. So, I told Case I didn't care if I walked the whole course. I was going to celebrate my birthday and finish. I was going to slam some beer on the course if offered (it wasn't, but it would have been a first for me) and I was just going to enjoy it...even if it meant running 11-12 minute miles.

I came back to San Diego especially for the Mermaid Half. San Dieguito was a consolation prize and something I was currently dreading. Surely, I wouldn't like it's hilly course many runners use to train for Boston. I just had to get through it...

Or so I thought.

Saturday, I was an excited 27-year-old who just barely snagged a PR. Sunday, I was a 28-year-old who felt trapped in a sore, creaky 78-year-old body. Questioning whether wisdom really does comes with age. Why did I do this again?

After hiking down to the start line (which was beautiful) we made our way into the crowd. Which by the way, the Mermaid Series Half reflected all ages and body types, from kids/young adults to seniors. It's a 'fun race' with a mini mermaid kids' run, 5K, 10K and Half. 

The San Dieguito Half attracted more of a middle-aged/older crowd with no kids in sight and lots of serious (JACKED) runners. I love people watching and for some reason it just tickled me to encounter two races with two completely different crowds. 

My biggest supporter waiting at the start with me.
He's the best.
Anyway, we paid to park near the race which I don't remember the exact amount but it was less than $10 (I think $3?) and totally worth it. 

The race started about 20 minutes late. I had nowhere to be and my stiff body wasn't in a hurry to get started so I didn't mind. In the meantime the announcer was cracking jokes about how hilly the course is, "If this is your first San Dieguito Half, we're known for our flat course. It's not hilly at allllll...MUAHAHAHA." 

The gun went off and the hills began. Luckily you start downhill which felt great...

Alright, I can do this. No big deal. 

Then the uphills bitch slapped that smile right off of my face...

Happy Birthday. 

I believe the worst hill was just after mile 5. I just looked at it and was instantly defeated. My quads and hammies hated me. It was such a beast that you almost hurt your neck trying to see the top. Just like when you're sitting in the very first row at a movie theater. It wasn't an incline, it was completely vertical. 

I had to WALK. 

A woman ran passed me. She was probably thinking, "This poor sap signed up for a half and can't even make it to mile 6." She proceeded to give me words of encouragement as she passed. I quickly replied, "I ran a half marathon yesterday too."

She quickly changed her tone, "You're a rockstar."

And I changed mine. Her pity and her cheers made my feet turnover. Casey's motto "Keep it movin'" was well in play. I won't ever finish or get off these hills if I don't keep moving. 

Yes, I am too lazy to crop this.
Side note: I only had one Oiselle tank top at this time which
 I sported the day before in the Mermaid Half.
 My how my wardrobe/addiction has grown.
The scenery was gorgeous. This course winds through Rancho Santa Fe, a neighborhood you can only dream about and one of the highest income communities in the United States. There were a couple cars that crashed the course--a Mercedes, plus other labels that signify a higher price tag than a down payment on a house. You're definitely running past stables, horses, acres of land in Southern California. Basically, the 1%. 

I couldn't help but marvel at my surroundings with the song "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" playing on repeat in my head. It was a pretty neat sight to see and it helped to pass the time by imagining the occupations, the stories and of course the luxurious lives of those wealthy homeowners. 

Once we hit the turnaround, everything seemed easy. For all the uphills at the start of the race, it was downhill after that except for the very end. The .1 is the course's last jab at your legs.

I finally crossed the finish line and for sure thought I hit the 2-hour mark or exceeded it. My legs were absolutely toast. But to my complete surprise, after completing a half marathon the day before and running on legs that felt like they were entering the stages of rigamortis, I managed to somehow pull out a 1:51:24. 

Now for the most important part, the part that made me fall head over heels in love with this race...the post-race party.

Cue homemade chili, free beer, donuts and a bunch of runners=perfect start to turning 28. Seriously, after you finish and grab a water, banana and what hike back up the hill to the park where all the post race fun is located.

Let me tell you, between the Coronado Valentine's Day 10K and the San Dieguito Half, San Diegans know how to throw America's Finest Post-Race Party.

When I say, "free chili" we're not talking about your average batch of beans and beef. Instead of a soup line, there was a chili line for more types of HOMEMADE chili then I even knew existed; mild veggie chili, spicy vegetarian chili with quinoa (my choice and damn was it delicious), turkey chili, regular catch my drift? It was AMAZING.

So now that you've got a hearty post-race meal in hand, it's time for the beer garden. Inside they had picnic tables where we paired our free Green Flash brews with our chili, relaxed and met some new friends. Then after a refill we hung out with this cute pup and donuts were brought in...

Who says spectators can't have just as much fun?!

Beer + chili + donuts + puppies = one HAPPY Casey
He deserved it after two early morning wake up calls.

After we pounded two beers, some of the best chili we've ever had (and a donut) we declared this one of the BEST races and one hell of a way to kick off my birthday.

Post-race panorama
The kegs seemed bottomless, the chili was mouthwatering and everyone in attendance was so friendly and laid back.

I may have returned to San Diego to run the Mermaid Series Half, but it was the San Dieguito Half that stole my heart.

...and have a beer for me, too.

Side notes:
-race tee is a v-neck (for women) technical long sleeve (white)
-One of our new friends at the post-race party made everyone sing "Happy Birthday" to me. Incredibly embarrassing and unnecessary but I appreciated his intention and his kindness.
-Great weather and awesome volunteers.
-As always, a special thanks to Casey for putting up with my crazy hobby. He makes me the luckiest girl in the world. And THANK YOU for my INCREDIBLE surprise birthday present after this race; paragliding at Torrey Pines! More on that later...

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