This weekend was the inaugural Rose Bowl Half Marathon.
Rich and Stephanie live about 1/2 mile from the race start. (I'm doing Coeur d'Alene with Rich in June, and Stephanie is our travel coordinator.) They suggested I come to their place before the race. I was able to avoid the $10 parking fee, I got to play with puppies at their house, and we had a good downhill warmup jog to get to the race area. Zero stress. Great way to start off the day.
It was pretty cold in the early morning and I was very glad to be wearing the sweatshirt I took from the side of the road at last week's City of Angels Half. But by the time the race started, it was warming up a bit so I just tossed it by a tree and didn't run with it all. A group from my Tri-Team moved their Saturday bike ride to Pasadena to come cheer us on (which was awesome) and Robert was feeling a bit chilly so he wound up stealing the sweatshirt for himself. (more on that later.)
One of my race rules is that I only look at my stopwatch when I cross a mile-marker. I check at every mile to keep my pace, but I don't allow myself to over-obsess about it by looking down every 2 minutes. Because of the crowds, I often don't see the first mile marker in a race (which is fine) so I just look for mile 2, after people start spreading out a bit. After a bit of running, I was sure I had passed the 1 mile mark and was looking for mile 2. Then after a while longer, I was sure I must have gone more than 2 miles. This is a brand new race and I was convinced that they simply didn't bother to put up signs at each mile, which really concerned me because I wanted to be able to adjust my pace.
I heard a Masters Clydesdale
come up behind me, literally saying "clomp clomp clomp." I joked to him "I guess we haven't even gone a mile yet, I have seen any mile markers." He said "you're not looking in the right place. We just passed Mile 3." I looked down at my watch: 31 minutes. My goal was to finish in under 2 hours, roughly a 9 minute pace, and I was doing 10-minute miles?! I freaked out a bit and started speeding up. I should have taken the time to ask Brad to define the phrase "just passed". Because 1 minute later, I passed the sign for Mile 4. I wasn't doing 10-minute-miles, I was doing 8.5s. Perfect. However, I knew going into the race that the second half of the race would be more difficult.
Around mile 7 we left the roads of Pasadena and hit some trails. It had rained the day before so the ground was wet, but it was fairly easy to avoid the puddles and the larger muddy spots. There was one short but nasty hill that took us out of a ravine. I was surprised to see Tri Team Bruce as a volunteer at the bottom, probably telling everybody that "no, there is no elevator." Tri Team Tammy was at the top of the hill at a water station. She happened to be holding two cups of Gatorade, but I called out for water. Another volunteer came over with water, but I was all, "um, I don't think so." You think I want to accept a drink from a total stranger? I made Tammy go back to the table so that SHE could be the one presenting me with the water. (Yes, I know it's a race but if you can't take 10 seconds to have some fun, what's the point?) Best race water I ever tasted.
At the water station around mile 9 I heard a guy calling out "water! gatorade! memnennen!" What was he saying? Eminem is there? They have enemas? I couldn't figure it out until I saw the table: M&M's!!!! They also had pretzel rods. I LOVE pretzels, and I LOVE eating them with M&Ms. If it was a hotter day they would have been great for resalting, but I was worried that if I grabbed a pretzel it would just bloat me or give me cramps so I didn't take one. The M&Ms were too tempting to resist and I took a few. Great aid station.
This was my 5th half marathon. I only broke 2 hours the first time; I was slower in the next three. I've done the Nautica Malibu Triathlon 3 years in a row, and each year my times have been getting longer. This was kind of a mental barrier for me as I start my path to Ironman, because it seems like no matter how I've been training, I have not been getting any faster in my races. I really needed to break 2 hours at the Rose Bowl, just for that emotional confidence boost. My official finishing time: 1:54:06. I don't mind telling you, I'm thrilled. Brad came in right behind me at 1:54:44, placing him 6th in the Fat Old Man division. Rich and Stephanie ran the race together and they also slaughtered the 2-hour barrier; their times are 3/10 second apart. (They can debate who should have "won".)
After the race, Robert handed me the stolen sweatshirt. I sort of half-forgot that I was trying to get rid of the damn thing, but after I little while I was starting to get some chills so I was glad to have it back. I'll try to throw it away again at the NEXT race.
Oh, and to the runner in red who saved 50 feet of running by cutting through the Gamble House parking lot: I hope that made you feel like a Big Man.