Monday, June 9, 2014

Race Report: Fontana Days Half Marathon

First off, happy 300th blog post to meeeee!
And what better for 300 than a super-awesome race recap?

Fontana, CA

This race is known as the fastest half marathon in the US, and it's little surprise as to why:

Yeah, you see that? You park at the bottom of the foothills at City Hall, they bus you to the top, and you run back down. Not only that, but it's a long-established race (59 years running is pretty impressive in my book), so you know they know what they're doing.

After scrambling at the beginning of the day to get to the start line to get my bib from Richard, I discovered the address I googled was wrong and that I was not where I was supposed to be at 5:30 am. Rough. What a start to the day! Luckily, my actual destination wasn't even 2 miles away and caught up to the group just as they were about to get on our bus to the top - talk about impeccable (though not on time!) timing. If you've run with me, you know the last thing I need on race morning is to be late. 

One thing that I didn't particularly appreciate was that the last half marathon bus to the top of the course left City Hall at 6:20 am when the half marathon didn't start until 7:30 am. Apparently the website and city hall told a number of folks the race started at 7, but I swear the only email I read mentioned 7:30! Regardless, we also didn't know they essentially do bag check on the bus, so you could have taken your sweatshirt at least on the bus instead of freezing - mind you, we were mostly in tanks and shivering already on our way up into the foothills. So, naturally, we did as runners do: we made friends.

Yep, found some campers and asked if we could borrow their campfire. They even brought us blankets! 
And like that, it was race time. After a last attempt for a real bathroom stop (this is important, people), I got angry at women taking too long and gave up. It was 5 minutes from start time! I knew I'd regret it later. But beyond that, it was start time. Let's go, Fontana... let's go. 

Now, Michael graciously offered to pace me to my dream sub-2 time. I had my watch, but decided that while I'd let it run, I'd turn it over, not pay attention, and rely on Michael to get to the finish. While he suggested an 8:45/8:30 negative split pace, I laughed, but whatever.. this was in his hands to keep me on track! I normally don't do split by split recaps, but frankly, my brain was all over the place. Note that I knew virtually none of these splits (save maybe two) while we were gliding downhill, so to see these after the fact feels a little unreal. Times and corresponding thoughts are unedited for your full enjoyment. ;) 

8:07 - Damn, I feel good. I'm doing it. Let's go. But I need that restroom. Stupid women's line.  
10:22 - Restroom found. Alright, we can focus. 

Michael reminded we definitely had time to make up at this point. Let's go. 

8:02 - Alright, feeling okay. Keep moving, keep moving.
I'm pushing a pace here. I'm not sure how long I can pull this off. This morning is gorgeous, couldn't be more perfect, but the shade feels so much better than sun right now. But hey, feeling good. You got this! 
8:42 - Breathing is overrated. Wow, I suck at paying attention to my breath. Note to self: learn to breathe and run at the same time. It's highly recommended. 
8:43 - Wah. Downhill is catching up with my crappy running posture. I can hear Doug in my head, telling me to straighten up, hips forward, shoulders back. Michael reminds me the same thing. 

10K - 56:xx. That's a 10K PR split too. Holla! Shortly after, Michael stops and tells me to keep my pace, keep pushing forward. We're finally under the cloud coverage that's still hanging in and it feels sooooo good. Thank you, weather, for your cooperation.

9:03 - Michael says we're right on target, pace is perfect. I'm doing it! Keep going girl, keep going. 
8:54 - I'm tired. This sucks. Mile 8? Okay, so like really... 4 more miles. Because if I can run 4, I can run one more, right? I think of this article and realize how true-to-life it just became for me (see #3)... 

Somewhere in mile 8-ish, you end up totally out of the hills. It's nothing but flat asphalt from here to the finish. At that point, running on flat road hurt more than running downhill. My quads felt fine, my hammies were alright, but my back! Posture fail. Michael asks what my 5K PR is (26:12) and tells me that when I get to Mile 10, I have exactly 26:12 to get to the finish. How bad do I want it? 

8:38 - 9 miles. Okay, that's like a 5K left. I'm really grateful I can't do math in my head. But really, my back hurts. And breathing still sucks. 
Michael suggests talking about how much his team (Rangers) is better than the Angels. I laugh, give out a breathless "Yeah, right," and he suggests that I don't do the talking. Insert jabber about the Rangers, blah blah blah, and I can't even reply because I'm short of breath as it is. Stupid running. 

Michael asks if I need a Gu. Yes, that's right, I forgot all fueling necessities at home. I hate Gu. It's vanilla bean. He says it tastes like vanilla frosting. Alright, I like vanilla frosting. Hm, this Gu isn't so bad. Maybe I'm just desperate... 

8:49 - Mile 10! Hey, I can totally finish this. Michael, what's my time? "You're on track. That's all you need to know." Fine. I guess I'll have to take that as an answer. Water stop, thank god. 

I get to walk through the water stop and Michael gives me 10 more seconds beyond that to focus, finish the last water, and get to work. He tells me to straighten up, shoulders back, keep breathing - "Hey! I need one of him!" We pick up another runner, Carly, who is looking to finish at 2:05. We tell her to stick with us and she'll run way better than that. Her half PR is here last year, at 2:11. 

8:43 - Carly's still with us. Someone else who wants this as badly as I do. If she can do it, I can do it. Mile 11. Alright, I can do this for two more miles. Surely... 

Michael tells me it's officially in my court. He's gotten me here, the rest is up to me and as long as I keep moving forward, I've got this. He stops to help a girl whose hip had her practically on the ground in pain. Calry and I keep moving and cheering each other on. 

8:45 - I want to quit. Or at least walk. My back hurts... no! No quitting now. 

I try and give it what I've got a little bit more. Too hard too soon after too long already and my knee cramps and tightens almost instantly. Alright, bad idea. 

Mile 12.5ish. Photo cred: Richard.
It was somewhere after that above photo that it sank it - and it apparently showed. Michael: "Yep, you feel it now, huh? That's what a PR feels like!"

8:57 - Was there even a Mile 13 banner? Why are those balloons so far away? I'm so glad there's people down at this end. 

Finish Line - Holy f%&#!

That's what a sub-2 face looks like. Hot damn, y'all, I did it! It wasn't until  I had crossed, grabbed my medal, stopped MY watch, and finally asked Michael how we ended up...

'Scuse me? Dude paced me even faster than I even thought possible, than I thought I was ready for, and that I didn't think I had in me. Mile 12 and 13 were the two hardest miles I've run pretty much ever. I've never finished a race before with literally nothing left in my tank, and here I was... empty tank. Full heart. I did it.

Official: 1:56:31
Finisher 451/1084 (43%)
Age Group 15/61 (24.6%)

After sitting and shaking out the legs, I went to go find Sandy who had just paced another friend of hers to a sub-2 finish too. What a great day for everyone - this course definitely does that for you! We had some fun with the photo background (hooray free photos!) and called it a day. I headed to breakfast with some fabulous new folks I've met this week and to celebrate. Of the 12 of us or so, I think 11 of us are celebrating new PRs. Holy moly!

Thank you. Whether you texted me, Facebooked, Instagrammed, commented here, or sent me some good luck vibes somewhere else on the interwebz or elsewhere, thank you for your support, encouragement, and love! I can finally call myself a sub-2er and my dream from the last year and a half is finally another check mark on the goals list. I couldn't be more proud, more grateful, and more encouraged than ever. And, of course, a massively huge thank you to Michael for encouraging me, distracting me, and keeping me on track. Thanks for volunteering to run a 'slow'(er) race with me and helping me make this happen!

Eff. I did it, y'all.


  1. CONGRATULATIONS!! I LOVE IT!! I LOVE IT!!! It was PR City out there! I felt like I PR'd even though I didn't! I can't wait to run this race next year to see what I can pull off! I hope you are still smiling and on that Runner's High! YOU DID IT!!!

    1. Super PR high - still can't even fathom that I did it. WOO! Unreal, in the best way possible! :D