Monday, January 12, 2015

Race Recap: Citrus Heritage Half Marathon

January 10, 2015 | Riverside, CA

I ran this race last year, totally and completely undertrained, and it dominated me - physically and mentally, I was just not in it last year. I stumbled to a 2:32 finish. This year, I was bound and determined to make it different: better, faster, stronger (cue Kanye). While I needed a long run for training miles anyway, I wanted to do better than an aerobic pace (because that would be slower than 2:32) and I wanted to prove that I had it in me, just to start working on that mentality as we get into long marathon runs. 

I love this race for a few reasons: local, supports local running groups and students, but awesome tech tees (long sleeve!), beautiful medals and a course you can't find many other places - where else do you get to run through orange, lemon, and grapefruit groves? 

I also love that you can do race morning packet pick up. This year's race was a little more bustling than last year's, so I loved to see that this race is already growing and gaining popularity. For just the second year of the half, it's always nice to see it picking up speed! Doug and I got there about 7, only to find out that they had already run out of my shirt size but that they would mail me one after the second order. Better than nothing, because I really loved these shirts! 

2015 half marathon medals. Glitter and spinners!
2015 5K medals, also glittery!
 Doug and I huddled around the start, talking to two women about the course (it ain't easy), saw Sandy walk by, and then it was just about go time. We started the half late, just over 5 minute (what's with late start times lately?), and then it was go time! Because I had run 2.5 miles in the morning, my watch hadn't reset completely, so not even .1 in, I had to stop to reset it. I only ended up being about .8 miles behind, but knew that, so I could at least keep track. 

Soooo much happier than last year!
Before even the mile 1 marker, Sandy found me again. She was trucking, trying to maintain a steady and mellow pace (compared to her normal speedyness!) due to all the challenges she's had with her knee lately. We talked about what her doctor would allow today, what I was trying to maintain (again, just kill last year's time and misery), and that we'd stick together. She reminded me of where the hills were and where the tough parts were. 

The long, gradual hill is up to the Citrus Heritage State Park - it's not a super steep hill, but a long, long, long grade up to the top. The 5K turns around at the top of the hill too, so it's kind of a beast. The perk, though, is that once you're at the top, it's an easy coast back down, through the groves and to the straight stretches to the start.

Somewhere around Mile 8, I learned that my watch was not only caught up to the .8 I was short, but we were almost .3 miles ahead  now! Um, what? After the race, Sandy found this:

Welp. That explains it! 
That aside, no course issues. I rocked those hills, I walked when I felt like it, and still came in with a super-satisfying finish. Sandy ran the last mile on her own, as I stopped to walk and shake out my knee for one last, long stretch. Did I mention the finish line is on an uphill? Rude! 

Sandy and I had a great time chatting for two hours. Despite being pretty bummed about her knee, I reminded her that it could be worse and at least she was still allowed to run, even if it was slower and easier than she was used to. It could always be worse. I haven't seen her since who knows when, so I'm glad we had a long time to catch up and talk about jobs, puppies, and all things running... duh! Thanks for a fun morning Sandy!

#21, done and done!
Doug's goal was to break 29 during his 5K. From the Reindeer Romp in December, he had rocked a killer 29:05 on a super flat course but was pretty mad he was so close, so he wanted CHR to be the place. The 5K course was straight up for the first mile (again, turnaround at the 1.5 on the top of the hill). Near mile 11, I got a text saying he didn't break 29 - I was bummed. Especially after the half, I knew he was ready to put work in and I wanted him to break his goal so badly! Turns out... he did! He freaking rocked and earned a 27:37 finish! Hell yeah, babe. Way to go! 

This year, they also had a beer garden sponsored by local Hangar 24 and Sierra Nevada. While I pretty much don't drink beer  harldy ever, and never after a race (chocolate milk, please), Hangar's Orange Wheat was de.lish.ous. Beer has never tasted so good after a half. 

Overall, I was really impressed with this year's race. They definitely took it up a notch and it showed. Some logistical snafus, but running .3 miles extra won't kill ya, especially when you're running 16 that day anyway. Desperately waiting for my race shirt now! 

Oh, and my time? Booyah! Take that, 2:32! 

- Race day pick up. Can't beat it. Ever.
- Awesome shirts. Plus for being able to be sent one instead of taking a size I don't want/won't fit/won't wear.
- Kick ass medals, again!
- Scenery. Smells. All the California prettiness. 
- Great volunteers. 
- Post-race party went up a notch! Bananas, Clif bars, chili! Beer garden! Love. 

- If you're looking for a race with course spectators everywhere, this isn't it. 
- Extra mileage mix up. Not a super biggie, but never fun when you've got 13.1 to run anyway!
- Would love to have some sort of legacy perk - especially as the race picks up size and popularity, maintaining a legacy status is always fun (i.e. getting our shirt size saved for us). 

Overall, I'm so glad I did this race again. A $50 early registration price tag didn't hurt either, so you bet I'll be signing up for 2016 again! If you're looking for extra fun, you can also ready Sandy's recap here

Are you a post-race beer drinker?

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