Sunday, November 29, 2015

Race Recap: Inaugural USA Invitational Half Marathon

San Diego, CA | November 21, 2015

I always like to preface races with the fact (if it applies) that it's an inaugural race, as I really feel that drives a lot of how my recap shapes up. I signed up for this race in like, April, when it first opened, as a hope to get it as cheap as possible - but I believe that registration was still upwards of $110 or so, so not a cheap endeavor as it is. 

What I did love about this race was the concept of it being promoted like the Boston Marathon of half marathons - you needed a qualifying time per your age group to be able to sign up. 

I'm really glad that my age group went up just six weeks before the race, otherwise I wouldn't have cut it! (My current standing 1:50 PR isn't in my name, womp womp). But you know they mean business when there are such crazy cutoff times, amIright?

Unfortunately, there was no race-day packet pick up, but I heard the expo was pretty small and lackluster anyway, so I didn't miss too much. A friend of mine picked up my bib and jacket for me so I could just meet her at the start line. I drove down Friday night after work and went to my old supervisor's house to crash on his couch for the night - thanks Darrell! After a long drive down into San Diego, I got there about 9 and crashed practically right away for a night on the couch and a 4:45 alarm clock.

The race started at 6 am - aside from Disney, I don't know many races with that early of a start line for a half, but I realize thta it's probaby due to city permits and getting so many streets in downtown San Diego closed off or partially closed off for a few hours on a Saturday morning.

I got to the start line about 5:15, walked the five minutes to the start line from my free street parking, and hung out waiting for Jen. Lucky for me, Carlee was almost there too, so I got to catch up with her fabulous self for 20 minutes or so while we discussed how small the race looked and what it'd really be like... 
Love this girl so much! Follow her on IG for some real inspiration.
I decided to start the race with the 1:55 pacer. Surely if I could run a 1:59 the weekend before at Surfers Point without feeling like I was working for it, then surely I could manage a 1:55 and just push myself a bit, right? I made my way into the corrals, found my way up to the 1:55 sign, got my Garmin set... and it died. DIED. Right there, despite being charged completely on Thursday night. Well, that's super - guess I'll run with 1:55 guy and hope he stays consistent enough for me to hold on to such a time. 

If you've done Rock 'n Roll San Diego, the last 3-4 miles of those courses (this year's version, at least) are the first four of this course. Re: rolling downhills become rolling uphills in/out of downtown and through Balboa Park. The hills aren't crazy steep, but long enough grades that they're tough - I hung with 1:55 through the first mile marker and felt so great that I actually powered past him on the uphill. I demolished those hills, taking on the mantra of someone I'd talked to the weekend prior - power the uphill, power the downhill, recover on the flats. So I did. I was well ahead of 1:55 through the mile 5 marker even and feeling good! I played leapfrog with another IERC runner, who I'd pass on the uphill and he'd blast past me on the downhill. At mile 5, 1;55 almost caught me but I powered on down and got a few yards a head. Here, you come down Washington Ave on a crazy long downhill (almost a full mile) before running into the 5 freeway and making a sharp right. It was here that I saw people slamming on their figurative brakes and making U-turns around some cones: Meb was out giving high fives and cheers! Hello, if this wasn't the most appropriate time to stop for a photo!
Runner life bucket list item = complete! 
 It was here that 1:55 caught up to me, passed me, and I never saw him again. I tried really hard to pump myself up again, but it was just about mile 7 that the hills caught up to me, the sun came out and it got warm fast. 

The last five miles are just roads down around the harbor and airport, and are less than thrilling. Aid station volunteers were awesome, but these back roads kinda sucked. Case and point? Mile 11 was down the backside of the back road of the Hertz Rent a Car at the San Diego Airport. Um, woo? 

It was at 11.8 that the 2:00 pacer passed me by all of three steps to which I said "Oh hell no!" and turned on the last bit of my guns to stick at least a few feet ahead of her. I knew she had started a little behind me, so I was closing in on just hitting a finish time with a 2 in front. At 12.5 I turned on a little bit more, to which she said "Finish strong! I always tell people... do you want the 1:59:49 or the 2:00:37?!"
Guess what my finish time was.


I wish I were kidding. Girl jinxed me! 

At any rate, for an inaugural race, there are some high points but some things that I hope they continue to work on. I know they've mentioned that as the race gains popularity, they hope to make the qualifying times even more competitve - but the infrastructure of the race itself could use a little bit of work. 

- Free race photos, huzzah! 
- Nice finishers jacket (see cons, though) 
- Awesome freaking medal
- Fantastic volunteers

- Post-race snacks were kinda... gross. Honestly, I grabbed a banana and called it a day, but while there was a whole buffet of things, most folks I saw after the race were walking right by them
- Jacket wasn't quite as advertised. On the website, it looked much more like a windbreaker-type jacket, but in the end was a track jacket with a simple screenprint and no pockets! They were also running huge on people - I guess I lucked out - and mine shrunk a little in the wash.
- For being a "USA" based race in a heavily military-based city, I wish there were some military dedication or thanks for service for those running and/or watching and/or in the area. 
- No gear check. 
- Continue developing expo (again, as I've heard, given that I didn't get to experience for myself)

Overall, the race was good. I don't know that I'd pay the price again, but maybe down the line as they continue to make improvements from a first-year race. Given the course is a point-to-point, gear check wouldn't be difficult to add and is certainly a benefit to out-of-town folks who don't have spectators to hold on to their things. 

How do you feel about a qualifying half marathon? Did you run this race? Your thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment