Monday, December 14, 2015

Race Recap: Holiday Half Marathon

December 12 - 13, 2015 | Pomona, CA

The Holiday Half Marathon weekend offers all kinds of races - 5K, kids' Penguin Waddle, and half marathon. You can earn the Golden Snowflake Challenge medal for completing the 5K and half back-to-back, in addition to earning legacy medals, which might be a new goal just because they're so freaking adorable (3+ years is a new and bigger penguin ever year, culminating in year 10 with an emperor penguin medal). I was doing the challenge, because of course, and convinced Doug to run the 5K with me. 

Holiday 5K - Saturday, December 12
The only downside to this race is that there is no expo prior to the race. Packet pick up begins Saturday morning. Doug and I were at the Fairplex about 7:40 for an 8:30 am race start. The lines were crazy - semi-organized, but crazy. They were divided up by bib number and mine seemed to be the second longest out there. A lady behind me finally ducked into the (empty) line next to ours which was technically for the next set of bib numbers and she walked away with her bib and encouraged me to do the same. So I did - easy peasy. 

After being on the couch all last week because I pulled a muscle in my back (no fun, I tell ya what), I decided I wanted to run the 5K super easy and just have a great time. Doug decided to hang with me and make this a funner run rather than going all out. I almost wish I had gone all out because the course is flat as flat gets and is major PR-friendly (assuming you start in the front to beat the congestion). 

We jogged, got frustrated in the crowds and fought through when we could. Saw tons of friends, ran with Charlotte some too! (Major photo props to her!) By far the coolest part of the race (even for a girl who knows nothing about racing) was running up the drag strip on the west side of the fairgrounds. Doug got to teach me things and tell me what this racing ish is all about. I'm still not sure I know. 

And just like that, 3.11 miles were up! Seriously, that may have been the fastest (slowest) 5K ever, but I guess that speaks to how much freaking fun we had. I love getting to run with Doug and getting to talk the whole way, wave and say hi to friends that were cheering or running by was just the icing on the cake. 
Super fun snowflake medals don't hurt either.
Holiday Half Marathon - Sunday, December 13
Sunday morning was half marathon morning. I told Doug to stay in bed and sleep in (aren't I nice?) and I headed out the door about 6:50 to get to the Fairplex and make the walk to the start area. Our ambassador team was finally all meeting in one place (minues one) so we needed to make it an epic holiday-infused photo. I think we win.

Me, Sarah, Richard, Tam and Charlotte.
With my back being the way it was (and despite feeling 100% after the 5K and feeling fine Sunday morning), I was still a little nervous for how it would act after (or during) 13 miles. I lined up with the 1:55 pacer and decided I'd hang there as long as I could and see what I could do with it. Miraculously, my Garmin did not die at the start line and I actually had a watch! Win. Early on, I caught Linzie and hung with him for a bit. We kinda ran with 1:55 dude but knew early on that this guy was in for trouble. A 1:55 finish is about an 8:45 pace, so tell me why his first mile was 8:08? Whoa, buddy. You can see my final splits for how all-over-the-place this guy was:

Linzie and I started kinda of self-pacing to keep a little more consistency but stuck tight to the pacer just a bit ahead of us. The 2:00 pacer was also just yards behind us, so we knew somebody somewhere (or both of them!) were way off. 

The course starts out pretty flat, mostly follows the 5K route with some slight diversions in the first mile. Back up the drag strip from the 5K, a U-turn and back down, and then out the west side of the fairgrounds to head into Bonelli Park and Lake Puddingstone. Bonelli had some good rolling hills - not sharp inclines, but good rollers to keep your pace in check. Running along the roads with incredible views of the lake on such a perfectly gorgeous morning really made me appreciate all the places there are run to Southern California! What a treat. 

The 1:55 group was still in clear sight until about mile 7. I walked about 10 yards at mile 7 just to recollect and stretch and kept trucking. As you can tell from my splits, I was actually still maintaining a really great pace overall and was pleased. About mile 9.5, the last good incline, my back totally flared up and I walked almost the whole hill. Naturally, this guy then catches up to me and tells me to get movin' - so I did. And then at 10.5, my stomach totally flared up and all I could think about were the portos at mile 12, back on the drag strip. Just keep moving... 

Keep moving, keep moving. And then, of course, the portos at mile 12 are in the opposite direction that we turn from and at that point, I thought Screw it. Just get the last mile done! I caught up to a girl who had started with the 1:55 pacer and who had been leap-frogging with me all morning. We talked a bit and she was close to a PR (1:57) and I told her that if she just hung on, she'd have it in the bag. She helped me pass mile 12 real fast and before I knew it, I was kicking up to the finish for a solid 1:58:16 finish. More than stoked.

I collected my bling, and then went and collected my bonus bling for a clangin', racket of a good time walking around afterwards! 

A great morning indeed.

Race Pros:
- Course (challenging but it won't kill ya)
- Awesome, awesome bling
- Ugly sweater tech shirts are going to be hard to beat!
- Great race amenities (beer garden, vendors, races, Toys for Tots drive)
- Volunteers

Race Cons:
- Only morning pick up on Saturday rather than a Friday night option
- More restrooms needed on course (outside Bonelli) 

No major complaints from me in the slightest. This is easily one of my new favorite races in Southern California. The course is beautiful - albeit a little tough - but the environment itself just warrants all kinds of holiday spirit! So much to love and a race I definitely recommend you doing at least once. 

Do you get in the holiday spirit because of a race?

I served as an ambassador for this race through parent company Run Racing, also owners of Long Beach. I was provided an entry to the entire challenge free of charge. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own. 

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