Category Archives: half marathon

Nike Women’s Half Marathon: Race Recap

On Sunday I ran the Nike Women’s half marathon in San Francisco. This was my second year running it. You can see my recap from last year’s race here.

This year, I decided not to really race it….it was going to be more about having fun and enjoying a big race with lots of women! Plus, Leslie and Kara were also going to be running, so I thought it would be fun to catch up with them.

I didn’t attend the expo, since I picked up my packet in Sacramento the previous week.

From last year, I knew that the streets before the race were going to be packed with people!! 30,000 runners is a lot! If you are in the faster pace corrals, they seem to be a little less crowded…at least comparing the back of the 8-8:59 pace to the 9-9:59 pace…but maybe the others are too if you are toward the back. I met up with Kara and Leslie about 45 minutes before race start. Bag check and bathrooms were easy to get through and pretty well organized. I didn’t check anything, but the other girls did.

{Thanks Leslie for the pre-race pic!}

We started right on time at 6:30am! Check out this photos from Nike of the start of the race. I love seeing images like this!

{Image from Nike Facebook Page}

Leslie and I planned to run together as long as we could. Kara’s goal was to run a sub-2 hour half, but she started out by running easy with me and Leslie. It was nice to chat and catch up — I don’t usually get to talk to people while I’m out on a run. It really made the miles fly by! Kara sped up and went on her way somewhere around 1.5 miles. Leslie and I chatted about all sorts of things along our way.

We stayed together through the first few hills, but lost one another around mile 8.5. We had already discussed that if we got separated at some point and couldn’t meet back up, we would just run on our own the rest of the way and meet up afterward.

Quick side note: I kind of love running the hills early in the morning in SF during this race. Everyone who was previously talking gets quiet. There aren’t really any spectators in this area in the Presido, so it is really quiet. Both last year and this year it was very foggy. It makes for a really cool experience….running with many other people trying to make the same goal of getting up a steep incline….listening to only the breathing of yourself and the other runners around you.

{image from Nike Facebook Page}

Once Leslie and I got separated, I decided to pick up the pace and make the last 4.5 miles a little faster than marathon pace. We averaged the first 8.5 miles at 10:05/mile. For the last few miles, I think I averaged close to an 8:30/mile pace. Another nice thing is this part of the race is also mostly down hill. I had so much fun this entire race! I mean, check out the smiles in my race photos!! LOVE!

After the finish, I met back up with Leslie and Kara, and we picked up our necklaces and shirts. They are pretty!

{Nuun in the background!}

This was a fun way to get in some hilly training and enjoy the race environment with some friends, even if I didn’t actually race it. So much fun!

Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon: Race Recap

On Sunday I ran my 13th half marathon at Rock n Roll San Jose. Overall, I thought it was a nice race with good music (as is usual for the Rock n Roll series), and I had a great time!

Ryan and I made our two hour drive down to San Jose on Saturday afternoon. We stayed in the Hilton that was connected to the convention center where the expo was held, and was only a couple blocks from the start and finish lines. As soon as we arrived, we went to pick up our packets. Since it was later in the day, the expo was pretty quiet, and we had no trouble quickly getting our things. We spent a little time wandering around to check out some of the vendors including stopping by the Nuun Hydration booth.

Afterward, we wandered around downtown for a bit, and found a great spot for a drink at Farmers Union. It was a pretty cool vibe with lots of good beers on tap! Then we went to Pizza Bocca Lupo for a pizza dinner. We were a little unsure what it would be like when we arrived because it seemed sort of like fast food. But we had a fantastic time sitting out side, enjoying our pizza and some people watching.

{view from the bar at Farmers Union}

{outside Pizza Bocca Lupo. A great dinner spot!}

Sunday morning we got up early as usual for normal morning race prep. The best part was that we left our hotel just 45 minutes before race start because it was so close! When we got to the start, we took a few minutes to check our bags. We had about 20 minutes to find a bathroom before the start time.

Bad news though — there were NOT enough porta potties near the first few corrals! This led to really long lines that did not move at all. Ryan and I ran all over trying to find one that seemed like we could possibly get through before the start. Nothing. Ryan realized there was a hotel right next to the start and with 10 minutes left to go we ran in and found a reasonably empty bathroom. Success! Honestly, this was my only gripe with the race. It seemed there were plenty of bathrooms along the course, and near the corrals further back though.

The race started right on time with the wheelchair division, then the national anthem, and finally the corral start.

My goal for the race was to start a little slower, and over the course of a few miles build up to near my PR pace. The first couple miles were a bit crowded, but they ticked away quickly. I tried not to weave too much around people and not waste energy.

Mile 1: 8:43
Mile 2: 8:27
Mile 3: 8:23
Mile 4: 8:19
Mile 5: 8:12

Near mile 6, we saw the race leaders on their way back toward the finish line — they were probably at about mile 11.5. It was a nice boost to see them speed by!

Mile 6: 8:16
Mile 7: 8:15
Mile 8: 8:13

A little before mile 9 I realized I was going to have to take a mid-race bathroom stop. I was bummed because I was right about pace with my PR time. The bad thing was I had just past the bathrooms at mile 8, so I was going to have to wait for over a mile! I tried to keep pushing through and not slow down. I finally found a bathroom just as I finished mile 10, but I had used up a minute of my time in the portapotty.

Mile 9: 8:31
Mile 10: 9:15

After I was done in the bathroom, I tried  to pick up my pace and finish strong. I did well at first, but then ended up with a small stomach cramp and wasn’t able to hold on to the faster pace for the last two miles.

Mile 11: 7:59
Mile 12: 8:16
Mile 13: 8:19
Pace to finish: 8:11/mi

My final finish time was 1:51:26.

I was glad to be done running for the day. I was hot and tired. I had a fun race even though it wasn’t my best executed one. I always enjoy the race day excitement no matter what my finish time is!

Ryan had a big PR by almost 3 minutes!! He has been working hard, and this was a very exciting race for him!

Following the race, we enjoyed a pint in the beer garden, and listened to the band at the finish line. They were really fun! Since our hotel was so close, we were able to make it back to our room with time to shower before checking out and driving back to Sacramento.

What is your go-to post race meal? On Sunday we stopped at The Olive Garden for soup, salad and breadsticks. Yum!

Cleveland Half Marathon: Race Recap


Ryan and I flew out to Cleveland on a red-eye Thursday night, arriving Friday morning. It was great to be able to spend some time with family in addition to running the Cleveland half marathon. I’m actually writing this up on our flight back to California — I haven’t posted sooner since we were busy! I’ll focus this post on the race, but I’ll probably write another on the other fun things we did in Cleveland later this week.

Race morning was pretty typical. Cleveland Marathon has a 7am start. We had about a 30 minute drive and wanted to make sure to be early, so Ryan and I got up around 4:45am — so early!
We didn’t run into any big issues getting to the race start, except that the parking garage we had mapped to seemed non-existent, but there were plenty of lots nearby that were available. We hit up some porta-potties in a little park before reaching the race start area because we didn’t actually know what it was going to be like. This actually turned out to be a good thing for Ryan since the men’s room lines were even more crazy than the women’s room lines! It was cool to be able to walk around the Cleveland Browns stadium before the race. 
 
The start line was just outside the stadium, and there were big flags noting the pace corrals. I lined up near the 8:30/mile signs. It wasn’t too overly crowded, which was nice. Before the on-time start, they had someone sing the national anthem, and a moment of silence for Boston. One of the Cleveland Cavaliers wished us good luck and they also played some music to pump us up including “Cleveland Rocks”! It took me a couple minutes to actually get across the starting line.
The start of the race is actually uphill, but I didn’t mind because that helped me make sure to start out slow. I really tried not to worry much about pace for the first mile, just keep it easy. I hadn’t studied the course too much, so I wasn’t totally sure how hilly it would actually be. Turns out — not too bad, but a few overpasses, and a few gradual longer inclines (luckily all followed by declines). Mile 2 was downhill, and I still tried to make sure it felt easy. My watch showed me going at a pretty fast pace, but I tried not to let it make me nervous and focus on feel. 
Miles 1-3: 8:45, 8:09, 8:16
Somewhere at the end of mile 2, I found a guy who was going a great pace for me — about 8:20/mi. I tried to just follow along behind him. This was really great because I was getting bored already!! This whole stretch of road so far didn’t have much to look at and was actually like running on a highway. Unfortunately, I lost him at an aid station around mile 4.5. But thankfully the crowd picked up for a little while.
At this point, my pace had settled down and I was just trying to maintain speed and keep things reasonably comfortable until mile 10. I crossed the 10k split mat at 52:19. I felt pretty hot during most of the race, and made sure to drink water and/or gatorade at every aid station. I also dumped a cup of water on my head each time to cool me down. 
Miles 4-10: 8:21, 8:16, 8:24, 8:14, 8:15, 8:20, 8:20
At mile 10, I looked at my watch and realized I had about 27 minutes left to run the last 5k and make my goal time of sub 1:50. I was starting to feel tired but knew I could turn it up a little. I was trying to do the math in my head on the seconds I needed to drop. I decided to aim for as close to 8 minute miles as I could so I didn’t miss my goal. Miles 11 and 12 turned out to have a couple big overpasses, but I powered up them as hard as I could!
The last half mile was (oh so thankfully!!) downhill. I just let my legs ride and pushed it to the finish….trying to focus on breathing and not my exhausted legs!
Miles 11-13.1: 8:17, 7:56, 7:41, 1:41 (for last 0.24 miles)
My official finish time was 1:48:50! I was excited! I made my goal by over a minute!!! A 2-minute PR over the Oakland Half marathon.
Afterward it took a while to find everyone — the finisher’s area was super crowded with both 10k runners and half marathoners coming in. The first marathoner wasn’t far away either so there were a TON of spectators. Once we all met up, we enjoyed a celebratory post-race beer.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good race. The bag check area was super organized, but I think there could have been a better family meeting space. The course I thought was a little unexciting, with a big stretch on the highway, and many of the roads with potholes. My favorite miles were 4-6 when there was good crowd support and it was through some of the neighborhoods. 
I did an OK job of running the tangents, which was my other goal for this race. According to my Garmin, I ran 13.24miles. Most of the race was fairly crowded, so I think some of this also had to do with weaving around people.
My legs have been sore since Sunday, so I know I worked hard! Yesterday and today I have been relaxing with family and flying back to California, so they are getting some good rest. I’ll probably be keeping the remainder of the week pretty easy.
 
Whew — this turned out to be a pretty long recap! Still can’t quite believe I actually have a half marathon time sub-1:50. Yay!

Running of the Elk Half Marathon Relay: Race Recap

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know that Ryan and I had a great race on Sunday morning in the Running of the Elk Half Marathon Relay. In fact, we won the coed division!

Our team is the Fat Penguins
Still working on perfecting a penguin drawing.

Since everyone likes to hear all the details, let’s start at the beginning. Race start was 8am, but we had about a 20 minute drive and still needed to get our packets, so we got up around 5am. Our friends Matt & Raechel were also running the relay, so we all drove to the race start together. We swung by the race start for the guys to pick up our race packets and once they brought back our bibs Raechel and I headed to the exchange point.

Ryan was running the first leg (7.5 miles) and I ran the second leg (5.6 miles) for our team. I don’t know much about the race start since I headed over to the exchange right away. But the exchange point was set up well with a few portopotties and a radio station and drumline for entertainment.

The actual exchange seemed a little confusing for the first few teams. I think the race organizers originally wanted relay runners to leave the main road to exchange and the second runner to return to the road. But it didn’t really happen that way. Instead, after the first runner crossed the timing mat, they just high fived the second runner and #2 continued running. I think it worked out ok since the race wasn’t very big, once a couple teams had gone through. With more runners, this may have gotten in the way of the half marathoners.

Anyway — Ryan was hoping to maintain at least a 7 min/mi pace for his leg, putting him arriving at the exchange around 53 minutes. He was actually able to cross a minute or so early, and his average pace was about 6:53. (Of course, I didn’t know exactly what his pace was until we finished). But what I did know was that he was only the third relay person across the timing mat, and the first in the coed relay! It was then my turn to keep us moving ahead!

Relay exchange is so exciting and it really pumps you up to get tagged in to run! I started the first 0.25 miles of my leg going way too fast! I guess I was just excited!!! I realized pretty quickly though and started to slow down.

Since the race was on the smaller side (around 800 half marathoners), and Ryan kept a good pace, runners in our area were very spread out. It was so strange to be running nearly alone in a race. The runners near me were also keeping a faster pace, so I was passed by a couple right away. But then it was mostly just me trying to keep up my pace and chase down the faster guys. I was only passed by one woman (first woman in the half marathon)! I also only recognized one guy who passed me as being part of the relay. So, generally I knew we were doing pretty well.

My goal was finish with an average pace of less than 8 min/mi. My estimated 10k time from McMillanRunning based on my most recent half marathon pace was a 7:52/mi, but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to maintain that. I ended up being able to run my leg of the relay in 7:44/mi! Much better than I thought I could do! Ryan said he thought he ran about 0.05 miles too short, and I ran my leg a little long. Our overall distance according to our watches was 13.15 miles.

My splits were:
Mile 1 – 7:40 (oops, too fast!)
Mile 2 – 7:53 (that’s better — feeling more maintainable)
Mile 3 – 7:45 (finally in a rhythm — no longer thinking about pace too much)
Mile 4 – 7:47
Mile 5 – 7:52
Mile 0.7 – 7:25 min/mi

I crossed the finish line for our relay team in 1:35:20!! I was so freaking excited! I just knew we had won it! I saw Ryan right after I crossed the finish line and gave him the BIGGEST hug!

After I finished, we wandered around the finish line area for a while, and cheered on Raechel to the finish. Then we scrounged up some pancakes (best post race food!) and picked up our award once our time was official! I also found my friend Ana who raced the half. She’s currently training for her first full marathon!

Our award was this awesome Running of the Elk tile — actually we each got one, so we have two. Now we are trying to decide where to put them! Maybe on the mantle?! Gotta celebrate our victories and improved performance, right?

Half medal was a little larger than the relay medal. 
They also even gave super tiny medals for the 5k — seemed like a fun idea for families and kids!

Now we are both on a runner’s high, and thinking of the next running race! (You can probably already tell based on all exclamation points.) We might do a 10k or 10 miler in a few weeks, and our next half marathon is in Cleveland in the middle of May. Already looking forward to it.

Oakland Half Marathon Race Recap

Since last week’s race was supposed to be my goal half marathon this spring, I planned to go to the Oakland Half Marathon with a laid-back attitude. I won an entry into this race from PavementRunner‘s giveaway a couple months ago. I was really looking forward to racing in a new location. When I signed up, Ryan decided to race this one as well! As an added bonus, we have friends who live one mile from the race start, so we had a great place to stay, an easy race morning commute, and fans to cheer us on!

The half marathon started at 9:15am — a later start, but it allowed for closer finish times with the marathon (which started at 7:30am). Since the marathon and 5k were already started, the race start area was pretty quiet. The only minor issue we had before the race start was in the bag check — the signs weren’t quite right, so it was a little hard to tell which line to get in. But it worked out ok.

The race started right on time. At the gun, they blew a a huge burst of confetti to run through — it was so fun! The course had a TON of turns, especially in the first 3 miles. This made it hard to run the tangents well since there were so many runners at this point too!

Once I got going, I realized my legs were feeling pretty good, and not too sluggish from the Shamrockin’ Half, so I decided to run a similar pace and see how it went. This race was amazing because there were SO MANY people out cheering at every point along this course!! I think it ranks as one of the most spectated races I have been a part of! I think I had a huge smile on my face for almost all of this race. Check out some of my race photos.

By the last 3 miles, I was definitely getting tired… but the last 3 miles of a half I always feel so close to the finish that it somehow pulls me along. Our friends were out cheering at mile 10, so it was fun to see them! Then, there was a DJ playing some great music with about 0.75 miles left to go that really fired me up to push hard to the finish. The last 0.2 miles are up a small hill (that after running so long makes it feel difficult!), but you could see the finish line right there at the top!

Based on my Garmin, I ran 13.35 miles, with an average pace of 8:20/mi! My official time was 1:50:52 — 11 seconds faster than last week! Ryan also had a great race, and had a big PR — his official finish time was 1:37:17!

Needless to say, we were excited to celebrate with a post-race beer! This race gave two drinks after the race, but we shared with our friends so they could celebrate with us.

Overall, I thought this was a very well run race. The bands and music along the course were great. The crowd support was amazing. Definitely one to consider doing again in the future. Thanks PavementRunner for the opportunity!