This past Sunday was my third running of the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon and my best run there to date. The route was identical to the past years, and other things were the same or similar to the last time I ran it in 2007.
I went to the expo with Bree early Saturday morning before the crowds hit. Bib pickup was first, with the D-tag timing device attached to the big green bib. Next was the race branded clothing, none of which appealed to me (except for my usual race hat). The goody bags were the usual Competitor large plastic sling bags filled with the usual assortment of ads and a couple of samples. Tee shirt pickup was at the back of the expo. They've done away with the white cotton beefy tees and now have unisex tech shirts. As a word to the wise, these are big. And this year, they were very very green.
The expo surprised me again this year by not being very large. I guess since fall is marathon season, October being the height of it, vendors can pick and chose where they want to display and sell their goods. Since I had done some spending at the Women's Half expo a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't too disappointed to get through there and out in a hurry.
We arrived for the race nice and early the next morning and we wandered around for a bit while Mr. Garmin tried to pick up a signal. Sadly, Mr. Garmin is on his last legs and in addition to eating some of my run results, he takes forever to locate a satellite. Looks like I'll be getting a replacement soon (any recommendations?). We saw several friends in our wandering. The start area was mostly very well organized and laid out, except for one glaring foul-up. We were in corral 13, out of (I think) 16 or 18 (or possibly more). The corrals up to about 10 were nicely spaced with banners separating them. After that they were completely shmushed together. Several thousand people were crammed into space enough for just a couple of people. It was like they had decided they couldn't block the next cross road, so they just piled the corral signs next to each other. It made the early line-up feel like a cattle drive and we all know how I feel about cattle.
This year it didn't seem that they spaced the starts out at all, I think they were all let loose at once. While it meant we started quicker than I had anticipated (6 or so minutes after the gun) it also meant the crowd never thinned out. Ever. Even with the use of full wide streets there was still a lot of dodging the entire route.
Bree and I started out at a quick pace and decided we should slow it down some. Then we sped up. After a couple miles of this Bree decided we should run our own paces and sent me on ahead. I figured I'd just run at a comfortable pace until I was tired and then slow down. This was supposed to be a training run for me, not a race.
The weather was again almost perfect. Aside from a little drizzle in the first miles, it was mostly coolish and overcast. The sun peeked out here and there before making a full appearance in my last couple of miles, but the breeze kept me cool enough. The air was clear and my breathing was very good. I wore a sleeveless shirt and my running skirt, along with a cap and a couple of buffs for my neck and wrist and felt like I was dressed correctly for the weather.
Water stops were plentiful and, as far as I could tell, well stocked with water and something-ade. I was able to run past the first few since I was carrying a bottle with my own Ultima. The weather earlier in the week had been breaking the 100's and I'm not sure if there were more fluids than normal because of that. One thing that was definitely added was the salt stop where they were handing out little packets of salt. I grabbed one of those and, after spilling it all over myself, licked the remainder off my fingers. I think I managed to ingest about half the packet which helped.
Somewhere around mile 9 or 10 was a Gu stop, with several flavors being handed out. I grabbed one just in case but didn't need it to supplement those that I had with me. I'm now taking a Gu every 40 minutes during a run, varying between the double caffeine Espresso Love and the single caffeine Tangerine Orange, Tri-Berry or Vanilla flavors. I sure would like some of the flavors that they have in their Roctane but after the disaster when I took the Pineapple, I won't try them again (and as a complete side note, their new Chomp flavor, watermelon, is yummy).
There was a lot of music along the course, some of it quite good. The Cocktail Monkeys, in particular, were good enough that I was sad to have to pass them by. Both times, since they were playing along a stretch that we ran past in both directions. It seemed that there was more music this year than in the past, but maybe it was just louder. I started listening to my own music at about mile 9 but half the time I couldn't hear it because of the bands. I would have turned it off but it was too much fussing and fumbling.
I felt good. I ran along at my usual 9:1 and kept telling myself that sooner or later I'd be slowing down. Well, not at mile 10. Not at mile 11. Not even at mile 12. After that, I decided the hell with it, I'd just go for it. I didn't see the point in running hard and fast and slacking the last bit. So I skipped my last walk break and powered it through. I wasn't sprinting down the finish line until I saw lots of people trying to pass me. Nuh uh, I don't get picked off in the home stretch! I had to speed up too.
I crossed the line, stopped Mr. Garmin, looked at my time and started giggling. I was 7 minutes faster than my unstated goal, 7 minutes faster than my course PR, about 15 minutes faster than what I expected. The funny part was how good I felt. Yeah, my knee hurt (don't tell anyone), but it was sore from my second step. I wouldn't have wanted to run much longer at that intensity, but I was feeling good from the 13.25 miles my watch told me I had run.
Once across the line I was handed a bottle of water, which I promptly chugged down. Then they again had ice cold wet towels, which I used to wipe the crusted salt off my face and arms. I knew it would be a few minutes until Bree finished and I didn't want to go too far and risk missing her. I walked down the secured area a bit and got my medal, then saw that they were handling out bags of ice at the medical tent. They were also wrapping ice on various limbs and I thought that might be a good idea.
I waited a couple of minutes for someone to be free and then placed my cold towel under the ice, and had her wrap it onto my knee. The woman doing the wrapping couldn't understand why I would want to use the towel against my skin. Cautionary tale, folks, freezer burned skin hurts. It's very easy to damage yourself with ice and I was surprised that more care wasn't being used. I saw dozens of folk with melty ice taped to various body parts and I don't think they were even paying attention to the condition of their skin underneath. I only left the ice on for about 10 minutes but it was perfect and I didn't have any swelling or any more pain.
After Bree finished we walked down toward the food tables where they had exactly 3 bananas left (and they were icky looking), many many bags of Wheat Thins, granola bars, bagels, maybe something else. We grabbed a couple of things. I was starving, something very unusual for me after a long run (normally I'm vaguely nauseous and don't want anything for a while). We walked over to the beer tent and got our free MGD Light (or maybe it was some other 64 calorie tasteless beer) of which we took a couple of sips and then dumped out.
I enjoyed the run, enjoyed the race. My only complaints would be about the other people doing the race. How completely oblivious does someone have to be to come to a dead stop in the middle of the road when they're surrounded by runners moving forward? Or when then don't finish their water and drop the half full cup directly in front of someone who then gets soaked? Or when they walk 4 abreast right where the road narrows and nobody can get past them? Or when a 14 minute mile runner starts with the 10 minute milers and everyone has to dodge around them for the first few miles? And on and on. A handout on race etiquette should be distributed at every Rock 'n' Roll race since they get so many beginners. Or maybe people should just listen to their mothers and be POLITE!
Ahem. Where was I? OhyeahIremember. Enjoyed race, enjoyed run, would do it again if it falls on an empty part of my schedule. Even as cookie cutter identical as the Competitor races have become, the locales and weather play a big part of the race. Having a nice one in my back yard is convenient, and will be again in future years.