Wednesday, June 3, 2015

There, and Back Again OR Once More, With Feeling


It's been a year since my last entry, so I guess it's appropriate that I was back in the same race.  Rock n Roll San Diego 2014 was my first half marathon, and Rock n Roll San Diego 2015 was the first time I was doing the same half marathon for the second time and my seventh half marathon over all.

So much has changed over that year, some good, some bad.  And I could definitely feel the change with regard to the race this year compared to last year.

I had picked Rock n Roll San Diego as my first half marathon partly because it wasn't too far to go from home but mostly because of the four-hour time limit to finish the race.  In my training, I had determined that I could do a half marathon in that time period, and as I was training for the 2014 Avengers half marathon at Disneyland, which has a shorter time limit, I wanted to get experience in doing races first.  I had been to Rock n Roll San Diego in 2013 to cheer on two different friends who were running the marathon and half marathon, and I'd talked to my friend about the half marathon course, and it seemed like a good race to run.  I was still nervous about the race.  What if something went wrong?  I didn't know what to expect out of the race.  Luckily, the friend who'd done the half the previous year was also doing the race this year, and she stayed with me during the entire race, giving me little hints and encouragements, and it was a great way to experience a first half marathon.  I was pretty excited about finishing.

This year, it was a very different feeling.  I knew that I'd have no problem with the time limit, and it was the first half marathon where I knew I wasn't going to be swept.




It's definitely a much more freeing feeling, one I hadn't experienced before, and it freed me to enjoy the race, which I did.  My husband was doing the race this year as well, but we don't run races together, so after the race started, I wasn't going to see him again until after the finish line.  I found myself waving to so many of the spectators who lined the streets of the course, and I even talked to a few fellow participants during the race.  I enjoyed the scenery and was also able to look at the various businesses that were along the course, trying to make note of the ones I wanted to come back and visit when I wasn't just running past them.




It wasn't nearly the struggle it was last year, and I wasn't counting every mile.  I noticed most of the mile markers (I missed mile 2), but it wasn't the countdown to 13 that it sometimes is - it was just information.

There was one very big difference at this year's race, though.  Last year, after I'd posted on my Facebook page that I was doing this race, that it was going to be my first half marathon, my friend Robert called me within about half an hour to tell me his travel plans from Northern California, when he'd be arriving in San Diego, where he'd be staying, etc.  He wanted to be there to see me finish my first half marathon.  I was pretty happy about that, and we enjoyed spending the weekend with him.  At the time, we didn't know it would turn out to be one of the last weekends we'd spend with him.  Robert passed away from lymphoma on August 7, 2014.  I knew that going back to San Diego for this race this year was going to have its difficulties, especially since this race is specifically to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  We had a bit of a different schedule this year, which helped some, but I did find myself often thinking about what I was doing at that time last year.

I was running my race, and things were ok.  Then about half-way through the race, thing changed.  Last year, my husband and Robert were there after the finish line.  I knew that my husband would be there this year as well, because when we run the same race, he always finishes before me, but waits for me after the finish line but still in the racers area, so that we can get pictures together.  But this year, Robert wasn't going to be there.  He wasn't following my progress this year through runner tracking.  I wasn't going to see him after I finished my race.  And the thought was just overwhelming.  I spent about half a mile crying as I thought about that, and try as I might, I couldn't stop crying.  I can't imagine what spectators must have thought as I ran past in tears.  I eventually managed to pull myself together and proceeded with the rest of the race.

My only goal before the race started was that I wanted to finish with a faster time than I'd had last year.




Because it was my first race last year, I don't really remember too much about the course, but as I ran it this year, some things did look familiar to me and brought back some memories of last year's race.

I'm not really a fan of the course itself partly because there are quite a few hills.  Up and down both took their toll on my legs and knees since I don't have many inclines on my normal training routes, so I don't get nearly enough hill training.  The streets themselves also aren't in particularly good condition, so you have to pay a lot of attention to where you're going so that you're not stepping in potholes or uneven parts of the street.  But the absolute best thing about this race, and probably one of the reasons I plan to keep coming back, are the residents.  Their support is amazing.  They're on the streets in the business areas, and they're in front of their homes in the residential areas, and they are cheering and offering support and encouragement.  There are people of every age out there, from older people who are sitting in their wheelchairs smiling and waving at the passing racers to little kids out with their families.  Some are cheering for specific people but many are cheering whoever comes by.  Some offer assistance in the form of little snacks and treats, like pretzels and candy.  A couple of women on one street had rolls of paper towels and were pulling off sheets to people who wanted them to wipe down a little from the humid morning.  A couple of families were giving out little slices of oranges.  There are school cheerleaders along the way as well, and while I will admit that I normally don't pay that much attention to them, these particular groups of girls seemed different.  They were doing cheers of encouragement specifically aimed at the racers, and they really had just so much energy that you couldn't help but feel uplifted from it.  And those little boosts help to sustain you during the course.  The various bands I heard along the way were fun to listen to as well.  I think my favorite entertainment on the course, though, were the taiko drummers.  Love them.




And this year, I even interacted with the group of men who were in wigs and endowments, who showed up twice on the course.  They provided an energetic boost and quiet gentle encouragement, whatever was needed by the particular runner.  I particularly enjoyed getting the latter from them, just a nice quiet word and a pat on the shoulder as I ran past.

As I mentioned, the resident support is fantastic on this race.  Special shout out to the residents on the stretch of the race from about mile 4.5 to mile 5.  I really appreciated the special fuel you provided, and all with good humor.

I was definitely tired by the end of the race and feeling the hills along the course, but it was a good finish.  I did meet my goal of having a faster time than last year's race, so I was pretty happy about that.




I'd carried a reminder of Robert with me during the race, my way of taking him with me this year.  Robert and I met because of our mutual love of Disneyland, and Robert's favorite character was Sorcerer Mickey, so I had a little one with me during the entire race.  Some people saw him and commented on him, and he's in all of my pictures for this race.




Thanks to Rock n Roll for a great race.  It's incredibly well organized, especially when it involves being able to transport thousands of racers to the start line area.  Thanks to all of the volunteers.  You are very much appreciated.  And thanks again to the residents of San Diego.  You are awesome.

See you next year.

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