Thursday, May 19, 2011

Race Report: Pasadena Half Marathon 2011

Wow, it’s been a year and a half since my last update. Hi, people!   
Perhaps because I had several crappy race experiences last year *. But Mike’s awesome race report on his first half marathon apres heart attack inspired me to dust this old thing off and write about a race I ran last Sunday: the Pasadena Half Marathon 

My race tactic: Start verrry conservatively (9:05/mile pace), then pick it up in the last few miles. The aim: Crossing the finish line with a smile on my face. That’s it. Okay, deep down, I wanted to run sub-2:00. My PR is 1:51 and change. But that was a few years ago. Plus, I haven’t run that far in months. Every step beyond Mile 12 was into terra incognita.
Pre-race: I am lucky enough to live near the race start. I headed out the door late at 6:15 a.m. (the race started at 6:30!). and hustled the 1.3 miles to the start line. I made it with three minutes to spare. I shimmied over the barriers separating the spectators from the runners and wedged myself into the spandexed mass of runners.

Weather: Rainy and cool, in the mid-50’s. Just about perfect. A lot of people complained about the rain, and many wore plastic trash bags. Los Angelenos are such wimps.

Mile 1: 9:17
Mile 2: 9:02
Mile 3: 9:09

I tried to relax and not expend energy by weaving through the crowd. The rain started to come down harder just as the race started, but settled into a steady drizzle.  We ran by Caltech and through empty suburban streets. Peaceful.

Mile 4: 9:13
Mile 5: 9:00
Mile 6: 9:00
Mile 7: 9:09

After wending through tree-lined neighborhoods, we ran up a gradual but long incline to get to Colorado Blvd., the main thoroughfare, also known as Route 66. Ran through Old Town Pasadena, which was empty of spectators except for the cheering employees at Lulumon Athletics. Thanks for the support, guys!

I inadvertently kept speeding up, but tried my best to stick to a 9:05 to 9:10/mile pace. The runners around me were mostly silent. Perhaps because most were too busy listening to their iPods/iPhones. Sigh. Many also still wore trashbags even though the rain petered out around Mile 7. All you could hear were the slap of footfalls and the flap flap the trashbags made from the breeze. The trashbag worn by one tiny old Japanese guy was so long it looked like a dress. 

Mile 8: 9:06
Mile 9: 9:51
Mile 10: 9:43

Hills, hills, and more hills. Gah. Must. Do. More. Hill. Work. I took my one and only water break at Mile 9. Walking while I sipped Ultima, I got discouraged. There comes a time at all races when I think, "WHY did I sign up for this?" This was that time. Then I lost my housekey at Mile 10 and had to backtrack and find it, costing me precious seconds.

Mile 11: 8:56
Mile 12: 8:20
Mile 13: 8:08

After cresting the last big hill, I realized the rest of the course was downhill or flat. My spirits perked up. For a nano-second, I felt guilty for not running harder the first part of the race. Then I felt grateful that I was out there running at all. I started getting emotional, which meant that I almost started hyperventilating.

That snapped me out of any Hallmark reverie. I stopped the self-analysis and started to haul ass. Can I tell you how incredible it felt to run fast at the end of a long race?! Damn the torpedoes, boys, full speed ahead! I passed a lot of people. A hell of a lot.

Mile 13.1: 7:28 pace
Total: 1:59:28

My Garmin said I ran 13.21 miles with an average 9:03 pace. I never was good at running tangents. Anyway, official average mile pace: 9:07. I'll take it. I felt so great after the race that I ran the 1.3 miles uphill back home, then ran another mile with my dogs while cheering on the full marathoners. You know you could have run harder when you willingly run uphill after a race. But I'll tackle the PR another day.

* Two factors are constant in those races: Cloudless, searing, 80+ degree weather, and my starting out too fast. Perfect conditions for a miserable race. By Mile 10, I was road kill. More on in a future post.


  1. Wow- all that while I was still asleep! That's a good pace considering you haven't been running long much and had other things to things you were spending time on. Good going.

  2. Glad to see you're still at it, Bex. Welcome back to the blogosphere.