The weekend started with a frantic day of preparation for both the trip to San Diego and two weeks in Europe.
We took our two kids (our cairn terriers) up to Aunt Chelle who graciously agreed to watch them while we were gone, then poured through a to-do list of other actions that needed to be taken before we left. No, I didn’t get through all of it, but did complete most of the things I had to complete in person or over the phone before we left. That night was the Virgin America flight to San Diego with fellow SMSers Miriam, Nicole and Rachel. Later that night another three members of our group were arriving so we upgraded the rental car to an SUV, all piled in and made our way to the gorgeous Hilton San Diego Resort in Mission Bay.
Day two was the requisite visit to the Marathon expo which was packed with enthusiastic runners – many doing the event (and the distance) for the first time. Rock & Roll San Diego is the founding event in this crazy series I’ve committed to completing this year. Its first running was 1998 and this year they added a half marathon which brought the total number of participants up to 30,000. They weren’t all at the expo Saturday morning, but you could have fooled me.
After the expo we headed down to Ocean Beach for a classic San Diego meal – fish tacos at South Beach Bar & Grille. We dined on a gorgeous spread of mahi mahi, shark, lobster, ceviche, and shrimp tacos, then walked to the beach and watched a bit of a surfing competition being sponsored by Red Bull. On the way back to the car we picked up supplies for the next morning’s run and Miriam and I hit the funkiest coffee place in town – Pirate’s coffee. Kinda touristy on the outside but good coffee and chai tea.
As before most marathons, I highly recommend taking it easy and in San Diego that means taking in the warm weather. We grabbed our suits and headed to the pool for a relaxing afternoon. Ironically, it was mostly overcast that afternoon and brought a big of chill – while it was a gorgeous day in the mid-eighties back home. Go figure.
That evening was the SMS pasta party and we were in full force. Twenty-eight people, runners from SMS, TNT and friends of the family joined us at Fillippi’s Pizzeria in Little Italy. We were clearly the largest party in this place which always has a line out the door. Good food, good conversation, good friendship.
Then off to prep our chairs and get some sleep before the start of the race.
We arrived at 6th and Olive at around 4:45am and the park was fully buzzing. A sea of purple shirts filled the park as Rock & Roll San Diego is an official Team in Training charity event.
The corrals started filling up around 5:30. I jumped into my corral around this same time looking for my Twitter buddy Adam but most have lost him in the crowd. At the sound of the gun at 6:15am we were off. Well, to be frank, with more than 30 corrals of runners very few were off at this time. There were 1-2 minutes between corrals which made for a rather anticlimactic start, but one in which you weren’t weaving frantically to fight for running room either – always a plus.
The course presented lots of opportunities to see and cheer on your fellow participants as the half and full took off together, then split off and rejoined several times. Competitor Group always does a great job of course design that ensures you never get lost in the half-goes-left, full-goes-right blending that can happen in some of these large races. When half and full were together we were mostly separated by a road divider or a series of orange cones.
The race started by going North through down then the full peeled off for a trip through downtown, past Petco Park where the San Diego Padres play (a bit of a city within the city), through the Gas Lamp district (a great area for night life). The scenery and ubiquitous bands every mile made the time (and miles) fly by.
Then it was out to the freeway heading west. This was a challenging part of the course as there were fewer bands (or so it seemed) and the roads were banked to facilitate water runoff. While I appreciate the engineering need, running on banked roads is tough on the knees and hips and I was feeling it. I, and others, kept moving to the high spots on the road to minimize the roll but it wasn’t always easy.
Once we got to West San Diego the ocean became visible and Mission Bay, where the rest of the race would take place. We headed straight for our hotel initially, then veered North for a loop around the Mission Bay park. As I made this turn, the cloud cover that had kept the morning so cool, dissipated and the temperature began to rise. What started as a low 60s, overcast and slightly humid morning was rapidly becoming a sunny mid-70s.
Our hotel was between miles 19 and 20 and as we swung down toward the south end of Mission Bay we could hear the sounds of the finish line in front of us. When you hear the finish but you are only at mile 20, that’s usually a bad sign – means you’re just being teased and a detour is ahead. And there it was. We turned west onto Fiesta island, a rather barren sandbar in the middle of Mission Bay. As we looped around the island the sun and heat came in full force. Thankfully, as we passed through the Boy Scouts Youth Camp on the island cold wet sponges were being handed out and troop leaders were holding sprayer hoses for a much-needed water douse. The miles around the island were hard and seemed much longer as the view didn’t change much. Finally we returned to the Mission Bay trail and mile market 25 arrived. I picked up the pace knowing I had just 1.2 miles left and still wet from the dousing and sponges I was feeling strong. With a half-mile left I turned to the guy running next to me and said, “Come on, let’s kick it,” and we both broke into a sprint. We flew through the remaining distance at each other’s elbows crossing the finish line in 3:28.
It’s an amazing feeling when you can push through 25.5 miles of a marathon and somehow muster the strength for a last kick. I felt elated.
After recovering a stretching in the finishers area, I walked down toward the finish line hoping to find others from our crew but the crowds were thick and I had no luck. I walked into the ocean up to my hips for a quick ice bath, then over to the concert area to take in a few songs from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the headliners for this event. They were in fantastic form, pulling out all the swing classics and performing some incredible solos on the sax, bass, trumpet, piano and even the trombone, which I used to play in school.
Then it was time to start heading to the hotel to shower, check out and get on the road. As I was walking back I actually felt so good I broke into a run for most of the 1.5 miles back to the Hilton. Good thing I did, too, as I was able to catch my colleagues who were walking back to the hotel as well.
This week is my company’s European client event, IT Forum, in Lisbon, Portugal and I’m due to lead a session with our clients on Tuesday afternoon, so I didn’t have much choice but to fly directly after the race. I was worried about how my legs would recover and feel after 26.2, a two hour car ride to LAX and 9 hours in the air, so at the Marathon Expo I stopped into the booth of 2XU an Australian clothing company specializing in compression gear. I picked up a pair of their compression tights which feature graduated compression. This innovation helps your muscles recover at rest by increasing blood circulation. Where normally if you sit for long periods of time your circulation has to fight gravity and you end up with blood pooling in your feel, graduated compression is tightest at the bottom squeezing the blood vessels more here so blood circulates more easily throughout the legs. The product worked as advertised as after the 9 hour flight I had no soreness and was walking normally all through the airport. Sweet!
Next up is Rock & Roll Seattle in just three weeks. This means I’ll be doing all my training for it while in Europe.
Thanks to everyone who has supported by cause thus far. Together we’ve raised over $7,500 for the fight against blood cancers. But there’s more to go. Please help me make my goal of raising over $10,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by making a donation today. Just click on the Donate Now picture at the top of this page. Thank you!