Rock n’ Roll San Diego Race Report
One of the biggest obstacles athletes face is that they want to make improvements right now. I try to gently explain that there are incremental steps that have to be taken in the pursuit of a goal, and bypassing the laws of athletic improvement will result in injury, over-training, and/or disappointment. It is unrealistic, for example, to break 40 minutes in a 10k in a matter of a few months if you are consistently running 43 minutes. A more physiologically reasonable approach is dropping time in smaller chunks. Adaptations have to occur through training and racing, and this process cannot be rushed. But, most athletes are impatient, and they are disillusioned when they don’t reach milestones in a set time period.
When I started exclusively running two years ago, my half marathon PR was 1:19.48. My goal, obviously, was to get faster. And, slowly but surely I did. I ran 1:19.20, 1:19.02, 1:18.28, 1:18.42, 1:18.22, and 1:18.28 between February, 2011 and April, 2013. That is 6 half marathons within a 60 second window! A sub-1:18 performance loomed, but I just could not get there. A combination of the rib injury, course choice and other unmeasurable factors kept me in that very tight range. I knew under the right circumstances, though, I would pop off a race that would get me through that elusive barrier. At times I was frustrated, but evidently my body just wasn’t ready to make the jump to the next level.
Running 37:13 at the Bolder Boulder 10k was the perfect set-up for another assault on the sub-1:18 half marathon 6 days later at Rock n’ Roll San Diego. I calculated, based on that time, I could take the half marathon out in 36:30 for the first 10k. It sounds ambitious to run the first 10k of a half marathon 45 seconds faster than an open 10k, but the Bolder Boulder is a point to point race unlike any other. Most point to point courses are designed with a net downhill to give runners a chance to hit a fast time; the Bolder Boulder course, on the other hand, was created by a sadistic SOB who devised a route with a net uphill. Add to that the altitude, and you have yourself a very tough, slow 10k.
The new Rock n’ Roll San Diego course was built on the premise of using a net downhill course to increase the possibility of attaining a fast time. The first 11 miles of this point to point course were flat to rolling. The last 2 miles were screaming fast with a nice descent to the finish. Indeed, this course was so well planned the male winner ran the third fastest half marathon ever! Mother Nature can make or break any race, and on Sunday she provided extraordinary conditions with cool temperatures, overcast skies, and very light wind.
Despite feeling sluggish during my warm up (I couldn’t even hit 6 minute pace on my strides), when the gun fired, I felt surprisingly light on my feet. I ran through the first mile in a comfortable 5:48 and sure enough, I went through 10k in exactly 36:30. I ran strong over the next few miles and took advantage of the fast ending by running the last 5k in 17:56, my fastest 5k of the race. When I hit the line in 1:16.45, I was thrilled that I finally broke through an elusive barrier. It made the frustration of getting so close so many times go away in instant, and of course, I immediately started calculations on how to get under 1:16.
|Pre-race with Bob Babbitt and the rest of the Elvi|
I always feel like the lessons I learn from being an athlete are directly applicable to my role as a coach and adviser. Now that the racing season is underway, there will be times when I get a call from a despondent athlete who missed a goal. I can assure them, through the experience of personal accomplishments coming on the heels of adversity, that they are on the right track and that the improvements will come through consistently working hard, racing smart, believing in themselves, and not giving up.