The Horribly Hilly Half

The start area is possibly the coldest place in San Diego. I was chilly!

My original plan was to run the Palm Springs Half Marathon. It seemed like a good idea; I wanted to run a flat course and set a PR. Maybe even eke under 1:19. The logistics of getting to Palm Springs became difficult and when I called the hotel to check on my reservation they didn’t even have it anyway.

Instead, I opted to stay in San Diego and run the San Dieguito Half Marathon, a race I have run 4 times since 2003. It is a beautiful course that winds through one of San Diego’s nicest areas. It is protected from the wind and the temperature is always perfect. It is also one of the hilliest courses around.

My mile splits were as up and down as the course

How hilly is it? Earlier in the week I rode my bike on sections of the course and had an internal discussion. I said “Self, you were very wise to sign up for Palm Springs this year. The terrain here is so hilly and this course is just brutal. Those poor saps will be chugging up the hills on Sunday while you will be running on much gentler terrain. Your quads will thank you.”

I have seen reports that the course has 2500 feet of climbing. Of course, that means there is an equal amount of downhill. But, the time gained on the downhill never seems to make up for the time lost going up.

Here is a funny story. At the start, the announcer said, “This course is USATF certified. It is exactly 13.1 miles. Do not come up to us after the race and show us your Garmin with 13.2 or 13.3 miles. The course is measured on the tangents. That is the shortest route.” Ironically enough, one of my athletes who had run Palm Springs sent me a text about race complaining that the course was long at 13.25 miles. I guess their announcer didn’t warn them beforehand to run the tangents.

When the horn sounded, I went out quickly. As you can see from the course profile, the first bit is downhill. Having run this in the past, I knew that I had to gain time early to make up for the nasty section from mile 2-3, give myself a cushion, if you will. I was running comfortably with a pack of men. By mile 4, I was concerned I might have given myself too much of a cushion. I went through 5 miles in the same time I ran the 8k last week.

I backed off a little to save some energy for worst mile of the race, mile 9. By then, I had caught back up to stragglers from the group of men I started with.  Their company made the quad buster more manageable, and listening to a few of them curse in their own frustration at the pain was amusing. That mile was by far my slowest, and in the interest of making up time, I bombed down the hill, almost out of control.

The aid station around mile 10.5 was offering sangria. I’m not sure if they were serious. I stayed away from it just in case. You never know, though, this was a Hash House Harriers race and they are notorious drinkers!

The last mile to the finish is just merciless. It is uphill the entire way. When I went back out to do a warm down run, I overheard several entertaining comments on this section. One woman was yelling to a friend that her knee was f**ed. A man was muttering to himself, “What the hell?”

On that last mile, I tried to hold my form and not keep checking my watch, desperately hoping that time was standing still. I knew that a sub-1:20 was possible, and when I crossed the line first in 1:19.22 I was ecstatic. It was 3 minutes faster than last year. And, I finally bested my PR from 2005.

I had hoped to get in one last ride before packing up to leave for home tomorrow. But, I am so tired I have not even showered. Gross…

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6 Responses

  1. Christi says:

    Congrats on such an awesome time!

  2. Phil Kazmier says:

    Congratulations! Thank you for the race report.

  3. Kyleeeliz says:

    Great race :0)

  4. The Dude says:

    Great race report, as always. I ran my 1/2 marathon PR there in 1999, as I thought my arch-nemesis "Chumley" had entered. Turns out he stayed home. I still have fond memories of the course.

  5. kdahiya says:

    Great race, more pain means more fun, This was my 3rd half and PR yet(**although it was hilly as you described) I did 1:41:35. My first one was lat year, Heartbreak ridge @ Camp Pendleton. Its on 9/10/11 this year. You must do it, Its all fire road.

  6. George says:

    It's an honor running with you last Sunday and true it was hilly and kick my rear. First time running on San Dieguito and it fun and kinda brutal. I was used to the rolling hills of Camp Pendleton but that was twenty years ago. Pain is just weakness entering the body as the Corps used to say.