America’s Finest City half marathon

San Diego Half-Marathon = Hotter Than Hades

Oh the irony of summer running.

A few months ago, I decided to sign up for the America’s Finest City Half-Marathon in San Diego, California. My thought process?

  • Great Tune-Up Run for the half-way point of my full-marathon training
  • Cooler Weather than the 90+ degrees I have to train in super early
  • It’s San Diego

Things didn’t exactly go as planned.

I received multiple emails in the week preceding the event, each emphatically reminding us to hydrate because it was going to be “hot.”

I laughed it off.

“Hot? I’ve been TRAINING in ‘hot,’ and San Diego is NOT ‘hot.'”

Mother Nature certainly had a good laugh this past Sunday.

start of race

The America’s Finest City Half-Marathon starts on a peninsula near a San Diego landmark. We arrived via shuttle bus between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. prior to the 7 a.m. start time. The Marine Layer seemed to hold in the moisture and the chill of the morning (welcomed!). However, by 7 a.m., it was abundantly clear that we were about to run 13.1 miles in an inferno of sorts, a mixture of humidity, heat and the blacktop under our feet amplifying the terrible weather.

marine layer

Side note: Heat wouldn’t normally be a problem for me. I mean, I’m a desert dweller so I know how to survive. Increase your fluid intake, get lots of rest, stay cool, etc.

In San Diego, however, it’s rather uncommon to have air conditioning. That was a new discovery for me as I stayed in an un-air conditioned friend’s house and ate at restaurants devoid of air conditioning. At 93 degrees with humidity, the weather was no joke so depletion prior to the race was high in likelihood.

As we lined up for the race – about 10,000 of us – we were reminded that there were time limits on this course.

  1. We had to make it to the 6.3-mile mark prior to 8:30 a.m. if we wanted to continue the race. We would not be able to finish the race if we arrived after that time.
  2. If temperatures reached 85 degrees or more PRIOR to that time, people could choose to be shuttled to the finish or simply bypass the two-mile stretch and still receive a medal.

So, no pressure, right? 😉

Thankfully, the first four miles, though hilly, included a lot of downhill. With past cross country racing experience, my coach’s words echoed in my head: Use the downhill.

Just as you would expect with a car, if you brake going down a hill, you’re expending a lot of energy and not taking advantage of a terrific edge – natural speed. I credit this stretch for helping me get to 6.3 well in advance of the cutoff, but I did see quite a number of unfortunate people getting stuck at the cutoff as I was leaving the two-mile segment.

mile 7

I slogged along, running into the sun and feeling the heat waves bouncing off of the asphalt beneath our feet. Each water station offered increasing respite, gratefully. At mile 10, we had a “rain forest” to run through; a makeshift water misting system with false flowers and vines draped over the sides. Then, mile 11 was complete with two water hoses set to the mist setting AND a much more robust sprinkler system that felt more like a shower (thank you, GOD!).

From there, we were on our own. And, if you thought you had earned your medal for making it that far, you were sadly mistaken.

The final 2.1 miles were in the main downtown area, winding you UPHILL toward Balboa Park. As you climbed to the top of one ginormous hill, you would turn a corner to the left only to discover yet another one.

Again, hills are no big deal…except we were all struggling already. My socks were soaked from splashing water over my head and shuffle jogging through mister systems. My head felt a little light, but I was trying my best to avoid using hydration to cool myself off for fear of hyponatremia.

It was pure “survivor mode” for the remainder of the race.

For the $120 entry fee and six hour drive, this race was definitely not what I had envisioned.

But, it was better than training in 117 back home so I guess I’ll take it.

finisher
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5 Things I’ve Changed in My Marathon Training

A peek into my marathon training log

It’s hard to believe that I’m now nearly halfway through my marathon training!

The Marine Corps Marathon is October 25, which may seem like a really, REALLY long way away given it’s barely August, but we are now at the critical part of training.

I’ve experienced injuries on my journey to 26.2 in the past and let me tell you, it is NO fun. I’m determined to stay healthy and safe this training season and so far, I’ve taken the important precautions to keep it that way.

Here’s a peek at my “training log” of a few things I’ve needed to tweak this time around to achieve my goals to stay healthy and strong this season.

5 Things I’ve Changed in My Marathon Training

#1 My Shoe Inserts

I started my training with a brand-new pair of my favorite Asics, the Kayanos. Known as the “Corvette” of Asics running shoes, they’re a pretty penny, but worth every cent in my opinion. This time around, however, it seems that Asics changed the heel cup a bit…they may have lowered it? In any case, I was noticing some of the tell tale signs of plantar fascitis (yup, I’ve had it before!) so I knew the first thing I needed to do was give my feet more support. Fortunately, my Powerstep orthotic inserts have done the trick, providing more support in my arch and heel.

powerstep

#2 My Supplements

Keeping my electrolyte and sodium levels stable are also top priorities for me right now. Having experienced hyponatremia too many times, I knew summer hydration would be kicked up significantly, which meant I had to figure out my supplements fast. On the advice of a running friend, I headed to REI in Tempe, Arizona and picked up Skratch electrolyte and sodium drink mixes, some new Gu Mocha-flavored packets with caffeine (heaven!) and some chews. I’ve never been one to like eating while I run, but the Skratch chews are actually pretty good AND don’t seem to stick in your teeth (bonus!)
skratch

#3 My Hydration Pack

For eight years, I’ve run with the Amphipod hydration belt, which as served its purpose well. However, I began to notice a few problems with it: 1) Not enough storage space even if I added extra pouches. 2) Annoying on my GI tract. A newer addition to the marathon and ultramarathon running community is the hydration pack, which is basically a sleeker Camelbak water dispenser with improved engineering to remove bounce, chaffing and weight. I wanted to make sure that I adjusted to a new way of hydrating early, so I picked up a Camelbak Circuit prior to my eight-mile long run this past weekend and tried it out. I also added a new Camelbak Podium water bottle with a handy twist nozzle and both seriously transformed my run. Bottom line: Change your hydration pack early on in training so you can get used to it!

camelbak-circuit

#4 My Training Schedule

The original training schedule I am basing my running off of requires three middle-distance runs (think: 3-8 miles) during the week followed by a long run on the weekend. My weekend distance runs were supposed to be on Saturdays, but I’ve found myself switching periodically to Sundays. I’ve also reduced the weekday runs to sometimes twice a week if I was experiencing achiness and increased fatigue. I’ll go on a long walk or lift weights instead unless I’m really feeling terrible. Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual when  you’re putting in the miles during the hottest time of the year. I have a feeling things will balance out better in the coming weeks as my body adjusts and I get better with my hydration and supplementation.

calendar

#5 My Thinking About Races During Marathon Training

I decided to commit to the America’s Finest City half-marathon race in San Diego on Sunday, August 16 as my official “halfway point” in training. With cooler weather and no pressure to hit a certain time, I’m looking forward to the change in scenery and seeing how my body is doing in better weather. It’s also a great way to gauge how my body is adjusting to the distance and give myself an extra motivating “halfway point.”

Americas-finest-city-half-marathon-map

So that’s what I’ve learned so far this marathon training season! After doing so many half-marathons and five full marathons, I know one thing for sure: you always learn something new every time you do it.

Happy running, friends! 🙂