san diego

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.