This was my 3rd year running the race and each time it was a goal race. I missed my goal the past 2 years (2:11 instead of 2:10, then 2:01:5X instead of sub2). After last year, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. It’s obviously a huge race so logistics make me more anxious than necessary but it is well organized with lots of support along the course (both aid and spectators). The downsides are it takes several miles to feel a bit of space and the course profile does not agree with me. It is net downhill but has 420 ft elevation (including some incline near the end) but more importantly, you don’t really notice most of the downhill. So there’s not much to look forward to…except the end. I didn’t sign up for the race until April because, like I said, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. But after my marathon in January, I started running more and saw my fitness improving. I felt like I wanted a goal HM at the end of my season and this was the only race to fit the bill. But I should have known, sigh.
Training went great! I worked with my same coach again and hit 180 miles in April and 170 miles in May (vs 100 and 141 in April/May last year). Based on the workouts I was nailing, she felt like a 8:55 pace was doable. I really wanted an official sub2 since my “PR” half in December was a short course and decently net downhill at 1:55:21 (pace 8:57) for 12.9 miles. So my plan was to start at 2 hour pace (9:07 pace) and try to speed up. LOL as I’m typing that. No injuries during training and I didn’t miss any workouts. I cut a few runs short the weekend before the race because I was traveling and it was 95 degrees with 1000% humidity.
Race morning started just before 4am. I splurged for the VIP experience through RnR since the parking and PoP situation is awful for this race. My first year, I stood in line for almost an hour and missed my corral start. Year 2, I got in line immediately but then had to pee again before the race started and just held it throughout the race. Not ideal. For $69, I got parking in a garage right next to the finish line, shuttle directly to the start, and then a tent area that had seemingly 1 PoP per person (!), light breakfast, chairs, VIP gear check, sunscreen, etc. Worth the $$. There were also heaters but they weren’t turned on…because at 5am, I didn’t even need my long sleeve. By 6 am, before my warm up, I was already warm in a tank. Desi Linden was supposedly part of the 2 hour pace group. The corrals are madness so while I saw the sign for the group, I didn’t see her and couldn’t get close to that corral.
Race started at 6:15am and it was close to 6:30am when my corral crossed the start line. Why are there people walking at the start?? I started off, aiming for 9:05-9:10 which felt a bit harder than I expected. Through the early miles, I really tried hard to focus on the current mile, try to stay relaxed and take in water or Gatorade at most of the aid stops. The Sun came out blazing after the 5K mat and I never saw a cloud again. It gave me PTSD flashbacks to my marathon in Phoenix back in January where I was running directly into the sun for hours. Not good. I saw mile after mile click off that was around 9:10 or a little slower and I knew I needed to start picking things up, but I just couldn’t. With every small hill, I felt myself slowing more and more. Around Mile 8-9, I gave up. I didn’t have sub 2 in me that day and reasoned I’d rather run quite a bit slower and enjoy the remaining miles rather than really crash and burn. I even walked briefly up an incline while my brain was screaming (hopefully not out loud) how much I hate this race. There is some nice downhill at Mile 10 and it was here that I realized just because I won’t go sub2 doesn’t mean I can’t PR the course. So I picked it up a little more but too little too late. I would cross the finish line about 10 second slower than last year in 2:02:07. Which kills me –less about the actual time—and more because I am fitter this year but I have no race to show that. The weather definitely played into things a little but it wasn't crazy hot. Probably mid to high 70's and very sunny.
So yeah, I’m a bit bummed. I was really hoping to be able to put this sub2 obsession behind me and make new goals for the future. Time and time again, I just don’t have the mental game for these goal races. I get through the training just fine (and enjoy it!) but then come race day, I give up rather than push through. I know that my current fitness isn’t a waste and it will benefit me going forward yada yada yada but I’ll allow myself to be disappointed for this week.
For those reading, this race is really a great course and I look forward to running it again but ONLY FOR FUN.