Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pasadena Half Marathon - May 15, 2011 - Race Report

Tara and me on Colorado Blvd. Photo by Walt

This was the race that was not supposed to be.

Some months ago, Alice, my wife, decided she wanted to celebrate her birthday this year with a half marathon race with her friend and running partner, Nancy. Alice and I met Nancy at the Los Angeles Raodrunners Marathon training program a few years ago and usually run together every Saturday topped off with breakfast or lunch at Ronnie's Diner in Culver City/Playa Vista.

Nancy's birthday is a few days before Alice's, so the Pasadena Half Marathon was to be the birthday fun run weekend. I was going to be the driver and breakfast lunch planner. But.....

Alice was injured shortly before the Los Angeles Marathon (torn calf muscle), ran the marathon anyway and exacerbated the injury. The orthopod said NO running and physical therapy for 6-8 weeks.

Alice's Pasadena Half Marathon birthday race was over.

However, Alice had already signed up for the race and why waste the bib, right?

I was pressed into a decision. Do I run or not?

An easy decision really - I would wear Alice's bib and run the race.

Tara from the Los Angeles Running Club and Los Angeles Marathon Roadrunners Run/Walk 5 also decided to run - so it was perfect. I would run with Tara and Nancy would run with Mary - also from Los Angeles Roadrunners and a Pace Leader with Run/Walk 5.

Alice and I arose at the customary 2:30 AM, showered, coffee'd up, and hit the road around 4:15 AM. Race Time was 6:30 AM, but since we had never run this race before, we wanted plenty of time to find the parking lots - we also prepared for the massive traffic jams.

We were lucky and the traffic was manageable, the directions on how to find parking very accurate and we parked with relative easy. There was one pit stop for my old man's bladder in Tujunga at the 7-11. Thanks to the cashier who let me use the employees bathroom at 5 AM. I was turned away at a gas station, told to go to a Jack in the Box which was closed. But, the 7-11 was all good.

After leaving the car, it was easy following all of my fellow runners through Pasadena City College up to Colorado Blvd. and the Porta Potties. On the way, I met up with Nancy and Mary. Tara soon joined us along with Peggy who is also a pace leader with Run/Walk 5.

I did some more business at the Porta Potties (old man's bladder) and noticed that there were no hand sanitizers inside the structure. There were hand washing stations outside the potties but they were nearly out of water and there were not sufficient numbers to handle all of the racers.

Around 6:15 AM we moved onto Colorado Blvd., lined up and I drank my pre-race Coke.

The race started on time and Tara and I made our way out.

We tried to stay to the right as much as we could so as to avoid the pushing and shoving as racers try to claw their way to the front. Since we are not the fastest runners in the world, we did not want to be either pushed to the ground, have racers yell at us, or be run over - seriously.

I had settled on a pace between 15-16 minutes per mile. My previous PR was at the Disneyland Half Marathon last September but I have been doing a great deal of training since then. Also, I was going to run/walk/run the entire course for the first time. I settled on a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds run and 45 seconds walk.

Here is the chart from my Garmin:

We settled into a nice 15 min/mile pace or so for the first five miles. This early part of the course is downhill for the first two miles with some rolling hills later. But, Tara was hanging in there with this pace and the race course was beautiful - even with the intermittent rain showers.

The rain did not bother us. I mean, after a full marathon with torrential rains and flash floods, we could handle some rain and wetness. It was nice and cool as well and the rain was kind of refreshing.

The old man's bladder acted up again and I looked for some porta potties around mile 6. I told Tara to keep going and that I would catch up. I ran ahead, reached a short line and then disaster.

I had to poop.

6-7 minutes later I was finally finished and then the dilemma. How to clean up my hands. There was NO sanitizer in the structure, it was raining outside - but not enough. I really needed to wash my hands.

Luckily, there was a water station next to the porta potty bank but they were dispensing mainly gatorade! Finally, I found a nice lady who reached for a gallon jug of water and I had my hands diluged with water.


The funny thing is that I knew about this dilemma from a previous story from Walt, my Los Angeles Roadrunner, who related his same experience at the Chicago Marathon. He advised always taking baby wipes with you on your races. In Chicago, Walt's porta potty was out of toilet paper and had to use his hand! Yuk! And, then find a water station up the road.

So, be advised. Place some baby wipes in your Camelbak or pockets - just in case.

Speaking about Walt, Tara and I saw him three times during the race. What a great guy for being out there for us and all of his family of Roadrunners. He snapped the photo above when it was raining earlier in the course. The third time we saw him, he was waiting for us with a big bag of pretzels. Yum!

I told Tara earlier to run on ahead and after cleaning my hands, I sprinted to catch up - as best I could. I knew I could crash later in the race, but by this time I wanted to make up the time and would take my chances.

I caught up with her around mile 8.5 just in time to run the hilly part of the course with her. Tara does not like hills and the grade was not steep but it was relentless. We made it.

Earlier, I had told Tara that if I felt good, that I would after mile 10, push the pace. If she wanted to join me, then great, if not then I would look for her at the finish line.

I took off and while I did not run all out, it was close.

After filtering out the 8 minute bathroom break, I finished with a PR in 3:23:33 or a 15:33 minute/mile pace.

I was pleased with the around 5% improvement form last year's Disneyland Half Marathon and the fact I ran/walk/ran the entire course. Also, I was not knackered when I finished.

Alice met me after I received my (really her) medal. And, we soon met up with Nancy and Mary who had previously finished in 2 hours and 54 minutes. Tara soon finished and we all went to breakfast/lunch topped off with chocolate birthday cake.

Next year, Alice will be healed up and we will run this race again. Yes, I won't be the driver next year, but a registered racer.

So, what did I learn from this race?
  • Watch my diet for up to three days before the race - no salads or bulky carbohydrates.
  • Place some baby wipes in my CamelBak.
The Pasadena Half Marathon and Marathon have a beautiful course and the logistics to get to the race are easy - I highly recommend this race.

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