Oh boy, I don’t know where to start with this. I’ve sat on it for a bit so I don’t sound totally cranky, so here we go!
This was my 4th time running SLO and it used to be one of my favorites. I adored it in 2014 and 2015. 2015 is still one of my proudest races even with a face plant at mile 5 and some major GI drama. In 2016, there were some changes to the expo, shirts and pictures that I wasn’t so fond of but I still loved the course and the way the crowd support was at certain points. Bring in 2017 and there was a course overhaul- big time. I would say only 2-3 miles were the same but other than the finish line they were now all at different points in the course. They advertised the course as being faster than years past. Thing about SLO is that it is not flat- the new half course was just shy of 600 elevation gain and the full just over 1200. But I liked the old course- freakishly long Johnson hills and all. Fine, I’ll reserve judgement. The other thing I was concerned about was the start time- it was starting at 7 AM. Every other time I’ve run it, it started at 6:30 or 6:45. The temps were predicted to hit the 80’s on race day and 70’s by 10. I was concerned.
The expo– Packet pickup as always was at the Madonna Inn. It seemed smaller this year. Then I’ve thought that of most the expo’s I’ve been to lately. Bib and shirt pickup was simple. There was a shirt I wanted to buy at one booth but the price was too steep. What was not cool was the un-mown grass with tall roots sticking out. I tripped in a gopher hole once and on the roots 3 times. While I was there I saw 3 other people trip on the roots. The blame for this likely lies on the Madonna Inn not the race but you’d think they would mow the expo lawn? By the time I left I had multiple scratches and was bleeding in 3 spots.
Race morning- Chaos. The original course was a point to point, in years past my mom would drop me off at the start and drive to the finish, park and watch Netflix. Easy. This year parking was a nightmare. Start and finish was the Madonna Inn but getting into the Inn was next to impossible. After waiting on the freeway for 10 minutes and moving 10 feet, my mother and I switched places- jumped out and ran around the car so she was now driving and I finished getting ready in the passenger seat. Then I jumped out of the car- still on the freeway– and found a place to hop the fence to the race. Only to arrive and hear they were delaying the start 10 minutes. Ok- port a potty time. The damn port a potty almost blew over. It wasn’t bolted down all the way. Grrr!!!! Ok, head to the corrals. Or so I thought. Marathon runners and half marathon runners were starting at the same time.
We all lined up near the pacers and waited. And waited. Then announcements started and we were told we were going to walk to the starting line. Umm, what? Weren’t we there? So en masse, we leave the Inn and round the corner and down the street to starting arch. It was like a block but it was odd, from behind me I heard on guy yell out “the race hasn’t even started and I’m over 2500 steps, this is whack”. Everyone within hearing distance laughed. Then more announcements and the National Anthem. I will never be irritated at the National Anthem and I get that traffic was backed up ridiculously, but all I could think was that it was getting warmer and warmer while we were waiting. We finally started just before 7:30.
This race falls into 2 distinct sections- the good and the “oh hell”- so here we go.
Miles 1-3 10:04, 10:11, 10:29
Well, hey these miles are coming faster than I thought they would be. My calves were a little tight but that’s typical in the beginning of runs, I figured they would loosen up. The first mile and half were through the southern part of town and not the most scenic. I just kept trucking. It was warm and getting warmer though so I decided to get water at the first aid except it wasn’t at mile 2 like I thought it would be. It was 1/2 a mile later, ok, walk through the station get water and run on. Right hand turn and we were running up Foothill.
Running between 2 mountains, though smallish, this was my favorite section to run. I slowed a little going uphill but I was fine with that. I was trying to ignore how warm it was and just keep moving. The 2:15 pacers passed me- had no idea they were behind me- but I paid very little attention and turned on my music. I walked if I needed a moment and just kept moving. Another aid station and more water. I was hydrating with my Beachbody Hydrate in between stations. We also ran a street I’d never seen before in SLO- well parts of it. It was pretty.
Mile 7-8 10:20, 11:20
My legs were feeling good and my breathing was under control. We had a little downhill before we started what would be the longest climb of the course- not steep just long. We ran over a timing mat at 7.8 miles and my average pace was 10:37. I was on track for possibly my strongest half in over a year. Who knew? We were running through downtown and I always think that’s kind of fun.
Then it went to hell.
Miles 9-10 12:31, 12:57
Something was not right, I was not ok. It was warm, too warm and I wasn’t handling it well. My legs started to cramp, my stomach started to cramp, my hands were swelling and I felt like I was going to throw up. I started walking more and more. I was pissed and just trying to keep the pace. We rounded a corner and I saw a steep, short hill and I let some colorful words fly.
Then the aid station at mile 9 was out of cups. Finally in mile 10, I told myself to get my head out of my ass, this wasn’t a PR race, I was using it as training rain; there was no point in killing myself for a finishing time. I came to a complete stop and tried to stretch out some of the cramping. Thankfully there was another aid station at mile 10, water! There were also kids with spray bottles and Iphone be damned, I had them spray water my way.
Miles 11-13 10:43, 11:35, 11:49
A downhill and the water helped me have a slightly faster mile 11 but the there was no going back. I cramped the rest of the way and felt nauseated the entire time. I was also letting my anger get to me- why did we start so late?! Grrr, just keep moving forward. The men’s marathon winner cruised past me around mile 11.5. I kept getting water at every station and sprayed down by any kids with bottles. I was thankful that the aid stations figured out it freakin’ hot and all the later ones had spray bottles and squirt guns.
Under the freeway, up a little a bump and then it was down the path to the finish line. I got hung up behind a guy and I kind of growled. I thought I did it quietly- I did not. I scared him. I’m sorry! Somehow in my irritation and readiness to be done, I ran that last .20 ( my watch read 13.2 miles) at a 7:40 pace. I don’t remember doing that but I was so beyond ready to be done.
I was so done. There was water at the finish line but just little cups. I didn’t feel dehydrated just hot. I had water at every station and my entire 25 oz’s of Beachbody while running. I know I am not acclimated to the heat yet but I just don’t get the later start this year. Combine that with delayed start and it was recipe for a hot mess. From what I’ve seen on social media I was not alone in my blow up that day. The heat and hills got to a lot of people. I liked the hills! Well except for the one just after mile 9, that felt like a dirty trick. I was just grrr about the whole thing. Still am a bit. Ok time to move on. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?
It wasn’t all bad- I chatted with nice guy prior to the start. I chatted with a nice older man around mile 6- his friends told him the race was flat. 😬. A nice guy helped me around mile 8 when I was struggling to get my water bottle back into my pack. All the volunteers were amazing and I love the enthusiasm of the Grizzlies. The running community is awesome.
Half marathon #24 done.
Do you run well in heat?
How do you deal when races go south?