Race Recap: Hollywood Half Marathon 2015

“B.” Everything about this race was a solid “B.” I guess most people would be pleased with this, but when you’re raised in a family where your dad responds to your straight-A report card except for one A- with “We have to work on your math,” then you know ”B” – while good — is also a bit of a bummer.

My goals for this race were the following:

A – A new PR (sub 1:57:57)
B – 1:58-2:03
C – 2:04-2:09

As you guessed, I reached my B-goal. My finishing time was 2:00:29, my third fastest half marathon time, and right in between my 2013 and 2014 race times for this course.

In trying to figure out why I didn’t reach my A-goal, I would assign about 75% blame on tired legs and 25% to it just not being my day. Of course, I’m not opposed to placing the entirety of the blame on my choosing to use my good luck stash on jury duty rather than the race (see previous post about Chinese Year of the Goat/Sheep).

At first I was confused because in looking at my running journal from last year, I noticed that the week before last year’s race, I had also run a 45 mile week, including a 20-miler, but was able to still pull out a sub-2:00 at last year’s race. Why was this year different? Well, I had forgotten that there have been a couple major changes to this year’s training plan from last year’s: the addition of the 20+ long run and the marathon pace miles in my long runs. Even though the 20+ miler was only an additional two miles, my FMC was wary enough to have me move it to earlier in my schedule, so I’d have enough time to recover for my marathon. Meanwhile, adding the MP miles have certainly cranked up the intensity of my long runs. Even though I had done a 20-mile run the week before last year’s race, I didn’t do 11 of them at between my half marathon and marathon paces. In looking ahead, I will basically be running another half marathon next week within my long run. Fun.

This would explain the fatigue and why early on (mile 3), I knew it just wasn’t going to be my day. My legs felt like jelly, and I was having trouble breathing. Boarding the struggle bus at mile 3 is no bueno. Knowing I wasn’t going to PR and that this was in some ways a glorified training run, there were a couple times during the race when I just thought “Fuck it, I’ll be better off going home and getting a 20-miler in than finishing this.” But, I had paid my fee and wanted my damn medal. More importantly, I wanted to test myself. A marathon is not going to be easy, and pushing through when you are physically and mentally struggling, is good practice.

The course is fairly flat but has these up and back hairpin turns that make it look like an insect. Not particularly scenic.

course

The pre-race aesthetic is much more interesting than during the race itself. The start is at Hollywood Blvd. and Highland, and milling about the start area, you’ll see Grauman’s Chinese Theater, along with other cool structures, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (I saw Gwyneth’s star!). The race expo is held at the Hollywood Palladium.

palladium
The only indication it’s a race expo is the Clif banner in the corner.

Anyway, back to the race. Even though my times were right where I wanted them to be for the first five miles — 9:23; 9:07; 9:02; 9:20; 9:39 – like I said, it was just an effort. I even had to take a gel one mile earlier than expected. I perked up after that and ran my fastest two miles at 8:23 and 8:33 but the initial gel-rush wore off, and I slowed back down. At this point, I knew I’d have to really push it to get that PR, and I just didn’t have it in me. The next miles were 9:33; 9:27; 8:59; and 9:27. With about two miles to go, and my legs getting heavier and heavier, I was reduced to shuffling. And then came the cramps. I hadn’t cramped in a race in a long time thanks to Hammer Endurolytes, but I had only taken half the dose at my last stop because I couldn’t get the pill out of my belt. Shouldn’t matter, right? Eeks. I tried to run it in strong at the end, but if I tried to exert any extra effort or elongate my stride, my legs would seize up. I think I hobbled across the finish line. Last two miles 9:11 and 9:39.

postrace
Post-race! Smiling and hoping this banana works out this friggin’ cramp in my calf.

 

So a bit of a bummer that I didn’t get a new PR, but considering the fatigue, cramps and mind-fuck, I still managed to almost go sub-2:00. Usually when I feel this shitty, my race time will be in the 2:10-2:14 range, so it’s nice that shitty has moved up a bit. I don’t think of myself as particularly mentally strong, so I am especially pleased that I pushed through and grinded it out. I fought for this one.

The Hollywood Half also pointed out some areas that need improvement. Even though my food has cleaned up quite a bit (I think I’m going on three weeks off sugar and white flour), my nutrition around working out is not very good. OK, it’s apathetic at best, dangerous at worst. Here’s the thing…in the last year, I have picked up the habit of generally not eating before races or long runs. I forced myself to have a third of a Clif Bar yesterday pre-race. I also don’t drink enough water (4 glasses a day?). I am getting better at post-run nutrition, but yeah, cramping again at mile 12, demonstrated to me that I can’t afford to be so cavalier about my fueling.

I also have to strive for holding a steadier pace. There are full minute swings in my paces, and I want to run a fairly even-paced race at Mountains2Beach. I’ve been negligent about my MP miles in that so long as they stayed under 9:55, I didn’t care. I don’t want to be more of a slave to my Garmin than I already am, but I need to zone in on what 9:45-9:55 feels like. Dicking around with my pacing could make for a painful last ten miles at the marathon if I don’t address that pronto.

Oh, and the miscellaneous stuff. I like the black t-shirt this year, and the virtual goodie bag actually has something I’d use – 40% off compression apparel from Pro Compression. This race has super easy access to and from via the Metro (yes, LA has one). Water stops were good, and there were bathrooms along the way. I think the only thing that doesn’t make this a great race is the kind of blah course and those bizarre turns. A better way to see Hollywood is running the LA Marathon.

medals
A gold star medal to add to my blue and silver medals from years past.

 

So the 2015 Hollywood Half is in the books. Only six weeks until marathon day. Here.We.Go!!

Hollywood Half Marathon (4/11/15)
2:00:29
Pace: 9:12
Age Group (45-49): 25
Women: 239
Overall: 800

Discoveries Made During Race Week

Just some random things I discovered while on taper during race week.

1.  This is what sleeping in looks like.

What the what? Don't have to get up when it's dark?!
What the what? Don’t have to get up when it’s dark?!

2.  There is no limit to how many times you can check the weather app. Freaked out it might rain on race day? Worried you’ll get heat stroke during your half marathon? Well, there are unlimited checkity-check-checks on the weather app.

Thirty minute time span. I knew it would change!
Thirty minute time span. I knew it would change!

3.  Don’t get cupping done during race week. I get cupped about six times a year, and this has never happened before, but OF COURSE it happened during race week. I got a skin irritation from the cupping, and it’s right where my bra strap is. Great. Extra Glide on Saturday.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

4.  I’m super-superstitious. Good news – I got out of jury duty! Between the Misandry tote, Kenneth Lay conspiracy theory and other no-filter responses I wrote on the juror questionnaire, I was the first name called, and the first person dismissed! Yay…not so fast. This is the Year of the Goat/Sheep under the Chinese horoscope, which means it’s my year, and I am supposed to be blessed with much luck this year. However, one warning I read was to not waste my luck on small things; rather, save it for the times I really need it. This worked earlier this year when I was faced with a situation where I could have exerted my will and called upon some luck, but I passed. I thought “Wait, not this time.” Thirty minutes later – I shit you not — I was rewarded with much bigger good fortune. Alas, now I’m wondering if I blew my wad on stupid jury duty. I need it for Saturday! Grrr. My husband says my luck pot will replenish, but WILL IT REPLENISH BY SATURDAY?!? Next time I’ll be more careful.

Geez, I hope I can survive the next two days of taper. Looks like someone is a little tightly wound without a regular endorphin rush.

Race Week: Hollywood Half Marathon

Starting to get the race day jitters and, as always, feeling like I’m a day late on starting my prep. Start hydrating! Sleep more! Stop working out! Take Juven! I may actually be a day late in this case because the Hollywood Half is held on a Saturday. I actually think I prefer this as then I have the whole weekend to recover and relax, and Saturday isn’t spent prepping. Why aren’t more races held on Saturday?!?

Though I feel like I’m a little behind on race prep, I did manage to stop at The Salvation Army to buy a cheapo jacket (plus three) for pre-race temp survival.

I'm going with the purple one as it's rain-resistant.
I’m going with the purple one as it’s rain-resistant.

Not only are we going through a cold spell (ha!) here in LA, we also had a little rain yesterday.

Look closely...it's a puddle!
Look closely…it’s a puddle!

Here is the forecasted race day temp including what the morning temp should be around. The race has an early start time of 6:00 a.m. so it’ll definitely be brisk beforehand.

Pretty fucking ideal.
Pretty fucking ideal.

This is my third time running the Hollywood Half. In 2013, I ran it in 2:03:06, and last year, I did it in 1:58:57, so this year…

My concern is the condition of my legs and how thrashed they may or may not be. This is not my “A” race and falls in the middle of marathon training, so there’s been no taper for me. I’m coming off a high mileage week (45) and am three weeks removed from a 22-mile long run. My worry is the lack of recovery time, and the prospect of running a race on dead legs. I had a tempo run yesterday, and albeit, it was cold and wet, but I could never get warmed up and never felt great. It was a mental and physical struggle the whole damn way. The goal was to run 6 miles total, with 4 at 9:00 pace, and my times were 8:58; 8:58; 9:03; 8:35. On top of the shit weather conditions (or because of), my iPod gave out! Argh. I also have been experiencing some lower back and hip tightness, which I’ll definitely be addressing with more Pilates after the half, but as for now, I noticed on my run this morning that it took me about a mile to loosen up. Not cool.

So given this information, my goals for this race are the following:

“C” – 2:04-2:09. I would be disappointed to not hit this. It’s not an especially challenging course (mostly flat but with weird hairpin turns), and even if my legs are dead tired, I still should be able to match my Surf City time from a couple months ago when I hadn’t been training that long.

“B” – 1:58-2:03. This would put me in between my 2013 and 2014 times. I guess this would be fine. Le sigh.

“A” – Sub 1:57:57. That would mean a new half marathon PR for me, and frankly, I don’t see why this shouldn’t happen. The only thing standing in my way is improper race strategy and leg fatigue.

I prefer a calm race week, and it is pretty much that except for one random thing – I got called in for jury duty! I am trying my hardest to get dismissed, and on reporting day, I showed up wearing this bag and an Ali sweatshirt. After being assigned a courtroom, I was given a questionnaire about the case, and I’m fairly confident that my brutally honest responses should get me dismissed tomorrow when I report back in. Ha.

My New Inquiry Misandry tote. Valentine's Day Limited Edition.
My New Inquiry Misandry tote. Valentine’s Day Limited Edition.

Anyway, I’m nervous, excited, and curious to see where my conditioning is this late in my marathon training. I leave you with my series of race photos from 2013, which is when I tripped over the finish line and almost pantsed the runner in front of me. Pick your feet up!

Second base AND a medal? #winning
Second base AND a medal? #winning