Race Report: Santa Barbara International Half Marathon

Race morning began at about 3:30am, I’m not sure because I don’t tell time or do much of anything that good before sunrise. See, before we changed the clocks, Sweet Pea was getting up at about 5:45. Someone up there must have been laughing at me when I complained about how ridiculous that was, because when we changed the clocks, wake up time shifted to 4:45am. As in wake up for the day wake up time. A week later we flew to California where it’s another hour earlier, making Sweet Pea’s wake up time… wait for it… 3:45. So she was going down for her first nap before I’d normally even have started making coffee.

Sleep deprived and anxious about said sleep deprivation was an awesome frame of mind to for my big race. Oh and did I mention she started doing this 9pm wake-up in addition to her middle of the night wake-up (or two)? I had serious doubts about what I would be able to do on race day, under the circumstances. Dan kept trying to tell me it was huge that I’d even trained for this thing since having a baby but I didn’t want to hear it. I only wanted to run fast.

The race packet said anyone running 9:00/mile or faster would start at 7:15 and the latest you could be dropped off at that start was 6:30. At 6:03 en route to the race I realized if they were being that strict about drop-off time they probably weren’t going to let me sit in the car and nurse before I got out, which had been my plan. And surely I couldn’t nurse on the sidewalk while Dan circled in the car because what if there was a problem and somehow I got stuck with the baby at the start line? Meanwhile, I knew I would need to nurse as close to the start time as possible just because I knew my chest would be bursting (painfully not joyfully) by the time I got to the finish line if I didn’t.

At 6:15 I nursed in the car in a McDonalds parking lot one exit before the race start area. At 6:25 I used the McDonalds bathroom and ran into a tree trunk hidden behind a shrub on the way back to the car, sustaining serious pain and visible swelling to my leg and severe bruising to my ego.  At 6:29 I bounded out of the car just in time.

At the start, I discovered the cut-off for Wave 1 was not actually the 9 minute mile pace. There was one wave for 5-8 minute mile runners and another for 8+. I wasn’t sure which to choose because I was planning to run 8:00 miles. I chose the slower group, thinking I would be less tempted to go out too fast. Then I found out there was a 15 minute delay. I didn’t have time to waste. I picked the faster group and lined up toward the back.

I began at a comfortably hard pace. It felt a lot like running my goal race pace on the treadmill at a 1.0% grade, and I thought “I can do this.” I made sure to tuck in behind tall people to shield me from the wind (which was relatively gentle). I checked my mile splits whenever I saw a mile marker, but did not wear my Garmin because it just makes me crazy. I was pleased however to glom onto a group of three tall guys for a while. They were entertaining, about my pace, cool with letting me crash join their party (I thought it was only polite to ask after a quarter mile), and best of all, one of them had a Garmin and he would intermittently call out the pace. This is the running equivalent of not ordering dessert but helping yourself to a few bites of someone else’s.

Although I wasn’t quite clicking off the 8:00 miles I’d dreamed of, I didn’t want to speed up only to blow up before the finish line. I was only a few seconds off per mile, but 5-20 seconds per mile add up over 13.1 miles. I didn’t worry about it and just stuck with my plan; comfortably hard up until mile 5, downright hard (tempo effort) from miles 6-9, crazy hard from miles 9-12, and verging on death and destruction from mile 12 to the finish.

I kept yo yo-ing back and forth with my posse of tall dudes. I’d heard there was a big hill for about a half a mile at mile 10. There was a hill that seemed possibly big around the ninth mile and I felt amazing going up it, passing the dudes for what I thought was the last time. It turned out we had a tailwind and it wasn’t the hill I should have been concerned about.

Mile ten brought the hill, as promised and it was no joke. My pace slowed, my breathing was on the edge of out of control and the guys passed me. The only thing I would change about my training, knowing about this hill, was that I would have done some big hills at the end of my long runs. After we crested the hill I passed the guys and didn’t seem them again till after the finish line.

It was around this time that I started to realize my goal was totally possible. At the ten mile mark, my watch read 1:21… so all I had to do was a 24 minute 5k and I could do it. After we crested the hill, the course flattened out. Somewhere about 1000 yards from the finish Dan, Sweet Pea, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were camped out. They cheered as I ran by, and Dan ran with me for about 20 feet. He told me my pace was good, and I looked great. I could barely speak but between breaths I said “Need…to….nurse…at….the…finish.” All I could think was the sooner I finished, the sooner I could relieve the crushing pressure in my chest. I so did not regret starting in Wave 1.

From there on, I just ran as hard as I could to the finish line. From this point forward, the course was downhill with an ocean view. Awesome and awesome. I turned the last corner heading toward the finish chute and I saw 1:44:53 on the clock. I found an extra gear to get me over the timing mat before it turned 1:45, having forgotten that I started about 20 seconds after the gun. 

So.. I did it! My goal was 1:45 and I finished in 1:44:37, a 7:59 pace. I was 36th of 735 women in the 30-39 age group and 373rd of over 3,000 runners overall. This was a six minute PR!! I ran my previous best in 2007, over five years ago when I was 27 and in what I thought was the best shape of my life (take THAT, 27 year old self!), so this is Kind Of a Big Deal.

When I wanted to back off the gas pedal, I remembered the stupidly long runs I did on the treadmill after I put Sweet Pea to bed for the night. I thought of the early mornings I didn’t want to get out of bed and got my butt over to the track anyway. I thought of all the time and aggravation Dan and I spent figuring out our schedules so that I could fit my runs in. I had worked way too hard to give in just because it hurt. That was the point, after all.

Moral of the Story: Don’t let your young, teething baby keep you from going after It! (Whatever It is). 

PS: Fellow running geeks: If you want to know my mile splits, they are:
 1) 8:02
2) 8:21 (assumed- missed a mile marker)
3) 8:21 (as above)
4) 8:10 (as above)
5) 8:10 (as above)
6) 8:55 7) 7:28
8) 8:00
9) 7:31
10) 7:37
11) 8:48 (hill!)
12) 7:24
13) 6:45 (downhill!)
14) 1:01 (last .1)

Here’s a link to the elevation profile.

Santa Barbara Marathon Logo

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