Well, it’s crazy but I just ran another PR race. 2014 is gonna be hard to top!
I had signed up for the Santa Cruz Half Marathon a long time ago, wanting to make up for not running it last year. I have run this race twice before, it was my first half marathon, and it a course I really like – along West Cliff where I typically do my tempo runs and mile repeats and then out to the Wilder Bluffs, which is just a stunning view. Seeing all the runners along the bluffs in one the best sights in Santa Cruz (clearly a runner’s bias!). Anyway, there was a little part of me that thought maybe I can PR at this course. That part of me got louder after the Lucky Run where I didn’t officially PR but would have if not for a bathroom break. However, I also knew that I was aiming for a PR at the 5k and would be running Ragnar the week before this race, so a half PR was a little unrealistic.
After the Carlsbad 5000 and Ragnar, my legs did feel tired and stiff. This was worsened by an 8 hour drive home the day after Ragnar. I did some 800s on the track on Monday and was pretty happy with them and thought “well maybe, if my legs feel fresh, I’ll try for that PR.” But I also knew my new buddy & co-TSFM ambassador and Ragnar teammate Erin was serving as the 1:45 pacer so I could just run with her and have some fun. All week I was unsure, my legs never felt completely rested but I didn’t feel destroyed either. I literally waffled back and forth on my race plans until the second the gun went off (and maybe for a few more miles).
Sunday morning I jogged down to the start line with Hillary (she wasn’t racing but wanted to come down with me before she headed out for her run). We stopped by the Santa Cruz Endurance/Santa Cruz Running Company tent at the finish line and said hello to our teammates, most of whom were running the 10k with the exception of Julie (who I somehow missed seeing all day) and Selena who was also running the half (and had a massive PR!). Selena had a 1:46 PR before so I had suggested that she run with Erin to get a 1:45. She was a little unsure due to some shin splints and lack of loads of speed training. But when we lined up, she was right next to me and Erin. At this point, I figured I would start out with the 1:45ers and pick it up if I felt good.
Gun goes off, and there I go – ahead of the 1:45ers (and for about a mile ahead of the 1:40 pace group). After a little hiccup, I switched my watch’s screen from the mile/pace to the clock screen (and until the last mile I never checked my splits/pace). I kept the 1:40 group within sight and tried to just stay comfortable. I didn’t want to go all crazy just to run out of steam in the first miles. Selena shocked me by showing up right next to me! She ran with me for a couple miles, on pace to destroy her previous best half! Around mile 3.5 or 4, I saw Hillary on her run, cheered her on (yes I realize she was just running and I was the one racing). Then it was time to head into the bike path leading to Wilder. (Miles 1-4: 7:44, 7:40, 7:37, 7:48)
I run the bike path a decent amount and knew it was a little rolly with a good downhill toward the end (just about at the 5 mile marker). I came down the hill to see friends Rebecca and Jenn doing their course support/volunteer thing. I hadn’t really told a lot of people I was running the race so they were surprised to see me. They cheered for me and I turned into Wilder Ranch where I saw Fleet Feet Racing teammates Lisa and Nancy. Loved all the support! Then it was into the bluffs where I saw Shoshanah and grabbed a quick sip of water. The bluffs are flat trails, not technical but not super speedy either. I chatted with some other runners, kept it nice and easy. The 1:40 group was about a minute ahead of me. We came out of the bluffs and started to make our way back toward the Boardwalk. (Miles 5-8: 7:39, 7:46, 7:36, 7:32)
Back to the bike path and more cheers from Jenn, I started up the one real hill in the course. It’s not long but it’s steep. Lucky me, the hill work paid off and I was able to pass several runners here. I saw the UCSC cross country runners doing their thing followed by my running coach (I hadn’t told him I was racing either, “Hey Aaron! Decided to race today!”). It was back to West Cliff where I took good advantage of running smart tangents. While I felt I lost some steam here, I also knew I would PR, I assumed somewhere around 1:40:30. And then I saw Jose, who I have run with in other races. I caught up to him with 2 miles left, said hi (and thanks for giving me a reason to pick it up a bit) and kept going. (Miles 9-12: 7:54 (hello hill!), 7:30, 7:29, 7:38)
Last mile. I wanted to hold back until I had about .75 of a mile left and then push as hard as I could. I knew it would hurt but I also knew that it would be about 7 minutes long and then I would be done. Unfortunately, there were a lot of 10k walkers at this point and even though they closed the road (yippee! not just the path!) it was hard to navigate that last mile. I came running down the final hill yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!” (Bob is my witness, I screamed at people.) When I turned the corner I was shocked to see the clock said 1:39:XX. I booked it and ended up with an official time of 1:39:38 (my watch had a few extra seconds..I probably stopped it a tad late). I felt like I was pretty steady with my pace, maybe a slight negative split. But hey, I had a half marathon PR on 5 weeks of 5k training! (Final mile: 7:21, last 10th 5:24 pace)
I headed over to the SCE tent, told everyone my good news and then Laura practically tackled me – knowing I had broken 1:40 and that it had been my goal since last year! It was AWESOME! I saw Erin again and heard she did a great job pacing her group (yay Erin!!). I found out my team members rocked their races too: Selena PRed with a 1:41, Julie beat me by a few minutes, Leslie & Sam took top women’s overall spots in the 10k, and the guys pretty much all took either an overall or age group spot in the 10k. Strong work SCE!!
SCE held a post party at member Josh’s house. We had delicious treats and mimosas, complete with massages from our new sponsor Santa Cruz Core. And I got a new Santa Cruz beach towel as a celebration of my PR. What a great team to do that! Thanks all! It was so much fun to see our team running together and then celebrating together. And now, I get a training break before its time to start up again for the SF Marathon!
Did you race this weekend? How did it go?