The smart thing to do would have been sitting this race out. After being diagnosed with a patellofemoral disorder in my left knee, my doctor told me that I should forget about this race and focus my training on getting back on the road for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco. For a week I did just that, I emailed the race staff and had them downgrade me to the 5k, I convinced myself that I should not risk three destination races, and started shooting for distances to match the SF training.
There was a part of me that felt like I was playing it safe. The knee pain lingered for a while but I felt great after two 6 mile runs. I kept thinking about the joy I felt after I finished the Pacer 10 mile Challenge. I ran the crazy idea of switching back to the half by Meghann and a few close friends. They were all in agreement; if I was confident I could finish it then I should do it.
I also felt a need not to let down Robert. He had signed up for this race after we did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Mini-Marathon. I told him we could run Pasadena as our first half marathon and that I would be alongside him every step of the way. He made no big deal when I told him a week earlier that I had to back out but he was excited when I told him we were back on for the half.
So with just a four days until the race, I switched back to the half! And I instantly started to doubt myself. Every day I would reconsider the decision and my brain would dream up various catastrophes; you could slip and twist your knee; the cold will wreck your other knee; and the classic, you will miss the start! The night before a race I can never just shut off my brain and get a good night’s sleep. Despite going to bed at 8:30pm, I slept no more than four hours.
We had to park the car by 6:15 am so we were up pretty early. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it wasn’t 40 degrees and had some pants on. Seeing ice on the grass made it that much colder. We found the Pasadena Pacer tent and met up Robert there before the race. I had missed the group picture and warm up before RnR LA so I made sure I was a part of this one:
Coach Ezra led us on another awesome warm up stretch and gave a great pep talk. He reminded us that we had trained for this and we would make it to the finish. I reminded my knees that ice and pain killers would await them if they could carry me across the finish.
With all the pre-race stuff done, we made our way to the corrals. Meghann was a few corrals behind us since she was doing 5k. I had placed my estimated finish time at 2 hours 30 minutes so that meant we were back in corral 8 with the rest of the slower runners. I saw a few pacers in the first few corrals and made a mental note that next year my target time would be sub 2 hours. I looked around and noticed that most of the teams in corral 7 were walkers, one team was even called the “Wine Walkers”… we needed to finish in front of this group. As we moved forward with every corral start, I found spots along the side to move up further; I didn’t want to get caught up in the slower packs at the start. My heart began to race as corral 7 was unleashed.
I don’t remember who the announcer was or if there was any joke before he/she fired the signal. All I can remember is seeing the people in front of us take off and kicked it into race mode. I looked at my watch to make sure I wasn’t starting off too fast. I wanted to keep it at 7 mph during our run segments. I also made sure the first running segment was ten minutes so we can get far ahead of the walkers. The Pacers were manning the first water station and I made sure I was sprinting when we got there at mile 1.5:
I wish they were further along the route as their cheers energized me through the first 2 miles. Then came the hill on California and Orange Grove… man that was steep. I ran it a few times before the race so I knew it would drain me if I tried to charge up it. To make matters worse, my knee had healed but it still did not enjoy steep inclines. I told Robert we would walk it and continue the run segment once we reached the top. As we pulled to the right side with the rest of the walkers I kept seeing people try to charge up the hill. Most gave up halfway up or cursed through the pain. There was one kid who did manage to run up the entire hill at full speed but once we got to the top:
Kid: I’m done.
Kid: My knee… I’m done.
Mom: But it’s only mile 2.
Kid: I can’t… I’m done.
I felt bad for the kid but there was an aid station on top of the hill. I also thanked my knee for taking one for the team. I looked behind us and one of the Wine Walkers was starting the hill, so we took off running. We won’t let the winos win!
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series gets its name for having bands every few miles along the course and a great post race concert. Dynamite Beat Puppy was the first band to greet us at Colorado and Orange Grove:
As we ran past sights like the Tournament of Roses house and the Norton Simon Museum, I couldn’t help but say to myself “man I love this town!” The weather was finally starting to warm up and a clear sky above us.
We seemed to coast during the miles 3 through 5. Running down Colorado Boulevard and Green Street was a treat.
It wasn’t until the long turn around on Lake that I started to feel a bit fatigued. The odd part is, according to Endomondo, my best lap times were during and after Lake. I’ll give some credit to the awesome Japanese Taiko Drum group that was at mile 5. Best band on the course!
By the time we got to the halfway point in front of CalTech, we were taking longer breaks. My knee was starting to feel sore and I completely lost control of my breathing. I decided to double down on the Gu Chomps and chowed down half the bag. It took a few minutes to feel the boost but it definitely helped me get back into pace. The shade along Green street was a god send by this point.
I forget at which miles or what schools they were from but along the course we they had some great cheer groups. Each time we ran by one it gave us a boost of energy. This was the USC Cheer team on the route back on Colorado:
When we hit the hill in front of the Norton Simon we didn’t think twice about walking the entire block and skipping one run segment. Hopefully by next year I will be able to at least jog up that thing.
Just beyond that we hit the part of the course I was really looking forward too… The Colorado Street Bridge! As I mentioned in earlier post, I LOVE bridges and make it a point to sign up for races that let me run across them. This knocked Pasadena off the list! It was a great view from there and wish I had taken a photo.
And then we hit another hill… I always forget how hilly Pasadena is. This one was a bit steep and included a turn around. Thankfully there was a band at the top of the hill and their “unique music” really pushed us to run back down the hill and towards the Rose Bowl for the big finish.
At the 10 mile mark I hit a bit of a wall; my knee ached during every run segment, I ran out of Gatorade/water on my hydration belt, and I finished the last of my Gu Chomps. What I thought would be a “quick” 5k victory parade around the Rose Bowl turned into a slow march around the Rose Bowl AND golf course. Totally forgot we had to run by half of the Brookside Golf Course just beyond the Rose Bowl.
We came to a complete stop around mile 11 as I had readjust my shoes and Robert was feeling quite winded. I needed a drink of water but we were still about half a mile away from the next one. I knew we would finish but I could see the time getting away from us. We had made great time through the 10 mile mark and I was hoping we would finish in 2 hr 15 mins.
We gathered whatever strength we could muster and ran the last 2 miles. Along the way we ran across a fellow Pacer, she was quite tired and thought she couldn’t make it. I slowed down our pace and kept encouraging her. This was around her third half-marathon so we both knew she could finish it.
I told Robert we needed to finish strong so we went into a nice sprint towards the finish line. As we hit the last turn I could see all the spectators lined up along the shoot. A few pacers were there and cheered us on. Meghann was also in the crowd but I completely missed her:
That last quarter-mile made my day. Sure I was tired and soooooo very hungry but the feeling of accomplishment was well worth it. I had just ran 13.1 miles through my hometown!
With the medal around my neck and hands full of food freebies I collapsed on the nearest piece of grass. I went to town on that chocolate milk and fruit. I would have eaten 5 bagels if allowed. I checked the Endomondo stats and the time shocked me; before getting injured I was shooting for 2 hours and 30 minutes but we had finished in 2 hours and 27 minutes! If I had any energy left I would have started dancing, the best I could do that day was my usual goofy smile.
Post Race Comments
My knee isn’t hurting as bad as after the Santa to the Sea race but it is still troublesome. I managed to get back on the road the week after the race. I will continue to do strength training as advised by my doctor and hopefully I won’t run into the same issue in San Francisco.