Sorry, this race report is a little late in coming, but I didn’t want my little prison stint to over shadow all the good things about this race.
First let me say what a pleasure it was to finally meet the famous Miss Dizzy Lizzy and some of the other Mc Govern alumni who trekked in from all over the country to do this race. Talk about a ball of energy, Liz has enough enthusiasm for 100 racewalkers!
Liz and a friend of hers, Elizabeth and myself, all met up at the race Expo on Friday. Inside the Expo building they had this huge banner that actually had Lizzy’s photo on it, that they had captured at this very same Rock&Roll race 2 years ago. Naturally she had to take a picture of herself standing in front of the image of herself…..pretty cool.
We did a once through of the Expo, I didn’t buy anything, but Liz bought a pair of her favorite shoes .After that we all headed over to the hotel coffee shop and chit-chatted for a couple hours. It was great hearing everyones race stories.
On the morning of the race I managed to get to San Jose a little before 6:30 am. I parked over at the HP pavillion arena where there were already hundreds of people beginning to fill the parking lot. Good thing I got there an hour and a half early. From the parking lot, it was a full mile walk to the starting area of race.
This was a much bigger event than I thought it would be. They had something like 12,500 participants doing this race and the streets were filling fast. They had 13 starting corrals extending out about 4 blocks from the actual start line.One thing I noticed right off the bat, was how many Porta potties they had set up. I kid you not, there were hundreds of them lined up side by side , on both sides of the main street and dozens more on the side streets. This is the first event of this size Ive been too , where there were NO lines to use the johns! . At an event this size , you can usually expect to wait 30 minutes to use the toilets. In fact, thats one of the reasons I wanted to get here early. Hats off to the promoters for that one.
At about 15 minutes before the start , Liz called me and we all somehow managed to find each other in this massive crowd. Liz made it easier by wearing her famous “Ears”. After some quick photo taking, we all went over to our respective corrals ( which they packed like sardines) and waited for this huge sea of people to start moving. Once the gun went off, it took about 10 minutes for the runners in the 12th corral to make it across the starting line.
And were OFF….. As always ,I waited till the pack thinned out , which happened pretty fast, and then I pulled over to the left side of the road. I didn’t really have a chance to stretch before the race, so for the first mile or so, my shins were killing me. I knew though, that as I warmed up, the pain would diminish. The next couple of miles would be my warm up mode. This is usually the part of a race where I try to find a comfortable pace and the easiest position on the road itself to walk, usually the center or the crest of the road where its more even. If theres a yellow or white dividing line on the road , I’ll usually hug that line and racewalk right down the middle of it. ( it’s a good way to practice your technique too).
The course itself had a very suburban feel. It was basically flat and meandered in and out of various neighborhoods, most of them tree lined , upscale and very beautiful….Lots of mansions too. I can see now why people pay so much to live here.
Somewhere around the mile and a half mark , I passed Elizabeth. I was going to walk with her for a while, but decided that I needed to bank some time while I still had my lung power. I told her that she would probably pass me up in the last miles of the race. Some how that never happened, and I didn’t see her again until after the race.
It was about mile 2 where we hit the first watering station and thats when it really hits me, of just how long a 13 mile race really is. I would have to pass 6 more of these aid stations before finishing the race. It was also about this time, that I got in the mood to racewalk more and more. With my headphones and music cranked up, I was pretty much oblivious to what was happening around me. The diversion of music also gives me the courage to racewalk in huge crowds without getting too embarrassed. One runner lady who did pass me, tapped me on my shoulder and told me what a nice butt I had , and how she had been been watching my hips for the last 1/2 miles. I just laughed and continued to racewalk. I had seen lots of other walkers on the course swinging there arms, power walking or speed walking (which is not real racewalking), so I felt totally comfortable doing my thing. Mind you, I might not be the best racewalker, but I am a real racewalker. I follow all the rules.
The next 10 miles were actually pretty boring. To break up the monotony I decided I would racewalk the rest of the race. I racewalked on and off as much as I could and even when I would slow to a snails pace to catch my breath, I would try my best to stay in legal form (that’s racewalking lingo for, maintaining technique…ie forward knee locked and one foot on the ground at all times).
Miles 10 through 13 were the toughest. It was starting to get really warm , the sun was shining right in my face and I could actually feel myself overheating. I forced myself to drink both the electrolyte and plain water that was offered at each aid station, but I could still feel my calf muscles and left IT band wanting to spasm and lock up. I was also starting to breath pretty heavily, which is not a good thing for me, because it means that Im gonna be trapping a lot of air in my lungs. The problem with breathing fast, is that I cant exhale fast enough to make room for the next incoming breath. The longer this goes on, the more air that gets trapped in the smaller airways of my lung .Eventually my lungs will blowup like a balloon.
For most of the race I was averaging an inhaler hit about once every half mile, but that increased to about 2 hits every half mile the further into the race I got. In total, I used my puffer about 20 times. It sounds like a lot ..I know, but not unusual for me.
There was nothing really special about the finish line, except that I was very happy to see it. I tried to pace myself through the last 1/10th mile of the race , so that I could racewalk through the finish chute and look good on camera, but I ran out of steam just a few feet short of the finish mat and ended up just walking across it. Oh…well, they didn’t take my finish line photo anyway.
I walked into the finish area, a little disoriented and trying to catch my breath. I got my medal and made my way to the Family reunion area where I spotted Lizzy’s Mouse ears poking up in the distance. She had finished about 10 minutes ahead of me and looked as fresh as she did before the race. I, on the other hand, looked like crap! Anyway, we rested a little and waited for the others to arrive. Elizabeth came in about 15 minutes after I did and looked good as well. Both Lizz’s and the rest of the gang walked with me to pick up my gear bag, we took one last picture as a group, said our goodbyes..and that was it. My 9th half marathon…completed!
Due to a glitch in the electronic timing system, my actually finish time has to be manually verified , which will take a few more days, but I think I finished somewhere between 3:00-3:10, which is much faster than I anticipated. Not a PR for me, not even close, but considering everything, I think it a respectable finish time. I performed well in this race and I’m proud of myself.
Some after thoughts While it’s obvious that pushing myself too hard during this race may have contributed to my asthma exacerbation and hospitalization that followed, I’d like to point out to the naysayers ( the people who criticize my involvement as an asthmatic in these types of events) that out of the 14 races Ive done in 3 years ( 5 of those being full marathons), Ive only gotten sick 2 times as a result of them. Id also like to that say, that even “healthy” people get sick after doing marathons and MANY of them end up in a hospital! I train very hard for every race I do, and if I get sick now and then from over- doing it… big deal. I’m not going to stop doing what I love and what keeps me alive.
Sadly, 2 young runners died during this half marathon. Both collapsed close to the finish line.