Posted by: Jen | February 7, 2011

Surf City USA Half Marathon: A Race Report

[I have been knocked out all day with a killer migraine… not exactly the post-race high I was expecting, but things happen. :)]

This was my first race of 2011 AND my first race post-marathon 9 weeks before. At the beginning of the year, I started incorporating strength training, Pilates, and yoga into my routine as well as making the transition to a more clean diet. I initially went to the gym for strength training but became hooked on Jillian Michaels’ DVDs (30-Day Shred and No More Trouble Zones, specifically) and the 10-Minute Solution:Β Pilates Perfect Body workout DVDs. I dropped approximately 10-13 lbs, probably from no longer eating sweets and other “bad for you” foods.

In addition to that, I transitioned to running 4 days a week, averaging 20-22 miles per week. This is more than I have run in the past. I was also doing a tempo run each week at around 5K race pace. I started to notice something amazing! My longer runs were getting….faster! πŸ™‚ I still use the run/walk method in training, but the run portions were much faster and my overall average pace was increasing as well. I went into this race feeling optimistic about a 2:10 finish, only partially hoping for a PR.

The weather couldn’t have been better: low 50s and foggy, as we were right on the beach. This was one of the most well-organized races I’ve ever run, and, as this was my 68th race, I’ve seen a few. πŸ™‚ We were in wave starts and my wave started right around 8:00am.

The course started out along Pacific Coast Highway and was flat through miles 1-3. I ran at a conservative 9:45/mile pace, trying to keep my enthusiasm to a minimum and not push too hard. I had just finished the two-day Road Runners Club of America coaching certification course and was remembering all the tips I had learned as we developed a race plan for a fictitious client. Start out slow, don’t weave in and out of other runners, run the tangents (i.e. cut the corners), stay hydrated.

At mile 3, we took a turn and headed up a slight incline into a residential neighborhood. At this point we crossed the first timing mat: my time was 29:15 (9:45). I maintained my effort up the hill, and just shy of mile 4 I passed one of my fellow WOW Team members, saying hello to her as I went by. I took my first Gu around mile 5.5, as I had almost forgotten about it. πŸ™‚ We did a kind of dog-leg loop around the neighborhood and through a park, downhill back to the PCH, where we turned right again and kept heading north along the waterfront.

Miles 6-8 were straight north along the highway, and I felt really strong. I didn’t feel like I was working too hard, so I just went with it. We passed several aid stations (roughly every mile). I walked at a brisk pace through each aid station, roughly about 20-30 seconds. At around mile 7.5, I saw my other WOW Team teammate on the return leg and called to her with a wave. At mile 8.1, we took a hairpin curve and headed back south down PCH. I crossed the second timing mat at mile 8.2 in 1:17:13, a 9:25/mile pace.

At this point I decided to take it a little more conservatively so I wouldn’t blow out before the finish. I could see the 2:10 pace group ahead of me, so I decided to run with them for a few minutes to keep a slower pace. (They started a wave or two before me, so you can see I was reeling them in, so to speak. I started behind the 2:14 group.) I ended up with them for about 0.6 miles and decided to just keep going because they were a bit inconsistent with the pacing. I pulled ahead of them and slowed at an aid station, where they caught up to me… but I left them behind again and actually started to draw close to the 2:06 pacers (I never saw 2:08). Β By mile 10, I knew I would PR but I didn’t know how close I would be.

At mile 11, I caught up to the 2:06 group and passed them. I still wasn’t paying much attention to my watch but at a glance I saw I was averaging a 9:30 pace so I knew for sure this would be a PR. I started to push a little more as I got to mile 12, and in the last mile I was really starting to surge forward. When the finish line was in sight, I turned it on, and in the last tenth of a mile I went into a sprint, finishing in 2:04:24, and defeating my previous record by 2:05! (Interestingly, that PR was set this same weekend last year at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco HM, which had a similar course layout, in that we ran out-and-back along the Great Highway.)

My eventual goal is to break 2 hours – I think it is possible with more optimized training. 20-25 miles a week is good, but with more speedwork, some hill training, and longer long runs I think it’ll happen!

My splits, mile by mile:

9:07 (the big downhill portion)
9:05 (turning up the heat!)
7:19 (the last tenth of a mile)

Here is a photo of me and my teammates after the race when we picked up our California Dreamin’ Racing Series medals:

Next race: Bay Breeze 5K on Feb. 19. Time to take a stab at the 5K PR next! πŸ™‚



  1. bummer about the migraine. but amazing race lady! you look so happy in that picture. congrats on the pr

  2. Congrats on the PR! You’re not that far off of sub-2 … keep pushing and you’ll get there!

  3. Great job. I think there is something wrong with the time for your final 1/10 mile. We run similar paces and I wiill soon be breaking 2 hours for a HM, but I have to ask, will you always be doing the run/walk thing. My thinking is that you are losing time during the walk portions and if you slowed down just a little but did not walk at all, you would come in well below 2:00. Just curious.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by the problem with the time – it was actually 0.14 miles according to the Garmin, if that matters. πŸ™‚ I am transitioning out of the run/walk method slowly, but I do like the breaks in long training runs, and my legs appreciate it too. I can easily think of where I lost a good minute or two during the race, no doubt. I’m still tweaking things a little bit; I know I could stand to run more weekly miles so I think it’ll happen sooner, rather than later.

  4. I think I forgot to say I “oved the race report”

    The time for the last 1/10 is listed as 7:19. And there 15 separate times listed there (I would think there would be 14, 1 for each mile mile plus 1 extra for the last 1/10th mile). Am I missing something?

    It’s all good and didn’t want to give wrong impression. My thoughts were, you are running a decent pace, and because of that I would think (my mind is warped at times, forgive me) that you are ready to transistion from run/walk to simply run. I’m talking races here, if you still do a little run/walk during long runs, no issues with that. We all get a little bogged down with lights and such during non racing runs. And it might be that you still do some run/walk during full Marathons, but simply run during HM’s.

    Once again, we are each different in how we do things. My thoughts are simply thoughts, and no better than your or anybody else’s.

    • I see what you mean about the 15 split times! I have no idea why that happened. I was reading them off my Garmin directly, instead of through Garmin Connect, so I may have mis-typed something. I completely agree with you on the run vs. run/walk bit too. I definitely could have avoided walking through a few of the aid stations and not run with the 2:10 pacers for so long; that would have given me another minute or two, easily. I went for conservative this time since I hadn’t raced a half in a while, but now that I know what I am capable of, the next one I race full-out will be different. πŸ™‚ I appreciate your feedback – it’s very useful!

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