Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so, being a dutiful and doting husband, I woke up at 6 AM, gave my wife a kiss on the cheek, wished her a happy Valentine's Day and headed off to run the San Dieguito Half Marathon. I put this one on the schedule as a training run for the Catalina Marathon which is a little trick I try to play on myself so I won't stress about a race, instead I'll use it as a training day and look beyond it to the next race. It doesn't work, because I am too smart for myself. I know all my tricks. I planned to take it easy, but I started to get really nervous the night before the race and I kept waking up throughout the night doing math in a hazy half-sleep state, and the numbers 7, 13 and 91 kept going through my mind. After getting upset at myself for not sleeping, I realized I was calculating splits in my sleep. I wasn't sure why I chose 7 minute miles...it wasn't a conscious choice, maybe it was the most complicated my brain wanted to get at 4:30 AM. I wasn't about to go and figure out 6:32 X 13.1.
This is the fourth time I have run the San Dieguito Half and it is one of my favorite races. It goes through the tree-lined streets of Rancho Santa Fe, some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The course is hilly, but nothing really extreme, just rolling hills without much of a break - you are either running up or running down, but that keeps it interesting. Another thing that keeps the race interesting is that it is sponsored by the Hash House Harriers, a group that describes itself as a drinking club with a running problem. The characters were out in full force and this is the only race I have done where the aid stations have to distinguish between water, Gatorade, and beer. I feel bad for anyone that downs a beer by mistake at mile one, although it might make the hills a little less painful. Every year that I have done this race I have seen the Queen of England with her wand and a lapdog at the 1.5 and 11.5 marker. She has a terrible British accent and says hello to everyone. There is also a Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland who hands out beer at the first aid station.
The course starts with a steep downhill that lasts for a mile and a half, then hits a long uphill, then a long out and back section which is nice because I got to see all of the really fast runners in front of me. It's fun to pick out the local triathlon all-stars - I spotted Michellie Jones, Kate Major and Katya Meyers (it's funny, I don't know what any of the top men look like). I also saw a couple of fast running friends who would go on to run about 1:20, which is about a 6 minute per mile pace and is super fast for this course.
San Dieguito elevation profile
I stayed on my 7 minute per mile pace and was able to hold it through the tough, middle section of the race. It's always a struggle to deal with the middle portion of any race, no matter how long or short, it's painful and I always have negative thoughts. I think about how nice it would be to quit, how stupid I am for picking such a painful hobby, and how much I wish I was still in bed. Fortunately, these thoughts always pass, and it usually means there is going to be a nice long, happy-to-be-alive, excited and annoyingly over-talkative phase to the race. This hit me from mile ten through twelve. I felt so good, I even passed up the beer station at mile eleven. I hit the twelve mile mark and had to run up the last mile-long hill, the one I flew down at the beginning; it seemed a lot longer and steeper at the end, but I put my head down and just went, eager to get to the Stone beer garden before the crowds hit.
I hooked up with a couple of friends at the beer garden after the race. I was happy, my 7 X 13 math worked out well, and I was able to finish in an hour and a half which is a new personal best for me, it was about 70 degrees as I sat on the grass, in the sun, with a Stone in each hand and a bowl of home-made chili in front of me, so yeah, it was a good race and the perfect beginning to a great Valentine's Day.