In 2009, my first half marathon ever was the San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I had committed on New Year’s Day to run it. And, well, I finished it.
When I saw a special for registration for 2014, I knew I had to take this race back. And so I signed up again. And I will get to that race recap in my next post. On July 18 I was still riding a high from my new 5k PR at the SHE 365 5k, which meant that when I saw the ReMix Challenge introduced for San Jose’s Rock and Roll Half, I HAD to sign up! After all, it *only* meant adding a 5k on Saturday, the day before the half.
First, I recognize a total shift in approach to racing from my first races. In 2009, I remember being alone at my first 5k. It was a local trail run and I spent weeks, if not months, obsessing about being prepared. I had signed up for this May 2009 5k in order to help build for the San Jose Half. And I was scared about finishing the 5k. Ultimately I did. It took me around 50 minutes, but I finished. But in 2014, I thought nothing of adding a race the day before a race? But this wasn’t the first time I just signed up for a race without trepedation.
In 2013, I convinced one of my friends to sign up for the Santa Run. There was some random sale on Facebook (I clearly have a problem when it comes to race sales!), and I thought signing up for it might be a great motivation. I had no intention of running for many months, so the plan was to walk it. And we did! It took us about an hour and my feet were killing me by the end! I was about a month into HMR and down about 30 pounds. I was so happy to finish, but determined to do better.
For the San Jose Rock and Roll 5k, I met up with several coworkers who were also running. We hung out before the race, shared stories, and agreed to meet up at the end. We chatted all the way until the starting gun. No obsessing about time at this race, I decided I would push as hard as I felt like since I knew the more important race for me would be the next day. No pressure to be quick, this was just a chance to get some energy out to keep me balanced for the half.
When the gun went off, I felt that surge of adrenaline, and I just let it take me away. The course started near the convention center and went through the streets of downtown San Jose. I had actually run about half of it during training runs without knowing it, so knowing the streets and where the finish was allowed me to figure out how much of the course was left without checking my garmin or the mile signs.
The course support seemed lacking compared to the half course support I have come to expect from Rock and Roll. There was a DJ about a mile in and a band about two miles in. Both were good but lacked crowd energy, and I realize a 5k is a lot shorter than a half, but I guess I anticipated more. There were also several cheer groups who were fabulous, as our local teens are. Overall the spectator level was minimal, especially for being downtown.
One of the reasons for the lack of course spectators may have been how underplayed the 5k was. It wasn’t advertised locally the same way the half was, and the participation was significantly smaller. Official results have only 1867 participants in the 5k!
About a mile into the race, I realized I was running much faster than I had anticipated. 8:13?!? I did a body check – I seemed fine and it didn’t seem too hard – but I slowed myself down a bit as I reminded my body that it had a lot further to go the next day.
I kept a consistent pace in the second and third miles although it was a push during that last quarter mile or so. When my Garmin beeped at the three mile mark, I started to push but didn’t want to go all out because I wasn’t sure if I had added extra distance weaving earlier in the race. I never saw a three mile marker and so even though I knew the finish was close, I never figured out when to get that finishing kick in. I am learning that visual cues are definitely an important part of the mental game for me.
When I saw the finish, I pushed hard. And finished with the official time of 26:51! A new PR! I was 284th overall, 16th in my age division, and 91st in my gender division. Compared to December where my time was 1:00:03!
So I finished part one of the Remix Challenge. Next up? Taking back the half.
My husband and I volunteered to teach at a debate camp in New Orleans this past month. We flew in on a Friday night red-eye and I decided right before we hopped on the shuttle to see if there were any fun running events to keep me motivated. What I discovered was the Happy’s Running Club NOLA 5k which was happening that Saturday evening. So we arrived early Saturday morning, I took a nap, and then we were off to downtown New Orleans to sign up for the race!
First, let me just say that running in New Orleans in the middle of July in the early evening is a LOT different than running in San Jose early in the morning! Luckily, I had been running in Charlotte and Boston the previous week and spent a week in Florida the week before that, so my body was only mildly annoyed with the humid heat.
I was nervous upon arrival because I didn’t know much about the race other than it involved running in downtown New Orleans and it was affordable to register the day of. When we arrived I discovered this relatively small race had a fabulously festive atmosphere and there was clearly a tight knit running community in the area.
The registration and pre/post festival area was a parking lot off the main street where the race would occur. Just down the street in one direction was Harrah’s casino and in the other direction was the Superdome. The course itself was two loops up and down the main street with a small detour off the main drag. The course was relabeled a 3 mile race as they had issues securing the street needed to make the course a 5-k. However my GPS told me I still ran a 5k after weaving and zagging down three lane roads!
I wasn’t expecting to PR or even finish sub-30 because of the condition I was in after traveling and being out in the Louisiana summer. However, I wasn’t expecting that when I slowed for a walk at the 2-mile mark I would be taunted and “coached” by drunk pedestrians! I picked back up my pace and kept running until I was past the intoxicated crowd.
There is something really cool about exploring a new place via a race. From running through streets I wouldn’t have ever been able to run down, to meeting members of the running community, I got an opportunity to see the city from a local point of view!
The volunteers were fabulous, the course was solid, the random cheering groups that sprung up outside of bars was hilarious, and the other participants were all very supportive and friendly. A bonus was my husband standing outside one of the pubs cheering for me!
At the end of the race we got an opportunity to experience real Southern hospitality! Several restaurants provided free post-race food to participants, there was a beer truck, a local company offering samples of a low-calorie frozen electrolyte popsicle, and a live band. It was like a street party with everyone in running gear!
I am now motivated to try to find races on future trips. I probably won’t be able to do it when traveling for work but that won’t stop me from looking for other opportunities. And if we return to New Orleans around the same time next year, I will be back to run another NOLA 5k (3-miler)!
When I find something I love doing, I want to share it with everyone so they can also enjoy it. As the 5k bug bit me, I knew I needed to share. I convinced my mom in the early Spring months that if I found a 5k in her area that she could walk, we could do it together. So I went in search of something fun!
I must be a good researcher because I found what has so far been one of my favorite races ever, and perfect for a first-time 5k participant like my mom.
The SHE 365 5k was held in Lodi, California on July 12, 2014 and it was in it’s second year of being held. The female-focused race was a tad pricier than some I have seen (we paid $45 several months in advance) however it is a drop in the bucket compared to many of the giant 5ks I have seen (Diva’s and Disney – looking at you!). And you TOTALLY get your money’s worth at the SHE 365!
Let’s start with the swag – you get a female-cut tech shirt, an awesome headband and shoelaces with the race logo, a medal, a mimosa in a take-home stemless champagne glass, two full-size Lindt gourmet chocolate bars, not to mention fresh fruit and mini cupcakes at the finish party (and additional discounted wine-based cocktails to celebrate!).
I drove down to Lodi from San Jose on the morning of the race where I picked up my mom and her friend Jene. Neither of them had participated in a 5k before but both had been training hard to walk the distance with a goal of finishing in under an hour.
We arrived at the winery at the start of on-site packet pick-up (they had options to pick up earlier but since I lived out of town I really appreciated the day-of option!) to find plenty of parking, signage, and friendly volunteers. We collected out bibs (the rest of the swag was available after finishing), and began our pre-race preparations. At first, we saw only two portapotties – which I worried would be an issue but eventually bathrooms in the winery and tasting rooms were opened and we barely had a wait!
The crowd arrived over the next hour and I learned there were only about 200 hundred participants, many of whom were also participating in their first 5k. This was apparent at the start when many of the walkers started front and center. A small hiccup (considering the race only used gun time and not chip time) however with such a small group, it was not that big of a deal.
The course was flat and relatively straight, with one turn, a straight shot down a country road, a u-turn and then one turn back to the finish. A perfect course for a possible PR and I was stoked! When the buzzer went off, I took off with the front of the pack, feeling fabulous!
Less than 3/4 of a mile in, I got a terrible side cramp. I knew these could happen but I had never experienced one like this before. I slowed to a walk and tried to stretch out, even stopping to massage it a bit. It lessened slightly so I picked up my pace a bit, but still kept it pretty slow (I am slowly seeing a need to purchase a GPS watch so I can actually know my pace in real-time). I reached the hydration station at the halfway point and walked through it, slowly sipping the water. And the side cramp went away! Upon evaluating the situation later, I realize I had gone to bed much earlier and woken up much earlier than normal and didn’t hydrate near enough during the 90-minute drive so I was probably under-hydrated as opposed to other races.
I passed my mom slightly after my reaching two mile marker and the two of them passing mile one. My mom shot some fun video footage of the race including me running by. There were no official photographers at the race, so that video and the selfies I took are our official proof of the fun we had!
This was the first race where I actually heard my name called! That was really neat and it was fun to finish on the red carpet. I continued to hydrate after the race and went to the car to grab some HMR muffins before heading back to cheer on my mom and Jene.
When they got near the three mile mark, I took some photos and joined them for a short while. They were having a blast and decided to jog out the last bit to the finish. I scored some great action shots and they finished up at just over 58 minutes – beating their goal by over a minute!!!
The official times were being broadcast on giant screens and so I went to check out how I finished up. I knew I still managed to pull a sub-30 but didn’t know if it was a new PR. Turns out it was by just a few seconds! And I placed 25th overall at the race which was a huge deal to me. In fact had I been in the 20-29 age group instead of the 30-39, I would have placed second in age group (I think I was 11th in mine – so many fast women in the 30-39 age group!). So despite the cramp, I feel like I have been making progress.
Overall, this was a fabulous experience for all three of us. I think both Jene and my mom were inspired by their PR and the possibility of shaving off time in future 5ks and I learned an important lesson about hydration. If I could PR after a cramp like that, I can only imagine what I could do if I properly prepared!
This race WILL be on my calendar next year. Super supportive volunteers, great course layout, killer swag, and amazing weather. I couldn’t ask for a better 5k!
I have enjoyed reading so many race reviews/recaps that I thought it might be cool to start documenting some of my own races. It’s a great way for me to remember my experiences from some of my favorite races!
The San Jose Giants 5k on June 28, 2014 was part of “The Giant Race” series which starts with a race at Spring Training in Arizona in March and will end with a 5k/10k/half marathon in San Francisco in September. I completed the San Francisco Giants Plat to Plate 5k in 2009 and had a blast running with fellow baseball fans so I knew I needed to do this race again. Then I learned if I ran in San Jose as well, I could earn special ear buds and another race was registered for!
Packet pick-up on Friday night was incredibly easy. I got my bib, shirt, and included ticket to the game on Saturday night after the race. I had picked up a couple of extra tickets for $5 a piece for my husband and parents. I was also talked into buying two special Bondi Band headbands with an adjustable strap in the back. I told the guy at the table that headbands always fall off my head and he told me if it fell off during the race he would give me back my money. I’m always up for a challenge! (Spoiler: It stayed on for the WHOLE RACE and didn’t even slip!)
I woke up with anticipation and rushed to get ready on race morning. While I had completed several races prior, this was my first officially timed 5k since starting my HMR weight loss journey and I was both excited and scared about how I would fare.
Parking was super easy (probably because I got there over an hour before the start!) and so I used the time to warm up and make multiple trips to the porta potties (I was nervous!). Then I checked out the starting line which was set up with three self-monitored pacing areas.
I knew I didn’t belong in the Sub-8 area although I do love Mr. Posey! Someone might have wanted to be clearer in oral instructions though because many walking Posey fans who were new to 5ks joined this area near the start which did lead to some clogging of the course at the beginning!
I put myself in the Romo Runners group because I knew my easy training runs were between 10 and 11 minutes for the most part and that I planned on picking up the pace. However I stayed to the side just in case I had seeded myself wrong.
Part of my pre-planned race attire was a tutu from Glam Runners. I was inspired by the causes they raise money for and although I felt silly putting it on, it also felt kind of cool. Not to mention the orange and black just scream Giants Pride! I got lots of compliments along the course and also motivated another runner as I heard the comment right behind me “gotta beat the tutu” (they didn’t but hey if it keeps you moving!).
The course itself was great – we went around the neighborhood near the ballpark as well as through part of Happy Hollow park. The 5-miler got to explore more of the park – maybe I will try that one next year? I had never been in Happy Hollow and it was a bit difficult with some cobblestone and grass running in addition to the paved path but the coverage of the trees was a welcome break from the sun!
I was aiming to finish in under 35 minutes which allowed me to fade. I was secretly hoping to break 32 minutes which my trainer told me I could manage but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. After the first mile pace time was announced in my ear (using the MapMyFitness app), I thought I had gone out too fast! The voice said my first mile was completed in 8:54! So I forced myself to slow down – worried I would burn out before I finished. I slowed to what I thought was my normal training pace but at mile two the voice said I had completed a 9:34 mile. I did some quick math and realized if I picked it back up, I could potentially break the magical 30 minute barrier that I thought was impossible.
The race ended on the baseball field which was incredibly cool. As I finished a 9:20 third mile, I realized I would be cutting it close. It was difficult to re-motivate my legs which had enjoyed slowing down but I pushed hard during that last tenth of a mile. As I rounded the outside of the park, I pumped my legs, racing through the parking lot and onto the field. Forgetting about the difference between chip and gun time, all I saw was the clock counting down at the finish and knowing I had less than 20 seconds to make it over that finish line to get an under 30 finish. That last stretch was an 8:52 pace and I did it!
The gun time was 29:52 but the actual chip time was 29:23 which was than I ever imagined I could complete a race. Some people may dismiss my 9:18/9:28 average pace (per GPS/per race results – pace changed based .07 mile difference extra distance dodging walkers) however I am still, weeks later, fully acknowledging how far I have come. And knowing I slowed down in mile two gives me extra motivation in upcoming 5ks to see how much more speed I can bring!
I am definitely doing this race again next year. Even if I can’t pose with the WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHIES again, it was a fabulous local race capped off with an evening of baseball and family time. Can’t ask for a better day!