Monday, January 20, 2014

Cocoa Women's Half Marathon -- Race Report

We arrived around 6:30 for the 8:00 start. We had no problem finding free city parking about a block away and packet pickup was easy breezy.  There were so many bathrooms that there was barely a line even minutes before the race.  The start/finish area was in a lovely little plaza at La Villita, which was great for the kids to play while they waited with Christian.  There was a small pink tote bag, a women's tech tee and a really pretty race number.  They had Hershey's kisses out on the tables, which my kids definitely appreciated.

It was very, very cold waiting for the race.  The kids were bundled up for waiting outside, but I was dressed for the race.  Christian ran back to the car and got me a blanket.  I think he got the nicest picture of me while I was standing there shivering after I'd wrapped #4 with the blanket so he'd stop trying to take off his shoes and socks.

The race start was for both the 5k and half marathon and there was no chip mat at the start, so you only got your gun time.  Odd, but I do wear a watch so I made sure to start it right at the line.  I am not fast, so I started at the back.  A whole lot of casual walking pace 5k ladies had started near the front, but after a few minutes everyone was sorted by pace.  While some of the front runners had problems with the course marking, by the time the slower crowd came through it had all been resolved. We started through the historic King William neighborhood, which was full of beautiful old houses. We then moved to a river multi-use path, which was far less scenic and much more hilly. Some of the aid stations didn't have enough pre-filled cups of water, but I always carry a handheld water bottle with me. I did end up needing to refill it, but it was nice to be able to skip an aid station with a line because I had my bottle. I think Christian influenced me in this, since most trail ultra runners carry their own hydration.  The mile markers were definitely not placed accurately.

The food line was long, but very much worth it.  Truffles, chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate chip pancakes were the highlights for me.  Although it's only my second one, this is now my favorite medal since it's a cup of hot cocoa with sparkles.  Future races will have a tough time topping this.

My race
I was feeling good going into this race and for some reason though it would be very flat since it was downtown San Antonio. For the first few miles, I was happily distracted by the beautiful details in the older homes.  Interesting roof designs, stained glass windows, beautiful porches! I was also keeping a pace that was about 30 sec/mi faster than my last half.  This is going to be awesome, I thought to myself.  Flat and fast!  Then came the river multi-use path. It got very industrial very quickly (my, what scenic underpasses) and there were (gasp!) frequent little hills. I do not do hills, even tiny little hills. I tried them once months ago and my knees hurt for days.  Christian and I had been talking about people who DNF to keep their ranking higher on race results websites earlier that morning and counting our blessings that neither of us had ever had to DNF.  Right before I left he joked that unless I had a greenstick fracture I'd better finish the race.  So I kept on, wondering how my knees would feel. Much to my surprise, they felt okay. I did start to slow down because I don't train on hills, ever, and my legs were really feeling it.

With my legs hurting and the industrial scenery, I started to be less than thrilled about having over 8 miles to go. I decided then that I was going to find very single possible positive thing I could about being on the river path.
1. It was an absolutely gorgeous day.  Sunny and just warm enough -- one of those winter days that makes you glad you live in Texas.
2. I got to see Mission Concepcion, finished in 1755.
3. There are lots of little river crossings on the path.  One bridge was made of rocks painted in rainbow colors.  One had little line drawings of animals that had been pressed into the concrete.
4. The path had flat metal markers in the concrete every tenth of a mile, which let me check my pace.  Since the course mile markers were wiggity wack this was nice.
5. When I saw the race leader on the "back" when I was on the "out" for the part of the path we used twice, she was wearing Team RWB.
6. I was holding pace with a pair of run/walk ladies who complimented my walking speed.
7. They had these little manmade structures in the river to make the water flow in a way that let you hear the sound of it rushing.  There were 3-4 of these little spots every mile.  Rushing water is one of my favorite sounds in the world.

As the river path headed back into downtown, it got much nicer.  By this point there were lots of people just out for a casual walk and the race field had thinned so much that it felt odd.  I finally made it back to the street for the last half mile and despite having slowed by about a minute per mile from my early race pace, I felt good.  I felt much better, actually, than I had at the end of the RunGirl 13.1 race.  As I rounded the next to last corner, Christian and the kids were there to cheer for me and I was so happy to see them.  I gave them some of my trademark end of race goofiness and poured on everything I had left to get to the finish line at a good pace.

I finished with a gun time of 2:49:47.  My watch time that took into account my starting near the back of the pack was 2:48:41, or 12:52 min/mi.  I was so happy to have finished less than four minutes slower than my previous half, despite the hillier conditions.

What I Learned
I can, in fact, handle minor inclines and declines.  Not real hills, but after thinking I couldn't do them at all it was a nice surprise.  I have resolved my flying elbows issue and am now moving onto my hunched forward shoulders issue.  I was pleased with my conscious choice to find everything good about the river path instead of being upset that I was walking under underpasses.  I ended up ordering pizza for dinner and we went out to dinner after my first half back in December.  In the future I need to make something before the race so I don't give up on making dinner because I'm tired.

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