Pasadena Half Marathon race report (PR!)

Set a PR at the Pasadena half marathon

The short…
I ran the Pasadena Half Marathon in 1:58:32. I met my A goal as well as a fitness goal I’d set at the beginning of the year to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. I set a PR, besting my previous half marathon time by 5 minutes. Oh, and did I mention it rained?

Time To Start Running

The long…
I’m beginning to doubt my LA weather bragging rights. Most days here are perfect, but that must exclude the days I’m scheduled to run a marathon or half marathon. The weather reports predicted a 10% chance of rain in LA and Pasadena… 10% my ass.

Sean and I left my apartment shortly before 5 am and it was already raining. It rained the whole 25-minute drive to Pasadena, but once at Pasadena City College (start/finish) it was dry with threatening clouds. The rain didn’t start again until 6:27ish, a few minutes before we began running. I didn’t bother complaining and could only hope the rain would remain light and I would come away with non-bloody ankles and a non-chafed up sports bra line.

This is the 3rd annual year of the Pasadena Marathon (plus half, 5K, 10K and bike race). I’ve heard it rains every year. Maybe this race should be held on January 1st. It almost never rains for the Rose Parade.[1]

Back to the race. It’s small compared to my previous half marathon/marathon experience. Less than 4,000 people finished either distance. There are a few thousand more participating in the 5K, 10K and bicycle races. I don’t know how many started the full or half. There were no pacers, corrals or even announcements reminding slower runners and walkers to line up toward the back. I had to run around several walkers in the first mile before the crowding thinned out.

I felt good through the whole race. The first 5K was on a slight decline through residential neighborhoods and then Cal Tech where I saw Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder speak years ago. I tried to avoid checking my watch in the first few miles. I was running at a comfortable pace, but knew it was faster than usual. I worried that if I knew my pace, I’d want to slow down and heed the usual advice to start conservatively. I wanted to run hard on the downhill/flat miles knowing I’d need that time to make up for what I expected to lose on the hills in the second half. I finished the first 5K in 27:16.

Right around this time, I saw a man drive by slowly on the opposite side of the street. He was flipping us off. I was befuddled by that. What did we do? Later I figured he was probably held up for several minutes at an intersection by a traffic cop before he was allowed to cross. I saw cars lined 10 deep at some intersections, but never saw them allowed to cross. Sean told me he saw the traffic officers allow cars to pass and that some runners had to stop. I’m glad I wasn’t one of those affected. I would have been pissed.

Between Miles 3 and 4

Speaking of Sean, he did a great job cheering/taking pictures. I saw him as we turned in to Old Town Pasadena around mile 4. He was one of the few spectators out on the course with his silly “you’re running a marathon, ha ha!” sign. From mile 4, he cut straight up north to mile 10 to cheer me on there. Major props to him. With the rain, I might have just gone back to the car and waited until shortly before 8:30 to catch me at the finish line.

I kept up the pace and hit the 10K mark at 54:40. My strategy was working and I was running consistent splits (see below). I felt confident going into the hills south of the Rose Bowl.[2]

At the Rose Bowl we do a quick turn around before turning up into the hills which go from miles 8 through 10 or so. It was here that I found some unexpected motivation. I saw a straggler from the bike race ahead of me. His shorts were sagging too low. It wasn’t pretty and I knew I needed to pass him quick. It helped me start the climb up to mile 10 with some ganas. Despite this, I slowed down as expected. I recalled Laura’s advice to lean in to the hills and thought about the hill repeats I ran with my relay team (more on that later). I took a short water break under the 210 overpass after cresting the most significant hill on the course.

Between Miles 10 and 11

I found Sean again at mile 10, giving me another boost. I took my second Gu Roctane[3] here too and focused on running hard. The last 3 miles weren’t as easy as I expected them to be. There were still a few short hills. When I got the chance to run downhill, I pushed harder. I knew I was on pace to meet my A goal and finish under 2 hours. Just like in Long Beach, Rilo Kiley’s With Arms Outstretched played on the iPod Shuffle and pumped me up/made me feel a little emotional.

I finished in 1:58:32. I met my A goal and set a 5 minute PR. I guess the 3135 bib number was a good sign.

I’m blaming that one second that kept me from a 31 on the walkers finishing the 5K or 10K (which started at 7:30). We were all in the same finish chute which made it rather crowded.

Finish line support was sub-par. I was surprised not to get a goodie bag of food or space blanket, especially considering the rain and cool temperatures (50s). The tables with banana slices, orange slices and bagels were crowded. There were no water bottles handed out, only dixie cups.

I waited another 15 minutes before I found Sean. He had to walk a few miles back to the finish line. I was cold and kind of miserable. I wanted to walk around to keep my calves from cramping up, but didn’t want to miss Sean at our meet-up spot. Eventually, he showed up to the Zico coconut water booth. We left soon after. I wanted to say hi to Chispa before or after the race, but we missed each other and both wanted to get dry and warm as soon as possible. She had a good race despite having a cold and sucking on a cough drop most of the race.

As we left Pasadena City College, the sun started to peek out from clouds. By noon, only a few clouds remained in a mostly clear sky. At least the rain didn’t keep me from a PR.

THE STATS
Finish time: 1:58:32 (chip); 1:59:03 (gun)
Pace: 9:03
5K split: 27:16 (8:47 pace)
10K split: 54:40 (8:48 pace)
Fuel: Gu Roctane every 45 minutes, water at ~4 stops, Ultima sports drink at one stop; pre-race – coffee, half a banana, and a slice of peanut butter toast

SPLITS
1… 8:43
2… 8:43
3… 8:53
4… 8:53
5… 8:41
6… 8:46
7… 8:43
8… 9:05 (hills start here)
9… 9:53 (water stop)
10.. 9:42
11.. 9:31
12.. 8:26 (brought to you by Rilo Kiley)
13.. 8:50
14.. 1:41 (0.21 mile, I tried my best to run the tangents)

Notes:
[1] I marched in the 1999 Rose Parade with the UCLA Band.
[2] It’s been over 11 years since I’ve been to the Rose Bowl. I haven’t been to a game since my UCLA band days.
[3] GU is great while I run. Post-race it makes me feel pretty gross and keeps me from napping thanks to the caffeine.

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