San Jose Rock n’ Roll series: Half marathon race recap
This weekend finally happened! I feel like I was preparing for it for so long- both physically and mentally- and now it’s come and gone in the blink of an eye. It’s a bittersweet feeling when a race is over- but I am glad that I have officially completed my 9th half marathon and I can take a break from training mode for a bit..or until I register for my next race, which could happen tomorrow 🤣
I’ve had this race on my race radar for a while- and when I scored an amazing deal on registration fees during global running day- I signed myself and my hubby up AND booked our room! I knew our hotel would be close since it was one of the featured hotels listed on the race site- but I didn’t realize how close it really was! We stayed at the AC Hotel, which was .16 miles away from the starting line, to be exact. And with a later start time of 8am, it was going to be a win-win situation for the overall weekend sleep factor.
San Jose is less than 2 hours from us, so driving to the race that morning was totally an option. However, if you have a big race on your calendar and you are able to make a weekend out of it, DO IT! A couple of reasons why:
#1- Some races don’t allow for same day bib pickup, so you need to attend the expo to pick it up.
#2- Expos are just fun.
#3- The less commotion, stress, and driving that you have to do before a race, the better.
#4- Why not use a race as an excuse to take a run-cation with your hubby or your friends?!
We arrived in San Jose on Saturday afternoon, checked into our hotel, grabbed Starbs, and walked over to the expo. The expo & race were located in downtown San Jose, so the convenience of restaurants and race related events were all within walking distance. Since this race was the largest race I’ve ever ran in, the expo did not disappoint! After picking up our bibs and race bag, we made our way into the first section, which was a gigantic shopping area that featured Brooks gear and official Rock n’ Roll merchandise.
We shopped, found our names on the official runner wall, took some selfies, and made our way into the second half of the expo. This is were all of the vendor booths were located. Some are booths promoting upcoming race registrations, some are local vendors promoting their products or services, and some are common race sponsors here to interact with the runners. Regardless of what they entail, I am an expo junkie and I love the positive pre race vibes that you experience at them.
After the expo- we ate at a local restaurant and I kept it basic with tacos and some chips & guac. PSA: You always want to be cautious of what you consume the day before a race- too many sweets, too spicy, too heavy, or too much alcohol, could all affect your race day efforts. So save all of that goodness for AFTER your race 🙂 We headed back to the room, laid out our race gear, and called it a night. Yes, it was around 8pm when I was in bed. Oh the joys of kidless weekends!
Sunday morning came and we were out of the room by 7:15. I opted not to check my gear (taking a bag to put your sweater, keys, or anything else in…and then picking it up after the race). We made our way to the starting area and spotted our designated corral- which is determined by your estimated race completion time when you register. Since I was shooting for a 2ish hour finish, we were in corral 5.
I always do my pre race stretches and jog for a couple of minutes before standing around and waiting to start. I opted to go to the bathroom one last time before starting, and after standing in line for 5 minutes, I started to question this decision. But, I was already committed so I decided to wait it out. I had 10 minutes to spare by the time I waited in those dreaded porta-potty lines and made my way back to the corrals. By this time there were so.many.people and I was starting to semi-panic. I was at corral 15 or so and had to make my way all the way to 5 where Justin was waiting for me! A sea of excited runners, jam packed into a gated off area awaiting a race start, is not what I wanted to navigate through with less than 10 minutes to start. I finally found Justin with only minutes to spare. By this time, the 2-hour pace group was WAY up there and I just didn’t think I had the time to continue shifting my way through the crowd to get to them by the start time.
Ideally my goal was to run 8:50-9ish minute miles. The first mile is always kind of a cluster because you’re so close to everyone…so I was ok with a 9:09/mile…8:52, 8:58, 8:57, and 8:54 were the next 4 miles…and then the wheels just fell off 😕 I just felt gassed- I was struggling to keep this pace so I opted to take it back just a bit…but that little bit turned into me being unable to keep my legs turning over and my normal mid 9ish minute mile training pace was starting to require so much effort. I knew around mile 8-9, that I just needed to focus on moving forward.
For those who have ran a race before, or basically any long distance run, your mind can turn into your biggest competitor out there. You get to the point where it seems impossible to shut the negative thoughts off, and all you can think of is how bad it hurts, how much longer you have to go, or how everyone who shouldn’t be passing you is. I can say with confidence that I’ve experienced the worst of these thoughts in the past, and thankfully I was able to change my mindset before they completely got the best of me. From here on out, I tried not to obsessively worry about my pace. I shuffled through my playlist and tried to get lost in the music. I focused on runners ahead and besides me, and committed to just keeping up with the flow. I accepted my efforts for what they were and appreciated the fact that I was still moving, because after all, forward is a pace.
There is no feeling like that home stretch of a race. The crowds are cheering, you can see the finish line, your body is SCREAMING at you to stop, and for me, I’m just focusing on getting across that line without falling. I crossed the line and hit stop on my garmin, with a time of 2:05. In all honesty, my immediate thought was negative, because I was nowhere near my A & B goals. But after that medal was placed around my neck, I was so proud of my efforts and was even prouder when I found Justin and realized he smashed this race with a finish time around 1:48.
The post race area was impressive! It was at a small park area, smack in the middle of downtown San Jose and it offered a ton of space for those post race celebrations. There was good post race snacks, live music playing, stretching areas, and of course a beer garden. We hung out for a bit, took some selfies, and made our way *slowly* back to our hotel room- with coffee and food being priorities.
I’m grateful that I’m at a point in my “running career” where I know that there’s always a takeaway message from a race; there’s always a lesson learned that you can use to strengthen yourself for your next race. My biggest takeaway was that I should’ve used the resources available- aka I should’ve made it a priority to find that 2-hour pace group and run with them. It’s always easy in hindsight to see where I went wrong, but I do know that by experiencing this setback, I will hopefully *never* do it again. So if you’re going into a race with a completion goal time, seek out those resources, know what is available on race day, and prioritize what needs to be done so you can start with them.
In the end, I am so darn proud of our hard work and dedication. I have become a stronger runner, both mentally and physically, because of this race. And would I recommend it to you?! Absolutely!
So if you’re thinking about a 2020 goal, if you’re an avid Rock n’ Roll series runner, or if you want a flat course with great vibes, great weather forecast, and great pre & post race celebrations, then make a mental note of this one for your next fall race, you won’t be disappointed! Thanks San Jose Rock n’ Roll….I will be back!