Monday, November 12, 2012

Race Review: Silver Strand Half Marathon

The Silver Strand Half Marathon - November 11, 2012

  • Location: From Sunset Park in Coronado to Imperial Beach Pier
  • Distance: 13.1 miles
  • Surface: paved highway, city roads

I'm spending today gingerly lowering myself onto toilets, and grimacing every time I go up stairs.  But I'm also glowing with accomplishment and pride for having completed my 6th half marathon.  It was a great race for lots of reasons: The last half marathon in San Diego for the year, running it with some dear running friends, planning to have my family at the finish line for the first time.  Emotionally, it was a great race to wrap up 2012.  

Running with friends 

Even from a Runner's perspective though, it's STILL a great race.  
The sign up was easy, and two weeks before the race they sent a confirmation through the mail!  I don't think I've ever had a race send me the race day instructions in the mail before.  It was oddly sweet.  The parking was the most complicated part of the sign up.  You had 4 options for parking.  Since it's a point-to-point race you could either park at the start, park at the finish or be dropped off.  Having to make a decision WEEKS (or in my case MONTHS) before the race about parking was a little confusing.  The packet pickup at Road Runner Sports was efficient and quick.  The tech tee race shirt was of a good quality (although I'm not a fan of gender neutral shirts).  

The day of the Silver Strand came after 3 days of rainy weather.  This being San Diego, it kind of wigged most of us out and we had debates over what we were going to wear.  I decided on the "Ultra runners" uniform: split leg shorts with clothes to keep my core warm.  I had my Girls on The Go tech tee, my Sugoi sleeves and my new Nike runner's gloves.  I was definitely chilly when I got to the start area but as the sun came up I was fine.

The start area was well set up.  It was obvious where gear check was, and race day registration, and the port a potties.  I was glad that they offered gear check!  It seems like a lot of races aren't offering that perk anymore.  I like being able to have my favorite post-race treats (Honey Stinger Chews and Cherry Juice) at the end of a race.  The race announcer was easy to hear, and had lots of jokes, especially for those who had mistakenly come north for the 5k instead of being about 10 miles south!  The race did start a few minutes late, but once it did, the small crowd of 4500 went across the timing mats pretty quickly.  I started as far back as I would let myself, and it only took me 3 minutes to cross the start mat.  

So flat!
The course was one I was mostly familiar with.  I run the Silver Strand as part of my training runs. It's flat, and although its a bit windy, it's fast.  The majority of the course was run on the Silver Strand Highway and was indeed flat.  There were only 3 inclines, a bridge over wetlands, a slight uphill into residential homes and a long incline inside the Weapons Station.  Nothing that a little extra arm pumping and a good attitude can't handle, even at mile 10.  There was a bit of cambering to the highway, which I hadn't expected (having run only on the bike trails on the northbound side of the highway) but there was always a flat spot to be found.

The aid stations were excellent and well manned by volunteers.  They were stationed about every 1.5 miles of the course, usually right when I'd need them.  The volunteers seemed to consist mostly of high school or college students, and they were cheerful and encouraging the whole way.  They appreciated when I cracked my "Who's got the GLUTEN FREE water?" joke.  Or at least pretended to.  They offered energy chews at mile 6, which I chose not to take.  I carry my own fuel with me.

Every race has its challenge, and in the Silver Strand it has to be the miles 10-12, where you run into the Naval Weapons Station in Imperial Beach, and run a 2 mile switchback.  I had the benefit of running into my friends as they finished the switchback during my mile 11.  Having to run 1 mile out, only to run 1 mile back is definitely mentally difficult when you're so close to the finish.  Throw one of the only hills on the course into that mix and its a killer challenge.  We don't earn a medal for it being easy though! 

My amazing friend Dave volunteered at the Finish Line so he could award me my medal.  

You know its a great race when by mile 9 you're already thinking that you want to run it again next year.  I like the sentiment of the race, that its the LAST half marathon in San Diego for the year.  A nice bow to put on your accomplishments.  I'll be back Silver Strand, after I run some more hills, and I'll finish you faster.  

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