Apparently when my teammates were excitedly posting in our facebook group about a Groupon for the Race to the End of Summer, I somehow managed to sign up for the half at a steal of a price — something like $30, if memory serves — without bothering to look at a calendar. I didn’t realize I registered for a half marathon exactly one week after my pacing gig at Santa Rosa. You’ll be fine, I told myself. You’re just pacing. You can fun-run a half a week after a marathon. Don’t worry about it. In the interim, I learned that more teammates, plus friends Jen and Angela, would be racing that morning, so any anxiety or mental frustration I had with myself for being an idiot who signed up for a race without first consulting her calendar washed away. If I felt great, I’d run hard. If I were tired, I wouldn’t. Simply showing up to see a bunch of friends was worth the Groupon cost. I mean, granted, most people would seek other avenues to simply “hang out with friends” that don’t involve early morning soirees, but whatever.
In the 7 days between pacing at SRM and running the RTTEOS, I felt pretty well, just tired. I didn’t particularly feel egregiously sore or void of energy, but I noticed that I needed to sleep a little more each night than usual, and I kept my running mileage that week to a minimum, basically not doing much beyond the standard commute mileage with my kids. My coach urged me to treat RTTEOS as an easy-paced long run, though I was initially itching to run it as a workout; insert hysterical laughter at myself and a hearty number of facepalms here. Eventually, our strategy became take it easy for the first 9 (nothing faster than 7:50), and if and only if you feel well, drop down to nothing faster than 7:10. Ok. Compromise. I could do that.
…and then the inferno came. For Friday-Sunday of RTTEOS race week, if not also Thursday-Sunday, it felt like San Jose (and a lot of the Bay Area) was broiling. Friends and family often quip but it’s a dry heat! And look, after living the first thirty years of my life in the Midwest, I get where you’re coming from; I totally do. I know what it’s like to live and run in northeast Ohio or Chicago when it’s 90+ outside and 90%+ humidity, and it blows. Bay Area humidity doesn’t hold a candle to Midwest humidity. However, when it’s 110 degrees out, it still feels like it’s 110 degrees, even if we’re sitting at ~30% humidity — which would be outlandish for here, at midday — and not at the Midwestern 90+% standard. I find that steamy weather like that just drains the life out of everything and makes running, in particular, feel like a total slogfest, even if I’m taking things really easy.
Come race day, I ventured down to southeast San Jose to the Sportsplex that’d serve as the staging area for the race start and finish. The half began at 7, while the 5k and 10k began later, around 8 or 8:30, if I recall. Wolfpack teammate Ashley was also doing the half, and other teammates Janet, Ida, and Jason were doing the 5k or 10k; Jen and Angela were also coming down from the peninsula/SF to race the 10k. Most of the race runs along the Coyote Creek Trail, which cuts into Hellyer Park, on the southeast side of the city — a place where I probably haven’t run since I was training for Oakland ‘14, right after we first moved here. The CCT is pretty similar to the GRT — very flat, fairly narrow in places, and periodically shaded and then exposed, though probably more of the former and less of the latter. The first mile and change of the HM course wound us through an office park before dumping us onto the path, where we’d head north to near-Hellyer for about 4 miles before retracing our steps, heading south until about mile 9, and then returning north. It’d be a fairly simple and straightforward course, and the out-and-back setup would be perfect to see friends and share side-fives.
Ashley and I ran a couple mile warm-up, and things already felt pretty warm for not-quite-7am. By the time the race began, it was already nearly 80, and we had the luxury of having a warm wind that offered no relief from the morning sunshine and out-of-place humidity. It was great to share in the pre-race song and dance with Ashley, and while we waited for things to get moving, I saw some of my other SJ running buddies, like Becky and Bertrand, as well as Sarbajeet, who had just raced SRM a week prior and had come down to pace the 1:45 HM group. This race had a sizable local draw, and I was surprised to see so many people I knew. Before too long, the gun blared, and we were off!
Right off the line, I settled comfortably as third woman. I kept trying to run by feel and not clockwatch, but I was also trying to be cognizant of my coach’s wishes, so I admittedly saw my Garmin much more during this race than I typically do. Nothing faster than 7:50 for the first 9, I kept telling myself. It took a long time to get there — and I knew it’d mean some pretty sweet and ugly positive splits, since I had started faster than I should have — but it was fine. Much like at SRM, I felt bad for anyone who had targeted any of the events at RTTEOS because race day conditions weren’t really conducive to super fast times, even though the courses definitely were. Once we hit the turn-around at the northernmost point, around mile 4, I had a blast side-5ing just about every runner and walker I saw. Hat-tip to the morning’s pacers from the East Bay; their enthusiasm and genuine encouragement was pretty awesome. I felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of midwesterners during this race because so many runners I encountered during the OABs were just incredibly friendly and nice. It was fantastic!
By about mile 6 or so, one of the aid stations was giving out wet washcloths, and at the risk of looking like a weirdo who had just walked out of a Bed Bath and Beyond with a looted (and sopping wet) napkin, I enthusiastically took their offerings and somehow managed to only soak the right side of my body. I couldn’t get the cloth to wrap around my neck, since it was too small, so I settled with tucking it into my bra strap for a few miles before tossing it. It took me a solid 6 miles to finally get down around 7:50s — what I should have done right off the line — and honestly, I was glad to be there. Nothing hurt; nothing was uncomfortable; I just felt tired. It was like I had to keep telling my legs to have some semblance of power and lift. I have read before that post-marathon, you often feel better, in muscular or skeletal terms, way before you’re actually in the clear on a cellular level. I’m not a scientist, but that seems to make sense. Even if you’re not racing a marathon, just covering the distance — and thus, being in repetitive motion — for a few-plus hours can surely wreak some havoc on your body. I couldn’t help but laugh both to and at myself during RTTEOS for thinking that I’d somehow magically be up for doing a hard HM workout a week after pacing. Sometimes, many times, I am a moron.
At any rate, basically from mile 1 to mile 8 or 9, I stayed in the third woman position, and I leapfrogged with one or two males; otherwise, there were entire swaths of the southernmost outs on the course where I couldn’t see anyone in front of me, making me sometimes wonder if I had missed a turnaround somewhere. By the southernmost turn around 8.5, I saw that the 2nd woman had moved up to first — maybe a couple minutes ahead of me — and that the now 2nd woman had dropped back to being maybe a minute or so ahead of me. Seeing lots of friends again on this portion of the OAB was a fun treat, and some folks had mentioned that the 2nd woman was within reach, though I couldn’t see her anywhere ahead of me, thanks to the twisting course.
By mile 9, I had to decide whether I’d heed my coach’s words and pick things up to about a 7:10 for the last 4 or just fun-run it in. I felt fairly mentally checked out and kinda bored — with the heat making things unpleasant and less fun that it ought to be — but I felt well enough to at least try to pick it up for a handful of miles on to home. Hey, you can finish the race faster if you pick it up a bit, right? In doing so, I passed the 2nd woman around mile 10, and I ached for her because she looked like she was hurting a lot. I didn’t have much of anything left in my please let us just take a nap legs, but I managed to finish as the second woman overall on what seemed like a very short course. I ended up with 1:38 for 13.1 (probably closer to 12.9) a week out from pacing a marathon, and for having basically no expectations or goals for this race, I was pleased. Not my best, not my worst, but a finish is a finish. I am always so happy that I can do this stuff, and even if I bitch about the details that impede a perfect performance, I am always grateful.
Truth be told, the real reason I even decided to stick with the race and actually show up that morning came after I crossed the line. I knew I’d see so many friends at this small race, and seeing everyone come through the finish line — Ashley and then Becky, for the half, and then Janet, Angela, and Jen, on the 10k — made it worth it. We all shared eyerolls and curse words over the weather and basically screwed around for an hour and change before parting ways. For my finish, I earned a $50 gift card to Sports Basement, which was nice and unexpected.
There was a time in my life where I registered for every race under the sun and raced them all, every last one of them, as hard as I possibly could. That perspective eventually shifted and became something that more resembled Oh, I get to run 6 miles today, might as well sign up for this 10k and do it as a training run. Over time, that perspective eventually changed, too, when I realized I was paying a whole bunch of money to do training runs that I could do for free. These days, especially with two kids and a husband in the mix, I rarely sign-up for a race — and thus, take extra time away from my family on a weekend morning — that I don’t intend to actually run hard and go for my best on that day. RTTEOS was an exception, though, given its cheap costs from the Groupon, it being a short drive from home, and the most excellent camaraderie before and after the race. The company made it 1000% worth it. Seeing folks from social media was also a treat (Hi, Laura!). I am working on recruiting the super-friendly first place woman, Tiffany, to Wolfpack, so if you’re reading this… please! Both Lisa and I will welcome you with open arms! And of course, shoutout to my husband, per yoosh, for handling the daughters at home that morning and for letting me go play with my friends for a little bit. I’m grateful.
Overall, I think I’d recommend RTTEOS. It was an excellently-organized local race, and its smallish size made everything easy to navigate. It’s a bit of a bummer when races don’t allow for race day bib pickup, but logistically, it’s probably a pain in the ass for them, so I get it. They had some of the usual vendor stuff afterward, and for half finishers, we earned medals and got (black) wicking tees and truckers. Folks who AGed across any of the races also earned additional medals. If you’re interested in doing this race in the future, I’d recommend either registering early or holding out hope for a Groupon to appear again. Friends who ran the 5k and 10k reported that their Garmins seemed to closely align with the respective distances, though I haven’t met anyone who ran the half who posted anything close to 13.1; for everyone, it seemed really short. Take it for what it is, though; as far as I know, the course isn’t certified, so you kinda get what you get (and you don’t throw a fit, as they say in preschool). The trail is fast and flat and conducive to PRs and speedy times; running in SJ in late August or early September is always a gamble with the heat, though, so be prepared to adjust expectations accordingly. There are few road races in SJ — which is weird because we’ve got over a million people living here, and there are tons of runners — so I think that if you’re local, you should get this one on your calendar. Plus, it benefits TNT/LLS, and you know how I feel about that organization.
I walked away from my supported training run with an unexpected voucher for my efforts and a whole lotta warm feelings in my heart upon seeing some friends, so I’d call that a win any day: broiling weather be damned.