Race Recap: SLO Half Marathon

2:23 PM

From Ambassador to (Halfer) Finisher...

My experience may be a novel, so grab your popcorn and wine (or soda, if you'd prefer) and get ready. I'll try to keep it on the short side, but we know how that goes with my verbose ways...

I applied to be an Ambassador in October-ish 2014 and found out that I was selected. I was excited for so many reasons, but mainly because it meant I was guaranteed a trip back to my old college stomping rounds, which is my second favorite city in California! That being said, I've been bombarding my various social media accounts with hype for the race since then!
My strategy has changed over the past few months. I originally was going to run the full marathon, but decided against it after my horrible experience at Napa. My training has been non-existent since Napa, with the exception of three races post-Napa. I ran a 4 mile Donut Dash, a Half Marathon, and a 5 miler, but that was pretty much the only running I've done since March 2015!

On to recap...

We left Sacramento on Friday morning, which was the start of what I'd like to call my SLO (Half) Marathon weekend. Before we arrived in SLO, I already knew I wasn't going to the race expo until Saturday, we had an Ambassador meet-up already scheduled. Friday would be our fun day, then it was down to business until race time.

Saturday started off rainy and miserable, especially for the 5k runners who ran their race on that morning. Luckily for us, the race expo was less than five minutes from our hotel - which I planned of course, and we didn't have to meet until mid-day! The race expo was also going to be the finish of both races!

There was a huge tent set-up in the grassy knoll area of the Madonna Inn. You parked in the muddy grass, trampled your way through more muddy grass and made your way to the large expo tent. However, the Ambassador group was meeting at the beer tent, which meant we had to make our way through the entire expo and then to the beer tent. 

Expo tent - from the parking lot.
Expo tent, view of bib pick-up.
Here, we all met each other for the first time (most of us). We all knew each other via social media, but this was our first in-person encounter. Ashley, the Ambassador boss (for a lack of a better word) passed out our zip-ups and said 'thanks' for all our hard work. We all chatted for a bit, took a pic, then Heather the race director spoke a little. Then we took one last pic, since more ambassador's arrived. Then we all went our separate ways.

Beer garden!
Ambassador pic #1
Ambassador pic #2
J and I headed to the Expo to go experience it all and get my bib and race shirt! As you probably can assume, I came fully unprepared for my race. No handheld or gu's. I decided against buying a handheld, since a fellow ambassador said there were lots of aid stations on the course. So I looked for Gu's, but no one was selling the Hammer brand, I prefer. We took pics, got my stuff, and perused. It was a decent size expo with some cool things for sale, but I left with all my money accounted for! Jamba Juice was raffling off samples, J won one, I got a coupon! Cliff bar was giving samples, since they'd be on the course the next day!

Bib time!
Shirt I wanted, but they didn't sell it in Women's sizes!
1st...in my dreams!
Shirt pick up!
J - probably the most supportive boyfriend I could have ever asked for :)
I had been having stomach issues since Thursday night and was worried about race day or if I'd even be able to race. It wasn't pretty on Friday night or Saturday, so it was all still up in the air. After the expo, we enjoyed the day with family and friends. It wasn't until we headed home for the evening that I realized I still didn't have any nutrition for the race. So we headed to the grocery store, where I bought a pack of Clif Shot bloks. Luckily, I'm used to these, because before Hammer that's what I trained with!

Long sleeve tech shirt!

I slept so well for a pre-race sleep in a different city. I was so exhausted from all of our activities on Saturday, I passed out early and into a heavy, deep sleep! The alarm went off at 4:45AM, while J slept for another 45 minutes. Thankfully, the hotel offered some breakfast treats for the runners starting at 5AM. I purchased a chocolate chip bagel (that was all that was left on Saturday night), PB, and some Silk Soy creamer for breakfast. All I needed to get was coffee and pastries for J. After I swooped the hot goodness of caffeine, I enjoyed breakfast in our hotel room. I woke J up to enjoy his and continued to get ready.

My stomach still wasn't 100%, but I was going to race. I wasn't sure how to dress and I also didn't bring a proper throw away long sleeve, so after much debate I went with a Lulu full zip-up, which was actually handed off to J as I started the race. All ready to go, we left the hotel room at around 6:15AM, to get to the start for a 6:45AM start time. So freakin' early, right?!
As I was eating breakfast I had to look at the course map to attempt to plan something out for J and I. I couldn't find the map I'm showing below on my iPhone, so I used the road closure map...it worked out...ohh-kay-ish!
We hadn't really planned our strategy out until our ride to the start of the course. We lucked out with a residential spot to park, so J could walk with me to the front of the course. I had to pee, so I found the nearest port-o-potties. They read 'elite only,' but seeing how there was only 5 minutes to start I used it anyways. Let me tell you, those elites get the best treatment. It was the cleanest POP I've EVER been in. It didn't even have a horrible stench coming from it, even though there was stuff that should smell :/
After I hopped out, it was time to start the race. J was right by my side until I crossed the timing mat. We were that annoying couple that were jogging and even kissed before he split apart from me :) He went to the car to get ready to meet me at 4.5 and then again at mile 8.5, which he'd finish the race with me.

I happened to find the 2:15 pacers and made my strategy then and there. Stay with them if I can, but run strong and enjoy the race. Don't put any mental pressure on yourself and enjoy the course. I spoke with the pacer, Karen (I think was her name) for a few miles. I'm not sure when or where I decided to pull ahead of her/them. However, she gave me some good advice to the course and she was really encouraging. Thanks to her I knew there was huge rolling hills from mile 6 to 8, and that somewhere at mile 11 there was a long grade up, she also mentioned some switchbacks that I didn't really pay much attention too.
Mile 1 - 9:46
Mile 2 - 10:20
Mile 3 - 10:20
Mile 4 -  10:08

I literally ate hills for breakfast. I knew SLO was hilly, but holly hell! This course was no joke, especially with no training. Basically from mile 4 to mile 9 you are running rolling (huge) hills. I didn't see J at mile 4.5 like I thought I would. I kept looking, but didn't see him.

Mile 5 - 9:40
Mile 6 - 10:05
So as I was struggling to concur the hill at mile 6ish I saw him at a turn with tons of people. He hopped in with me and ran up a huge hill with me, I told him to go back to that spot and wait until I was on my way back and he could finish the race with me. Once he left me, I saw the huge read Clif arch, which I thought was the turnaround point. To get there I had to finish my current hill and get through the last huge one and then elusive tent. However, as I got closer to the tent, the F word slipped out, because you not only have to run through the tent, you have to go about another tenth of a mile and THEN you get to the turn around!!

During race USie for the win!
Right before the turn around I stopped at the first aid station to grab some water to take my salt tablet. I wasn't sure if the other side had water, but it did. But I didn't want to risk it. My plan for nutrition was two bloks every four miles, which is exactly what I did and it worked out just fine. I knew I had to get to J and then I would be really close to mile 9. Once I saw him, I was happy. I was starting to get really heavy legs.
Mile 7 - 10:11
Mile 8 - 9:48
Mile 9 -  10:12

He was super chatty Cathy, but I didn't have the heart to tell him to be quiet. Since he was there to push and encourage me, I let him...even though it was the last thing I wanted. He was able to experience some of the rolling hills with me, but nothing like what I saw from 6-8. Once we made our final climb from Orcutt we turned into town and I knew there was still something along mile 11 that awaited me, so I kept my pace slower. Eventually, you leave town and hit a paved trail, which I believe runs behind Cal Poly. It was a little congested and blah, but there was a cute little college couple on a hammock, drinking beer, and playing an 80's boom box, so that was fun to see. At the end of this trail you come to a bridge, with about 5 or 6 switchbacks to climb up, then cross the bridge (weirdest sensation ever), then the 5 or 6 switchbacks to climb down.

Mile 10 - 10:26
Mile 11 -  10:34

From there on it was pretty flat. The climb during mile 11 that I was waiting for must have been the bridge, because I never saw/felt a stead grade. At the bridge I saw the pacers again. They were a few switchbacks behind me. I tried not to mentally care about it, although I did. I talked through it with J and told him I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of our vacation and should just chill out. So sometime in mile 12 they passed me, but I tried to let it go, which I did for the most part.

Mile 12 - 11:05

J gave me little goals...pass that matching couple, keep going, get that kill! All of which were so damn helpful! As we came to the Marsh street free way entrance I knew we were close. At that same time one of the marathon finishers was coming through, that was motivating and frustrating at the same time! As we get through the exit, there is a huge uphill to get to the Madonna Inn property. I didn't want to walk so I pumped my arms and kept my legs moving. Here, once you cleared the uphill, it was all down hill for the last 0.25 of the race. You could see the finish. I didn't want J to finish with me, since he was just helping me get through the last tough miles, so he eased back and let me finish on my own.

Mile 13 - 10:04

Two girls loudly made it a point to pass me, which of course got on my nerves. But I let them. Then at the end I kicked it into high gear, passing the pacers, both of those girls, and one other girl in a flowery tank I had my sights on. As I was sprinting my calves started to cramp, but I was already there at the FINISH!

Mile 14 -  8:10
TOTAL Time - 2:14:417
TOTAL Distance - 13.20 Miles
Overall Pace - 10:10min/mile Pace
Official race result!
Even though I was running hard at the finish, I was still looking for my family and friends - who drove 300 miles to cheer me on. But I didn't see one of them :( I was pretty bummed, but knew I over estimated my finish time by at least 15 minutes. As I finished, I came to a complete stop because of the traffic jam. I grabbed my medal and a cup of water and started following the crowd. The line to take a finisher pic was way too long, 50 people deep, so I went about my business. I did stop to say thank you to the race director and to tell her that enjoyed being an Ambassador! I grabbed a banana for J and PB for me, then made my way to J. We then went and found my family...who I surprised since they were waiting for me to finish. Then we found my girlfriends who made me the coolest sign ever. No one saw me finish, but them being there was everything I could have hoped for. We laughed about it, took pics, then decided to go enjoy breakfast together!
L to R: Dad, Kris, Mom, Aunt Trisha, Me, J, Alyssa, Annah, and Lil
An inside joke poster!
Because he does everything I do!
Checkin off the last item!
Overall Thoughts
Race: I am completely happy with my race. If I take into consideration that I was under trained and unprepared, it went better than it should have. I'm not sure how I feel about knowing that I can run a half marathon untrained and still get a decent (in my opinion) time, it's a little scary. I did exactly what I wanted, I ran strong, didn't let my mental game get me down, and I was smiling at the end (re: no tears).

Ambassador: I enjoyed being an ambassador for this race, even though I don't think I got one person to sign up for the race. I do feel slightly bad about that, but I enjoyed promoting the race.

Course & Logistics: As for the race, there are a few things I'd change. They need to offer a more intuitive way to access the course map online, especially for mobile devices. They need more volunteers at the water stations and for the love of running, please use paper cups. Plastic cups do not bend so you can drink while running. They crack and create a huge mess. Other than that, the course was a doozy, but great. The expo was great, I don't ever have many expectations from these. There was plenty of Clif gu's for runners, so if you like those, that was an awesome bonus. The race shirt was an awesome color, not sure about it's functionality yet.

This was my first experience as a (running) race ambassador and I loved it. It was the PERFECT excuse for a RACEcation, in my favorite city (besides Sacramento). I'm not sure if I'll apply next year, but I would encourage any runner to do IT! The course was a good, hard one and the people are all amazing!
I have officially raced in my second favorite city!

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  1. Great job on the race and great recap! I'm jealous of your later wake up time and arrival at the start. Our morning didn't go so well following the shuttle instructions and we arrived at the start line for the half at 5 am. :) Good things to know for the future! I loved the event too and it was my first visit to SLO. I'll go back!

    1. Holy Geez...5AM, sorry girl! Glad you enjoyed it and that you were able to experience SLO! xoxo, ganeebn

  2. Great job!! I'm running a half marathon unprepared next weekend and I'm hoping everything goes well for me too. I've done them without training before but they're always so much more fun when you've been running consistently!

    1. Thanks chica! Oh good luck and just enjoy it! You may be sore, but you'll get through it! Happy Running :) xoxo, ganeeban

  3. Yay Congrats to you for so many things! Running a race! Good nights sleep! Ambassador! Yay!

    1. Thank you! Geez, how different is a good nights sleep versus not, you don't notice until it happens! xoxo, ganeeban


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