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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

San Diego Rock N’ Rock Marathon

I have been aching for a giant race for quite some time.  My races usually range from 50 to 150 runners.  I consider a medium size race one with about 500 runners (I seldom get these on trails).  Big races, in my opinion, have more than 1,000 runners.  GIANT races have more than 10,000 runners.  The last time I ran a giant race was during spring 2009.  That was the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon, my first marathon

You see, I’ve been wanting to get lost in the crowd during a race instead of running by myself for hours.  That’s how it is in trail races – the field spreads out pretty quickly, and with a hundred or less runners, it gets a little lonely on the race course. 

Having missed Nanny Goat this year, I went for it and registered for the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon.  30,000+ runners registered (15,000 for the marathon, the rest for the half).  This is a road race of course.  The last time I ran a road marathon was back in 2010. 

I had precisely two weeks to train and one week to taper, to get ready for this weekend’s Rock n’ Roll Marathon (ha, ha).  My “training” was on 99% trails (another ha, ha) and I knew that I probably wouldn’t beat my first time running this marathon.  Road marathoners on the whole (average folk like me) run faster than long distance trail runners.  I did not fear however.  I was out to have some fun.  Out for a cool day trip to the grand city of San Diego.

I woke at 3:00 AM Sunday morning.  Giving myself twenty minutes to get ready, I was out the door in twenty-eight.  Then I drove a half hour to the nearest San Diego County train station to catch “The Coaster” into San Diego.  This way, I saved on gas, parking money and the heartache of trying to get into the big city with its closed roads and freeway offramps. 

“The Coaster” took off at 4:10, and we made several stops along the way.  Runners and spectators boarded, eventually filling the train to capacity.  We embarked in an area of San Diego called “Old Town,”  the oldest part of the city.  But the sun had not yet risen, so I couldn’t see anything but the lights on the chartered buses that drove us Coaster riders to the start line.

Arriving to the start line in the big city with 30,000 other runners was pleasantly easy.  I thought I’d encounter some frustration – instead, there was zero – just friendly faces, very clean porta-potties, lots of running Elvises, gazillions of really cute running skirts and a delightful sunrise. 

Aboard The Coaster – looks like I’m barely awake.  It was 4:00 AM:

In my corral, #10:

Corral #10 on deck:

I set off at a faster pace than I ever start on trail races.  Around a nine minute pace, I passed The Jester, a pretty famous and pretty dang nice ultra runner in my parts.  He held a sign that read “26 miles to go.”  I looked to the runner on my left and said, “Is it a bad sign if I’m already tired?”  He chuckled and said that he thought so. 

Countless people held up signs for us.  My favorite read, “Run Easy, You’re Not Gonna Win.”  That was me, running easy. 

Though I felt I was running easy, I wasn’t.  My first 5 miles went exceptionally well.  Once I glanced at my garmin and read an 8 mile pace.  I had to double take that look because such a pace isn’t my style. 

My overall goal was to make every five miles in an hour or less. My first five came in under an hour.  My second five came in right at an hour.  That’s when I knew that my 5 miles an hour wasn’t going to last.  I needed mile twenty to come in right at an hour, not mile 10.

One mistake that I made was that I didn’t pack fuel.  With the cost of this race, I assumed we’d have plenty of calories to intake at the stations.  Turns out, the first of two gel stops came at about 10 or 11 miles.  I grabbed three, then dropped one on the run.  (I didn’t get another chance at fuel again until about mile 18!)

The great city of San Diego:

Approximately every mile we ran up on a band.  I didn’t need to turn down my ipod.  The bands played so loudly, they would drown out the music piped into my ears.  The bands were great entertainment.  I didn’t take much time to photo them though because I didn’t want to stop.  There was a lot of variety in the music.  In Old Town, we had Mexican style music.  At the bay, a band made of kids played rock n’ roll.  I even remember a marching band (though they weren’t marching).

If it wasn’t a band, it was something else for entertainment.  There were disc-jockeys playing music.  There were cheer leaders chanting songs.  There was a psychedelic tunnel with wavering lights to run through.  We ran along the water in Mission Bay, and we ran through neighborhoods with enthusiastic spectators offering refreshments like water, beer or red vines candy.  The mood was extremely enthusiastic.

Rock N’ Roll Tunnel:

Mission Bay:

I noticed many differences between my trail races and this road race, some of them advantages, others disadvantages.  For example, what some other runners referred to as hills, seemed pretty flat to me.  And I was also able to make up A LOT of time on the downhills.  Often on trails, the downhills are so technical that I sometimes LOSE time. 

The difference that ended up being detrimental to my game was the fact that road runners don’t look behind them before moving over.  On the trails I MUST look over my shoulder, else I risk being run over by a mountain biker. 

Somewhere between mile 12 and 17 I looked behind my shoulder and moved left to pass a runner in front of me.  The runner suddenly shifted to the left and to avoid crashing into him, I leapt even further to my left.  When my front foot landed, my right foot came down at an unnatural angle in a hole in the road.  Upon impact, I rolled my ankle.  I ran onward relieved that it was a roll and not a twist.  By then my left quad was aching some from the fast downhills.  My right foot neuroma also ached.  So the pain from the ankle roll seemed minimal.  Still, at the next aid, I stopped for 1,000 mg of acetaminophen. 

Then I came upon the slanted freeway.  With a left quad ache, and right ankle and toe (neuroma) ache, the slant of the freeway was quite a chore to maneuver.  Everyone around me seemed to suffer from the slant.  Up aways, I noticed a runner on the shoulder of the “fast” lane.  Taking his lead, I found this spot the flattest of the road.  Cars whizzing by in the opposing lanes was a bit unnerving.  I could only hope that a car didn’t do some kind of twist over the center divider and end up in my lane.  I took my chances.  My 5 miles an hour was out the window.  By this time I just hoped for a 5:30 finish (more than twenty five minutes slower than my first San Diego R n’ R marathon).

The Slanted Freeway:

With about four miles to go, I COULD NOT increase my speed.  When I looked down at my garmin, I was pretty surprised to see a 14 minute mile.  It seemed I was moving much faster.  I had to push hard to get it to a 12 or 11 minute mile.  Even then, it didn’t last long.  Time really didn’t matter though.  The crowds were so enthusiastic and supportive coming into the finish, I really felt like I had accomplished something major. 

I ran on into the finish having run the entire marathon.  I saw The Jester with a sign that now read, “Only .2 miles to go.”  The announcer called out my name, pronouncing my last name correctly (NO ONE, and I mean no one does that).  I crossed that finish line with a few aches and pains.  And though my time was long for that course (just three minutes shy of 6 hours), I never hit “a wall.”  I never felt like I couldn’t take another step.  I had a dang fun time. 

After guzzling some chocolate milk, I picked up my bag.  Then I went off to Petco Park (The home of the Major League baseball team, The Padres).  There I retrieved my free beer.  I bought a hot dog, put some mustard on it.  Then I sat in the bleachers and watched some of the San Diego Rock N’ Roll Concert.  I didn’t stay long though.  I kind of hobbled down the stairway to the streets of San Diego.  Then I walked several blocks to the Sante Fe Train Depot.

The Walk to the station:

I arrived to the station to learn that I had an hour and 40 minutes to wait for The Coaster!  Dang freezing cold, I wished that I had packed a book to pass the time.  After shivering outdoors in the wind for an hour, I finally went into the station to change into dry clothing.  I peeled my clothing off the chaffing burns and took a good long time changing into warmer clothing. 

Waiting in the cold for my train:

Not my train:

There she is, The Coaster:

Though I wanted dearly to sleep on the way back, I didn’t get a wink.  Most of the passengers were runners or spectators, and chatter was high.  In the car ahead, I could hear a man talking obnoxiously loud.  He was obviously drunk.  He was not a runner, but a “regular” on that route, according to law enforcement who came to confiscate his bottle.  I watched as they threw a large EMPTY bottle of vodka into the trash.  Other passengers reported that the guy was guzzling it like water.  I thought to myself, “he’s got to be sick.  I would surely die drinking that much vodka that quickly.”  Seriously.  Dead.  Gone.  Poisoned to death.

The man was eventually booted from the train before our final stop.  That’s when I caught a glimpse of him out the train window.  He was perhaps about my age.  He lurched here and there, struggling to strap on his backpack.  Then he stumbled so badly onward that I was surprised he didn’t fall.  His walk was so ridiculously uncontrollable that he would accidently turn around and walk in the opposite direction, apparently not realizing it.  He made a big impression on my trip this day.  This is why I write about him now.  I was so terribly sad to watch him.  I thought for sure he was going to get hit by a train.  And I felt more than ever so fortunate for having just finished a road marathon, even though I came in much after my desired time.

Back at home, the ankle pain set in.  Unable to walk without a severe limp, I wore an ankle brace for the next two days.  On the third day, though sore, I was able to slip my feet into heels and go off to work without a limp. 

What a long strange trip it had been.  Yay!  What fun!

Running San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon 6-2-2013


  1. Wow, Lauren not running on trails :)

    1. Yes, isn't it odd? It was very odd for me Daniele. Not sure if I will hit a road race soon. But, I'm very glad to have this experience.

  2. It is strange but great to read this on your blog. Awesome Lauren and well done! Thanks for the photos! I love seeing other cities and countries. My favorite...The Coaster!!!

    1. I love your comment Johann. It definitely is strange to see me on the roads. The Coaster was a blast. I really enjoy public transit. It's not that convenient in Orange County (my county), but San Diego County is a haven of public transportation.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Scott. It was great fun.

  4. Congratulations!! It sounds like you had fun, and the course looks better than it has in previous years.

    1. Thanks Giraffy. I enjoyed the course better in 2009. But this course wasn't terrible. I'll say this though, we spent entire too much time in Mission Bay. Still fun though. Thanks for your comment.

  5. congratulations! How fun to run such a different race. I ran San Diego twice. The years I did it, the Gu stop was not until mile 17!! My friend made the same mistake and didn't pack any and by mile 17, it is too late.

    What a great idea taking the Coaster. Driving in before the RNR can be pretty stressful.

    Great job!

    1. It was a great deal of fun Lisa, an entirely different kind of fun. My huge mistake was not packing fuel. I was stupid to assume that such a huge race would supply fuel at convenient intervals. I have learned my lesson. Funny thing is, I always pack fuel on trail races, just in case. But since I didn't wear a pack, I didn't pack anything extra. My mistake. But I survived. Most importantly I finished. Thanks for reading!!!