Sunday, June 14, 2009

Race Day - The La Jolla Half Marathon 2009

OK, First off, this post is way past due (over a month since I ran this race!), and the reasons for that are contrasting - first a work overload and then a vacation overload (went to India for a month). So, anyways, without further ado and, like I did for the Carlsbad Half , here are the results of my LJHM '09 performance:

Overall: 1056 out of 5414 Finishers
Men: 791
M 25-29: 168
Age/Grade: 52.5%
Finish: 1:52:47 Pace: 8:33
Tag Time: 1:52:47
Gun Time: 1:53:13

So, apparently I clocked in exactly the same time as my Carlsbad Half time , a couple months before this (heck, I'll even go so far as to say, I was about 45 seconds slower, this time). And, as much as people keep telling me that La Jolla was a much tougher course than Carlsbad, and even I was expecting to be slower by up to 10mins, compared to Carlsbad, I still would have loved to "make the numbers" :).

As for the race itself, the weather was quite nice on race day, unlike what I was warned by many runners who ran this race in the past (they warned me about dreading the heat that has caused runners to collapse on this course, in the past). The day started out cloudy and in the 65F range, temperature-wise. The sun did come out about half way through the race, but, it didn't affect runners too much.

The course is definitely more challenging than the Carlsbad half (which is flat for the most part). The La Jolla half starts out in the Del Mar Race tracks area. There is a huge parking lot near the start, that is empty at the time of start. I used that to do some quick warm up runs and I think that was a good idea coz it allowed me to start at an 8:30 pace as opposed to the 9-9:30, that I usually do for the couple miles, which in turn, helped me make up time, that I lost later on the hills. You start out by running on Villa De La Valle to the 101 (flat, and then little downhill). You turn left and run along the 101. The course does not go all along the 101, but instead jumps into ocean blvd. close to the ocean (this was something my running buddies always did on training runs, so I was totally at home). The little surprise came when the course, turned left at 4th St and climbed back up to the 101, instead of continuing downhill on coast blvd and joining the 101 later, when it is easy. Anyways, after joining the 101, we pretty much continued down to the entrance of the Torrey Pines State Park, for the biggest ascent of the race. I grabbed my first drink here (around mile 5) and headed up the hill. As I was climbing I could see some folks that had passed me earlier slow-down/ stop. I also met a woman who was cheering on anyone that she felt was tiring or giving up. I joined her in the encouragement for a while, and found out that she was running the La Jolla Half for the first time as well. There was a strategically placed water station at the top (mile 7), where I got my second drink and some gel to get re-energized after the climb. The remaining part of the route, before you exit the Torrey Pines state park, is a very slight, but long and steady, incline. Once you get out of the park and turn R on to N Torrey Pines Rd, the route is mostly flat, with some small rolling hills (max change 50ft). When you turn onto Torrey Pines again and continue, you are feeling a little upbeat because you passed the 8mi marker and you know that the downhill isn't too far off. A fairly flat mile gets you to the downhill, that leads you to La Jolla Shores (and no matter how much of a hurry you are in, you can't help admire the beauty of the views from here). And this slope was where I realized how bad my downhill running was (basically, I was being passed by more people than any other time of the race) (Note to self: Gotta work on downhill running). Once you get off the hill, it is basically a straight flat 2 miles till you get to the La Jolla Shores parking lot. This is where I hit upon the second surprise - for some reason, the route turns into the parking lot and runs along the beach (yep, the concrete walk-way, by the sand) - although that wasn't anything to be worried about. It was great to see some of my running buddies (that were not running this race) standing there to cheer those of us, running it - AMAZING MORALE BOOST!. The last (and most dreaded) surpise came at mile 12. Where you hit this small hill that brings you back up to Torrey Pines. Now, ordinarily this hill is no big deal at all, but after running 12 miles of the La Jolla Half course, it just gets magnified - and no matter how much past runners tell you to dread this, nothing describes, actually experiencing it. The final mile winds into Prospect St (the downhill can be a pain after all the climbing and running), for a beautiful finish by the cove!

One thing to note about the La Jolla Half is that it is a relatively "low-key" event (unlike, what many people are used to associating "La Jolla" with, which is "grandiose"). For some reason, the event organizers don't seem to want to spend a lot on either the expo or the race itself. Not sure if this is because of the lack of enthusiasm on their part or the fact that they are trying to save as much as they can for donation to causes (I sure hope the latter). Overall, I didn't have anything to complain about, though!

Looking forward to the final Half in the SD Triple crown (the AFC HALF) this august!