Monday, August 27, 2012

Salinas Valley Half Marathon Review


I am new to this whole running world and have only done a handful of races. I've decided to start backwards with my race reviews. So the last race I ran was The Salinas Valley Half  Marathon three weeks ago.  I really wanted to do this race because of its beautiful location in the Salinas Valley on the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountains. It runs right along the River Road Wine Trail and it is absolutely beautiful. 

My first half marathon was last fall and I was super slow (like I'm embarrassed to say it was 2:45). Oh you know. But I didn't care really because I just wanted to finish. When I was tired I walked. When my IT band hurt I stopped to stretch it. But I loved it and I was so proud I finished. Anyways, flash forward and now I was on a mission to PR. My goal was really 2:30 but I secretly hoped it would be faster because I had been noting my times getting better.  When I heard about this race I liked the location because even in August I knew the Salinas Valley usually gets fog in the morning and this would be starting  at the Historic Soledad Mission and Finishing at Pessagno Winery.  

I had studied the course map and elevation and it looked perfect.

I was really only worried about miles six thru eight but the rest looked great.

We picked up our packet and bib at the expo on Friday and decided to make a day of it and go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and out to lunch at Cannery Row before heading to Salinas. 

The expo was good. I've only been to a couple but it had the usual health fair booths, bib  pickup and I liked the long sleeve race shirt and we each got a wine glass.  I also bought  a running skirt at a booth selling workout shirt, skirts, shorts, etc. all made of bamboo (?) material. Hmm. 

The next morning we got up super early (4:30 I think) and headed down to Soledad. All the parking was at Soledad High School and shuttle buses would take us to Soledad Mission. The buses were really nice but the bus driver got lost which was kinda funny because it was only like a 5min ride. I think he was heading to the finish line. He finally turned around but we were all snickering a little.

We got to the mission and there was a lot of porta pottys so there was never a line. (nice) There  was also coffee, bagels and bananas.  But it was so freezing. We were all huddled under the eaves of the mission and had to wait about 45 min for the start. 

                                                    (don't I look cold)

Finally it was time to line up for the race. So I started looking for the 2:15pacer. Even though my goal was 2:30 I wanted to try to stay with the 2:15group as long as possible. I figured eventually I would end up slower but still in my target. 

I was so cold waiting to start. I think it was only in the low fifties but that fog made it damp and it was breezy. I should have dumped my jacket because by mile 2 I was trying to take it off and tie it around my waist. They did have a place to drop your stuff at the misson and it would be sent to the finish. 

It was a bit more hills than I realized by looking at the elevation chart. Another thing was these were agricultural, rural, very banked roads so my IT band was screaming . I tried to stay in the center in the road if it was straight but if it turned and banked alot then I moved to the shoulder that was the flattest. That seemed to help. I also walked a bit thru the aid stations and drank at each one. Had a Gu at about mile 6. There were plenty of porta pottys along the way. Lots of aid stations. A few houses scattered here and there. One guy was cooking up bacon and passing it out. Lol. The local high school had several cheering sections which was nice. At mile 12 they were passing out strawberries. Yum! It was very scenic running thru the crops and the rolling hills. But certainly not alot of cheering crowds. 

I had lost sight of the 2:15 passer and was feeaking out because the next pace group was catching up with me. It was like being chased by the grim reaper and I booked it because I thought it was the 2:30 group and I really wanted to beat 'em. I finally realized it was the 2:20 pacer and I felt so much better. I just kept on going !!! My time......2:20!!!!
Yay! I PRed by 25minutes!!!!  My husband's goal was under 2 hours and his time was 1:59! 

This is a small race with only 1418 runners. Interesting fact they mentioned at the start: the course record is held by Diego Estrada 1:06 in 2010 and he was just in the Olympics in London running the 10,000m. 

The end was at Pessagno Winery which was beautiful. All the wineries we ran by had booths there for wine tasting. And we got a discount on any wines purchased. It was so pretty crossing the finish line and big purple grapes on the vines on either side. Nice:)

This race was very nice. It was beautiful, lots of support, well organized. Shuttle buses were plentiful and no waiting at all (and we didn't get lost getting back to the car). It was kinda pricey...that bothered my husband more than me ;) There was a BBQ lunch afterwards but that was extra too. They did offer a ton of fruit at the end as well as packages of sliced apples, free GUs, granola bars, bagels, etc. We ended up stopping in Salinas at BJ's Restaurant for lunch. 

Very nice day indeed.


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