Holy Hills, Batman: Hot Chocolate 15K
Because I have an awesome friend, Nicole, who hooked me up with her extra race entry, I ran this bad-boy gratis. I had planned to run Xterra Black Mountain (20 minutes closer to home) 15K, but I was happy to run the Hot Chocolate 15K with my running blogger friends.
Until I saw the course.
Ok, I kid. I was still happy to run (if not excited for the blogger-gal meetup), but I definitely dialed back my expectations on my finish time. 828 feet elevation gain? Max grade of 12.5%, average 2.9%? Yeah, this was going to be far from easy.
My previous 15K PR in December 2010 was 1:16:13 on a hilly course in Loma Linda but this course was yet more hilly. When I saw that we were running through Balboa Park, I remembered my 8-miler back in August 2010 and tried to talk myself down off the I’m-not-going-to-PR ledge.
I decided I was going to sport my my new (or really, second-hand since someone else decided they didn’t like them and returned them for my $40 score) Brooks Cadence’s since they felt pretty good during my treadmill speedwork on Thursday (after I wasted 30 minutes driving to Mira Costa CC to find the track locked up. And the Track Search continues).
Kept myself to 2 beers the night before and went to bed at 9:30pm. 4am came quickly – had my soy latte (love my espresso machine), banana, mini-bagel with PB, made my little handheld of gatorade, and hit the road. Forty minutes later (PR on travel time to downtown), I took the advice of Nicole, and found street marking on Market and 10th. Freeeeee! And as I walked across the street, I got her text and she was parked maybe 100 yards away! Ha!
We walked over, hit the porta potties – there were plenty! Good work, race directors! At 6:15am, they were clean and un-smelly. Could not say the same thing at 7am. At the race merchandise area we found Ashley who cracks me up, first with the child-size clothing (everything must be small! And tiny!) and then when she was doing God-knows-what with her shorts at the start line. The girl is silly.
At the startline, I stripped off my cuttoff sock-arm warmers and ate a Roctane GU of some berry flavor which was VILE. It was free in my RnR New Orleans goodie bag so thank goodness I didn’t pay money for that freak-nastiness.
Because I have gotten much better than my high school track/XC days at not going out ridiculously fast, I was able to avoid trying to keep up with these speedsters (Margot taking the prize for fastest on our ultra Ragnar team – she ran a wack-ass 7:06 pace on this course).
Right away, we were smacked around and put in our place with an uphill first mile. Without any warm up, my legs protested like they were involved with the Strawberry Statement (because I have to give props to my activist alma mater. We protest everything. Go Lions!).
Mile 1: 8:01 (slower than my current HMP)
Mile 2: 7:41 (sweet downhill relief, well, we still had to climb some)
Miles 3 through 5 were rough. You really had to know where your effort line was – taking it too hard could destroy the rest of your race. We climbed and climbed. And climbed.
96 feet to 336ft with a little up-and-down annoyance in mile 4
Mile 3: 8:06
Mile 4: 8:10 (Umm, yeah, I’m going to need those TPS reports*)
Mile 5: 7:56 (not even sure how I managed a sub-8 here)
Somewhere in mile 6 one of the course volunteers thought she’d be funny and tell us “You’re not even close to being done!” I thought, “Well that was bitchy. But at least she didn’t lie an tell me we’re almost there.”
Finally, I thought, maybe the hills were over. Mile 6 was glorious.
Mile 6: 7:34
Then mile 7 came and the first half was almost too downhill. If that’s possible. Garmin says 83 ft down and 139 up, but I still managed the 2nd fastest split (7:23) of the race which tells you I was flying in the the first half. And then wanted to die in the second half with the incline. My pace dropped to 10:07 in that mile.
Mile 7: 7:23
By mile 8 I was sure we HAD to be done with the hills. My legs were kaput. But NO. There was a stupid little up-hill switchback where I was so tired I could only wave to Nicole (and then later forgot that was the actual “last” place I spotted her, not back in mile 6). I glanced at my watch and thought “you could just trot this in at 10:00 pace and still PR.” I hate that my mind does this because it’s always so tempting. Thankfully my pride doesn’t take my mind up on the offer.
Mile 8: 8:01 (I was so ready to be done)
From here, it was all downhill. I really busted my ass in the last mile. I had the “I could vomit right now” feeling but tried my best to kick it in.
Mile 9: 7:03
Last .36: 2:27 (6:51 pace). Garmin time: 1:12:21 (7:44)
Official time: 1:12:18 (7:45 pace)
Nearly 4 minutes off my last PR on a much tougher course. I’ll take it!
Two weeks in a row with either bad weather or a hard course – I feel like I can still shave more time off these distances. Which leaves me hopeful. Honestly, I never thought I could run even remotely this fast (which, really, is not that fast in the grand scheme of things, but to me? It’s fast).
The race management exceeded my expectations. I’m still not sure I would have paid almost $70 (including registration fee) to get my ass beat** by hills for 9+ miles but there was not a single hitch in this race. Everything went very smoothly. Whatever mistakes Ram Racing made in DC, they didn’t repeat in San Diego. The post race food could have been better – I think less serious, more recreational runners probably loved the chocolate fondue deal, but I’d rather just have a bagel, a banana, and an orange. Nothing high-maintenance. But that’s their shtick, so, I get it. It’s just not my bag, baby*** (sorry, I am quoting all kinds of ridiculousness).
Oh, and the Brooks Cadence’s were ‘muy excelente’. Just the right amount of support for my slight over pronation. A little narrow for my wide feet but still manageable with thin socks.
[Giving quote credit where credit is due: ***Austin Powers, **J-Wow to Angelina, and *Lumberg (Office Space)]