What. An. Amazing. Weekend.
I’ve always wanted to visit San Diego, so what better way to see the sights than to travel there for an epic Rock ‘n’ Roll race event.
I arrived in town late Friday morning and immediately set out to walk to the San Diego Zoo located about 1.5 miles from my hotel, stopping at Starbucks along the way for some much-needed fuel. Power Lunch deal = stellar.
After a few hours touring the zoo, it was time to hit up packet pickup at the convention center. I didn’t spend much time at the booths, but made sure to stop by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series one, where I realized the man sitting a couple seats away from me on my plane ride from D.C. to San Diego was actually Joe Harris, who’s completed an astounding more than 120 Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathons — the most of any person. I spent some time talking to him and meeting other phenomenal runners, including Kevin Gonzalez, who went on to run his 100th Rock ‘n’ Roll race Sunday.
After that, it was off to Seaport Village to check out the shops and grab dinner — pizza — ahead of the first race of the weekend: the 5K.
I walked back to my hotel in the evening, traipsing by Petco Park and meandering through Gaslamp Quarter on the way.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SAN DIEGO 5K — SATURDAY
The East Coast – West Coast time difference helps when you’re 3,000 miles away from home. I was in bed by 9 p.m. the night before the 5K and my 5:45 a.m. alarm felt like nothing.
I ate a bagel, got my race clothes on and walked to the start a little less than a mile away. I walked around a bit when I arrived, even meeting someone who follows my blog! That was a real treat — I’ve never had someone come up to me before and recognize me in that way.
I noticed a line forming right at the start line and realized it was for Meb! I hopped into place and was able to get a photo with him before he needed to divert for a pre-race interview.
The race started at 7 a.m. and it wasn’t too long before my corral — No. 3 — took off. The announcers even said footage from our start would be used in their highlight reel.
My goal was to run the 5K at a 10:30 pace — mainly to save my legs. But despite tired legs I felt good and overall I ended up at a 10-minute mile pace. Oops.
I ran into a young girl around mile 2, whose name was also Katharine (though who knows how she spells it — I doubt its the same spelling as mine!). I gave her a big thumbs up. I’d seen her ahead of me earlier in the race, and heard her father shouting words of encouragement from behind during the 5K.
Official finish time: 31:16, a 10:04 pace.
After the race, I stood in line to get a photo with Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg, two of our U.S. marathon Olympians. Worth. It.
Then, I went back to the hotel and cleaned up. After that, I took a trolley from Old Town to La Jolla Cove and Mission Beach, then checked out Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma (amazing views) before heading to Coronado for dinner, complete with sweet potato fries — something I’m always excited to eat on a race night.
Notes for next time: Spend more time in La Jolla and Coronado.
I was in bed, lights out at 8:15. #Tired.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SAN DIEGO HALF MARATHON — SUNDAY
That early bedtime helped make it easier to get up at 5 a.m. (Thank you again, time difference working in my favor.) I ate my normal race day breakfast of cereal with milk and a bagel with cream cheese, then walked to the start.
I ran into another runner as I was exiting my hotel and we chatted until we got to the corrals, which helped pass the time. I lined up in corral 8 and about 10-15 minutes of the official 6:15 start, I was off.
The first two miles didn’t feel great. My mind started to go “oh, shit” because my legs were so tired and sore. But somewhere around mile 2, I was finally warmed up and felt good. My pace increased, and I didn’t even notice. I meant to run this race at 10:30-10:45 pace — again to save the legs — but like the 5K, I got caught up in the moment and ran faster.
This course is truly spectacular, though much hillier than the elevation profile suggests. I remember thinking the second half was mostly downhill, and while the data shows it was, there were enough uphills that you felt it.
There was one downhill — somewhere between mile 9 and 11 I think — that was so steep that I almost walked it because I was afraid of hurting something — and that’s coming from someone who loves downhill and is usually able to pick up the pace a bit there without any issue. I didn’t walk, but I did have to slow down substantially go get down without injury.
Around mile 8, I ran into a ton of folks from the We Run Social team, many of whom are also Rock ‘n’ Bloggers. They’d just run a half marathon the day before and were enjoying the scenery. At the mile 8 water stop, we all walked. I grabbed a Glukos gummy pack and actually ate all but two gummies, which is a feat for me. I’ve never been good about nutrition during races, not because of stomach issues but simply because I’m not hungry and don’t feel like walking, which seems like the only way to get it down easily.
While the course might have been hillier than anticipated, it was still a great one. Shalane even ran a huge PR on it. The crowd support along the way was incredible, especially in Normal Heights — that was probably my favorite point of the race.
The temperature was great — in the low 60s the whole way with a nice breeze. Folks were talking about how humid it was, but coming from D.C., I didn’t really feel it personally — it’s all about what you’re accustomed to!
Official finish time: 2:14:58, 10:18 pace
The finish line festival area was fabulous, but I didn’t stick around long at all. I hadn’t done gear check and was immediately freezing after crossing the finish line — that breeze and low 60s temperature was just enough for me that I needed more layers after sweating a decent amount on the run.
As I was in the final stretch, the lead car for the marathon runners came up on the left side, where there was a separate lane for marathon finishers — the top finisher was just a few minutes away. After I crossed the line, I waited and got a shot of the winner cutting through the finish line tape. His finish time was 2:26 something… just 10 minutes slower than what it took me to complete half the distance. Crazy.
I walked back to the hotel and simply enjoyed not rushing around anywhere — there was a We Run Social meetup at 11:30, so I just spent a bit of time lounging on the bed watching whatever channel it was that decided to have a Jurassic Park weekend playing all the series of movies a bunch.
Eventually, I made my way to the meetup. I stupidly decided to take an Uber to it, thinking there must be some way to get through the runners. I had to bail about a half mile or less into the ride and walk the remainder of the way, which wasn’t too bad but my legs were seriously tired.
To cap such an amazing day, I took a surf lesson in the early evening. I didn’t know how I would do. My goal was just to get up and stay up on the board one time. Instead, I ended up catching more than 20 waves. The first few were wobbly with some early falls, but after that I was solid.
It was the perfect epic end to an epic race weekend.
That night, I slept 10.5 hours. I spent some time in Monday morning walking around the waterfront, checking out the USS Midway and a few other Navy memorials, before catching my flight home.