Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hollywood Half race recap: Action, drama and happily ever after

My latest half marathon racing journey brought me back West to run the inaugural Hollywood Half. As someone who has always had a love for the "lights, camera, action" and old school glamour of Hollywood, this race had my name allll over it. Starting on a red carpet at Universal Studios? Running up Hollywood Blvd.? The coolest bling ever? Sign. Me. Up.

It was an interesting race and challenging from before it even started. I stay with my business partner and running buddy Angela. She lives about 15 minutes from the starting line in Los Angeles and just getting to Universal was a challenge. Every road to get up to Universal was blocked, we wound up having to drive ten miles in another direction just to get to be able to get there. Ugh. Thanks to that minor issue, I once again missed the boat and opportunity to finally meet Caroline, friend and blogger of Canadian Runner in Exile. Boo.  One of these races it'll happen.

Once we got there, the race was already starting.  I was lucky enough to find Karen, who is a good friend of mine out here and was about to run her very first half marathon. That was awesome - we got to give each other quick hugs and good wishes for the race and ran the first mile or two together until the crowd got thicker and we lost each other.

even the bib is cute!
The start was a little slow because of the crowd but I didn't care. We started on a red carpet and literally ran thru city walk at Universal Studios. It was super cool.

Then we turned out onto Cahuenga Blvd for our start. Which was downhill - I knew what went down would eventually go back up so I let the momentum of the hill carry me swiftly downward and I was feeling good. My first few miles I was running faster than I would usually run but I felt good so I kept a decent pace. I kept seeing that I was running a bit on the faster side and kept trying to put the breaks on as to "pace myself." I like to typically keep the first half a bit more conservative and bring it up a bit from miles 6-10 and then really power home the last 5K.

Well. I tried.

I was feeling great. I was a little concerned because the water stations began to not have cups after about mile 6 so I wasn't as hydrated as I would've liked to be. I was also a tad concerned because I thought they were to have Vitalyte on the course. Maybe they did but I never saw it so I wasn't getting a sports drink.  Again, I wasn't overly concerned. I often skip the sports drink during the race because sometimes it makes my tummy wonky and I had two gels and a packet of sports beans -- both which has electrolytes so I figured that should be OK.


I never really needed my sports beans and was really feeling great thru mile ten and still running pretty speedy. Around this time my legs were starting to get a little sore and we were now climbing up hill. It wasn't fun. We had a headwind that was unbelievable. What I forgot from the beginning was how much hill it actually was.  The rest of the race became a shit show. Oh. My. God. I could've died. There was a guy holding a big sign, "Kill The Hill." The hill about killed me. I have never hated something so much.

Prior to this F'n hill - I was making unbelievable time. I remember my previous PR was in the 2:24 range and if I kept my pace I was looking at an (IMPOSSIBLE! WOW! HOLY COW) 2:15 finish. Holy hell that would be incredible. I felt like I could do it. Well. I could've if this was a flat course.

But then that hill from hell happened.  The hill got steeper and steeper.  Mile 11and 12 I had to walk. My calves were beginning to protest and I felt PR slipping away. I had to walk. WALK!? I couldn't believe I was walking. I kept pushing to run and I would a bit but my body was done. I kept digging and would run a spurt and couldn't sustain it. I was hating that hill. I called it every curse a Jersey girl could think of.  My pace went from 10' somethings to 12+'s. 

The last .25 or so of the course finally flattened out a bit and I could see the finish line. Oh hell, I could still pull something out. I looked down at my Garmin and I was around 2:17 I could still PR! So I began to run as hard as I could muster. Which wasn't a lot. Now my left foot/arch began to cramp and my left calf began to charlie horse and quiver. I felt it locking under me and threatening to bring me to my knees.  "Oh please lord, don't let me fall now. The finish line is so close!" Please, oh please just get me there. And somehow I crossed that finish line! Success.  Here was the official finish:

Previous best was 2:23:47 so I took almost 4 minutes off! And that was with walking uphill for two miles at 12:30 paces! (Splits here)  I didn't walk once at Surf City.  This was awesome! I was in pain but I was happy and then…

Holy. Mother. Of. God. I. am. going. to die.

I had to take a step up up a curb and I was done. From my ass to the tip of my toes on both legs had had it with me. And they seized in a writhing pain that I'd never experienced in my life. Thank goodness there was a pole nearby that I was able to grab to keep from collapsing but I let out a scream in pain that was unreal and dropped all my stuff to the ground. I couldn't move it was a charlie horse times 8 million in my entire lower half. My toes curled under and my feet distorted in spasm - my calves were on fire and cramped like I had never felt and I was shaking. 

Thank you, thank you for the kindness of strangers who caught me and helped me.  They tried to sit me on the floor but the pain was 4000 times worse so they lifted me from the ground. A 98 pound angel had me tight and helped me - she barked for help and a banana - I told her I was allergic to bananas and then she said OMG - you need electrolytes! Now! So I limply handed her my sports beans and she tore into the package and poured them in my mouth, another guy gave me his gatorade and said, please drink my drink - i'm not sick - I didn't care if he was. I washed my beans down with it. Another lady picked up my stuff and tucked it in the waistband of my pants. Thank you runners for your help. I would've died without it. You have no idea what you did for me.

The beans and gatorade helped. I was still hurting but the seizing subsided. And I hobbled up the rest of the hill to our car and waited for Angela to finish her run.

I think this is my seventh half and I leaned a few lessons. I think I became a little flip about 13.1 and my, "Oh I could so easily do this" came back to literally bite me in the ass. 13.1 is still quite a distance and I need to remember to respect it.

I need to remember the importance of pacing, hydrating, and fueling properly. I need to take in to consideration elevation and challenges and assume to bring my own stuff with me. And even though I was easily running those earlier miles, I still should've slowed a little to be ready to tackle those last 2 miles.

Aside from the challenge at the end (and almost dying) - I would say it was a FUN race. I thought Hollywood Half folks did a great job for an inaugural race - there were a few "bumps in the road" but no more than what's to be expected. Kudos to them.

Today, the day after, my legs are really sore. More sore than after my first full! The sorest I've ever been. It's humbling but fine.

So though there was a bit of Hollywood style drama, I still think I had my fairy tale ending. A gorgeous piece of bling, a PR and a bit of pride knowing that I finished as strong as I could. I certainly made mistakes but I left it all out there. And for that I am a proud.



Laurie said...

Wow! That's quite a finish, and a good reminder to someone who is training for her first half to not underestimate fueling during the race. Thanks, and glad you are ok :)

Jogging on Coffee said...

That is pretty crazy, I'm so glad people were there to help you!

John Hulsey said...

Not gonna lie, that hill was a monster. But I am so proud of the race you ran. And way to finish Hollywood Drama Style!

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

WOW! What a finish! Did you ever see the video of the marathoner about 200 yards from the finish line and his legs cease to move? He just could not go, and I'm crying, yelling for someone to stop and help him across the line! I pray that's not me!!! the half I'm doing supposedly will have Gatorade, and thankfully this is not the inaugural run, so hopefully they have all the kinks out for me!

Great job on your PR! Happy Easter!

Caroline said...

Jen...I looked and looked and looked...and now I know why I did not see you....

congrats on the PR
I will post my report today
we had similar experience
me no PR though...I had it..until the HILL then I almost died.

Christy H. said...

This was my FIRST 1/2. I was scared and did not know what to expect. Being from Seattle, I was sure I had the hills beat. NOPE! I walked up them. Finished at 2:28:29 though so can't complain too badly. LOVED your race recap and so glad you are doing OK today.

Jason said...

You rock. That is awesome to push through the pain and get to the finish line the way you did.

I would give you all the teachings of a coach but you nailed them all at the end. Sometimes I get flippant about it too but then it will always come back to bite you in the ass.

Way to get it done.

Unknown said...

thanks for all the comments, everyone. 'ppreciate you taking the time to swing by!

TurboTurtle said...

If you can PR on a course that ends with a hill like that, you are truly one heck of a runner! Way to go, Jen!

Suz and Allan said...

Congratulations on a PR!!! I can only imagine what you would run on a flatter course!

Katie Foster said...

CONGRATS, Jen! That's scary about your legs cramping after your finish. I think it's great that strangers took good care of you, though. I cannot believe that they were out of cups at the aid stations--what the heck?! And you weren't even CLOSE to the back of the pack. Sounds like they needed to plan that better.

Mandy said...


What a scary post-race experience! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

Jamie said...

WOW WOW WOW!!! Way to leave it all out there girl. And you're SO right about not taking the half for granted... this is a great reminder of why we have to take care of ourselves even when the goin's good. Thanks for sharing!

Fluffy Girl Turned RUNner said...

Great breakdown of the events ! Congrats on the PR!Looking forward to conquering my first half this year.