Rock n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon 2014 Write-upPosted on May 30th, 2014 No comments
Yesterday was the National Running Day, which makes writing this race report even more special. I did an easy and fun 3ml recovery run with friends after work and Kiyoko asked me “how was the race?” I told them it’s an emotional, meaningful and very personal race for me, but I knew it would be hard for others to imagine how much running Rock n’ Roll San Diego has meant to me.
So many things went through my head when packing and traveling down to San Diego for this race. RnR SD 2006 was my first full marathon, which I trained with Team In Training. I vividly remember at the start line that morning I told my teammate Chris Decker that this would be my first, last and only marathon. The thought of running 26.2 miles was just too crazy even though I had gone through a complete training season with guidance and help from mentor, captain and TNT coach. Little did I know that I would be running more and more 26.2 miles or even longer, and doing them in different cities and continents. Team in Training has transformed me from a couch potato to a runner, and then to a marathoner 🙂
Back in Feb, I heard a calling and started my personal journey with Team In Training as a Training Captain; almost every Saturday I was at San Mateo, Redwood Shore, or Shoreline in Mountain View.. places that I actually don’t run at because it’s far from my home. I marked the courses, drew smiley faces, set mobile water stops, or carry hydration pack on my back for the participants. Most of them were runners or walkers training for their first half marathon and couple were in preparation for their first full marathon. They are just like what I was several years ago, and I am determined and honored to support them crossing their first finish line.
At the same time I was coming back from my own medical condition and also nursing my Plantar fasciitis, so I actually didn’t run or train much this season. But after couple shorter distance races I have discovered that I have a pretty good baseline here, and I was able to run 8 to 10 miles no problem at all. Much slower pace than last year around this time frame of course, but definitely an half marathon would be doable. So I signed up RnR SD Half and planned to go down to San Diego supporting my peeps.
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Sat, May 31st, I was on the first San Diego bound flight, and at San Jose airport several people smiled at me and asked “are you running the marathon?” Of course!! It’s easy to figure out with my GU shirt and I bet they were runners also 🙂 I haven’t traveled for any destination races since last April (Paris Marathon) and this felt so new and exciting to me. In many ways I feel like a new runner again, and my battle with cancer has given me new perspective about many things in life. I have pressed the Ctrl, Alt and Del so to speak.
The flight to San Diego took a little less than an hour, and upon landing I dropped my bag off at the hotel first, then was off to the Expo for my bib pick up and to explore the typical huge Rock n’ Roll expo floor. Puzzled that the staff couldn’t find my race bib, so I had to go over to the resolution desk and got a new bib number assigned to me. I also made sure I stopped by GU Energy Lab booth first to see that giant Salted Watermelon Gel; a young fellow acknowledged my GU shirt and said “nice shirt.” Then he asked “hey, are you Michele Sun?” LOL!! He is John, the GU staff that always signed me up for races, and he gave me some new Salted Watermelon GU Gel to try!! It’s so nice to finally meet him in person, and I wish I will get to meet Yuri soon!!
That afternoon I stayed in my nice and cool hotel room, and just wanted to stay calm and keep my feet off the floor before the race. Around 4:30pm I started walking toward Hilton where the TNT Inspiration Dinner was held. When I got to the lobby, I could hear loud noise, cow bells, cheers.. there was so much energy in the air as I making my way to the table where my peeps were sitting already. We had our pasta dinner and listened to Meb Keflezighi speaking about his childhood, his winning Boston and his mission of helping underprivileged children. It’s so inspirational to listen to his talk!! Then TNT announced the top fundraiser this season and it’s great honor that Greater Bay Area has most of the top fundraiser for this race. The champion of champion is in our team and that’s just amazing how dedicated he is to his training and fundraising.
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Back to Feb when I first started on this personal journey, little did I know how much motivation I would get from these “newbies”, and I am the one drawing so much inspiration from them. And I also met the most determined and strongest runner I ever known and I am humbly learning what real strength and willpower is from him. How amazing that life throws you curves ball and here I am, back to RnR San Diego where I turned into a marathoner, and in the morning I would be running in honor of those have fought or still in the fight with cancer.
I know many people have different opinions about charity runs, or misunderstanding. As a volunteer Training Captain, I have paid for my own race registration, my flight coming down here, and my hotel room. I simply wanted to be here with our participants and show them how THEY motivated me. And for those who think charity runner is a joke, I say “congrats” that your life is not touched by cancer. Tomorrow none of my usual running buddies would be here with me, but I would be surrounded by thousands and thousands of teammates. GO TEAM!!!!
I set alarm for 3:15am wake up, and arranged my race day TNT singlet, my handmade purple/green tutu, shoes and socks..etc on a sofa, then I laid out the banana, GU Gel and anpan bread that I brought with me from San Jose. Can’t argue with tradition, can we? Guess I am not that newbie in this category 🙂 I was able to have about 4 hours of sleep, and went down to lobby to meet with my peeps and we all took the shuttle bus to race start in Balboa Park. It’s still pitch dark at 4:00 but wasn’t too cold compared to the last two time I was here, so I worried that it might get too hot later.
James and I walked toward our corrals and I told him to use the porta potti first while I held on to his water bottle and gels, then I asked “how are you feeling?”– this would be his first marathon and it must be so exciting for him. His heart rate was up from that little walk we did, so I told him let’s do some stretches and then I told him to use porta potti again. I probably was acting a bit like a mother hen, but wanted to make sure everything was right and ready for his first race. I took couple pictures for him before sending him off at 6:15am, and wished him “Good luck James; I will see you at the Finish at 10:15.” I jogged a little to warm my muscle up and started my own race around 6:45am.
The last two times I had run this race were both for the Full marathon, and I wasn’t very familiar with the Half course. However I really liked the Half course as I running through those nice residential areas, park, and quiet downtown San Diego. Lots of Team In Training supporters from all over the country were here, Captain, Coaches, friends & families..etc. and each time I heard someone shouted out “Go Michele,” I can’t help but offered my toothy smile!! Some little girls said “look, tutu!’ Yes, my handmade purple & green tutu to show my personal fight with cancer! The heat came more quickly than I had expected, and by mile 8 I was feeling a bit tired. Good thing and great timing that I heard Taiko drum and excited to see they were from my home-country — Taiwan, woohoo!! What a surprise!!
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Though the course did not require big climb like the last 6 miles at the Full course, but I was huffing and puffing over some hills at mile 10. A TNT Coach came up and ran with me!! He told me “You look good and doing fine, which team are you with?” I was still able to talk (haha) and answered him “I am with the Greater Bay Area”, and we continued our chit chat for a while. Before he turned back to support other runners he said “you are doing great, and don’t forget that you are saving life.” His words brought tears to my eyes and all of a sudden I was becoming very emotional. Mr. Coach Sacramento, you have no idea what beating caner and saving life mean to me!!
I recognized the first sign of muscle cramp around mile 11, so I slowed down my pace a little bit and glad that it did not get too worse. I kept the pace for the next two miles or so, and when I saw the finish arch I got goosebumps allover all of a sudden!! I was experiencing energy rush and I started sprinting toward the finish line with my right arm pointing toward the sky. I had no idea that I was mimicking victory sprint of Shinji, but I felt like a winner definitely when the PA system announced “Michele from San Jose with Team In Training just crossed the finish line.” Woohoo~~~
I crossed the finish line, picked up my medal and for the first time stood in the photo-booth line to have my finisher photo taken. 2:20 was my time and I missed my goal by 5 mins. Could I have slashed off that 5 minutes somewhere? Sure!! But I would have missed the Taiko drum photo-op and high-five with tutu envy little girls.. I am happy with my 2:20 finish time, and most importantly today’s run was done in memory of our loved ones and in honor of those strong ones.
For the next 2 hours or so, I was waiting for my peeps to finish their run and I got sunburns terribly by standing at the finish line. I was relieved and excited to see James finished his race, while waiting I had walked between the finish line, resolution desk and medical tent trying to find his status. After he was done running and regrouped with his family I took several pictures for them, then it’s time for me, the Training Captain, to step back and let him enjoyed his victory.
Walking and limping back to my hotel, I looked at how beautiful the San Diego marina was and thinking how little did we know how far our body, mind and spirit would really go. Which one has traveled the farthest?
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