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10K: OK or KO?

Let's run some Ks.

Let’s run some Ks.

I’ve been nervous prior to runs and races before:

  • My first 10-mile training run
  • My first half marathon
  • My first 20-mile training run
  • My first full marathon

Yesterday, however, was the most apprehensive I’ve been before a run in a long long time.

And it was just a 10K recovery run.

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I AM A “MANIAC” AND VERY HAPPY ABOUT IT.

 

A special kind of crazy.

A special kind of crazy.

Back in October I joined… or should I say I “qualified” for the Half Fanatics, a group of 8,000+ runners (and growing daily) who tear through races like happy hour patrons tear through a free buffet.

Yeah, the Half Fanatics run a whole helluva lot of races.

They’re my “running fraternity” and I wrote a post about ’em a few months ago. Check it out here.

Well there’s one thing to note about the Half Fanatics; they are actually a “spin off” of another popular running group. Yup, for all intents and purposes, they are the “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy” or “Joanie Loves Chachi” (best include ’em all) to the “Happy Days”* of running groups: the Marathon Maniacs.

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REVIEW: SAN DIEGO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MARATHON

So Cal bling.

So Cal bling.

Started back in 1998, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half Marathon is the inaugural race in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series of races owned by Competitor Group, Inc. That race series has grown considerably since then and is truly international, currently with 28 races slated on the calendar. But San Diego is their flagship race and attracts almost 30,000 runners (and spectators) to the Southern tip of California each June.This year’s race again featured both the full marathon (16,850 finishers) and half marathon distances (5285 finishers) with an optional relay in the half marathon distance. Having run the half marathon back in 2010, I was anxious to re-visit San Diego (a beautiful city) and take a crack at the full 26.2.

REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP

As many runners know, costs for races in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series tend to be on the expensive side, so it’s best to register as early as possible. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series does offer discounts, such as the regular “$13 off on the 13th of the month,” so be sure to check Facebook and other social media (as well as their website) for savings. Another interesting (and more recent trend) for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series is the introduction of “Tour passes” and the “Tourpass 3-pack.” I opted for the 3-pack and for $199 (plus an additional fee) I got three domestic races of my choice. I chose San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. If you run numerous races in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, it’s worth checking out.

As for packet pick-up, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon utilizes the convention center, which is easily accessible and located on the water near the Gaslamp District. In another month and a half the convention center will be overflowing with fanboys as it hosts the annual San Diego ComicCon, but it’s perfectly suited for the race Expo. Parking on site was a pricey $15, so if you don’t mind walking, you can find cheaper rates at parking meters and lots along the Gaslamp District (it’s also a worthwhile chance to check out the local sights). The expo itself is definitely one of the bigger and better ones out there, featuring a large variety of vendors showing off their latest goods. It was quick and easy to pick up your bib and T-shirt, giving you plenty of time to wander about the expo sampling the samples and to pick up some good runner’s swag.

TRANSPORTATION/PARKING

With the race basically being a point-to-point affair, it takes a little planning to decide how you want to get to your destination. Since the race starts at a park on Sixth avenue, parking is hard to come by. Your best bet is to park at Qualcomm Stadium (or another lot away from downtown) and take the trolley ($6 for a day pass) to Fifth Street. I caught the “special line” trolley near my hotel that took us to the trolley stop nearest the start line and had the chance to chat up fellow runners en route. You other option is to pick a hotel near the start and hoof it. Either way, expect a bit of a walk to get to the start (consider it a warm-up). Since the race finishes near Petco Park, you can have your friends/family opt to meet you down there (just be sure they’re aware of congestion and road closures).

T-SHIRT/MEDALS

You look good in red.

You look good in red.

The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon featured a single shirt for the marathon/half marathon distances. This year’s shirt was red and designed by Brooks and fit pretty true to size. The race medal featured Petco Park as well as some of San Diego’s classic architecture. While the shape and size of the medals were uniform across the two distances, each race featured a different color scheme. The full marathon was primarily green and orange with a blue ribbon, while the half marathon utilized yellow and blue along with a yellow ribbon. It’s a nice medal, but I’ve seen better from Rock ‘n’ Roll in other races. I also liked the colors on the half marathon medal more than the full. I guess it felt more “San Diego” (if you get my drift). Oh and for those people who plan to run numerous races in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, remember you are eligible to earn additional medals in their “Heavy Medal” series. You can check the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series website for details. Note: even if you get a Tourpass or Tourpass 3-pack, you still need to register for the heavy medal program separately in order to qualify (a bit of an oversight on Rock ‘n’ Roll’s part).

COURSE

Race around the park.

Race around the park.

As mentioned before, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half is a point-to-point race with both distances starting in the park at Sixth Street and ending near Petco Park. Unlike most other races that feature different distances, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll has an almost entirely different course for the full marathon than it does for the half. The races both share the first two or so miles before splitting and then the full marathon doesn’t connect to the half marathon course until the last few miles. If you want to know more about the half marathon course, please check with one of the other reviews for more specifics as I’ll concentrate on the full course.

Unfortunately, for all of it’s positives, The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon’s biggest glaring weakness is its course. If a marathon is supposed to “represent” a city, it should really give you the feel of the city. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles (and plenty of others) present courses that take you near city landmarks or and through well-known neighborhoods. I did not feel like I was seeing the best of what San Diego has to offer. While we ran past Petco Park early on and did a stint through little Italy, the course felt more like it was just trying to meet the 26.2 mile requirement as opposed to tapping into the heart of the city. It would have been great to run along near the water (which we didn’t) or through more downtown streets. Instead, we spent a lot of the race running parallel to the freeway, going through nondescript city neighborhoods, along bike paths and then spending several miles running on the 163 freeway.

In addition, we didn’t always have the street to ourselves as traffic was flowing in the opposite direction and we were herded onto one half of the street. At one point we were basically pushed onto the bike path and had to decide whether to navigate that or jump onto the curb. Also, at one point the runners had to duck under the tape barricade as all of us somehow ended up on the opposite side of the barricade (it seemed to be set up a little askew). For a big city race, this was definitely NOT indicative of a major race. I love the city of San Diego, but this course does not do it justice. And for a “flagship” race, the Rock ‘n’ Roll series should be able to do better.

I do know the course for the race was changed in 2010 and then again in 2013 to its current configuration. Well, it desperately needs to be changed again.

COURSE SERVICES

Another bit of a letdown here.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll series prides itself on bringing music to the masses by offering up bands throughout the course. It’s a nice idea on paper that doesn’t always pan out so well in practice. Runners were treated to local bands throughout the marathon, although the quality of the groups varied greatly. I did enjoy the musical interlude (I took my headphones off whenever I approached a live band) but this little treat also backfired at one point. During the mile-long killer hill at the 20-mile mark, runners saw a sign that said the “mile of music.”  So I figured we’d have a great group or groups to help us power up that large incline. Nope. Instead, runners were treated to an unmanned truck with some speakers loaded on the back blaring DJ music. Woo-hoo. If you’re touting yourself as the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series let’s get some more “real” music out there.

Rock 'n' Roll baby.

Rock ‘n’ Roll baby.

Again this is the Rock ‘n’ Roll series crown jewel race, so you figured it’d be overflowing with support. Not so much. Early on during the race there were plenty of water stations and gatorade stations… Gu was also available at intervals along the course. But the services seemed to be in shorter supply in the later stages of the race (and basically non-existent during that uncomfortable stretch on the freeway). And while I didn’t need them during the race, there did also seem to be a shortage of porta potties along the course. I will definitely give kudos to whoever came up with the idea of handing out cold water sponges… this happened twice in the second half of the race and was a welcome touch. Medical services were fortunately present throughout the race with numerous tents, cyclists and “running guards” checking up on racers. I also saw a few EMTs whipping around on electric scooter contraptions… I briefly considered grabbing one and whizzing to the finish line.

Mile markers were present and properly marked off (a problem for some other races) and each mile marker did have an accompanying digital display (although the glaring sun made some of them hard to read). One bit of a personal gripe has to do with Rock ‘n’ Roll’s runner tracking. We’ve come to expect runner tracking at all but the smallest races, but it seems wrong to charge runners $5 so their friends/family can receive text updates… especially when most races do it for FREE. And if you’re going to charge me $5, then the service should be top notch. The last runner update was at the 20-mile mark, which is almost 45 min- 1 hour from the finish. Since most of us have friends or family waiting on us, how about a text at the 40K or 25 mile mark to give them a heads-up that we’re almost there and they should start looking at the finish line to see us. Seems like R ‘n’ R dropped the ball on this one.

FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY

Now for all of its shortcomings course wise, the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon does know how to throw a party. The finish line was stocked with plenty of treats for runners (gatorade, chocolate milk, fruit, cold water and snacks). I just wish they gave us a bag to gather our goodies. Oh, and also present were the ice cold/soaking wet hand towels which feel like a bit of heaven after pounding pavement for 26.2 miles. Gear check was fairly well organized and there was a decent area for runners to re-unite with their family/friends. And for those who wanted to hang around afterward, there was a cool concert playing over by Petco Park. Unfortunately, the timing of the show seemed to favor the half-marathon runners so us full marathon runners either need to get considerably faster or get a friend to tape it.

RECOMMENDATION

Sure, not every marathon is going to be a grand slam event, but I do have to say that I was a bit disappointed with the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. If this was a new event or a smaller race, I would have easily forgiven some of its shortcomings. But this race is the cornerstone of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. They’ve got plenty of experience in putting on races (so kinks should be worked out) and the prices they charge should help guarantee an A-level experience in ever part of the marathon. Unfortunately, the weak course layout gives me pause about running the full marathon here again. I really like visiting San Diego and welcome any opportunity to head south and check it out (even worth dealing with that icky traffic on the I-5). But the gang at Competitor Group really needs to take another crack at that full marathon course. Perhaps the half marathon is the way to go as the course may be the better of the two and at least I’ll finish in time for the concert at the end.

RATING: C+

THE SAN DIEGO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MARATHON EXPERIENCE: POST MORTEM

Hi Trippers!

At least my thumb was working.

At least my thumb was working.

So yesterday I ran the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and I think one of my running friends said it best when she described it as a “challenge” race for me.

In the past I’ve typically run 6 half/full marathons in an entire year. I’ve equalled that amount in just the first 5 months of 2014. And before this year I’d never run more than 2 full marathons in one year. I’ve now done 3 full marathons in less than 90 days (85 days to be precise)

I’ve been pushing my body really hard since October and while I’ve been thrilled with the results, I guess it was bound to catch up with me a some point. Perhaps I was due for a “less than ideal” race.

This was not a race where I excelled. Nope, this was a race where I survived.

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THE SAN DIEGO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MARATHON EXPERIENCE: ROAD TRIPPIN’

Rock and Run on!

Rock and Run on!

Hi Trippers!

Really lousy wifi at my hotel, so only a quick post before tomorrow’s San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

Drove down yesterday with my lady Lindy and had to brave mucho traffic on the route from LA to SD.

We arrived at 5:30pm and I had the dilemma of deciding whether to hit the expo before it closed at 7pm or waiting until today. Well, runner’s OCD won out so we hightailed it down to the San Diego Convention Center and a quick walkabout at the expo.

Look mom, I'm Gu.

Look mom, I’m Gu.

It was a little surreal at the convention center as I’m used to being there for San Diego Comic Con (in 7 weeks, btw) where it’s jam packed wall-to-wall with fanboys and fangirls. Well, yesterday you could actually move freely and there wasn’t a stormtrooper in sight.

Had a good time grabbing up my bib/tech t-shirt and a whole bunch o’ running swag.

Then it was off to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner on the water.

Today it’s an opportunity to sightsee around SD (planning on touring the USS Midway) and then a carbo-load dinner with the SA2LV/Half Fanatics crew.

And tomorrow I think I’ll go for a run.

Post mortem when I get back to LA tomorrow night.

Have a great day everyone and… Run on!

10 MILES LIKE A FROG…

Hi Trippers!

th (1)

Traffic Shmaffic!

So, I’m one week out from the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and this morning was my final long taper run. Typically, I go with 8 miles the week before a race (old habit).

However, I didn’t have a good training week, for whatever reason, and I felt inclined to add a few more miles today… upping it from an “ocho” to a nice round “diez.”

Speaking of inclines (cue snare drum) I was looking over the elevation chart for San Diego and goodness gracious there is a significant hill. Let me rephrase that, a real bitch of a hill. Yup, a 300′ elevation gain in one mile. Makes me wonder if they’ll supply climbing gear.

And this bigger than a molehill occurs at mile 20, right when plenty of runners are slamming headfirst into “the wall.” So apparently we not only have to run through the wall, we also have to climb over the bastard too.

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FASHION ON “TOP”

…’cause every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed man. -ZZ Top

The Purple People Eater for the OC Marathon.

The Purple People Eater for the OC Marathon.

Let me start by saying that I am no slave to fashion. In fact I often dress like fashion is a four letter word.

I’m fairly certain there have been days when the fashion police dispatched their S.W.A.T. team and one of the fashion snipers had me in the crosshairs asking H.Q. for the command to open fire.

The irony is my dad is one of the best dressed men I’ve ever known. In fact, he spent his entire career working in men’s clothing for several of the biggest high-end clothing retail department store chains. He’s always “Dressed to the nines” while my level of dress could be measured in fractions… very small fractions.

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POWER TO THE PACKET…

Salty!

Salty!

The other day I walked into a nearby McDonald’s.

Now in days past, I would have sashayed right up to the counter for a Chicken McNuggets super value meal complete with large fries, diet coke and an extra burger for good measure.

But these are no longer those days.

With the exception of a once a season Shamrock Shake (yum), I tend not to visit McD’s lest I have absolutely no alternative. Sorry Ronald, but please tell Grimace and the Fry Guys I said “hi.”

So, if not to stuff my face with the grub that made Morgan Spurlock a household name (still remember him), then why in the name of Mayor McCheese was I limboing under the Golden Arches.

 

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