Destination racing is always fun. You get to see new places, meet new people and really absorb the energy. My experience was even more enjoyable thanks to VIP access. I arrived in San Diego Thursday evening and checked into the Hard Rock Hotel, "official" race hotel and San Diego party central. After sleeping like a rock, I woke up at 5am on New York time and took the opportunity for a quiet, early-morning run. My legs felt like bricks and I wondered just how I'd manage to cover 13.1 miles on Sunday.
Friday was a great day including an amazing lunch in La Jolla with an ocean view and some quality time with sea lions.
I then hit the expo to check in for the race and eat my way through the free samples at exhibitor booths. There's nothing I love more than a good race expo and this one was fabulous. It was not only huge, but had a lot of great gear and information. I ended up buying new shorts for race day along with a lot of nutrition and odds and ends. They also had incredible guest speakers, but I had missed Chrissie Wellington by an hour or so. Little did I know I'd have another chance to see her later.
After a full day, I attended a VIP party at Sea World where I got up close and personal with more marine life.
And met some pretty incredible people. Here are three of the world's greatest runners... ok, maybe just two!
Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi
Despite my room being on the same floor as Hard Rock's nightclub, I managed to get one of the best night's sleep before a race. I was in bed at 8:45 and sound asleep by 9:30, so when the alarm went off at 3:30 I was ready. I drank one serving of Advocare Spark, one bottle of Nuun, ate a Stinger waffle and starting sipping a liter of water. I was all packed up and ready to go in 30 minutes so I stretched and relaxed while waiting for the VIP shuttle.
We arrived at the start hours before the race, but had a nice area with food, tables and nearly pristine porta potties - what more could you ask for? I finished my liter of water, had a small coffee and a slice of bread with PB. I worried I didn't eat enough, but it turns out my nutrition was perfect. I topped it off with a gel 30 minutes before the start.
Being in the VIP area meant being with the pros, including Chrissie "Elvis" Wellington. She and some others were running dressed in Elvis costumes, playing music and stopping for photos.
The race began and I ran with a friend doing a similar pace. We ended up chatting the entire 13.1 miles, which made the time fly by, but also forced me to stay at a conversational pace. I think it's a key reason I felt so much better than anticipated. The race was filled with energy, with live bands about every mile and tons of people cheering. And then my favorite race moment of all time happened. We spotted Chrissie and company ahead of us and I took the chance to get a photo with her. She was pushing a jogging stroller blasting Elvis music and was more than happy to stop in the middle of the race to pose.
And to top it off, I beat her. I can now retire!
The weather was picture perfect - overcast and 60 degrees. My pace was consistent the entire way aside from some fluctuations on a long uphill and the subsequent downhills and I didn't start to feel tired until after mile 10. Even then I was still so energized by the experience it was easy to keep going. I wish all races felt as good.
The finish was as all finishes are - rewarding, a relief, a big accomplishment. Sometimes you have to start from nothing to remember how fulfilling ANY race can be, regardless of the distance or the time it took to complete it. My racing experiences have wildly varied from amazing to humbling, with everything from walking my first Ironman with an injury, to crushing my sub-4 marathon goal with a broken arm, to walking with my mom and dad during their first 5K after I tore my plantar fascia. Each victory was sweet in its own way, and that's what racing is all about.