I have rediscovered my love of running. The marathons I ran a few years ago crushed my enjoyment of all things running and it has taken a couple of years to get back my passion for running. How fitting that I should get it back shortly after completing my first Half Ironman and while training for my 10th Half Marathon race. The month of September 2013 and the beginning of October have truly been record-breaking. I covered more miles in the last 4 weeks 150+ than I ever did over any 4 week span when training for marathons. I’ve been telling people that think I have finally figured out the training formula for injury free endurance sports. I will go more into that formula in a separate posts later this year when I have it all properly detailed out.
We registered back in January at the then discount rate of $85. We eventually had these fees covered by Angela‘s company as they are a key sponsor of the race. The race I will say is on the higher end of what I would normally consider paying for a half marathon race. Yet, over the past few years I have come to accept one thing about races, you pay for what you get. With so many races coming up you could pay for a cheaper event, but you risk poor organization, crappy swag and a terrible course. With the reviews being so high for the San Jose Rock n’ Roll half I was ok with the price. I do recommend people plan their race calendars way in advance and take advantage of early registration. Those same day $120 + prices are just not reasonable, so plan and ahead and put the savings towards your equipment. On a side note, for more on race prices and ROI, you should check out RunTri.com. Raymond Britt has detailed analysis of many races and where you are likely to get the most bang for the buck on major events.
San Jose McEnery Convention Center recently went through an overhaul that has made it a first class facility. The expo here was one of the first new events to take place in the newly renovated convention center. The race like most others offered a number of end or booths showcasing the latest in running gear and tech along with promoting future races and services. Most impressive is how the Competitor group has built a real brand and experience out of their Rock n’ Roll events. It is easy to see why someone would plunk down the $300 for a tour pass that grants you access to an unlimited number of the 30+ Rock n’ Roll events around the US and world. You can earn special medals for completing more than one Rock n’ Roll events in a calendar year.
Getting you race number, shirt and goodie bag was a quick assembly line of a process. Although, Tyler and I did get the wrong numbers initially, they were very quick about fixing them. The number of vendors that were present was sizable. I also really like that representatives from TomTom and Garmin were there to show off their latest GPS watches. There were also some good registration deals and expo only sales on future races and equipment. I do wish, however, that some of the pros and elites had been there walking the floor and giving talks on running and racing. I think the presence of the elites would have emphasized the overall magnanimity of the race. Even leading up to the expo, I felt that Website, Emailed Instructions and Course Info were very detailed and easily accessible. So, again, you get what you pay for and the Competitor Group delivers on what you pay for. After all, they are running more than 80+ events a year over multiple disciplines.
I was a bit spoiled here. The race starts almost exactly a block and a half behind our house. I spent most of the pre-race time warming up comfortably at home and avoiding the crowds. Being so close to home meant no early wake up, drive or dealing with complex bag checks before the race. I can’t speak on the port-a-potties or parking access, but I didn’t hear any complaints from people I knew had traveled in that morning for the event. San Jose is a small downtown area but there is a lot of parking and because the city is small even parking a bit away still only means only a short walk to the start. The race was organized into start corrals based on projected finish times. The corrals were set to go off 1 minute apart and I was in the first wave. The weather was an absolutely perfect 55 degrees with no wind and clear skies. I was so excited at the start of this race as if it was the Super Bowl of running. I’ve had the date circled on my calendar all year and couldn’t wait to get the race underway.
You almost can’t get a better race course for chasing a half marathon PR than a course like this. Almost entirely flat (Only 150 ft of elevation gain), cool an easy to navigate. Most of the course takes you through the historic homes and neighborhoods of downtown San Jose which include the Rose Garden district and San Pedro Square. The course has very few overlapping sections and with so much of San Jose untouched, I wouldn’t be surprised if they expand this race to a full marathon in the future. In fact, there were over 10,000 half marathon participants and over 5,000 plus five-mile participants. If the race keeps growing, there is no way Competitor won’t expand it to a full marathon. If they did, the San Jose Rock n’ Roll marathon would quickly become one of the fastest marathon races out there.
This year I made the switch to running without any music, so the fact that the course was lined with bands every mile really made for a very entertaining experience compared to my usual training run. I also appreciated that the aid stations were well stocked with water, Gatorade and salt tablets every couple of miles. I was, however, disappointed in the fact that there was only one Gu station at mile 10. Luckily, I was not completely out of gas by the time I got some Gu. If I could change anything about the course it would be to add more gel shot stations. The course is also very flat, with only 150 feet of elevation gain, so it is easy on the knees and beginners. Also, there was a tremendous amount of police presence and race staff, so you could feel safe and free of cars. The roads were almost completely reserved for runners in both directions and took you through some of the best neighborhoods in downtown San Jose and some key landmarks.
I set a very ambitious goal for this race (sub 1:30), which is why I was looking forward to it for so long. I got excited about my prospects for setting a new half marathon PR after my first week of living in San Jose. The landscape here is so flat within the city, that I was already seeing the benefits in my average pace. Moreover, the climate is almost perfect for running almost all year-long and offers miles and miles of running trails within easy reach of our house. After a few races where we set some 5 and 10K PR’s, the anticipation only grew. Well, I am glad to say that after all this build up, everything came through like I hoped.
I took an aggressive race strategy of pushing very hard the first 4-5 miles since that was the flattest stretch of the course. The strategy worked and I built up a 2 minute and 5 second buffer ahead of my target goal time by the half way point. At that point I debated maintaining this pace or backing off the throttle. Given the fact that this was my 16th straight week of competing & training I decided to ride the cushion home and enjoy the rest of the race. I finished with a time of 1 hour 29 minutes and 12 seconds. I am shooting for a sub 1:25 next year. Angela and Tyler also set new personal records and had a great time of the race. Angela finished near the top 3rd of finishers, age group and gender. Tyler finished 2nd overall in his age group. Great race day performances all around.
The After Party:
Again I was a bit spoiled overall with this race. Angela works for one of the main sponsors of the event. We were treated to a VIP private party with catered brunch, massages and lawn blankets. I really have no room to complain here. I called this race my home field advantage event during my training period; so I came into it with a level of excitement and anticipation that exceeded even my first Half Ironman. Tyler even got to run by his high school with his class mates cheering him on and we all had just a short walk home after everything. Also, like I said before, our entry fees were covered by Angela’s company. It was also very cool to be treated to a live rock show in the park after the race. The free beer was also nice plus. I really had a great time at this race and I can see how the Rock n’ Roll races have come to be such a success. Not cheap, but worth the money.
All in all, the training plan we used covered 16 weeks with a mix bag of tune up and regular races sprinkled throughout. I am looking forward to tweaking the plan a bit next year and seeing where it takes us. As you can see below, it was truly a fast race for me and I set a lot of PR’s at multiple distances. I owe a lot of it to my training formula which I plan to share in detail in a separate post. I also owe a great deal of my success to the flat landscape and cool climate of San Jose. Lastly, I owe the most of it to the support I get from friends and family.