I won a free entry to this race last month from Race Grader and it gave me an excuse to take the family to San Diego for the weekend. We left Vegas after work/school and checked into our hotel six hours later on Friday night. On Saturday, we went to the packet pick-up and got there about 20 minutes before it opened at 10AM which put me as one of the first ten in line. It went smooth with us getting a square of chocolate at the door as we entered. Once inside, I went straight to the check-in where the volunteer scanned the QR code in my e-mail and handed me my bib. After that, I took the bib to the next station where another volunteer handed me my goodie bag which contained a nice long sleeved hooded running shirt that will go into my closet and see a lot of use as on outer layer on morning runs once it cools back down in the fall here in Vegas. Total time from the door opening to me walking back to the car was less than five minutes. Once that was done, we headed to SeaWorld to enjoy the rest of the day.
This morning, we got up early and headed to the race start and began to search for parking. Parking was found in a parking garage across the street and I found my corral spot after all the 5K starters (note - there were over 7700 5K finishers and a lot of corrals for them) had crossed the starting line. I was in the second corral and hung out on the side chatting with my wife while we waited for my start time. At the scheduled start time, the first corral took off and my corral moved up to the start line. Three minutes later, we were off!
Starting in a corral was interesting, especially since I started at the front of the pack. For the first half mile or so, I was in the top ten which hasn't happened in a race since I was running cross country as a senior in high school in 1992. Also, right from the start it was obvious that the course was well laid out and well marked. Additionally, we had a pair of cyclists leading our corral until we started to pass a decent number of runners from the first corral at which point they peeled off and served as safety for the mass of runners.
The first two mile were rolling hills that went through sections of apartments, condos, small storefronts and part of the San Diego City College. At Mile 2, we turned onto a road that bisected Balboa Park and began a long uphill section that ended just before the Mile 4 marker.
At Mile 3 was an aid station. I slowed down, grabbed a cup, took a few sips and dropped it in the trash. Shortly after that, we crossed the 5K mark and my watch showed 28:33. I continued up the hill and entered a residential neighborhood shortly before the hill topped out. From that point, the course went through a series of rollers that continued through Mile 8 as it skirted the golf course in Balboa Park and went through more residential sections.
Shortly after Mile 5, there was another aid station. In addition to the water, they were handing out the same little blocks of chocolate that I got at packet pick-up. Of course I grabbed one! I continued on as I munched on my square of chocolate.
At the 10K mark, I checked my time. It was 58:05 which meant that I had slowed down a little bit - 29:32 for the second 5K. I pressed on. At Mile 8, we were treated to a long downhill section that winded through several neighborhoods and had another aid station in it (Note - There was another aid station between this one and the one with chocolate but I don't remember where it was). This downhill continued until a short hill just prior to the Mile 9 marker before continuing downhill and leveling off just before the finish line. As I passed the final marker, I knew that I was just a couple of turns from the finish and found a new gear to run at. My time at the finish line was 1:24:50 which means that I covered the third 5K in 26:45 (major negative split - Woo hoo!). Overall, I am very happy with that time. It placed me 714 out of 3488 finishers, 347 out of 913 men and 63 out of 160 35-39 year old men.
After the race, I walked through the long chute and grabbed a couple of cups of Gatorade and a bottle of water from the volunteers before heading out of the chute to find my wife and kids near the play zone (Note - my youngest son loved that the organizer had this area set up). Once we met back up, we walked over to redeem the voucher from my bib and got the plastic bowl full of hot chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate fondue, pretzels and a banana.
Overall, it was a well organized event that supported over 11,000 runners between the 5K and 15K. It was definitely the largest event that I have raced in and left me looking forward to another big race.
Next up - The Windy25 5K on April 5th and Rockin' Rabbit Half Marathon on April 6th.