Race Recap: San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

As I noted in my last post about my marathon training, gear, and race nutrition, Sunday, June 5th was the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon and the first marathon I’ve ran since 2005. This is my full recap of the day and some key learnings that I’ll be applying to my next race:

Race Morning:

I was up and wide awake at 4am! My pre-race breakfast was a glass of water with a heaping teaspoon of baking soda followed by a fatty coffee with grass-fed butter and coconut oil. I did my final gear check and packed my bag while I drank my coffee and did about 10-15 minutes of foam rolling on my calves and hamstrings because they were feeling a little tight. The start and finish lines were only 2-3 miles from our house so I biked to a spot near the starting area for a nice little warm-up and ate a coconut cream pie Larabar as I walked to starting line at Balboa Park. I made sure to get there early because I wanted to have ample time to get through gear-check and allow for one final porta-potty stop before the start. Good thing I learned my lesson from my last race…the porta-potty lines were crazy town! After about a 30 min wait, I jogged up to my starting corral. I followed some good advice from my buddy Matt and made a last-minute switch to a starting corral that was a tad bit faster than my goaled finish time so I wouldn’t get too bogged down by the crowds of runners at the start. It was a wave start format so each corral of 100-ish runners would start every 1-2 minutes to help prevent congestion of all ~30,000 runners starting at the same time.

First Half of Race:

The weather was turning out to be a perfect June gloom so it wasn’t hot and sunny like the forecast. The temperature was going to be in the mid-60s with some humidity. I took down a packet of Vespa right before I lined up in my starting corral. The starting line had lots of energy and was definitely living up to the Rock ‘n’ Roll theme! I was extra conscious about pacing in the beginning with a plan to start out at a pace that felt a little slow. I wanted to burn all my matches in the last 10 miles vs. being one of those runners that ends up walking in the end because they started too fast. I found a comfortable pace that was about 30-45 seconds faster than my MAF pace making sure I could easily breathe through my nose. The first 13.1 was pretty uneventful other than a quick bathroom stop at the halfway point. The only nutrition I took in was water and some Vespa (I planned to take one packet of Vespa every hour).

Back Half of Race:

This is where I started using my nutrition. I had a handheld with a coconut water chia seed slurry (see my last post for details) that I started sipping on just past the halfway point. I was feeling confident through mile 15 because my pace was steady and lots of people were walking by this time (probably because they started way too fast). At this point I was projecting my finish time to be around 3:50. Mile 18ish is when my legs started to feel it. Aerobically I was still feeling good but pace was slowing, the terrain was slightly uphill, and I was losing my form. Then I hit mile 21…which was basically when the course went up a mountain (maybe a slight exaggeration…but just slight…) for the next 1.5 miles…and this nearly crushed me. I knew I had a little cushion to break 4 hours (the top end of my goal) but it was getting dicey. I realized I couldn’t run up this mountain without completely blowing up so I felt forced to walk/jog as fast as possible.

Marathon Coure Profile

Marathon Course Profile

When I finally got to the top I knew I had to red-line it if I wanted to break 4 hours. There is a point in every marathon when it becomes all mental and this was that point for me. This is where having a reason and purpose for doing hard things is critical because you are going to need that when everything starts to hurt. It was weird…I don’t remember much between 23-25 other than trying to rest my eyes and take a nap while running. When I finally got downtown San Diego with about 1 to 1.5 miles left I knew it was going to be close. I was basically panic running at this point hoping the finish was around every turn. When I finally saw it I used everything left in the tank and crossed at 3:59:19…too close for comfort! I think the last 2-3 miles were the fastest of the entire day (going downhill definitely helped)!

Post Race:

After finishing it took every bit of energy to not sit down in the middle of the finish chute. I leaned on a barrier for a bit trying not to pass out. When I walked through the finish area I destroyed all the food they were handing out (chocolate milk, protein bars, chips, whatevs!). Walking around the finish area and biking home really helped my legs feel better. I spent the rest of the day moving around and helping my wife with errands/chores. Not only does staying active help with recovery but staying productive after an event (or long workout session) is key to keeping the family happy and getting approval to do more events in the future! I finally collapsed into bed exhausted at 8pm.

Key Learnings:

  1. I need to improve leg strength to help maintain form in the late stages of the race  strength training, longer tempo runs, and intervals/hill work.
  2. Pay more attention to course profile when training. I would have added some more hill work late in my long runs to prep for that last mountain climb.
  3. I still need to dial in my race nutrition because it felt a little too light (along with continuing to improve my aerobic system/fat burning). I’m also a really salty sweater apparently:



My time goal going into the race was 3:45 to 3:59. I’ve never broken a four-hour marathon before!

Avg Pace9:09

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