Race Review: Inaugural Pasadena Half Marathon

“Inaugural” in the racing world usually tends to mean two things. The first is that there’s going to be some issues most likely since it’s the race’s first go. The second means that if the race sticks around, and you do each year since running the first, you can become a legacy runner after 5 years.

I’ve been obsessed about becoming a legacy runner over the last few months. Just another “thing” to add to my running resume that I want to aim for. (I could Legacy the Dark Side Half at Disney World but that’s a pretty penny to spend every 5 years for a half.) I had forgotten that Pasadena was an inaugural since I signed up for it as part of the “Conqur LA Challenge” which is a 5k or 10k (your pick, I did the 10) in September, the Pasadena Half, and the LA Marathon. So when I was reminded that this half would be the inaugural I was both excited I’d have a chance to now legacy and a little nervous about what hiccups could arise.

Let’s get to it. Firstly, the full name of the weekend was “Pasadena Half Marathon & 5K at the Rose Bowl.”. Which lead me to keep mistakenly call it the Rosebowl Half.

The expo was a little difficult to get to, but that was simply because the building next door, which was part of the convention hall, was holding a Bowie tribute concert which made parking/navigating a mess. People we downright jerks on the road. At first we thought this was the expo crowd itself which made me very weary of the race etiquette to come, but once we figured out people were late to a concert I was a little less worried. The Expo itself was small and I love that. I was able to see all the vendors easily and didn’t feel like I wash being pushed around. The bib pick up situation was… less than desirable. Apparently several bibs were printed with the wrong runner information, but we could still run with the assigned numbers and be fine according to an e-mail I received prior to arriving at the expo. It’s okay, things happen. But when I got to my bib place and signed the waiver the volunteers looked at me panicked. My bib did not exist. They didn’t have it. So over to race relations I go. They also could not find my bib so I was assigned a new one. Okay, workaround is cool but I had to go back and change all my runner tracking stuff so that’s kinda blerg. Then I swung by information to ask when parking opens (we’ll get to that..) and was told “4:30AM and we’re unhappy about that”. Okay. Sorry I guess?  Then one more booth to get my wristband for the beer garden. It was a paper one that got really flimsy in the shower that night but I could have just gotten one post race.

So this race is 15 minutes from my house. And I planned to leave no later than 5AM for a 7AM start time. My husband said I was crazy, but I said “I bet 5 is pushing it”. Yeah. It was. There was a real lack of direction on the parking situation. Tons of signs saying “roads to close at 6AM” but no “runners please use right lane, left lane is for right of way only”. Which lead to a HUUUUGEEE back up of cars, and confused volunteers trying to direct traffic.  And me, not knowing where to go, was in the left lane trying to merge into the entrance and of course people were not going to “let me cut in” when I was just honestly confused (there was parking on the left hand side but it wasn’t open??). Thankfully an officer waved me to the next lot so I didn’t have to ‘cut off’ the other lane of people who weren’t having it… Finally in the lot it was chaos. I felt bad for those young volunteers as I could hear them yelling “NO! PARK! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” to each car. I managed to park and it was 5:40 AM. I sat in the heated car enjoying my oatmeal and Nuun energy as I watched the rain drizzle down. It was so comforting in there, but I wanted to use gear drop and find the start so I wandered into the cold rain.

Gear drop was easy. I’ve never done it before but I had to prove my bib number matched the number on the tag on the bag as I dropped it off. Seemed a little odd, but eh again never used it.

From there trying to find the start was confusing. There was a long split corral with “Half Marathon” pointing in one direction, and “5K” pointing in the other. I assumed this was the finishing chute as many races will split simultaneous starts at the end of the course, but this was indeed the start. Around 6:40 I wandered into the half corral looking for timing corrals as the MC said “We have fours corrals so please line up according to your bib number”. “Oh thank goodness it’s not self seeding! I always get nervous I am in the too fast group on that method!”. Yeah no. There was no corral seeding based on bib numbers. I’m not really sure what happened there.. I just kind of wandered until I found some people from the Leggers and hung out there. And hung out. And hung out. Annnnd hung out. The race start was delayed by 25 minutes. Why? From what I could gather from the MC at the time – people were still trying to park to participate in the race!! That’s poor planning and it’s not fair to the runners who are standing in the freezing rain. I will say shortly after that race I got an e-mail from the directors acknowledging the issue and that steps will be taken to fix it in the future. Again – Inaugural.

The 5K and the half marathon had the exact same start time, which normally with self seeding in one big corral makes things kind of messy, and thankfully they did have the two separate corrals. But what I really liked about this dual start is that is the 5K went on a different course and direction than the half people. There was no intermixing of the two groups which assured the 5K speedsters the room to compete, and the half marathoners room to fill the road.

Anyway after the start people coming through were polite. Up until a half mile when people were walking 6 abreast. I tried several times to say “On your left!” but they wouldn’t move. It’s very very dangerous to be more than two abreast. You create a situation where a runner has to suddenly slow and could plow into you. Please make room for “faster traffic” as you would in a car. This issue lightened up as the race went on thankfully.

The whole first third of the race is uphill climbs. I actually enjoyed the challenge and felt pretty good considering I was just coming off an injury and being DFL two weeks ago. I kept an eye on my pace and just kinda trotted along at an enjoyable speed saying “It’s not about time, it’s about having a GOOD time!”. And then the 2:15 pacer passed me. And my ego whispered “catch him!”. But we were on a hill and if I didn’t regulate my breathing I knew I would have a side stitch and be out for the rest of the game. I saw him go into the distance and told myself again “It’s not about time, it’s about having a GOOD time!”. After the hills kind of level out the second third of the race is very twisty. Lots of out and backs down some side streets. Because I know I’m not the fastest out there I tend to stay far right out of people’s way, and turns like that kind of slingshot me into the sidewalk. But people were very polite about my merging back in. Also on the far right was every dang water station. I only got clipped once as I was trying to get far out of people’s way and to the left because I didn’t need the station and didn’t want to have an accident. Up until this point the rain had been cooperative so I was feeling good. Plus the 2:30 pacer hadn’t passed me yet and I was on track to finish around 2:20! YEAH! The third half of the race is where things really are beautiful. You mostly doubling back to the start, but the view is amazing. Unfortunately this is also where the rain started to pick up and my hips started to cramp. We came to a few steep hills and with the wet surface and stiff legs I opted to walk them to stretch out and not slip and eat pavement. This may have been my mistake. Once I started to do that my legs started to become jello. All that momentum I had for the first 10.5 miles was suddenly zapped as I shifted my cadence to go down the steep hills at a walking speed. I tried to start back up on the flat surface and things just couldn’t warm back up. My hips got tighter, my knee started to ache, and my ankle started to hurt. I switched back and forth between a walk run but every run cycle was painful, and every walk cycle felt like I was going to fall over. The rain got heavier and I saw the 2:30 pacer fly by me. “It’s not about time… It’s about… finishing…”. The mood around me was a downer. People were trying to stretch out cramps, some were limping, I heard some people say they are throwing the towel in. It was like a sad war zone out there from mile 11-12.5. I think I ended up in a group of people who set out to PR and we all fell back to the exact same time. And it wasn’t even a BAD time, just not a “great’ time. I couldn’t take the downer mood so I ran the last half mile straigghhhht until I reach a super steep hill that was the entrance to the football field that said “slippery surface”. Yeah, nah bro. I’m not going to go through all that only to fall in front of the finish. Walked it. People cheering “You can do it!” Seemed cruel. Lol.

My total finish was 2:38. 4 minutes slower than my last half which I had stopped for photos on. So.. I’m a little bummed that I went from a 14 minute PR possibility to a 4 minute over my last PR. But it was rainy and hilly so I need to get over my hurt ego. And sore hips. Tho I am now worried about my upcoming performance at the LA Marathon in a few months. Erk.

After the race there were some lovely solar blankets that felt SO good in the freezing rain. Got some water and snacks and headed to the beer garden. Unfortunately to get into the garden you had to go up steps, around a barrier, and back down steps. Seemed kind of cruel to do to people who just ran a half and just want a nice beer… The beer was good but standing in the freezing rain, nowhere to sit that wasn’t raining, just wasn’t for me. I hobbled to bag pick up and got my bag which had been sitting in a puddle, and walked back to my car. I ended up just changing in the car with the heat on, and it’s a good thing too. I watched the line of traffic trying to leave not move an inch for about 30 minutes so I just kind of sat back and listened to some music while I waited for that mess to sort itself out. After about an hour people started to move so I went ahead and left for home.

So race review? Hard because this being the inaugural there’s a lot of issues to work out.

For parking I’d say 1/10. They need to plan this better or offer shuttle service. For runner support such as bag drop, port o johns, water stations, medical tents, etc I say 10/10 they were stocked. For corrals 5/10 since the 5k was separated, but to cut down on the 6 abreast walkers in the first half mile maybe consider POT submissions and also making it clear where pacers are in the crowd prior to the start. For course I would say the rain was a disadvantage but can’t be changed so 8/10 – The out and back after hills kind of kills momentum. Course entertainment isn’t a thing for me, but I only saw one band – probably because of the rain, but since I don’t care much I won’t rate that portion. Pre race instructions 5/10 – could use a more clear program/guide rather than several website links with hard to read maps (course lines were so thick that some areas kind of blurred together). Medal was sweet tho, 10/10 there. Overall I give it a 7.5/10 for all the effort but the missed marks.

Will I do the race again? Yes.

Sadly no photos from during the race as I was focused more on trotting along than stopping this time.

The race provided free photos which arrived a few days post race. Unfortunately due to bib mix up my photos did not sync automatically, but I was able to find them.

UPDATE 1/26/17: The race directors sent out a survey requesting feedback on the event, as well as acknowledging some of their issues. I greatly appreciate their openness to suggestion and look forward to seeing improvements in next year’s race!

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