Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon

I am SO delayed in writing this and putting it up, but June has been a crazy busy month!  Thankfully, I'm not too far behind, since I took a short break from my half marathon schedule to focus on my position as the assistant race director of the New York City Pride Run at the end of June, but here's my chance to catch up... So, now the race report from RnR San Diego at the end of May!

The day before my flight to San Diego, I got a call from United asking if I wanted to be rebooked to a new flight from LGA to DEN or direct to San Diego because it was oversold – I really wish I could’ve taken it, but with the new job, I stuck to my guns and stayed on the original flight.  On Friday, I took a half day and left New York at 3pm, arriving in Denver for a quick 40 minute layover before going on to San Diego.  I arrived in San Diego around 8:30 in the evening, one of the last two of the crew of 16 of my running club, Front Runners New York, who were doing this “destination” race to culminate the month of May – and for me, to complete my 30th state in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states.

My friend Giovanny, a flight attendant with American and also a member of Front Runners as well as the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs, flew in on an American flight that landed not long after mine, so we both waited for our pick up by the remainder of our crew, who had gone out to eat at a Mexican restaurant near the airport.  Thankfully, they picked up some fish tacos for me after my long day of flying.  They pulled up to pick us up from the arrivals area in… no joke… a white 16-passenger “church” van.  Soon we were on our way to our swanky accommodations, the La Jolla Cove Suites, where we were able to get a great deal from one of Gilbert’s friends who is a member of Front Runners and Walkers San Diego.  After scarfing down my tacos, I got to bed as quick as I could, opting to sleep on the couch in the living room, since I had an early morning the next day, as Giovanny, another FRNYer Kenny, and myself were running the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego 5K in Balboa Park.

Going to sleep to the sound of these
guys barking through the night...
After a good night of sleep, catching my z's to the sound of sea lions barking in the cove below, I woke up early to get myself ready at 5am, since the 5K started at 7am, and we were all the way out in La Jolla.  We drove down to the park and parked in a lot about half a mile from the startline, and Gio and I went to get our bibs to prepare for the race.  Soon, we were off, on a route that took us out and back along 6th Avenue, bordering Balboa Park, and then for a small loop into the park all the way to the finish line.  We took it VERY easy - at a manageable and conversation pace - and we walk/ran the whole thing side by side.  We got a taste of the San Diego humidity and managed to get pretty sweaty, even with our conservative stride.  37 minutes later, we finished, and got our first medal of the weekend.

Before the 5K with Kenny and Gio!
After finishing the 5K in Balboa Park 
Museum of Man... YEP.

FRNY at the RnRSD Expo!
We returned to La Jolla to have breakfast and then get together with the rest of the group (some of who did a fun run in Balboa Park with Front Runners and Walkers San Diego) so we could go to the expo at the San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego.  The expo was pretty big, as massive as some of the larger Rock 'n' Roll expos that I've been to.  I purchased a snazzy jacket, as I had told myself earlier in the year that I would only get the RnR branded merchandise from a marquee race for me - in this case, San Diego, since California would be my 30th state.  I went around through many of the same booths that I've managed to hit up at other RnR expos, and met up with some other friends - my other "gypsy runners" who travel from place to place to run these events.  I even managed to coordinate a reunion of sorts between Giovanny and my friend Dana, who both are flight attendants for American -- it turns out, they had worked together on a flight many years ago!

Cali Bear won't share his humongous medal.  I want it.

...but I am special!
After the expo, we headed out to lunch in the Gaslamp Quarter, a bunch of us hitting up Dick's Last Resort for some grub, accompanied by insults and NSFW handmade paper dunce caps!  After a stroll through the neighborhood, we hit up the Seaport Village waterfront shopping complex to do some window shopping (and in some cases, actual shopping!) - I managed to snag a floral trucker's hat and some matching socks that I would don for the following morning's half marathon.  We then headed out to Il Postino Restaurant in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, where we would meet up with members of Front Runners and Walkers San Diego.  We took over a whole area of the restaurant and had a ball of a time socializing with our San Diego compatriots - and even managed to surprise two of our own, Doreen and Dominic, with custom cakes from a nearby bakery -- these two were celebrating birthdays that weekend!

Doreen with her birthday cake!
Waiting for the light rail to take
the half-marathoners to the start...
(Photo by Kevin McCahill)
Eventually it got late, and we ALL had a very early morning - so we headed back to La Jolla to get ourselves ready for the morning.  It was about 4:30 when we awoke, and the marathoners (Gilbert, Giovanny, and Miki) were up even earlier to leave earlier than us since their start time was about before ours.  As a group, we drove the van to the Mission Valley Mall and then take the light rail to 5th Avenue station, walking the mile up the start line area alongside Balboa Park.  As we bounded up 6th Avenue, we were joined by fellow FRNYer Ruth, who was in town for a convention, and also decided to run the half.  The startline was a mob scene - SO many people congregating, and dozens upon dozens of lines for the port-a-potties.  I took care of my pre-race essentials before heading over to the corrals, hoping to find my crew of Black Sheep Run folks who like to pose for a photo in one of the front corrals.  I moseyed my way into Corral 2, and found a few of them for a quick picture, and then we were ready to start!
Customary startline photo

The shirt I made, commemorating 30 states done!
Boobs galore!
We made our way up 6th Avenue, much like in the 5K the day before, but we continued on, finally turning right onto the wide University Avenue in the neighborhood of Hillcrest, San Diego's largely LGBT-focused neighborhood.  We were cheered on by several cross-dressing men, complete with balloon breasts - so of course, I had to take a picture with them!  I also had an opportunity to rest my tired legs, which were already starting to feel the pain of the first mile.  We continued on down University and then turned northward along Park Boulevard, heading into the largely residential area of University Heights.  Erin and Kate, friends of FRNY members Gilbert and Jesus, lived alongside the route and cheered us on (with their pug, Mugsy), at around mile 2.5, sporting some fun signs that our Front Runners would greatly appreciate!  A couple more turns along Meade Avenue, Georgia Street, Madison Avenue, Mississippi Street, and finally Adams Avenue, and we were in San Diego's famed Antique Row.
Best sign ever.
Shots.  They happen.
We turned left at around mile 3.6, running along the twisty turns and curves of Mountain View Drive in the residential neighborhood of Normal Heights.  We wandered through this area for the next two miles, cheered on by families who lived in the homes along the route.  This is the area where... I got drunk. LOL!! Just before mile 5, someone had set up a little bar on the right side of the road, so I stopped, and took a swig of the Bloody Mary that the lady was making alongside the course!  Not a few hundred feet later, and there was a sign on the left side of the road... "¿Quien te gusta tequila?" so of course, I partook!  And then a few hundred feet after that... a shot of Jameson Whiskey!  Before long, we made a right back onto Adams Avenue, and were on our way to the 10K mark, passing underneath the Normal Heights landmark neon sign, before turning left onto 33rd Street, heading southward.

the memorable drag queens
of LIPS San Diego
We progressed further through Normal Heights' residential areas, turning onto Monroe Avenue, Felton Street, and then Meade Avenue, finally crossing over I-805 and mile 7, then turning again onto Ohio Street.  Before long, we were making a turn onto El Cajon Boulevard, with San Diego's "Lips" restaurant coming into view on the corner. Of course, a bevy of beautiful drag queens were observing the race from their perch alongside the route, so I partook in photos at that moment!  We continued along El Cajon, which had a nice downhill section, before turning again onto Georgia Street, looping down around Robinson Avenue and Park Boulevard for a block, before returning through the underpass at University Avenue.

Epic KISS cover band!
It was pretty narrow here, as there was construction along the street, but as we made our way down University, making a turn at Mississippi Street, we encountered a KISS cover band on the corner - so of course, I took a picture there, too! We took Mississippi down to the north border of Balboa Park, at Upas Street, where we hit mile 10.  At Upas Street, we encountered my favorite aid station of the race - one headed up by the Big Ten Alumni Associations of San Diego - and largely staffed by many Michigan alums!  I proudly belted out "Hail to the Victors" as I proceeded into Balboa Park, and ran my fastest miles down Pershing Drive along the relatively steep downhill, getting to the lower part of the park.  Around mile 12, we progressed through some offramps of the San Diego Freeway, and at one point I got bottlenecked on both sides, stepping into a crack in the asphalt, and tweaking my hip at a painful angle.  I had to stop and stretch my leg and hip out, as I had been suffering from some hip flexor pain over the last few weeks - and ended up hobbling my last mile to the finish as best as I could.

All of the bling around my neck.
We made our way through the tunnel underneath San Diego City College on B Street, and rounded the corner onto 13th Street, making our way to the finish - a parking lot alongside Petco Park.  I could probably have sub 2:30'd, but that last mile was ROUGH, and I ended up finishing my San Diego race in 2:35:01.  I did however, set a PR.... in number of shots taken on the course.  In addition to the aforementioned bloody mary, tequila, and whiskey, I managed a vodka shot, a couple dixie cups of beer, and a swig of fireball... a total of SEVEN shots during a half marathon.  Yikes. It was a bit of a cluster at the end, with SO many people in close quarters after the finish line.  The pedestrian traffic getting to Petco Park, where the post-race festival was held, was extremely crowded.  I headed to the stadium, retrieved my extra bling, waited around for other FRNY members to celebrate, and then we were off to grab much needed lunch nearby, several of us opting for some amazing burgers at Hodad's. I ended up staying an extra day with several other FRNY folks, which consisted mostly of some much needed R&R after this weekend's RnR (hahahahaha, get it?) by the pool and on the beach at Coronado Island and even caught the first seven innings of a Mets vs. Padres game, too...  I got a redeye back home to NYC for work early the next day... 30 states down!

FRNY finishers in Petco Park after RnRSD!
(Photo by Gilbert Gaona)
My customary headstand photo!
Shenanigans at the Mets v. Padres game
State #30, done!


  1. Love that you sang "Hail To The Victors" in the Big Ten section too :)

  2. My SYF Running for Youth team decided we're doing this one next year! Grateful for the recap. :)

    1. Fun!! Feel free to send them the link to this post to give them an idea of the course :) And don't forget to take selfies with the people in drag (whether amateur or professional, lol) along the course!