Monday, June 6, 2011

The Blue Line Index: Rock n' Roll San Diego

Now that is a sea of people! I circled myself.
Ok, so I wore my Garmin during the Rock n Roll San Diego half marathon yesterday. Guess what? The course is long! My watch clocked me at 21.4 kilometers, a whopping 300 meters extra. I am going to take 65 seconds off my time to account for the extra distance I ran. I tried hard to run the tangents, but when you are running on a major freeway as we did for about 2 miles, the width of the road is tremendous. I was hugging the inside of the road and the aid station was on the outside; there was no way to even make it over there without adding significant distance.

I have yet to come across an athlete whose GPS device measures the course accurately. After races, I often hear grumbling that the course was long. To ameliorate the groans and complaints from runners with GPS devices, I recommend a Blue Line Index (BLI, if you will). Many major marathons, including the Olympics and the World Championships, paint a blue line on the road to mark where the course was measured. If athletes follow the blue line, they cut all of the tangents and run the shortest possible distance. No geometry is required during the race; just look for the blue line. The New York marathon website indicates that they use 75 gallons of “marathon blue” paint to mark the course in the days leading up to the race. Now, I am not suggesting that every marathon should paint a blue line on the course (although that would be a nice touch). But, wouldn’t it be cool if marathons had a Google earth map on their website with the blue line superimposed on the course to let runners know the shortest route?

36,000 people ran either the half or the full marathon. I was lucky to obtain an elite start, which placed me at the front of the throngs. I took my place at the head of the race with some heavily pedigreed runners. Needless to say, I felt terribly out of place. I didn’t need any triathlete gear to give away that I am a triathlete. My body said it all. With my swimmer’s arms and broad shoulders and my legs which still carry extra muscle from years of cycling, I felt gigantic. Fortunately, an athlete I coach, Jim Lubinski, was racing in the men’s elite half marathon field (as you can see from the photo, his attire SCREAMS triathlete). He is a rather big fellow towering over everyone there. We stood in the start corral chuckling to ourselves. Maybe we should have worn camo.

The race itself was a spectacle. From running Elvises to spectators proselytizing to bands galore to the stunning course, I thoroughly enjoyed this race. I stuck to my game plan of running conservatively and consistently. I powered up the hills and ran hard down them. I knocked off the miles one after the other and felt strong the entire way. I was very pleased with a new PR and with my second place finish. Ironically, despite the thousands of people in the race, after mile two I ran alone.

I wanted to go here instead of the race expo, but they wouldn't let me in. The aroma was intoxicating.
There are many merits to large scale races. They are extremely well organized. The expos are huge selling just about anything you can imagine to enhance your racing experience. Need a rack to hang your finisher medals? They were there. Need a special headband? Yep, you can find it. Want to get your medal engraved with your name and finisher time? That was on offer. There was even a booth selling flooring. I'm not quite sure how that fit into the mix, but maybe the soft surface promotes better recovery when walking around the house.

The biggest downside to the large scale race is the morning traffic. The race started at 6:15am. We left the house at 4:20. We were already too late. The traffic was backed up for miles and miles, worse than LA at its worst. After inching forward for 20 minutes watching the digital clock turn over from 5 to 5:05 to 5:10 to 5:20, my stress level starting rising (I was in serious need of a bathroom). My father used his New Yorker fancy maneuvering to navigate us through the sea of cars and get us to the venue with enough time to warm up. I am certain that a lot of people were still parking when the gun went off.

I’ll be back in San Diego in August for the AFC half marathon. Anyone know of a fast, flat half in July?


  1. Congratulations on a great finish and placing second!

  2. Second! Woohoo!!! I can't imagine...for marathons I'm happy to make it on the second or third page of age group results! So are you going to make us hunt down your time? What was your PR? Do tell!

    Good for your athlete running in the tri gear!! We need to show folks that triathletes can run too!

  3. Here's a July Half that won't have you waking up early, and it's flat:

    7 PM start, in flat central California (Davis)

  4. Cort-

    My time 1:19.02

    Thanks Chris for the suggestion. I'll check it out!


  5. Hi Joanna,
    Congrats on a great race in San Diego. I will be doing the AFC half too. I will try to find you at the start. I will be looking very tri also, will probably be wearing either my newtons (which are bright orange and yellow) or my neon green and black saucony fastwitch 4's, which the last pair of 9.5's I finally found out of a cycling shop online in the UK yesterday! Yeah!
    Anyway, I am headed to San Diego for the 4th of July weekend and then to Seattle for the rest of the time to train. I will look up a half in Seattle in July for you if there's no other one in San Diego. :)
    Anita Carcone