La Jolla Half Marathon (1:37.43)

Last year I ran the La Jolla Half Marathon in 1:36.50. This year, I was about a minute slower but finished stronger. Maybe too strong because I felt like I had a lot left in the tank. The race was also in April last year, and the weather was cooler.

Before the La Jolla Half Marathon:

I took most of the day before, Friday, off from work. I had a doctor’s appointment, then drove straight down to La Jolla. I learned the hard way last year at WineShine Half Marathon that I need to take Friday off for Saturday races. (mainly because while there are no shortage of races in California, most are at least 100-400 miles away). I can’t drive down after work (maybe an LA race would be fine), but going 3-7 hours after work isn’t a smart idea. Last year I drove to Napa (6 hours), after work and boy was I tired. I also didn’t get to enjoy the pre-race or race as much as I would have liked.  And it’s less stressful.

Now that I’ve built up some PTO, I can do that. Anyway, I got to La Jolla around 3, picked up my packet, relaxed, and fell asleep around 7. I thought the race started at 7 am, but it was 6:30, so I wanted to get to bed early. I was tired from a busy week, so I read a bit and fell asleep early. I still felt tired when I woke up around 4 am, but overall, I was OK.

I got to the La Jolla Half Marathon start around 5 am. I derped around, did a quick 1-mile warmup, and got to the start line with 5 minutes to spare.  My goal for the race was to keep it easy for about 5 miles (until the Torrey Pines climb). Push up Torrey Pines, and then see where I was at. I hoped for a faster than last year finish and maybe even a top 10 finish again. The La Jolla Half Marathon is one of the most challenging road halves in the country. It has over 900 feet of elevation gain! But I like hills and am a strong hill runner, so it has appealed to me. The La Jolla Half Marathon is also one of the most scenic. Anyway, onto the race.

La Jolla Half Marathon Race:

As mentioned, my goal for the La Jolla Half Marathon was to keep it easy for the first 5 miles, then begin pushing. I mostly did that. For the first mile, I felt relaxed and ran a 7:16. Last year, I ran around 7 minutes and remembered feeling stiff. I could see the 1:35 pacer ahead and tell their strategy was to “bank time.” I wouldn’t say I like that strategy, so I didn’t worry about wanting to stay with them. The next mile, I ran with a pack of 4ish women. I had no idea what place we were in as we headed up the first climb. We climbed about 100 feet, and I ran a 7:09.

Miles 3 and 4 of the La Jolla Half Marathon had more uphill. I tried to remember if that was the “hard climb.” It sure felt like it. But I found myself relaxed and passing people up every climb. I found myself comfortable and not breathing too hard.

We got a nice view of Torrey Pines as we headed into Del Mar. I passed the 1:35 pacers. I hit mile 4 in 7:40 and mile 5 in 6:55. It felt weird to pass the pacers when we ran a 7:40 mile. The race was ticking along quickly, but I knew the spicy parts would come. Miles 5-9 of the La Jolla Half Marathon are the hardest and probably climb about 500 feet. Miles 5-8, especially, feel like you are just going up a neverending uphill.

Mile 5 of the La Jolla Half Marathon Race climbs about 300+ feet. It’s steep, and it feels neverending. My goal was not to walk. I ran this section of the race twice a few weeks ago. If I could run the hill twice and feel good, I could run it once. It didn’t feel too bad to me, and I was able to recover at the top. I ran it in 8:30. Mile 6 is less steep, with only 100 feet of elevation gain, but it’s still uphill. I passed a lot of people during mile 6. It’s a weird mile; it’s still very much uphill, but because it’s far less steep than mile 5, so it doesn’t feel “bad.” I ran an 8:08 next mile.

La Jolla Half Marathon (1:37.43) me running

Then miles 7 and 8 of the La Jolla Half Marathon are rolling hills and probably have about 100 feet of climbing together. I grabbed either Gatorade or water at every stop (whatever they offered). The goal for miles 7 and 8 was to recover and continue running hard. I ran a 7:21 and 7:09. I felt like I got my legs back and pushed on. I hit mile 9 around 1:15 or 7:30, but it wasn’t for another .2 that I hit the mile marker. That’s when I remembered La Jolla Half Marathon was a little long. I knew mile 11 of the La Jolla Half Marathon was straight downhill. In theory, this sounds great, and it is. But it’s steep and wears out your legs. It drops 300 feet, and I ran a 6:28.

As we were running downhill, I felt my shoelace come untied. This is the second race (after Broad Street) that my shoe has come untied. I’m new to racing in adidas. After Broad Street, I made sure to double knot so not sure what happened. I ran a 7:23 next mile even with the stop (likely closer to 7 minutes because it took me a little time to retie the shoe).  I might need to figure out my shoelace situation for next time.

Mile 12 was primarily flat and I talked with a super-friendly dude. We laughed at the 1:35 pacer, who was just a little ahead. We thought there was zero chance he would drop a sub-6-minute mile up the last hill to finish in 1:35. The ground at the bottom of the mountain was super sandy. I didn’t have the best traction and was worried about that.

Finally, around mile 12 of the La Jolla Half Marathon, we climbed the final 100-foot hill. Last year I remember it being “so hard,” and it felt that way this time too. But I pushed as hard as possible and passed a few more people. Then around 12.7, we headed back downhill. The last downhill is super uneven. It worried me that I might trip and fall. It was close to cobblestone but still cement. I still pushed as hard as possible and crossed the La Jolla Half Marathon finish line in 1:37.43 and 11th overall. My last 400 was a 5:58 pace, LOL.

La Jolla Half Marathon (1:37.43) me

La Jolla Half Marathon Thoughts:

I probably took the race out too conservatively because I felt like I could keep running and wasn’t too tired. I was about a minute slower than last year but also hotter. Strava tells me I PRed about half of the segments from last year, and most of the extra time I added was in the first couple of miles. Oh well, it was a great race and likely my last half for a little while. I ran Surf City Half Marathon at a reasonably similar time, and that race is flat as a pancake. I’m happy with my effort and looking forward to building on that with a few shorter races this summer.

You can see Strava here, and all race recaps here.

Questions for you:

What is the hilliest race you’ve done?

What is your favorite half marathon?