Race Recap and Review: Pasadena Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

#3 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons

It seems like forever since my last race over in Phoenix. After having two half marathon in two weeks, a four week break in between races feels really long.

Friday night I flew down from San Jose to LA and met with my parents and brother. The entire weekend I did almost nothing but munch on comfort Chinese food. The Bay Area may have diversified foods, but LA has the best Chinese food hands down.

The Expo

Erica and I met up and visited the unsurprisingly familiar Rock n’ Roll Expo at the Pasadena Convention Center across the street from the Paseo.

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The usual suspects were there (Brooks, Jamba Juice, Clif, the San Jose Police Department), but it was in a much smaller space. Pasadena must be one of Rock n’ Roll’s smaller events since I was also placed in Corral 4 out of 10. In comparison, in Las Vegas I was in Corral 11 out of 35.

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The Race

I have to admit; I usually cannot sleep and am really excited the night before a half marathon. But this time, I relaxed and took it easy. Maybe a little too easy.

I set my alarm for 5:15am and ended up getting up at 5:45am. Clearly I overslept, and dashed out the door as fast as I could!

The half marathon begins and ends at the Rose Bowl: home of amazing college football and the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day. Luckily, as my thoughts that this would be significantly smaller than other Rock n’ Roll events were true, parking was ample and we parked about a quarter mile from the starting line.

It was a beautiful day, and temperatures were expected to be in the 70-80s later in the day. I was dressed in my normal summer gear and freezing, hoping it would warm up soon.

As this is an LA area race, celebrities will run these events. This time? Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings) again! He must really love running.

At 7:30am, the race started and I was off 2 minutes later!

The course closely resembles part of the Pasadena Half Marathon I ran last May…only in reverse. It heads south on Arroyo Boulevard (uphill) before heading east on California Boulevard (even worse uphill) and turns north again on Orange Grove, which is the start of the Rose Parade route.

Reminiscing my high school marching band and Boy Scout years in the Rose Parade, I ran on the red stripe in the middle of the road down Colorado Boulevard into Old Town Pasadena in mile 3, imagining that it was New Years Day and hordes of people were there to look at marching bands and rose floats.

This nostalgia quickly ended when I passed the Cheesecake Factory and saw someone with a sign that said “Worst Rose Parade Ever!” That snapped me back into reality.

As I passed mile marker after mile marker, I noticed that I was running at an insanely fast pace. My average pace was hovering around 8:08-8:15 / mile, and I didn’t even feel tired! I was wondering if I could sustain this pace.

At around mile 4, the course avoids a steep uphill incline on Colorado Boulevard onto Green Street, one block south of Colorado. This was where I saw the elite runners pass by me on the other side of the street (mile 8). Insane!

The course then visits Lake Avenue, another popular Pasadena hangout spot. I’ve eaten at many of these establishments since Erica works around here (Lemonade, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Cafe Mediterranean, Abricott, etc.), and this area came and went fairly quickly and back onto Green St.

I hit the halfway point at Caltech much faster than I expected, and I was extremely surprised I was able to get there that quickly! At this point the sun showed up, and it was a mixture of hot and cold as I ran through trees and open space.

From Caltech, the course turns around and heads back the way it came. Any and all declines I dealt with all of a sudden became an incline, and the hardest part here was the hill heading west across the 210 on Colorado. It was hard when I did it in May, and it’s still hard in this course.

For the final moments, the course then runs across the historical Colorado Street Bridge, which has an awesome view of the San Gabriel Valley on one side and the Rose Bowl on the other. It then goes downhill under the bridge and heads back up north to the Rose Bowl in a steady decline.

The hardest part of the course was the loop around the Brookside Golf Course (mile 10-12), immediately north of the Rose Bowl. At this point, I was waiting for the loop around, course support was slowly waning, and it was getting steadily hotter. My splits afterwards indicated that I slowed from an 8:10ish mile pace to 9:00 at this point.

At around mile 12, the finish line was still not in sight, but knowing there was only 1.1 miles left, I pushed and sprinted to the finish!

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I finished at 01:49:53, or 8:23 / mile. A personal record! For a course that was hillier than Phoenix, which is known for being flat, I was extremely surprised I was able to finish faster by such a large margin. The best thing is, I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out and I still felt great. It looks like breaking 1:50:00 half marathons can become the norm 😛

Because I ran an additional Rock n’ Roll half marathon last month, I qualified for Rock n’ Roll’s “Heavy Medal” series, so a second medal will be coming in the mail several weeks from now.

This is a course I would definitely do again. As Pasadena is my hometown’s much more prestigious sibling to the west, I am extremely familiar with the city, and running in places I frequented all the time when I was younger is a lot of fun!

Post-Run Entertainment

To keep up with their theme, Rock n’ Roll is known to have a “Headliner”  concert after the race. Usually it’s someone I’ve never heard of before, or someone I’m not particularly interested in. This time was clearly an exception, as it was the Far East Movement!

"This is the only concert where us wearing shades is appropriate."

“This is the only concert where us wearing shades is appropriate.”

I have to admit, being surrounded by sweaty, jumping runners was a bit uncomfortable. But after a while, all concerts become a sweaty pile of people jumping up and down. It’s certainly an odd experience attending a concert at 10am, but it was awesome nonetheless. We were certainly feeling fly like a G6 (heh).

I spent the rest of the day with Erica, my brother, and my parents, and in the evening flew back up north to San Jose. A great weekend, another well organized race, and a big thank you to everyone involved!
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