Race Recap & Review: San Jose Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

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#12 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons

On one of my weekly training runs, I was counting the number of races that I’ve done in regions (NorCal, SoCal, Southwest, etc.) and realized I really don’t run at all locally in the South Bay. The last time I even ran in San Jose was the NorCal Half Marathon over a year ago.

Well, now that Rock n’ Roll’s next stop was in San Jose, I can finally add an additional race completed in the South Bay! With four back-to-back races in October, this would be the first.

This was also my roommate Kevin’s first debut in the half marathon. His goal at the time was to complete a half marathon in 2:30 or less. Will he complete it with outstanding success? Will he catch the running bug that I’ve had for so long? Read on!

Race Expo:
Being a local race there wasn’t any additional travel or lodging required. I was 10 minutes from both the expo and the start line.

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The expo was held at the San Jose Convention Center, less than a mile from the start/finish lines. It’s been a while since I’ve done a Rock n’ Roll race, since the last one was in Seattle in June.

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As usual, there was the almost never ending number of flyers and pamphlets from Rock n’ Roll sponsors.

For my pre-race meal, we had Amato’s Cheesesteaks. Delicious energy wrapped in a 7″ cheesesteak.

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Race Morning

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I checked back at my other race’s start times, and this one definitely has the latest morning start time at 8am. At 6am, Kevin, Elaine, and I got up and left to Downtown San Jose, which was about 10 minutes away. Street parking was starting to get difficult, and we took one of the last street spots close to the start and finish lines.

Elaine then went off to take care of some work, while Kevin and I walked over to the start line. On the way, we took one final bathroom break at the Fairmont Hotel, which was pretty swanky.

At 7:30 or so, Kevin and I hopped into our corral and waited for the start. We were in Corral #2, and started promptly at 8:03!

The Course
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Being a flat course (50 feet difference in elevation from the lowest to the highest point), I knew that this was going to be a very fast and potentially a PR course.

Mile 1: 7:25 / mile
The first mile on Santa Clara St, and I was struggling to keep up with Kevin. At the end of the first mile I told him we were averaging a 7:25 pace and that we would both have to slow down in order to run the rest of the course.

The first mile also shows Hotel De Anza and the San Jose City Hall, which looked really cool!

Mile 2: 7:38 / mile
The second mile was the approach into Japantown, where lots of great Korean and Japanese restaurants are. It was here where Kevin slowed down and I wouldn’t see him until the end of the course.

Mile 3: 7:44 / mile
5K: 23:47
Mile 4: 7:53 / mile
This part was pretty much through suburban housing in Downtown SJ. It was pretty cool that I was able to sustain the sub-8 pace, and my new PR looked like it was forming.

Mile 5: 7:41 / mile
At this point, the half marathoners and the mini-marathoners (an unstandardized distance set by Competitor Group) split off in San Pedro Square, and ran past the start line again. When I past the start line, corral 20 out of 21 had just started and were off on the course.

I also passed the SAP Center, formerly the HP Pavilion. I told Kevin before the race, “the first time you see the HP Pavilion, it’s mile 5. The second time, it’s 12.5.” I knew the next time I’d see it again I’d have to make the final push.

Mile 6: 7:50 / mile
10K: 48:27 (10K PR!)

This is exclusively on The Alameda, which was exactly the course back at the NorCal Half Marathon last year. It’s a very flat course, with nothing but banks and hotels nearby. There was a smaller amount of spectators here, and it got pretty boring until the course came back to The Alameda.

Mile 7: 7:54 / mile
Again, suburban San Jose on University Ave. But this time, it was a much more upscale version, with large houses, clean cut lawns, and good architecture.

Since there was nothing much else here I pushed on. A PR was definitely in my grasp!

Mile 8: 7:58 / mile
This is the first hilly part of the course, where there was an underpass with the 880 freeway. Technically this also goes into Santa Clara as well, but with no signs no one really knew.

Mile 9: 8:16 / mile
Heading south to almost a block away from Westfield Valley Fair, we turned again and headed back into fancy suburban housing. There was also one gentle underpass under the 880 again.

Mile 10: 8:07 / mile
Mile 11: 8:11 / mile
Mile 12: 8:10 / mile
Yeah, nothing really much to report here as well. San Jose is essentially a suburban city with a very small downtown core, and there was nothing but rows of houses, schools, and parks. I was very focused on making sure my average pace didn’t go past 8:00 / mile, and everything was a blur. The course does make a turn back onto The Alameda after the 11th mile, and people from Corral 19 were trekking their way on the 5th mile when I got back.

Mile 13: 7:40 / mile
Seeing the HP Pavilion once more encouraged me to push myself more. The 1:45 pacer, who was behind me the entire time, was catching up, and so was the dude carrying the American flag. I couldn’t let either of them beat me, so I ran as fast as I possibly could back into Downtown San Jose and back into the finish.

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The finish line was at the Plaza de César Chavez, California’s first open space and the site of California’s first capitol building. Yeah history!

I finished at 01:44:03, or 7:57 / mile. A new personal best! I finally hit under an 8 minute mile pace, and I felt great. Other than sore legs, I didn’t have any injuries or anything pulled.

I cooled off for a while and met with Elaine to find where Kevin went, only to realize he finished several minutes after finding Elaine. Kevin finished at 02:14:53, or 10:18 / mile. He certainly smashed his goal for his first half marathon with resounding success, but was burned out after the way-too-fast first mile.

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As for the running bug? We’re contemplating running the US Half Marathon in San Francisco a month from now. Hmm…

Afterwards, we went back to our apartment and rested up, then headed over to Santa Fe Taqueria for carne asada fries and horchata.

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As with any PR course, this was a great race. It’s a great course for beginners since there really weren’t any surprises at all in the course. No hills, no weird obstacles, nothing. If I actually lived downtown, I would make some parts of this course my actual normal running route.

I do wish that the course ran on Steven Creek or through Santana Row, SJSU, or Santa Clara University though. That would be a great change of scenery and be a “course highlight.”

As for local flavor, there wasn’t much other than the parts near the start and finish lines. Compared to its wacky neighbors San Francisco and Oakland, San Jose doesn’t really have as many sightseeing destinations, so it does get pretty boring especially in the middle. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this course, and thank the course organizers, volunteers, and all the spectators who watched!

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