Race Recap: Santa Rosa Half Marathon {my first half!}

Race recap time!

IMG_8401Get yourself some coffee… you’re in for a LONG post.

Race weekend started bright and early on Saturday with a {delayed} flight to San Francisco. By the time I arrived and Annie (my bff from college who lives in Nor Cal) picked me up, I was STARVING. IMG_8203

We grabbed breakfast at Milbrae Pancake House by the airport (we’d been there once before). In case you’re wondering, that was one of the few meals that weekend where I did not have pancakes.

After eating, we drove up to Santa Rosa to hit the race expo. This meant a drive across the spectacular Golden Gate.IMG_8212

Please note the three hair ties I’m wearing on my wrist. Part of my “Just in case!” race prep.

Does this bridge remind anyone else of the opening scenes of “Full House?” IMG_8215


We hit lots of lovely traffic, but eventually made it to Santa Rosa (it’s about 1.5 hours north of San Francisco). I hadn’t be there since my first visit, back in the summer of 2011 when I was there for a {gorgeeeeous} wedding.

Seriously people, Santa Rosa – and northern California – is beautiful. If only I could get a job as a professional wine and food pairer, I’d move up there in an instant. 😉

Once we got to the expo, I basically almost stroked out from excitement. IMG_8228

Did I mention my wonderfully sweet parents came up from Vegas for my race? Since it was my first half and they know better than anyone how much it meant to me, they wanted to experience race weekend firsthand. They joined Annie and I at the expo, and I think we all had a blast taking in the sights.

The expo was held at DeLoach Vineyards, which is just lovely.

The marathon race course actually ran through the winery – as in right through the barrels room you see in the below pic.


(Hi, Annie!)

Cool, right?

And the swag! Two – yes, TWO – bottles of DeLoach red wine. Plus a special track jacket!IMG_8240


I’m currently obsessed with the t-shirt that was in my bag, as well as the Bear Naked granola. (In fact, I’m wearing the t-shirt as I type this… you basically have to peel it off my body nowadays.) The swag bag was one of a million other examples of the race director knowing what was up. IMG_8261

I had zero wine that day despite hanging out at a vineyard all day, but we can pretend.

After taking a million photos and learning how to fasten the timing chip to my running shoe (thanks again, Kirby!), we eventually made it to this hole in the wall restaurant I’d Yelp-ed, using the criteria “serves breakfast all day.

In case you forgot, I’d been carb-loading before each of my long runs during training with a pancake dinner, so obviously that’s what needed to happen the night before the actual half marathon.

Say hello to Lita’s Cafe, home of pancakes the size of my head.IMG_8274


They weren’t the best things I’d ever eaten, but I happily ate three and a scrambled egg. Pretty identical to what I ate the night before my first race (the MCM 10K) back in October, actually.

After dinner, I got all of my gear ready and laid out my clothes, with my bib pinned on. And some birthday flair, obviously. IMG_8361

I was in bed by 9:30pm Saturday night, ready to get the show on the road. I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I had been expecting to be! My tummy wasn’t happy for much of the day which made me a wee bit concerned about racing, but all ended up being okay by the time my wake-up call came at o’dark thirty. I ate a Luna Protein bar in the car on the way to the race starting area.

So, this race started at 6:30am (marathon was at 6am), and we got to the start before 5:30am Do you know how freakin’ dark it is around 5am in northern California? Holy cow. Also, why don’t porta-potties have lights? Someone needs to get on that.

The half was very well organized, though it ended up starting about 25 minutes late due to a car accident along the course (!). There were no waves since it was a smaller race, but I cozied up alongside the 2-hour pacer.


I didn’t actually think I could or should take on a two hour half time, but thought it might be good motivation to start with those runners. 😉

And then we were off!IMG_8289

It. Was. A. Blast.

You guys, seriously! I had SUCH a great time, and ran just about the entire race.

I’ll have you know I “WOO!”-ed out loud every time we passed a new mile marker. I was that girl. A few people also shouted “Happy birthday” to me a few times during the course, courtesy of my obnoxious shirt. Plus, I have the best friends on the planet who text messaged me encouragement along the way (more on that in another post).

IMG_8295The race mostly followed along greenway paths through Santa Rosa, with an unrelentingly pretty view of vineyards and farmland. Toward the last few miles, I took a couple one-minute (or under) walking breaks, mostly due to the fact that miles 7-9 were on gravel and tuckered out my legs. <—My only complaint about the race.

I took my fuel in around mile 7 or 8 (Clif shot bloks), and drank water from a couple race stops starting after mile 6 I think, Oh, and did I mention I had to pee for the entire race? (TMI, I know.) I refused to stop at any of the porta-potties along the course, though, because i didn’t want to slow down my final time at all. I know they say your first half shouldn’t be about what your time is, but… color me stubborn.

Honestly, the last 5K was a blur! I saw Annie and my dad around mile 12, which made me beyond happy. My legs were whispering “Let’s just walk for a second…” during the last mile, but soon as I slowed down I would notice the 2:10 pacer out of the corner of my eye and  didn’t want him to get in front of me. At one point, I’d slowed and we had about .60 miles to go (this point was a slight incline, on cement), and he came up and whispered in my ear, “KEEP JOGGING – YOU’RE ALMOST THERE.” That was all I needed to hear.

Soon as I crossed {i.e. danced across} the finish line, I knew I’d made it under my super secret goal time, and truly was just so exhilarated and overwhelmed to have finally achieved this big THING. IMG_8332To have made it.

OFFICIAL TIME: 2 hours, 9 minutes.

I continued running straight to my dad on the sidelines at the Finish and gave him a big hug…… and then proceeded to burst into unexpected, sloppy tears of joy and exhaustion. IMG_8384


Someone frame that glamour shot, please.

Then I asked where the heck my wine was.

From then on it was a cavalcade of pure joy – watermelon, a pancake breakfast, and a sweatastic visit to the beer garden. IMG_8309

Seriously – HEAVEN.

These pancakes were one of the main reasons I selected this race, besides the fact that it was sponsored by the Blood Centers of the Pacific (a cause near to my heart)…  #willrunforpancakes

Also, Charlie Brown said hi. No big deal.

IMG_8308Life made.

I also barely sat down after the race, btw, because my quads were on FIRE. I’m going to again blame the gravel for that one. IMG_8338

Okay…. this recap is absurdly long, so I’ll stop here for now.

But FYI – this was seriously, seriously, seriously, one of the best days of my life.


…have a happy Friday and an even better long weekend!

13 Comments on Race Recap: Santa Rosa Half Marathon {my first half!}

  1. Brittany
    August 30, 2013 at 5:20 AM (4 years ago)

    I really enjoyed reading this one! I always avoid gravel, but your experience made me think I should mix it in sometimes so I can get a better workout! Congrats!

  2. Sokphal
    August 30, 2013 at 7:20 AM (4 years ago)

    You’re a pretty cryer! 🙂
    Loved this entry! You’ve got it in you to sub 2:00 girl! (This coming from someone who ran her first two half marathons in 2:30ish). But, more importantly, you DID when the doctors said you couldn’t! Loved that.

    • joelle
      August 30, 2013 at 7:28 AM (4 years ago)

      Thanks! You’re right – I would’ve been proud to cross regardless my time… just to have done it. 🙂 ps. we’ll see about a sub-2!

  3. Sophie @ life's philosophie
    August 30, 2013 at 7:53 AM (4 years ago)

    Congrats on an AMAZING race! Embrace the high! I remember my first 1/2 and I was instantly bit by the bug! Such a great accomplishment!

  4. LTD 'fo lyfe
    August 30, 2013 at 11:40 AM (4 years ago)

    So sooooo good!!! Reading this literally brought me back to my past experiences… especially the friendly stranger who whispered to keep going!!! One of the best eperiences with fellow humanity!!! Congrats girl!

  5. Beth @ CraveableCleveland
    September 1, 2013 at 7:39 PM (4 years ago)

    You rock girlfriend! I know how much running this meant to you, after all your many struggles to get to 13.1! You never gave up and I am so proud. Congrats Joelle!! 🙂

    • joelle
      September 2, 2013 at 9:24 PM (4 years ago)

      Thank you Beth 🙂 Miss your face!!

  6. Annie
    September 2, 2013 at 9:53 PM (4 years ago)

    Congratulations! Your joy at accomplishing your goal is evident in your recap and rightfully so! Thanks for sharing this!

  7. maggie
    September 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM (4 years ago)

    Congratulations! That is a VERY respectable time for your first half!
    Just an fyi for the future- those Dtrack timers work better when they’re fastened in a circle, not a teardrop shape. Instead of lining up the insides of the bands, you’re supposed to fasten them like a wristband at a concert- apparently it better helps when it’s too crowded and your timer has a better shot at getting noticed.

    • joelle
      September 3, 2013 at 10:53 PM (4 years ago)

      Thanks so much! I did NOT know that — I’ll have to remember that for future races!

  8. christa
    September 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM (4 years ago)

    Awesome!! I have the same shorts and they are my faves!

  9. Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac
    September 21, 2013 at 10:18 AM (4 years ago)

    Congrats!!! Such an awesome accomplishment and your time is amazing!!! I totally started crying when I finished my half marathon and then forced myself to pull it together — so many emotions at one time!!!!

    • joelle
      September 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM (4 years ago)

      Thanks!! Yeah, I feel like crying is just an automatic release of all that energy and emotion.


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