If you’ve ever considered doing a destination race, this is for you. Skip to the very bottom for some tips on planning your own destination half marathon.
This has very little to do with photography because I (gasp) left my “real” camera at home for this trip. Not an easy decision, and if I’m being honest I did occasionally grope for it in my (also non-existent) holster once or twice. Which I played off oh-so-coolly as an itch. On my bottom. But I’m so glad I left it at home, because it left me free to be totally present for this trip with my best friend that I rarely get to see. Although we did make sort of heavy use of our phone cameras. And I *might* have packed a selfie stick. Best. White elephant. Ever.
We planned our trip around running the San Jose Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon. If you’re into running, like at all, but don’t want to get into it with people who take themselves and their running too seriously (neeeever been an issue for me… sigh), Rock-N-Roll is a great series. They’re fun, they feature bands along the course to
break up the monotony make it more lively, and best of all… the four I’ve done with RNR have all been lovely, flat, flat courses.
We spent the first day eating our way through San Francisco, the next day on a wine tasting tour of local vineyards (in case you thought I was kidding when I said not-so-serious about the running) and the last day at the race, working off everything we ate & drank the previous two days. Perfect schedule. So here’s some highlights from our trip!
San Francisco is one of those awesomely quirky places. Even if you don’t like quirky, it makes for a good visit and then you can leave and go back somewhere normal. And if you DO like a little weird flavor… this is for you. The streets go up at these ridiculously steep angles, so if you look down them it looks like they just disappear over a cliff, there is a random infestation of seals near one of the piers, Ghirardelli has a whole little area named after them, there are Uber drivers approximately every 10 feet (guaranteed half the cars in the pictures below are Uber), and there are actual street cars. Also, a Laundromat called The Missing Sock. I rest my case.
We clocked 8 miles walking all over the touristy areas (hence the skinnies with sneakers… admittedly not my most fashion-forward decision). We also had a truly amazing meal at a little place called La Fusion. It was one of those places where they actually have flavor combinations that you may not have already seen or had. I highly, highly recommend the Champinones Envueltos, a mushroom strudel thingy that I seriously wish I could have air mailed to me in Georgia. It was really that good. And the service was really welcoming and friendly, although let’s be honest, I would have happily put up with a little rudeness for that meal.
We booked a tour with a local company called Tommy John’s because they had everything included… pick up, snacks, lunch, wine tastings, everything all the way through to drop off. Plus he added in a few extras that weren’t included. I can’t rave any louder or more adamantly about Tommy John’s, they were amazing. Complete five-star service, very personable, very flexible, the food was ah-maz-ing, and we never even got to the lunch because there were so many awesome snacks along the way. Always a good idea when your purpose is to drink a few glasses of wine at each stop. It was just the absolute most fun day.
John also tacked on an olive oil tasting and and extra wine flight at the end of the day, so we got to learn the appropriate way to “taste” olive oil. I’ll give you a hint… the mnemonic is swirl, sniff, sip, & slurp. And yes, I asked the tasting consultant if he was serious. I was THAT girl. I don’t know if it was the sipping or slurping, but it must have worked, because I left with a receipt for several bottles of olive oil. Oh, and if you want to taste without “doing” a tasting, they have a section with big drums of a lot of the flavors where you can check them all out. We Olive, if you want to, you know, learn how to slurp.
Race Day: The Half Marathon
And last but not least… the reason we were there. Technically. Race day was gorgeous, we couldn’t have asked for better weather for a really long and unnecessary run. My training had sort of topped out around 7 miles, which if you’re counting is just north of half of the total distance of a half marathon, so my expectations were low. But what I lacked in speed I made up for by stopping to take pictures. Somehow I didn’t get any at the end, but I did finish. Promise.
Of course all good things must end, but I got such a nice silver lining to my homecoming. As the primary care giver, I don’t leave the rug rats often. So I loved coming home to smothering hugs and kisses and being hailed as the conquering hero. And the pre-schooler thought my big heavy race medal was pretty awesome. I’m pretty sure I gained some cool points for that. At least for a few minutes.
And of course, a long weekend off is not possible without support at home… huge, mad props to my other best friend and husband for holding down the fort at home! He rocked the single-parent thing. And even though the baby decided to pop up a 103.6 fever to celebrate me being out of pocket, I came home to a calm house and a totally clean kitchen. And an appreciative spouse.
So if you are actually thinking about a destination half marathon or other race, here are a few tips from my personal experience:
- May sound obvious, but pick a destination that you would actually want to travel to just to travel. It’s way more worth the time if there’s sight seeing you’re actually interested in.
- Travel with a buddy. Keeps you honest while training, and checking out a new place is more fun with a friend. If not, you may need new friends.
- Plan your more involved activities (i.e. tours, trips to other nearby cities) beforehand so you don’t lose time or find things are already booked up. Remember, a few thousand of your closest friends are coming to run with you that day.
- Consider whether you want to have your fun before or after the race. A case can be made for both. If you’re running for a time, put the race at the beginning of your trip when you’ll be at the top of your training. If not, consider putting it at the end. One of our destination half marathon trips was severely hampered when I injured my hip and had to walk veeeeeery slowly and gimp-ily everywhere we went.
- Leave yourself enough time to train adequately!! This one’s important. I joke about not being ready, but if you’re not trained up you can easily exceed your capabilities. And often you will not know it during the race… it will show up after when it’s too late to prevent. I speak from experience here, and it’s not worth it.
- Pick a training plan. There are a TON of half marathon training plans on line, find one you think you can stick with. Hal Higdon has some good ones I’ve used, Jeff Galloway has a bunch for different levels and training goals (and his theories on the advantages of alternating running and walking are really worth a read). And I liked the plan I used from Women’s Running this time around… 14 week Couch to Half Marathon. That pretty much sums it up. The best ones will include a mix of running, other lower-impact cardio options, strength training, and STRETCHING.
- Last but not least: make stretching a part of your routine, every time. Just do.