Avenue of the Giants Half-Marathon

I signed up for this race in February, with more than enough time to train and get my shit together to run a decent half marathon. Based on that sentence alone, you can guess that I’m not here to report a record-breaking day. Truth. I actually just wrapped up a shakeout run with one of my Team Amazing Day athletes and immediately did the hands-over-mouth motion to be like, “Do as I say, not as I do!” because a) I didn’t train very well for this and b) seriously, please, do those things. We chatted about the race and I said, “I know all the things I should have done” and I know I didn’t do (all of) them. But I still crossed the finish line, and that’s nothing to take for granted.

Eel River Brewing Pint

The drive on Saturday wasn’t short, but we broke it up by stopping in Ukiah for lunch, then stopping by the race expo — which was pretty impressive considering it was a state park parking lot off of highway 101— then stopped for a beer on the Eel River Brewery patio, soaking up some vitamin D, and finally got to Eureka around 5pm. We walked around a little bit before our early-bird-special dinner, but I won’t say Eureka was a thrilling place to be. It’s quaint and quiet, on a bay with that bay-area breeze and some odd statues by the water. Not a bad place for the pre-race relaxation; our hotel was sold out thanks to the “nearby” run (actually a half hour drive). What I should have done, but didn’t: a shakeout run after all that car sitting.

Rachel brought a loaf of bread, jar of almond butter, and a bunch of bananas. She also brought Jellybeans’ Sport beans. All of this solved the problem I had of completely forgetting to pack anything edible. Tip: travel with thoughtful friends. (Thanks, Rach!) What I should have done: used this race as a test with some fueling things for upcoming fall marathons.

We left the hotel around 7am because a guy at the expo said that’s when we should leave to arrive by 7:45, park, and have time for bathroom stops and things. That worked out very well, as did having one group member who wasn’t running but was willing to take all of our jackets at the very last minute so we could stay warm as long as possible. The fog broke right before we started, which made the temperature rise about ten degrees immediately, and there was universal feeling of relief that we were about to run right onto the tree-covered Avenue (of the Giants <– giant trees). An eclectic marching band played the National Anthem and some other tunes and then, right on time, we were off! Gun start, chip finish.

Avenue of the Giants Run Start

What I should have done: a warm-up to remember what running a race feels like, and because, see: ALL the sitting.

The first mile felt amazing in that weird way that you’re not sure how fast you’re going but it feels almost entirely effortless yet confusing that you’re moving forward. My feet seemed to know what to do, my muscles seemed a little confused, my head was like LOOK AT THESE TREES OMG!  What I should have done: checked myself. Ease into it. Mile two came with a big reality face-slap as the adrenaline subsided a bit, the trees still amazed, but the act of running and the fact that I had to do it for 11+ more miles was a bit overwhelming.

Avenue of the Giants Run

I’m a second-hour runner. That doesn’t mean I only want to run for two hours, it means (at least to me) that in general, I run much better after I get the first few awkward miles out of the way. This is especially true for me in half marathons, and was true on this day. I had Beyoncé’s Lemonade ready and waiting for that turn-around point, to press “play” as soon as I was halfway done, for a little boost.

What I actually did do well: settle into a manageable pace, ignore actually looking at my pace on the watch (did I mention all the trees? I also don’t trust GPS watches during races, in general, so nope), fuel with a few sport beans every 30-35 minutes, and stop for water or Gatorade (because that’s what they had on tap) every time it was available in the second half. I learned more words to the Lemonade tunes, took some halfway decent pics, and did not drop my iPhone. All good things.

Avenue of the Giants Run second half

Most important (to me): a negative split, the fastest mile around 8:00 for number 13. TBH, my legs felt like jelly and I was more concerned about them collapsing underneath than I was about hitting an eight minute pace (oh, also, should have done: a little more strength training). I wanted my effort to stay strong, to remember what pushing it through the end feels like for the muscles, the cardio system, and the ego. I wanted to finish without hurting myself, and I wanted to know that it wasn’t a completely terrible idea to sign up for two fall races (no refunds allowed, anyway!).

Avenue of the Giants Run finish

What I should have done: doesn’t matter now.

What I wanted to do: run this and assess what it means for summer training, where I am and where I want to be, and what needs to be done to bridge that gap. Check, check, check.


  1. May 19, 2016

    Loved reading this as it brought back memories of standing in (mostly) pouring rain (save for a small tunnel) many, many years ago as a teenager waiting for my dad to finish running the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. Yep-I was out there for about 4 hours 🙂 Congrats on running-sounds like you did everything right to me 🙂

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