February 19, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Pasadena Half Marathon

We ran in our second Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. This time it was the inaugural event in Pasadena. We didn't decide to participate until just a few weeks before the race. Having had a good experience at the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon and knowing that we could just drive down to Pasadena over the  holiday weekend we decided to register. Knowing we would get a special double medal after completing the two races was a little added motivation. When we registered we had the option to purchase a parking pass for the race for $10, we paid for one parking pass. Since the start and finish were at the Rose Bowl there wouldn't need to be any transportation from one to the other. We had never been to Pasadena so we were looking forward to spending some time there. The day before the race we went to the race expo at the Pasadena Convention Center. We paid for parking at one of the public garages and made a short walk to the expo. Bib, shirt and parking pass pick-up were all very well organized and easy. It was very similar to the set-up in Arizona. We then picked up our race bags that would double as our sweatbags and then walked through the merchandise area. There was race merchandise and Brooks merchandise. After this we made our way into the health and fitness expo itself. When we got to this area we were very surprised. Although there were booths with food samples and gear, there really weren't many. It was about a third of the size of the Arizona expo. There weren't that many giveaways or that many interesting booths.  A large portion of the expo was taken up by the Dodge advertisement, Dodge being one of the main sponsors. There was a section advertising future RNR races with computers for people to register for them at a discount. We made it through the expo fairly quickly. We had time after to walk through downtown Pasadena and do some shopping. We headed back to our hotel early and got our gear and food ready for race day.
Race morning we had to get up really early because we had to be parked at
the lot before 6:30am, an hour before the race start. It took us only about 15 minutes to get to the Rose Bowl area from our hotel and we were among many cars making their way to the designated lots. We ended up in a car line that got us to the parking lot closest to the race start. We actually parked very close to the start and the corrals. We could actually see the corral numbers from inside our car. Since it was so early we stayed in the car for a while, and those around us did the same thing. We slowly got our gear ready, ate and made a few bathroom stops before it was time to head to the corrals. It was really great that we were so close that we could just wait in our car longer than usual. As usual with RNR races there were portapotties, prerace food with bagels and water, and UPS trucks for sweatbag check. We had planned to check a bag but didn't since we parked so close. With the Pasadena race being an inaugural event there were only ten start corrals. For comparison RNR Arizona had over twenty. We lined up in our designated areas and got ready for the start. The race began on time. It took us out of the Rose Bowl and into the surrounding neighborhoods. Even though the street was closed it was narrow for a race start and it was difficult to get around people.
The street went uphill so many people slowed down. The course then went out of the residential area and into Old Pasadena via a more significant uphill . We crossed a bridge and went onto Colorado Blvd, a main street through town. We had driven through some of this area the day before when exploring the town so it was nice to see it from a different perspective. Miles three through nine took us up and then back down the main street with three out and backs along the way. When we first saw the race course we weren't excited about the shorter out and backs, it just seemed like an easy way to add mileage to the course. When we actually ran the race we ended up really liking the out and backs since we were able to see several other fellow runners that we wouldn't have had the chance to see otherwise. When we were headed out on the main street we were able to see the race leaders coming back on the opposite side of the street. It's rare in a half marathon that you get to see the leaders and it was very exciting and motivating. We definitely liked that about the course. Right after the last out and back the route led us back onto the main street where we were able to see even more runners. These several miles were rolling hills, nothing too steep. We ran across the beautiful Colorado Bridge, which is on our finishers medal. Then it was a short steep climb before a steep downhill where we went under an overpass. We were then back to the residential area before we got back to the Rose Bowl area. The last few miles consisted of a loop around the Rose Bowl. These last few miles seemed to be the toughest. RNR races typically have bands along the course but I don't remember seeing any in the last few miles and there really weren't many spectators here either. Plus the first mile by the stadium was a consistent incline before we got to go downhill towards the finish. Finally we could hear the music from the finish line.
There was great crowd support as we crossed the finish line. There were volunteers giving us our finishers medal along with water and gatorade too. Then we were all divided into different chutes to take our official finisher photo before getting to the postrace food. Here was another obvious difference between this race and Arizona. While there were energy bars, bagels and fruit, it was much more limited than the Arizona race. Maybe in several years it will match what is offered postrace at Arizona. There was a medical tent just after the food that was clearly marked with volunteers ready to help. Then there were more volunteers handing out mylar blankets to those that wanted them, one perk that was not done in Arizona. The area with the mylar blankets marked the end of the runner only area and once we walked out there was no re-entering. The course had several water stations, some with sports drinks and one with GU. Medical booths were clearly marked along the course and there were several bikes going up and down the route checking on runners. The gathering area past the finish line was on a big grassy area. There were merchandise and food booths as well as a stage for the race headliner which was Sugar Ray. On the grass there were signs with the letters of the alphabet so that people could plan to meet up with family/friends at a designated letter. After the busy Arizona race we did pick a specific letter to meet up at after this race but since there weren't as many people as we had planned for we didn't actually need it.

The sun was out and it was just slightly warm which was perfect for a race, couldn't have asked for better weather for a February race. We took advantage of the nice weather and sat on the lawn to enjoy Sugar Ray for a few songs before we made the very short walk back to our car and headed out. The Pasadena race was a good race but much smaller than expected which wasn't necessarily a bad thing but it did feel like we missed out on some typical RNR perks. It was well organized and the weather was great but not sure if we would make the drive back down there for this race again. However, with it being our second RNR race, we should be getting a special medal in the mail in a couple of months, can't wait for that.