Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon Race Report

June 18, 2017 /
Updated Mar 2, 2020

Race Info

Location: San Diego, California
Date: Sunday, June 4th, 2017
Distances: Marathon, Half Marathon, Relay, 5k
People: 22,000
Race Website

My early spring race was Georgia Death Race. After that I took some time off and refocused on marathons sprinkled into the beginning of summer, with the last being San Diego Rock 'n' Roll.

I was pleased with my performance at the Pro Football HoF, and won the Brokebabe's trail marathon. Two weeks out I paced James through his fourth marathon: Rockford. I felt strong and ready to crush this marathon.

The weekend weather looked ideal. High in the low 70s, plenty of cloud cover, and no rain. Only one thing stood in my way this weekend: the deathy CFA Level 1 Exam. With a ~40% pass rate you could say that I was a little stressed out. But I was also on vacation (great combination) so I was trying to stay positive.

Saturday rolled around and I spent all day in a testing center. I was at SDSU from 8am-5:25pm taking the joyful test. I walked out feeling mentally and physically drained that day. Somehow I thought since this was on a seperate day from the marathon it couldn't possibily impact my marathon performance.

Afterwards I headed over a pre-race pasta dinner with Front Runners & Walkers San Diego and caught up with an old friend who used to live in Columbus. So much amazing food. And suddenly, my test felt like ancient history.

FRWSD Pasta Dinner View of Ocean

Race Day

My alarm went off way too early. In order to make it to the start line, I woke up around 4:30am. Groan.

I was in corral 7 and took off about 20 minutes after the official start of the race. I started ahead of the 3:55 pacer and was running 8:40/miles. The pace felt good. My breathing was light and my heart rate was low. The hills weren't impacting me too much but I was worried later on I might get sick of them.

At mile 3.5 I tripped over a random bump in the road. The roads were pretty uneven for the first several miles of the race and I was trying to be careful. I went flying forward, arms flailing and legs working to try to catch myself. Somehow I manage to save myself from faceplanting and I continued forward running through "what-if" scenarios in my head of how my race would have turned out had I actually fallen.

Mile 4 of the course was the Wear Blue Mile. This mile was close to my heart as one of my friends I was supposed to run Canton with passed away 2 weeks before the race. The mile was covered in american flags and pictures of fallen heroes. The tears were rolling. It was an emotional mile.

I kept running and picked up a donut piece from a volunteer soon after. Krispy Kreme is the bomb. I passed on the tequilla shots though… As much as I like tequilla, the running/shots combo didn't seem like it would work well in my favor. "Maybe if I was running the half," I told myself.

Soon I passed some friends out on the course. I was feeling great and excited to hear people yelling my name as I rounded the corner.

San Diego Rock n Roll Mile 6 of Marathon

The day was going great! I kept avoiding potholes and cranking out hills like no ones business. My heart rate was staying stable which I saw as a good sign.

Until it wasn't. Out of nowhere a little after mile 7 my heart rate spiked above 200. Conditions hadn't changed and I was on the same pace as before. No stress to speak of. I stayed calm and slowed down a bit thinking it was temporary.

When it wasn't changing I focused on taking in electrolytes, fuel by gels, and extra water. I knew nutrtition could be a cause and wanted to tackle it early. Still no changes.

I slowed down further at this point a bit confused what was happening to me. I could slow to an 11:00/mile pace and nothing was changing.

I knew better than thinking I could keep this heart rate through the next 3 hours of this race. Plan Z was in effect. Since Plan A wasn't happening and I was conerned with my safety at this point I changed my goal.

New goal: Keep watch for medical tents and seriously consider calling it quits at every tent.

I had long passed the half turnoff point by now. I've done enough distance races at this point (12 marathons and 20ish ultras) to know that this was not normal for me.

Picture of a Snail, joking about the pace I was moving at
Rare Picture of Me During the Second Half

My mind moved between frustration, trying to pin down what went wrong, and trying to convince myself that I was overreacting. I told myself to take in the scenery and think calm thoughts. The last thing I needed was stressful thoughts raising my heart rate any higher.

I slogged along through Mission Bay. Eventually I noticed that myself and two other runners were going back and forth. We started chatting and I held on trying to stick with them for the last 8 miles or so.

Nothing like having another person talking to get your mind out of the current moment. I had some pain in my chest now from having my heart rate so high for so long.

But now I was too close. I had to finish and earn myself the marathon finisher jacket!

I ran with the other two runners until mile 24 where I started to take off. Although my chest hurt, my heart rate was actually starting to return to a normal level. I pushed the pace. There was no chance of salvaging this race at this point, however, I felt like I mentally needed that strong push to the finish.

Final Time: 4:17:29

Unlucky Marathon #13. My slowest road marathon discluding Big Sur (obviously a more difficult course) and Rockford where I was pacing James. I had even ran faster on the 2nd day when I ran back to back marathons at Kalamazoo. Demoralizing.


After talking to some of my coaches my action plan is to get a VO2 Max test to figure out what my true heart rate zones should be. Also some additional heart tests to rule out any serious issues.

In the weeks following this race I haven't had any other occurances of my heart rate spiking this high, even in 5ks when I am running 7:00/mile pace.

This race was a reminder that I am not invincible and maybe taking a grueling CFA exam the day before a marathon actually is a bad idea for your performance.

I'll keep pushing and moving forward.

Despite a terrible day I loved this course and it was one of my favorite marathons I have done behind Big Sur but probably tied with Wisconsin. I could see myself doing this race again.

Race Collections

San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon Shirt, Bib, Medal, Finishers Jacket

Why do the bibs for the Rock 'n' Roll races have to be giant? I had to fold mine over to fit on my shirt. Seemed like a waste of paper. I included the shirt from RnR Arizona which was my first marathon back in 2015. That was also the first year that they gave marathon finishers a free jacket. Let me just tell you that the quality of the finisher jacket has increased significantly from the first one I recieved. (Which I ended up donating because it was too impractical… mesh mixed with waterproof material was confusing. I never found the right weather to wear it in.)

Check out My Next Day in La Jolla.