By Kelsey Lakowske

It was really only a few miles into The City to the Sea Half Marathon that I reconsidered the wisdom of my decision to race just a few weeks after a tough trail marathon. I was excited for my first official race as a HOKA ONE ONE Aggie. I was also excited to kick some rust off my road-legs and try something a little different from mountain-goating to the finish line. I was quickly reminded that road racing is a very different animal. 

Firstly, it was no longer an acceptable strategy to intermittently stop and walk while stuffing your face with aid station pop-tarts. Pacing was another foreign concept. Anything between 5 and 15 minute pace was a solid haul in the SLO Ultra a few weeks prior. The roads however, demand a little more consistency. 

Luckily I wasn’t left to ruminate over that conclusion and it’s consequences since I had excellent company to distract me from the temptation to turn off the corner at Johnson Ranch and flee into the comfort of the hills. 

I cranked through the first few miles with Kara Thorne - though she made it look like a deceptively casual pace. Contagious enthusiasm carried me a good while, along with some persistent (or naive) optimism. I could only hang with her for so long, though. She went on to cruise to a strong first place finish for the lady Aggies - and I was lucky enough to have Derek Thomas’ professional pacing services to keep my splits relatively steady despite my reluctant legs. Along with the pacing services, his billowing mane of hair and running commentary provided some essential inspiration and comedic relief. It’s rare to have a whole half-marathon race with such good company and comedy. And top-notch puns. 

So there were fewer hills and exotic aid station foods...but it was a challenging and fun race in very different ways. Roads are tough, but it’s fun to play with new gears. It was also a unique perk to run through familiar roads and paths, cresting with an ocean view and coastal finish line at dinosaur caves park. The highlight of the day was easily my teammates though. Second only to Derek’s hair. I had forgotten how much I missed having a team to run for and with.