America’s Finest City Half Marathon and A Quick Lesson on Leg Cramps and IT Band.


I ran my first half marathon not too long ago (May 30th), in Laguna Hills.(City of Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon). My original plan going in, was that I would try to find some pacer that is pacing 2:00 hours, and hopefully run the course. My boy friend’s friend Brittany helped me with few tips on long runs, such as ‘carry your GU’, ‘have GU at mile 6’, ‘slow down for first few miles’ etc. I was lucky enough to find the 2:00 hour pacers at the start line. I took my spot right behind them, and followed them like they were my Jesus that day! Andrew and Chris, as I learn their name half way into the race, were super wonderful, and after hearing that was my long run ever, they helped me with more pointers as to how to breath during downhill to save oxygen, and when to take water break.

Since the last half marathon, I been meaning to run another half marathon, so I was online looking for a race that isn’t too far, too much in the future and found America’s Finest City Half Marathon taking place on August 21st. I have heard of America’s Finest City Half Marathon through my running twinsie Priscilla, who ran it last year, but said it was a disastrous of a race for her. Apparently, it was hot, and there were train track/rail way crossing gates, and there was a hill at Mile 11, and it all ended up costing her time. She wanted to do the race again this year, to come back and redeem!


We both signed up for AFC, and started our training early July. I, in my own way, without realizing the consequences of increasing long distance miles from 5miles run to 12 miles run over a weekend, end up hurting myself during the first 12mile training.  When I went for my weekly Snail Pace Run Group Run in Mission Viejo that following Wednesday, I could hardly continue past mile 3, with my left leg hurting outside of my knee. One of our Snail Pace running group people told me it is IT Band Injury and told me to rest for 2 weeks, with no running or gym. and to see a Sports Chiropractor immediately. So I went and saw someone in Lake Forest, and he explained to me the need for stretches. Taught me 3 stretches to do when the pain comes back. I went back to running after 2 weeks, and the first week I ran, every time I thought the pain was coming back I would stop and do one of the IT Band stretches, (While standing cross left leg infront of the right, band to the left at waist. Repeat the other side). and it helped me continue to run and train. There are tons of sites that talks about IT Band injury and recovery, but my simple advice, increase your miles slowly, and if you hurt yourself, do seek a chiropractor immediately and rest for two weeks, and get back to running slowly. and remember to stretch/stretch/stretch. With just few weeks left, I continued my training for AFC, with a regular 5 mile run everyday and an occasional long run here and there, while being careful as not to trigger the IT Band injury anymore. It was a challenge.

It was 3rd week fo July, and with all this injury and losing time from training, I was super nervous about the approaching AFC Race date. Originally I wanted to train properly and run a better time, but with my condition, I was looking forward to be able to run every single mile, without stopping, and crashing. If you ever had to stop your run mid course, because of a pain, you will understand the situation I was in. Its scary.

Interms of preparation, I followed my regular rituals for the race. Its usually a trip to Trader joes, to get bananas, apples, almonds, at least 5 bottles of 1 liter Electrolyte Water bottles, white bread, and some FIG Bars. I Usually start drinking water Friday night, for a Sunday race, and continue hydrating all through Saturday and Saturday night. It seems excessive, but it works for me. I usually stop drinking 3 hours before the race, and have smaller sips up until an hour before race. With no water for an hour before the race. I do have some water right before the race starts. in terms of Food, I like to eat half an apple,  half a banana and a slice of white bread 3 hours before the race. I eat half a fig bar 2 hours before. In Trial and Error, I have learnt this combination doesn’t cause my stomach to get upset or bloated during the run. I eat my big meal, for afternoon lunch,  day before the race, instead for ‘the night before’/pasta meal. Night time big meal, makes me feel bloated during the race, so after noon big meals has been my choice. I am also lactose intolerant, so eating pasta, is a risky thing for me. I do allow myself to eat pasta, on a typical day, but not during the race weekend. I rather get a big 9 inch sandwich with lot of avocado, turkey and bacon. And let it works its way through the rest of the evening. for night, I try to eat early around 7, a lighter meal with some form of bread. I do take two GU packets with me with absolutely no Caffeine, (Caffeine drys out my throat as soon I start running.). I take my first GU 45 minutes before the race, and take another one at mile 6. I tried this religiously for my first half marathon and repeated it for AFC  and I don’t think I will change this routine for a while.

On the race day, I woke up pretty early, around 2:30 am and I couldn’t sleep. The race start time was 6:30, and we were to get on the bus between 4:30 and 5:30. I had to get on with my race day morning ritual starting 3:30 am, so I decided to stay up. We got dropped off at the start line in a Bus at the beautiful Cabrillo National Monument. It was pretty dark, and it seemed like a long bus drive. There were about 4000 people that ran the race this year, and to see them all sitting and hanging out at the parking lot there in the dark, reminded me of some sort of zombie apocalypse safe camp. We got there early, so I had plenty of time to do my ‘potty run’ and use the bathroom. There were literally hundreds of porter potties, so I wasn’t super nervous as I usually get about bath room situation.

Americas Finest Elevation

The start of the race was pretty simple. They didn’t have any waves, so everyone started around the same time, so even if you are a fast runner, if you were stuck in the back, it would have taken you about 9 minutes to get past the first mile. So for future, if you planning on running faster, get to the front. 6:30 am start was nice and breezy.


The course was beautiful. The first 2 miles were little and up and down, flat courses, but I just wanted to enjoy the start, and the people, so ran my slower pace. My original strategy was to do 8:30 every mile, and manage the hills at 11th mile with whatever I have left in me. With the mile 2.5 to 4 being downhill, I gained some speed, and got on to the flat course for about next 6 miles. In hind sight, for AFC, I would recommend you go easy on first 2 miles, and do your 5k speed on mile 2.5 to 4. Its downhill, so you wouldn’t spend that much energy and you will gain some better time. Know that there is non-stop hills coming up at mile 11 to 12, and 12 to 13 , which will slow you down at least by a minute if you are like me, so the time you save here will help with over all time. The courses were very different each mile. We ran past Sheraton, and the houses, and the shore, and the boats, downtown. There were plenty of water stations most every mile, and I stopped and had a sip of water every time I saw a water station. I am a slow runner, so a water stop isn’t going to cost me any medal, so I was able to afford the water break. If you run slow like me, make sure to get your water. Even tho you spend few seconds it will help you run comfortably and faster, paying you back better time. There were mist stations along the course, but I would caution you about that. If your shoe get wet, running on the road and flat surface would be so much difficult with a wet shoe. So even tho its tempting, resist. I would say just go for a ‘flash mist’ like step in and step out right away without wetting your shoes.

afc time

afc finish time
Usually the strategy everyone tells me is to run conservatively for 6 miles, and increase speed for 6 to 10 and run your 5k speed for the last 3 miles. But Re-think that strategy for this race. Mile 11 and after are just pure hill climbs with no downhill whatsoever. So if you have anything in you to go faster, try that between mile 3 and 4, and rest for few mile, and get some better time during the flat surface which is from 4 to 10, and slow down on mile 10 to have more energy to climb the mile 11 through 13. My lack of training, or somethingto do with my salt content, my calves got cramped real bad, at mile 11 and I couldn’t even make another step on those hills. I pushed through mile 11 and 12 power walking(long strides, keeping legs straight), and hoping the cramps would go away. I almost thought I wouldn’t see the finish line, with the calves cramping bad, and making every step
miserable. It was some luck, and everyone’s prayers, I pulled through and saw the finish line! I finished the race with 1:52 hr, which is 4 minutes faster than my last Half. Honestly I would have been just as happy to see the finish line! For next year, I will do lot more hill training, and if i am ever in the area, I will try to run this mile 11/12/13 on my own sometime.


End of the race was nothing spectacular. There was no beer garden, however, the BIB included a free ‘Wahoo’s bowl’ if you want to re-carb!. But the finisher medal was super beautiful! I got to hang out with our friend Agatha, who cheered me along with my BF, at both mile 6 and 13. We waited a little bit to catch up with my friend Ashley, who runs so much faster than I can on a good day with a 31 week pregnant belly! She inspires me! My friend Michelle who runs marathons and half marathons all over the world ( was visiting from Atlanta that weekend, and came and ran the 5k. She stayed to cheer me at the end. We later met with Priscilla who beat me by 10seconds, for brunch at Baby Cakes!


I am so blessed to have my bf and the friends I have in my life! That is what I come back to, when I finish that last mile!

I came home, Iced my legs and when I felt better, I went back and signed up for the 2017 AFC half, since it was on sale for 69$. The 69$ price is good for another few weeks. AFC is one of the few races that allows transfers, so even if you are not sure you can register  now, and transfer to someone if you change your mind later. (

My next race is Long Beach Half Marathon. I want to run without cramps and injuries. That is my goal now!


Thanks for reading. ♥




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