Feels awesome to get that first race back from a long layoff out of the way, and even better that it was an all-around good experience. I really had no clue how this was going to go. I mean, I certainly had hopes and fears, but I tried to mentally be ready to accept any outcome.
After spending a pleasant day with friends, I got my food and prepared to burrow down for the evening. My thinking is that even if I can’t get any sleep, I can at least rest my body, so I try to be in bed early, like while it’s still daylight.
In the ten minutes I wasn’t relaxing in bed or stuffing my face, I got up and readied my gear. I don’t want to be scrambling around in the morning, just want to wake up and go.
Next thing I know, the alarm goes off, and it’s 3:30 a.m. I’d gotten a full-nights rest! This is always a good omen for me as the night before my first half marathon after a 13-year layoff, I got zero sleep. Zero. It was a brutal night. So the ability to get a good night’s sleep indicated to me that I was in a semi-relaxed state of mind, which is where I like to be.
I was on schedule and drove the hour to Huntington Beach. One of my favorite things about this race is the easy logistics, specifically the parking. I got there in plenty of time to score a spot in one of the beach lots, which is ideal because not only is it a beautiful walk along the beach straight to the start/finish line, most importantly, there are real bathrooms (with sinks!) all along the way. Since I got there over two hours before start time, I enjoyed the sunrise, took a nap, had a snack, and got my bib and racing chip together at a relaxed pace.
It seemed like I just stepped foot into my coral (2:00-2:05), and we were off. Boom. This was my third time doing Surf City, so I know the course well; however, I forgot how crowded it is. The first couple miles were definitely a bit of a clusterf*ck, but sometimes that’s good. If you can be patient and wait for things to clear up naturally without fighting it (i.e., weaving in and out and expending energy like a maniac), it can keep you at an appropriate warm-up pace and prevent you from going out too fast. The race unfolded well, and I was able to hold a steady 9:30 pace for the first few miles.
Right around the 6-7 mile mark, I can generally tell what kind of time I’ll end up with. I felt good holding the 9:30 pace, but I also didn’t feel like I had it in me to floor it and go much faster than that. I also didn’t think it would be bright to even try. Since my attitude going into this race was supposed to be one of curiosity and “let’s find out where my conditioning is,” I was hesitant to do anything that might cause injury or ruin me for the next week when I knew I would be ramping up my mileage again. I decided to hold a comfortably-uncomfortable pace, which seemed to be at 9:30. This was fairly “easy” to do even though, as I feared, it was a sunny day, and the last few miles are straight into the sun. This annoyance, however, is slightly mitigated by the view of the Pacific Ocean directly to the right. Another reason I love this race.
And that pace is almost exactly where I ended up. My finishing time was 2:04:45 with an average pace of 9:31. That’s a course PR for me, which means I bettered my time from four years ago. Pretty cool. Best of all, I felt strong throughout. I gave a steady consistent effort, and never felt miserable, or like I was going to cramp, puke, or cry. Victory! In fact, I was in good enough shape afterwards to jog a little bit back to my car. When I got there, I plopped in the sand and took in the gorgeous SoCal day.
If you’re in Southern California, this is a must-do race. It’s a fast course, the Pacific Ocean is with you for 1/3 of the way, and the race support is fantastic. Also, the medals are my absolute favorite.
So while I didn’t reach my A-goal, my B-goal was reached fairly comfortably. This is a real confidence booster as I now dig into the heart of base training. Great way to start the race year!
Surf City Half Marathon (2/1/15)
Age Group (45-49): 178/1114