The Surf City Half and Full Marathon is one of my favorite races. It is well organized, scenic, flat, and fun! It also helps that it is in my hometown so both times we’ve raced it, I get to see my family and friends.
Mike and I had both planned to run the full again this year, but if you are a regular reader you know that about a month ago I decided to switch to the half to save my full marathon effort for Eugene in April. Mike continued with his plan to run the full and I was excited for a big PR at the half. My PR going into this race was 1:51:53 at Long Beach in early October and I have seen significant improvements in my training since then.
Just like last year, the expo was efficient and awesome. The schwag was cool (reusable grocery bag and long sleeve tech shirt) and parking was easy and we were in and out in about twenty minutes. Just like last year before Surf City and Long Beach, we went to the ever trusty Macaroni Grill for dinner. Macaroni Grill has a “make your own pasta” menu item which means you can make a simple customized pasta for yourself. I couldn’t tell you if it’s vegan but that’s ok – the rosemary bread they serve is delicious.This time we ate not only with my mom but also my best friend from childhood Samantha, her husband and their adorable four month old son! As usual, I wrote my goal race time on the paper table cloth using the provided crayons.
We were finished with dinner with plenty of time to unwind and get in bed just after 9 p.m. with the alarm clock set for 4:45 a.m. Unfortunately that didn’t mean I was asleep at that time – I tossed and turned all night. Oh well, it’s not the sleep the night before the race that matters – so they say.
Unfortunately we didn’t time our morning out quite right and by the time we woke up, got dressed, ate our cereal breakfast, got in the car (after I thought I lost my phone and we searched for it for five minutes), grabbed our usual 7-11 coffee and got to the parking lot, we only had about 40 minutes to get Mike to the start line. Since we parked at the parking lot which requires a shuttle to get to the start (totally worth it because you avoid traffic), we had to wait for the shuttle and then wait patiently on the bus while it took us over to the start. By the time we got to the start line, Mike only had about 15 minutes to go until the start of the full marathon and he didn’t feel like he had time to use the rest room or really get a proper warm-up. He took off his sweats, kissed me goodbye and was on his way to the start to get into the correct corral.
I watched the start of the marathon from the sidelines and went into the expo tent to find a nice piece of ground to sit down and relax for a bit before the start. It was really weird being alone before a race. I hadn’t had this experience since the first half marathon I ever did and I didn’t like it! After about 15 minutes of social media overload which caused me to forget to eat my banana, I waited in line for the bathroom, stripped my gear and checked my bag and then headed to the boardwalk for a 1/2 mile warm-up run. I laughed at my concern about what to wear for this race since I had expected it to be cold. Instead, it was already pretty warm at 7 AM and I didn’t even need my throw away pull-over or gloves.
After the run I continued to stretch in the now extremely long line for the bathroom. I wasn’t sure I had to go but wanted to be safe. Unfortunately the line was so long that I had to leave it with about 7 minutes to go until the start so I could make sure I started with the rest of the 2nd corral. On my way there I realized I forgot to eat my banana and decided to eat half a Gu. It had already been nearly three hours since I ate my small bowl of cereal.
As soon as I got to my corral I saw the 1:45 pacer. The website hadn’t indicated there would be a 1:45 pacer. My first instinct was to introduce myself and get ready to bust a move with these folks for the next 13.1 miles. But then, I held back. I knew I was supposed to run slower than race pace for the first 1-2 miles and I’d heard horror stories about pacers going out too fast or slow, etc. So I decided to not announce myself and play it by ear whether or not I followed them.
My decision kind of got made for me when we started walking/jogging toward the start line. The 1:45 pacers got ahead of me and then as soon as they hit the timing mat, started weaving through the crowd at what seemed like a very fast pace. I decided to let them go and catch them later.
The first mile felt good. I was glad that I warmed up. I knew I wasn’t going super fast but the crowd was congested and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time dodging people so I kind of went with the flow. My Garmin ticked off at basically the same time that I passed the Mile 1 marker indicating a 8:16 min/mile. A little slower than I had planned for that first mile, but not too far off. It was already very sunny and I laughed to myself because it ALWAYS seems to be sunny on race day, even if it’s in the middle of winter or during “June Gloom.” The 2nd mile went as planned – 8:08. Now it was time to pick it up.
My ultimate goal going into this race was to finish with a Garmin pace in the 7s. I wanted that 7:59 average. So knowing that I had just put down two miles in the low 8s, I needed to run pretty much exclusively sub 8s from here on out. One or two low 8s would be ok, but it needed to be a 7:5X most of the time. I picked it up yet at mile 3 I was greeted with a lovely 8:01 mile time on my Garmin. Argh.
The next mile included the half marathon’s only hill. Although I picked up the pace for the first part of this mile and was consistently in the 7:45ish range, the hill got me and I ended up clocking a 8:19 for that mile. Doubts started to creep in. Could I do this? What was going on!? I kept telling myself, Don’t give up – this is what those hard workouts were for. You can do it. The next mile included the downhill portion of the mile 4 hill and I was happy when my watch beeped 7:46 for that mile. Ok, no damage done, we’re back to where we were at mile 3, I thought as I averaged those two miles in my head to be just over 8 min/miles. Time to pick it up!!
That was kind of the theme of this race. I kept saying in my head, Ok time to pick it up!! Miles 6 and 7 were BOTH 8:01s. That pace seemed to be taunting me. I would look down at my watch while running and see the 7s and then the watch would click off an average pace of 8:01. Clearly I was looking at my watch when I was running fast and not when I was running slow. Around mile 6, I started to count down to the 10k to go mark (mile 6.9) I knew that I had recently run 6.2 miles as a training run at a 7:50 average so I was hopeful I could run the last 6.2 miles just a little slower than that pace.
I was using my hand held water bottle for the first time ever in a race and loving it. The only problem was that by mile 6.5 I had definitely drank more than half of it and I was thirsty for more. I didn’t want to risk losing time by refilling (although it would have been good practice for the full marathon). Once I hit that 10k to go mark, I tried to pick it up a bit but found my energy was waning a bit. Mile 8 was 7:59 – faster but not fast enough. Right after the mile 8 market I saw my mom who came out to cheer me on which gave me a boost. Right after that, I decided to take a cup from the aid station and drink some and pour the rest on my head because it was getting hot. I was starting to be thirsty and tired. I’d already taken two Gus and two electrolyte tablets yet that last kick wasn’t there.
Miles 9 and 10 were 8:02 and 8:03 respectively. My hope of the sub 1:45 started to fade. I knew that I’d have to do some serious work on this last 5k to do it. I had to make up a full minute based on the actual mile markers (I was about .08 behind them according to my Garmin) and that meant that I’d have to run 7:40 min/miles for each of the remaining 3 miles. I decided to go for it and sped up quite a bit (Garmin shows top speed 7:16), but at some point in this mile was what seemed to be a significant hill. The hill isn’t even big, but to me at this point in the race, it destroyed me. I slowed down going up it, telling myself I’d make up the time. Mile 11 ticked off at 8:25. Uffffff.
At this point, I just hoped to finish with a time that of 1:45:XX . I took the last half of that first Gu I opened before the start. My energy was waning. I felt like I was running 7:30 min/miles and I would look down and see 8:20. Not good. Mile 12 was 8:19. Argh!!! Not able to do math at this point, I just put the pedal to the medal for that last 1 mile, pushing it as hard as I could, yet still getting passed by others who had more energy left than me. Mile 13 was 8:06. I grabbed water at two aid stations during these miles and drank some and poured some on my head.
I gave that final .1 (which for me was really .17 since the route you take during a race is always slightly longer than the course) all I had – 7:11 pace and crossed the finish line with a total time of 1:46:37.
I was disappointed, yes, but also proud that I achieved a 5 minute 16 second PR in less than 4 months. I was very happy that my average pace was faster than that I need to sustain to qualify for Boston (not by too much but at least it wasn’t slower!) and that I finished in the top 4.5% in my age group and top 8% of all finishers! And now I’m officially “local class” according to my 61.75% age/grade ranking! Watch out! Haha…
After the race I waited in the medical area with ice on my quads while I waited to for Mike to finish the full marathon. I didn’t really need the ice but I liked the idea of sitting on a chair with something cool on my legs. It was nearly 70 degrees by the time I finished and very sunny. A beautiful day!
I can’t say there are a lot of lessons I learned from this race other than I need to have a solid 12 weeks of training to qualify for Boston at Eugene – I think I executed fairly well and I’m not sure what I could have really improved on race wise. I finished with a negative split, albeit not as negative as I would have liked. The warm weather certainly had a slight impact but I can’t blame that. I can definitely say that my pace was dictated by my cardiovascular fitness, not by my leg strength. My legs weren’t very tired or sore but my breathing was labored. More tempos and track workouts will fix that!
After the race we met up with two more of my high school friends and their husbands for a deliciously decadent breakfast (Mike and I split the s’mores french toast and breakfast burrito) and then we headed home to watch the Super Bowl with Mike’s sister and her boyfriend from the comfort of our own couch. It was a great day!