Yes, I realize that this race was 4 weeks ago. I also ran the inaugural Nike DC half marathon since then and am really anxious to write that one up as it was so, so, SO much fun but my brain won’t let me do things out-of-order (I’m weird like that) so, without further ado… I FINALLY give you my version of the Santa Cruz half marathon!
Bright and early on Sunday, April 7th, I drove easily to Santa Cruz and parked in the lot across from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk just as easily. Grabbed my bib and waited in line for the porta potty. BFF Andrea warned that there weren’t enough porta potties at race start and I really should have listened to her and gotten there a tad bit earlier because the race began and I was barely able to escape the potty in time- thank goodness for timing chips!
And we were off… as this one was almost entirely coastal, there was just the right amount of breeze and I was so thankful for that as it didn’t take long for the sun to heat up- it was one mother of a hot day!
Slight hill (I mean “incline”) right off the starting line and then flat, flat, flat for the next 5 miles or so. If you know me or read my post Full of Half Excuses, then you know that the weekend prior, while running the trails, an off-leash dog came at me, I dodged while he lunged and I rolled my left ankle into a ditch and wow did it HURT. Too willful to downgrade to the 10K (I’m an idiot- I REALLY should have downgraded but there is no medal for the 10K so uh-uh, no way, just bring on the suffering!) by mile 3 of this race, my ankle had had it.
With 10 more “happy” miles to go, I just put my head down and trudged on, trying desperately to ignore that ankle. Unluckily for me and my ankle, around mile 5 the course changes from paved road to rocky trails. Not just trails but single-track trails, offering little room for passing or walking so I huffed and puffed and tried to run as best as I could given the circumstances.
I think every runner will admit that there is a certain etiquette that we all abide by when running and racing outside- be it road or trail. I can’t make any judgments (because you know I would if I could!) on how experienced the other runners were that day but the majority of them were completely unaware of trail racing etiquette. As you can see, it was a narrow trail so if you want to pass you gotta LOOK BEHIND YOU FIRST and if you want to walk you gotta GO INTO THE GRASS AREA. No etiquette from my fellow runners whatsoever, I kept getting cut off right and left and elbowed as no one around me seemed to understand HOW to run the trail or how useful the simple phrase, “On your left!” can be.
That was annoying but even more annoying was when some guy in front of me decided to walk, as I went to pass him on the left, he flung his arms backwards very forcefully and smacked me directly in the face! ARGH!!!! He said, “I’m sorry!” and my lip swelled… no big deal, it just kinda hurt my feelings- like I needed another injury!
The trail portion (miles 5-10) seemed to go on forever and ever and ever, probably due to the congestion of all those runners on the very narrow path. Once we emerged from the trails and hit the road again, I was thankful but noticed that my ankle was not- the trail portion was admittedly much softer and easier on my ankle.
I saw that a few runners had collapsed to the side of the road and were surrounded by EMTS and I actually felt envious- I wish I could sit down and get an oxygen mask too! But no… a medal will be much better…
By mile 10 I was done, done, DONE! Watched the 2:25 pace group go by and sighed… will I, can I break 2:30??? “Oh who cares…” I thought and immediately felt very disappointed, sad and sorry for myself. I tried to channel Coach Al and realized that he would have wagged his finger at me for even running this race on that ankle in the first place, “Don’t let ego overrule good judgment.” But I did. Again.
With a busted ankle, fat lip and heavy heart, I started taking videos of myself complaining and if I hadn’t used so much foul language, I would post a couple but I try to keep things somewhat G-rated here so I only have one that is suitable-for-all-audiences. If you want to see me at mile 12.5 complaining and upset yet still smiling (as always!), please feel free to view that video here.
Finally, I saw the finishing chute and anxiously looked for hubby, my kids and BFFs Josh and Andrea- I saw them and they saw me and that made me SO happy!
And then, for the final cruel joke of the day, the last 100 yards of this race finished on the sand. Yeah. My ankle was SO happy about that. I’m also sure every single finishers photo looks oh so graceful- going from road to sand in a dead sprint is just silly. Really. I knew the sand was gonna be there but had no idea how torturous it would be! Horrible!
Crossed the finish line in exactly 2:30 (which is a miracle for all the walking I did!!!!), grabbed my medal, a water bottle, and my race shirt then duck walked through the crowd to find my family.
Finally saw Josh and Andrea, hobbled over to them, fell into their arms, and started crying. “That was SO HARD!” I wailed, “Andrea, this race was a PR for you???? I don’t get it!!! WAHHHHH!!!!” The only thing that ended my tantrum was a mimosa and big hamburger.
After that, we took the kids to the boardwalk and rode the rides and played games all day. Given that I had just done a half and that my ankle was the way it was, I really wasn’t the best company and the long lines made me want to start crying all over again! The kids had so much fun though- I love seeing them so happy- and I wore my medal all day long!
Good race as long as you know what you’re getting into. Beautiful course and that combination of paved road and trails offer a great challenge (if you aren’t injured like some people). The price was reasonable (I think $65 at the early bird rate) and I really love that it is so close to the boardwalk (meaning, tons of food and fun for the kids)- I would definitely do this race again!
Have you ever done a race that had a combination of wide open paved roads AND narrow trails? How do you handle runners that have a lack of etiquette on a race course- yell at them or run past them? Does this sound like the kind of race you would do???