I know, I know, I’ve been slacking off with the blog lately, haven’t really been able to bring myself to write in light of a recent, significant death in the family… sorta kinda lost my mojo there for a bit and while things still aren’t totally back to “normal”, I’m putting all my focus and effort today towards writing this recap for the Surf City Half Marathon I ran/walked this past Sunday… here we go…
Thanks to the good people at Project Sport, I was given an entry to this race and since we have family in Southern California I thought it would be a good opportunity to go down to So Cal, visit family, then run the race- and that it was! We drove down Friday and then I left my family behind Saturday afternoon to proceed from Los Angeles to Huntington Beach for the expo and subsequent race on Sunday.
Bright and early Sunday, I boarded the shuttle from my hotel to the race start. Once I arrived and started chatting with my fellow runners (of course), I realized that my bib was seemingly Elite and gave me access to whatever wave I wanted to enter- my bib was #175 whereas the half marathoners started at #4600. I looked around for the pacers, figuring I would go with a wave that was a 2:45-3:00 group (since my training had basically come to a halt in the past few weeks given my emotional injury), finally settled into wave 11 and waited for my start.
The race started and I felt fantastic! With the ocean to my left and a nice, wide open stretch of road in front of me, I settled in, pumped my tunes, and ran happily on down the road… as a Bay Area native, I am very used to our easy-going weather and even though I lived in So Cal while I attended USC for college, I totally took for-granted how hot this area of California can be, even in the winter! As I got ready that morning I noticed I had unfortunately forgotten to pack sunscreen! Oh no!!! With the sun beating down behind me, temperature rising, and melanoma impending, I just gave myself over to the miles and the weather, telling myself: “Whatever happens today, happens. Right now, you have zero control over the course, the weather, or your lack of training and sunscreen. Just be patient and you WILL cross that finish line.”
Got to mile 3 with ease, the course totally flat until this point, and as we traversed through a very pretty residential area and the only true hill of the entire race, I started to feel my toes fall asleep. Recalling that I had tied my laces as tight as possible while waiting in my starting corral, I figured they were a tad TOO tight so I tried my best to ignore the irksome pins and needles in my feet and just got on up and over that hill.
Up, over, then around a corner and by mile 5 I just couldn’t take it anymore- sat right down on the sidewalk, took off my shoes and rubbed life back into my stupid feet. I left my watch at home this race as I just wanted to take it super easy and run-by-feel so I’m not entirely sure how long I sat there massaging my toes, maybe 5 minutes or so, but once the feeling came back I put my shoes on, kept the laces lose, and headed back onto the course.
Running along, right before mile 7, I spied an older woman off the course, sitting on the ground, with her arm outstretched asking for help. Whenever this happens along a race course, no matter how I am running or how I am feeling- and I have seen some pretty horrible injuries and falls at races- I will ALWAYS stop to help. It’s the kharmically correct thing to do, you know?! I was really surprised at how many people just ran right by this woman, but I stopped, grabbed her arm and pulled her to standing, asking, “Are you okay?” She said that she just had a really nasty blister and stopped to nurse it but then just couldn’t find the strength to stand back up! I agreed with her about the nagging blisters, shared my solutions (vaseline and Experia Thorlos), she thanked me for my help, and on I ran…
But then I had to stop again shortly thereafter, right at mile 7, to get a photo of one of the coolest race views I have ever seen- the ascent and descent of 20,000 Surf City runners. Kodak moment if ever there was one:
After completing this descent, you hit the famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and make a right, following the highway for a good stretch with the fresh sea air breezing through scenic wetlands (since the race, I learned that that stretch is part of a 300 acre ecological sanctuary for wildlife and migratory birds! Neat!). Sorry to say I didn’t snap a photo as I was starting to feel issues in my feet again and walking a lot, trying to figure out if I should just run past the pain or tone it down or what… my internal battle went a little something like this:
Sane Me: “Just walk, it’s fine, if it hurts, don’t push it. You’ve got more races coming up, don’t worry about it so much. Be patient with yourself.”
Insane Me: “Oh that’s easy for you to say since you’ve been lazing around these past few weeks grieving and feeling sorry for yourself! RUN DAMNIT RUN!!!”
Sane Me: “Now you know exactly what Coach Al would say- don’t let ego overrule good judgement- so knock it off, look at the pretty birds, and enjoy these last few miles no matter if you’re running or walking or what.”
Insane Me: “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR FEET?! RUN RUN RUN!!!”
Sane Me: “I would rather be slow, un-injured, and still crossing finish lines than “fast”, injured, and unable to run at all.”
Insane Me: “For once, I agree.”
Insane Me trumped, the course made a U-turn at mile 8 and headed back down the highway, a straight shot to the finish line. Mile 8 was a bevy of distraction with tons of spectators, funny motivational signs, cheering, and…
And then I was done, done, done. Heading toward mile 9 with the sun beating down and my feet feeling less than ideal, I just tried to focus and run but then would walk if I felt like it or if my feet hurt too much… being patient, while still moving and letting go of any expectations I had at the start of the day. (After the race, I realized the reason behind my feet issues: new shoes. This was only the second run I had done in my new pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire’s and this new iteration in the 11s has the toe box a bit stiffer than the 10s. For that reason, these suckers need a lot more breaking in, I think, to be half marathon ready.)
Got to mile 10 and attempted to run for a song, then walk for a song, and on and on thinking, “Last 5K, you got this in whatever way you need to get this, you’re almost there!” Started walking more even though my feet were not at all feeling better, checking out the marathoners who were on their 23rd-ish mile of the race, taking inspiration from them and cheering them on now and then… the halfers stayed up on the PCH while the fullers looped a portion of the actual Huntington Beach running path below.
One final yay-I’m-running-by-the-ocean selfie and I harnessed every last ounce of willpower and determination I could muster to get across that finish line in 2:56 and when I did, I was completely and totally stoked! Yet another 13.1 accomplished upon a gorgeous backdrop, great race course with beautiful So Cal weather and yet another lesson learned- not every race is The Race, know your training, be patient with yourself, and if things aren’t going the way you hoped, allow your expectations to fall away just as the miles do… I had a really great time at Surf City and am very proud of myself for getting it done despite the emotional and physical hurdles I’ve had to endure as of late.
Running brings me peace and comfort no matter the distance, no matter what time is on the clock at the end- I’m never giving up and as I told my insane self that day, “I would rather be uninjured yet slow and still crossing finish lines rather than injured and not running at all.” And that’s The Truth.