Race Report: Santa Cruz Half Marathon

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First race of the spring season! Which means the last race of the year that isn’t deathly hot before it’s time again for fall season…

Me vs. the Half Marathon

Round 1: April 2016, San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1:58:56
Round 2: October 2016, OktobeRun, 1:52:05

What was new heading into Round 3:

  1. Training volume + consistency.
    1. Round 1: 19 miles/week @ 8 weeks, also occurred 8 weeks (to the day) after I started running (yes, started running, like, ever)
    2. Round 2: 21 miles/week @ 3 weeks, or 10 miles/week @ 11 weeks
    3. Round 3: 20 miles/week @ 16 weeks, even including a month period that I took off/easy for a right foot injury.
  2. Weight.
    1. Round 1&2: probably somewhere around 195
    2. Round 3: somewhere around 175, makes a world of difference

Race Week

Race day = Sunday. Ran some tempo repeats Tuesday. Awful. Ran the usual short loop Wednesday. Pretty bad. Ran a medium-long run Thursday. Also not great. Cycled the 40 mile roundtrip to pick up packets on Friday. Difficult. No running Friday/Saturday. All going… uh… according to plan.

  • A goal: Sub-1:40. Probably unreasonable. That’s a sub-7:38 pace, and that’s faster than my admittedly weak 10K PR.
  • B goal: Sub-1:50. Probably reasonable.
  • C goal: PR. Probably also reasonable.

Race Day

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Things I forgot:

  1. That it gets sunny later in the daytime. Obviously if you leave at 6am the sun hasn’t come up yet so you can’t just not bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses?
  2. To pin my number on my shorts before I put my shorts on, resulting in some… narrow escapes.
  3. “No new things on race day.” Perfect. Let’s drink some beet juice (that you’ve never tried before and have no idea the taste or side-effects of) because you read an article that drinking beet juice is good for endurance exercise. This is important later.

Consumed pre-race:

  1. About 5 sips of the aforementioned beet juice. 4/10, results inconclusive.
  2. About 3 sips of water to wash out the taste of the aforementioned beet juice. 10/10.
  3. A Safeway sesame seed bagel. 8/10.
  4. One of those newfangled Snickers extra-crunchy bars. Remember when you were younger and your parents said it was too early for chocolate? 6:43am was too early for chocolate. I must be getting old. 6/10.
  5. A Honey Stinger gel of unknown flavour but known caffeine quantity. 32mg. For some reason energy gels taste like the heaven-sent nectar of life when eaten during races and like overly-sweet rubber cement when eaten not during races. Go figure. 3/10.

The Race

Pre-race a nice lady in the bathroom line told me that she had run the half course before and it was nearly flat with super small rolling hills. Excellent. The race didn’t publish an elevation map so I had tried to brute force it using Google Maps’ bicycle routing, but you never know.

Also after having done all previous races using Garmin’s mile-by-mile auto splits, I thought I’d be smart and manually split my race when the mile markers showed up. Well… the mile markers were… irregular, and mental math is not my forte, so that went interestingly.

Miles 1-2 (1.99 miles, 7:50, 8:04)

Okay okay don’t go out too fast stay conservative don’t get swept up in the crowd of adrenaline and anxious people check your pace quickly OH GOODNESS 6:50 OKAY NO slow down stop okay you should probably look up so you don’t run into someone WHAT ON EARTH I WAS TOLD THERE WOULD BE NO HILLS (spoiler: like a quarter mile into the race there was a short but 7-10% grade hill) I give up this is nonsense why do I even do this sport

Miles 2-4 (2.03 miles, 8:13, 8:24)

Slowed down to what I thought was a more reasonable pace. Lots of loops and turns on this part of the course, tried to run the tangents. Apparently did a worse job than the part of the race where you’re dodging people left and right.

Got passed by a lot of people, which was fine, because I was going slower. Got passed by a dude running in chino shorts and Vans though, which was not fine, because what the heck.

Miles 5-6 (1.90 miles, 7:43, 7:54)

The race suddenly became a trail run? All of a sudden the nicely paved roads of seaside Santa Cruz gave way to the soft muddy flats and irregular footing of a cross-country course. A guy I shadowed for about half a mile kindly called out the… err… “presents” that some horses had nicely left for us along the trail.

Started following a guy in a dark grey tech shirt, with black shorts over black tights. His pacing was as good as his shorts-over-tights were egregious. We’ll call him SOTG (Shorts Over Tights Guy).

Miles 7-8 (2.21 miles, 7:39, 7:51)

This highlight of the course. Legs finally warmed up? Scenic run along the cliffs of Santa Cruz with the sounds of waves crashing below? SOTG doing a mechanically consistent job of pacing? Nice.

Mile 9 (0.97 miles, 7:44)

What. A mile marker on an odd number? Sacrilege. Also this is the part where we left the beautiful cliffs and started heading back into town so everything seemed like sacrilege.

Complain to SOTG about the hills, SOTG reveals that he just moved to the area from San Diego and that these hills aren’t even big enough to qualify as speedbumps and that I’m a wimpy Midwesterner whose staircases are taller than his yearly net elevation gain. Okay maybe took a creative liberty or two but in any case SOTG becomes SOTGSD (Shorts Over Tights Guy from San Diego).

Mile 10 (1.05 miles, 7:35)

SOTGSD is very consistent, yes. But very consistently fast. This is about the point in the race where it begins to grow annoying (like it’s his fault or something…).

Miles 11-finish (2.45 miles, 7:39, 7:43, 7:34*)

SOTGSD mentions casually how he tends to hit the wall in half marathons around mile 11. Laugh just as casually (okay more like stagger out a hacking noise that approximates a laugh) because he’s been motoring on pretty consistently for the better part of 5 miles.

Then he suddenly drops back, tears in his eyes, telling me to go on and finish the race strong like a scene from an overblown war romance drama (okay fine but everything feels dramatic around this point). I finally get his name, so SOTGSD becomes Trevor (Trevor).

Seeing as the only reason I maintained pace for most of the race was because Trevor was dragging me forward kicking and screaming I was kinda confused for a bit, so between the confusion and growing fatigue kinda just threw on the autopilot and don’t remember much.

I do remember however that around mile 12 I re-passed the dude in chino shorts and Vans, which pretty much made the whole race worth it.

Post-race

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 4.05.32 PM.pngWatch time: 1:38:57
Official time: 1:38:50

The course was short? I think that was the general consensus. Thought my Garmin was just buggy, because it’s been moody lately, but a lot of others’ Strava activities show a similar course length (12.4 – 12.6 miles). So that’s kind of a shame, but I’m more than pleased with my race regardless of the fact that I wouldn’t have broken 1:40 in a full length.

Picked up a medal (surprisingly nice, I usually don’t care much for the medals), a high-five from Trevor (the real MVP), a water bottle (which had no label on it?), and a free t-shirt (that I didn’t know was a thing).

Felt pretty good post-race, other than the near heart attack I got when my pee came out some ??? colour and I forgot that I had read beet juice does that.

Consumed post-race:

  1. Small fries from McDonalds. Salty. 7/10.
  2. Niku ramen. Advertised as “for meat lovers.” Nice. 8/10.
  3. 6x Gyoza. Nice. 7/10.
  4. 2x bacon&cheese breads from 85C bakery. I don’t know why I ate these because I wasn’t hungry, but… Nice. 6/10.

Next up… running on an airport runway???

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