Yet another race I sort of jumped into at the last minute. Since I had a few friends running this race (including Andrea running her first full marathon), my initial intentions were to drive down there and pace them in the latter miles while getting some running in myself. Then the opportunity to actually run in the race presented itself when my buddy Bill opted to do Alcatraz instead of the OC Half Marathon. With some last minute scrambling, I was able to get the bib that he would not be using anyway and get some running in (thanks again Bill).
With the PCT 50 looming a mere 6 days away now (gulp), I just wanted to get in a good workout without overtaxing my legs and body in a meaningless race that would not count anyway. Preliminary plan was to run 5K-ish of the start and end at half-marathon pace with some slower miles in between.
Got up at 3am on less than 4 hours of sleep and cursed under my breath as I discovered I was out of coffee on top of everything else. A quick run to 7-11, back home to go through race prep and then it was time to make the 40+ mile drive to Costa Mesa. Parked, hopped on shuttle and rendezvoused with Andrea at her hotel to get the bib she was kind enough to pick up for me the day before. For a gal who was about to run her first marathon, she was as cool as a cucumber the morning of.
A huge throng of runners raring to go.
Made my way to the start and got situated several rows back from the start. Shortly after the national anthem, the marathoners and half-marathoners were off. Took me a couple of minutes to cross the mat and then for about the first couple of miles, it was a lot of dodging and weaving. Felt surprisingly good though so I kept pushing the pace without too much effort. I hit the 5K mark and just could not get myself to slow down, so I told myself another mile at a faster pace before slowing down. I passed a few friends along the way and just relished running at a faster pace on the roads for a change (virtually zero speedwork in the past few weeks).
The 3:40/1:50 pace group I ran with for a bit.
I was running at about 1:37 pace (which would be a PR with a couple of minutes to spare) and felt like I could at least go to mile 10 feeling like this. Instead, I did the prudent thing. I caught up to the 3:40/1:50 pace group after about 4.5 miles of hard running and decided to slow things way down and run with them for awhile. We passed a Ecological Reserve stretch for a fairly long stretch on a wide bike path so I tried to get lost in the scenery for a bit. My legs kept wanting to go fast however and I constantly had to reel myself back.
Finally, after about 9.5 miles of running (5 with the pace group) I just allowed myself to take off again. Not soon after though, my nagging and recurring sciatic pain in my left hip/butt decided to show up which compromised my speed a bit. Still I kept pushing, picking several runners off along the way. At the 12 mile mark, the half-marathoners split from the full and smelling the finish, I picked it up even more. I was pleasantly surprised that my kick held and I crossed the line with big cheers and a smile on my face at 1:43:45 (unofficially, of course) - a little over 3 minutes slower than my PR time.
I hurried through the finish area and went on the hunt for my parked truck (which took awhile to find), pulled the stashed mountain bike out, got my bearings and starting pedaling, working my back from the full marathon course until I saw some familiar faces.
Running with Lori for a bit.
First person I recognized was Sam who looked strong and would go on to a 3:06 finish. Then I kept riding against the increasing wave of runners (very carefully of course) until I came upon my gal Lori. She was hurting and all business but agreed to let me run with her for awhile. So I rode ahead, locked up the bike and ran about a mile or so with her before wishing her luck and heading back. I mounted again, set out down the long stretch of road on the bike path, saw some more familiar faces before I finally found Andrea around mile 20ish.
Andrea and her beau Pete who took over pacing duties to the finish.
She was looking good and was still running strong so I joined her for a little while too. After a mile or two, I wished her luck and ran back to meet up with some friends at the finish (she ended up finishing in about 4:50 - awesome job again Andrea!).
I was absolutely starving by then as it was approaching noon so I arranged to meet up with Lori, Emil, Sam and Rachel over at the Omlette Parlor in Costa Mesa where I tore into a ribeye steak and eggs brunch while sharing some laughs with my dear running friends.
This baby was gone in about 10 minutes.
The race itself was a positive experience for the most part. There are several turns so you have to focus on running the tangents. And aside for a couple of minor hills, the race felt mostly flat. The day definitely warmed up towards the end and for the marathoners, had to deal with some angry cyclists on the bike path during miles 20+. Other than that, it was a well-organized race and an ideal one to shoot for a PR I would say.
As for me, going to rest my hip some more and hope it doesn't become a nagging problem come Saturday. Also experiencing a little runners knee in my left leg which I hope doesn't get any worse. Otherwise, feeling good about my effort today and think another (official) shot is in order either in June for San Diego or Long Beach in October.
Before any of that though, have to focus on surviving 50 miles next week. Thanks for reading folks.