6 weeks later, I am FINALLY completing this blog post! Excuse me for my blogging laziness, but I still remember this race like it was yesterday, (and this post has also been sitting in my drafts). That being said…
I loved Surf City Marathon!! It was a fast course, well-organized, and I got a personal record! I even had my driver’s license returned to me in the mail after I lost it somewhere along the course! The Surf City staff was very responsive on Facebook to all questions and concerns.. My only complaint? The 3:50 pacer slept in (or quit. I don’t know what happened to him.) Luckily, Nicole and I used the combined power of our Garmin and Timex watches to break our 3:50 goal without following a man with a stick. Here’s how it went down.
Saturday afternoon my race buddies and I drove to Huntington Beach to go to the expo and get situated for the race. The expo was well organized and buzzing with pre-race energy. I quickly picked up my bib, race shirt, and bought some last minute GU. (You can never have too much GU! Peanut butter is my new fave! Sometimes I have it for breakfast!) The expo was small compared to the Rock n Roll marathon expo I attended in June, so it was easy to collect my things and go.
We went to Macaroni Grill for a good carboloading and coloring session. (For those of you that have never been there, they have white paper tablecloths and crayons for your doodling pleasure.) Restaurant Tip: One part of their menu is fully customizable. You select your noodle, sauce, veggies, and protein. I felt like this was a safe choice, and I didn’t have any stomach problems that night. It took a little over an hour to get seated, but I was told the wait was an hour and a half at Olive Garden, so I guess it could have been worse! We should have known better. 20,000 hungry runners invaded Huntington Beach that night! Only 2,000 of them were full marathoners like me, but there were 18,000 half marathoners. This is a big perk of being a full marathoner at this race. Smaller number of participants means a less crowded course AND you get to start 1 hour before the half marathoners!
Race morning began at with a 4:15am wake-up call. We had no trouble getting to the free parking lots and shuttles, so we were at the race start 1 hour early. I was very nervous and went to the bathroom 3 times. Luckily the bathroom lines weren’t bad at all. I didn’t even have to use the port-a-potties because there were plenty of public beach restrooms available. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you understand how important this is! I just wish I didn’t have nervous stomach problems before the race, but I’m glad I got it out of my system because the nervous jitters went away once I started running. (That’s why I think it was just nerves and not my dinner from the night before. This happens to me often.)
The first wave of marathoners (sub 3:50 pace) took off two minutes before my wave, so Nicole and I got to start at the front of the second group. We looked for our pacer, but he wasn’t there! I’m convinced that there was supposed to be a 3:50 pacer, but we only saw times faster and slower than our goal. Not part of the plan! We had a backup plan though, so that was OK. I was still SO nervous waiting for the signal. My stomach was upset; I already felt like I had to pee again; my heart was racing (definitely not at my resting heart rate)! I felt good once we started running, even though the feeling of having to pee never went away…I was determined not to stop and use the bathroom because every second counts in a race. So, I learned that I can hold my bladder while running for 3:49:30. (No, I’m not one of those gross hardcore runners that can pee on themselves.)
Nicole and I worked together to stay around a 8:45 min/mile pace for all 26.2 miles. I kept my watch on the current pace per mile, and Nicole kept hers on the overall average pace. This strategy worked for us, and our pace was very consistent for all 26.2 miles. Most of the course was very flat which made it easy to pace. The first few miles were on the 101 which is a straight shot. Then we veered right into a neighborhood and then into a nice park which had welcoming patches of shade and windy pathways. This kept it interesting, and there were a lot of local middle schoolers on the course to cheer us on. The one short, but steep, hill fell around mile 8 and it was over with very quickly. About mile 10 we were on the 101 again where most of the supporters were located and I got to see Jeremy, my love, who wasn’t doing this race with us due to an injury.
The out and back on the 101 was my least favorite part. No shade. Minimal crowds. But it’s early enough when you can definitely power through it, and it’s flat and fast, so I can’t complain too much. There were also plenty of port-a-potties with no lines on this stretch, but I told my bladder it would have to wait. Again, every second counts!
The final section of the course is out and back on the boardwalk. This is where it got a little crowded since apparently you can’t close that off to pedestrians, but it didn’t faze me. I was in the zone. Miles 18-26.2 were tough, but Nicole and I were still on pace as much as we could be, and we were dusting people! We passed countless men and women who had hit “the wall”. It felt good to know that we still had some juice left in the tank, but it was getting much harder and I made a comment along the lines of “This is getting hard.” That’s when Nicole told me “We only have 1 hour left in the pain cave! We can do it!” I later told her that wasn’t a helpful comment. The look on my face when she told me that probably looked something like this…
…Some time later, mile 25 appeared and I started to run with every ounce of energy I had left in me. I picked up the pace all the way until I hit the finish line. There was no stopping me. I started yelling “on your left!” as I passed people who were in my way. I think I even elbowed a couple of people on accident. I feared that I wasn’t going to break 3:50 (even though my Timex assured me I was on track). Needless to say, this was a much stronger finish for me vs. my first marathon in June. At mile 25 of that race, I wanted to walk SO badly. At mile 25 of Surf City, I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me, and it was totally worth it because I reached my goal of a sub 3:50 marathon by 30 seconds!! (Nicole was only 5 seconds behind me!) Imagine what my time would have been if I had stopped to pee or decided to walk at any point. Every second counts!! Next year I want to run this course again to qualify for Boston! That means my next goal is a sub 3:35 marathon….That sounds fast.