Monday, February 07, 2011

RUNDown: Surf City Marathon (#7)

One word summary: clockwork.

Congrats to Chris K on his BQ!

Surf City (Huntington Beach)  is marathon #4 in my year of marathons that started at the San Francisco Marathon (7/25/10).  As you may recall,  my goal for this race was to  enjoy myself with a relaxed even effort at around 4:30-ish in order to finish easily and be ready for #5 (LA) in 6 weeks (with my brother in law). Of course sometimes the body may or may not agree with this idea...that's why marathons are so interesting ;)

on the boardwalk

Toni and I flew down on Saturday morning and checked into our hotel which was about .9m north on the PCH from the expo/start area. We decided to walk down the beach path since it was such a great sunny day. Toni commented "but you said previously you want to stay off your feet the day before a race?". My reply was that "yes, normally, but this isn't a peak(ed) race, so I'm not worrying about it".

modeling schwag jacket
The expo was outdoors in large white tents...we managed to find the entrance and I got my cool California Dreamin' jacket. It's a little premature to give out these jackets until you've actually finished the race 8)

The race shirt was a dark blue long sleeve with Surf City logos on front and back. Not bad. I bought a hat (us blue eyed fair skinned folks find them useful 8) 

We looked around the expo for another 2 or 3 minutes and then started walking back.

expo line, mile markers on right
After we got out of the expo we saw how HUGE the lines has become to get in..they were throttling entries at the door. 

You can already see from these shots how beautiful a day it was....probably a lot of folks escaping from Snowmageddon at this race.

Walking back, we strolled out on the long fishing Pier and watched the surfers for a while.

Had a nice Italian dinner at an early hour where I stuffed myself with breads, salads and vino though...on the wagon so we won't be draggin'..

The marathoners start early in this race, 6:30am, with my wave at 6:34. This is actually wonderful because the halfers don't start until 7:45am and they have more and slower waves.
I set my phone alarm for 5:40, which I figured was plenty of time and went to bed at 9pm. Luckily I'm one of those people that can sleep pretty easily and can go back to sleep if I'm woken up. 

And so I was woken 5:20am. I had noticed my cell phone glowing extra brightly to complain that it was almost out of juice so "please plug in your charger". GRRRR. I had the charger plugged in but the wall outlet in this crappy (but expensive) Best Western was completely shot and the charger prongs were not making contact.

Oh well. Up a bit early and got the phone charging properly (so Toni and I could find each other at the finish). Then I ran down my checklist of race morning prep (you can download it for yourself from my "interesting links" section.  A peek out the window showed foggy! Perfect! 

at the start
I walked down to the start and it was very low key since it was just the full marathoners...the halfers probably weren't out of bed yet ;)  I chomped down 3 or 4 cliff blocks I had with me and finally we were ready to start. 

The national anthem was sung by a women with a beautiful voice, but I could have sworn she say "gave proof through the fight, that our flag was still there". Hmm.

Anyway, off goes the first wave and the MC has to really get folks to stop at the next wave for a couple of minutes. One guy is actually waiting standing on the timing mat and so the MC tells me to get the heck out of here since the clock started for him. Um.

foggy, dark first mile
Off goes me in the 2nd wave. I decided earlier to do an even 10:00 pace to start to give me some teeny leeway for any stretching or power walking if I had any problems. 8 minutes later I go by our Hotel and wave to Toni up on the balcony of our hotel. 

We have plenty of room on the divided PCH its flat and cool..just great. Got in my groove for 10:00 pace and locked it in and set the the autopilot.

I noticed a young guy go by me with a 'scuffing' know, the kind of runner that is decelerating on every step by scraping their shoes (the toes, usually) on each stride. I get really bothered and I'm really tempted to say something but I keep my mouth shut. Lots of people are passing me but a bunch are going at a very similar pace, I setting in near one very small women with an ultra efficient and compact fast shuffle..THAT I like to see (and emulate).

After a time we approach about 3 miles and leave the PCH to head inland. Right at this turn is the first of several bands, the Goofy Foots,  playing California Surf Classics...(I think goofy footing is when you lead with the 'wrong foot' surfing, such that your body is facing away from the wave). 

I have to confess I really like this music. At 55 I was to young to really be listening to it (especially growing up in Massachusetts) but I like it a lot now.  I can recognize the sounds of "Pipeline" by the Chantays quite a ways off..

aid station with yellow shirts
We take the turn to the right and that shots catches one of the aid stations manned by the most enthusiastic volunteers you ever saw. They were all wearing yellow shirts which you can see ahead 

There were a LOT of aid stations (it seemed) in this race. I have learned my lesson with bloating from previous races and with the weather so cool I on take a small swig at each station. 

We head uphill but it's not too bad a hill and it comes very early in the race. Eventually we end up in the Central Park of Huntington Beach where there are a lake, lots of trees and green fields.

There are LOTS more of the screaming volunteers here, even between aid stations, telling us all manner of encouragement. I wonder what their voices are going to feel like the day after? The funniest was the little girl shouting "you can do it!, oh yah, yes you can, your gonna make it......feel the BURN!". LOL! Sometimes you'd see a pair of them that were too shy to really yell, or maybe they just hadn't go their juices flowing. But some other groups were going crazy trying to out do each other. 

Luckily, I'm guessing somebody had coached these kids to NOT say things like "Only 17 more miles to go!" 8) All the runners (I think) enjoyed all the pandemonium. So far it's been the best crowd supported race I've ever been in.

more park running
I'm still going my 10:00 varies a bit up and down. I have the Garmin set to give me 1/4  mile splits and I shoot for a few seconds under 2:30 to give me time for water stops and inaccuracies. There's something really nice about this pace though: The math at each mile marker is trivial. At 6 miles you should show 60 minutes, etc. Very handy as the math skills go slowly down the drain... (The Garmin of course shows 9:55 or so as my pace).

My legs feel pretty good....a tightness in my right hip/upper leg (as before during my last long run) but it doesn't seem to be developing.

mile 8 hill
I know that by mile 9 or so we should be back on the PCH, but before that we have this hill to climb at mile 8

It's a steep enough hill that I decide to walk it for 20-30 seconds...I'm proud of myself that I can abandon my type A "gotta run all the time" mentality...I figure it's good training for the upcoming trail 50k where I'll walk all the uphills.

 (I've also been walking while drinking my swig of water at the aid stations).

downhill and back to PCH
Over the top and then we bomb down the other side eventually getting back on the PCH (and we hear GoofyFoots again). 
on the pch and surfs up!

As you can see, it's still foggy. 

There's a great surf running you can see (and we could also hear) it in the background, eventually we see surfers showing up. Some of them blithely cross the road in wetsuits and carrying there boards orthogonal to the PCH. No three stooges moments, though.

Back on the PCH

We are headed back toward town and I've been playing cat and mouse with the 4:20 pacing group for quite a while but I let them pull away a bit to talk to an older runner, Jay, that's running his 2nd marathon.  I stop for a second to take a shot of the Boca Chica wetlands. 

I'm still going dead nuts on my 10:00 pace, (mas o menos).

Eventually I come up to the half marathon point and snap a shot of the mile marker ...there's some guy there doing something ...I was thinking he was peeing on it  or reading the fine print.

At this point I would describe my leg state as "a light toast"..i.e. just about what they should be. They aren't fresh but there's no weak points or problems. The split here almost exactly 131 minutes (i.e., 13.1 x 10!).

I've been concentrating on my form and noticing that all my core and bit of upper body work seems to have really helped. I have a strong arm swing and no soreness in my upper body at all. I work on my fast stride (cadence 85), keeping forefoot impact, slight lean forward at the ankles  and staying relaxed.

At mile 16 or so, we approach the turnaround were we head back out of town, but this time down on the beach path rather then along the PCH. This is a good setup: the faster halfers have come through our ranks, but we are turning off on our own spur before the gobs of the rest of them arrive.

I'm expecting to see Toni at this point and there she is! She takes a shot of me with her cell phone. If you look really really closely you can my left foot is actually not on the ground, yet.

You can also see I'm wearing the Zensa calf sleeves which seem to be a good thing..or at least not a bad thing.

I've folded my bib up so it's just the number showing.... I prefer maxmum airflow ;)

I give Toni and kiss and let her know that all is according to plan, I'll see her at the finish at about 11am if things continue well.
Tom Broach

Pretty soon now we enter the stage of the race where we find out who's going to have problems and who's not.

Along the way I met another master's runner, Tom Broach (#1822). He's 62 and done a bunch of marathons and finished this one in a very healthy 4:31 (19 out of 46 in his A.G.). Excellent! I hope to be doing that in 7 years too! I'm going just a bit faster than Tom's pace, so I say goodbye (after snarfing this photo) and resume my 10:00.

Eventually we get to the turnaround at mile 20.9, my pace is still on target...but my legs are more of a 'medium toast' right now. I'm holding the pace now...but I know how quickly the fatigue can build up in just a mile or two.

sun coming out
Finally, the sun starts to burn it's way through the fog. We've been running is perfect temperatures and the air remains cool but the sun is strong. At this point I'm dumping some water down the back of my shirt as well as taking a swig.

I'm following the women in blue you see in this pic, she's on almost exactly the same pace and is pulling me along (not that she knows that ;)

Still hanging on on the 10:00, sometimes I have faster 1/4 splits, sometimes slower, but at every mile marker I'm almost exactly on pace.

hilarious signs
Eventually we pass the former 16.5 mile point and head toward the finish up on the sidewalk and then eventually merging into the PCH. We have a single lane coned off on the right to keep the halfs away and I have no problems. Some of the spectators are leaking on the road here and there but hey, there's spectators.

As we run down the last 1/4 mile I'm feeling really good and with the crowds roaring I see and hear Toni call my name and head for the finish line. I run a 1/4 mile here in 9:17 and then I kick it up even more as I approach the finish. To my right I see a flash of red..another runner..and *instantly* I sprint. I run the last .12 miles at 7:20 and cross the mats, punch the garmin and turn to my right to greet the runner next to me and high five her ..we both kicked ass at the finish! 

[Note: I'm not silly about being 'chicked' or anything like that, I'm happy to be passed but NOT at the finish when I'm feeling that good.]

Got my surfboard medal and my cal. dreamin' medal....lots of prepackaged munchies at the finish and bananas/apples. Can't compare with the smoothes at the SFM though.

the spoils!
The Michelob beer area had a huge line, so I bagged it..dont' really like that beer much anyway. Instead, after showering Toni and I headed over to 25 degrees for a huge burger, fries and Guiness! Yum.

All in all a fun time and great race and real confidence builder that a marathon every 6.5 weeks at age 55 is not a crazy thing to do ;)

All photos here.

Did you ever see such perfect splits?
Runner DetailsRace Results
Hometown:Palo Alto, CA
Overall:1184out of2435
Men:805 out of 1466
M 55-59:41 out of 110
Tag Time:4:21:58
Gun Time:4:25:12
Split Times
3 Mi:29:52 Pace:9:58
6 Mi:59:19 Pace:9:54
12.2 Mi:2:01:42 Pace:9:59
20.9 Mi:3:28:31 Pace:9:59

The garmin track:


  1. Great report. Looks nice and warm there. Also, love the swag that comes with the marathons. I'll be getting some nice swag in 2 weeks at Austin.

  2. Great report. Looked pretty foggy.

    Great time too!

  3. YAY!! The race report is FINALLY up! :)

    I loved all you details and how coold that you consistently knocked out an even pace (Chris K did that, too...and some other friends, must be the perfect race for it!). I love love love the surfboard medal, coolest thing ever.

    I wish they were doing the Calif Dreaming Series again this year, I'd have signed up for the SC half (did you know I did SF Marathon last year also? LOVED that race) ... I think it's so neat you did it!

    Nice job Paul, very VERY happy for you! Now rest up and get ready for LA!!!! Yay!

  4. @2slow: enjoy Austin! Great town.

    @andrew: Yup foggy is good!

    @jill: Thanks! It's really great when things go as planned eh? Feels great.

    They are going to do a new Cal Dreamin award of some kind..soon to be announced. (I hope).

  5. Well done on your run - when I grow up I wanna run as well as you ;-)
    Great race report - love the photos.
    Great medal too - love it when there's something different.

  6. Glad to know that you have a great time at the Surf City. Great pictures. I think the jacket
    design been changed. Mine got no logo at the back. Good luck at your coming race.

  7. Well done!!

    This is such an interesting read for a 'newbie'.

    Hope to finally meet you in Copenhagen

  8. Paul, in regards to your question about my miles being within 30 seconds of MP: Your right, most articles state to get in slower runs about 1.5 minutes below MP. And I have always done it that way up until these last couple months. The thing is I seemed to plateau doing it that way, and with my first marathon PR in 3 years under my belt I wanted to keep the momentum going, so I kept the mileage from the last plan and just tried to run it faster. (I rest on Sundays) I ended up getting into a pattern where everyday I would listen to my body and run what it felt like. The only downside so far has been my right knee complaining if I try to run fast intervals. I consider my marathon pace to be 8:00 miles, perhaps I sold myself short and my MP is really 7:30.

    I think I read that the elites do most of their runs within 10 or 15 seconds off their MP. I could be mistaken. I also think that by running 6 days/week year round, my conditioning might be able to handle faster paces than what is recommended in all these generic one size fits all training plans on the internet. Don't know if I stated everything the way I wanted to, but that how things have worked out for me this time around.


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