October 9, 2011

Long Beach Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon. Up until just a few days ago, I was not sure I would even be participating. Because I've been injured with plantar fasciitis, I have not been able to train properly. I have not had a proper long run (10 miles or longer) in a few months. And recently, I have given up most running to speed up healing, except for the two triathlons I completed in the past few weeks and some short runs around the neighborhood with our dog. I am used to getting a long run every weekend and doing an additional 3 miles twice during the week. But I've been wanting to rest my feet, so I've been doing more swimming, biking and doing the elliptical at the gym instead. Regardless, I was unsure if I would do the race; at the last minute, I decided I would try. If worse came to worse and I was in a lot of pain, I could always walk it. Or, I could always walk to the next aid station and drop out. As it turns out, I finished the race strong and pain-free (at least, pain-free in my feet!)

By the way, this race was extremely well organized. When I got to the race area, everything was clearly marked with signs and high-flying labeled balloons, directing people to the volunteer booth, first aid, gear check, port-a-potties, start line, etc. The event was huge---not only was there a marathon and half marathon, but there was also a 5k and a 26.2 mile bike tour. Needless to say, there was a lot going on, but the scene was not at all chaotic. After the race, each runner (for the full AND half) was handed not only their medal but a mylar blanket and a plastic bag containing a banana, cookie, cereal, etc. My only "complaint"was that there was not a lot of on-course entertainment and there were huge stretches without spectators, both of which can add energy to flagging runners. There was some entertainment, though, and I loved running through the sections where there were a lot of people cheering.

I was not able to go up the day before to attend the expo, as it was Yom Kippur, a holy Jewish holiday. I got special permission from the race director to pick up my race packet on the race day. Ordinarily, I would have been up there the day before for the expo and gotten a hotel, but this meant that I needed to drive up early race morning. I set my alarm for 3:15 (I cringe just typing that!) and was out the door by 3:45. I finally pulled into my pre-paid reserved spot at 5:30. I went to the volunteer tent, where I got my t-shirt, goodie bag, timing chip and bib. As I am morally opposed to wearing the race shirt the day of the race (I think you need to earn it, although there are always TONS of runners wearing the race shirt during the actual race) I opted to check my gear at the gear-check, something I've never done before. I hit the port-a-potty, and got ready to head to the start line.

Before the race started, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Mihael, a friend I've known on Twitter for quite some time but had never met in person (this was my week for meeting new friends; last week I got to have coffee with another Twitter friend, Vee, who was in town for business). He is really nice and we connected immediately. It was nice to hang out before the race. The race was self-seeded, and even though I was not expecting to run my ultimate goal time (I am still seeking that elusive sub-2:30 half marathon) I seeded myself in Wave 4, for the runners expecting to run sub-2:30.

Soon we were off! I quickly lost Mihael in the crowd and concentrated on running my race. The first two miles I went out way too quickly---my ultimate goal is to maintain an 11:28 mile pace throughout the race (including walk breaks) and the first two miles I ran in about 10:15-10:30 each. I hadn't really run in a long time, and felt fresh and full of excitement and adrenaline. In retrospect, I probably should have slowed down and saved that energy for the end. The first few miles we ran by the harbor area, where the Queen Mary is. That was pretty neat to see. Then we ran through Shoreline Village, a cute tourist-y areas with lots of people cheering us on. I have never really been to Long Beach before and am excited to come back to this area with my family one day, now that I know what it is!

Around mile 5 I ran into some trouble. The day before the race, I had bought a new pouch to put on my water belt. I wanted to bring both my phone AND my camera to the race and can't fit both in my water belt, so I bought the pouch for my camera. I also put my GU in there. Anyhow, at around mile 5 I took a GU. A few minutes later I looked down and noticed that the pouch was open---and empty! I had forgotten to velcro it shut after I took the GU out; the pouch was so new to me that I hadn't even thought about it. My camera was gone! I freaked out....I needed to find it! I knew I had just taken a picture with it a few tenths of a mile back, so it couldn't be far, but there were hundreds of runners! I was hoping I would find it, and that it wouldn't be smashed from a runner's foot. As I backtracked, I ran into Mihael, but waved him on. Runners called out to me "You're going the wrong way!" Miraculously, a few minutes later I saw a runner pick up the camera and start running! I ran over to him and told him it was mine...and got it back! The only bummer was that the battery pack had opened and the battery fell out. The memory chip was still in there, but no battery. I spent about 15 seconds more looking for the battery, but decided it wasn't worth the time to look, as the battery would be easily replaceable. I set off again.

By this point, I knew that any hope I had of breaking 2:30 was gone, as I had spent several minutes on the camera debacle. In a way, this took the pressure off of me. I decided to just relax and enjoy-- to appreciate running, and to soak in the feeling of participating in one of my beloved races.

About miles 6-10 were all along the ocean on the bike bath. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was getting hot at this point, and I began dumping water on my head and down my tank top at every water stop. It was also at this point that I realized I had lost a water bottle (my Nathan 4 water belt holds four 8-oz bottles); instead of four bottles, I had three. I have no idea where or how it came off (I hadn't even used that bottle yet, so it wasn't like I was putting it back in the holder and missed) but, just like the camera incident, apparently things can fall off my belt. This I didn't care about---I can easily buy another bottle---but was somewhat sad that I would be missing that 8 ounces of Gatorade. As I said, it was getting HOT.

At about mile 10 I was struggling. I hadn't run that far in quite some time, due to my injury, and my body was rebelling. Coincidentally, one of my favorite pump-me-up songs happened to come on my iPod at this point, "Till I Collapse" by Eminem. The best part of the song is the beginning rap, which I played over and over at this point in the race just to get me through:

'Cause sometimes you feel tired,
feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

Whenever I hear those lyrics during a run, it pushes me. I'm glad that song came on right when I needed it. Better yet, at about mile 11 I ran into Mihael again! We ran/walked the rest of the way together. Sadly for him, he got to witness one of my meltdowns at mile 13. I often cry at mile 13....a mixture of physical pain, exhaustion, joy at almost finishing, frustration of being so close yet not seeing the finish line yet, pride in my accomplishment, etc. It's always a raw moment for me. My Garmin showed 13.1 miles....13.2....13.3....finally, at 13.4 (remember, I had extra mileage, as I had to backtrack a bit to find my camera) I crossed the finish line. I finished in about 2:43....not my fastest half marathon, but not my slowest either. Considering my lack of long runs, my injury, and the fact that I lost a few minutes looking for my camera, I'm very pleased.

Because I completed this race, I now want to do the next two in this series: Surf City in February and OC in May. Completing all three of these races in succession will complete the Beach City Challenge and earn me a cool medal!


  1. I too ran the half yesterday. As I read you great description off all your feelings and emotions on mile 13, I was happy to see that I am not the only one to break down when I see that Big 13. I have such a hard time communicating what I feel when I see that I'm almost there. Even though I'm exhausted all I can think is, when the next one is? I'm fairly new at running, started this year training for half marathons and the long beach will make it my 3rd so far.

  2. You may not have set a course record, but you set a record for number of items lost! Great performance considering the injury you've dealt with. Great write-up. What's next?

  3. I hate that about your camera and your water bottle! I'm impressed that you were still able to run a 2:43 half with that distraction. Hopefully there's a sub 2:30 around the corner!

  4. omg lol At "you're going the wrong way!" hahaha, sorry to laugh, but it is pretty funny! :)
    Yeah, never try new gear or food before a race I guess is a good rule!
    I use a Nathan brand belt that lies flat on my stomach, it has a zipper, it's a great belt, I recommend it to everyone! I wore mine during the marathon.
    Congrats on the spontaneous half marathon! That's great you're in that good of shape to do it on a whim!


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