I ran the Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach on Sunday. It was a flat out and back with a loop of one hill. The total climb was about 700 feet which isn’t totally flat, but the last one I ran was almost double that so this was relatively the flattest half marathon I’ve run to date and I was feeling quite good to start, if a little weary thanks to the injury I mentioned in the last post.
I was definitely rested, as I hurt myself on weds 1/25, skipped Thursday the 26th, cross trained on Friday, took Saturday off as planned to rest for the 18 miler on the schedule for 1/29, but only got 7 miles (SLOW!) because the one day off wasn’t enough, then cross trained Monday and Tuesday, rested Wednesday and finally got some quality miles (3) in on Thursday. My foot hurt after the 3 but I wasn’t too concerned as it was a dull ache and not the stabbing pain that it had been on the Sunday run through Back Bay in upper Newport harbor (which was lovely).
I was running the Surf City Half with my gf and her sister. We crashed at her sister’s place around the corner from the start/finish to save ourselves the commute down from LA the morning of. It was good practice, as I’ll be lobbying to stay there again the night before the OC Marathon in May, but I fell victim to my away-game pre-race affliction which is: stress dreams and anxiety induced insomnia. I had wine with dinner which usually puts me down in a couple hours, and I was tired right on schedule, but as soon as my head hit the pillow I was assaulted with “you’ll never fall asleep and even if you do it won’t be enough sleep and if it is you will have overslept and missed the race,” thoughts which don’t make any sense because in effect, I’m losing sleep over a hundred dollars. That is all I have invested in the race. But you can’t apply logic to anxiety. I think I fell asleep around 3 and was awake again at 5 to shower and eat to leave by 6 to arrive on time to be comfortable and take my time and start on time, all of which I did.
It was the first race I started on time. I’d say it was perfect, but it was rushed. My stomach wasn’t ready to start. I blame my late coffee intake and the fact that I was rushed in the porta-potties and there was only toilet paper in 1/3 of them and I hate using them in general. I wanted to make a second stop but the lines were too long, so I decided to tough it out and use one on the course if I needed to, though that was a guaranteed PR killer so I was hesitant, but I had no other choice. I wanted to start on time and see what a race was like not having to spend the first 4 miles bobbing and weaving around walk-traffic.
I found out what it was like, and it was nice. I found the tallest guy on the course and stuck with him for a mile to see his pace. It was 9 mins on the nose. This made me happy as I only get updated every half mile by choice, but this guy was obsessively checking his watch, so I knew he’d be more consistent than I and took the pressure and stress of keeping pace off of me. I stuck with him until the first aid station when he slowed to a walk to take in fluids and I kept going. Without my rabbit I was on my own, only getting updates on the half mile and doing what felt right in between, which was difficult due to my recent rest.
Then my runkeeper app did what it does best, and added distance throwing off my split. And it did it again and again and again until I was 4 minutes ahead of my pace. This was impossible as I was clearly not running an 8:30 pace considering the hill climb from miles 3-5 and the stitch in my side from miles 4-7. I was worrying about being forced to stop, not digging deep and running a race. I was lost. Every time a new mile would click on my runkeeper, the mile marker would be farther and farther in front of me and that is when I could find them and tell them apart from the marathon mile markers which were probably a different color or something but I wasn’t really concentrating, so I couldn’t tell you.
At mile 9 I figured I was chasing down a PR and the gas pain in my gut would have to wait. I figured it was on the right, ascending side so it was more of a comfort issue than a danger of having a grown-up accident – one of the benefits of being broken is knowing where the parts go, and the left side is the danger zone, not the right – so I ran through it and rubbed it and dumped water on it, and it went away, mostly. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t run through the finish and directly to a shitbox, but that’s at the end of this story so wait, goddammit.
Also at mile 9 I started to feel the juice come out of my legs. I was so wrapped up in not having a stomach issue that I had abandoned my nutrition plan (clif bars / nature valley trail mix bars) and was only getting half a cup of water and half a cup of electrolyte solution at every other aid station. The air was cool at 66 degrees but the entire course was exposed to the coastal sun and though you could see Catalina and fancy a swim to it (so clear!), the heat was getting slightly uncomfortable. I started to chug at the aid stations, grabbing 4 half cups at each pass, and even got desperate and put down some gel square things because I figured they’d have more electrolytes and the cramping twinge was not going away.
I could feel my pace slipping as well. Indeed mile 9 was the slowest I would run in the race (tied with mile 11 at 9:06, but flat. Mile 11 was a tiny rolling hill nightmare so at least I had an excuse). I needed this PR. I refocused and picked a guy that was slowly passing me and decided to ride his coattails for a while. I made it about a mile before I walked through an aid station to get in fluids and lost him. I decided my kick would be the last 2 miles and not the last 4 as that didn’t work out well in my last race, and mile 11 ended on top of a hill, so I figured that’d be a good a place as any. I summited the hill and saw the pier near the start/finish (actually a gazebo, but whatever – it stuck out against the sand and sea), and dropped the hammer.
My feet hurt. Both of them. both of my prior injuries – the bizzaro foot pain from the sprints and the mystery metatarsal inflammation that’s been plaguing me since I bought the Vivobarefoot Neos – both raged into effect, but I was racing! I didn’t need to save anything. I didn’t need to run 13.2 miles; I needed 13.1 and a step for good measure so I pressed on. I passed the coasters and the bonkers and a few people who were just slowing down and finished like a champ. A fat, sweaty, gassy champ. I hustled through the chute, got my medal, my free fruit and snacks and drinks and high fives, thanked as many volunteers as I could, then hit up the porta-potty row and found one with toilet paper and the cycle was complete.
New PR: 1:55:22 pace: 8:48 (official)
I broke my old PR by about 7 minutes, finished 2518 out of 14099 overall, 1655 out of 5516 men and 224 out of 661 in my age group. I was totally stoked for the PR. The rest of the stats kind of don’t matter too much to me as I know I’ll never win a normal race, but it’s nice to see how I compare in a very general sense to every other endurance hobbyist on that day.
In regular greg boytos fashion, I then consumed about 2x the calories burned at chilis and a super bowl party and a subsequent half-drunk pizza purchase, but I’m only human. For now. (cue music)