Surf City Half Marathon

February was always going to be a month where my training plan would go out the window. That is what happened but I won’t regret that either. 2 weeks of it was spent in California with Martha on holidays. It was an action packed holiday with some great stops along the way. The first stop was Huntington Beach where I was going to take on the Surf City Half Marathon. We arrived late to our hotel on the Friday before the race after a long day of travelling. It was my 1st experience of driving in LA and the journey from LAX to Huntington Beach was to take 50 minutes ended up closer to two and half hours. I guess that is Friday rush hour traffic for you. A trip to IHOP at 2am was needed before heading back to bed and to start our holiday proper.

Huntington Beach

We woke to the sun shining and felt the heat for the first time. We took a stroll along the pier before heading to the expo. Packet pick was easy and plenty to browse at with all the vendors there. I bought some Nuun but stayed away from everything else. It would have been easy to spend a fortune there. With still fighting jetlag we kept active for the day and caught the sunset before heading back to get my gear ready and try get a good nights sleep. The hotel was a short walk from the start line to that definitely helped with any nerves. It meant getting up having my breakfast, saying goodbye to Martha and stroll down. I found myself right at the front of Wave 2. Perfect position as there was 5 minute gap between Wave 1 and 2 so I wouldn’t be caught up with slower runner straight away. There was a great buzz around and you could sense the nerves as well. I think it doesn’t matter how many you do you will always have that sense of did you do enough or are you able for it.

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It was always hard to know how I was going to manage this race. Considering I was training in the cold leading up to this I knew I couldn’t go off as fast as I wanted because I needed to acclimatise and see how my body would react to the heat. With the race starting early it meant we wouldn’t get the worst of the heat. I knew Martha was going to be waiting for me at approximately the 1km mark so I kept to the right hand side as that was the side the hotel was on. I found my setting off at the front of the pack and straight towards a photographer in the middle of the road. I guess could have jumped him but decided I’d go around him instead.  I gave Martha a high five as I passed and it meant she could go back to the hotel and relax. The first 4km were relatively straight and flat. Over the next few kms there were a few ups and downs but nothing too challenging, especially since I’m used to running the hills around East Cork.

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Just after 9km we were back onto Pacific Coast Highway and it was a long straight to come. I found this the toughest part of the race. The heat was starting to get me and I had to slow my pace back ever so slightly. It was on this stretch were I got to see some of the lead half marathoners and they made it look easy. There were also plenty of full marathoners running down the other side of the road. I couldn’t even imagine how they were doing it in that heat. At every water stop I was grabbing three or four cups of water, two for drinking and two for pouring over me. It definitely helped distract me. I felt myself slowing down heading to the 13km mark which was the turnaround point and the straight road back to where we began.

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I knew I had to get my act together and get back to the pace I was hitting at the start. Easier said than done but a high 5 gel and some more water helped me concentrate. Now I knew what I had to do to get a new personal best. I also knew I couldn’t push the pace too much as it could mean burn out. After the turnaround point it was cool to see the sea of people running up the other side of the road. It was amazing the huge numbers that did this race and this was the first time I could truly see it. As I made my way back down PCH my pace was continuing to get better. I found myself feeling strong. I knew I had to take the opportunity and see how much time I could make up. Again passing out people doing the full marathon amazed me. They had to turn off and go closer to the beach to make up more of the distance. I don’t envy them.

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I felt the best supported part of the course was where we turned off the PCH on the way out. It was an area were runners were coming from all angles so was a perfect place for spectators to be. The cheers were a huge motivating factor as we faced into the last 4km. With about 3km to go I had another runner ask me how long was to go and we found ourselves doing the same pace. I think this helped both of us and distracted us from the heat and the distance. The only words we shared was the distance left as we ran side by side. With about 1.5km to go I knew I had to keep to the left as I knew Martha would be there again. And she sure was, plenty of cheers and delighted to see her. It was now time to give it all I had as the finish line was in sight. And my last 2km were my fastest and it helped me get a personal best. I was delighted to cross the line. I felt strong and knew it was a PB 1:36:57. A huge improvement on my previous best of 1:39:12. As soon as I crossed the line we were given our new, probably the best medal I have ever got.

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As I took it all in, getting finisher photos, picking up snacks and congratulating people on the way I replied to the texts I got while my twitter account automatically updated my progress. It was so nice to finish with blue skies and sun shining down. It was time to walk back to the hotel and get ready to pack to move on to our next destination – Vegas.

It was a great experience and delighted I gave it a go. Over the next few days I felt the results of those last few kms and every part of my body hurt. It was worth it and I’d have love to go back again sometime in the future. It was a great start to the holiday and a did what I came here to do.

 

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