Surf City Half Marathon

After setting my half marathon PR (1:40:03) last November, I immediately started looking for a late winter half with the goal of breaking 1:40. My friend Keith had run the full Surf City Marathon the year before, and it sounded like a great race. The course was relatively flat and I liked the thought of running near the ocean. I also really wanted the surfboard medal.

My high hopes collided with reality as I have been running slower lately. Nagging voices in my head told me that I was past my prime or I had some insidious medical condition, but the more likely culprits were the reduced training volume and recovery that followed my December marathon. As Michael Scott of The Office would say, “The timing was nothing short of predominant.” My runs have been improving recently, but I decided a realistic goal was 1:45.

Keith decided to run the full again and his friend Brian was signed up for the half, so in the spirit of friendship and frugality, we drove out together. We arrived at the expo Saturday morning. It was held in a large tent in a beachside parking lot. I had been wanting to try Skechers Go Run 2 shoes for a while and I ended up buying a pair. They matched my running outfit perfectly and I was tempted to wear them, but I did not want to break the cardinal rule of racing: “Thou shalt not try new things on race day.” I also sprung for some protein bars, a triathlon sticker for my car, and an entry to the Women’s Half Marathon in Scottsdale. I snacked on peanut butter and frozen strawberries and checked out some running apparel with amusing sayings like: “I Love Running…Just Not While I’m Doing It,” “It’s A Hill…Get Over It,” and “If You See Me Collapse, Pause My Garmin.”


Keith is an official member of the Marathon Maniacs, so we joined a group of them at Buca di Beppo for dinner. There were people who had done over 200 marathons, some who were trying to run one in every state, and others who had done back to back marathons on the same weekend. Brian and I sheepishly admitted to being halfers this weekend. The dining experience was interesting. Entrees were listed as serving 2 or 4 and family style dining was encouraged. I ordered a bowl of pasta marinara with one of the Maniacs, passed it down to share with the rest of the table, and there was still some left over.


On race morning, Keith got up around four, then rousted us at 4:30 (5:30 Arizona time, thank goodness). The marathon started earlier than the half, and getting there early would help us beat the traffic. I had an apple, some peanut butter, and a Cafe Latte Muscle Milk before we left. I donned an old race T-shirt and tube-sock arm warmers to stay warm before race time.

Port-o-Potties were plentiful and I was able to use them a couple of times without waiting. I started imagining an action movie where the hero is being chased, starts running with a group of marathoners, and then hides in the Port-o-Potties to elude his pursuers. Brian thought the hero should stuff the bad guys into the potties and somehow lock them inside. Yeah, it’s not quite ready for prime time.

The expo tent was open and we were able to hang out in there for a while. We even had a chance to take a picture on the plastic surfboard without waiting in line. Soon it was time for Keith to start the marathon. Brian and I had another hour to kill, so I ate my Z Bar and we did some people watching back at the expo tent. We saw a Where’s Waldo and his Waldette and a guy dressed like Superman. I had my Chocolate Cherry Clif Shot about 15 minutes before the start. It was warming up, so I ditched the shirt and “arm warmers” at bag check before heading to the corral.


Shortly after 7:47 my corral was off. We were serenaded with Beach Boys tunes and other surfer music for the first couple miles. The ocean was visible, but I couldn’t really look at it without severely craning my head to the left. Large gulls landed in front on some of the runners, and I wondered if they’d go Hitchcock on us, but they flew away. The first few miles felt pretty easy and I was running faster than the 8-minute miles I needed. I decided to keep running by feel and I allowed myself to consider that I might have a great run. Just before mile three, the course veered right and we ran through a semi-hilly residential area. The course turned back on itself and I saw Brian who had started in the coral ahead of me. I cheered, but he was in the zone. I caught up with some of the marathoners soon after. Then it was back on to the Pacific Coast Highway, where I saw Brian again. This time he cheered back.

Things were pretty uneventful until the turnaround. Water stations were plentiful, and I started thinking that I could have gotten by without my little hydration belt. They were handing out something called Vitalyte on the course, but I stuck with the water. I felt I was adequately fueled, plus I had some Sports Beans in my belt just in case.

After reaching the turn, we ran straight into the sun. The temperature was rising, and I felt it. My pace slowed. I ended up taking a drink from my own bottle around the 11th mile. I grumpily assumed that Brian was already done by now (he was, he ran a 1:18:42 for 3rd in his age group).

Even though I was nearing the end, I found myself losing focus. I watched some of the women who were ahead of me, thought about trying to catch them, but didn’t go for it. My watch was showing a really high heart rate, but I wasn’t sure I could trust it because these straps were known for being erratic. I had already replaced one. When I finally saw the finish line, I mustered up a little kick. I really didn’t have that much left. Maybe it was the heat, the lack of recent long runs, or maybe I just started out too fast. Anyhow, my official time was 1:44:30, so I was happy.

Volunteers handed me water, a Mylar blanket, my surfboard medal, and a bag of food. My legs were trashed and I was a sodden mess. I met up with Keith and Brian and we took a picture by the beach before our long drive home. When all was said and done, I had traveled around 1000 miles to run 13.1, and it was worth every one.

Race Data:

Overall: 977 out of 14787
Women: 251 out of 8857
F 35-39: 43 out of 1418
Age/Grade: 64.09% Place: 868
Finish: 1:44:30 Pace: 7:59
Tag Time: 1:44:30
Gun Time: 1:47:41
We SURF-ived!

We SURF-ived!

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