I signed up for the OC Half wayyyy back in October at the Long Beach Half expo because the deal was so good. About two weeks before the race, my friend Michelle asked if I wanted to snag her pacing spot for the 2:40s since she’d been sick and not focused on running. Long story short, boom, I was in! And got my registration back, which never hurts. Thanks A Snails Pace!
Doug, Jumah and Long had also signed up for this, as their sort of make-up for New Year’s Race for being under-trained and because those hills… well, just sucked. So while OC is significantly flatter, they were ready for go-round #2 to see what they were up for.
OC is a point-to-point course and we didn’t really feel like getting down there an hour+ early just to ride the shuttle from one end to the other. Luckily, Doug’s sister was doing the 5K which is at the half/full finish line, so she dropped us off at the start and still had plenty of time to make it up to the finish line at the OC Fairgrounds. She dropped us off about 5:15, and told us later that she got to the fairgrounds so early, they were still setting up tents and volunteers.
I settled in the very back of Corral 3, and started to panic when I didn’t see the other 2:40 pacer. 2:30s were ahead of me, 2:45s behind me… was I going to be by myself?! I was having a minor panic attack, especially as some of the ladies gathered around me asked my race strategy, what our pace would be overall, and other plans of attack for the 13.1 duration. Thankfully, at a 12:12 average pace, there was a lot of wiggle-room for a race strategy, but I didn’t want to burn these women out. Thankfully, at (almost literally) the last minute, my pacing partner showed up – whew!
Linda and I had about 5 women who truly started with us – and declared they wanted to finish at our time. It wasn’t until the finish that we learned how many folks were really hovering around, before, or after our pacing signs and using us as a general estimate. Sandra, at 47, was running her first half marathon and all three of her kids were waiting at the finish. Sonia was running her second ever and just wanted to PR (off 2:53). So many great stories, and certainly one of the things that I love most about pacing!
The race starts in Newport Beach, runs through Corona del Mar (miles 2.5-4ish), and into Costa Mesa and the Orange County Fairgrounds:
I knew bits and pieces of the course, but there were plenty of new neighborhoods, sights and scenery to take in, especially along the back bay (8-10 especially). Even as a Southern California resident, it’s a pleasant surprise when a course can still surprise you with some scenery!
Somewhere around mile 4, we realized we had nearly a 3-minute cushion and needed to mellow out a bit or surely we’d burn out some of our runners. We backed off quite a bit, but I will admit that maintain a 12-minute mile was quite tricky, even if I was feeling tired from the 8 miles I did on Saturday with the run club. Backing off quite a bit, we evened into a solid pace and kept trucking with minimal walk breaks through water stops to allow everyone to catch a breather and ensure they had enough in them to keep going. Two or three ladies were feeling so good they surged on ahead and in the end finished nearly 3 minutes ahead of us!
But still had time for fun, naturally, because what fun is a race without having fun to boot?
No different to Surf City or Long Beach, OC is a very PR-able course. Though some more significant inclines than the other two, I think it certainly makes up for itself along the way. There's a steady incline into mile 7, but the 'killer' hill is at mile 11, just late enough for your legs to hate you significantly. Most of our group hung on to this point, though 2 drifted back a bit.
Sandra had spent a bit of the race telling us that she wanted to hang with us until mile 10 and then she'd "see how things felt." I assured her that if she could hang until mile 10, she could hang until mile 13. Sure enough, she was still with us through the hill, through mile 12, and at 12.5 she decided she felt so good, she was going to take off and finish it from there (2:37 for her!).
Linda and I had such a cushion in the last .25 mile, we'd stop and cheer people on for 10-20 seconds, then jog a little more, stop and cheer, and so on... and we still finished like this:
I tell ya what, it's harder to run that slow than you'd think - I didn't feel any less tired, but certainly much more hungry than after any other half I've done (it's science). I got to reunite with almost our whole original group for a few photos - Sonia had dropped off in mile 11, but still finished at 2:43 for a 10-minute PR! We killed it, everybody - way to go!
Better yet... Doug, Jumah and Long all had pretty stellar PRs: Doug ran 2:18 (20 minute PR), Jumah ran 2:10 (like an hour PR), and Long 2:01 (22 minute PR) and were feeling pretty outstanding. An amazing morning for everybody!
Not only was this my first time running OC (and it might be one of my new favorites), I also got to complete the Beach Cities Challenge for the first time, which was certainly an added bonus! Bling, bling and more bling.
I've got lots of thoughts coming around on each of the BCC races, but OC is definitely high up on my must-do list for Southern California half marathons!
Did/have you run OC? How about the Beach Cities Challenge?