Thursday, November 19, 2015

Race Recap: Surfers Point Half Marathon

November 15, 2015 | Ventura, CA

Surfers Point is another small, local race put on by Elite Sports California. I got to run my first ESC race at the West Hills Half last January, and I’d heard good things about Surfers Point, so I was excited when I was given the opportunity to pace and check it out finally. After running Ventura in September, but seeing that this course goes in the opposite direction, I was more excited to see some of the Ventura coastline you don’t get at Ventura.

After Saturday’s Lace Up 10K, Tina and I headed home for pizza, showers, and to get her to the airport. I was in the middle of doing laundry and getting things together when I realized that the expo for Surfers Point ended at 2. It was already 1:30 at this point, so I figured that since I was now really in no rush to get out to Ventura (just under 2 hours away), that I’d stick around for Doug and grab dinner with him after the football game was over.

I made it to Ventura about 8 pm and had grabbed a cheap hotel room with Patty, who I’d paced with at Revel two weeks ago. I rely on naps – I won’t lie – and after being up and going since 4:45 am with no nap, I passed out probably before 8:30. Patty asked me in the morning if the trains had bothered me, to which I replied, “What trains?” I was out cold.

We got spoiled with some beautiful weather – I had one light jacket on but shorts, compression socks, and my Beast Pacing shirt otherwise and it was beautiful. There was rain forecasted to roll in about 11 am, but you wouldn’t have been able to know given how clear it was. Spoiled – thank you, Southern California!
Small races are great because they allow for an easy morning-of packet pick up. There’s no gear check advertised so Patty and I were a little uncertain about that, but more on that in a bit. We were meeting with the pace team at 6:30, so we left our hotel at 6:15 for the quick walk around the corner, to get our bibs and shirts, and get situated before meeting with the team. My check in went something like this:

Megan: stands at the table for 5+ minutes waiting for someone
Staff: I need some folks to help check in!
Girl: jumps over
Staff: Okay, so you’ll start by asking for their last name and then finding them on the list, highlight… carries off, kind of walks away
Megan: I’m Megan _____, bib 713, right there.
Girl: Okay, so then…
Megan: I need my bib.

The bibs were sorted numerically with cardboard dividers labeling each section (700-720, for example).

Girl: grabs cardboard divider
Megan: No, I need the one that says 713
Girl: OH! Laughs awkwardly. And then what?
Megan: I need my chip.
Girl: Reaches into box and grabs any ol’ chip.
Megan: No, I need the chip that reads 713 too.
Girl: Oh!

Hands me chip, then stands there as if she expects me to walk away.
Megan: Can I get my shirt and bag, too?

So that was a hard process. I couldn’t tell if this girl was just a volunteer or part of the race staff, but it seemed really difficult to just get my bib and find out more about gear check (it existed, just not open yet).  We met up with the pace team, got our mandatory pre-race photos and get situated. The marathon started at 7 am, the half at 7:15, and the 5K/10Ks at 7:30. We saw the marathoners off (all 140 of them), got our stuff in gear check, one last porto stop and made our way into the starting chute with the 350 half marathoners. 

So I was scheduled to be the 2:30 pacer but earlier in the week someone dropped, so Vanessa asked if I'd be able to handle the 2:00 group. Mind you, the fastest I've ever paced was 2:10 and that was just last weekend at Revel. But yes, I know I can run a sub-2 on a pancake flat course and maybe this was the mental push I needed to prove that I can do it somewhere besides Fontana. Sold. 

We spent a little while in the chute, as they released "waves" 2 minutes apart - totally unnecessary in my opinion, as the race was tiny and didn't need such far-apart releases. I had a few folks who said they wanted to make sure they stayed ahead of me, or somewhere near me, but only one man, Charles, who started with me. He had run Santa Clarita the weekend before, but wanted to stick as close to me as he could. He dropped off at the second or third water stop. Sad.

So yes, I quite literally almost ran this entire race by myself. I had folks in, around and near but no one actually running with me for 11 miles! Sad times. I met a fun couple from Kansas City at mile 7 or so, and a lady who very loudly said "Oh, shit!" when I passed her because her goal was to make sure to stay ahead of me. A girl caught up to me at mile 11 and was stoked because she had started 2 minutes behind me and had CAUGHT UP TO ME. Girl was killin' it and just wanted to hang tight with me til the finish - at mile 12, I told her to turn on the gears. She gave a big smile and kicked it up a notch! I wish I had caught her name to see her final finish, but she rocked. 

The Course
Save for a few dents and dips in the road, this course is nearly flat as flat gets. There's one good incline just after the turnaround, probably mile 7 or so (turnaround about 5.2), but is gradual enough that it really cannot affect you at all! 

My Garmin indicated lowest elevation was 7 feet, highest was 78 feet. Pancakes. 

Miles 1-5: The race starts at Promenade Park, near the Ventura Pier, and heads north along the bike and walking trail along the beach and the coast. The race is early enough that there were not many folks out yet, so not too much road traffic to dodge, which was nice. The coruse heads up along a side road that parallels Highway 1, so you get to see the water literally for 13.1 miles. 

Miles 6-10: The turnaround for the half (marathon is two loops of the same course) is at 5.2ish, so it's just double-backing the way we just came. No sweat. This is the one "big" incline (re: where those 70 feet in elevation change come from), but also along the point where you're so close to the water, you get misted if the waves crash hard enough. That was pretty delightful. I know I picked it up along here but it was such a beautiful day and I couldn't believe I was so spoiled with two oceanfront courses in the same weekend

Miles 11-13.1: Somewhere around mile 10, you pass the start/finish line and head down towards the pier, much like where Ventura starts and finishes. Luckily I knew this area from September and knew it was flat, asphalt, and easy peasy to hang on to. Girl who was trying to crush her sub-2 goal caught up to me about 11 and hung tight until I told her to get moving at mile 12 and she did! I hit mile 13 at 1:58 something, so I stopped and walked the last .1 in as slow as I could muster.

That's ridiculously tiny, sorry! My final time was 1:59:02, though my Garmin read 1:59:39 at my finish, so I'm not sure where I came in short - a little too fast for the pace target (1:59:30 should have been the fastest), but I'm stoked that I was able to pull off this sub-2!

Pretty consistent, and you can tell where I certainly picked it up some! The best part for me, aside from helping a few folks make their goal at the end, is that this 1:59 didn't feel hard. It felt quite comfortable, which means I'm making some really good progress with my training and that maybe there's a PR in sight for me at Surf City (did I just say that aloud?).

Best post race food? I tell ya what, it's not Saturday's salad and mushroom empanadas. It's THESE!

Heck yes, street tacos. I devoured these suckers at the finish line while waiting for the next pacer to come in so I could pass off our pace signs and hit the road back to Rancho to get on the road to Phoenix! More on that tomorrow. :)

What's the BEST post-race food you've gotten? This seems to be a theme this week...

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