You are surfing posts written on February 2nd, 2009

2 Feb 2009
Categorized As: CarbKiller, race details, running

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog my half marathon began with me lining up behind what amounted to the “slow but determined runners and walkers” sign. It was neat seeing how many people there were. The best part was they were people in every shape, color, and age and EVERYONE was excited. I realized at that moment I’d never seen that before. Think about it. Any other sport has teams and people are dying for their team to win, or their favorite player. Running is all about doing YOUR personal best. Even if you’re at the head of the pack your goal is to complete the fastest run you can. That’s a powerful thing. Anyway, as you can tell the energy was infectious and calmed the circus butterflies performing in my gut.

Suffice it to say I had some serious doubts about my ability to complete the race. Now that I’ve done it I’m going to confess the truth to the blogiverse. Remember all the times I blogged about my lofty walking goals? The longest I ever walked in prep was 8 miles and I only did that once. Other then that I did a bunch of six mile walks mostly on treadmill and about a half dozen of them on concrete. A majority of my walks were between 3-5 miles.

And don’t think I wasn’t remembering all that with a sinking feeling as I stood waiting for the starter gun. Still, I remembered what HobbitGrrl said: most people never even consider a race much less enter one, so at least I had that on my side right? I figured I was going to lay it all out there. I had nothing to lose.

The start of the race was kind of anti-climactic. The starter gun was so far away it wasn’t even that loud. We all kind of walked together in one massive group until people got closer to the actual starting point and the space opened up. At that point it thinned out pretty fast. I crossed over the speedbump-like timing point and made sure I stepped on it with my shoe so my timing chip would activate with my start time. I have no idea if you HAVE to step on the bump I only did because the chick next to me did.

Just past the start point I started looking around for a walking buddy. A majority of the participants were clearly waiting for space to open up so they could run. I was looking for a slow and steady kind of buddy. I found her with Carol. Carol turned out to be a five-time half-marathoner which immediately garnered my respect. She also figured out in the first five seconds that I was the ultimate idiot newbie. She gave me great advice like pump your arms and try to point your fingers up. Apparently if you leave your arms hanging at your sides for the time it takes to walk a half marathon your fingers can swell up like sausages. My hands are already ginormous thanks to my peasant gene-pool I don’t need any addition water retention stuff.

I walked and talked with Carol for the first four three miles or so until we hit the only “hill” on the course. It was mercifully short and I didn’t think it was that bad to be honest. But it wasn’t a walk and talk hill so all conversations were halted as we continued to the top. One interesting thing was there were tons of jackets and long sleeve shirts ditched on the sidewalks of the hill. I couldn’t figure out why until we hit the top and asked Carol. That’s when she told me about the throw away jackets. Hmmm. Food for thought.

The rest of the route was pretty standard. Mostly flat one area which was a slight incline for about a mile.

It’s amazing what a difference a slope makes when you’re walking. If you had asked me about Huntington Beach before I walked it I would have said it was totally flat. I’d only ever driven it and it sure seems flat in your car! You’ll get new insight into your local areas believe me.

The other interesting thing was the porta potties. I thought there would be lines for the toilets. There weren’t. Of the 13.1 miles I’d say I saw lines maybe three times. Otherwise people were way too busy staying hydrated and sweating it off to bother take time out for the bathroom. I figured I’d stop a couple times on the walk from having drank so much. Not true at all. I could have gone from about midrace but I didn’t want to give up my momentum.

Carol and I were forced to part company at the 8 mile marker or so. She was slowing down and looked like she wanted to stop and I got the feeling she didn’t want company. I also didn’t want to stop because I was afraid at that point if I stopped I wouldn’t get started again.

You know how when you walk on a treadmill for awhile and you get off the treadmill it feels like you’re still on it for the first couple minutes? I didn’t want to lose that. Frankly, I couldn’t afford to.

Since Carol and I had been lagging together I just sped up a bit and kept going. I happened to cross paths with a nice older gentleman who was carrying a backpack. “You must have done this before if you’re willing to carry the extra weight” I said as I reached his side.

He grinned and told me he had. Apparently he’s a former marathoner and now a half-marathoner. He’s completed the LA Marathon 10 times and the Surf City half marathon was his 10th half marathon. HOLY COW!

He became my second walking buddy and we walked from about mile 8 all the way until the end of the race. If he hadn’t been walking with me there was no way I would have finished that race. For one thing I had to pee. For another thing around the 9 mile mark I could feel massive blisters forming on my feet. The final straw would have been they stopped serving water.

A race is just like you see on TV. At every mile marker there is usually a bunch of tables with volunteers handing out cups of water or sports drinks. For Surf City I was in the very last group (I estimate I was in the last 200 or so people) and by then the volunteers…mostly high school kids, had quit. There were big gallon containers of water. There were sleeves of cups. There were no cups of water. I was exceptionally lucky to be carrying a water bottle with me.

16oz CamelBak wide-mouth BPA free bottle
16oz CamelBak wide-mouth BPA free bottle

I don’t think it’s overly-dramatic to say this thing saved my butt. I carried it in my hands the entire race which should have been annoying but it turned out to not be a big deal. I just kept switching hands with it. It holds 16oz of liquid. I drank 8oz fight before the race and kept refilling it throughout the race. Typically at a water table you get MAYBE 1/4 cup of water. I would make it a point to grab two or three. I would drink one immediately. (It was more like a water shot then an actual drink). I would take the rest, unscrew the top and dump it in. I ended up with about 10oz of water going into the last 5 miles. I ran out of water before the final mile so I walked that without water. Otherwise it would have been excruciating.

I’m certain that as I begin to run (which I hope will happen at some point), I’ll ditch the bottle, but at that point I won’t need the bottle as badly as I did 4 hours into the half marathon.
I am sorry to say I have to estimate my final time based on my walking buddy’s time. The site hasn’t posted my time yet and I think there is a chip malfunction  I came in around 4 hours but to think I was praying I could get it done in under 6 hours and I wasn’t sure if I could make it at all!
Yes, the blisters are heinous but I’ve already signed up for the Long Beach Half Marathon in October. WOOT!
And let me just add. If I can do this, ANYONE can do this. Just find a relatively flat course and try to make sure you don’t have to deal with any extreme weather. Assuming you have a medical okay, of course. :)