Half-Marathon, Long Beach CA, 2018


It’s early in the morning.

It’s VERY early in the morning, but if I left my house at 4am in the morning I could make it to the Pike Parking Garage in Long Beach by 5:30am.  Sure, the Half-Marathon didn’t start until 7:30am, but the Full-Marathon started at 6am and I wanted to get to the parking structure BEFORE that to avoid the crazy traffic jams it would cause.  Besides, all the rest of the Half-Marathon runners would be arriving closer to 6am, and that’s when the traffic jams really get bad!  I don’t like dealing with extra stress on race day, so I usually plan to get to the event early and sleep in my car.  It’s just better for me that way.  So 4am it was.

Which meant I had to be UP by 3:15am!

My plan worked well.  I was up by 3:15am, out the door just after 4am, and safely parked in Long Beach by 5:15am!

Time for a short nap!

By 6:15am I was lacing up my running shoes (Nike Free RN Distance), eating the peanut-butter and honey sandwich I’d brought, and getting my gear on.  By 6:30am I was leaving the parking structure behind, venturing out toward the starting line and the days adventure!  By 6:31am I was venturing BACK INTO the parking structure and CLIMBING BACK UP 3 flights of stairs because I had left my sunglasses in the car.  By 6:38am I was ONCE AGAIN exiting the parking structure, but this time I wouldn’t be coming back until AFTER the race!

The weather was perfect!  It was a little damp but not cold.  The clouds kept the sun from beating directly down on us so the heat was kept to a minimum AND we didn’t have to fight the glare of the direct sunlight!  Perfect running weather!

After a quick stop at the port-a-potties and meeting up with some friends (TOTALLY separate events!), I made my way out onto the course and into the Starting Coral for Wave 1.

Last year the Race Organizers had assigned us a Starting Coral that was based on our estimated finish time.  THIS year, for whatever reasons, the Race Organizers had decided to let everyone running decide for themselves which Starting Coral they should be in.  The sign for Wave 1 stated that it was for anyone expecting to finish between 1:16:00 to 2:09:00!  Kind of a large range, but I figured I’d be somewhere just under 2:00:00, so I pushed my way into the mass of humanity already assembled in Wave 1.

I always find the start of a big race to be a mixture of nervous energy and excited anticipation.

This was no different.

It’s amazing to me just how many people show up to run 13.1 miles, VOLUNTARILY!  I used to think ‘those people’ were crazy. . .and maybe they are, but now I am one of them and I love it!

Maybe being crazy isn’t so bad?

After the National Anthem was sung (very beautifully I might add) and the start of the Half-Marathon was counted down, Wave 1 was released onto the streets of Long Beach just after 7:30am.  Crossing the start line I quickly found myself in a traffic jam of runners.  It was so packed there at the start that it was difficult to get any kind of stride going.  I had a goal of getting a PR (Personal Record) not only for the Long Beach course, but for Half-Marathons in general.  My previous record was a 9 minute-per-mile average, so I needed to break out of that pack quickly!  I was in the middle of the road so I had to work my way out to the edge, which took a little while, but once I was there I was able to start opening up and passing people until I could finally find a patch of road where I could settle into my 7 MINUTE MILE PACE?  HOLY COW I NEEDED TO SLOW DOWN!  I was severely over-running my goal of staying between 8 – 8:45 minutes-per-mile!  I have a tendency to start faster than I should, mostly due to excitement for race day but partly because I tend to feed off of the reflected energy of the other runners.  I know it sounds weird, but it’s a real thing and if you aren’t careful you will over-run what your body is ready for because you allow the crowd to dictate your speed.  The real discipline is being able to recognize when this is happening and forcing yourself to slow down to the pace you KNOW you need to be doing so that you maximize your efforts and reach the finish line as fast as your body can WITHOUT burning out early!

Now that I had settled into the pace I had built my strategy around, I could set my mental cruise control and enjoy the course.

Long Beach is the third and final stop on the Beach Cities Challenge circuit, and it’s my second favorite of the three.  This year was only my second time running this course but I can honestly say that I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year!  The course is fairly flat with the majority of elevation gain being a bridge you cross 2x within the first 3-6 miles.  However, it did feel like there was a fair amount of GRADUAL uphill between miles 7-10. . .or maybe that was just when my Inner-Voice started telling me how stupid I was for having volunteered to run 13.1 miles in the first place AND how utterly ridiculous it was for me to think I could complete it with a mile average under 9 minutes!  Without fail, I will be visited by my ‘Inner-Cheering-Squad’ at some point in any race.  Its sole purpose is to tell me all the reasons why I should NOT continue to push myself in that event. . .and that walking would SERIOUSLY be QUITE alright!  For a Half-Marathon it normally begins around mile 8 and reaches its maximum volume by mile 10.  This is the most crucial part of the race for me.  If I give in and start to walk I know my pace will be shot.  I know from experience that walking will NOT make me feel better.  It might bring momentary relief to my legs, but it will NOT change the fact that I still have miles to go until I can stop. . .and now I’m not only sore from running, but I’m also disappointed that I GAVE IN and WALKED!  But NOT THIS race. . .THIS race I was successful in being able to drown out that Inner-Voice and press on, KNOWING that if I ignored it long enough, the Inner-Voice would shut up and give up!  I was able to decide that my PR was more important than my comfort, and it was completely up to me whether I was going to get it or not.  I can actually physically track my battle with my Inner-Voice by looking at my mile splits:

  1. 8:13.0    Feeling pretty good.  My Goal is to average 8:45 for the race, but anything faster than 9:00 will be a PR.  Inner-Voice is not interested.
  2. 8:24.0
  3. 8:26.3
  4. 8:41.9    Slowed down a bit to try to lower my Heart Rate.  It’s been wavering between Upper Zone 4 and Lower Zone 5.  Inner-Voice wanders over to see what’s up.
  5. 8:43.0
  6. 8:40.8
  7. 8:48.3    Inner-Voice takes notice of the split time being over 8:45 and tells me that I’m starting to waver.
  8. 8:53.2    Inner-Voice decides that I’m nuts for thinking I could average 8:45.  Probably be lucky to average 9!
  9. 8:53.1    Inner-Voice points out that I’m struggling to eek out a meager 0.1 second speed increase!
  10. 9:23.4    Inner-Voice points out that I REALLY NEED to walk.  Points out that my goal is STUPID!  Who do I think I am, anyway?
  11. 9:15.3    I decide that I may not get 8:45, but a sub 9 minute average is mine if I really want it.
  12. 9:07.9    My feet are sore and I can feel the twinge of a cramp beginning in my left calf.  But I ignore it and push on.

If you are anything like me, you’ll find that the distance of the race doesn’t seem to matter as much as the control you learn over your Inner-Voice.

5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, OCR, doesn’t matter.  At SOME POINT during any of these events, if you are pushing yourself, you will find that the biggest challenge you will face is YOUR OWN SELF DOUBT.  You will try to convince yourself that you are NOT fast enough.  You are NOT in the shape you need to be.  You CANNOT keep the pace you want to.  You are in TOO MUCH pain.  You’ve done AS MUCH as you can and it’s NOT ENOUGH.  When this happens, please do yourself a favor and tell yourself to SHUT-UP!  The only time you aren’t fast enough is when you allow yourself to slow down.  The only time you cannot keep running is when you decide to walk.  The only reason you cannot reach that finish line is if you decide to quit.  It’s really up to you.  I chose to keep going and it paid off.  No, I didn’t get my 8:45 minute-per-mile average, but I did walk away with a PR of 1:56:31 and an average of 8:53 minutes-per-mile!  I’m VERY happy with that, PLUS it leaves room for another PR next time!

After meeting back up with my friends and swapping stories, we walked over to the Beach Cities Challenge booth to pick up our McShark medals!  The Medal for the Beach Cities Challenge changes each year, and when the 2018 version was announced I was disappointed because I thought it looked like a Happy Meal toy. . .but after earning it and having it in my hands, I must say that I LOVE this thing!  It’s VERY heavy and NOT cheap feeling at all. . .plus, it’s a SHARK with a mouth that OPENS UP!  It’s AWESOME and I LOVE IT!

All that was left was to drive home, relax, re-hydrate, and EAT EVERYTHING I COULD!

Oh yeah, it was also my Birthday!  I celebrated my 43rd Birthday by running 13.1 miles faster than I ever had before!

I may be OLDER, but I'm also FASTER!

For finishing the Long Beach Half-Marathon AND completing the 2018 Beach Cities Challenge I walked away with a Long Beach Half-Marathon Finishers Shirt, Long Beach Half-Marathon Finishers Medal, and 2018 Beach Cities Challenge Finishers Medal.

Half Marathon, 2018, Long Beach, Finishers Shirt, Front

Finisher Shirt, Front

Half Marathon, 2018, Long Beach, Finishers Shirt, Back

Finisher Shirt, Back

Half Marathon, 2018, Long Beach, Finishers Medal

Finisher Medal

Beach Cities Challenge, 2018, Finishers Medal, Closed

Beach Cities Challenge, 2018, Shark Medal (Closed)

Beach Cities Challenge, 2018, Finishers Medal, Open

Beach Cities Challenge, 2018, Shark Medal (Open)

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Half Marathon, 2018, Long Beach, Finishers Shirt, Front
Half Marathon, 2018, Long Beach, Finishers Shirt, Back
Half Marathon, 2018, Long Beach, Finishers Medal
Beach Cities Challenge, 2018, Finishers Medal, Closed
Beach Cities Challenge, 2018, Finishers Medal, Open
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