The thing I hate about registering for races early is that when I finally realize that I have that race coming up, I’m always surprised and feel unprepared. I think I registered for the Long Beach Half Marathon in June at another race expo. I did occasionally received emails about the race, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. But when the day finally came, I was still pretty excited to run this course, since it’s another beach city, so hopefully I’d have an advantage there? I was able to run once while in New York the week before and managed one more run the Friday before this half and biked to work once or twice. So if anything, I was well rested for this race. The time is now becoming my average half time and probably won’t get any faster unless I dedicate more time to build (any) quality miles. Results: 13.22 mi, 1:36:55 (7:20 min/mile). Placing: 33/564 AG, 289/10715 Overall. It was relatively flat course which is a welcome considering most of my previous races had at least one hill present. And unlike most of the SD races I’ve ran, the majority of the course took place along the beach, which was a nice distraction from the pain from all that running!
The course for the Long Beach Half wasn’t too bad, although there were quite a few turns at random streets, so trying to memorize the course was definitely out of the question. But it was basically a big loop: run along the beach boardwalk and halfway through, make a U-turn and run along another main street that runs parallel with the boardwalk. The boardwalk views were nice, you could easily glance to the right for views of the ocean (supposedly, 80% of the course is on or within view of the ocean). Technically, there’s one hill but it was about a 45 feet elevation, which is a speed bump compared to other hills I’ve ran. And the weather cooperated, some sun but running along the ocean definitely helped.
One of the things I do to prepare for a race is look at this random postcard I got from a race expo goodie bag. I think it’s an ad for a race, but on the back of it, it has this table of goal finish times for various race distances and what your average pace should be to hit it. It gives me an easy way to determine a goal pace to aim for while running, although in most cases I’m way off. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit anything under 1:35 considering my training (or lack thereof). I felt a 7:20ish pace wouldn’t be too hard to hit and if it really was too easy, I’d had more gas at the end to pick it up (which I sort of did, but it only made up for a slower mile before that..) You can see the pace chart below, it’s pretty consistent if you ask me, I was very surprised about that. I think because there were no hills, it kept me from being thrown off pace. But what definitely helped was not starting off too fast, which I have the Clif Pace team to thank for that.
The race website said that runners finishing in my time should be in wave 2, but when I got into the corral to look for my pacer, there were much slower finish times around. So I actually moved up to the 1st wave, which wasn’t that big of a deal, just meant I would start the race 5 minutes earlier than expected. So the race started and I didn’t have much room to maneuver as usual, but the course eventually opened up and the pacer wasn’t too far away. So I ran with him and the crowd around him for a couple of miles. I remember in another race, there was a group of runners and I was wondering why they were all so clustered. But as I got closer, I realized they were trying to run with the pacer, which makes sense if you’re trying to hit a goal time and pace. The problem that I have with running with other runners is that they almost never utilize the downhill. I’ve always been told to lean forward just let gravity help with the effort. Because you’re not exerting as much energy as you would on flat and definitely not uphill, it won’t make that much of a difference. So in the few situations where there were downhills, I would end up getting a few meters ahead of the pacer. The first few times I would gradually slow down and get caught up, but around mile 5 or 6, I decided to just keep going on my own.
Because I was trying to hit a specific pace, I was constantly looking at my watch, which varied from sub-7, to 7:30-7:40. Whenever I was off, I would do my best to pick it up just a little or ease up if needed. I also used other runners around me to either help keep my pace or hang onto their pace; that definitely worked to pass some of the miles. I also think that’s a good sign for me since if I’m too tired in a race, I will not care about people passing me or even think about trying to run with someone or catching up to another runner. So by running with the pacer for the first few miles, I was able to have a more comfortable rest of the race and even be strategic in reaching my race goals.
There’s this interactive page that is available that shows random facts, like how you finished compared to everyone else in the race and the % of runners that finished before you. But the coolest numbers they have is the actual # of people that you passed and passed you in the second half of the race. It said that over the second half of the race, I passed 66 runners while only 8 runners passed me. And that’s a # that really shows the benefit of not starting off too fast, which I know is one of my (many) weaknesses. I’m assuming they have a sensor at the half way point and compare it with the order everyone finished at the end. But yeah, I’m almost positive that if I had started off at my usually pace (sub to low-7 min) for the first few miles, this number would not be the same. Now my overall finish time may be very similar, but because I felt so much more comfortable throughout most of the race, it just made racing that much more fun.
Now I’m not technically registered for my next race (Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half) yet, but as part of the Brooks ID team, I should be able to get an entry into this race since they are one of the major sponsors for the Rock ‘n’ Roll races. I don’t know how much running I will get done from now ‘til then (in 2 weeks), so if anything I’ll try and run that race like I did today and should still be in good shape.