Monday, February 7, 2011

Now that is a PR!

2 years ago I traveled to the Surf City marathon with my oldest son for his first ever marathon. He was 16 and he wanted to follow in my footsteps and run a marathon while he was still in high school.

Christopher Anderson at mile 16.
After a winter of great training he cruised to a 3:16 marathon and came in 73rd place out of almost 2 thousand finishers. He could of went a lot faster but he just wanted to finish and have fun and he did. It was great seeing him run and look so good doing it.
Mile 16
I like the above photo because Christopher looks so relaxed at 16 years old running with some pretty tough looking runners. They look gassed and he looks like he is just cruising along. Watching him run his first marathon was such a blast and to see him do so well was an added bonus.

After a great debut Surf City, I did not expect to go back to this event and have such a great moment but I did. The 2011 version was just as great as the 2009 one and I had a front row seat to the action this time.

Like 2009, I had coached the athlete that was running the event and like Christopher, Diana is very coach able. Both put in the required long runs, threshold runs and the speed work. Plus they both benefited from plenty of hill work and they both ran the Calico 30k before they ran Surf City.

So going into this race, I knew Diana was ready to run a good time and then I decided to go run the race with her. I knew she could crush her PR of 5:39 and just needed a push or two to have a breakthrough performance. I figured I was in 5 hour shape and would be able to pace her to a good time so I asked to make the trip with her.

So on Saturday afternoon my road buddy picked me up in her Mustang for our ride to Huntington Beach. Now Diana and I are definitely road buddies. We have been to Yosemite, Calico and several other out of town races together and plan to go to the Grand Canyon and Mt. Whitney this summer too. On our other adventures, it was mainly about completing the task at hand but at Surf City it was about running a good time too.
Sunset on the Grapevine.

So after we got to the hotel it was time to go carbo load and talk strategy over dinner at Il Barone Ristorante. We were staying in Newport Beach supposedly but our hotel (the Fairmont) was in a huge business district with gigantic streets and lots of office buildings. The hotel was nice but I felt out of place with the valets, concierges and the super plastic people inside.

So when we asked the concierge where we could eat, I was apprehensive when she started rambling on about the wines etc at the place we ended up eating at. Then when she started saying she would get us a ride, I was really thinking this going to be crazy. But we scurried out before she could "help" us any more and headed out to find something to eat.

Once we got out of the lobby and away from the valets, we entered office park hell. 6 lane roads with intersections a half mile apart. Because I am an avid pedestrian we obeyed the law and walked to the nearest  crosswalk. I found it interesting how unwalker friend this place was. The shopping centers do not even have sidewalks leading to them from the main road. They really want ever one to drive I guess.

The first place we came across was a sports bar that looked promising but the scary bouncer said it was a $10 cover so that was not happening. Then we found the restaurant that we were told about. From the outside it looked nice but possibly expensive but it was getting late so we went in. The place was packed and really dark but the staff was super friendly.

We were told about the wine and they wanted us to have some but we just wanted some quick carbs and to get some sleep soon. Diana had some pasta dish and I had a pizza that did not have any sauce on it. My pizza was good and pretty big so it got the job. Then we went back to the hotel where Lisa was already asleep.

On the shuttle thinking about what lies ahead.
After a short sleep, I was up at 3am getting ready to take the shuttle at 4:30 am. After a long ride we got to the race start way before the 6:30 am start so we hung out in the expo tent. Finally it was time to get going so we made our way to the starting line where we saw the lady who ran over 100 marathons last year.

We started out in the second wave and assumed our walk/run strategy of walking a minute and then running four minutes. The Surf City course while being in a beautiful place is pretty ugly. The main reason is there is a lot of out and back on the course and this is mentally hard on a runner. So the first 3 miles were miles we would be seeing many times during the day.

  • Mile 1 - 11:43 pace - 37 feet up / 13 feet down
  • Mile 2 - 11:28 - 0 up / 17 down
  • Mile 3 - 11:26 - 5 up / 0 down
Around mile three, the next wave of runners started to catch us as we turned right and headed inland. The cloud cover was good and the temperature was mild as we ran through some residential streets and then ran through a large park where Tabitha and Sara caught us.

They started in the wave behind us and were hoping to break 5 hours in Sara's first marathon. We spent most of the races leap frogging back and forth with them. In the end, we finished before them but they ended up beating us by a couple minutes.

Tabitha & Sara
  • Mile 4 - 11:53 - up 41 / down 0
  • Mile 5 - 10:56 - up 0 / down 71
  • Mile 6 - 11:19 - up 15 / down 21
  • Mile 7 - 10:55 - up 23 / down 23
  • Mile 8 - 11:02 - up 14 / down 17
During these miles, we were moving along well and were no longer being passed by runners from earlier waves but soon a large crowd was to catch us. After we went up the largest hill on the course, the first half marathoners (started an hour after us) started to catch us. They were moving fast and it was fun watching them fly by.

One that flew by was Trace Bee (former Taft athlete) who ended up running 1:26 for the day and is training for her first sub three hour marathon at the LA marathon and/or Boston later this spring.This passing was going to continue for the next 9 miles but the speed of the passers eventually slowed down. Going out Highway One was not to bad because we had plenty of company but at the turn around, we could see the fast marathoners on the bike path heading the other direction again.

Knowing that the last ten miles on the bike path was going to be hard, I pushed the pace as much as I could on the Highway. I knew that if we saved ourselves now, it would not matter on the bike path because the bike path was just going to be ugly either way.
  • Mile 9 - 11:52 - up 68 / down 17
  • Mile 10 - 11:00 - up 0 / down 25
  • Mile 11 - 11:13 - up 0 / down 24
  • Mile 12 - 11:41 - up 19 / down 28
  • Mile 13 - 11:03 - up 8 / down 11
  • Mile 14 - 11:13 - up 18 / down 6
  • Mile 15 - 11:50 - up 20 / down 0
  • Mile 16 - 11:33 - up 6 / down 8
I mile 16, the halfers head straight and we did a u-turn and got on the bike path. By now i was glad to leave the halfers but was not looking forward to the bike path but we stuck to our 1/4 strategy and kept going. At the first bike path aid station, they did have a nice treat, fig newtons! Early in the race, they were handing out Sharkies (organic energy chews) and they were quite good but it is nice to have a more traditional snack.

Now that we were on the bike path, we only had other marathoners with and for the most part we were passing people. Coming towards us were the faster marathoners and we got to see the runners who were running hard to get their Boston Qualifiers. One thing I like about marathons, is you can not judge a book by it's cover. There were quite a few people going by us that certainly did not look like marathoners but they were posting some really good times.

After a few miles, we saw BDPer Denni and gave her a hug and cheered her own. She ended up running 4:08 in preparation for a sub four attempt at LA in March. Before the final turnaround (mile 20) we saw fellow BDPer Norma Diaz and Building Better Bodies Spin diva Rosa Johnson heading back to the start for their sub 5 hour finishes.
After passing our friends, there was not much to look forward to except for the turn around. The bike path sucked and was crowded with racers, tourists, bikes and surfers. Most seemed to careless that there was a race going on and either ignored us or did not care that they got in our way. Despite slowing down a bit, we were still the fastest moving people out there.

I did enjoy running by the Super Bowl Tailgate parties because of my size, the beer drinking football fans can relate to me and think of me as one of them. So we did get some words of encouragement from them as we moved towards the finish. Now we had abandoned our walk a minute and run four minute pattern and instead walked a minute and ran two minutes or so. Diana was hurting and four minutes was just too much for her.
  • Mile 17 - 11:40 - up 6 and down 8
  • Mile 18 - 12:23 - up 6 and down 2
  • Mile 19 - 11:48 - up 8 and down 20
  • Mile 20 - 12:08 - up 0 and down 8
Finally we reached the turn around and only had six mile of lovely bike path to go. This was going to be the fourth time we were to see the same scenery too. Despite running along the beach, the scenery is not that great. Just miles of sand and parking lots for the most part. The only good thing was that it was overcast until the last mile or so. At this point, we are catching a lot of people and can see the halfers on the road moving very slowly too.

Now we were walking a minute and running a minute for the most part, but we did not slow down too much.
  • Mile 21 - 12:11 - up 8 and down 11
  • Mile 22 - 11:52 - flat
  • Mile 23 - 12:24 - up 7 and down 0
  • Mile 24 - 12:26 - up 21 and down 11
At mile 25, Diana broke her silence and sounded upset. Our time was 4:50 and she realized we were not going to break 5 hours. She falsely thought that I wanted to break 5 but I quickly told her that I was there to run for her. Then I told her that she was going to PR by a half an hour! She said "Do not make me cry!" and then I told her let's go.

This was the first time we said anything about our time and I feel we kept quiet like baseball players do when a pitcher is working on a no hitter. We did not want to jinx ourselves.

Now we got back on the road and had to weave around the 4 hour half marathoners which was really annoying. They were going so slow and walking 5 abreast half the time. I would walk a minute and then run but Diana was struggling so we did not run for long. Finally we hit mile 26 and the marathoners had their own lane and Diana ran the rest of the way in at 9:58 pace for a 33 minute PR!
  • Mile 25 - 12:00 - up 14 and down 14
  • Mile 26 - 11:58 - up 20 and down 13
  • Last 0.2 miles - 9:58 - flat.
Diana - 5:06 Marathoner!

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