Saturday, December 22, 2012

27 Miles for 27 Sandy Hook Victims

Can it be called a marathon if it is not a race?  If so, then I just ran my second marathon in 2012...unexpectedly meeting my New Year's goal at the just a couple of weeks before the next one.  But if I didn't, it is no big loss...because, one way or another, I did something that felt really good.

Though I had no direct connection to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, I felt the senseless loss of innocent young lives far more deeply than I expected.  This was already shaping up to be the least happy holiday I have ever experienced...the tragedy having taken place less than a week after my wife's brother unexpectedly passed away and just months after her father suffered a stroke.

When Naughty Dog Co-President Christophe Balestra invited me to join a fund raising run he was organizing, I could not refuse.  He personally planned to contribute $5 for every mile run by anyone who accepted the challenge and, considering I was in the midst of training for another marathon (already had an 18 miler scheduled for this weekend), attempting to join him for the full distance was the least I could do.  We would not be running at race pace so we could run together for as long as possible.  Not everyone participating would be a marathoner, some never having even attempted half this distance, and a few did not even consider themselves runners; the size of our group was expected fluctuate throughout the morning.

Before sunrise, I parked at the lot near the Santa Monica Civic Center and jogged through the chilly streets of Santa Monica towards the famous pier.  The plan was to meet on the bike path, but I did not know exactly where.  Since I did not know which direction we would be starting, I needed to reach the path before the group departed, but, to maximize my sleep, I had timed my arrival almost too perfectly.  There was just enough light from the adjacent parking lot to see runners already on the move to the south. I quickly found my way to the stairs, descended to the bike path, and kicked it into high gear to catch up with them.

I soon caught up with everyone in the dark.  As I advanced my way through the pack, I learned who exactly had showed up...many of whom I had worked with at Naughty Dog, but have not seen much since I departed in 2009.  In other words, this was a mini-reunion for me.  I stayed in touch with many of the Dogs via Facebook, so I knew some, like Christophe, had become runners.  I did not expect to find Evan leading the pack.  That said, Evan only planned to run to Venice...apparently he had an early flight to catch.

For the most part, our course would stick to the bike path, traveling as far south as Venice before turning back on itself.  It would then go a few miles north of the Santa Monica Pier before turning back.  We would repeat this nine mile out-and-back three times...giving non- or less frequent runners numerous stopping opportunities and making it possible for some to join or re-join the group throughout the morning.  Whenever we passed by the Santa Monica Pier parking lot, we could stop to get a drink, snack, take photos.

The sun started to rise during our first stint north of the pier.  The last time I actually could enjoy sunrise during a marathon was my first.  There is something special about running at dawn.  I broke from the pack to make a quick pit-stop...and used the opportunity to take a photo.  Unfortunately, this meant I had to run at full race pace to rejoin the group before they reached northernmost turning point because, with no official markers placed along the course, I needed to see exactly where they turned back if I wanted credit for the full distance.  It took me over a mile (running under an eight minutes per mile) to catch up.  I carried this race pace until I got ahead of everyone...so I could stop and quickly photograph the early participants with the sun rising behind them.

Shortly after turning back towards the pier, I decided to stop at an overlook and capture another shot of the sun rising over the beach...knowing I would spend a mile running at a full race pace to rejoin the group.  The toughest part of stopping was that muscles tighten up quickly in the cold morning air, so resuming at such a strong pace was not smart.

Apparently Christophe's running event was not the only one taking place upon the bike paths of Santa Monica this morning.  As we continued south, we saw many runners wearing bibs (I later learned this was for the Naughty and Nice Marathon).  They must have thought we were the largest group of bandit runners ever!

We stopped briefly at the parking lot adjacent to the pier before continuing south.  As expected, we lost some and gained some during the break.  I took pictures of the revised pack as everyone emerged from under the pier...and decided these shots would be the last of us running (see what I did there?).  Fortunately I did not need to work nearly as hard to catch up as the group's pace had slowed a bit to around ten minutes per mile.

We repeated this out-and-back two more times, barely noticing that we picked up the pace a bit in the middle (which did stretch out the pack a bit).  As we neared the end of the 27 miles, Christophe started thinking he could join a couple of ultra-marathoners in the group who were planning to run 30 miles...even knowing he could not possibly achieve that distance in the time he had left (he had to pick someone up from the airport).

In the end, I think six of us completed the 27 miler (a few went for more).  David and I finished together, but our time and distances vary slightly since I started my watch at the Civic Center parking lot.  My total time was 4 hours and 42 minutes, with an even more impressive 26.2 mile split of 4:33:32.  For reference, I limped to finish my first marathon on Maui in 4:41:59.  Of course, there were no injuries here, but, if I remove the amount of time I stopped for breaks, I would have completed the marathon distance in under 4:08 (as is, Strava shows my moving time as 4:17:16 with a distance of 27.1 miles); not bad for someone not running at his race pace.

David decided to cut his distance at exactly 26.2 with a total time of 4:29:16.  This was the first time David had ever run longer than 18 miles, so he definitely should sign up for a marathon.

Christophe finished with 28.1 miles in 4:49:18.  He has ultras in his future.

So, can I officially add this marathon to my running total?  Could I dare say I ran my first ultra?

My Garmin Data

Friday, November 16, 2012

First Recovery Run Aborted

Wednesday was technically the first day I felt like I could run following the Malibu Marathon, but this morning is the first I actually tried to put feet to pavement largely because my right ankle really started bothering me towards the end of Sunday's race...and even more so in the days that followed.

I was really limping around the office on Monday morning.  My ankle pain was definitely more of an issue than it has ever been in the past.  It even caused me grief sleeping the first two nights after the race.

That said, the pain had largely subsided by this morning, so I decided to give it a go.  But shortly after I started running up the first hill by my house, I realized the pain had not completely gone away.  It is just painful enough that I decided to postpone running another day just to be safe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Malibu Marathon 2012

I wake up at 4:45am, giving me plenty of time to enjoy coffee and leftover pho for breakfast.  Pho is traditionally a breakfast food in Vietnam., so it technically makes more sense to eat it now than last night...but I typically try to avoid altering my pre-race routine. This soup is considerably less heavy than my usual bagel...and a lot more tasty.  Asian noodle soups have already replaced spaghetti as my go to source of carbs (enjoyed bowls of ramen and pho yesterday), so, in a way, this has already become my routine.

Valerie drops me off at the start around 6:15...but then hangs around to give me a warm place to hang out while I figure out how I want to wear my bib number. When I first arrive, the park bathroom is practically empty, so I take advantage of it while I can...but it does not stay unnoticed for long.

I start looking for the starting corrals.  The start line is on the far corner of the parking lot from the park restroom, so I decide it would be wiser to join the queue at the adjacent porta potties.  I do not want to run the first half of this 26.2 mile race needing to go...as was the case during Surf City. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled start, I enable the GPS feature on my Garmin watch.  I do not want a repeat of Palos Verdes where I missed recording my position data for the first couple of miles.  Two minutes before race time, I reach the front of the line.  As anticipated, I do need to go.

When I reach the starting area, I remove my plastic shell and sacrifice an old long sleeved shirt to the running gods.  I do a little warm up routine and find a mid-pack position in the corral, but soon notice there is a strange lack of urgency. The race does not start at 7:00am. Apparently one of the shuttle buses had not yet arrived.  I wish I had not discarded my shell.  The sun is barely hitting the starting area, but I am waiting in the shade.  It is very cold.  For once I am glad there are no clouds in the sky.  I can only imagine how cold this would be in the rain.

The master of ceremonies for the event starts asking how many marathons people have run.  I keep my arm up through when he asks if this will be our fifth and then watch to see how many keep their arms up.  One group of older folk to my left has apparently run many more marathons. I am amazed to learn that at least three of that group have run more than 300, one woman over 400.  Impressive.  Even if I am able to do two marathons per year for the rest of my life, I would be nowhere near their total.

Twenty minutes later we learn that the race will begin at 7:30am.  I start wondering if my Garmin Forerunner 405's watch will last the duration of the race.  I have reason to be concerned because its battery has completely drained during four hour workouts before.  Thankfully I learned to disable the Garmin's touch-sensitive bezel during the Santa Clarita Half Marathon...potential switching and beeping caused by my long-sleeved shirt would practically guarantee the battery would not go the distance.  Thirst sets in, so I look for a nearby water station.  Fortunately, someone is serving cups of water on the truck behind me.  They are also offering Cliff Shots.  I grab a pack even though I have come prepared with two packages of Shot Blocks.

One of the runners takes the stage and starts singing the National Anthem.  I wonder if singing will hurt his race.  I would certainly not want to do anything that might affect my breathing rhythm.

The race finally starts.  As we step into the sunlight, one nearby runner soon comments, "Who would have thought it would be colder than when we were standing still?"  I totally agree.  It is not windy, but the air is crisp and penetrates my clothing nonetheless.  I am really glad I decided to wear gloves and a long sleeved running shirt.  This is only the second race I have ever needed to do so.  We circle buildings adjacent to Camarillo Airport and turn on to Pleasant Valley Road.

My watch records my first mile in 7:32, significantly faster than I expected to go out and defying my expectations given how cold it is.  That said, my legs feel loose now and I have my breathing under control.  I hear a train horn sound and soon spot it paralleling us to the right.  Yesterday I noticed railroad tracks would be crossing the course between PCH and Camarillo, but I assumed the organizers would make sure that runners would not be held up by train.  If we had started at 7:00am as scheduled, I would guess that some of the slower runners would definitely encounter this particular train.  With this morning's delay, I start wondering if the race leaders must now stop.  That would suck.

We turn down Las Posas, a street I am familiar with from a number of drives with my car club.  I have driven upon portions of today's course many times...never before giving any thought of running upon it.  Even though I typically do not take on water over the first three miles of a race, I gladly grab a cup when we reach the first aid station around the mile 2 marker.  Factoring the delay, I am actually overdue for starting into my Shot Blocks...and I usually consume them with water.  This feels like the right call.

I am glad that this area does not smell too strongly of the countryside.  I am surrounded by fields of strawberries, tomatoes, and who knows what else.  During some times of the year, this area can be quite aromatic in both pleasant and unpleasant ways.  The cool air helps keep my breathing under control.  My stride feels steady and comfortable.  My pace continues to be in the 7:30's, far faster than I should allow it to be, but I do not feel like I am exerting any effort to do so.  I am guessing that the course is still downhill trending.  I doubt I will be able to hold on to this pace once the course levels off.

I turn west on Laguna Road, pass rows of covered plants, and then run alongside a huge greenhouse facility for Houwelings Nurseries.  Never heard of them, but, judging from the logos on their parked big rigs, they raise tomatoes.

Shortly after turning south on Wood Road, I start overhearing the conversation from a group of runners catching up to me.  The group is talking about distance relays, so I keep listening to hear if they mention Hana (which I ran in 2008), but they are actually discussing a relay that lasts 24 hours. Sounds like a serious group.  I suspect my pace has started to slow down as the road is definitely flat here.  They soon catch up with me.

The group's discussion turns to how races rarely turn a profit and, with the exception of mud runs and zombie runs, most lose money.  When I overhear someone say they were looking for the 3:30 pace group, I mention I did not see an official pace group targeting anything faster than 3:45.  The group seems to be on track without an official pacer, so they decide to press on....and, since I am targeting 3:40, I decide to join them.  I expect to lose them once we hit the hills, but figure I should stick with them as long as I feel comfortable doing so.

I keep glancing at my watch as I near the 10K split.  47:35.  Though I have not yet run a 10K race in under 48, I have hit this pace during many longer runs, usually with gravity assistance, even when training.

The group continues to collect runners while advancing through the field.  Including myself, it now consists of five men and three women...two who had signed up for the recently cancelled New York Marathon, an American originally from Australia, a South African, a Belgian lady.  One man and one woman are first time marathoners.  One does ultras, trails runs, and triathlons.  The Belgian lady mentions she has run the Paris Marathon before, so I mention that I had thought about running it next year, but decided to do L.A. instead.  She said running in Paris was amazing.  I rarely converse while I train and have never done so during a race, but I am finding I like the diversion.

We approach the bridge over Pacific Coast Highway.  This will be our first climb of the race.  Since it is short, I choose to attack it with the group.  My watch signals mile 8 ahead of the marker.  One guy in the group comments about how inaccurate Garmin watches can be.  Another guy mentions he could really use some water (a sentiment I share).  Just then, on the other side of the bridge, an aid station comes into view.  I am surprised how spaced out the water stations have been thus far.  Has it been three miles since the last one?  I certainly hope they are far more frequent when we hit the hills.

This particular aid station is located in front of Point Mugu Missile Park, so we get to refuel while enjoying a display of retired Naval aircraft (including an F-14 Tomcat, my all-time favorite).  I assume we will soon be turning on to Pacific Coast Highway, but the course continues parallel the highway on Naval Air Road.  Before I can speculate as to why, a few cars fly by on PCH's southbound lanes.

I am quite surprised to see southbound traffic.  I thought this event would completely close Highway 1 through Malibu, but, as we reach it, I see they have only cone off a single lane for us (plus shoulder) on the southbound side.  Traffic continues to flow in both directions.  In some stretches, southbound traffic is diverted to a northbound lane.  If only I could call Valerie...I told her to take the canyon roads when driving to meet me at the finish.

Pacific Coast Highway starts rolling around mile 12...rolling hills that is.  It all begins with the climb towards an instantly recognizable big rock.  This is the first time I feel the need to push to keep up with the group. They start to pull away.  I pass the guy with Australian accent (one of the first time marathoners in the group) when he makes a pitstop, but he quickly catches up with me.  He encourages me to try and pick up the pace as we approach the first true hill (second if you count the bridge) on the course, but, as the hill begins, he starts pulling away.  I decide to let the group go.  I am still on pace to run one of my faster half marathons...which is probably not the best idea given how my training has been going.

I reach the halfway mark in 01:41:46, just 43 seconds slower than my fastest half marathon, 9 seconds off of this split during my fastest full.  In other words, I am still on pace to run one of my faster marathons.  That will not last.  Mile 18 is where the hill is supposed to begin, but I'm already having issues with each incline. I try not to let my drop in pace get me down.  I remind myself I train on hills like these.  I am just not used to finishing a full marathon race on them.

The 14 mile mark lies around the entrance to Point Mugu State Park.  Earlier in the race, I asked the trail runner in the group if he had ever run the Xterra event held there. He actually ran this year's 18K just a few weeks ago.  I ran the 11K back in 2007 with Valerie and a few of our friends.  These hills are far less painful than those, but I really enjoyed that experience. I will try the 18K one of these years.  The trail runner encouraged me to try Malibu Creek, his favorite among Xterra's local races.

As I continue along the highway, my pace drops below eight minutes per mile.  It continues to drop as pass the mile 18 marker.  I thought the really hilly section would start by now, but thankfully it has not.  I reach the first stretch of Malibu's famous oceanfront homes.  Sadly, I do not see any celebrities.  I had hoped some would step outside to cheer us on.  I could use a little encouragement right about now.  I sense there is a bit of elevation change here, but it is not what I remember from the elevation chart.

At mile 19, I finally reach a more significant climb.  My pace drops well below nine minutes per mile, not unanticipated given the incline, but enough to concern me.  How much harder should I, can I push?  I try to not let my pace fall below ten minutes per mile, but each step gets progressively harder. There is some relief after a half mile of climbing, but I do not sense my pace has benefited.  On a positive note, aid stations have been appearing with greater frequency. I alternate between water and Accelerade, though I am not terribly fond of the latter.  One station has oranges, but they are really bitter!

The climb starting 20.5 miles into the race is actually a lot more intimidating. PCH is fairly straight here...and the climb appears to continue well into the the distance.  Sure I can see flat-ish stretches, but there are no visible descents on the horizon.  I keep telling myself to hang in there...that all will get better when I reach mile 24...the promise of a 2 mile-long descent to the finish line is the only thing giving me hope that I may still break 3:40.  My right ankle starts bothering me.  I feel my stride has changed to compensate.  I have long since stopped monitoring my pace.  I allow myself to slow down at each water station, sometimes stopping just long enough to make sure I drink all of the fluid in the cup.  I pass Decker Canyon Road and Encinal Canyon Road thinking how much more fun I would be having if I was driving on those twisty roads than running on this one.  Isn't this the stretch of highway where a Ferrari Enzo split in two?

I climb towards mile 24...then feel like I am continuing to climb through mile 25. Where is my final descent?  3:40 is no longer a possibility.  I am so ready for this race to be over.

The course dives to towards the finish line over the last mile, flattening out just beyond an intersection.  I try to get my pace below eight minutes per mile, but my legs do not cooperate.  I spot Valerie just seconds before I cross the finish line, but I do not see the official clock.  My watch reads 3:42:42...not what I hoped, but pretty much what I expected.

Official Results:
Total: 3:42:55 (3rd fastest marathon)

90 / 791 overall finishers
70 / 429 male finishers
12 / 126 finishers age 40-44
10 / 67 male finishers age 40-44

GPS Data:
Garmin Connect
Strava

Official Photos

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Marathon #5 Training Complete

While this was supposed to be the year I would start running multiple marathons, I will have to settle for one in 2012...my fifth in five years.  My average training pace is not on par with my previous two, but is slightly better than 2009 with a similar week-to-week progression.  I have definitely run the miles necessary to prepare me for the Malibu Marathon, but, even though I did break my half marathon PR earlier this year, I am not expecting to do so on Sunday.  I will be exceptionally happy if I break 3:40, especially considering that this course is uphill trending from miles 18 through 24.

10/13-10/20: 46.65 @ 8:46/mi
10/21-10/27: 36.67 @ 8:31/mi
10/28-11/03: 30.15 @ 8:18/mi
11/04-11/10: 20.22 @ 8:13/mi
Average 
training pace for month: 8:31/mi

Month before the Surf City Marathon in 2011:
01/09-01/15: 45.49 @ 8:17/mi
01/16-01/22: 36.42 @ 8:27/mi
01/23-01/29: 30.02 @ 8:06/mi
01/30-02/05: 20.26 @ 7:40/mi
Average training pace for month: 8:11/mi

Average race pace: 8:13/mi

Month before the Los Angeles Marathon in 2010:
02/21-02/27: 45.41 @ 8:47/mi
02/28-03/06: 36.16 @ 8:23/mi
03/07-03/13: 30.11 @ 8:08/mi
03/14-03/20: 20.17 @ 7:59/mi
Average 
for month: 8:24/mi
Average race pace: 8:22/mi

Month before the Long Beach Marathon in 2009:
09/13-09/19: 45.74 @ 8:51/mi
09/20-09/26: 39.09 @ 8:33/mi
09/27-10/03: 29.06 @ 8:24/mi
10/04-10/10: 20.29 @ 8:03/mi
Average pace: 8:33/mi
Average race pace: 8:31/mi


It is worth noting that, up until the 23+ miler I ran exactly four weeks ago, this was to be my first marathon wearing minimalist running shoes.  I have not worn my traditional running shoes much over the past few months...over 90% of my marathon training miles were divided between my Merrell Trail Gloves and Vibram Five Fingers Treksports.  That said, I spent this final week of training breaking in my first pair of traditional Asics Kayano 18s, perhaps why this week's pace did not show a similar week-to-week improvement as I have seen in previous years.

Though minimalist shoes have completely eliminated any issues I have had with plantar fasciitis, knee, or hip joints, they have aggravated a pain I have been experiencing in my right ankle.  This tenderness dates back to a snowboarding injury I sustained long before I resumed running...a pain that used to only surface during my longest runs (starting with the Long Beach Marathon, but now present most of the time).  Any issues I experience become harder to ignore on longer runs, so I have decided to wear Kayanos for tomorrow's race.  I have worn Kayanos for all of my marathons.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Palos Verdes Half Marathon 2012

Palos Verdes organizers got off to a rocky start with this year's event long before race day.  First came news that they would be dropping the 26.2 mile race, second longest running marathon behind Boston.  Even though I did not want to run last year's two lap configuration, I had ramped up my training in anticipation of running a full...hoping to make this my first two marathon year.  I was further upset because I missed out on early bird pricing (I was in no rush to register because organizers had not previously upped the price as race day approached).  Adding insult, I completely missed news about being able to pick up my bib number and chip the Saturday before...and when I finally did arrive at Village Runner on the Friday before the race the volunteers appeared to be totally unprepared.  I waited at least ten minutes for one volunteer to find my bib because the box including my range of last names (G-J) was not with the others.  I had to wait perhaps five minutes longer for the guy to find my chip...and he had to look back at my bib number several times before he found the right one.

Race day starts a bit more smoothly.  I wake up with my alarm, have plenty of time to enjoy cereal, coffee, and to gear up for the race.  Sky is overcast and temperature is a perfect 58 degrees...warm enough to not need long sleeves, cool enough to leave the door open for another personal best.  There is no traffic between home and The Promenade on the Peninsula, parking is a breeze, there is no line at the shuttle stop, and the bus that is starting to depart as I arrive has room for three more.

I reach the staging area for the race 45 minutes before the official start time.  I grab a cup of water at a pre-race aid station, hit the restroom before a line forms, take some pictures, then start looking for Leo, a friend who plans to use me as a rabbit (though I suspect he would be more useful to me...my average pace has been falling over the past couple of years and, judging from his posts on Facebook, he is clearly faster).  He is quite tall, not a hard guy to find in a crowd.  We have a bit more trouble trying to locate Charlie.  Nerves start to set it, so we wisely hop into the queue for restrooms.  It is quite long, but moving fast.

As the scheduled 7am race time approaches, a bit of confusion ensues; no one appears certain where to queue up for the race.  Leo and I hover about what appears to be the start-finish line...occasionally breaking away for short sprints to keep our legs loose.  The time for an aerobic pre-race workout comes and goes without even an announcement.  I see someone moving the start sign, so I follow him up to Palos Verdes Drive South.  There are only a couple of runners up here warming up, but this is clearly where the start timing mats have been placed.  I wave to Leo to get him to join me on the street.

Leo continues to warm up as more runners start to show up.  The race is scheduled to start in three minutes, but, again, the majority of participants are still in the parking lot below.  Finally someone makes an official announcement.  The masses approach.  Leo and I have a sweet central spot just a couple of seconds from the timing mat.

Nearly five minutes after 7, the national anthem is sung.  A few minutes later and we are finally off to the races...heading east on Palos Verdes Drive South.  Last year's race started in the opposite direction, but I welcome this change.  During last night's pre-race carbo-load, Charlie explained that the alteration to stat and finish was made to better accommodate post-race traffic, but I see it as a huge mental boost for racers.  There is nothing quite as disheartening in a race than seeing the finish line long before you can actually cross it, made even worse because this particular stretch not only went by the finish line, but continued uphill for what seemed like an eternity given how late in the race it occurred.  Now we endure this climb with fresh legs, an incline that naturally keeps our pace within reason until we have fully loosened up.

As we approach the crest of this first hill, I noticed my Garmin watch has not recorded any distance.  Damn!  Somehow the GPS receiver switched off before I started the timer.  No GPS means I will have to wait until the mile markers and calculate the pace in my head.  I fiddle with my watch and manage to enable the GPS, but it has difficulty locking on to the satellites while moving.  Fortunately, I am running with Leo, so he keeps me informed of our pace.

The GPS kicks in just before the first mile marker, so I can now get immediate snapshots of my pace.  Still, I am REALLY disappointed that my lap markers will not correspond with mile markers and that I will not have complete track data.  I must not dwell upon this.  I have a race to run.  I am otherwise feeling great.

We kick up the pace as we descend to the turn around point near Wayfarer's Chapel and the climb before the return descent towards Terranea hardly slows us down.  Shortly after the U-turn, Leo and I spot Charlie approaching.  He certainly looks enthusiastic, but he has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to catch us.  We complete the first two miles in roughly 7:30/mile.  We are targeting a pace of around 7:40 for the first half of the race, so we are off to a great start.

My laces on my right shoe feel loose, but the knot looks tight.  The padding must not be fully packed down.  This is one of the downsides of running in a relatively new pair of shoes (and one of the key reasons I always break in a new pair with at least one long run prior to racing in them).  As long as my foot does not slide during the hilly sections of the course, I should be fine.  I certainly do not want to have to deal with blisters this early into a race.

Leo and I still running with one another as we turn down Via Vicente to Calle Entradero, but, as we expected, I get a little ahead on the descent...and Leo passes me on the climb.  I have warned Leo not to waste too much energy on this hill because it is the steepest of the race.  I do not catch him again until we are around the intersection of Palos Verdes Drive West and Paseo Lunado.   As we pass the aid station at Mile 6, Leo mentions we are on track for a 45 minute 10K...our pace is still good.

As we start the steep drop from Via Alvarado to Paseo del Mar, I hear Leo say something about this being my turn.  I really accelerate quickly on such drops.  Leo complains the whole way down and loses some ground to me, but my lead does not last long.  Leo passes me as the road bends back towards Paseo Lunado.  I try to stay with him, especially when I spot my dad, video camera in hand, standing at the intersection.

My race starts to unravel as we approach the mile 8 marker.  At the aid station, I spot a volunteer handing out Cliff Shots, but I knock the package out of his hands as I run by.  I make the split decision to turn back and pick it up.  Last year I made a similar u-turn to grab water to chase down a Shot, but the added process of bending down to reach a packet on the ground may have taken more energy.  I decide to pocket the energy gel and consume it with water from the next aid station. I have lost enough time here.  Leo now has a good lead.  I try to chase him down.

Making matters worse, my right shoe now feels really loose.  Sustaining momentum is in my best interest as I have just started the climb back towards Palos Verdes Drive West, but it looks as though my laces have come undone.  Why did I not think to check my laces when I stopped for the Cliff Shot?  I must stop to tighten the laces now.  Blisters are no longer my only concern...I could lose my timing chip!  Leo continues to build his lead as I address this issue.

When I turn the corner on to Palos Verdes Drive West, I can no longer see Leo.  He is long gone.  Last night, Leo told me his strategy was to assess how he feels at mile 9 and decide if he can finish this race in under 1:40.  I never planned on going that fast, so I will make no further effort to catch him.  That said, the descent along PV Drive definitely gives me a pace boost.  As far as I can tell, I am still on track to beat my personal record.

I am feeling a bit less enthusiastic when I pass by my dad again at Paseo Lunado.  The slight incline has started to take its toll.  I also start thinking ahead to the climb up Via Vicente...which I imagine will feel even worse than last year given how late it occurs in the course.

On the bright side, the return to Calle Entradero does not suffer from last year's combination of headwind and mist.  And, knowing that we do not have to run past Terranea means I have no reason to conserve energy on the climb up Via Vicente.  I attack the hill.  I have been behind a short girl wearing a maroon shirt for most of this race.  Though she continues to maintain a strong pace, I finally start to catch her.  We encounter traffic...5K walkers appear to be struggling to make it up the hill.  She goes right and cuts the corner on to Palos Verdes Drive South.  I swing wide to the left, so she increases her lead.

I am amused that this girl starts jumping and waving to people at Golden Cove Plaza.  She certainly has a lot of energy.  I left a lot of mine back on that hill.  Fortunately, this final stretch is downhill trending.  I pass her as we reach the Point Vicente Lighthouse.  She manages to get by me shortly thereafter.  I surge ahead of her shortly after I spot the finish line, but she reclaims the lead just before I spot Valerie in the crowd...and hangs on to finish less than two seconds ahead of me.

I regroup with friends and family as soon as I clear the finish chute.  Those of us who ran the 5K are already done.  Leo has managed his goal, finishing the half marathon in under 1:40.  I also achieved mine, crossing the mat with 1:41:06 on the clock (exactly one minute ahead of last year's gun time).  My watch reads 1:40:55, so I am extremely curious to see if my chip time places me under 1:41.  We work our way over to the results.  The first batch of half marathon times are in, but neither of us are on the page yet.

We hang around the finish line until Charlie finishes.  He completes the half in 1:55:03, also an expected result given how little he has trained since running the L.A. Marathon a couple of months ago.

Once again, we head over to check the race results.  Leo finds his tag time: 1:39:27.4, 2.4 seconds faster than his gun time.  I look for my name, but cannot find it.  It should appear somewhere near the middle of this page.  I cannot even locate my bib number.

The disappointment continues when I head down hill to collect my post-race snacks.   There are no bagels, the watermelon is kind of tasteless, the oranges are not very sweet, the energy bar is coconut something-or-another.  Fortunately the bag of kettle corn is good.  I am also happy to receive my finisher's shirt...first year Palos Verdes has offered a technical shirt.

I return to the finish area to see if the results have been updated.  My name or bib number still do not appear upon any page.  I head over to the timing tent and ask the timing crew to investigate what may have happened.  They cannot find a result, but do have handwritten record of my bib number's gun time.  They ask to see my bib.  Upon closer examination, they discover that the electronically printed label lists my name, but with a different bib number.  According to the label, I should have been issued bib and chip number 1622.  I am wearing 1609.  Someone screwed up big time!  The timing crew says the best they can do now is enter my gun time AS my official time.  Not ideal, but better than nothing.

With last year's long wait firmly in mind, Valerie encourages us to line up for the shuttle ahead of the crowd.  This turns out to be a really wise move.  The line is relatively short when we arrive.  As we wait, the line grows quickly behind us.  I estimate that we are not waiting for more than twenty minutes before the next bus arrives...and we manage to squeeze on board (I do not mind standing).

From what I hear, some people waited over an hour for the shuttle.

If PV does not get their act together, I may rethink my plan to run this race every year.
 
Audio/visual content ©2017 Eric A. Iwasaki - All Rights Reserved