Monday, February 05, 2007

Race Report: 02.04.2007 - Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 1:43:48 Pace: 7:56/mile ***PERSONAL BEST***
Rank: 705 of 7386 runners Age Division: 88 of 462 runners
Location: Huntington Beach, CA

Yesterday marked a return trip to the site of my first half marathon two years ago, the Pacific Shoreline Half Marathon/Marathon/5K, held annually on Super Bowl Sunday. This might just become a tradition for me. Based on the results above, things went well. I PR-ed by two minutes from my previous best time set at City of Angels in December, and I also got under 8 minutes per mile for the first time in a half marathon. It's all great news, and I'm damn happy about it, but I'm also a bit troubled by developments that occurred during the race that may affect my marathon next month.

I woke up with little difficulty right at 4AM. I actually woke up an hour earlier due to anxiety about oversleeping and was glad to discover that I could go back and sleep a little longer. I had prepared everything the night before, pinned my bib to my shirt, set aside the socks and shorts I was going to wear and packed a change of clothes for the after race dip in the ocean. The only thing I didn't do was strap my timing chip to my shoe because I left my shoes in my car. I went downstairs and prepared myself a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and then showered right after. I had some difficulty putting on my contacts, but that's often the case. On average it takes me about six minutes to put on my contact lenses.

I left my house at 5AM and got to Edison High School, where I was going to park my car and take the shuttle, at 5:45. Everything was going well until it was time to put the timing chip on my shoe. While trying to fasten the chip, I kept on dropping the plastic straps. This was all before sunrise so I had to feel around the floor to find them. I even had to go outside the car and get on my hands and knees to find them. After finding them, I realized I couldn't remember where I had placed the chip. I had it with me in the front seat so it couldn't have gone far. I just had to laugh at myself as I spent a good five minutes looking for it. I even enlisted the nice man parked next to me to peek in through my window just in case I'm being an idiot and can't see it. I blamed it all on the lack of coffee, and for a while it was funny. When I was about to give up hope I finally found it tucked next to an empty coffee cup in my cup holder. I had to fasten it before I lost it again.

Thinking that everything was set, I gathered up all my stuff, and headed for the bus. There was no line and I got in right away. Early on the bus ride, I had the urge to feel my timing chip for some reason. It wasn't there. I could feel the straps but no chip. That was when I envisioned in my mind what I had done. I had fastened the straps but didn't loop them around the chip. I used two straps and neither of them looped through the chip. I was an idiot. I debated whether to go back and find the chip or just suck it up, pay for the chip and run without it, which meant I wouldn't have an official time. I still had plenty of time until the race, so I decided to head back with the bus and find my chip. I surmised that it dropped along my route to the bus from my car. Thankfully I found it next to a tree. However, by the time I found it, the bus line was much longer. I had to wait 25 minutes to get on the bus. The good news was that I had plenty of time left. I was dropped off just before 7AM, headed straight for the Port-a-Potties, checked in my gear, and met up with the team just before the race.

I prayed that my misadventures in the beginning would bode well for the race, but I also worried that it could be a sign of things to come.

The Race

Sean, Rachel and I squeezed ourselves in near the front. The race had a wave start, and we took off with the second wave. It was the best start yet. I didn't have to do any weaving and wound up running the first mile in 7:47. I maintained a 7:45 pace with no walk breaks for four miles. At mile five I took a short walkbreak to properly drink. This race marked the first half marathon I've done where I didn't carry my own drink. I only packed one Clif Shot and ingested a salt packet I bummed off Robin at the beginning. It felt great to run without having to carry something, but I couldn't quite work out the drinking part at the aid stations. Furthermore, I hated the energy drink they provided. I think it was called Amino Water. It tasted fine, but it felt like I was drinking Perrier and it was too sweet. I avoided it the rest of the race. I also think it didn't sit well in my stomach because after the race I had to make a tour of various restrooms between finishing and my ride home.

After mile five I slowed down a wee bit. I was trying to run at around 8 minutes per mile, which would ensure a PR, but I was just above it. I did mile 5 in 8:03 and had my worst mile at 9 with an 8:26. I was doing walk breaks at this time and went into a mental mode of trying to hang on to the cushion built by my fast start. However, physically, things were starting to affect me. Early on, at around mile 2, I developed a minor side stitch. It didn't give me any trouble, but it was just irksome. It never went away, but eventually there reached a point where I got used to it and other concerns took greater priority. My left shin stiffened at around mile 3. I blamed it on the uneven road, so I tried running along the middle. It could also be due to not warming up before the race. It went away, sure enough. However, after mile 5, I could feel a discomfort on the side of my left knee. It was the same discomfort I felt when I was finishing my 18 miler two weeks before. I've never had IT band issues, but based on what I've heard from people about it, I diagnosed it as such. It wasn't painful, just uncomfortable enough for me to worry about it. As far as I could tell it wasn't affecting my stride. To relieve further irritation I varied my stride a little, taking shorter steps, and I focused on people ahead of me and tried to keep pace with them.

At mile 8 Rachel from the team caught up with me. Sean wasn't feeling well and had to hold back, so she ran ahead. I was becoming fatigued by then, as I expected, and so my planned Clif Shot at that point was perfectly timed. Rachel and I ran together for a bit. The course had moved towards a residential area with some small rolling hills and it was most certainly my least favorite portion of the run. Thinking that Rachel was fresher and was having a good run, I told her to feel free to run ahead of me because I didn't want to slow her down. After all, she made up at least two minutes to catch up to me after my fast start and might be able to run a faster race. She said she was fine and we took a walk break together at mile 9. When we started running again the Clif Shot must have taken effect because Rachel said that I was going too fast for her and that she was going to hold back. She may have expended too much energy in catching up, but she did great. She was only a minute behind me at the finish.

The second wind carried me through for the next three miles. After clocking in my slowest mile at mile 9 (8:26), I ran the tenth mile at 7:59. I saw Kiley, Setal and others at mile 10 and gave them a high five. Kiley asked if I needed anything, but I was feeling fine apart from the expected fatigue. It was basically the home stretch and after one last aid station stop, I decided to run with no stops until the end. The mile 11 marker was misplaced. There was a slight uphill, so that may have slowed me down, but I doubt it slowed me enough to run a 10:23. I said aloud as I passed the mile marker, "That has got to be wrong." The guy running next to me agreed. Sure enough, I crossed the mile 12 marker at 5:19, so the average for those two miles was about a 7:50.

My knee held up, but I still felt the discomfort, again, thankfully, not painful. I was getting a little winded near the end, but I still felt like I had enough for a strong finish. Unfortunately, the finish was a little messy. In contrast to the clean, no-weaving start I experienced, I had to weave or squeeze myself between runners in the last mile. In the last mile I caught up with the majority of the 5K runners who were heading for the same finish line. The street was crowded. I had to slow down a couple of times as I came up behind some slower 5K runners. At one point I had to come to a halt as a group of spectators crossed the street. I was annoyed. I'm not usually a violent person, but I felt like pushing people down at that point. After running 12 miles at a pace faster than I'm used to, the last thing I wanted to do was expend more energy running around people or stopping and starting up again. I just wanted to run a straight line to the finish. I didn't have to resort to violence, but I did make contact with a few runners as I squeezed myself through. At least I kept my composure. I could hear other half marathoners behind me yelling at people to get out of the way. I probably would have done it had I the energy to yell. It's kind of dangerous. I could have pulled a muscle having to come to a complete stop all of a sudden. I ought to report this to the organizers. Jimmy helped out in the last mile as he directed the 5K runners to finish to the left while the half marathoners finished to the right.

The important thing, though, is that I finished. Mile 13.1 was done in 8:20. Afterwards I picked up my gear so I could take pictures of the rest of the team. I got back in time to see FJ speeding to the finish line, followed by Andy. We hung out at a median about 200 yard from the finish and caught the rest of the team as they ran by. We then headed to the beach where I dipped my feet into the ocean but was too much of a coward to submerge my whole body in the cold water. Some of us grabbed lunch at the Corner Bakery. I had pasta, and I rewarded myself with a venti caramel machiatto at Starbucks.

Today my legs feel fine, except for my left quad, which is slightly sore. The IT band still feels uncomfortable especially with certain movements. I think I'll take it easy this week and not run--or at least avoid any hard runs. I'll use the foam roller to massage and stretch the IT band and hopefully I'll be fit to run the marathon next month. A triathlete at the gym told me that he had to miss a whole season because of IT band issues. I'm hoping this won't be the case with me.

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