Today I ran the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon. This is a race held in Oxnard which starts at a Big Santa by the freeway and goes to the Sea. Specifically, it goes to Channel Islands Harbor. The course has a net elevation loss of about 70 feet so it is essentially flat. There are two overpasses – one right at the beginning and one around mile 7 or 8.
My cautiously optimistic goal, my A goal was to run a Personal Record. My PR was set in 2010 at the Bakersfield Half Marathon. That year, I ran their race in February in 1:31:39 and then again in November in 1:31:27. My B goal, which was my most important goal was to break 1:32. 2010 was an incredible year and almost all of my PRs still stand from it. The exceptions are the Mardi Gras 5K (19:52) in early 2011, and my Ojai to Ocean PR (3:15:20) back in June. My recent races have not yet been as quick as typical 2010 races, but my recent workouts have been at that level or better. So, I was eager to see if I could get in the ballpark and run a half marathon other than Bakersfield at 50 years old as fast as I had been running at 48.
Chuck, Lance and Joe Kim were running this one as well. Lance’s goal was to continue his string of PR races by breaking the 1:35:08 that he ran at Santa Clarita. Chuck was hoping to get under 1:40. Joe wanted to set a new PR by running under 1:43.
Chuck drove Lance and I to the race nice and early. We caught the 2nd bus heading from the parking area to the starting area. Then we just tried to stay warm. I did a little better than the rest because I brought several layers of potential throw away clothing. I went ahead and checked the extra clothing in for delivery to the finish in anticipation of continued cold weather there. (It was warm at the finish. I forgot all about the bag. Oh well.)
We were all lined pretty close to the front of the large pack of runners for the start. Lance was a shoulder ahead of me with Chuck off to his right. When the gun went off so did Lance. I had set my Garmin virtual training parter for 1:31:20 and so I started off trying not to get too far ahead. I looked ahead and saw the 1:30 pace group slowly pulling ahead and I saw Lance pulling away from them. My first split was 6:50. I estimate Lance was already 20s ahead of me. Over the second mile he continued to stay out ahead of that pace group and built an even larger lead on me. Part of me wanted to speed up, but the wisdom of MANY races told me to stay on my plan. Mile 2 went by in 6:50. I was pleased to see that the 2 mile marker came up before my Garmin beeped. This meant that I was even further ahead than the 140 something feet I was seeing! I did not see the mile markers for mile 3 or 4. I noticed after I should have passed 3 and pushed my lap button getting 7:07. The lead continued to build on the Garmin. I continued to see Lance out there ahead of me. Sometimes I would think I was gaining, but then he would look like he had increased the lead on me. I heard the Garmin beep for mile 5, and the virtual lead looked great. Then I spotted the mile marker out there ahead of me! When I got to it I hit the split and noticed my total was 34:47.
In order to run my PR pace I needed to do 6:58 a mile. So each mile I needed to be 2 additional seconds ahead of even 7s. I was 13 s ahead in 5 miles so this was good, but it was right on pace, my Garmin had mislead me to think I was ahead! Each mile thereafter I seemed to be struggling to gain those two seconds! Mile 6 was 41:51. Mile 7 was 48:49. On mile 8 I almost fell behind the 7s with a total of 55:56. At about this time I noticed that I had clearly gained ground on Lance. As I did I decided to shift to my 2 to 1 breathing pattern. I still had 5 or 6 to go, but that’s just a 10K! I caught Lance and surged past him. I also gained ground on the clock running mile 9 in 6:56. I saw 1:09:43 putting me 17s ahead in 9 miles – right on pace.
I was thinking that Lance had dropped back. This assumption was based on the traffic officers allowing vehicles to cross the course behind me. But I told myself he could be right on my heels. I kept pressing. Mile 11 was 6:58 for a 1:16:41 total. The math was telling me I was hanging in there. Miles 12 and 13 had changed direction from the predominately westward rest of the course. Mile 12 was 7:11. I am not sure if I saw it though. I was really bearing down trying to finish hard. Mile 13 included a u turn that I did not see coming. I tried to do an S curve and was redirected in the right direction. I lost a couple of seconds and significant momentum. I finally spotted the 13 mile marker and pressed the lap button. It says 7:03, but all I noticed was 1:30 something! I had 160 or so yards to go to reach an unseen finish line up around a corner. I gave it all I had. I rounded the corner and saw two sets of mats. I pushed my button at the first set, but the banner was over the second. I sort of coasted over this set. I did not know my time, due to this mat confusion. I am sure the second set was the actual finish line.
I was spent. There was a big truck there which I went and leaned against. I waited for Lance. He came in at 1:35:42, just missing his PR. We got some water and walked back to wait for Chuck. Joe was next though finishing in with a big PR – 1:40:16. A few minutes later Chuck came around the corner finishing in 1:45:29.
The early results I saw posted had me in 6th place in my division with a time of 1:31:37. I missed my PR by 10s. The results online NOW have me two seconds slower at 1:31:39. (Gee, I am glad I did not PR by 1 second only to have it taken away.) Like I said, at the top though, my BIG goal was to break 1:32 because that would mean that I am indeed as fast as I was in 2010!
This was a fast race course, but I am thinking that it is not as quick a course as Bakersfield. The reason being that this course has LOTS of turns! It seemed that the basic route was too short so they kept sending us on side trips around blocks into industrial parks and through neighborhoods. The more twists and turns a race course has the more difficult it is to run the course without running additional distance. My Garmin “finished” its 13.11 miles before I got to the 13 mile marker. The Garmin said I ran a half marathon in 1:30:26. ….. Now, I realize that the Garmin is not accurate to that degree, but all those twists add up. On one of the detours around an industrial block there was heavy equipment parked along the side of the street we were using. Things like this add a few feet here and a few feet there until your half marathon becomes 13.2 or .3 miles.