Happy Halloween! Sorry for letting the blog go dark the last couple of weeks. We just got back from our two and a half week trip to Southeast Asia, and as awesome as it was, it is wonderful to be back home :) Big thanks to my sister for guest posting while I was gone! Vacation posts coming soon, but I wanted to first write up the Long Beach Half. Spoiler alert: I got a PR!
My race weekend started on the Friday before the race, when I went to the expo to pick up my packet and t-shirt. The expo was located at the Long Beach Convention Center, and we had no trouble finding parking nearby and following the crowd to the expo. The packet pickup was quick and efficient, and we made the wise choice to pre-pay for parking for race day. The Long Beach race events (marathon, half marathon, and other races) have over 30,000 participants and even more spectators, so we knew the closest parking lots would be impossible to get into otherwise. Turns out that we bought the second-to-last parking vouchers – how lucky! I liked the race t-shirt very much; the picture below doesn’t do it justice – it’s a beautiful blue color with a simple palm tree design on the front and back. The fabric is very comfortable and I can see this becoming a favorite workout shirt.
The expo was held in a huge hall with tons of vendors and free samples; my favorite was the C2O coconut water booth. I also managed to win a t-shirt at the Hustlers Casino booth, which I will probably never wear…
The atmosphere of the expo was so exciting, and being surrounded by hundreds of runners made me feel readier than ever for the race the next day.
Mike’s uncle wanted to treat us to sushi, and asked if I would be okay eating sushi instead of my usual pre-race dinner of ramen. Um, yes please! He treated us to AYCE (all you can eat) sushi buffet at Kuma.
We were warned that the traffic on race day was going to be awful, so we woke up very bleary-eyed at 4:30 AM to leave the house at 5, a good 2.5 hours before the race. To our surprise, the traffic wasn’t as bad as expected and we arrived before 6. We sat in the car and I ate the banana and almond butter I packed the night before and drank a bottle of water, then went out to see the marathoners start at 6 AM. This was Ashley’s second marathon and I sent good thoughts her way – congrats Ashley!!
As it got closer to race time, my race day jitters began! I made sure to use the port-o-potty just before the race to avoid making a mile one pit stop again. I was impressed with the race setup – there were plenty of port-o-potties, even with 30,000 runners.
After taking a few pictures with my handsome husband, I lined up in the corral near the 2:00 pacer. Can you see me? It’s like Where’s Waldo! Hint: I’m wearing a white visor and I’m looking at the camera.
While we all waited for the race to start – half marathon start was at 7:30 – I had plenty of time to think about my race strategy. I had tried the yellow-orange-red strategy before, but I found myself flagging at the end of the race and I really didn’t want to walk the last mile again. So for this race, I told myself to take it just one mile at a time. As the race started, I thought I’m not running 13.1 miles today. I’m running just one. I can easily run one mile! For the first few miles, I aimed for a 9:10 pace, which was what I needed to run a 2 hour race. Miles 1-5 flew by as I focused on running just one mile at a time.
Miles 1-5 – 9:06, 9:07, 8:46, 8:56, 8:42
I realized after mile 5 that I had run the last couple of miles considerably faster than my desired pace, so I forced myself to slow down a little to rest my legs for the next few miles so I wouldn’t burn myself out for the finish. For each mile, I focused on pushing myself on the uphills and enjoying the release in my legs on the downhills. I walked through each water station, but got back to running as soon as I threw away the cup.
Miles 6-9 – 9:12, 9:03, 9:06, 9:13
Mile 9 made me nervous, because I could feel my legs getting tired and I was starting to slow down. So for the next mile, I pushed myself in the beginning to pick up the pace, reminding my mind and my body that we had practiced this during my tempo and pace runs, and that this race was no different. I said to myself, I don’t know if I can run another 4 miles. But I know that I can run THIS mile. That became my mantra for the next few miles, and each time I felt myself slowing down, I told myself to run JUST the mile ahead of me.
Miles 10-12 – 9:07, 9:04, 8:56
My pace picked up, and for the last few miles, I skipped the water stations because I knew if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to start again. The time flew by as I read all the posters and mentally thanked all the spectators, particularly my in-laws, who somehow magically appeared every few miles to cheer me on (I later found out that my father-in-law carefully studied the course the night before and did some creative driving to make this happen!). Then it was time for the last mile. I thought about my family waiting for me at the finish line. I let myself think about my sub-2 goal for the first time, and how that goal was just within reach. This was what I had worked for! And then I saw the finish line and began my sprint.
Mile 13 – 8:45
Mile 13.1 – 7:59
Final time: 1:58:42
Everything came together that day – the course was fast and flat, the weather was perfect, and my mind and body were ready to run.
The finish line area was really crowded, but I was really impressed by the post-race food – I got a bottle of coconut water, which I downed right away, and a blue bag full of goodies!
Overall, I think the half marathon course is a great one for a PR – it’s flat, scenic, and there’s a nice mix of loops and straight stretches to keep the course interesting most of the way. Ashley found out the hard way that the marathon course is MUCH hillier than the half, so that might be something to keep in mind if you’re planning on running the Long Beach Marathon. I liked that it had the energy and excitement of a big race while still being very organized. I think this would be a great course for a first time runner or anyone looking to PR!
My husband and his family deserve HUGE thanks for driving me to the expo, waking up crazy early on race day and standing around for hours to see me run. This medal is as much theirs as mine!