It's hard to know where to start when recapping a 4 day weekend, but I am going to start with our awesome hotel. We stayed at the Desert Palms in Anaheim. It is right up against CA Adventure on Katella. We had a 2 room suite w/bunk beds for the kids. It was great, cheap, clean, nicer than we normally get. It had a great workout room, free hot buffet breakfast, coffee shop, pool that changed colors at night (the kids loved this), and we watched the Disney fireworks from the hotel each night. The bed was comfy, too, which is a bonus!
Moving on to the expo on Saturday. It was just as large, and even more well organized than 2 years ago. It's right on the beach in a huge white tent that you can see for miles before you get to it. No problems with picking up our race stuff, and although there were tons of people, there were no lines to wait in at all. The goody bags are really nice reusable bags that have the course, runners, and Huntington Beach themed things on them. The shirts are great also. I walked right up and got my series jacket w/no issues and no line. If you remember back to San Fran expo, Brian waited over 30 minutes to get his jacket, so this was really nice! I hit my favorite booth, Running Divas, and walked away with a cute skirt. The kids spun some give-away wheels and had fun. Overall, this is one of the largest expos we have been to and it is set up very well for traffic flow.
On to race day. Sunday we were up at 4:30, on the way to the race at 6. Our wave was set to go off at 7:53, and we were about 30 minutes from the parking lots. If you remember back to Brian running this half as his first half ever 2 years ago.....there was a mad dash from a parking lot 2 miles away from the start to make his wave. We did not want to repeat that.....but we came pretty darn close! The parking lots are spread down PCH, so if the first one is full, you are funneled down to the next....and on and on until you find a spot. We ended up at least 2 miles down PCH from the start at about 7:30. After a hustle to attempt to make our wave, we relaxed and went with the flow. It's not a big deal to start in a later wave, it just messes up your gun time and makes it look really long, but not a big deal.
When we did make the start area, there was a wave (2 waves after the one we should have been in) about to go, so we just jumped into it, at the very very back. This is not the greatest set up. It means we are starting with people who run a slower pace than we do (waves are according to your predicted finish times, so this group was set up to go slower than our wave) and be at the back where we have to maneuver through a crowd. More of an issue for Brian as he was racing this run, not so much a problem for me as I was running, not racing : )
We crossed the start together, then with a pat on the butt and a "have a great run hun" I gave him the green light to leave me behind and go to it....and he did! I am so proud of him! His first running of this half 2 yrs ago was a 2:23 run. He killed it and finished in 1:51!! I can't recap his race as I was not with him, so I will leave that to him.
As for my run, it was everything I wanted it to be. I pretty much stuck with the same group of people I started with. They would lose me at the aid stations, but I would catch back up to the same group. I had fun, took lots of pictures and videos, listened in on some fun conversations, had a few strange moments, but it was a good, fun run. I had no idea what pace I was running as I had no watch on. I could tell I was not pushing as hard as I did at my See Jane half, so I knew my time would be long, but at the same time, I was feeling pretty spent, which I expected.
I stopped and got fluid in at every station, chatted w/the volunteers, got lots of high fives including one from a panda bear, chatted for a half mile with a runner I overheard telling her friend that she was from Walla Walla.
Most of this course is on PCH along the ocean. While I was running out, away from town, I kept an eye on the runners that were on the other side running back into town, figuring I would see Brian at some point. I saw him coming, got my high five ready, stuck my hand out and said " Love you babe, you're doing great"......and the guy in front of Brian high fives me and says thanks! : ) Oops! I jumped the gun, but I did get a high five from Brian and he had a laugh with the guy over it, who apologized to him and said he thought it was awfully nice of me to be that friendly : )
I kept seeing young men in orange shirts that were flying by me giving it their all. I came up on one about the same time my legs were feeling the burn...he was walking on PCH along the ocean. So I pulled up next to him and asked if I could walk with him for a minute. He did that shy, teenage boy, embarrassed, looking at his feet thing and said "sure". So I asked what the deal was and he told me they are a running club, from age 12 to 16. They are from local OC JR highs and a few high school boys, they do 3 runs a week, short, medium, and a long run on the weekends. This half was a training run for the LA Marathon, which is a tough course. Super nice kid, after a while of talking I told him to have a good run and took off. We were heading back towards town, running along the ocean, and I came up on another runner walking and patted him on the back and asked him to take a picture, which he was more than happy to do.
Nearly the whole time we are running back towards town, the full marathoners are running on a beach path to our right, heading back away from town again. I will admit it was a little difficult to see them over there and be thinking about how fleeting fitness is. It was just a few short months ago we were running marathon #4, and now I am feeling wiped at mile 10! I tried to ignore them though, and just keep my head in the race I was running, content to trot along and enjoy myself. I had one earphone in and found myself lost in my favorite Pink and Fergie songs more than once, trotting along to the beat, looking around, smiling, and taking pictures. This run does not lack crowd support, and there were people everywhere shouting out encouragement. I love a run where you have surfers dodging runners to cross the street, and beach music playing.
The last 3 miles dragged a bit, but the last 3 of every race do for me. When we hit mile 12, there was the predictable surge of runners who think "last mile, time to kick in"....I was looking around thinking what are you guys doing?? A mile is really far out to kick, and I caught back up to many of those runners w/in the next half mile. When I could see the finish line, I did a quick check and asked myself "Self, do you have anything left to kick with? "....and then I answered myself with "lets see...nope. Ok, well, I'll just take a video instead."
The weirdest part of this run for me came during that last half mile. There were tons of people lining the finish, and as I would pass, almost everyone would smile and yell out something about the Steelers. I was questioning my sanity at this point, wondering what in the world was happening. I am not a football fan, but there is a family connection to the Steelers that has always been present in my life. I am having this weird experience thinking I am putting out some sort of weird Steelers vibe...why is everyone looking at me and yelling "Go Steelers"????
After crossing the finish line, I look up and standing next to me is a Steeler....well, a wanna be Steeler, who must have been running right behind me that last half mile. Nice guy, let me take a picture with him. I can't believe he ran that whole thing in full football gear!
In the fenced off finishers shoot, I got my medal, foil blanket, drinks, bananas, a bag of food that they were handing out to all the runners (it had Fig newtons, fruit, bars, granola, and pretzels). Brian was waiting at the end of the shoot, and from there we met up w/Simone and the kids. The kids had great runs and were excited to tell us about how hard they ran and show us their medals. From there I went back into the expo tent to get my CA Dreamin Series medal, again, no line at all. Brian checked out the results, he finished in 1:51, and me at 2:20.
This is a great course, and a very well run, organized event. It is worth the trip from the Bay Area, or from any where else! As you can see from our times, whatever your goals are, you can definitely achieve them on this course, whether it be a PR attempt, or a fun, entertaining run.
I will follow this post shortly with a post just of pictures, and as always, there will be a full set of pictures on our photo site, link to the left.