So I will start with the kids run, and continue through the weekend in the order of events -
(links to all events are on the left of this page)
Aquarium of the Pacific Kids Run
This is a free event that is part of the Long Beach Marathon (from here out referred to as LBM). It is on Saturday, day before the marathon and half. I will just start with 'Awesome!' It sold out with 2000 kids registered (not really sold out since it was free, but it filled up the limit of kids). parking was no issue at all, we parked right across from the start. It takes place in front of the aquarium. On the lawn there were booths set up, and the bib pick up tent. Bib pick up was cake, no problem, no line. The kids got free bike helmets, and played a game trying to kick a soccer ball into a big blow up thing.
I have to be honest and say that after reading Danica's reports from last year, I was expecting to see some crazy parents and possibly some smack downs, but everything seemed very organized and calm! The waves started, each age had its own start. The older kids were about 20 minutes apart, the younger up to 40 minutes apart. Emma was with the 9yr olds, she took 8 minutes and change. Sophie I think was around 12 minutes, and Myles took about 15. We wanted to support the request by Run Racing to not have parents on the course w/their kids....but have to admit I have visions of Myles getting half way and stopping and crying. It was only a mile run, and you could see bits of it from the start. There was a loop out around a light house, and that was what I was concerned about for him. As the morning went on, we decided to have Emma go out with him, but let him do his own thing, not pressure him to run, or run faster!
In the end, he did great! All the kids did great!! There was an ice cream stand an some "random stuff" stand that Brian hit up for a blow up spiderman balloon and ice cream. Myles saw him on the side right as he was about to come around the corner to the finish and his face just lit up, it was priceless.
All the kids got a medal, and not some cheap, plastic, free kids race type of medal. It is really nice!! It's an octopus keeping w/the theme, and even the ribbon it's on is cute (the bibs were cute, too!) The race itself rivals any other race out there as far as these things are concerned - bibs, medals, entertaining announcer, nice volunteers, water and sports drink at the finish, dressed up characters in costumes, a real start and finish line w/signage/banner, a lead pacer on an elliptigo (half elliptical machine, half bike)Brightroom photographers on the course, a "runners village" if you will(tents and booths of stuff to see)a corralled staged start, timing clock (it is a non-timed run, but the clock was there to see how you did), free stuff for runners (we got tickets to the aquarium, and 3 free harbor cruises).... did I mention already that this is a FREE event???? I have zero complaints and can't imagine what anyone could have found to complain about!! It is an excellently put together event. Nothing but love for Run Racing and Danica (she was in charge of this part of the weekends events...and other stuff, too)
After the kids runs were over we headed down to the expo. It was at the Long Beach Convention Center. No issues what so ever. We parked, went in, got our bibs, bags w/shirts inside for the 5k, and Brians' half marathon stuff. No problems and the very short lines moved very quickly. We bought Sophie a pink LBM long sleeved, thumb holed, half zip pull over that she loves!! Emma got a sleeveless zip up cycling/running top w/ 3 deep pockets on the back from Go For It Sports! This is the big both that gets the center spot at every major marathon expo, tons of stuff in a tiny space, but they always have something we can't pass up! Her vest looks awesome, and I am envious!! We hit all the booths that caught our eye, and won 3 shirts and a flashlight at the Geico booth!
It's a great expo, in a nice sized venue, not at all cramped like San Fran's. Easy in, easy out.
From there we went to the hotel and ate....or ate then hotel?? Can't remember.
Up at 4 and out the door at 5. Brian hit traffic on the freeway, so he quickly got off and found the street we wanted on to line straight up with the parking lot in Long Beach. We cruised along and right down into the parking lot. This was much much different from our last time here. Last time we hit traffic on the way, stayed in it, got to the start with 30 minutes to spare, and we were in the potty line as our wave started. This time....much nicer! The sky...oh man. (there is a perfect picture of it - click on Danica's link above) Words will not do it justice, neither will my camera, but it was like a beautiful bow on top of the gift that is race day. Stunning pinks, purples, and oranges silhouetted runners and palm trees. It was really just amazing. Brian hit the potties twice, we wandered around, saw the bike tour start, then the cranks, then he got in his wave (which happened to be wave #1!!) and was off! Nothing rushed or hurried or frantic, it was a very peaceful, calm start. He felt good and fast and like that, he was off and running. (I will have him guest post and recap his race) We watched all the waves get started, and the runners who were late straggle across the start. Then they announced that any runners who had not crossed the start had 2 minutes to do so. There were still lots of runners just sort of milling around slowly walking towards the start who had gotten there late. With one minute to go, there were still some on the far side of the lagoon walking to the start. After the minute was up, they could still run, but it would not be timed. This was because things had to be reset for the 5k. The Marathon banners came down, and the Run Forrest Run 5k banners and signs went up. The start totally looked different than it did for the marathon and half. Its pretty amazing all the little details like that that are going on that most of us runners don't think about. There were constantly people working behind the scenes to make the weekend run smoothly for us 25,ooo runners.
The kids and I wandered around, they climbed trees for quite a while. We circled the lagoon and bridges twice, used the potty a few times, and then I heard some hooting and hollaring. I realized that the lead runners were coming back towards the beach, near the start. The kids and I took off running, hoping to see Brian go by, and hoping he would be in that lead group. We only waited a few minutes and there he was. He was running hard, and looked really good. That whole first wave of runners that came through looked so fit and strong and like they were out for PR's!! We were about at mile 6, so this was almost half way for the half and not even 1/4th of the way for the full. I have never seen a sweatier group that early in a run, everyone was pouring buckets, and it wasn't that warm out yet. This 6 mile mark raises my one and only complaint of the whole weekend, and it has nothing to do with Run Racing, or the actual race itself, but rather the silent spectators on this corner. There were at least 100 people lining this corner and it was silent. When the kids and I walked up I was shocked. Yes I know that these were the first group to come through, more serious runners, maybe intimidating to some....but they were running their booties off and enjoy some yelling and encouragement as much as the back of the packers do. I hooted and hollard a bit but could tell the guy next to me didn't enjoy it, so piped down a bit. I was pretty puzzled because I have to say that when Brian and I ran the full, one of our favorite parts was how crazy supportive the spectators and cheer stations and neighborhoods were. Some of the runners who ran by would pump the air like they wanted some cheers and we gave them to them. You could tell as hard as these guys were running, they wanted some noise! I finally said to the kids that if they wanted to get some high fives, all they have to do is stick out their hands and they'd get them. For the next 10 minutes it was a steady stream of runners giving the kids high fives and thanking the kids for being there. We needed to head to the 5k start, but I felt bad walking away. There's nothing worse as a runner to stick your hand out for a high five just as the spectator turns and walks away : ) So we waited till there was a space and hurried and retreated from the side of the race and headed to the 5k start.
Run Forrest Run 5k -
Forrest Gump and the mascot shrimp were there. We got a photo, and made way to the staring corral which was very full already. The plan for this race was that it was not for time, no one was going to actually run hard for a time. We were all going to have fun and enjoy the scenery and music. Emma and Sophie would stick together, while I worked on getting Bubba through his first 5k.
Well, Sophie is a bit like me when it comes to crowds, usually she is ok, but today it got to her. I think because we entered the corral after it was so full it made her really nervous. I could see her start to shut down (I cant' really describe what happens, but I literally see her start to shut down). I knew it was the crowd, but now I just needed to fix it so there was no major scene. She said she wanted us to all stay together, that it would be much better if we all stayed together. I knew Emma, who's 9 and becoming a pro at running solo in these big events, didn't' want to run with her mom. I suggested we wait till everyone else starts, and then her and Em could run together and see how many people they pass. She suggested she glue herself to my leg and not let go (not actually what she said, but I knew she was thinking that). Then I told Em she should probably just go for it on her own and run it however she wanted, slow and fun, or fast and furious. She knows to cross the finish and stick herself in a nook or cranny just passed the finish line till she sees us (which she did). So the race did start (with Forrest saying, "Stupid is as stupid does") and we all pressed up against the fence until nearly everyone started. It was just us and the slowest of the slow walkers. So we start running, (Emma is already way gone by now) and Sophie says "bye!" Huh?? I am finding myself in this position more and more, but I really was puzzled and had no idea what just happened. She was shutting down 2 seconds ago, and now she is off and running through the crowd, on her own, no Emma with her......I dread her teenage mood swings, i can't even imagine what the future holds!!
So then it was just Bubba and me! We ran. We walked. We skipped. We hopped. We danced. I had my fuel belt on and when he needed a pit stop we pulled off and he had water, gatorade, and sports beans. Was any of it really needed, well....I wanted to make him feel like a real runner and enjoy his first race! : ) I saw Emma go by heading the opposite way from us on an out and back. She looked really strong, her face was red and blotchy, so I knew she had decided to run hard. A few minutes later I saw Sophie trucking along all by herself. She's like a little mini Mack truck. Just a solid brick making her way down the road. She waved and smiled, so I knew she was ok.
Myles and I just kept making our way along the course, pretty slow going, but lots of fun and no tears or complaining. After the aid station, I saw Sophie again on a short out and back and she was now not far ahead of us at all, so I knew something was up. She was walking like John Travolta in Rhinestone Cowboy, so sad...I knew what was happening. She is built a lot like me and I have known that eventually longer compression shorts were going to be needed under her running skirt (to prevent inner thigh chaffing), well this is the race that she first experienced this issue : ( I told her to sit down by a palm tree and wait for me and I'd help her. We made a few wardrobe adjustments and lubed w/some water and headed for the bathrooms near the aquarium. She took care of business while Myles danced outside where there was a band. She was in there for a few minutes, came running out ready to go. I know she was very uncomfortable, but she didn't complain at all the rest of the run. About now I got a call from Brian who had finished the half in 1:55 wanting to know where we were. We hit 2 bands in the last mile and spent time dancing at each one, then we were at the 3 mile sign and could see the finish and we all just started going as fast as we could the last .1 mile to the finish! Em was tucked behind the volunteers handing out medals (she had been there for almost 30 minutes but insisted she waited 2 hours). We made our way out the finishing shoot area to the Bubba Gumps food, got our food and found a spot to sit. They had boxed lunches w/sandwiches, chips, and a candy bar. They ran out of water, but when more arrived they walked around handing it out to us. There were tables w/table clothes, umbrellas and chairs set up. Also a ping pong table that Forrest was playing at. It was an awesome set up for a 5k finish, definitely felt like more of a half or full marathon finish area than a 5k.
There was a separate finish area for the full/half , and another finish for the bikes. There was also a huge beer garden that everyone seemed well behaved at.
After maybe 45 minutes of sitting, eating, and relaxing, we headed down to the aquarium where the harbor boats leave from. We got our tickets for our free harbor tour, sat on a bench by the water and relaxed. I got some tacos from a taco wagon and the kids got cotton candy from another vendors booth, then we took the boat out and it was a perfect way to wrap up a great day of racing!
The next day we spent a few hours at the aquarium w/our free tickets (everyone who ran in the 5k, full or half also got free tickets). Then drove the 7 hours home.
I wish I could express in words how much we love this race, from start to finish, top to bottom, it is so well put together!! Every detail, from signs, banners, medals, ribbons, shirts, expo, logos, website, location of start/finishes, bag check (run by UPS), # of potties, parking options,....I could go on and on, but it's just top notch from every angle.
We have agreed and are committed to running the full marathon next year since we will not be doing San Fran, and I already cant' wait to go back down! Any family members want to volunteer to come with us??
This post is long enough on it's own, and believe me this is the short version!! I will follow this post with a picture post, and link to our photo site.