I finished the Long Beach Half Marathon 4 weeks ago, but wanted to take some time to recap the race primarily because this specific race is so near and dear to me and I love it!!! Long Beach was my first half, first race really, in 2009 and this was my fourth time running it. It’s been a very different experience each time.
In 2009, I was so new to running and racing and loved every second of it. I was able to stay focused up until mile 12 when my tummy was no longer agreeing with all of the activity it was experiencing. Nothing in my training could’ve prepared me for it, but I almost did what many first time long-distance runner’s fear, but I will spare you the details… however, I made it to the finish line (and the porto-potty) in 1:45:20, well under my goal of 2 hours. I blew myself away. I loved the runner’s high, the pain in my legs for the week after, and the bragging rights.
In 2012, I took on the course a second time with my friend Theodora. She came down from San Francisco and I hadn’t seen her in months. Let’s just say, Saturday’s post-expo happy hour sangria turned into Theo backing out the next morning at 6:30 and sleeping in the car. I finished, haphazardly and very uncomfortably, in 1:56:21. Yahhhh for running with hangovers! NOT!
In 2013, I felt renewed with running and wanted to set a PR for my third shot at Long Beach. I needed a new goal with this race. I started teaching spin/cycle classes in early 2013 and noticed how much the cross-training allowed me to give my joints a break, but still build my cardio and muscles. My legs were strong. I could feel the difference every time I went for a run, and crossed the finish line in 1:44:49. I PR’d my hometown race by 31 seconds. Awesome!!!
I stopped teaching spin in July, 3 months before the 2014 race, limiting my training to just straight running. One thing I will tell everyone who runs or has a desire to do long distance – cross train. I over trained with this race. I ran almost 7 days a week because I thought each run would be better than the last, but I was really wearing out my muscles and lacking purpose in my training.
The day of this year’s race was perfect. This past summer has been a long one and I feared race day would be humid with 85 degree heat and sun in my face for a majority of the race. I woke up to overcast skies and low 70s. Perfect running temp. The bike ride from my house to downtown where the race starts was a great warm-up.
The first mile or so, I always have jitters. My mouth gets really dry and I start to worry that I didn’t drink enough water. At mile 2 we started to go up a hill that crosses over the bridge to the Queen Mary. I paced with the 1:40 Pacer until Mile 4, the next hill which took us back from the Queen Mary onto Ocean in downtown. That’s the last real hill on the course and the remainder is flat. Mile 5-6 took us back to the water. We circled Lighthouse Park before going back into the crowd of spectators on Ocean Blvd.
And then I saw Ricky. My biggest fan that comes out to most of my races was at Mile 7. He snapped some pics and then he was gone. It’s always encouraging to see someone you know cheering for you, especially if you’re running alone. Mile 7-9 took us to the boardwalk. I feel lucky running Long Beach because the boardwalk is part of my normal course that I run on every week. I feel comfortable and at home here.
The 1:45 Pacer caught up to me at Mile 8. I stayed next to her for about a mile, but my legs were tingly. Mentally, I was exhausted. I just kept telling myself, “Don’t stop running.” At Mile 9.5, I got back onto Ocean, and there were a ton of spectators with donuts and pretzels and other goodies that look absolutely disgusting at this point because my body is so angry at me. But their enthusiasm brings me back to a happy place. I play catch up with this guy in a red tank who’s doing some sort of run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute scenario. He walks and I feel like I may be picking up speed, and then he catches up to me and passes by. This goes on for the last 3 miles. He beat me in the end.
The finish line in Long Beach is my absolute favorite finish line. Ever. Period. You come down Ocean at the very end of Mile 12 and there’s a turn onto Shoreline Drive. This corner is filled with parents, kids, friends, crying babies, cyclists, and amazing signs that say “Chafe Now. Brag Forever.” It makes it all worth it. They are there for me. Cheering for me. Supporting me. I made the turn and I saw the finish line. The decline down Shoreline Drive helped me sprint to the finish (and yes, you can still sprint after 13 miles for the last .1 mile – runner’s high!!). And then it’s over. My legs turned to jello and I grabbed as many water bottles from the volunteers as I could hold because my body felt like a desert.
I find Ricky and we jump on our bikes and ride home. The ride definitely helped prevent my muscles from getting tight. My final time clocked in at 1:47:23. I was disappointed, but realized it’s still pretty good for the way I’d been feeling. I ended the day resolved to be better in my training – to start weight training and strengthening my body as a whole through exercise and nutrition, especially with the Big Sur full marathon next April. I’ll see Long Beach again in 2015. Maybe for the full marathon. We’ll see.