Third Annual Capitola Half Marathon

The weekend of May 17 and 18, I was lucky enough to be in Santa Cruz, California, and to once again be a part of the Surfer’s Path Marathon and Capitola Half Marathon & Relay.  I have been involved with the race since its inaugural year, and have loved watching the race grow and transform into what is becoming a “must do” race for the Santa Cruz area (recaps of years 1 & 2).  This year, I participated only as a runner but was SO happy to be able to add the race into my race schedule – especially knowing it meant I would get to race with some of the best runners around!

[Full disclosure: my race entry was comped for my contributions to the race from the first two years, but all opinions are my own.]

Race weekend started early Saturday morning with a 4 mile shakeout jog w/ Meg & Rebecca.  Then, after breakfast and showering, Meg (who ran the relay w/ Leslie & won the women’s division – check out her recap here) & I headed down to the expo to pick up our packets and meet up with Alisyn for the tweet-up (which ended up just being the three of us, but that just means there is lots of room for improvement next year!!).

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Alisyn, me and Meg at the Expo

At the Expo we also hung out at the SCE tent, and chatted for a bit before I headed off to meet a good friend for the rest of the afternoon.

SCE at the Expo

SCE at the Expo

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Spent the afternoon enjoying the Santa Cruz coast – and surfers!

After burgers + sweet potato fries for lunch, an afternoon chocolate sorbet and a poke bowl for dinner, I figured I was all carbo-loaded up and hit the hay to get ready for race day.

Sunday morning came all too fast.  Even though the race started extremely close to where I was staying at Meg’s, I woke up at 4am to pop 2 immodium (you can never be too safe) so that I didn’t have the same problem as the time I spent FAR too much time in the bathroom when I ran this race in 2012.  I went back to bed and woke up again at 5:00am to eat breakfast, pack a little and get dressed. Around 6:30, Meg, Hillary and I headed to the start line, where I popped another immodium (seriously, I was worried.  I mean, did you see what I ate on Saturday?!).  And before I knew it, it was go time.

Happiness at the start line

Happiness at the start line

I had made plans with Gaylia and Charmin, two absolutely incredible, sweet and talented ladies, to start out at about a 7:15-7:20 pace, and we all had the goal of finishing in the 1:35-1:38 time range.  Of course, I forgot to turn on my watch, so I only had a vague idea of “current” pace as we were running and what miles 2-13.1 were, since mile 1 was way off.

Running with those two ladies was seriously the greatest gift and experience I could’ve asked for.  They just made the day that much more fun.  And before we knew it, we checked in at the 4-mile mark right on at a 7:15 page.  This was thanks in large part to Gaylia keeping us all honest and not letting us pick up the pace too early, and Charmin for making sure we were all feeling good and knocking it out together.  We saw Rebecca around this point too, who had made it out after her morning run to cheer us all on!  Such a delightful surprise!

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Around mile 5 I took my first gu and shortly thereafter I saw my good friend who had woken up to cheer – it was kind of a surprise since he’s not necessarily an early morning riser, but it was fun and wonderful to see another friendly face on the course.  And we frequently saw Bob on the course with his bike & camera, and I have him to thank for most of these fantastic photos he took for SCE.

Synchronized running

Synchronized running

At about mile 6, you fly down the downhill into Capitola to the around point of the race where the relay has its hand off. I saw Meg who had just handed off the baton to Leslie who ran and started screaming at me about PRs of some sort (she PRed her 10k unofficially in the first half the relay!!, so we’re pretty sure thats what it was all about) and I screamed back at her something about pace, probably getting myself a PR and other sorts of nonsense.  I love that girl and our insanity.

And then it was back up and out of Capitola with Gaylia and Charmin – where the motto was “keep it relaxed and easy” because that hill is a beast.  This is also where we met up with speedster Jenn, who was a sweetheart and got up super early to come run in the last six miles of the race with us.  And Benoit joined us for a “cooldown” mile or two at the easy pace of about a 7:10…during miles 7 and 8.

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Jenn joining the ranks!

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The ladies + Benoit!

The miles flew by, and our paced jockeyed between a 7:03 and a 7:10, and suddenly we were at mile 11, which is on a short but pretty steep hill.  I took my second gu here, and came out of the hill with Jenn just ahead of Gaylia and Charmin.  I didn’t want to leave them since we had been running together the whole race, and it had been going perfectly, but when we turned back to look they waved me on, so I took off with Jenn.  When we got to mile 12 I told Jenn I didn’t want to know the splits.  Thankfully, she kept her mouth shut (we were running sub-7s) b/c otherwise I probably would’ve freaked out.  She just kept telling me to charge on, and so charge I did.

Just after 13 miles, Jenn turned around to go bring Gaylia & Charmin in and as I turned left to run down onto the beach to the finishline, my eyes caught the timer and it read “1:32:xx” and my mind just went “f*&p %s#s jd&*#” because I had no idea that was where I was at.  I mean, Kelley had told me after Cherry Blossom that I could do that, but I didn’t fully believe her…

Running onto the beach finishline

Running onto the beach finishline

Alisyn's instagram immediately following my finish - so fun to see her as soon as I crossed the finishline

Post-finish afterglow w/ Alisyn

And then the PR glow aftermath started settling in.  My official time was 1:32:23, a 12 minute PR from December…  My mind is still a little blown.

After the race, I hung out and celebrated with SCE and the running wives.  We grabbed some coffee, ate some post-race food (which comes from New Leaf and in AWESOME paper grocery bags – you just pick a bag up and you’re on your way!).

Post-race bliss w/ Jenn

Post-race bliss w/ Jenn

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We waited around for the awards, because SCE pretty much cleaned house.  SCE took top place in all the relays categories (open men, women and mixed) and there were AG takings and PRs flying all over the place.  I even managed to snag 3rd in my AG, which was definitely a nice bonus, but really all that mattered to me was that PR.

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It was seriously the perfect race day, with my favorite runners and in one of my favorite places in the world.  I couldn’t have asked for a better end to the most wonderful week.

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The best team in all the land

Actually I could have had a better end to my week in Santa Cruz – not having to run back to Meg’s, shower, pack and head to the airport would’ve been better…  At least I’ll be back in August.

I seriously love the Capitola Half Marathon and have heard wonderful things about the marathon course as well, though its definitely a half-marathon dominated race.  The course is well marked, the water stations are well manned and the volunteers are great at cheering, there are post race massages, lots of good food and a free ice bath called the ocean (which I wish I had taken advantage of.  And the location seriously can’t be beat.  While there are lots of rolling hills making it not a challenging course, the views are pretty hard to beat.  You bet your buns I’ll try to be back again next year.

Surfer’s Path Marathon & Capitola Half Marathon

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a whole new way.  In fact, the past two months I have had the opportunity to see a race evolve from the ground up.

On March 17, 2012, at the Go Green 10k in Los Gatos, I met the race director of the brand new to Santa Cruz race, Run Surfer’s Path Marathon & Capitola Half Marathon.  I introduced myself and said I wanted to help launch the race in any way I could.  From that moment forward, I entered into a whirlwind two months of social media promotions as a member of the inaugural race committee with my good friend, who was also the volunteer coordinator for the race, Alisyn.

Together, we kept the Facebook and Twitter pages up to date and helped drum up excitement for this inaugural race.  It was great watching the excitement for the race spread from the middle of march when we had about 400 runners signed up, to race day when there were about 1000 runners registered to run the the first year’s events.

This past weekend it all came to a head, starting with the race expo on Saturday in Capitola Village.  We had a great group of volunteers, including my good friends Maggie, Alisyn’s beau UMM, and Meg who helped with registration, and a great set of vendors, including our two main sponsors: New Leaf Community Market and Fleet Feet Aptos.  Thank you all for helping make this race a real success!

Meg, Me, Maggie & Umm Registering Runners at the Expo

After a loooong day of volunteering, we headed out for dinner and beers to decompress before the main event on Sunday, which for the race committee began at 5am sharp (and for our set up crew…at 4:30am).

We had an amazing set of volunteers, including some of my teammates from Santa Cruz Endurance, Alisyn’s friends from Running Addicts, our friend RussianBear and a number of school/community groups from Santa Cruz who came through in a huge way.

RussianBear with his adorable 2-year old puppy near the Capitola Half finish.

Without all our wonderful volunteers, this race would have never happened with the success it did.

I also had the joy of experiencing this race in the ‘traditional’ way.  At about 6:50am Sunday morning, I decided to run the inaugural Capitola Half Marathon.  I threw on my bib, chip, and grabbed Meg, and headed to the start.

The race was incredible!  From a runner’s standpoint, seeing all the course marshalls along the way, and neighborhood crowds out to support the race was awesome.  The aid stations were full of energetic groups who were just as excited to be there as I was to be running.

The course was a little hillier than I had expected (I live here, I should’ve known better..), but with the gorgeous coastal scenery, I didn’t even notice it.

My one problem on the course?  Well, it was personal: my GI tract decided not to cooperate (major fail).  I was running a great race for the first 4.5 miles, and the need for the bathroom hit.  I clocked it, and I lost 2 minutes.  Evenso, by the time I hit mile 7, I was only at 57 minutes.  Still on serious pace for a PR!  Then, my GI tract acted up again.  Another 6 minutes lost waiting for the bathroom at mile 8.5.  And with that, my PR slipped just out of reach.  And by just out of reach, I mean I finished in 1:51:39…a mere 22 seconds off a PR.  Thank you, GI, for ruining my perfect weekend.

I love the Santa Cruz tradition of finishing ON the beach!  Its possibly one of the best race traditions we have.  And then, there’s a free icebath like 200 feet away…which can’t be beat.

I was still elated with my run, the course, the volunteers, and how well the race weekend had pulled together.

Meg and I at the finish!  Congrats to Meg who scored a HUGE PR on the half!

One of the best parts of the course, according to some of our runners, were the cyclists, who helped make sure the leaders didn’t get lost on the course and that the last runners on the course made it in safetly, encouraging them to finish even though aid stations and course markers had started to be taken down.

One of our fabulous two cyclists!  They were fabulous!

After my run, I stuck around the finish line, helping get the food out to our finishers, cheering on at the finishline, guiding runners along the course, and helping with tear down and clean up.  It was a long day, and weekend, weekend to say the week, but a very very rewarding weekend.

Alisyn and I near the end of the long, but rewarding weekend.  We were starting to get tired at this point…

I am so excited at how well the event went, and am excited as we’ve started to plan the event for 2013!  I had no idea what exactly to expect from being on the race committee, and I definitely learned a TON about what all goes into a race — from the volunteers, sponsors, man power, organization and promoting a race — to make it a success both for the committee and more importantly for the runners.  Seriously, the positive comments we’ve received from our runners for this race have been incredible!  Couldn’t have asked for a better outcome!

Did you race this weekend?  Have you ever been involved on a race committee or volunteered for one?  What was your experience?

**Most of these photos are courtesy of Alisyn or Brightroom Photography (photo thief I am!)***

Surfer’s Path Race: A Winner

I had meant to do a post recapping my two half marathons the past two weekends, but then the internets decided to eat them…so, I figured.  Let’s just get on with the real business — and what you want to know anyway!  Which lucky runner will be **for sure** joining me at Surfer’s Path on May 20th?

***DRUMROLL PLEASE***

Using http://www.random.org, I randomly generated a number between 1-28 (the number of totaly entries between twitter, facebook, and comments).  The lucky number is:

Lucky number 8!  And who was number 8?  Carrie!

Congratulations, girl!  So glad its going to work perfectly for you, and help you train for that full!  Please email me at phdstries (at) gmail (dot) com with your full name, email and I’ll pass it on to the race director so you can get your free half marathon entry!!!  Can’t wait to see you out there!

If you didn’t win, there’s still time to enter!  Hurry over before time runs out!  Or, if you’re in town and you still want to participate, email me at phdstrides (at) gmail (dot) com if you’d like to be a part of the race as a volunteer!  The race committee is looking for course monitors, aid station volunteers and such.  Let me know if you’d like to get involved and help make this inaugural race even better!