Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wharf to Wharf Race Report and LoopMeet!

Whew! It was a whirlwind 3-day weekend, with a 6-7 hour drive each way, a trail run, loop meets, tourism, gastronomic excess (burgers, pizza, burritos and french toast, for starters), and a fabulous little 6 mile race. Loved every minute!

Last year, when several of us got together in San Francisco, Medievalist (or V, from now on) suggested we do the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf in 2013. It is a 6 mile beach run that sells out its 15,000 spots in days! It is a 41 year old local tradition and a big rolling party. 52 bands (supposedly) line the course. It starts next to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and its famous roller coasters, and you run along the coast to the next little fishing village. Beautiful course! Of course I said I was in.

We ended up not being able to reserve Alice's Loop mansion this year, but V offered to put me up in her dorm at UC Santa Cruz, where she is academic dean for a summer camp for young brainiacs. So I spent two nights in spartan surroundings. Brought my own sleeping bag, pillow and towel, and re-lived college life, in a small way anyway. UCSC is tucked into the wooded hills and offers fantastic trails to run on. So we did! As soon as I arrived Friday at 5PM, V and I went out for over 5 miles of "shake-out". Although it was a little hillier than I like my shake-out runs, it was great to run in the shade of giant redwoods.

Then V and I put on our matching Boston marathon jackets and went out for a delicious burger at a place called "burger". And we stopped by her office, where she has papered her wall with bibs.

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Saturday I drove V up to Stanford to show her around. She is stuck without a car every summer, so hasn't had a chance to explore. It was fun for me to go back and relive old memories, and V really enjoyed seeing the campus - especially the track! Here is a shot of the main campus from the top of Hoover tower.

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Next we had a Loop-meet lunch. Alice and her DH had just drove up from LA, and we met with them and John Wayne who lives in nearby San Jose. It was fun to talk running and loop smack over some delicious pizza.
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Saturday evening we decided to drive the course so we were better able to visualize our race. Good thing, too! Because the "rolling hills" were kind of nasty. I always like to know the course ahead of time, and it made me much more comfortable after seeing it. There were numerous little ups and downs - steep enough to notice! And also lots of turns. Tangent running would be critical! Here is the elevation and map.


OK, not HUGE elevation, but 30-40 feet can be pretty darn tough over a short distance! The course was really pretty too. Ocean and beach views, cute old neighborhoods, lots of variety, lots of fans and bands everywhere. I highly recommend this race!

OK, Goals: My training is going well, so I felt I had a shot at my over age-40 10K PR pace, which was 6:59/mile. So, I was shooting for sub-42 for this 6-mile race. I felt it would be tough, but possible. I would be OK with sub-43 too as a B-goal. Plan was about 7:15 first mile, then close to 7 for mile 2, and sub-7 the rest of the way in.

V and I were up early and hit Starbucks for some coffee. We worried about the crowds and parking, but everything was smooth and easy, so we were in our "elite" corral (top 1000 runners) with over an hour to go.


Had a leisurely warm-up of 0.7 miles, some time to chill, and then it was time to roll.

Thanks to the corral system, the 15,000 people were not a problem, and I was out of traffic within seconds. My conservative start worked, and I didn't have to slow myself down for once. I was right on schedule. By the time I finished mile 1 at 7:09, it was starting to feel hard already. This really wasn't much slower than my mile repeats at 6:45; The ones where I get to stop after a mile and rest. "Oh, yes, 10Ks are painful, aren't they. Sigh. Oh well, stick with the plan."

And mile 2 started with a nasty hill. I practiced patience, but was heaving for oxygen by the top. My mile 2 lap pace was showing 7:26, but I knew the rest of the mile would be down. So once I could breathe again, I pressed back on that gas pedal and got into serious race mode. By the end of mile 2 I had dropped it to 7:06.

The next few miles rolled. There were downs where I used gravity and opened it up and felt confident. There were ups that took a little piece of my soul away. Lots of turns so I could focus on the tangents. Plenty of people to pass to keep it interesting. I was sub-7 now and it hurt. A lot. But I felt like maybe I could maintain it for a while. Mile 3 came in at 6:53 and mile 4 was 6:54. But the Garmin was losing distance to the official mile markers, and I was still about 15 seconds over 28:00 at 4 miles. At this point, I had almost given up on sub-42. I was hurting bad and couldn't imagine two more miles at this same pace. I was just trying to hang on.

Mile 5 is the worst. The finish is still so far away, and the pain is just telling you to slow down. RIGHT NOW!! I just focused on getting to mile 5. Because I knew the last mile would come with some adrenaline. Somehow I kept going. I picked a woman who was at my pace and stayed behind her as we passed all the other dying runners. It is amazing how that can help. I got to 5 in 6:59. Hanging on.

I remembered that the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile was downhill to the finish. I knew once I got back to the ocean view, it was downhill from there. But that first 1/2 mile of mile 6 took FOREVER! Hang on, hang on. Better yet, Pick it up! Yes, you can do anything for a mile! Go get it! So I picked it up a little. I didn't have the energy to check my watch and see my pace or try to calculate my chances of sub-42. I was just giving everything I had.

Finally I saw the ocean. It would be over soon. I was passing more and more people. Sweet, sweet downhill!! God bless you! Flying!!!


Mile 6 was 6:40, and somehow G made up some distance in mile 6, so I finished with only 6.02 miles.

And 41:45!! YES!! 

I was completely exhausted. V was waiting for me at the finish after her awesome race, so we had to do one of these.


We were quite happy.


If you go back to the elevation chart you can see my pace in blue. Check out the dip in the last 1/2 mile. It showed 6:20, 6:10, sub 6! And for the last .02 it said 4:24 pace. Sure, why not! I gave it all in this one and could not be happier!

V and I eventually cleaned up and celebrated at the Santa Cruz Diner with Mimosas.

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And then I had to get back in the car for the 6+ hour drive home. Long day. But a fantastic weekend!

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