Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa to the Sea

I did it! I conquered the half marathon! I was starting to wonder if I ever would. As you could probably tell from my last post, I was kind of feeling down about running. My foot has been giving me problems and with words like plantar fasciitis being thrown around, I was starting to get a little worried. I decided to keep training, but keep the mileage low and slow as the race approached. I didn’t want to loose all of my hard work, but I also didn’t want to do anymore damage to my foot. After my last visit to the doctor, I was even considering selling my number, but I was having some great runs with minimal pain, so I didn’t have the motivation to pursue that. I really wanted to run.

The night before Santa to the Sea wasn’t anything like my last race. I knew with the state of my training and the way my foot was, I wouldn’t get a great time, so there was no reason to worry. I had my alarm set and my gear out and hit the hay prepared for a fun run with my Dad the next day.

Santa! The land mark for the beginning of the race and where we dropped off toys for the toy drive.
Daddio and I arrived an hour early to the starting line, it was cold by southern Californian standards, so we were standing against a wall shivering as we waited. I wore a festive bright pink and zebra stripped Santa hat and knee high snow flake socks, Dad was in his normal running gear. A lot of fun costumes and Santa hats were worn by our fellow runners. Even with the cold, I was already starting to have a fun time. We checked our warm clothing with fifteen minutes till start and went and lined up in the 2:20 section.

The start, early in the morning.
The fog horn blared and we were off. The large crowded group of a thousand plus runners and walkers slowly passed over the starting mat and set their own individual paces. Dad and I planned on running together as long as one of us didn’t get hurt, so we fell into step together. He joked about going on without him if he face planted or cramped up, I joked about my foot. He kept glancing down at his Garmin and announcing that we needed to slow it down, so we would try for a few steps, but somehow find ourselves back at a 9:45 pace. I was determined not to check my own watch except for mileage. I didn’t want the pace or total time to disappoint me.

About a mile in we got passed by a penguin with a pounding boom box and a girl with a pine wreath bouncing around her hips. I winced for her, ouch! Around mile three we caught a girl in a big snowman costume and ended up pacing with her. Our original plan was to start intervaling at mile three but I was feeling super good, so I asked to put it off.
The snowman/girl. An example of me trying to get out of the picture.
 I grabbed water at each aid station, managing to get a few sips down and get the rest all over myself. Around mile four, I grabbed a chocolate GU (a flavor I absolutely love) and took in the calories. Daddio consistently took down GU about every forty minutes or so. Around mile five, I finally agreed to start intervaling, afraid that I’d run myself into the ground. So we started walking for one minute and running for nine. I later found out that our pace picked up big time at that point. We were playing tag with the snowman, falling behind, catching up, falling behind, catching up, until around mile eight we left her behind and didn’t see her again. Which was a relief, I was tired of trying to get out of the way of people taking pictures of her (the costume really was cute). And honestly, who wants to loose to a person in a big snowman costume.

We ran through decorated neighborhoods and waved at the neighbors that had come out to cheer us on. I made a point to thank volunteers and police officers that had given their time to work the event. Everything was running so smoothly and seemed so well organized that all the runners had to do was focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

I could tell we were doing well. We were tag teaming people, splitting apart to go around people, each of us on either side of them and then coming back together when we were further ahead of them. We were moving at a good clip and catching people we hadn’t previously seen. I received a text message from a good friend that made me smile and carry on. We had kept the 2:10 pacer in sight from the beginning and we were starting to wonder if we might catch him.

Around mile nine, I could tell Daddio was feeling very confident. He kept expressing how happy he was with our progress and throwing strategies out for the end of the race. We decided that at mile ten, we would walk for two minutes and then run it in from there. I was feeling good and ready to bring it in strong. That feeling didn’t last.

I hit the wall at mile 11 almost on the dot. My legs weren’t tired, my breathing wasn’t heavy, I just suddenly had no energy. At this point, we were weaving through the beachside neighborhood and I could even smell the ocean. I really wanted to be at the finish. A volunteer told us we were on the finishing stretch and I wanted to yell that two miles wasn’t anywhere near the finish. All the distance we had crossed seemed like nothing compared to those last two miles. And on top of it, we’d lost sight of the 2:10 pacer in the twists and turns of the streets.

About a mile and a half out I got a little schizo. I kept telling Daddio I needed to slow down and then I would speed up. At one point I told him “I don’t know why, but I’m just so tired”, he responded with “Well we are going a 9:20 pace.” We caught a glimpse of the 2:10 pacer about a quarter of a mile up on a long stretch. We discussed trying to catch him, but my tank was dangerously empty. Daddio was chomping at the bit to finish fast and I kept encouraging him to take off, but he wanted to finish together. I’ve got the best dad!

The 2:10 pacer was leaving carnage in his wake. We were passing people left and right that looked like they were dying. I kept telling myself, that at least I don’t look that miserable. We found ourselves running by the sand with the ocean just about 50 yards away, I joked about stopping, we were at the sea after all, but there was no way either of us was going to even slow down this close to the finish.

Finally I announced that I didn’t think I could go much further and Dad responded “The finish is literally just around this corner”. Suddenly I could hear the blasting music and the finish line announcer. I was sprinting! Well till I realized Dad was getting left behind and then I slowed down a touch to let him catch up. He later told me that one second I was there and the next I was gone.

We crossed the line together, big smiles on our faces. The announcer proclaimed that the Hopwoods were in the house. We were done! I felt giddy and zombiefied. I had to literally tell myself to stop running. I tried to lift my leg up on a chair to get my chip snipped off my shoe and almost fell on my face, my legs were done. Someone handed me my medal and I smiled even bigger. A minute later I remembered to stop my watch and was shocked to see 2:09 glaring back at me. What the heck happened to the 2:10 pacer?!? My official time turned out to be 2:08:31, which I was more than happy to get.

Hopwoods in the house! We finished together smiling.
I ate some fruit with Sean Astin, dropped my brownie bite AND mini cinnamon roll and tried to coordinate with mom where to pick us up. I didn’t come out of my zombiefied state until I had a nice fat juicy tri tip sandwich and then I suddenly felt wide awake. It was at that moment that I realized what I had done wrong! I didn’t take in enough calories! DOH! I only ate one GU in the first 45 minutes and nothing after that. I could kick myself! Another newbie mistake for the books.

Daddio looking great and me zombiefied
My stylish outfit.
Overall the race was fantastic! I would highly recommend this event to anyone that is interested. It was very well staffed, tons of volunteers, a flat and fast course and great atmosphere. I’m seriously considering running it every year.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, dude! I'm so proud of you! You just keep learning from your mistakes and you'll keep improving :)