Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ventura Beach (Birthday) Party Half Marathon

I gave myself a super cool birthday gift this year…. ok to be honest, I just used my birthday as an excuse. I ran the Ventura Beach Party Half marathon last weekend, the day after my 29th birthday. I was extremely excited to hear about this new race and especially excited that it fell so close to my birthday (too bad they missed it by one day!). This race is also part of the Gold Coast Run Series which consists of 4 half marathons, but you only need to run three of them to receive a cool jacket at the end of the year. Santa to the Sea is part of that series this year and since I was already registered for Santa and this one, I went ahead and registered for the third race which will take place next month. I’m looking forward to getting my new jacket at the end of the year.

I’ve set my sights on Santa to the Sea as my goal PR race for the year, so the night before the Ventura Beach Party I was talking over my race goals for the next day with Daddio and we both agreed that I would just take it easy. Well that didn’t exactly end up happening, but I’ll get to that.

Packet pickup was pretty easy, showed up, grabbed my stuff and headed out for a birthday dinner. There was no expo on Friday when I picked up, but there was a small one on Saturday during pickup and on race day. There were a couple running booths, but most were crafts, so we didn’t miss much by going on Friday.
Ready to party
Race morning, my parents and I got there an hour early to snag one of the few free parking spots. We were actually surprised that the lot didn’t fill up faster. The race started at the Ventura Pier, went out past the Oxnard Harbor and back again. I’m not a big fan of out and backs, but this one was hard to pass up.

The atmosphere at the starting line was very enthusiastic. From my understanding, there were
a lot of first timers there, which always makes the experience more enjoyable. I started out at a comfortable pace, just staying with the people around me. For the first mile I didn’t turn my music on, just enjoying the sound of all our feet hitting the pavement and the smell of the ocean on the breeze. I was already on a runner’s high.

Let's do this!
I figured I’d ride out the high and slow down later. The pace I was at, was faster than I am usually comfortable with, but I was feeling so good, I just went with the flow. The weather was awesome for a half marathon! It was a comfortable mid 60’s with a marine layer and a pleasant breeze. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day!
Around mile five, I was still feeling awesome, but worried I’d run myself into the ground, so I started intervals of nine minutes of running and one minute of walking. I ended up gaining a little speed by switching it up. I felt comfortable, like I was on cruise control. At the half way point, I knew I could PR if I didn’t hit a wall, but needed to be careful. You never know when running high is going to suddenly disappear only to be replaced by a big fat wall of fatigue.

Race picture around mile nine. All smiles!
I was wearing a “Birthday Girl” t-shirt and spectators started yelling “Happy Birthday” as I passed them, giving me a little more bounce to my step. Around mile nine I went through a water stop and a little kid volunteer, probably no older than five yelled “Take the water!” I almost did just to make him happy, but I had on my hydration belt and didn’t need any. In fact, a lot of people had hydration gear, so the poor kid might have been holding out the cup for a while!
Look at that fog! It stuck around the whole race.
Between miles ten and eleven, my heart rate started to spike and a little fatigue started to creep in, but the clock was ticking and the PR was looking really good. I figured if I could just beat my old half marathon PR by just a few seconds, I would be on cloud nine. I’ve been craving a half marathon PR for almost two years now!

I finished the race with a sprint and a goofy grin, with a time of 2:03:19. I set a new PR, blowing my old one away by just over five minutes! I never even imagined that I was going that much faster! My parents greeted me with hugs and congratulations, my dad knowing instantly that I had PRed. A friend from college also showed up to cheer me in at the finish line and to tell me happy birthday. I’ll tell you something, if you ever want to make a runner’s day, show up at their race and cheer them on! That’s one of the many reasons my parents and my friends are so awesome!
Finishing strong
This race was a total thrill, although I am a little bias! The volunteers and race support was awesome! The after race food and snacks were plentiful and everything seemed to run smoothly. I only have one complaint and that was that there was no official photographer (as far as I’ve been able to determine). There was one person along the course that did take pictures and post them, but nothing official. Some finish line pictures have shown up, but nothing of me.
One happy birthday girl!
After the race, we went over to my Uncle’s house where we shared a birthday BBQ (his birthday being that day). I ate too much and enjoyed chocolate chocolate cake. Overall, great race and a day to remember!

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