Santa Cruz Half Marathon

This is one of my favorite half marathons and my third year in a row running it.  How can you go wrong?  This is Santa Cruz.  This race was perfectly timed two weeks before the Napa Valley Vintage Half Ironman.  It was a good test and I knew it would help me get my head in the game.

natatorium-19061This is what the start line looked like in 1906.  The Natatorium housed the West’s first hot salt water plunge.  Pleasure Pier closed in 1960.

I arrived an hour before the start so I could take my time.  I parked at my brother-in-laws place just three blocks from the start line.  Nice to have free parking and a shower so close to this spot where I do several runs and triathlons every year.  I looked out at the calm ocean, Cowell’s Beach and pondered the swim I would probably do a few times this later this year around the pier for the the Santa Cruz Triathlon (formerly the Sentinel) and Big Kahuna Triathlon.  I love this place and I love to race here.

sc-half-marathon-start-line1I like to get to the start line from the front of the race two minutes before the race starts.  I didn’t even notice the 2,600 others who were packed behind the start line for the half marathon but I was thinking about the heat.  We’re in the middle of a record breaking heat wave in N. California.  It was in the mid-50s at the start but I knew it would warm up quickly, eventually soaring to 90° at the beach. 

I was almost on the start line when the gun went off.  The first 100 or so runners took off, but I was surprised how I held my position without much effort.  There couldn’t have been more than 150 runners ahead of me.  I had decided to run on perceived exertion without my Garmin so I didn’t know my pace.  I wanted to gauge my level of effort and be able to hold it throughout the race like I would need to do at the 70.3 regardless of pace.  I decided to drink at every aid station.  I wasn’t going for a PR so I walked through every aid station and drank at least two full cups of water or Gatorade.  I must have taken over 15 cups during the race.  But it kept me from suffering toward the end.

The first 3-mile stretch along West Cliff Drive is my favorite stretch with breathtaking views of the Pacific coastline.  The middle section winds through Wilder Ranch State Park and a loop around the Old Cove Landing Trail with fantastic views of the rugged ocean bluffs.  I was glad I never saw the lead runners looping back.  It meant I was running a decent race.  I really wanted to conserve my energy enough to where I could run the last three mile stretch feeling strong, and it worked.  My last mile was probably a sub 7-min. mile. 

I finished in 1:40:21 (7:39 pace), exactly four minutes off my PR I ran at the San Francisco half in Feb. but that was a downhill course.  Santa Cruz has plenty of rollers so I felt like it was a very solid effort, especially considering I walked through every aid station.  I finished 160th overall and 31 out of 313 in my age group.  A good friend pointed out I am not a middle of the pack runner anymore.  Maybe the hard work is paying off. 

The only downside this year was the cotton T-shirts accented with neon green.  I thought cotton shirts these days were relegated to low budget local races.  Last year’s tech shirt from this event is probably my favorite race shirt, and I have scores of race shirts.  I won’t be wearing this year’s shirt.

My family was meeting me to spend the day at the Boardwalk, so I had brought my bike and did a 20-mile ride on Hwy. 1 after the race.  After a quick shower at my brother-in-law’s house and a power smoothie he made for me, I was ready for an afternoon of people watching on the Boardwalk.  And believe me, you see some weird stuff on the Boardwalk.23182-20large-crowd-on-saturday-afternoon-at-santa-cruz-beach-boardwalk1

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2 Responses

  1. This blog’s where its happenning. Keep up the good work.

  2. Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.

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