About longrunlove

Running is the physical manifestation of my energy ~ writing is the mental expression.

New Year’s Eve in Flagstaff, AZ

Mission for the trip: run a lot of miles, explore a lot of trails, and have a lot of fun.

Why Flagstaff, Arizona? The city, which sits at almost 7,000 feet above elevation and boasts a well-maintained and massive trail network, is residence to a group of prominent trail and road runners. There is no shortage of climbing,  descending, rocks, and opportunities to get lost. Additionally, Annalise went to school there, so she knew the city and trails well. She was able to nostalgize and catch up with college friends, while I was able to experience the quaint mountain town for the first time. We also decided to turn this into a big-mile weekend, in preparation for the Sean O’Brien 50 miler. We left Southern California around 1:00pm on Friday and spent the evening on the 40 freeway.

Annalise’s friends Josh and Mel were gracious enough to host us for the weekend. Not only did they have two spare bedrooms, but their house was in very close proximity to Buffalo Park, where we would begin Saturday’s 25-mile trail adventure. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality.

We spent time on Friday night planning our route for the next morning and finalized it whilst enjoying coffee before heading out into the cold on Saturday morning. It was somewhere around 35F when we began to run at ~7:50am, but I felt warm enough in two tech tees, tights, and gloves. A short chunk of trail took us to Buffalo Park, after which we hopped on the Oldham trail. This section was very rocky and undulating. Oldham > Easy Oldham > Rocky Ridge.

At some point in the run, we both became very warm and decided to shed an outer layer and gloves. After about a mile or two, it suddenly became VERY cold, uncomfortably so. I had to stop and re-dress, but the next few miles were rough as my hands were in pain from the cold. This was the lowest point of the run for me and I definitely considered quitting. Fortunately, we ascended out of the canyon and I began to thaw out. Rocky Ridge > Schultz Creek > Sunset.

The Sunset trail ascended steeply toward Mount Elder and I was once again a happy camper. The last section of this trail before we were to u-turn climbed significantly, was technical, and quite windy. Unfortunately, I had to navigate this section alone, as A and I became separated. After our reunion, we followed Sunset back to the Brookbank trail, on which I experienced my second fall of the run. It’s better to fall during training than during a race, right? I started going into “almost-done-with-this-long-run” mode and strode along giddily toward the 25th mile. After 4+ hours out on the trails of Flagstaff, we arrived back at the house. We were sore, dirty, tired, hungry, but happy.

Post-shower, we ventured toward downtown Flagstaff for food and exploration. I was hyped up to try well-reputed Macy’s coffee. Unfortunately, my experience there wasn’t positive. Perhaps a coffee house wasn’t the best bet for a hearty meal, but the “full size” salad and macchiato that I ordered were both disappointing. Even more sadly, I ended up purchasing another un-satisfying round of food + drink (large coffee and a cookie). After Macy’s, we visited Run Flagstaff and meandered around the town before meeting up with Josh, Mel, and A’s friend Rebecca for dinner at Diablo Burger.

Sunday’s 20-mile run (feat. Matt) took us on a few of the Fort Tuthill County Park trails, Flagstaff Urban Trail System trails, and around Northern Arizona University (A’s alma mater). Before I knew it, we were done and headed toward Whole Foods! After food and showers, I was able to relax, doze, and read before enjoying red wine with A, Rebecca, and Mel before heading out for the New Year’s Eve celebration. We started with dinner and drinks at Criollo (sharing fire roasted jalapeno bacon nachos, relleno vegetales, crispy plantains, all of which were delicious) and then enjoyed more libations at the Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge and Hops on Birch. Downtown Flagstaff was packed for the midnight Pine Cone Drop! We were tired, but managed to get some dancing in at The Green Room before walking 1.5 miles up hill to the house (passing on a $40 Uber drive). I fell into bed at 3:00am on New Year’s Day contentedly exhausted.

Despite sore feet and tired legs, I was excited to kick 2018 off with a run in Buffalo Park. I even earned karma points, finding and returning a dropped wallet during the 10-miler. I recovered from the run with a walk into town to meet up with the group for brunch at MartAnne’s. After a wonderful weekend running and meeting A’s friends, I felt sad packing for our departure and saying goodbye to everyone. Before I knew it, we were back on the 40 freeway, rolling down the hill toward Southern California.

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A, G, Rebecca – NYE 2018! Missions accomplished.

 

 

 

 

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Golden Snowflake Challenge Race Recap

Southern California saw snow this weekend! Okay, so it was in the form of medals and start line soap-snow, but it served the purpose of reminding us that we are in the throes of the holiday season. This race weekend was unique in that I was working and racing the event(s). The Holiday Half Marathon & 5K was purchased by a new company last year, but I was asked to manage an area of this year’s event. It required some pre-event work as well as on event weekend. The new management company okay’d me running both the 5K (Saturday) and half marathon (Sunday). I also roped Ben into coming to California for another double race weekend! The half marathon + 5K is called the Golden Snowflake Challenge.

Shirt and medal

After a semi-hectic Friday, Ben and I arrived in Pomona in the evening and finally had a chance to relax in preparation for the next two days. I lucked out and scored one of the staff hotel rooms at the host hotel for both nights. The festival/race location was a 5 minute walk away, so we didn’t have to worry about traffic or ridiculously early wake-up calls. On Saturday morning, after working from 6:00am until about 7:30am, Ben and I snuck off to squeeze a warm-up in before the 5K. I felt rushed and my legs felt heavy, so I wasn’t sure how much speed I’d be able to muster up for 3.1 miles. I’d completed a 20 x 400 workout on Wednesday, but still didn’t feel fully prepared to run a fast 5K. We made it to the start line right before the national anthem started and then we were off!

The first .25 meters or so are slightly downhill and I definitely feel like I cruised out too quickly. After a short, but challenging hill, I focused on settling into a fast, but sustainable pace. Almost from the start line, I fell into step with another female in a Dallas Baptist singlet and we stayed together for the first mile. Somewhere around the mile 1 marker, an older woman blazed past us, putting herself in the 2nd OAF position. That meant that I was racing Dallas Baptist girl for the 3rd OAF position… and $50.

Mile 2 was very slightly uphill and into a headwind, resulting in my slowest split of the race. Dallas Baptist and I continued to run side-by-side, both of us silent and breathing hard. I still felt good, but definitely wanted to cross the finish line and stop running so fast. We came through mile 2 and I was trying to gauge our effort levels and her potential ability to out-kick me. I checked my watch at about 2 1/2 miles and decided that it was go time. I gradually pulled away and tried to charge toward the finish line, which I finally crossed after 18:19. I put my hands on my legs, verified that my watch registered 3.1 miles, congratulated Dallas Baptist (her name is actually Rita and she was very nice), and went to find Ben. He finished in 18:01, updating both of our 5K personal records! After a short cool down, we went back to work until noon.

We found ourselves back in Long Beach on Saturday night for dinner and drinks with a few friends and while it wasn’t ideal before the next day’s 4:30am wake-up call, it was worth it. On Sunday, we were on-site at 5:00am to work for a few hours before again sneaking away at 7:45am for a warm-up before the half marathon. Annalise would be running the half marathon as well and joined us for the warm-up miles. We made it to the start line during the national anthem and at 8:00am, headed out for a trip around Bonelli Park!

Before the race, I told Ben that he could run whatever he wanted, but we ended up running the entire race together. Our first mile was on the fast side, so we cooled it during the second mile and tried to find a rhythm. This course is considered “hilly,” but none of the inclines and declines are very drastic. I started as the 5th or 6th woman back, but passed two women within the first 2 miles. Exiting the Fairplex right after the mile 3 marker, Ben and I were chatting and breathing easily. I was excited to run this course again – the first and last time I’d run the Holiday Half Marathon was in 2011, which was also the first time I ever won prize money!

Somewhere between miles 3 and 5, I ran into the 2nd place OAF position. We were still running smoothly and enjoying ourselves. We passed fellow ARECer Peter, saw GRRers Bryan and Andrea spectating, and received words of encouragement from course cyclist Lenny a few times. My buddy Chris also captured some fantastic photos of Ben and I!

I started to feel the effort and fatigue after charging up a hill near mile 10, but felt confident that I would finish strong. The stretch of road between miles 11 and 12 felt oddly difficult, like we were either running up a gentle incline or there was a headwind. I wondered what was going on, but then we turned into the Fairplex and onto the drag strip, and I felt much better. Our last mile was 6:00 and I felt solid running toward the finish line. As I neared the timing clock and saw 1:25:xx, I pushed extra hard to finish in under 1:26, but couldn’t quite make it.

After the finish, it was back to work! Post-race on Sunday was much more hectic than on Saturday, but we were headed back for a quick shower by 12:30pm. The rest of the day was spent relaxing before Ben’s flight home.

Reflecting on the race, I’m very happy with the effort and outcome. I feel like I ran well and could’ve run 3-4 more miles at that pace. I’m seeing the results of months of consistent training, and will continue building on it going into 2018. This race left me very excited for some of the bigger events that I have planned for next year, but also mindful of not becoming too eager and hurting myself.

“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally. It comes from what you do consistently”

Bakersfield Marathon Race Recap

The work hectic-ness is subsiding (for now), so it’s about time I get this race recap up! I completed my second Bakersfield Marathon on November 12 and I am happy to report that it went very well.

Arriving in the ‘Field!

Chris and I drove straight to packet pickup at Buck Owens Crystal Palace upon arrival in Bakersfield. I went on a Wikipedia-search frenzy during the car-ride and learned that Owens’ and his band, the Buckaroos, pioneered the “Bakersfield sound,” a sub-genre of country music influenced by rock and roll. In contrast to the Nashville sound, the Bakersfield style used electric instruments and added a backbeat. Louisiana Swing is regarded as the first song of this sub-genre. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos succeeded in elevating the Bakersfield sound to become one of the most popular kinds of country music in the 1960s. But, how did Owens initially end up in Bakersfield? During a stint as a truck driver, he drove through the San Joaquin Valley and was impressed by Bakersfield, moving there with his wife in 1951.

Despite the Bakersfield Marathon being a smaller race (2000ish finishers), I was impressed by the expo. There were about 15 vendors and it was set up in a way which provided all of them with good exposure to expo-attendees. One of the local businesses was offering samples of delicious oatmeal balls and another vendor hooked me up with a free Gu packet (salted watermelon flavored, of course).

Since we had a few hours before we could check into our Air BnB rental, we toured the local mall. After we checked into the rental, we laid around and dozed before heading to dinner. I was in charge of sourcing the perfect pre-race eatery, and settled on La Fonda. Nestled in an auto mall and without a lit sign, finding it was a challenge. When we finally pulled into the parking lot, we knew it would probably be good – it was very busy! Chris ordered flautas and I polished off a beautiful plate of nachos.

+ ~1lb of spicy carrots.

Contentedly full and after a quick stop at Target for allergy medication, we hit the hay. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep at first, but slept well and woke up ready to race.

Srs

We found good parking very easily and hung out in the car before Chris had to go meet the pacers and get his sign. At 6:50am, I hit the porta potty one more time and jogged to the start line, which was in the same location as last year, on the CSU Bakersfield campus. The race organizers did a great job of fixing the inaugural-year issues, including a one hour start delay. At about 7:00am, we began our foot-tour of Bakersfield! I sat about 35 feet behind the 1:30 (half marathon) pacer and settled into my pace. I decided that I would keep him within striking distance until the half and full marathon course split at mile 8, and then just hold on from there.

Early in the race, I spotted last year’s female marathon winner, Ramona. Last year, I’d spoken with the woman who placed 2nd and reported in my race recap that “she had run step-for-step with the woman who won from miles 9 until .10 from the finish line and the other woman out-sprinted her for the win.” Apparently they didn’t exchange many words while running together and I remembered thinking “oh man, that sounds awful.” During this year’s race, I said something like “it’s a lot cooler this year than last – thank goodness!” to Ramona and she fell into stop behind/next to me. In fact, she seemed to be clinging on to me and I found myself fighting irritation. I realized that her strategy was to hang on to the 2nd place female and then run for place versus a specific time. As long as she stayed very close until near the finish line, she could easily take the win with a strong finish kick.

After ~3 miles of frustration, I stopped to fix my sock in an attempt to build a gap between us. I don’t enjoy the feeling of “racing” during marathons, especially in the earlier miles. We ended up side by side again and that’s when I decided to make the most of the experience. We started to chat more and I learned that she’d traveled from Reno for this race, but was originally from Mexico. In fact, I warmed up to her over the miles and really enjoyed the comfort of company for the last 5 miles. She was a very sweet lady!

As for the race effort itself, the pace felt fast, but my breathing was comfortable. Ramona and I tackled the giant hill going into and around Bakersfield College (miles 13-16) and struggled with course navigation as there were very few volunteers in this area. We watched a male runner slightly ahead of us get lost. I still felt good coming out and onto Panorama Drive (miles 16-18.5), but could feel the fatigue from the climb in my legs.

Ramona and I conversed while enjoying the views from Panorama Park. While I wasn’t looking forward to the riverbed section, I was happy to have made it to mile 20 feeling better than last year. I kept urging her to go ahead, but we continued to run side-by-side. My mantra for the final miles of any long-distance race is “just keep moving forward.”

Another improvement from the 2016 race was the finish line location. Instead of finishing on the narrow riverbed, we crossed a bridge and finished in a much larger area on campus. As soon as we turned left to cross the bridge, Ramona kicked it in. I trucked along and still had about .2 to go when I heard the announcer calling out 2:59:xx finish times (half and full marathon). I was too far to close quickly enough for a sub-3:00 finish and crossed the finish mat in 3:00:32 as the 2nd place overall female, and only 10 seconds behind Ramona. I put my hands on my knees and then received my hard-earned medal before the photographer snapped these lovely pictures of Ramona and me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got to meet Ramona’s husband and daughter, both of whom were very nice. I congratulated her on taking the win and then made my way to the car to change. With 50 minutes before Chris would finish, I took advantage of the free beer (1) and breakfast burritos. Thank you Broken Yolk Cafe for the delicious post-race meal (and sorry for increasing the average number of burritos/runner consumed). I ran into Ryan (3:05 Long Beach Marathon pacer and 3:08 Bakersfield Marathon pacer) and we recapped our races. After Chris finished and enjoyed a burrito, we walked around the campus in search of a locker room or gym with showers. Unsuccessful in our search, we left and began the trip home.

JetBlue Long Beach Marathon Race Recap

This write-up is long overdue – it’s been almost three weeks since race day(s). I’ve come down from the high, but still think about it on the daily. It was one of the best weekends of my life.

My training going into this race was excellent. I’ve never followed a training plan and prefer to learn as I go. I logged a lot of miles, hit the track, and completed big workouts. One of the highlights was racing the inaugural CACO half marathon, a virtual race between Ben and me. We ran in different states (California + Colorado = CACO), on the same day, and then compared our times. He smoked me, but running a hard 13.1 miles solo wasn’t something I thought myself capable of. After this run/race and the Aloha Run 5K & 10K, I felt fit and as prepared as I could be.

Any nervousness I felt pre-marathon was overpowered by my excitement for the weekend. I was finally able to attend the AREC Member Appreciation Party, which I’d missed for the last 5 years due to managing the marathon. I’d be able to participate in the race that I’d slaved away to produce since 2012. I had the chance to run both the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. And lastly, Ben would be joining me for all of it! The days leading up to the weekend were stressful and busy, but I finally found myself barreling down the 405 to grab Ben from LAX before heading to the AREC party. A good time is always guaranteed with my group of friends and it served as a fun start to the weekend. Bonus: I won a pair of Saucony shoes and a bottle of wine! We hit the hay early as we would be running the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K in the morning.

Shenanigans with J.T., always.

Ancillary element to the weekend’s epic-ness: my proximity to race start and finish lines. I live about 1 mile from the start/finish of the 5K and ~.5 mile from the marathon finish line. After re-parking my car on Saturday morning, I wouldn’t have to move it until Monday evening.

On Saturday morning, we jogged to the Aquarium and then spent too much time in search of a bathroom. We started the 5K at 7:01am and I went out (too) fast, taking the lead for the females within the first mile. Unfortunately, Rosa passed me right after the mile 1 marker and I focused on keeping the gap between us small for the remainder of the race. Despite the slow-down, I’m very happy with my splits (5:47, 6:07, 6:00) and effort level. The course was also interesting, with a bridge making up a majority of the final mile, hitting 3.1 miles right outside of the Aquarium, and then entering a very-dark Aquarium and feeling like I was going to run into a wall or shark tank at any second. I hit 3.1 miles right outside of the Aquarium and recorded an 18:49 split. However, my official chip time was 19:11. It was a nice course and well run event, but I would recommend creating an alternate route that doesn’t go through the Aquarium. It was difficult to run that section fast as it was dark and on carpet.

We jogged back, showered and then walked to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast. This ‘Bucks was on the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue/Shoreline Drive, which is where we would turn toward the marathon finish line the following day. I told Ben that I hoped to be wearing a giant smile while coming down that stretch of road in 24 hours. After breakfast, we walked to and around the Health & Fitness Expo. Trotting leisurely around the expo felt bizarre. I’m usually parked at the Solutions table or running around in search of a solution. Ben and I picked our bibs and shirts up, visited the various exhibitors, and enjoyed samples. We ended our expo visit with a few hours of work, as I had to man an event booth until closing. Chasing that with a dinner of pizza at Broadway Pizza & Grill made for a great Saturday. Next up, the marathon.

I felt spoiled waking up at 4:45am for a 6:00am race start. I would rate my sleep at a 6/10, but I felt awake and ready to roll upon rising. I showered, dressed, ate, and then we walked to the start line area. There are moments in life that I wish I could bottle up and re-live again and again. Pictures and videos capture what it looks like, but nothing captures the feeling. I felt nervous, excited, happy to have Ben there for the adventure, gratuitous that I was able to experience this amazing race from the other side, a bit sad that I wasn’t managing the event and working with some awesome people, and very curious as to what the months of training would translate to.

This day was special for another reason: the passing of my mother 19 years prior, October 8, 1998. As soon as I realized that the days aligned, I knew that every single mile would be dedicated to her.

The first few miles entailed settling into the pace and staying relaxed. Ben and I chatted and stuck right behind the 3:05 pace group. I don’t like to take up residence in pace groups from mile 1, but we kept them in our sights until after mile 6. We ran a few miles with Chloe, a very sweet girl from Anaheim and then ran with the 3:05 group from miles 7 until right after 20. While on the beach path, I looked to my left and saw Mark, with whom I’d run a majority of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon with. We kept a solid pack of 7-10 runners along the beach path and down Livingston Drive, losing a few on the way to CSULB. The 3:05 pacers were phenomenal and it felt like I was out for a long run with new friends.

I felt happy and light on my feet as we passed my old studio apartment on Nieto Avenue and Broadway Avenue. Murray, my former landlord, high-fived me as I passed by. Ben, myself, and the 3:05 crew cruised down Clark Avenue toward my alma mater. Ryan, one of the pacers, took us through the “hills” of CSULB as we took turns getting to know each other. I caught up with Mark, chatted with Bryce, and discovered that the other 3:05 pacer had run his first 26.2 mile unofficial marathon solo on the beach path in under 3 hours. Coming out of campus and down Atherton Street, I kept urging Ben to go ahead if he felt good. He finally activated his turbo jets after mile 20, after which I downed a (small) cup of beer courtesy of Emmett.

My legs and lungs felt great as we passed the 20 mile marker. Bryce and I slowly pulled away from the 3:05 group and ran up Clark Avenue, down Park Avenue, and headed toward the “home stretch” of Ocean Avenue together. I could tell that he had a lot of steam left and could crush the final miles. I was still running smoothly and maintaining a solid pace, but didn’t want to implode so close to the finish line. At this point, I also knew that I was in the 2nd overall female position and didn’t want to throw that (prize money) away. I urged Bryce to go ahead and we parted somewhere around mile 24. Ben was dealing with some knee problems and I ended up passing him between miles 24-25. Despite an increase in temperature and sun exposure, and 24 miles of running, my legs still felt strong. I focused on cruising down Ocean Avenue and taking these last few moments of the race in.

Emotions surged through me as I turned left onto Shoreline Drive/Alamitos Avenue and saw Annalise cheering her head off. Approaching the finish line of a long distance race is an amazing feeling, but there are some more emotion-laden than others. Each section of this course was special to me, notably:

  • Marine Stadium, where I’d completed dozens of workouts and also where I rowed for 2 semesters in college.
  • The Belmont Shore neighborhood at mile 10/22, where I’d lived during graduate school, in a studio the size of some bathrooms.
  • The beach path, where I’ve logged hundreds of miles. I still remember completing my first “long run” of 6 miles, the first few outings with my fancy new Garmin watch, and so many other memorable runs.
  • The CSULB campus, where I’d completed undergraduate and graduate degrees.

I’d run every step of the course during my 12 years as a resident of Long Beach, but this was the first time that I was able to put it all together. I felt an immense sense of love for my city as I ran down Ocean Avenue, passing my neighbors. I also felt that I’d made my mother proud on this special day, as I was running with her. I wore a giant smile, put my hands in the air, and was the second female to cross the finish line for the 2017 JetBlue Long Beach Marathon. Finish time: 3:02:40.

Right after finishing, my former co-worker Daryl congratulated me and said “you know what to do… VIP tent for awards pictures!” Ben finished about 30 seconds after I did and we walked through PF&F in states of euphoria. Various members of the 3:05 crew arrived and we assembled for a group photo!

I found Heidi in the finish line – she ran a 20 minute PR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After making it through the thick of AREC finishers, Ben and I arrived in the VIP tent and tucked into some delicious omelettes and mimosas. I took awards pictures and then Heidi, Ken, Ann (1:23 in the half!), Phil, Annalise, Anthony, and Molly joined us. We stayed there for quite some time and then walked up the hill to my apartment. After showering, we met up with Annalise and walked to Heidi and Ken’s for a poolside BBQ. Ben and I felt good enough for a 6 mile jog on Monday, followed by breakfast at the Breakfast Bar and a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific. There was nothing I could’ve asked for to make that weekend and race experience better – it was absolute perfection.

Aloha Run 10K & 5K Race Recap

The primary purpose of running the Aloha Run 10K & 5K was to get a hard effort in before the JetBlue Long Beach Marathon. With the start and finish being warm-up jog distance from me, race morning was simple and straightforward. I woke up, suited up, warmed up, and then raced. The only goal that I had going into this 10K was to split more consistently than during the Love Share 10K.

The first mile contained a lot of turns, which made it hard to settle into any kind of groove. I went out at what felt like a hard, but sustainable effort, and found myself as the second runner (and first female) pretty quickly. I knew that I’d have to navigate a few tight turns during the final mile, going back through Shoreline Village, but the middle miles were straight and flat. I focused on maintaining the hard effort and saving energy for the final mile. While I did wear my Garmin for this race, I didn’t check it until the very end.

Splits: 6:16, 6:13, 6:22 (turnaround), 6:13, 6:13, 6:17, 5:54 (.2).

I felt good, so I decided to run the 5K fast, versus using it as a cool down run. I quickly wiped the sweat off my face and pinned my 5K bib on. My legs definitely felt heavy, but I reminded myself that I only had to run hard for 20ish more minutes. To my surprise (and delight), I found myself alone and in the lead right after 1 mile. I wore my Garmin again, but didn’t check the pace until after the race. My splits were slower than during the 10K, but I still ran hard and took the win! Finishing 15K of hard running felt darn good and I left feeling hopeful and curious about how the next weekend’s race would go…

Love Share 10K Race Recap

이것은 확실히 흥미로운 경주였습니다.

That says “this certainly was an interesting race” in Korean. I found a 10K for $20 on Active.com and knowing close to nothing about the race other than its location, I registered. Chris decided to come along with me and to Koreatown we went…

Arriving with 60+ minutes to play before packet pickup opened, we decided to explore a few blocks of K-town on foot. Despite being the most densely populated district by population in Los Angeles county (120,000 residents in 2.7 square miles!), it was quiet and peaceful at 6:00am on a Saturday morning. The race area seemed to be busier when we returned at 7:00am, but the packet pick-up tent and volunteers were far from ready. We were one of the first few in line to pick up and it was very disorganized, but we finally walked away with our bibs, shirts and safety pins.

For our warm-up, we followed the course, which was an out-and-back (once for the 5K, twice for the 10K) on Wilshire Boulevard. I wondered about my safety during the race as I watched a large SUV barrel right through a blockade (A-frames and caution tape), seemingly giving 0 fucks. In fact, I questioned whether the road closures would even be ready by the 8:00am race start. I noted that Vermont Avenue was 1 mile from the start/finish area as we made a u-turn.

We arrived back at the start line and learned that the race start would be delayed, of course. There was a separate “corral” for 10K runners, but there weren’t more than 35 of us in it. The 5K “corral” was much move lively.

The 10K wave started a few minutes before the 5Kers and I quickly found myself in 2nd place overall. I kept my effort in check for the first mile and was running a hard, but sustainable (for 6.2 miles anyway) pace. The course wasn’t as flat as I expected, but there weren’t any huge climbs.

Right after the 1-mile mark, there was a Taiko drum group, which reminded me of the LA Marathon. I smiled, waved, and kept rolling toward the turn-around, which ended up being at mile 1.6. The next section was slightly downhill and I felt myself speeding up, despite constant reminders to save my legs for part #2.

“I am definitely running 7 minutes per mile” I thought during miles 4 and 5. I kept moving forward as quickly as I could, however, and waited to see the Vermont Avenue sign. At this point, I remembered why I disliked racing the 10K distance. It’s short enough to run fast, but long enough to hurt… a lot. The second out-and-back was also very crowded, as we were running through the 5Kers. At one point, I almost hurdled a small child after he came to a full stop right in front of me. Negotiating the last turn was also interesting – the volunteers were handing water out inside of the very tight u-turn area. I tried to use the downhills to my advantage during the last 1.6 mile stretch and felt like I closed well. I lapped my watch at mile 6.2, but the course ended up being 6.6. I don’t usually hyper-analyze my splits (hi Bob!), but really wanted to gauge the effort based on my true 10K time, so I did the math. The first 6 miles: 6:29 , 6:22, 6:17, 6:29, 6:39 (not 7, but yikes), 6:01. My .2 split was 1:14, followed by 2:19 for .4 miles. A 41:50 finish time less 2:19 would give me a 39:31 10K time, which would be a 2 second PR. I am very pleased with that!

After completing a cool down jog, Chris and I explored the festival. It was definitely different from standard race expos/festivals, primarily because everything was Korean, including a majority of the announcements. We cautiously tried a Lotte drink called Milkis, which is made with corn syrup, sugar, carbonated water and milk. I expected it to be milky or yogurt-y, but it was delicious! We also chowed down on fresh watermelon and injeolmi.

At some point, we noticed huge stacks of ramyun (ramen) boxes off to the side and asked if they were freebies. In order to get a 6-pack of the soup, we had to assemble on the street into some sort of formation. Chalk lines indicated where we were to stand, and then we all waved at the drone flying overhead for a few minutes before the mad dash for free ramyun began.

With bags full of choco pies, custard cream cakes and Milkis, we went to the car to change before the awards ceremony. It looked like they were giving out large Lotte snack boxes for prizes – I was excited!

While I didn’t win a snack box or rice cooker, I was very surprised to win $150. Running an honest 10K+ effort, getting to know the Korean culture a bit, and pocketing some extra cash definitely made for an excellent race experience.

On the way home, Chris and I stopped for drinks at Gong Cha where I enjoyed a deliciously refreshing taro milk tea with white pearls. Having not had enough culture for the morning, we then stopped at H-Mart where I purchased pickled cucumbers, some sort of cooked noodle dish, and some pork pot stickers. We are already planning our next unique race adventure!

 

Conquer the Bridge Race Recap

The day started off on the wrong foot, on the wrong side of the bed. Due to me not confirming faulty information received from a friend, I thought that the race started at 8:00am. Annalise and I planned to drive to San Pedro at 6:30am, leaving us with plenty of time to park and warm up. At 5:58am on race morning, I received a text from another friend (whose bib I’d picked up and was to deliver to him before the race start) asking where I’d parked. “Why is he there so early?” I asked myself. As the morning haze lifted from my brain, I pulled up the confirmation email to double check the start time.

“THE RACE STARTS AT 7!” I nearly yelled when Annalise picked up my call. After haphazardly throwing items into a bag and hoping that I didn’t forget any of the important ones, I sprinted outside to wait for her. Luckily, we didn’t hit any traffic on the way to San Pedro and parked at about 6:45am. We jogged around for .7 miles before edging into the porta-potty lines. Evidently the brief, but intense rain storm that we’d experienced the day before had resulted in issues with the carpets covering the bridge grates, which delayed the start. At 8:47am we finally started toward the Vincent Thomas bridge!

My legs felt terrible for the first quarter mile, likely due to standing around for so long. I urged them to cooperate as I made my way through the thicket of racers, feeling the heaviness lift as we began to the first ascent. The course follows Harbor Boulevard for .5 miles before taking runners onto the Seaside Freeway (47) via the on-ramp.

CourseCourse Elevation

A not-so-steep, but sustained climb takes us past the first mile marker, after which we run downhill toward mile 2. I focused on staying relaxed during the first climb, pulling up to J.T. right before the apex. We stuck together on the downhill (= 10 runners barreling past me) and through the turnaround, parting ways right before the second ascent.

The mile 3-4 climb is the most difficult section of the course and almost always results in my slowest split (in this case, 7:12). Whether this side is indeed steeper or my legs are just fatigued from the earlier miles, I just focus on grinding it out to the top. Fortunately, the runners on the other side are supportive and enthusiastic, yelling “good job!” and “you go girl!” Plus, it’s a big club race, so I try to focus on spotting the blue AREC singlets and waving to my friends. This is also where I reel in the 10 racers who didn’t save energy for the second time up.

The last downhill stretch is where I let loose and just run hard. I was shocked to see a 5:56 split for my 4th mile! Coming back into the on-ramp curve, I caught up to two male runners and we battled it out down Harbor Boulevard. The last .5 mile always feels painfully long, but I fought on and passed the two runners before crossing the finish line in 35:16.

  • 2012: 35:17 / 3rd OAF
  • 2013: didn’t run
  • 2014: 37:59 / 3rd OAF
  • 2015: 42:12 (walked a LOT)
  • 2016: 37:15 / 3rd OAF
  • 2017: 35:16 / 3rd OAF

I seem to feel comfortable in the 3rd overall female position and while I’m happy to have PR’d the course by 1 second, I’m slightly disappointed to have missed taking 2nd by a mere 6 seconds. I couldn’t quite close the gap between myself and the pink tank top ahead of me!

In my opinion, the key to properly “racing” this course is to

 

  1. Keep effort in check for the first time up the bridge
  2. Relax on the first descent
  3. Run smoothly to the turnaround and back to the base of the second climb
  4. Focus on running solidly up the other side, this stretch is the most difficult for me
  5. Turn on the turbo boosters after cresting the second climb
  6. Hang on for dear life motoring down Harbor Boulevard

I met up with Bob and Annalise for a few cool down miles. Bob crushed his race, finishing in 34:17, and Annalise placed 6th OAF! Both of them had never run the bridge before, but really enjoyed the challenge and the views. After Annalise and I picked up our age division medals, we met up with the AREC crew + Bob at Malarkey’s for some celebratory brunching. My Labor Day was successful: a solid run, time with friends, and a long nap.

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