Just shortly after crossing the finish line at the Pasadena Marathon: 5k I decided I would sign up for another 5k as soon as possible. At the Pasadena Expo I had grabbed a couple of fliers and looked for one that would also appeal to Meghann. This race was by the waterfront in Long Beach and granted access to the Aquarium of the Pacific after the race. Yeah it didn’t take much convincing to get Meghann on board. So off we went!
As opposed the fantastically organized City of Pasadena Marathon, this one was contracted out to a local small time running organizer… the difference was noticeable from the get go. Parking directions were ambiguous at best. High school volunteers manned the packet pick up booths, who looked about as eager as cat after being fed the noms, i.e. blank stares all around.
Still we got our bibs and free stuff with plenty of time before the race. Like before, my mind went into panic mode. Here are a couple of thoughts that went through my head:
Does the course loop back? Where is the starting line? Oh god, what if I fall into the water??? Should I stay on pace with Meghann?
As if reading my mind Meghann told me to stop panicking and to not wait for her during the race. I love that woman. So as we lined up for the start we began to notice that it was less than 5 minutes away and yet there was no announcement. Nor was there a starting line. Turned out the starting line was towards the back… we had to figure this out. The awesome volunteers were busy checking their phones. To the back we went.
I began my usual pacing and stretching. Again, I looked towards the seasoned runners and copied them. I knew then I would have to start researching proper techniques. I made a mental note to subscribe to Runners World and to look for local running groups.
It was now ten minutes past the listed start time and still no announcement. People began to ask each other if we were at the right spot and if we had heard anything. Some asked the volunteers, they just shrugged and walked away. Awesome. What felt like another ten minutes passed before they finally set up the speakers and let us know that we were at the starting line and that race would being in 15 minutes… arg.
Meghann began to look bored at this point. I began to wonder if we should have just stuck with the larger races. My first race went so well that I wanted Meghann to have a similar experience. Yet here we were, standing around for an hour with very little guidance. Again, as if reading my mind she just smiled at me and told me everything would work out and we would get started soon. I really love this woman.
Eventually, we got call to line up for the start…. and since this was a run/walk there were strollers and people taking pictures in the front… I really wanted him to tell the slower people to move back but no luck. I was going to have to bob and weave my way through.
As you can see in the picture, those right up front had no problem. I was mid pack and still had to walk to the start line. Once I crossed that chip start marker, I made it a point to find a clear path or follow a fast runner. Out of nowhere came the woman who will from now on be known as “Mullet Lady”. Yes, she is about mid 40s and still rocking the mullet. She was on a mission as well and took the inside lane. In the picture, that would be to the left of the trees. I kept pace with her for about the first mile. She kept running at full pace and I decided to slow it down to a steady pace. Thank you Mullet Lady!
Once I broke away from the strollers, I looked around and took in the sights. The boats in the harbor. Beautiful ocean a few steps away. A lighthouse in the distance. This is where I wished I had stayed by Meghann’s side. I looked back to see if I could spot her but there was still a mass of people behind me. I pressed on.
About half way through I began to notice there was a woman with her personal trainer ahead of me. The trainer started off nice with lots of encouragement, including telling the woman she needed to keep pace with me since I was keeping a steady pace.
But around the 4th Kilometer, I’m only guessing the distance as the route was void of markers, she began to berate the poor woman. The woman had hit the wall and her trainer would not let her hear the end of it. I passed her and here is what I heard as I sped away:
Oh come on! He is leaving us in the dust! Pick it up! Don’t quit on me now! We didn’t come out here to quit! Damn it girl I said no walking!
Yeah it was pretty brutal to hear. I just kept my focus on finishing strong. Thanks to the poor course marking, I only knew I had passed mile one awhile ago and went by landmarks to estimate how much I had left. Then out of nowhere one of the helpful volunteers yells out we are only half a kilometer away. I kick it into high and I run by another volunteer who cheers me on and says I am only a kilometer away! Wait. What? I’m confused and ease back to jogging pace. I really wanted to break my Pasadena 5k time but the confusion lead to a few false sprints.
Finally, I see the fountain near the fake start and realized that was the finish line so this time I kick into high gear. I come running around the corner and up the last incline… 25 mins 45 sec! Damn! So close! Still it was a good pace and the views were totally worth it. I also earned a special medal for being among the top 100!
After picking up some food and drink from the finish area, I head back to the finish line and wait for Meghann. She clocks in 36 mins and 4 secs and completely misses me standing next to a cat mascot whom I got to cheer her on. She was completely focused on finishing strong. We rest up for a bit and head to the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The Aquarium itself was absolutely amazing. For pictures of Aquarium see my Google+ album. We had a great time and the entry ticket made up for the organizational mishaps before and during the race. Meghann also had a great time and we quickly started looking for another race to sign up for. To wrap up this recap here is a picture of Meghann posing with the penguins.