Recommended

Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland: Half Marathon – Recap

featured-past-rnr-portand

Recap

Even though Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena was my first half marathon, RnR Portland was actually the first half marathon I signed up for. This is because on June 8th of this year, Meghann will make an honest man out of me and I decided Portland should be my bachelor party/run destination.

I’ve loved Portland ever since my first sip of McMenamins’ Nitro Terminator Stout back in 2010. Walking friendly downtown, great eccentric shops, breweries in every district and no sales tax! It is the one place I can see luring me away from Southern California. I got in Friday and left on Monday so I had plenty of time to see the sights, I’ve added a few pictures from that part of the trip in the Photo Gallery section below but for now… to the race recap!

The day before the race it was mid 60s and rainy. To my surprise on race morning the sun was shining (well… the Pacific North West version of sunshine) and the temperature would reach the mid 70s, perfect day for a run! It was a crisp morning but I’ve had colder runs at the Rose Bowl, including RnR Pasadena. I stayed at the McMenamins Crystal Hotel in downtown Portland which was a quick walk to the start at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Robert met me up at the hotel and we made our way to the start.

We found the gear check easily, stretched and made our way to the start for a quick warm up run. I have to say that every Rock ‘n’ Roll race I’ve been to has had a great starting area. All of the sections are well-marked and the guide they give you at the expo makes it easy to plan your morning. As we started the warm up jog I noticed the corrals were well into the 20s and stretched way back into the city…. this was going to be a packed course.

We were a ways back from the elite runners
We were a ways back from the elite runners

As with every race, my brain started to panic and worry about everything that could go wrong. I injured my foot the week before (lame injury and best told over a beer) and it flared up with all the walking we did the day before. I worried that it would prevent me from even finishing the race. At the expo I watched the course preview video and hills on the second half of the race looked brutal. Thankfully just as my brain was going off the deep end…

Woman: Hey are you from Pasadena?
Me: Yeah! I run with the pacers. Do you?
Woman: No but I’m from the area and know who they are. How was the last run you guys did?
Me: The Unity Run?
Woman: Yeah! That looked great.
Me: It was awesome. We had great turn out from other clubs as well. Like the Gritty City Track Club & Pasadena Tri.

This lead to more interaction among my fellow runners and quickly got me to ease up. She was talking about the Unity Run we did after the Boston tragedy. It was a great run that reminded me I should be thankful to just be able to get out and run.

I took a deep breath, said a prayer (with special request for my foot), and got back to focusing on the run. As each corral was released, I started to think about what lay ahead. Running across two more bridges. Seeing new parts of Portland. Hearing words of encouragement from strangers. Yeap, just going for a run in my favorite city in the Pacific Northwest!

View from Corral 9 at the start
View from Corral 9 at the start

From the get go we got into a good pace and weaved our way through the traffic. The initial 5k was an out-and-back on Nieto Parkway along the waterfront. I’ve only enjoyed one out-and-back and that was over the Golden Gate bridge at RnR San Francisco. This one wasn’t very scenic once you went under the Fremont Bridge. The road was also just as rough as we saw a few runners trip in potholes. The crowd, as with every RnR, was quite diverse and provided some entertaining people watching. We noticed a caveman, Chiquita & banana, some poor bastard running in a powder bottle suit, plenty of Elvi, and a barefoot runner. Just Portland keeping it weird.

The rest of the first four miles of the course weren’t very memorable. There was a nice section around a few parks that included my favorite type of course band, Japanese Taiko Drum group! A similar group had provided a nice boost during RnR Pasadena so it was nice to hear those drums before the steady climb up to Hawthorne Bridge. I glanced at the clock at mile marker 4 and we clocked in at just over 36 mins!

Five miles in and he was happy! I’m the knee brace behind him

Running across Hawthorne Bridge crossed off Portland from my “Run Across a Bridge in Favorite Cities” list (click here for full list) but it wasn’t as great as I hoped. For starters they laid down a carpet to even out the bumpy road… well in certain places it wasn’t laid properly and there were bumps, some big enough that we had to hop over them. There was a nice breeze on the bridge that felt amazing 5 miles into the race. We didn’t admire much of the view since we were on a mission to finish below 2:15.

After crossing the bridge the course made its way through an industrial part of town that totally reminded me of downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District. There were some nicely remodeled loft apartments, recording studios and heavy manufacturing. Just a few residents were out there but as with every RnR race there was plenty of local bands and cheer squads along the way. One of the bands was a two piece group that reminded me of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, I loved the diversity of the bands at this race.

Finally, just past the six-mile marker we had our first walk break. While I did hit a new PR for best one hour (10.64 km) it came a heavy cost as we were feeling winded and the mile climb still lay laid. We took a few sips of water and I chewed on some GU Chomps to refuel for the second part.

As we turned the corner back to Hawthorne Blvd, that one mile climb looked very daunting. I could see groups clumping up near the middle and just walking the entire way up. It is a steady climb so the incline isn’t harsh. Just the thought of running for ~1.5 miles uphill caused my muscles to ache but on we charged. Every step was a victory and I didn’t dare look back. The only band I remember on this climb was the School of Rock kids, they performed Gorillaz’ “Feel Good”, the music was great but the death metal vocals made me run just a bit faster to get out of sound range.

For those of you unfamiliar with Portland, Hawthorne Blvd is filled with shops, bars and restaurants. There were plenty of people lined up along the street cheering us on… including some with beers. It took about 3 walking breaks and 10 mins to beat that hill but we made it. We were at mile marker 8 with 1 hr 14 mins on the clock. Not too bad and definitely on pace for a PR, set at RnR SF 2 hrs 17 mins.

The course then looped back into neighborhoods and for the most part flattened out. We picked up the pace and felt we could definitely hit sub two hours. Along this stretch of the course we saw plenty of families lining up the road and kids holding out hands for some sweaty high-fives… including one who give a sticky high-five to a runner, afterward she frantically tried to wipe off the unknown substance on her tech shirt. Note to self: avoid high-fives from kids along the course.

At mile 9 we hit Laurelhurst Park and another walk break. It was a great spot to take a breather as the park had plenty of people cheering us on and a few just enjoying the park. I saw a runner (not in the race) running through the park with his dog by his side… I really want to get a dog so I can do the same. This was the first time I had been so far east in Portland. The neighborhoods in this part, with plenty of tree cover and single-family detached homes, seemed like just home. Again, I can totally picture myself moving up here. But enough about my love of Portland.

Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, one of the awesome bands along the course. Courtesy of Facebook
Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, one of the awesome bands along the course. Courtesy of Facebook

My familiarity with Portland would be a hindrance at Mile 10 as I thought the last 5k would be downhill and mostly after the bridge. In actuality, miles 10-12 were still on the east side and were rolling hills. I checked the clock at mile 11 and were at 1 hr 46 mins… which meant two sub 7 minute miles if we were to finish under 2. We kicked it into high gear. The Lloyd district was pretty plain so we did not miss anything by running at full speed.

We came across the Rose Quarter at mile 12.5 and gave it a one finger salute for Hugo/Lakers. Steel Bridge and its sweet breeze was just one turn, and slight incline, away!

Now running across the Steel Bridge was much nicer than Hawthorne. We had great views of downtown Portland ahead of us, the scenic waterfront park to the south, and the Broadway bridge to the north. There also wasn’t a carpet to trip us up. I had hoped the MarathonFoto people had taken a nice picture of me on either bridge but looks like I missed both cameramen. Maybe for the best since I never look great during a race. Every photographer at RnR Pasadena caught me during a walk break.

Mile 12-13 was a nice downhill coming from Steel Bridge. Because of my weak left knee I tried to limit my speed. Even with my brace I can feel every shock my left knee takes. While my knee felt great it was my injured right foot that was starting to become an issue. I could feel the top of it scraping against the shoe. It wasn’t enough to slow me down but ice and Meloxicam would be needed once I crossed the finish.

The line of spectators started just after the last band stage, some Journey cover band that was on a break when I passed, and stretched well past the finish line. I began to look around to try to spot Hugo and Mario, who had kindly joined me on my Bachelor weekend. Just before the finish I noticed them looking behind me so I ran to their side and let out a “SURPRISE MOTHERFUCKERS!” à la Doakes from Dexter.

Too fast for the camera
Too fast for the camera

That picture sums up the last stretch. Seeing strangers cheer me on and hearing the band at the final stage always motivates me to give it my all. With a new PR in sight and a scenic final mile I said prayer and thanked the old gods and the new that my foot had held up so well during the race. I managed to shave off another ten minutes and clocked in at 2 hours and 4 minutes!

Couldn't have done it without my support group!
Couldn’t have done it without my support group!

We didn’t stay very long at the post race concert, headliner was Andy Grammer. My swollen right foot made the walk to the gear check seem like another mile. I definitely needed to pop a few pills, have some beers and rest in the soaking pool. I checked out the merchandise tent but found nothing new from the expo. The finisher shirt just a rehash of the earlier ones and I plan on buying a RnR Pasadena finisher shirt to commemorate my first half. Though as you can see in the photo gallery below I had a nice haul of souvenirs.


Post Race Comments

I had an amazing time at Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland but didn’t sign up for next year. Though this is only due to the timing of the race, it would be during my second semester of grad school. I highly recommend this race to anyone and especially to those who haven’t been to Portland. There are plenty of things to do before/after the race and the course is challenging. As always Competitor group put on a top class event and remains my favorite series.

3 down and 3 to go! Onward to San Diego!
3 down and 3 to go! Onward to San Diego!

Previous Posts about Race

calendar-going

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco: Half Marathon – Recap

featured-past-rnr-sf

Recap

A few days leading up to the race I began to question if I was running for the right reason. As you can tell by my site I love logos & medals. I’m also a sucker for any type of collectible and began to believe that I enjoyed the build up to the race more than the course itself. This actually stems from the terrible Run or Dye race where I was actually happy that the race was shorter than advertised. Would this race be any different?

The start was near Ghiraredlli square, with a 7 am start it was packed by the time I walked over at 6:15 am. I did my usual stretches while I waited for Angelo to join me. The night before my mind barely let me sleep more than 3 hours and yet now I could barely stand still.

Angelo showed up around 6:30 and we started talking about what to expect along the course. A woman at the expo mentioned to him that this was one of the most challenging race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Internally I had a mini panic attack about my knee.

On the walk to the corrals, I could only think of punishment my knee was in for at the hands of the hills that lay ahead. While I wasn’t shooting for much of an improvement on my Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena time, I did want to finish ahead of the 2 hour 30 minute pacer that was in our corral.

Pre-Race:  Corral 17!
We were in Corral 17 of 25. Thankfully it wasn’t this packed throughout the course

From the get-go we were at a steady 6 mph pace. I had set the Endomondo app to give us a 10 min interval at the start, this allowed us to put some good distance between us and the rest of the corral.

The first two miles were a nice flat and wide street portion. We ran by some beautiful houses along the waterfront… which all had signs protesting a proposed restaurant on the open green. Ah SF, where even the rich are activists.

Rock On!
Rock On!

The guy above greeted us as we entered Crissy Field. This is one of my favorite spots in SF. Just beautiful open land with plenty of history. Old hangers converted into businesses. Miles of beaches just a stones throw away. Historical buildings are all over the place with plaques detailing how the air field was an important step in west coast aviation history. It also has a great path that leads to the miles of trails in the Presidio, including one that leads to the Golden Gate. Speaking of…

Mile 3 - First Hill
Within sight but first we just need to climb for two miles

At the 5k mark we finally got a nice view of the bridge. Just seeing the Golden Gate made me run a little faster…. but those hills made me walk. My knee wasn’t complaining yet but I still wanted to take it easy on hills. I hope next year I can charge up them like most of my fellow runners.

We ran (well… power walked) past several more historical sites, including the somber Presidio Pet Cemetery. A half-naked man, who I think was the flag runner at RnR Pasadena, ran past me and gave me a Pacer shout out. He did not motivate me to run any faster but the girls around us quickened their pace.

And then something happened that I had never experienced during a run… I had to go… and bad. Every step I took felt like it was shaking my bladder. I knew I couldn’t hold it until the end. Hell we weren’t even at the half way mark! Thankfully there was a porta potty near the top. We lost a few minutes standing in line but I felt so much better and made it a point to ignore the next two walk intervals.

Finally at the Bridge
Our reward for hills? A sweet 1.5 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge!

I have more shots of the bridge in the photo gallery at end of this post. Naturally we zoomed past a good chunk of people at this part. The road was wide since we were running on the bike path side. The views on the bridge were amazing so I had no hard feelings towards the walkers and photo takers.

Best Part! Running Across the Bridge
Best Part of the Race!

By this point I had found my zone. Sure I felt tired but at no point did I think about quitting or coming to a complete halt. Well… we did stop for more photos but did I mention the amazing view? No, well see below.

Best Out and Back Ever!
What an awesome view and it’s only halfway done

At the turn around we ran into the first band on the course. I don’t remember who it was as the course took precedent over the music. While I had enjoyed the bands spread throughout RnR Pasadena, I was glad they didn’t try to squeeze too many into this one. The stages would have killed the greats views. And despite the limited spaces on the course, their were plenty of aid stations along the route.

I finished off another bottle of water and ripped open a bag of chomps to fuel up for the last 6 miles. A downhill kept me from running through this part since my knee hates those with a passion so I took in the view once again.

And Back We go!
And back we go! One last picture of the bridge.

Yet another hill greeted us as we went under the bridge for the loop back. I ran up it but that was a very dumb idea since it drained quite a bit of energy. Again we ran across the entire length of the bridge. Passing people on this side was difficult since it was a narrow pedestrian only lane. Now we had the Pacific Ocean to look at and my was it a sight.

Once we got back across the bridge we started the slow descend back down to Crissy Field. This time we took a shortcut through the Battery trail. Getting off the tough concrete was a welcomed change.

Fort Point, another awesome historical site along the route, was the 10 mile marker and the last out-and-back. All that was left was a 3 mile run along the waterfront. Easy right?

The course switched back to trails along the beach and again the views were amazing. Angelo and I figured we could catch up the 2 hr 30 min pacer if we ran the rest of the course. We could see her up in the distance (she passed us during my pee break) and kicked it into high gear.

At this point, we rushed passed plenty of walkers and joggers running in the opposite direction. I guess you can’t shut trails for too long. Thankfully the trail was wide enough to handle everyone.

We eventually came to the last hill and, of course, I had to walk it. My knee wasn’t in pain but it definitely fatigued. This is where we also saw the 2 hr 30 min pacer so I power walked up that hill to pass her.

Though it also brought us to an unfortunate scene. A woman ahead of us was receiving medical treatment as she laid on the side of the path. According to the that Angelo found later in the week:

The woman was in cardiac arrest but was revived by paramedics and taken to a hospital in serious condition, the dispatcher said.

Later in the week the Rock and Roll Marathon series reached out to her and posted on theirRnR SF Facebook page:

Thank you guys for your concern. We are glad to report that the runner is recovering and still in the hospital. The family asked for privacy during this stage of recovery.

I hope she recovered from that. She was just one hill away from the finish.

I sprinted down the hill and around the bend to the start… only to realize the finish was actually about a quarter-mile from there. It took everything I had to finish that last leg.

I couldn’t spot Meghann in the crowd but the grandstands were full of people cheering and that was enough for me. I love races for their spirit. Sure they might come off as a “You’re all winners!” type of event but finishing IS a huge personal accomplishment. I was hungry, thirsty, dead tired… and I couldn’t help but smile. I chugged a bag of chocolate milk and ate a few bananas while I sat near the finish. I had just finished my second half marathon and was already looking forward to my third.

Hardest Course I've Ran and Looking Forward to SF '14!
Hardest Course I’ve Ran and Looking Forward to SF14!

I love the medal, shirt, pint glass and all the other souvenirs I picked up that weekend but the parts that will always stay with me are ones that I can’t share. Like the cool breeze along the bridge while running at full speed. After running this beautiful and challenging course I can safely say that I love the sport.

Onward to Portland!
Signed up for 2014 but for now… Onward to Portland!

Post Race Comments

The course was so amazing that I signed up for the 2014 edition. With a racer cap of a few thousand and a $20 discount, early registration was a no-brainer. I loved every part of the course, yes even the hills, and really hope they don’t change it too much for next year. It had just the right amount of bands, aid stations, and cheer squads. They were there when you needed them and faded away in time to take in the sights.

Speaking of sights, this weekend totally changed my view of the city! I had only been to San Francisco once before and it was less than ideal. Meghann and I went during a holiday weekend and the areas we visited were all tourist traps that were well over capacity. Thankfully this time around we decided to check out the other parts of the city. The day before we hiked around the Presidio of San Francisco and got a nice course preview. As you can tell from the course map above, this race took place on the northern coast of the city which lead to a nice long run along the waterfront. It was a welcomed escape from the touristy part of SF.


Previous Posts about Race

Where I’m Going

Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena: Half Marathon – Recap

featured-past-rnrpas

Recap

The smart thing to do would have been sitting this race out. After being diagnosed with a patellofemoral disorder in my left knee, my doctor told me that I should forget about this race and focus my training on getting back on the road for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco. For a week I did just that, I emailed the race staff and had them downgrade me to the 5k, I convinced myself that I should not risk three destination races, and started shooting for distances to match the SF training.

There was a part of me that felt like I was playing it safe. The knee pain lingered for a while but I felt great after two 6 mile runs. I kept thinking about the joy I felt after I finished the Pacer 10 mile Challenge. I ran the crazy idea of switching back to the half by Meghann and a few close friends. They were all in agreement; if I was confident I could finish it then I should do it.

I also felt a need not to let down Robert. He had signed up for this race after we did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Mini-Marathon. I told him we could run Pasadena as our first half marathon and that I would be alongside him every step of the way. He made no big deal when I told him a week earlier that I had to back out but he was excited when I told him we were back on for the half.

So with just a four days until the race, I switched back to the half! And I instantly started to doubt myself. Every day I would reconsider the decision and my brain would dream up various catastrophes; you could slip and twist your knee; the cold will wreck your other knee; and the classic, you will miss the start! The night before a race I can never just shut off my brain and get a good night’s sleep. Despite going to bed at 8:30pm, I slept no more than four hours.

We had to park the car by 6:15 am so we were up pretty early. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it wasn’t 40 degrees and had some pants on. Seeing ice on the grass made it that much colder. We found the Pasadena Pacer tent and met up Robert there before the race. I had missed the group picture and warm up before RnR LA so I made sure I was a part of this one:

Rock 'n' Roll Pasadena: Pre-Race
Pasadena Pacers Group Shot

Coach Ezra led us on another awesome warm up stretch and gave a great pep talk. He reminded us that we had trained for this and we would make it to the finish. I reminded my knees that ice and pain killers would await them if they could carry me across the finish.

rnr-pas-stretch
Pacer Warm Ups

With all the pre-race stuff done, we made our way to the corrals. Meghann was a few corrals behind us since she was doing 5k. I had placed my estimated finish time at 2 hours 30 minutes so that meant we were back in corral 8 with the rest of the slower runners. I saw a few pacers in the first few corrals and made a mental note that next year my target time would be sub 2 hours. I looked around and noticed that most of the teams in corral 7 were walkers, one team was even called the “Wine Walkers”… we needed to finish in front of this group. As we moved forward with every corral start, I found spots along the side to move up further; I didn’t want to get caught up in the slower packs at the start. My heart began to race as corral 7 was unleashed.

rnr-pas-start
Just one more corral to go!
rnr-pas-start2
Official Picture of Start. Believe this is Corral 5. – Courtesy of Facebook

I don’t remember who the announcer was or if there was any joke before he/she fired the signal. All I can remember is seeing the people in front of us take off and kicked it into race mode. I looked at my watch to make sure I wasn’t starting off too fast. I wanted to keep it at 7 mph during our run segments. I also made sure the first running segment was ten minutes so we can get far ahead of the walkers. The Pacers were manning the first water station and I made sure I was sprinting when we got there at mile 1.5:

Rock 'n' Roll Pasadena: Pacer Water Station
Goofy smiles at Mile 1.5

I wish they were further along the route as their cheers energized me through the first 2 miles. Then came the hill on California and Orange Grove… man that was steep. I ran it a few times before the race so I knew it would drain me if I tried to charge up it. To make matters worse, my knee had healed but it still did not enjoy steep inclines. I told Robert we would walk it and continue the run segment once we reached the top. As we pulled to the right side with the rest of the walkers I kept seeing people try to charge up the hill. Most gave up halfway up or cursed through the pain. There was one kid who did manage to run up the entire hill at full speed but once we got to the top:

Kid: I’m done.
Mom: What?
Kid: My knee… I’m done.
Mom: But it’s only mile 2.
Kid: I can’t… I’m done.

I felt bad for the kid but there was an aid station on top of the hill. I also thanked my knee for taking one for the team. I looked behind us and one of the Wine Walkers was starting the hill, so we took off running. We won’t let the winos win!

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series gets its name for having bands every few miles along the course and a great post race concert. Dynamite Beat Puppy was the first band to greet us at Colorado and Orange Grove:

rnr-pas-band
Dynamite Beat Puppy at the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado. She sang a cover of “Yellow” by Coldplay… I prefer her version. – Courtesy of Facebook

As we ran past sights like the Tournament of Roses house and the Norton Simon Museum, I couldn’t help but say to myself “man I love this town!” The weather was finally starting to warm up and a clear sky above us.

We seemed to coast during the miles 3 through 5. Running down Colorado Boulevard and Green Street was a treat.

rnr-pas-colorado
Not my picture but a great shot of the Colorado section – Courtesy of Facebook

It wasn’t until the long turn around on Lake that I started to feel a bit fatigued. The odd part is, according to Endomondo, my best lap times were during and after Lake. I’ll give some credit to the awesome Japanese Taiko Drum group that was at mile 5. Best band on the course!

By the time we got to the halfway point in front of CalTech, we were taking longer breaks. My knee was starting to feel sore and I completely lost control of my breathing. I decided to double down on the Gu Chomps and chowed down half the bag. It took a few minutes to feel the boost but it definitely helped me get back into pace. The shade along Green street was a god send by this point.

I forget at which miles or what schools they were from but along the course we they had some great cheer groups. Each time we ran by one it gave us a boost of energy. This was the USC Cheer team on the route back on Colorado:

rnr-pas-cheer
USC Cheer Station – Courtesy of Facebook

When we hit the hill in front of the Norton Simon we didn’t think twice about walking the entire block and skipping one run segment. Hopefully by next year I will be able to at least jog up that thing.

Just beyond that we hit the part of the course I was really looking forward too… The Colorado Street Bridge! As I mentioned in earlier post, I LOVE bridges and make it a point to sign up for races that let me run across them. This knocked Pasadena off the list! It was a great view from there and wish I had taken a photo.

And then we hit another hill… I always forget how hilly Pasadena is. This one was a bit steep and included a turn around. Thankfully there was a band at the top of the hill and their “unique music” really pushed us to run back down the hill and towards the Rose Bowl for the big finish.

At the 10 mile mark I hit a bit of a wall; my knee ached during every run segment, I ran out of Gatorade/water on my hydration belt, and I finished the last of my Gu Chomps. What I thought would be a “quick” 5k victory parade around the Rose Bowl turned into a slow march around the Rose Bowl AND golf course. Totally forgot we had to run by half of the Brookside Golf Course just beyond the Rose Bowl.

We came to a complete stop around mile 11 as I had readjust my shoes and Robert was feeling quite winded. I needed a drink of water but we were still about half a mile away from the next one. I knew we would finish but I could see the time getting away from us. We had made great time through the 10 mile mark and I was hoping we would finish in 2 hr 15 mins.

We gathered whatever strength we could muster and ran the last 2 miles. Along the way we ran across a fellow Pacer, she was quite tired and thought she couldn’t make it. I slowed down our pace and kept encouraging her. This was around her third half-marathon so we both knew she could finish it.

I told Robert we needed to finish strong so we went into a nice sprint towards the finish line. As we hit the last turn I could see all the spectators lined up along the shoot. A few pacers were there and cheered us on. Meghann was also in the crowd but I completely missed her:

rnr-pas-finish-crop2
Meghann’s picture of us crossing the finish.. yes I’m totally fist pumping!

That last quarter-mile made my day. Sure I was tired and soooooo very hungry but the feeling of accomplishment was well worth it. I had just ran 13.1 miles through my hometown!

With the medal around my neck and hands full of food freebies I collapsed on the nearest piece of grass. I went to town on that chocolate milk and fruit. I would have eaten 5 bagels if allowed. I checked the Endomondo stats and the time shocked me; before getting injured I was shooting for 2 hours and 30 minutes but we had finished in 2 hours and 27 minutes! If I had any energy left I would have started dancing, the best I could do that day was my usual goofy smile.

Rock 'n' Roll Pasadena: Post Race
Finishing my first half was amazing and having Meghann and Robert there to celebrate with made it that much sweeter.
rnr-pas-medal2
Meghann’s sweet medal from the Mini-Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll Pasadena: Half Marathon
First of, I hope, 6 Rock and Roll Half Marathons in 2013. Onward to SF!

Post Race Comments

My knee isn’t hurting as bad as after the Santa to the Sea race but it is still troublesome. I managed to get back on the road the week after the race. I will continue to do strength training as advised by my doctor and hopefully I won’t run into the same issue in San Francisco.


Previous Posts about Race

Where I’m Going/Training
Training Update for January

Santa to the Sea: Half-Marathon Relay – Recap

featured-past-sant

Recap

This was a very mixed event. There were moments where it felt as organized as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles: Mini-Marathon but there were also mix ups that reminded me of the Devil’s Gate Dam 5k Fiasco. So when I talk about a highlight = 😎 and for Devil’s Gate Moment = 👿

Getting to the start was simple and organized.  😎 Since we did the two person relay, I would take one bus to the start while Meghann would hop on another to halfway point. As we met up with Santa’s Little Helpers, David and Carlos, I noticed both had bibs while Meghann and I were told at the LA race packet pick up that only the finisher would get a bib. 👿 So now I looked like a random person on the race course. 👿 This conversation also brought up how the hell I would know where to give Meghann the timing chip (in lieu of a baton…) or even if I would get to line up at the start. Yeah my brain really needs this confusion at 6am on a cold morning.

Santa to the Sea: Pre-Race
Santa’s Little Helpers (bibs!) and Team M&M trying look comfortable in the cold weather

Carlos and I got on the shuttle and headed to the start… well it looked like the start. There were runners hanging around a street and a line of port-a-potties were there. It was a random neighborhood right next to the freeway and the locals seemed taken back by the sudden mass of runners blocking them into their homes. The only staff I could spot were way up front next to the start and their speakers weren’t loud enough to hear in our spot in the last corral. Carlos and I just looked at each other and took off when we saw the crowd move forward… and promptly stopped… it was a wave start… awesome if we knew about it. 👿

As we walked to the front of the crowd I finally saw the giant Santa that gave the race its name. The bastard looked fat and happy guarding the giant mound of toy offerings we had given him. He looked satisfied… for now…

Our wave was unleashed without a problem and I took to the sidewalk to pass the walkers. With this being Meghann’s first race longer than a 5k and a strict 3 hour limit, I wanted to give her a good cushion. I made a sub-hour finish my target and fell into a 8-9min pace for most of the race.

I looked around the course and the start was quite nice. What’s not to like about being surrounded by strawberry fields? But, that quickly gave way to industrial parks. Thankfully, the course was flat and wide, which was perfect for passing people at the start. I have to say it was pretty nondescript until we hit the first cheer station at a local elementary.

Those kids were out there screaming and cheering for everyone that ran by. 😎 Even the houses leading up to the station had people standing outside and cheering us on. Tip for the ladies: It is amazing what a few cheers will do for a man’s stamina.

Running through the neighborhoods was definitely when the course began to grow on me. There were enough turns to keep me from spacing out and none of those deflating turn around segments. 😎 I hate having to run a mile then take the same route back for another.

Thanks to the well placed mile markers I was cruising until I hit a hill… well it was a freeway crossing but after 6 miles that looked like a mountain. I decided to walk that thing and save my energy for the sprint towards the finish.

And here is where another 👿 point comes in. At the transition point, they were calling out to the 2nd leg runners to get ready but since I didn’t have a bib they couldn’t let Meghann know. She just knew I was aiming for a sub hour time and got in the chute around then. I ran towards the point but no one told me where to go and I quickly ran by the small tent set up. Thankfully Meghann yelled out at me and I was able to stop without any one running into me. I gave her the timing chip/baton and she was off.

I clocked in at 58mins! As I training for this race I constantly failed to meet my sub hour target. (In hindsight I pushed myself too far, see the Post Race Comments at the end of the post)

Since the transition was just before the mile marker, I did not have any food or water waiting for me. I had to walk over and reach from the back of the tables to grab some. 👿 The lack of staff also meant that there wasn’t anyone giving out medals or information on how the 1st leg runners get their medals. 👿

At least the transition point was a nice park in the middle of downtown Oxnard. My body felt great as I started stretching and doing my cool down. All I could think of was getting to the finish so we can get our medals and head to the nearest bar!

Instead of taking the race provided shuttle to the finish we got a ride from a friend…. but we parked around the 9 mile marker and had to walk the rest of the way. While walking through the beach neighborhoods I knew Meghann had the better leg of the race. There was a nice breeze coming through and the sun was finally out. After starting the race at a cool 48, it had reached mid 70s by the time I met up with Meghann.

After begging a volunteer to give me a medal, we met up with the rest of the teams and settled on which bar to celebrate in.

Santa to the Sea: Post Race
Ohhhh yeaaaah!
Santa to the Sea: Post Race
Jarod: Ohhh nooooooo

The second picture is of me with a coworker’s son. She was excited to see me but he was less than thrilled to take another picture. The kid is in training for the LA Marathon and this was his first half marathon. I thought he would’ve been a little more excited after that accomplishment. Safe to say I will be jumping in the air (knees permitting) when I finish my first half.

Santa to the Sea: Relay
So far toughest medal I’ve earned. Hopefully I can run this again next year

Post Race Comments

I never believed in Santa and I think this race was his revenge… my left knee did not like all the post race walking we did. By the evening I could not even bend it without significant pain. Thankfully I had this before and knew the treatment was the standard Rest Ice Compression Elevate. Still, it has been well over two weeks and my knee still complains about anything beyond a mile. DAMN YOU SANTA! DAMN YOU TO HELL!

Previous Posts about Race

Where I’m Going – Training for this race

CityRace Olvera Street: Recap

featured-past-crolvera


Course Map

NOTE: This only shows the game boundaries

cityrace-olvera-map


Recap

After the awesome time we had at CityRace Santa Monica, we were set on doing another CityRace by the end of the year. The draw to this particular CityRace was that it would be in Olvera Street near Dia de los Muertos. Up until this race I had never spent more than a few minutes in Olvera Street, let alone wandered all around the area.

The day of the race we got all our gear and made sure we were fully ready for this one:

  • Fully Charged Smartphones
  • Athletic tops but regular shorts with plenty of pockets
  • Running shoes and socks
  • $20 in singles, for strip club and/or bonus hunts
  • Brita water bottles
  • Awesome new tote bag from R’n’R LA
  • Extra patience

The last one is the most important item you can bring to a CityRace. When you are running around for three hours trying to solve riddles… your nerves are going to get fried and it takes a lot to keep your cool. Communication is key and you won’t get very far if your partner (or yourself) has lost their patience.

As soon as we got there I started sizing up the competition. I mean we were vets. Our first race we finished 10th and only missed one question and half of a bonus hunt. Both of us expected a podium finish. So I glanced at the groups… I wasn’t too worried about the newbies who were still reading the rules; the true competition would be from the group going over their plan and what they learned from the last two races. All four had their phones at the ready and had tourist maps at the ready… Maps? Damn it! Totally forgot tourist maps would be easy information.

The organizer was a few minutes late but we were quickly given our clues and time limit. 2:15 was the cutoff time and it started NOW!

Meghann and I split off from the pack and found a spot to go over the clues and knock out the easy ones… problem was there weren’t many easy ones. I looked up a few that had dates and important people but for the most part that only gave us the site. For example:

Go to the building in Clue #7 and find the number on top.
Now do some math…

Yeah it went into this whole Aztec math thing and said the key was nearby Clue 8. Now I get why they labeled this CityRace “Moderately Challenging”.  We decided to focus on the bonus hunts. These were simple hunts that involved buying item A or eat item B. They made the difference last game and were all in the shops area nearby. Here is the random assortment of items we bought:

  • Mini sombrero, $3
  • Coaster with Frida Kahlo’s picture, $2
  • Chilean pan flute, $3
  • Day of the dead item, $4

Nothing as costly as the $10 photo booth from Santa Monica and we found it all in one shop. All of the items will find a place in Meghann’s classroom so it wasn’t a total waste either. There were two others but they were food items and I made the call of waiting until the end to buy them. We loaded the items into our bag and took off towards La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles, oldest church in the area and clue 14!

As we walked from building to building, plaque to plaque, and monument to monument, I couldn’t help but look around and take it in: The beautiful altars set up for loved ones. The dancers in the gazebo entertaining a large crowd. The king taco offerings left at one altar, which totally made me crave tacos al pastor. A confused racer arguing with her partner on the number of bells at the church. Good times!

About an hour and a half in and we were making steady progress on the clues and had narrowed it down a few more in Olvera Street and 8 based in Union Station. So off we went and reached the point where patience would be a strong point; we were both hungry. We had a simple breakfast but the combination of walking all over the place and the heat made us burn through that quickly. Meghann went to grab some food while I tackled the single worst question on race… a math word problem… noooooooooooo

So I sat there with a train timetable in one hand and a pretzel in another as I tried to figure out how many hours it took for the train from Los Angeles to reach Chicago on the Amtrak Starlight line. Bleh. I did the raw math and gave it to Meghann. She chimed in that we should adjust the answer since the timetable might list the destination time in CT.  She hit the nail on the head. My brain was too fried to account for that.

Random facts we learned about Union Station:

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles was not filmed there. Blade Runner, Union Station, and The Way we were… were.
  • There are 230 original wooden seats in the main lobby… we bailed on that question.
  • There is a bench on the east side of the station made from material found at the original Chinatown.
  • Union Station was built over the original Chinatown, white voters wanted to do away with that part of town and the new rail station was the perfect excuse.
  • Four famous figures in the mural, also on east portal, are wearing hats.
  • The three original lines were Southern Pacific Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Finding out random bits of local history is one of my favorite parts of CityRaces. We checked the timer and were down the final 15 minutes and we still needed six more questions… arg.

We ran back to Olvera Street and I kept an eye out for plaques and signs. BAM! The replica bell that was rung to signal the war between Mexico and Spain. BAM! The two plants listed in a Native American remedy that we needed for a word scramble. BAM! A map that decoded yet another word scramble; it spelled Mexico… har har har… Only the Aztec math and the churro remained! I opted to stand in line for the churro while Meghann took one for the team and handled the math.

10 mins left:  I had made a bad call by putting off the churro purchase as there was now a long line for it.

7 mins: Tourists in front of me were deciding what they wanted.

5 mins: I pleaded with one that I was in a race and just wanted a plain churro but that made no difference.

3 mins: The churro was in the fryer…

1 min left: The churro was in my hand! As we ran to the finish I held that churro like the Olympic torch. The timer had gone off but thankfully there was a line to check in and we were not penalized. When we turned in our score sheet and bonus hunts, it hit us; we did very poorly this race. We had a few blanks, two guesses and missed the bonus with the highest point value. Damn you bug candy! Why were you sold out??? Anyhow… the Olympic torch churro turned into a sad churro and I nommed on it while we waited for the results.

As in the last race, the organizer read the questions aloud and waited for us to reply with the correct one. The first ten we were all locked up. And then came the math questions and curse words were thrown around. Followed by Union station facts and… it turned out only a handful of teams had gotten that far! The pros I worried about in the beginning were even missing a few. Could it be? Could this be our podium finish???

CityRace Olvera Street Top 10
VICTORY CHURRO!

No it wasn’t. While we did finish higher than the last race, 5th place! we were a bit disappointed in ourselves. All of those blanks and guesses had cost us the podium finish we wanted. Still, it was an enjoyable experience and we got to know the area. Team M&M will definitely sign up for another race! Perhaps even the CityRace Pasadena… what better place to PR than in our home town?


Previous Posts about Race

Where I’m Going

Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles: Mini-Marathon – Recap

Recap

As we waited for the Goldline at 6am on a cold Saturday morning I recapped how we got here. I picked this race since I want Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena to be my first half-marathon and needed to check out the organizer. But I also didn’t want to do this alone so I had managed to convince Meghann to join me. I did not expect her to sign up since we had one good race, one great race and really shitty race. It took a bit to get both of us out of bed but here we were… pinning our race bibs and getting pumped for another race.

We only just made it to the start on time and due to the tight corrals we were not able to slip into our assigned Corral 1. We saw Robert up in Corral 4 and tried to get up to him but instead we would only get as close as Corral 7. I didn’t even have enough space to stretch properly as everyone was packed together like sardines. Naturally, I began to worry if this was the race I wouldn’t be able to finish. The day before I had finished the Pasadena Pacers 10 mi Challenge and now I was worried about a 3.5 mi race. Seesh. Since this was a wave start I had plenty of time to worry. Each wave would get called to the start and after a 10 second countdown they would be unleashed. I heard Corral 4 released and I knew Robert would be running fast to stay ahead of me. I now had a goal. Catch. Robert.

Unknown “Celebrity” Announcer: Corral 7 move on up! I want to hear you! COME ON CORRAL 7! 10… 9… 8…
Marlon’s Thoughts: Come on lady just get to fucking 1!
Unknown “Celebrity” Announcer: 6… almost there! 4…
Marlon’s Thoughts: Seriously?
Unknown “Celebrity” Announcer: 2… 1… GO!!!
Marlon: The chase begins.
Meghann: What?
Marlon: Nothing. I love you

I kissed Meghann and told her I would see her at the finish… I had a god damn Robert to catch! Like the Aquarium of the Pacific start, I had to dodge a few walkers. At first I followed a woman who also was on a mission. We ducked and weaved past Gumby, some Smurfs, a weird-looking Elvis and a Decepticon. At the half mile mark I noticed the sidewalks were finally empty and there was no rail to keep us on the course. I made a break for it and quickly passed another large group. Running on the sidewalk meant I only had to dodge uneven pavements.

I kept scanning the crowd to see if I had caught up to Robert. He would be easy to spot since most of the crowd had costumes and he was in race gear. About a mile in I saw the first Pacer, he was on the sidelines holding up the “Run Pacers Run!” sign and taking pictures. He gave me a shout out and I quickened my pace. I love being a part of such a supportive group. I ran past the first cheer squad and water station but still couldn’t see my target. I did manage to spot another Pacer… in a full Banana suit. Jamba Juice had given him a free entry if he would run the half-marathon in the suit. So he did and was telling banana jokes along the way.

Andrew Banana: What’s Mario’s favorite fruit?
Crowd Does Not Respond
Andrew Banana: Ba-na-na-na-na-na. Ba-na-na-na-na-na
Crowd Laughs

We had reached USC and the race was splitting off into the Mini-Marathon turn around. I wished Andrew good luck and laughed as he started telling another joke. I went back to hunting down the most dangerous game of all… man. As soon as I hit the turn-around I kicked it into high gear. I hit a 5min/km pace and never looked back. Despite this pace, on the other side of the cones the half-marathoners were speeding by. The same teams I saw at the Bell-Jeff Open were racing by. I wasn’t foolish enough to even try to match their pace.

I still could not spot Robert or Meghann, so instead I began to take a look around. I found it odd that I was so focused on catching up that I never bothered to take a breath and look around. I was running through downtown Los Angeles! I could see the skyline glistening in the morning sun, a hobo scratching himself on a “bum-proof” bench, and a confused sorority girl trying to run across the course. LA, I love you.

I ran by the cheer squad again and a DJ playing some Rocky music. With every random cheer and “go Pacer go!” I would get a nice burst of energy. Running around the neighborhood just can’t compare to the sights and sounds of well-organized races.

By the time I reached Figueroa and Pico, I realized I would not catch up Robert. I could, however, finish strong… unlike the Devil’s Gate Dam 5k. Dan you hipster! I ran past even more walkers and I could see the big finish. I spotted a women a few feet from the finish and made her my target. I went into a full sprint and did my best… but she finished just a few steps ahead of me. Damn it! Couldn’t even catch her. I grabbed my medal and spotted Robert a few feet away. The bastard had finished 2 mins (gun time) earlier. We talked for a bit and collected some freebies while we waited for Meghann. He said he knew I would be gunning for him and saw me sprinting by on the turn around. Bah. I’m not much of a hunter after all. A couple of minutes later we spot Meghann coming in. Despite being sidelined with random injures since our last race, she managed to get back to her 11 min pace. We gathered up and headed to the post race area.

Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles: Post Race
“Enjoying” Michelob Ultra with the most dangerous game
Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles: Post Race
Team M&M
Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles: Mini Marathon
The first RnR medal of many!

To sum up the race: it was fucking awesome and I’m definitely getting the Tour Pass to run as many Rock ‘n’ Roll events in 2013 as I possibly can.


Previous Posts About Race

Where I’m Going

Pasadena Pacers: 10mi Challenge

featured-past-10mi

Recap

This wasn’t an actual race but it was totally worthy of being added. I’ve run with the Pasadena Pacers since September. They are a great group and I jumped at the chance to represent them in an official race. I had floated around the group depending on how many miles I wanted to run any given day but 10 mile challenge was an important event for me. It would be the longest run I’ve done and a great way to measure how far I’ve come.

Before we set off coach Wende called all the 10 mi challenge people into the spotlight during our stretch. The +50 strong Pacers group cheered us and Wende told us while she wasn’t running that day (she had the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half-Marathon the next day) she would be showing up a few times along the course to cheer us along. The Half-Marathon group volunteered to set the pace for us and lead us through an awesome warm up. It was on.

I was doing this run without music since I did not know the entire route and needed to be able to hear the interval call outs. I ran by myself for the first mile, preferring to take the trail route along the Rose Bowl. I met up with the lead pack at the first hill… thankfully I had run up the hill the previous Tuesday as part of the hills training group. I knew I could take this hill. I charged up it and kept pace with the lead pack. This pack consisted of some of our best runners. I was quite thankful they were taking it easy on us. While they had the energy to talk I was just focused on getting through this.

2 Miles Down! Still feeling fine. Wende is ready with her boom-box and camera after the first hill and she cheers us on. She is the best coach I’ve had! We catch up to some runners from the Korean-American Running Team (KART) and exchange hellos. Always nice to see other groups out there. When we came up around a bend I was able to look down at the Rose Bowl. Quite a view but my fingers were beginning to feel a bit numb. It was another sunny, but cold, Pasadena morning. I focused on the long ascent ahead… Running with the lead pack is starting to take its toll as I fall back a few paces. At this point I spot JPL.

3 Miles Down! The climb continues but I am starting to feel loose. That hills training really helped me get over the mental block of steady gains. We spot Wende one last time and she reminds us we are near the turn around.

4 Miles Down! The lead pack splits off and I soon realize I am the leader now. I ask them which way to go and head off into the winding streets… yeah I totally get lost. Unfortunately, two other Pacers who were new to the group were following me. We decide to wait for the pack and I finally get a breather in. AT this point I’m feeling good enough to just run the remaining distance. A few others catch up and tell us to continue down the street and we will know when the turn around is… off we go!

4.5 Miles Down! I spot the group founder and another Pacer veteran at the turn around and… we run right past them. Only after running a few more feet did we stop to think if that was the turn around. We ask and it was. Around this point Jennifer catches up to us. I met her a few weeks ago. She is recovering from injuries but is an established marathoner. I decide to keep pace with her.

5 Miles Down! Jennifer and I talk about why we joined the group and how our training has gone. She asks me a few times if the pace is alright. While I am starting to feel tried, I knew I could keep up with the pace. The rest of the route is, literally, all downhill from here. We continue just running for the finish.

6 Miles Down! Finally having someone to talk to is a blessing. While I do spend more energy talking to her, the conversation is interesting and she is keeping track of our speed.

7 Miles Down! We spot JPL and the Rose Bowl. It has been an hour since I last saw the two… still feeling good.

8 Miles Down! Two of the Half-Marathoners run right past us. I knew they were holding back. Jennifer again asks if I am still good with the pace. My legs were starting to complain but I was not going to let that stop me from finishing strong. We run on.

9 Miles Down! We catch up the Rose Bowl loop crowd. Having to dodge walkers/strollers/bikers is no easy task on tired legs. Jennifer encourages me to continue running since we are only a mile out.

10. Miles. COMPLETED! I run towards Wende and tell her I did it! She is surprised to see us come in so soon and quickly grabs her medals and cow bell. Yes a cow bell. She is ringing the bell while announcing to the other pacers that I just completed the 10 mile challenge. I am tired but proud. I thank Jennifer for keeping me motivated and being wonderful company. I receiving a few high-fives and make my way to the food. Carbs! I need carbs! I down a few cups of apple juice and chow down on 1.5 bagels. I keep myself from eating more.

Pasadena Pacers: 10mi Challenge
Awesome hand-made medal by Coach Wende. My favorite medal of all.

I stick around long enough to see the rest of the group finish. I am still amazed I was able to finish so quickly. I now KNOW I will finish my first half-marathon. But I try not to get ahead of myself as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Mini-Marathon is just 24 hours away.

Bellarmine-Jefferson Open Race

Featured-Past-Race-BJO

Recap

A logo. That’s the only reason I signed up for this race. While browsing the Pasadena Pacer’s Facebook Page I noticed there was a post asking for volunteers to form a team for this race. The team needed 5 members in order to get our name on the back of the shirt. I checked the race website for details and promptly signed up. We quickly found others to join the team and we got our sweet logo on the back of the shirt!

Or so that’s all I thought I was running for. This race turned out to be quite more. The location and timing tested my resolve. The course tested my training. By the end of it, I had realized that running had quickly become more than a “hobby” it is now one of my passions. Well I am getting ahead of myself so let’s just get to the recap!

When I first looked up the location of the race, it didn’t look that far away on Google Maps. The directions given were just one bus ride away and about a mile walk. Totally do-able. Then I realized I needed to be there at 6:30… and it would take an hour to get there by bus… so including prep time, I needed to be up by 4:30am on a Saturday and I had plans with Meghann on Friday night.

I had grown accustomed to being out the door by 5:30 during my weekday runs so what was another 30mins? Yeah, I was up by 4:15. I was surprised at how quickly I had my pre-race routine down:

  • Eat 1/2 Cliff Bar
  • Drink cup of coffee
  • Apply sun block and Body Glide (no not the fun version)
  • Put on tech-shirt, soccer shorts, running socks and athletic underwear (totally worth the $!)
  • Grab Keys, ID, Phone, armband, sweatbands and wireless headphones.

It took me less than 15mins to get ready and get out the door. The ride there was uneventful but I did notice I was the only person on that bus that wasn’t heading to work. The rest were half asleep and dressed in their work uniforms. I had already gone into my pre-race panic/excitement mode.

By the time I got to the race location the first two pacers had shown up and the event looked like it had been set up hours ago. I met up with the team and we started stretching.

Bellarmine-Jefferson Open Race
Running with the Pasadena Pacers

I looked around and saw nothing but hills around us so I asked if anyone knew what to expect from the course. Two of the pacers had attended the course preview the week before and said it was a very hilly course and most of the trail goes up the first “small hill”.

Bellarmine-Jefferson Open Race: First Hill
The first “small hill”…

Yeah, I thought I was done for. Up until now I had only ran three flat courses and the lone trail race had been my worst showing. The week before was the first time I even started doing hills training on the treadmill. Now I was looking at a course that was filled with hills and rough terrain. I was warned to be aware of the narrow edges, uneven pathways, cracks in gravel, and random pedestrians since the course was not closed off from the main trail. Oh and the High School athletes would be unleashed 30mins after our wave…

This race benefited a local high school race and by 7am the entire park was filled with teenagers. I was quickly reminded of the annoying teenage volunteers from the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k and the Devil’s Gate Dam 5k. Now they would also line this course by the hundreds and run amongst us if we were falling behind. I made it a point to finish before those bastards could step foot on the course.

We lined up for the start, I looked around and noticed all of the other teams; Nike Team Run LA, Gritty City Track Club, LA Tri, ARC Racing Club. These fuckers were fit and looking to make new personal records… I was just looking to outrun the hounds/teens. So I stepped towards mid-pack. I let all of those with six pack abs and shorts-shorts take the lead.

As the rules were read aloud to us, everyone shut up and put their game face on. I ignored most of the chatter and just focused on waiting for the signal. I did a few more shoulder rolls to release the tension and stretched my calves one last time…

bell-race-2
And we’re off!

At the first hill we were all funneled into a narrow trail. I found a fellow Pacer and just followed him for the first kilometer. Around the second hill I noticed Mullet Lady behind me. She was the same Mullet Lady from the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k whom I had followed through the pack. It was my turn to repay the favor so I broke away from the Pacer and charged ahead up the first “small hill”.

bell-race-3
Trying to stay ahead of mullet-lady… didn’t happen

I lead us through a group of hipsters, past someone who looked like Jack LaLanne, and left a smug 10 year old in our dust. I could feel the energy of the crowd! The power of each step! The… burning in my thighs and knees!

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have charged up that hill. By the time I reached the plateau I was thinking of finding the nearest bench and curling up in the fetal position. I ignored those thoughts and settled for jogging at a slower pace. Mullet Lady would have none of that and quickly made her way past me. She continued her trek to bring back the style. Maybe next race I will be able to keep up with her past the first mile. God bless you Mullet Lady.

Around the 1.5 mile mark the trail opened up and reached a point where I could see downtown Los Angeles in the distance. With the sun rising in the background, I took a moment to take it all in. I had never seen LA from this height and with such a grand view… this is one of the reasons why I run; to see more of the places that I love. I felt re-invigorated.

According to the data from Endomondo, shortly after seeing downtown I ran my quickest kilometer of the race. Sure it was mostly downhill but I still think LA saved me from giving up on the race. If it had been an ugly course like Devil’s Gate, I don’t think I would have kept up the pace.

But then, as I rounded the tennis courts I saw it… the big hill. It finally hit me why they had called the first one the small hill. The elevation gain of the small one was about 10m… the big one was 30m. Fuck.

The hill had collected quite a few of us. There was a lady in a cross-fit shirt who had pulled off to the side looking like she was dry heaving. An older man had decided walk it. Young dude came up from behind us and tried to charge it… only to stop halfway. Then a stick figure of a woman flew past us at a leisurely pace. What did I do? Well I tried to keep a jogging pace and failed once the trail curved to show that we were only half way up the hill. A collective “FUCK ME!” was yelled out. I did manage to beat the pack up the hill but the old man ran past me on the flatter section, crafty bastard pulled a tortoise. I made a mental note of walking up steep hills in future trail races. There is no shame in being realistic.

Over the last hill I saw the starting area and my biggest fear… the teenagers were being given their 5 min warning. Oh hell no! I ran down the hill and flew past a few others. As I came closer to the final mini-hill I noticed that the teenagers were lined up against the ropes and they were… cheering? The hell? I expected some sarcastic remarks or insults. But instead I was greeted with kids trying to read my race bib to cheer me on and telling me that I was close. One even shouted that I need to finish strong. That was just what I needed.

I used up every last bit of energy in the final km. According to Endomondo, I hit my max pace of 4min/km during that stretch. As I ran through the finish shoot, I heard people cheering my team name. A few “GO PACERS!” and one “COME ON MARVIN!”… to be fair the print on my bib was a bit small. I knew I should have written Marlton or Gulpo. I finished in 24 mins 59 sec, one second shy of the mark I wanted to hit. I hunched over and chugged a bottle of water. Then I heard the teenagers unleashed onto the course. I cheered them and myself.

I stayed along the finish to cheer on my fellow Pacers. We exchanged sweaty high fives, compared notes on the course and complained about that bastard of a big hill. The race expo didn’t have much for me so I headed back to the bus stop.

Halfway back to the stop I passed a group of teens warming up:

Girl 1: I hate running
Girl 2: What? Then why the hell are you here?
Girl 1: I need it for my college application. I’d rather be sleeping
Girl 2 looks at Girl 3: Not us. We love running.

That explained why they were so nice. These kids were on the road as early or earlier than I had been and were there because they wanted to… well except Girl 1.

As I got on the bus for the 45min drive home, the one mile walk back to my apartment and the cold shower that awaited me I knew this is something I was doing for myself. I could have called it quits at various points but each time I kept with it. This is something I want to keep doing for the foreseeable future.

CityRace Santa Monica

Featured-Past-Race-CRSM


Course Map

NOTE: This only shows the game boundaries

 cityrace-sm-map


Recap

After the sub-par Devil’s Gate Dam 5k, we needed this race. I signed us up for the Chinatown scavenger hunt but due to the +100 heat that day I had them reschedule us for Santa Monica. Man did that work out well for us. I was unsure what to expect so I had brushed up on some random facts about Santa Monica and fully charged my phone.

The starting point was a great overlook right next to the California Incline. There was a large group of people with 30 teams ready to scramble across Santa Monica for the next three hours. We named our team Team M&M, put on our City Race Buttons, got clues and  the rules:

  • Stay within boundaries
  • You can use locals, phones, guards, whatever you think will help you solve the clues.
  • The questions are not set to any order and can be done at random.
  • Three hour time limit. Teams will lose 10 points every ten minutes over.
  • While there are optional questions, if you want to finish in top 10 you will need to do them.
  • Run now!
CityRace Button
As Melody would say: “BUTTONS!”

With that we were off! I told Meghann we should split off from the group and find a spot where we can figure out a game plan. She suggested we walk and talk while making our way towards the 3rd Street Promenade since most of the questions would be centralized there. Smart gal.

We walked over to the Promenade and I began to Google the simple ones. One question referred to the seasonal rain storm in south-east Asia, a monsoon, and wanted to know the address of the restaurant with the same name (+10). Another asked about the city code that prohibited defacing public property (+15). We breezed a few but we quickly hit a wall.

About seven questions were linked to each other and the first clue asked how many Buddha statues were on top of the entryway. Google only found one reference to Buddha in the area, some random coffee shop but the entryway lacked Buddhas… trick question perhaps? We decided to skip the question for now.

One hour in and we were half-finished and completed about two laps of the area. I was nailing every bar reference and Meghann was solving a few on her own. I had a tendency to make every question complex… she would quickly ask me to take a breath and think that the simplest answer was probably the correct one. Ah, Occam’s razor proved quite handy.

We kept running into other teams and noticed they were also struggling with the Buddha question. Some began to yell at each other and were starting to complain about the heat. While the distance wasn’t too bad, the 90 degree heat and backtracking would be the biggest obstacles.

There were times where I could tell my nerves were starting to fry and hoped I would not take it out on Meghann. Think of trying to solve a crossword puzzle with your partner while walking down a busy random city and only one of you could hold the clues. As was walked from block to block and back again, I kept trying to solve the one question while Meghann would ask me another. I would have a “EUREKA!” moment and try to explain my answer only to have her completely debunk my theory. It was grueling.

By the 1.5 hour mark we were down to just the seven Buddha linked questions and about 6 that focused on the pier. We shifted our focus to the bonus questions, luckily they were simple “buy x from y” questions so the only taxing part was paying for it.

Then… as we stood by the same block we had been on about four times and in the middle of a conversation with a local… I finally saw the fat bastards.  I yelled:

THE BUDDHAS! THERE ARE SEVEN!
SEVEN BUDDHAS! FUCK YEAH!

They were on a door frame across the street. I don’t think we even thanked the local as we quickly began to cross off the other questions. One by one we were knocking them out of the park but hit a snag on one that asked about guardians of a “mystical place”. Even with the Buddha clue, I couldn’t think of what mystical place the question was referring to. We had made a note of it and decided to not get caught up on this one question. Two hours in and we ran towards the pier for the big finish!

The pier questions were quite easy. A few “name this” questions or ones that asked about the number of items in a certain locale. The most difficult one had us look at the age of the two cannons located right before the pier. That just involved some sprinting to each gun.

We looked around and only spotted a few teams at this stage of the race. We knocked off more bonus challenges, such as taking a picture in a photo booth (+5) with a stranger (+5). When we took the picture the guy wished us good luck and hoped the prize was worth more than the $8 we spent on the picture. Meghann and I looked at each other and concluded we didn’t care about the prize. We were just having fun running around Santa Monica. The total cost of the items was about $17. More than reasonable for the amount of entertainment we were getting.

With about 30 minutes left we had wrapped up every bonus question but needed to find a kid to cross the finish line with us (+5) and still had to answer the mystical place question. Meghann was double checking the answers and corrected a few. Still.. mystical place… I let my brain go blank and… bam!

Shang-ri-fucking-la!
There is a hotel named that and it had some lions in front!

We made sure every question was answered and made our way to the finish! We climbed the steps up to the finish and turned in our score card. We got credit for 15 out of 20 in the bonus questions. The results of the rest of the questions would be announced twenty minutes after the cutoff point. We high-fived and took a moment to just relax and look at the ocean.

CityRace - Santa Monica: Post Race
Team M&M. As Meghann said: We have the best dates!

As we sat there going over our answers and recapping the morning, another team was finishing up and they had a kid… bastards had bribed the kid with a free pail (another bonus question) and had told his parents why they needed him. The tourists loved it and took pictures of their child walking up and turning in the scorecard. Bah. A few more teams came in but it was obvious a good amount of teams had just quit. I only counted about twenty teams at the finish line. The couple that was fighting over which direction to go did not make it to the finish…

The announcer thanked us for coming and congratulated those of us who finished. He began to read the answers. Through ten questions we were perfect! And then this…

We asked you to play Jeopardy for one question…
and in that show you answer with “What is…”

Boos were yelled, a few teams walked out, and I looked around for a pretzel to throw at the announcer. Yea that was all that we screwed up on. They named the Top Ten and we came in tenth with 175 out of 190. The other teams were between 180 and 185. If we had just gotten that what is… bah! Still it was a great time and we celebrated our finish with dinner at Barney’s Beanery. We signed up for another scavenger hunt for November, this time we will run around Olvera Street in downtown LA… and this time I will drag a kid to the finish if it means another 5 points!

CityRace - Santa Monica: Top 10 Finish!
Top 10 Teams… we got screwed by Jeopardy!