Recommended

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k

Featured-Past-Race-Aquarium

Recap

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.

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k - Start
And off we go! Well not for me… I’m way back…

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!

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k: Top 100
Top 100 Finisher!

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.

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k - Meghann Post Race
Meghann felt right at home… even if the little penguin was checking out her butt

Pasadena Marathon: 5k

Recap

This was my first race…. ever… well to be fair I did a race in a random PE event in elementary school; I finished 6th and earned the coveted “Great Effort!” medal. But the Pasadena Marathon: 5k was the first race I truly took serious. It had only been about 6 months since I started running regularly, just getting to the starting line would prove  difficult.

The night before the race I was very nervous and hardly slept. My brain tends to panic and worry about every possible thing that I can go wrong before any big life event. Naturally this time I worried about making it to the start on time, if there was enough parking, if I would get lost on PCC’s campus, if… yeah my brain was in full panic mode that morning.

Despite all that could go wrong we managed to get to the starting line without any delays. In fact, we were about 30 mins early. I looked around and was immediately intimidated. It seemed like everyone had on enrolled in cross-fit classes for months in advanced and in a massive group had cleaned out the local running store. Meanwhile I stood among them wearing my Target clearance rack shirt, well-worn soccer shirts from my earlier days as a piss poor intramural goalkeeper, and my beat up Nike cross-trainers whose only glimpse of cross-training was a short run two days a week. Meghann noticed that my demeanor had changed and quickly got me back on task by telling me to stretch… only 10 minutes until start time.

Meghann did her best to keep me calm... and made me take a goofy picture
Meghann did her best to keep me calm… and made me take a goofy picture

As I tried to remember what yoga moves I had learned early in the week, I quickly realized I should just copy whatever the people around me where doing. Cross-fit had to have shown them how to get ready, right? When they lunged, I lunged. Squat? Alright. Downward-dog? Now you’re talking! Weird plank thing with legs crossed… ok back to stretches I remembered from PE 101. I paced around like a golden retriever waiting to play fetch. Thankfully by my fourth lap around Meghann the announcer gave notice that it was time to line up:

Walkers and slower runners move to the back. 8-12 pace middle. Below 8, move towards the front. If you don’t know what your pace is, MOVE TOWARDS THE BACK!

I moved towards the back. At this point I just wanted the race over with. I began to doubt why I was even here. Why had I paid $45 to run through the same neighborhood I ran during the week? Why did I drag my ass out of bed so early on a Saturday when there was a perfectly comfortable bed with two over-sized cats waiting for me? Well when I finally got to the back it hit me. I looked around and saw people with over-sized sweats, tennis shoes, and most were preoccupied with taking their latest Facebook picture.

I moved towards the middle. I had not woken up at 5am every Monday just to show today and take a stroll through Pasadena. I had signed up for this race to see where I stood. Next time, I would improve my time. Next time, I would wear the proper gear. Next time, I would know what my pace was. Why look at that, I was starting to think about “Next time”. Now I was fucking ready to run!

As soon as I heard the signal I looked for a path to weave through the walkers. By mile marker one I had managed to find a fellow JPLer and tried to keep pace with her… and despite my best efforts she left me in the dust by mile marker 2. I didn’t care. I looked around and saw the cheering crowds, the wide open streets, and the pissed off drivers who didn’t read the countless warnings about road closures. I had found my happy place. From there I just kept a decent pace and took in the sights. I recall being annoyed by the show-off trying to hit on the cute girls around us but that’s about all the interaction I can remember. I was busy aiming for a good time and to see Meghann cheering for me at the finish.

I rounded the corner at Hill/Colorado and saw the finish line in front of PCC. Strangers were cheering my number and encouraging me to bring it home… And so I did. I sprinted despite my knees starting to tense up. I controlled my breathing while my lungs begged for more oxygen. I ran towards Meghann! Or so I thought it was her. I had told her I would probably make it in 30 minutes. She was barely making her way towards to the line at 25 minutes when she saw me come running by.

As I crossed the finish I looked towards the clock… 25 minutes 35 seconds… new personal best. FUCK YEAH! I took my medal like I had just beat Usain Bolt to the finish. It didn’t matter that I had seen about five teenagers run past me with ease. It didn’t matter that the man who was taking medication mid race managed to pass me twice. All that mattered to me was that I got out there and enjoyed every minute of it. Except for that terrible coconut water they handed out post-race. I couldn’t drink more than a quarter of that crap.

Pasadena Marathon: 5k
All of the Finisher medals looked the same. Hoping I can rightfully claim the 10k and eventually Half-Marathon ones.

Afterward, I met up Meghann and we headed towards the nearest bar! It was closed… so instead we celebrated with breakfast at our favorite café. She was quite proud of me and talked up the fact I had come in well below my expected finish. Seeing that smile of hers motivated me to look up other races nearby. This time I would try to get her to experience the race as I did. Amongst the crowds and running through the streets… in my happy place.