On the unofficial Star Wars Day, May the 4th, I started the day by running in my 6th Half Marathon (3rd Half Marathon this year!). About a month before this race, I ran the Hollywood Half Marathon. If you recall that race, it was an exercise of how not to do a week before a half marathon. Well, the 2014 US Bank OC Half Marathon taught me how not to do a day before a half marathon. If you’ve going to have to get up before the sun, it’s best not to be at a conference that deals with emotions that are hard to deal with the day before and get to the hotel at 9:30pm. While attending the Choose Joy Event was something that both my wife and I needed to do. The subject of adoption to a person in the middle of waiting to start their family this way is one that brings up a lot of painful feelings. The conference as a whole focused on good things. However, there is just no getting around the sad feelings that the reality of being a couple that has had to deal with infertility and waiting to start your family through adoption brings out. So, I arrived at the Ramada Costa Mesa already pretty emotional and with a lot of thoughts swirling around my brain. This might have been the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had before a race. It was just too hard to get those thoughts to stop so I could sleep.
Anyways, here’s the deal with the OC Marathon/Half Marathon. It’s a point to point course. So, you could choose to drive up to the starting area. However, doing so means you’ll have to find a way back after the race is over. So, the OC Marathon race organizers had shuttles running from the finish area (the OC Fair Grounds) to the start. You could choose to pay the $10 parking fee and catch a shuttle to the start line. Then, when the race was over, your car would be in the correct parking lot. With more than 20,000 racers between the full and half marathons, they assigned you a time for your shuttle if you chose this option. My shuttle time was at 4:45am. Well, since Costa Mesa is over an hour away from me, I decided before I ever registered for this race that I’d have to stay in a hotel. Since I didn’t like the parking option, I decided to stay at a host hotel and utilize their shuttle to the starting area and back from the finish. It seemed like a good idea. There was an online form you had to fill out to get this service and I did so before the cutoff date. When I arrived at the hotel, I had assumed the front desk would have more information for me. However, they just told me when the shuttles were leaving in the morning and wished me well. There was a sign that said the shuttle for the half marathoners left at 5:05am. When I arrived in the morning, I noticed that the sign also mentioned needing a wrist band. So, panic set in. After all, it was AFTER my appointed time at the fairgrounds and I didn’t know if I could use the shuttle or not. Fortunately, there were a few others in the same situation. They had been told, when they checked in, that the shuttle wrist bands were gone. They registered for the shuttle 6 months prior to the race. Shouldn’t the hotel have had enough? Anyways, the guy working the front desk in the morning didn’t know anything about them. So, we were left to worry. At around 5am, the shuttle arrived and I was able to get on the shuttle. Whew!
Okay, not the best picture. However, we were dropped off a pretty good distance from the start line. I think this walk may have been as long or longer than the one we took for the Walt Disney World Marathon’s start line. I was just happy that I was able to ride the shuttle and be there.
I eventually found my way to the starting line. The marathoners were getting ready for their start. Once I realized that the marathon hadn’t started yet, I decided to look for a couple of people I knew were in the full marathon. The one person I did find was fellow blogger Linzie of the See Sharp Run blog. This was his third full marathon in 13 days. Yes, you read that right. It was his third FULL marathon in 13 days. If you haven’t checked out his blog, you should. Click here for Linzie’s blog. He’s a super nice guy and a pretty inspirational person as well.
After saying hello to Linzie and not finding the others that I thought were in the marathon, I headed back to my corral (corral 4) and waited.
I always love the time before the start of a race. It can get a bit tedious at times. However, it’s also a time where everyone is optimistic about their races. No matter how good or bad your training went, the moment to run your race is finally here.
One of the things I didn’t like about this wait time is that the speakers didn’t work. So, we couldn’t hear anything the race announcers were saying. I did have fun chatting it up a bit with a fellow Team #runDisney Facebook group member named AJ. He was there with some in a Long Beach Jeff Galloway running group members.
By a little after 6:30am, it was our corral’s turn to start! So we took off and made our way around the Newport Beach Fashion Island. I had no clue how this race would go for me. The 2 hour, 45 minute pacers were nearby. At the start of the race, I just tried to stay close to them. The race started with problems for me. My ankles felt tight and so did my quads. However, by the end of the first mile, as we were leaving Fashion Island, they loosened up. Usually, for me the first mile is the easiest one. So, I was a little concerned but tried not to think about it too much. For the first few miles the course would gradually go down in elevation. In the second mile, I had pulled away from the 2 hour 45 minute pacers! Maybe this race wouldn’t be so bad after all!
Towards the end of the third mile, we made our way down to “Inspiration Point.” The downhill felt wonderful to run. I was feeling pretty alright.
Inspiration Point was beautiful! Several runners were stopping for pictures. So, I decided to do the same.
One runner even snapped this picture of me. Of course, I did the same for her. This stop cost me some time. I think it was here that I just decided to try to enjoy the race as much as I could. The 2 hour, 45 minute pacers had passed me and were no longer in sight.
I got back into my intervals and made my way through miles 4 and 5 pretty well. It took me a little longer than an hour to hit the end of 5 miles. However, I wasn’t running this for time. So, that was okay. In the 6th mile, however, I desperately needed a bathroom break. I needed it so badly that I couldn’t run. So, I walked as fast as I could until I came upon the next port-a-potties. There was a water station right by them. So, I grabbed a cup and waited in line. This stop cost me more than 5 minutes. The lines didn’t look too long. But, it did take a while to get in and out. By the time I got back on the course, I saw the 2 hour, 50 minute pacers and tried to stay with them.
I stayed with them through the end of the seventh mile. We crossed here and I had to stop for a picture.
This picture was taken on an overpass and right before the course narrowed considerably. We made our way to the other side of the water and then under the bridge to finish the seventh mile. The roadway only allowed for two runners or so across. So, it was hard to run at that point. By the time we came to the other side, I actually saw the 3 hour pacer. He passed me and almost passed the 2 hour 50 minute pacers. That seemed crazy to me.
Anyways, I thought that I read before the race that the 7th mile was largely uphill. I was off by one mile. The 8th mile was almost entirely uphill. This is where I cracked. I watched the 3 hour pacer go away and out of sight. From the look at my time at that point, I knew that I would be lucky to finish in 3 hours or less. To make things worse, it happened while we were on that largely uphill mile. From that moment on, it was a battle to finish. I felt defeated, the sun was beating down on me, we were on this seemingly endless up hill part of the course, I was tired and my legs did not want to run anymore.
At the top of the hill, I saw the 8 mile marker. I was a little surprised because my watch said we were at 7.86 miles and that was the first time that the watch was not ahead of the mile markers. Anyways, we rounded a turn and went by a church that lead us to this trail looking part of the course called Castaways Park. It was a nice break of scenery.
If you look down the hill, you can see where we came from. We passed over that stretch of road over the water (where I got a couple of pictures), went under the road and up the hill. It was good to be at the top!
I think this part of the course ran by a tribute to the Marines…
This is the statue. Because my time was so awful, I didn’t take the time to see if there was any inscriptions. I just kept moving on.
As you can see, the view on the other side of the statue was also pretty cool!
The pathway was a bit narrow in this section of the course. The views were awesome! So, were the houses. Could you imagine living here? I liked the views very much. However, for me, the race was over at this point.
The rest of the race is kind of a blur to me. It’s not a blur because it went by so fast. It’s a blur because I got lost in a lot of different thoughts. I felt badly about how slow this race was for me. I felt the sun beating down on me and wished for more shade. Some of the thoughts that made it hard to sleep the night before about adoption swirled around for some time. I wanted to enjoy the rest of the race. I really did. However, once we got past the picture above, the course was just plain boring to me. We were mostly in residential areas. It felt like a training run…only that I was on the street instead of side-walk. In either the 11th or the 12th mile, there was one final hill for us to conquer. While I appreciate that we had several spectators cheering us on with some awesome signs. All I could think was how much I hated this hill. Some of us turned to each other and cried out…Really? A hill here? It seemed cruel. However, we were the walking wounded at this point. There was not very much running or jogging going on. We were all walking. Welcome to the back of the pack.
The top of the hill was awesome to get to. On the way up, towards the top, some medical personnel were attending to a runner on the side of the road. It looked like the heat was claiming a victim. Whenever I see that, it does make me appreciate that things could be worse for me. Running through residential streets wasn’t all bad, though. There was one resident with a hose outside of his house. He stood with the hose ready to douse anyone who wanted it with water. I noticed that he wasn’t giving the water continuously. He made sure you wanted it before spraying you. Getting sprayed with the water was heaven! We all thanked him as we ran through the cold water! In the water stop before the 12th mile marker, I took two cups of water. One to drink and one to pour over my head. Heaven!
With one mile to go, all I could think about was making a good finish. I wanted to run from the 13 mile marker to the finish without stopping. I wanted to finish strong. So, I conserved my energy. When I finally saw the finish line, I just couldn’t wait for this race to be over.
As we got to the final finishing stretch, I eyed the 13 mile marker.
Once I got there, I would run and not stop until I finished….
At least I got that right!
My finish time was 3 hours, 12 minutes, 20 seconds officially. My second slowest half marathon finish ever. I didn’t finish with my hands up in the air in victory. I simply crossed the finish line and collected the finishers medal. Much like the Hollywood Half Marathon, all they had for us at the finish line were cups of water. No bottles of anything for the half marathon finishers. All we got were cups. That wasn’t cool with me. It was a really hot day by the time I finished and they didn’t even have bottles of water? Not cool. We all saw people handing out bottles of Gatorade. So, we headed over to get a bottle. Once there, we were refused the bottles unless we had finished the full marathon. Again…not cool.
After making my way through the finishers chute, I found myself in the after party. Slow or not, I had finished the second race in the Beach Cities Challenge. All that remains is finishing the Long Beach Half Marathon in October. If I had started with that race, I could have picked up my medal here.
There were lots of people milling around at the after party.
I was pretty impressed with how many people were taking in the band.
A lot of concession stands were open. I guess the advantage of finishing at the fair grounds is that it’s all set up to serve people lots of food.
Since I had no idea of how long it would take to get on a shuttle back to the hotel and get there, I made my way out of the after party to find the shuttles. I had to wait for several minutes before my hotel’s shuttle arrived. Then, we got to sit on the shuttle for at least 20 minutes before it attempted to leave for the hotel. Keep in mind that check out for the hotel is noon. The shuttle didn’t leave the parking lot until around 11am. I was getting nervous on the shuttle that I wouldn’t be able to check out on time. We arrived at the hotel shortly before 11:30. So, I had 30 minutes to get back to my room, shower, pack up and load the car before checking out. Again, not cool. So much for relaxing after a half marathon. It all worked out in the end.
On the ride back to the hotel, I knew exactly where I wanted to eat lunch…Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ! I love this place!
Barbecue heaven indeed!
Yep. Lucille’s is awesome. The food is amazing and comes in large enough portions that you can make a second meal out of what you get at the restaurant. It’s a win-win!
At the end of the meal, Brooke was feeling like she wanted to be a half marathon finisher as well. So, she took my medal for a quick picture! By the end of the meal, I was feeling pretty good about the day. I know that the race was horrible. But, I did finish and that shouldn’t be discounted at all. Sometimes, it’s just not going to be your day on the roads. Sometimes, all you can do is do your best to get to that finish line and live to fight another day. That’s what the 2014 US Bank OC Half Marathon was for me.
What I didn’t like
- Taking a shuttle to the start of the race. Now, to be clear, it’s not just the idea of taking a shuttle to the start of the race. It was the bad communication on how the shuttles were going to work. I didn’t like that my hotel ran out of wrist bands for the shuttle. I didn’t like that the front desk worker never mentioned them to me when I checked in. I didn’t like that the morning front desk worker knew nothing about them. I even heard that the shuttles that were supposed to run from the hotel to the Expo didn’t run form another runner.
- I don’t think that you should have to pay to park for a race. The race fees are so high these days that spending extra on parking seems ridiculous.
- Too much running through residential areas. It got boring for me. I’m sure others feel differently. But, I was kind of bored by the end.
- A hill in mile 11 or 12 kind of sucks. Just sayin’.
- No water bottles at the end of the race. On a hot race day, the organizers should have had bottles of water instead of just cups. If you have 20,000+ runners coming to your event, you can afford to have enough water bottles at the end for everyone.
- The shuttles going back to the hotels was rather unorganized.
What I liked
- The finishers medal was awesome!
- While I didn’t like how much time we spent in the residential areas, there were some stunning views as well.
Yesterday, I read this really great blog post about the back of the pack finishers on Run the Great Wide Somewhere written by a guest poster named Amanda. Check it out here. I didn’t have a great race on Sunday. I was under trained, tired from an emotional day before, and the race course was hot by the end. To illustrate the point made by Amanda, I’d like you to check out this post by Carlee of Be the Change.
Carlee is way faster than I am. As you can see, she also had a much different experience. She was off the race course by the time it got super hot because she started in the first corral and was faster. To her credit, she’s close to running her first full marathon and extremely active. From reading her blog, I’m pretty confident that she’s in fantastic shape for long distance running. Therefore, she deserves all the advantages that come with being so speedy. You don’t get sub 2 hour half marathons without a lot of work. I wanted to put these two different perspectives out there for you who are reading. I may have a more negative slant on this race. However, part of that was my preparation and lack of conditioning. If you are in better condition, this race might be a much better one for you. So, read Carlee’s blog on this race because it will give some balance to my experience. I don’t want to merely bash the OC Marathon/Half Marathon and have you believe that everyone had the same experience. So, I link Carlee’s blog to merely give you an other perspective on this race. For me, I don’t think I would do this one again unless I decide to go for another Beach Cities Challenge medal. Of course, next year, I may be in much better shape and dream of redemption. So, I could change my mind.
For now, I’m really happy that the OC Half Marathon is over and I’ve not got plenty of time to focus on my next race! Praise God I’ve got some time to breathe again!