Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Surf City (Half) Marathon

It rained. Buckets. Cold buckets. Cold, wind-blown buckets. What a cold, miserable, nasty day it was.

The fun thing about the Surf City Marathon is that the starting line is 7 miles from our home. Yet they close the roads for the event so we can't actually get there from here, by car. We can, I suppose, but we'd have to drive all the way outside of the route zone and then come back in on the other side of the course, ending up in a big line of traffic waiting to get into the beach parking lot. We'd have to leave home hours before the start. With the bikes, we can do it in about a half hour. It's a good warmup, after all.

So off we went at 6:30 am, into the darkness, howling wind, and pouring rain. I wore my supposedly-waterproof sailing jacket and running tights. I put Basta in a poncho. He wore his biking leg warmers and a sweatshirt over his running attire. But it was all for naught. We were soaked through and chilled within minutes. By halfway there, I could feel a pool of water surrounding my toes inside my shoes. We just hunkered down and kept pedaling into the wind-driven rain, hoping to get there soon.

The marathoners came running by on the other side of the road, headed the opposite direction. They were a couple of miles from the start. Their start was at 7, ours at 7:30, so we would probably get there in time despite the hard wind trying to keep us away.

Most of the marathoners were running in ponchos or trash bags, and there were a lot of them. I had wondered if anyone would bail on the race, us being wimpy Southern Californians after all, but it didn't look like many did.

We made it to the start, locked up the bikes on a handy rail, and went to find our Tri Club tent. This tent is actually more of an awning, and it was struggling to stay upright. Cold, wet, miserable triathletes were huddled underneath, hoping to collect some last-minute warmth before the start of the half. We joined them, saw a few people that we know, and did our best to find some warmth, too. We pretty much failed.

The ride down was enough of a warmup for the legs, so Basta didn't do a jog prior to the start. I did spray some Kool&Fit on his legs in hopes of warming them up a bit and keeping them from cramping. It probably just washed off right away.

The corral was segregated into waves by time, and Basta's planned time of sub-1:50 was the second wave, right after the elites. I had thought he'd be a bit farther back. 8 min miles is really not super-fast in the grand scheme of things. A lot faster than me, yes, but plenty of people can do sub-7 Halfs.

I took his wet legwarmers and sweatshirt, kissed him good luck, and off he went to stand in his crowd. The gun went off, they sprinted away, and I was left cold, wet, shivering, hunkered down with my back to the wind, and with some time on my hands.

I wandered up the course, on the sidelines with the other cold and soggy spectators, watching the remaining waves start. Lots and lots of runners went by. Around 13,000 in all. Some all togged up in ponchos, trash-bags, or high-tech waterproof jackets, some in just shorts and a skimpy top as if it were a typical beach day.

I was getting very cold very quickly. I did not wear enough layers for this day, and the layers I did have were almost completely soaked through. I was starting to shiver uncontrollably. This wasn't good. Perhaps Starbucks could help.

I walked up Main Street several blocks to the local Starbucks. It was packed with fellow spectators who'd had the same idea. I stood in line for a bit, warming up, but it was crowded i n there and I decided it wasn't worth staying if I wasn't going to be able to sit somewhere inside after I'd gotten my coffee. So I went to plan B -- a restaurant.

A nearby restaurant was open for breakfast and had plenty of room at the bar. They didn't seem to mind that I was soaking wet. I had some Huevos Rancheros and plenty of nice warm coffee. This was a much better way to spend my time while Basta was out there running his heart out. No one could hear me shake my cowbell out there in the wind, anyway.

After an hour or so it was time to wander back down to the start/finish. I wasn't much drier, but I was warmer and well fed. I'd survive.

The really speedy runners were finishing when I reached the line at about 1:30 into the race. I saw several men with two blood-soaked stains on their chests. It appears that running in the wet & cold makes the nipples stand up hard, thus making them more prone to such chafe. I saw some smarter men who'd put bandaids over thars. Basta has never had a problem with this before and I hoped that conditions today didn't cause him a problem.

I expected a 1:50ish finish for Basta, but with this weather it could be anything. The rain had abated somewhat but it was still windy. I saw a couple of really-fast people from the tri club finish. Normally, spectators cheer finishers, but today the best we could manage was to be out there; cold, miserable, and glaring silently at these loved-ones who had made us come out this day.

Sooner than I expected, there he came. Looking much like a drowned rat, his curly hair matted to his skull, he came flying through the finish. 1:41:17 was his chip time. 7:44 pace. That's 11 minutes faster than Long Beach just four months ago. That's almost a full minute per mile faster pace. That's amazing. That's impressive. That's encouraging.

I yelled at him through the fence to take one of those silver blankets that they hand out at the end and wrap up in it. Then I told him to get one for me, too. He tossed my space-blanket over the fence to me. Aahhh, a bit more warmth. By the time I found him again outside the finisher's area he was shivering hard. I gave him his cold, wet leg-warmers and sweatshirt. Wet though they were, the extra clothing helped.

He was very excited about his finish. He said he felt great the whole time. No blisters from the wet feet. No bloody nips. No aches, pains, or problems. He just ran fast throughout and sprinted hard the last two miles. He is fit. He is ready. Coach is proud.

Yet he told me that he walked through a couple of water stops and took one porta-potty break en-route. He figures he will do that at Oceanside, he might as well do it during training runs, too. So if it had been a perfect day for running and he hadn't needed the potty break, he might have done this sub-7:40. Even more amazing.

The ride home sucked, as you can imagine. The rain had finally stopped but it was still windy. Most delightfully, the wind had shifted so that it was nearly a headwind on the way home, too. Plus, we were cold and tired. But we made it. A nice hot shower, some dry clothes, and all was well.

Then it was off to the Superbowl party.

No comments: