Thought for the Day

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Pacific Shoreline Marathon 2004




div M40-44

My wife pointed out that I've done a lot of marathons on the same road, what they call the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH in Southern California, or Highway 1 or the Coastal Highway in Northern California. It's the highway that hugs the coast from Mexico to Canada.
The San Francisco Chronicle Marathon, which I've run twice, usually has a stretch on the Great Highway, that part of Highway 1 on the edge of the beach on the west side of San Francisco. I say "usually" because that marathon course is always changing. I've run that marathon twice, on two different courses. It has had at least 10 variations since the 70's when it was first run.
Big Sur is essentially all on Highway 1, from Big Sur to Carmel, one of the most awe-inspiring roads in the world. I've run that twice.
Late last year I also ran the Long Beach Marathon. It isn't run on the PCH, but crosses over it and back again. And I've run the Golden Gate Headlands Marathon, on trails, dirt roads, and minor side roads between the Coastal Highway and the coast.
Then, of course, this past Sunday I ran the Pacific Shoreline Marathon in Huntington Beach.

It was just cool in the morning, not really cold. The prediction was that it would be in the 40s F, and that seems about right. I checked in my sweats and went down to the start with about 5 minutes to spare. The start was about ten minutes late, but I was just starting to get a little chilly, hopping up and down and tucking my arms into my t-shirt to stay warm.

* marks time at timing chip pads

blood sugar 180

start north on PCH

1 mile

Hoping to run 8 minute miles to run a 3:30 and qualify for Boston. 8:07 was a good, relaxed start.

2 miles

3 miles

4 miles

I knew I was going a little faster than I wanted, but I think there was a slight downhill grade. The speed I was going felt very easy.

onto beach multi-use path

power gel

Local school kids were manning the water stations. For the most part they did a great, enthusiastic job. There was a problem the whole day, though, with over-eager volunteers crowding out so far onto the course that runners had to go farther to get around them.

6 miles
15:13 (7:37)

* 10K, 6.2 miles- 47:28
pace = 7:39

The lead runners passed going in the other direction. Because this course is back and forth, this happens several times. It's exciting and provides a boost. I probably didn't need to get any more excited, still exceeding my pace.

7 miles

9 miles
15:27 (7:44)


10 miles

power gel

11 miles

I noticed I was slowing down. We were out of the crowds of spectators and running a long, straight path by the beach. No real distractions, but I thought I was losing my focus.

12 miles

back onto PCH

13 miles

* 13.1 miles, 1/2 mar.- 1:41:44
pace = 7:46

14 miles

I felt really good about my pace over those two miles around the half marathon and the turn back onto the highway. 8 minute miles were going by like no big deal. I hadn't checked my blood sugar, but had been fueling based on previous experience. I decided to test to verify I was okay.

blood sugar 115


My blood sugar was okay, but it wasn't even a little bit high, so I knew that I was burning glucose as fast as I was taking it in and I would go low if I didn't do something.

15 miles

I had been ahead of pace the whole race, got my blood sugar and ate a gel during that mile, so a little over 8 minutes was fine for me.

into hills

There was one short, steep rise on the highway, then around the corner inland into neighborhoods, and hills.

16 miles

17 miles

I wasn't happy with what was happening to my pace, but it was easy to blame it on the terrain. I was thinking to myself, "It's not supposed to be easy. Focus. Pump your arms. Keep up the pace."

into the park

19 miles
16:44 (8:22)

I thought there were a lot of kids on the beach, but there were even more in the Huntington Beach Central Park. There were way more kids than were needed to provide water. Most of them were just cheering and shouting encouragement. It was really helpful at this point in the race.
I was able to run pretty well over the slightly undulating, curving trails through the park. It always seems like I'm going faster in a park like that anyway. I was happy when I finally saw a mile marker and could check my time. I thought I had a chance if I could run fast coming down from the neighborhoods back to the highway by the beach.

20 miles

out of park

At 2:41 just before leaving the park, I had was behind my goal pace, and feeling like I was just hanging on. I tried to tell myself it was possible if I was just tough enough, but I didn't feel tough.

22 miles
20:34 (10:17)

There was probably a fast mile and a slow one in the 20 minutes between mile 20 and mile 22. There was a significant hill approaching mile 22. It was making it hard to imagine finishing close to 3:30.

hammer gel

* 22.1 miles- 3:02:48
pace = 8:16

23 miles

This was a mostly downhill mile, but the best I could do was not good. As my goal time disappeared, my motivation faded, too.

back onto PCH, headwinds

When I got back onto the highway, there was a fairly good headwind that would have been annoying if I was just out for a run. At this point on this day it was like the final insult, the last straw. I ran into it for a minute before I gave in to the urge to turn around and force my way through it running backwards. I had four empty lanes ahead of me, so there was no danger. People were catching up and passing me, but I don't think I could have run faster going forward.
I counted off a hundred steps, then turned around and started trying to run again. I thought about tucking in behind someone and drafting, but no one was going slow enough for me to stick with them.

24 miles

At some point while I was trudging along, someone came along from behind me and started to pass. I decided to try to run with him for a while. I quickly found that it was too easy to run with him and I left him behind and started passing some of the other runners.
I probably ran part of this mile at a 9 minute pace or better, because I know I started it at a 13 minute pace. I don't know where that energy came from, but I will try to remember where I found it in the future.

25 miles

* 26.1 miles 3:51:09
pace = 8:53

blood sugar 106

I've never been to a marathon where providing food and water at the end was handled so cavalierly. One year at Silicon Valley, they made us walk more than a hundred yards to get to the food. But the water was right there, and they told us where the food was.
At Pacific Shoreline this year, I walked out the end of the chute looking for water and there was none in sight. I asked an official who gave me imprecise directions. ("Over there.") I didn't find out where the food was until after I had gotten a shower and come back to get a shirt for my Mom.
I would heartily recommend this race, though, for the weather, the scenery, the crowd support, the lack of a huge crowd, the presence of a moderate crowd, great organization in general, just a couple of rough spots. Looking at reviews in, every year people complain that the course map doesn't show the mileage at any points along the course, and there's no elevation map. But they don't change it.
I can't be too unhappy with this. I still haven't qualified for Boston, and this was the last chance to do it for this year. But this was my third fastest marathon, and it was only 3 weeks after the last one.
I had fun. It was a beautiful day in a wonderful little city. And I have that incredible Medal.
This race does leave me believing that I can run 3:30 if I take more time for the preparation and do it right.
I'll have to think about my pacing, too. It just feels so comfortable to run around 7:45, and so uncomfortable to force myself to slow down more than that in a race.

Oh, well, I will run the Valley of the Sun Marathon in six weeks. It should be good.

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