I don't have any specific reason why, but the Long Beach Half Marathon has been the favorite of the 7 half-marathons I've run. Last year, Long Beach was my second half marathon, and this year it was my seventh. Last year I was under trained and this year I was over trained having just ran the Chicago Marathon the week prior, but both times I've surprised myself with my performance and I think that's part of the reason I love this race.
In addition to doing well, the size of the race is perfect for my liking (that's what she said?), the weather was perfect (especially after Chicago), and the course itself is scenic and fast, with a couple tiny hills to break up the monotony my muscles don't seem to appreciate on a completely flat course.
After arriving at the start with a perfect amount of time to spare (thanks to a cop on the 710 showing me how to avoid the traffic) I positioned myself at the end of one of the many long lines for the porta-potty. For once, I picked the fast line and I was in-n-out just in time to force my way into the middle of wave 4 as the gun went off.
I waited around for about 15 minutes as waves 1-3 started, watching impatient people jump the fence to run up to the front, or push their way forward through the tightly packed crowd. I'll still never completely understand this.
When my wave was finally off I really had no race plan because I had no idea how I was going to feel after having run a marathon. I was standing close behind the 4:30 pace group and decided a 2:15 half sounded modest enough, and figured it'd be a good time to see what these pace groups are all about, so I joined the pack. After about a half a mile, I realized the pacer had WAY too much energy and was going to drive me nuts if I stuck with him for another 12.5 miles (I'm sure some people appreciate this, but not my style), so I picked up the pace and left the group in the dust. Perhaps unrelated, but I watched the same pacer make his way into the finish...alone.
I really enjoyed the first 5-6 miles of the course with all of the turns, small hills on the overpasses, and being able to see the runners ahead and behind you at different spots. Much like last year, this part of the course went by really fast, and I was surprised how great my legs felt especially since I was averaging about a 9:30 min/mile. I took Powerade and water at all of the stops, and my first Gu at mile 5...without stopping!
Things started to fall apart soon afterward, at mile 7. I was finally feeling the fatigue in my legs and my butt of all things locked up and felt like lead. My never-ending achilles issue presented itself again and by mile 8 it hurt pretty badly. I had my mind set of breaking my time from last year, a 2:08, and was on pace to do so until this point. I thought about pushing on for another 5 miles, but decided it'd be best to take it easy, slow things down, and recover a bit until mile 10 where I'd pick it back up again for the last 5k.
Mile 10 came around, my leg was feeling better, I took my 2nd and last Gu, and got ready to pick it back up. There's a slight gradual incline around mile 10 and I was having an issue getting my butt moving again (literally) so my pace continued to be a bit slow and I knew I wasn't going to be able to do as well as last year. Oh well, better than getting hurt!
A few motorcycle cops and a truck passed me at mile 11, closely followed by the leader of the marathon. I knew I was almost done and seeing that guy fly past me was motivation enough to get going and I picked up the pace for the last two miles, finishing in just over 2:10 - not too bad! I didn't break my time from last year, but I was happy with my decision to let up a bit, and was impressed with my legs for surviving a marathon and a half within a week. Splits from the race here.
I love the medals this year, and I really liked how the post-race food was well organized by giving each runner a small bag instead of it being a chaotic free-for-all. Can't wait to do it again :-).
Next up is the Catalina Eco-Marathon in three weeks, and not sure how to prepare for that, but for now I'm giving my legs some much needed rest and recovery.