Wednesday, February 5, 2020

#100 Surf City Marathon Huntington Beach, California

February 2, 2020

My husband inadvertently pushes me into completing my 100th marathon distance at the Surf City Marathon. I ask what he thinks about signing up for the race a few days into the new year. He states, "I think it is too soon, we are not in shape and it may not be wise to run unprepared!" To me that sounds like a challenge...throw down that gauntlet. What do you mean "It's not your best idea!" I have no choice, but to prove him wrong. I can get ready to run a marathon in less than thirty days, right? Wisdom may not be my greatest strength, but pumped by one double digit 14 mile long run and a total of 91 miles for the month of January, I set out to run my 100th marathon in sunny southern California. 
The weather (the day before the race) does not disappoint! What better thing is there than spending some time on the beach right after picking up your bib from the big white tent in the beach parking lot. The air inside the tent is rather warm with nearly a record high for the day. We quickly make our rounds through the expo...minus the coveted chips and guacamole which requires a text and proof of a text to be granted the "free sample." Trends of the times must text in order to spin the wheel. The volunteers are shouting out no text, no chips...No thanks.
It turns into a glorious Saturday, the sun warms and strengthens us as we prepare to take on another 26.2 mile challenge. My husband elects to run the half because he is wiser and perfectly content with the idea of being able to walk after his race. I on the other hand, prefer to be completely spent and hobble after the run. It is not always sunny in California, but today typifies a true "California classic." We finish our day with a tasty burger and chicken sandwich at G Burger.
Sleep comes easy for me, which is nice for a change. A quiet hotel and a comfy bed doesn't hurt either.  In my dreams, I am just about to open a nicely wrapped present from my daughter that is going to reveal something very important when the alarm blares at 4:30 am.  Armed with the false belief the race begins at 6 am we are out the door by 5 and parked at the high school with the three other cars. Why aren't there any people on the buses yet? We get on the bus with four other people and the driver fires up the bus engine and takes (all six of us) to the start one mile away. The VIP bus ride is the fastest, easiest and most convenient marathon shuttle experience ever. As we make our way to the the host hotel, the lobby (beach side) is empty. We find comfortable chairs and an empty bathroom. Where is everyone? At 5:45 a.m. I peek out and nobody is even in the corral. It turns out the race starts at 6:30 a.m. The hallway never fills up and a line never forms for the potty. How much better can life get or at least race morning! 
The weather forecast is cool and cloudy, perfect running conditions. I leave my husband in a comfy chair to wait out his 7:45 a.m. half marathon start time as I walk out the door and straight into the corral at 6:15. It is my first marathon in seven months, not counting two pacer gigs. My body needed a rest from the endless miles in the last five years. The pep in my step is slowly coming back although a hard run today may take it away temporarily. It is worth it to knock out another milestone. My crazy marathon obsession is gradually coming to an end, but there are still a few miles left in me fingers crossed. 
Once the race begins we charge down the Pacific Coast Highway for three miles before turning for the only section of the race that veers away from the highway and the ocean trail. We are treated to volunteers, bands and people holding signs to cheer us along. The miles tick down as I approach mile six when my marathon running odometer reaches 2600 miles. The remaining 20 miles will be the equivalent of running the last .2 of each of the 100 marathons.
What can go wrong! Great question there are so many things, but for now it is a comfortable groove. The downhill at mile 5 is a thrill on the way out and turns into a climb at mile 8 as we make our way back to the Pacific Coast Highway where the remaining 16 miles take place. While the ocean is vaguely to the left the focus is the monotonous road that rises up to meet my striking running shoes.  With my phone in my pocket music or a podcast is a possibility, but my attention stays focused on the endless highway and getting to the first turnaround point. I envy the runners who are already on their way back. Having done the race in 2012 I remember the route.
There are no false illusions as I approach the finish line and deviate to turn around and continue back out for another 9.5 miles on the beach trail. The shared path is a concrete walkway for beach goers, bicyclists and surfers. I try and distract myself with ocean glances while dodging surfboards. My focus once again goes to reaching that final turnaround. My half marathon time is on pace for a four hours, but I know the lack of training miles will slow my pace in the second half. My goal of being slightly over four hours slowly dwindles with seven miles to go when my left knee radiates pain with each step. I alter my stride and slow the pace, but nothing works. When I reach the beer and bacon station I have nothing to lose and guzzle down a beer to the delight of the guys. It is a fun group and a Godsend for weary disillusioned runners. I am ready and expecting the last miles to be a tough grind, but the knee pain is an added bonus. As I reach the final turnaround point of the day, there are still over four miles to go. A stop  becomes ( a necessary evil) to massage my calf and It-band and I end up walking for half a mile. I call my mom and husband...what else is there to do during my respite. In my struggle and push to continue I  cross paths with another runner attempting to still reach the last turnaround as he screams into his phone that he is done...he just can't go on anymore.
At least no matter what...I will get to the finish. The beer station tempts me on the return trip. but I forgo another cup regretting it almost immediately. The remaining miles are tough, but I inch my way back onto the highway and join the masses of half marathoners as we trudge along to the finish line. I can't help but pick up the pace as I run through the final stretch. The pep in my step is definitely gone as I sit just outside the medical tent. They kindly give me ice and advice about my possible running retirement. Once I am reunited with my husband he walks just fine back to the bus while I hobble along in true sloth like form. No regrets...I am glad Surf City is proudly my 100th marathon and with a little time the pep will return just in time to do it all again...

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