Monday, June 18, 2012

Race Report: City Impact Half Marathon

I’ll cut to the chase…official results: 1:57:13 or an 8:57 pace.  A new half marathon PR by 9:35!
Stats: 39/236 females. 13/75 in my age group. 113/401 half marathoners.

Fitted women’s tech tees – score!
(Note: race registration did not indicate there would be mens/womens sizing so I assumed it would be unisex and ordered a M for my husband, only to find a women’s medium in my bag.  They did let me swap for the right size after the race).
Now for the boring details.

This race was pretty small compared to some other races I’ve run (e.g. Rock n’ Roll halfs, Philadelphia half) which allowed the organizers to have race day packet pick up all the way until half an hour before the start of the half marathon.  Big plus since I live an hour away from the race and would prefer not to drive there and back 2 days in a row.

There was a staggered start for the half marathon, which was different… 7am if you anticipated running slower than 2:15; 8am if you expected to finish in less than 2:15.  I was skeptical of the 8am start in mid-June, but it turns out it is about 20 degrees cooler at the ocean than where I am, inland. It ended up being around 60F and overcast which is pretty perfect by my standards.  The 8am start also meant Dan and I could sleep in until 5:25 before getting out the door just before 6.

We parked in the (free) parking garage just after 7 and had a quick 3 blocks/.35 mile walk to the start line and packet pickup.
ventura start
[source]  Check out that June Gloom.

This was a very family friendly event.  Not only was there the half marathon, there was also a 5k and a kids fun run.  Note the John Deere-powered wagon ride, a.k.a. “The Party Train” for kids.  They were even playing the 1980s funk song by the same name (Google “Gap Band Party Train” for a fun early 80s music video).
Before shot.  I don’t even know if there was an official race photographer for the finish line.

Dan brought my goodie bag back to the car and found a nearby bike path to ride his bike on while I ran.  They had coffee, bananas, water, and raspberries for people to snack on pre-race. I was all set with my banana and peanut butter + honey on toast that I ate in the car. There were a few real bathrooms at the pier plus some extra port-a-potties.  I jogged around a little to warm up before it was time to line up.

A little before 8, they explained that the 7am starters should have bib numbers under 210 and a red dot on their bib and not  to be concerned if they were ahead of us because they will have been running for an hour longer. (Despite emails warning against this, there were totally sub-2:15 people that started early. You know who you are.  And if you predicted >2:15 but surprised yourself with a 1:40-1:50, then you must be magical).  At 8:05 we were off.

That morning I decided I would start at a 9:00 pace, see how that felt, and go from there.  Tentatively I would  run the first 5 more conservatively, pick it up if I could for the next 5, then give it whatever I had left for the final 5k.

I would have been ok running the first mile even :30 slower than my goal pace,  but wow, I forgot what it’s like to not have corrals.  I started WAY too fast and even telling myself to slow down, I was “only” able to slow down that first mile to an 8:34 pace. BIG mistake. I knew that was stupid and tried to at least slow down more for the 2nd mile so I didn’t run out of steam early.

A 9:00 pace didn’t feel as easy as I would have liked, but I reminded myself that a 9:09 pace would still (just) put me under 2 hours.  I decided to try to stay in the 9:00-9:09 range up until mile 5.  For the first 1.5-2 miles when you looked out at the ocean it was FILLED with surfers, evenly spaced, a couple hundred feet from the beach. Just little black wetsuit dots waiting in the water.  Someone should take a picture of that sometime.

I felt good at the turnaround and decided to try to up the pace a bit for the next 5 miles, but miles 7-9 were kinda lonely as the runners had really thinned out by that point.  The ocean was to my right but there wasn’t much else to look at. For the first half of the race, the  faster runners were coming back and it was kind of motivating for me.  I began counting the number of runners still heading out on the course to give me something to do besides focusing on each step I was taking.  This is where I really could have used some music.

I carried my 12 oz handheld water bottle, stopped for a swig of purple Powerade around miles 2.5 and 6.5, and I had 1 orange gu at about mile 8-8.5.

Around mile 9.5 or so there was a hill that lasted probably 1/3 of a mile. It’s nothing like the 12% incline I live at the top of, but it was big enough to be noticeable on an otherwise pretty flat course.  After running down that hill around mile 3.5 I didn’t let myself forget that it would be waiting for me on the way back.  I was pretty pleased that I finished the mile with that hill in just under a 9:00 pace.

I don’t think the course elevation map is very useful but I like graphics!  The course was generally pretty flat with the exception of the “big” hill around mile 3.5/9.5 – I don’t know why it looks so choppy. There were a few smaller little hills in the first/last two miles of the course too.

Once I was past the hill, I knew it would be pretty flat until the finish and could try to pick up the pace a little more. I wasn’t loving life for the last few miles. I remember looking at my watch around miles 10.1 and 11.1, telling myself I only had 27 and 18 minutes left to run. Once I got to 11.1 miles on my watch, I was just under 1:40 and realized I should be able to finish under 2 hours even if I slowed down. 

With a half mile to go I really pushed it. I told myself it was only two laps around the track and I could do it. I don’t remember much from this point other than that those two laps were feeling really long and I wanted to be done.

I have fantasies of finishing a race feeling like this:

However, as I approached the finish line I began to feel more and more certain that I was about to throw up and began to scan my field of vision for a trash can.  (I was of course still able to stop my Garmin as I crossed the finish line).  I tried to breathe deeply and focus on not throwing up on the woman putting a medal around my neck or the volunteer kneeling on the ground waiting to cut the timing chip off my shoe. 

Still trying to breathe deeply and not yak in front of innocent children, I walked past the finisher’s area until the feeling passed.  The finisher’s area was fantastic in that there weren’t people stopped right across the finish line, it wasn’t crowded and I was able to keep moving and get out of the way.  Once I felt a little better I went back for a bottle of cold water, Dan found me, and I thought about picking up food, except trays of roast beef and ahi tuna wraps did nothing for my nausea.

I think I could have verified my results at the scoring tent but after giving my roast beef wrap to Dan we got out of there so I could keep walking and drinking water and not yak.  We made our way to the farmer’s market and picked up a loaf of bread and some cherries, and eventually stopped at a bakery for a pastry and coffee once I felt a little better.  We again picked up a ridiculous amount of strawberries at a roadside stand on our way home.

This was a well organized race and $50 (early bird) isn’t so bad for a chip-timed half marathon.  Even if you register after the price increase, the race is held to benefit City Impact, an outreach organization that helps at-risk adolescents and families in Ventura.  I worked for a similar organization in NY during and right after college so I was happy to support that cause.  Last year they gave out stainless steel water bottles which I would have been happy with, but I guess they opted to switch to finisher’s medals this year.

Aid stations had water and Powerade beginning around mile 2.5 and every 2ish miles after that.  The race was entirely on a paved path along the beach and the shoulder/bike path along a road that hugged the coastline.  There were police along the way to slow down cars as the road wasn’t entirely closed and they were possibly more enthusiastic in their cheering than some of the volunteers along the course.  While I didn’t need them, there were port-a-potties along the race course.

Based on my criteria of:
  • Cost of registration
  • Ease of Packet Pick up
  • Shirt that fits
  • Cost/Location of Parking
  • Bathrooms
  • Punctual Start
  • Plentiful Aid Stations/Helpful Volunteers
  • Finish Line
I would recommend this race and would consider running it again next year.  But maybe with some back-up music for those middle miles.  I opted to run without music because I haven’t run with music in a few months, but I can’t help but wonder if the 8th and 9th miles would have been a little faster with some upbeat music to distract me and keep me going.

it fits, hooray!


  1. First, congratulations. Second, I saw that shirt and I got super excited for you. It looks like it fit s really well. I love love love womens fitted race shirts.

  2. CONGRATS! That's a huge PR! I knew you had it in you!!!!

  3. I am sooo proud and happy for you!! Great job!!

  4. Amazing pace! And congrats on the PR!! I need to get my butt in gear.

  5. Ran this race too. My best finish is just like urs at 1:57 in Feb at the vta half. On sat I was only ablevto deliver a finish of 2:00:11. Get em next time I guess. This was my 5th half in 7 months and I'm with ur with wishing I could finish a half without feeling half dead. One day maybe who knows. I wore the same shirt I wore at the vta half. That race despite being my best, gave me some serious mind games. I wanted redemption so I wore the shirt again. This race wasn't as fast but there were no mind games and I felt great. Upon crossing, I tore that shirt off my back and threw it on the floor. Bib and all. Redemption never felt so great. Congratulations and great review.

  6. Congrats on this huge accomplishment! We know you've been working hard for a long time!

  7. Congrats on such a great race!!

    What the hell CA races? You get raspberries pre-race and AHI TUNA post race?? Don't they know the standard is half a green banana and slightly stale bagel? Is that an East Coast thing?

  8. Congrats on the huge PR and running a sub-2 half!

  9. WAY TO GO on surpassing your goal, so excited for you!!! And it's so impressive that you took so much time off your half!! I ran my goal race this weekend, I was aiming to run 2:00 too- most of my past half times are pretty close to yours :) I was pretty pumped that I managed to hit 2:00 (well, plus 18 seconds hehe) right on the head. Yay!!

    BTW I went out and bought the book Run Less Run Faster (or whatever it's called haha) based on your recommendation a few months ago. I'm excited to read it!

  10. Super late comment, but I was looking for race reviews of this race and found your blog.

    Your info was super helpful and I appreciate the detail. I was kind of on the fence about signing up for this race this year (2013) but I think I'm going to do it.



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