I returned to So Cal on Tuesday evening, to weather that looked incredibly like the weather I had just left behind in Seattle - cool and cloudy. I had scheduled the remainder of the week as vacation so that I could join our friends camping in Carpinteria.
Wednesday, I kept the appointment with the orthopedic doc. The anti-inflammatory seemed to be doing a good job of controlling the arch pain, especially considering that I was on my feet much since last Friday. He was encouraged with no swelling and no trigger point pain and was in agreement with my plan to try an easy run, assess the situation and then to run the half easily.
Thursday to Sunday I spent in Carpinteria. The weather wasn't ideal for lazing at the beach. The temps were in the 60's with a pretty substantial breeze. We were lucky to see the sun for about an hour each day from 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon. We still got in most of the usual activities; a walk to the seal habitat, the tide pools, softball, local area hikes, campfires and songs, s'mores, lots of food and fellowship. The lack of sun did not dampen our spirits, it just prohibited sun bathing. The trip normally lasts to Monday, but we had the wedding to attend so came home Sunday afternoon.
The wedding was beautiful, but it is hard to imagine that we have friends with children old enough to get married. We first met the bride and her family when she was 3 years old. I realize that my own children are growing up and I easily accept that fact, but I still think of our friends children as the youngsters they were when we first met them.
Back to running and the foot. Friday was the day to officially test out the foot. I had planned an easy 3-miler along the Carpinteria Bluffs trail from the campground heading east to the ball fields and back. I was really nervous about the run. I actually walked the first half mile on pavement to get to the dirt path. Once I hit the dirt, I took off at an easy pace and was pleased that everything felt good. There were some other twinges elsewhere; I hadn't run a step in nearly two weeks so that was completely unexpected. I hit the ball park, stopped for a drink at the water fountain and headed back. This time when I hit the pavement I kept going all the way back to the campsite. Everything felt good for the duration of that short run. Later, the ankle felt a little stiff but no aches to the degree after Malibu Creek.
Monday morning I was up at before the sun to make my way down to Laguna Hills for the Saddleback Memorial Half Marathon. This year was the first year that I would have the chance to run this race, thanks to the wedding. Memorial Weekend is special to me in terms of running in that it was at this campout in 2003 that some fellow campers finally convinced me that I could run marathon. I ran my first miles within days of that campout. The Saddleback race is highly publicized and has a positive reputation. I have seen many race t-shirts in my hometown, nearly 45 miles away from the race site. The race has always been unavailable to me because of the same camping trip that got me into running. The race has further allure to me because of its proximity on the calendar to a favorite race, the Fontana Days Half. These two events allow runners to get in two half marathons within a week.
I showed up early and immediately ran into fellow Cruisers Dr. John, Dorothy, Mary, Cathe and Cass. Soon we were joined by 6:42 runner Jay. Jay and I are nearly evenly paced. I had decided that I would likely run with Dr. John in part to keep my pace on the slower side to insure a pain free run. Jay offered me the opportunity to run a little faster but still somewhat under control. At the starting line I ran into Greg and his son.
The first mile of the race took us for a lap around the Laguna Hills Mall (I missed the split). At mile 2 Jay and I were at 18:10, about where Jay wanted to be, but he urged me to go on ahead whenever I was ready. I wasn't ready yet. I really wanted to take it easy and just get through the race pain free. The course is not flat but I would call it gently rolling. During the first significant up hill section I had a couple of little twinges which I found odd because it almost never hurts going up. It is going down that is the problem.
Jay and I continued to hang together for the next 6 miles. They went down like this: 8:25, 8:50, 8:50, 8:57, 8:55, 8:49. Jay continued to encourage me to go ahead. I stubbornly stayed with him. Around mile 6 the course enters Aliso & Wood Canyon Park. The course doubles back on itself twice here. The first leg is higher than the second. It was fun to see runners coming and going on two paths. It reminded me of ants at a picnic. Somewhere in this section we came upon Tom going the other way. Before I would shout out to him, Jay had already shouted out. I had no idea that Jay knew Tom. I met Tom through my friend Terry from work. Tom knew Terry from a training program in Chino Hills. I'm still not clear how Tom and Jay know one another, they live in cities about 30 miles apart. The running world is indeed a small world.
During Mile 8, I told Jay that I was going to make a stop at the big blue boxes (port-o-johns). He suggested I run up ahead and then catch up with him on the other side. So I took off and was amazed at how good I felt. It was fun picking off people of the slight grade to the johns. Soon after leaving the johns I had to make another stop to tie my shoes. Mile 9 was 9:51 including both stops. I caught back up to Jay within a half mile. He again suggested I go on ahead, adding that there were only 4 miles left and it was time to kick it in. My foot was feeling good and that last mile felt good (actually running time had approached 8:00). So I finally took off.
During those last 4 miles, miles that are gently, yet continually up hill, I passed runner after runner. No runner passed me. Compared to a trail hill this was nothing but it was just the kind of grade that I enjoy. It was a really good feeling to be passing people at this point in the race. Starting out slower and speeding up later is a good race strategy, but I had never put it into practice before. I hadn't intended on putting in into practice today either. I owe Jay a huge thanks for encouraging me.
The next three miles went down in 8:09, 8:22 and 8:17. Mile 13.1 was 9:13 (8:23 pace). I was passed by 2 guys in the last 0.1 mile of the race. The race finishes up hill with a couple of twists and turns. I heard the announcer but couldn't see the finish line. After the last blind left turn the finish line is less than 100 yards away, leaving little time for a finishing kick. My final time (by my watch) was 1:54:49. Not too bad, but I wasn't expecting a PR. The best part is that my right foot/ankle held up fine. I iced it once I got home just as a precaution.
Many times during the race, especially during those last 4 miles when I ran alone, my thoughts turned to Jeff, smsmh and TC. Jeff had commented on my "Past, Present and Future" post. I was aware that TC's arrival was imminent. I was happy to read earlier this morning that he made his appearance a few days ago. TC is healthy and I trust that Jeff and his wife are adjusting to their new roles as parents with skill and grace. Even though my own boys are well into teenage and young adulthood, the news of a new baby brings all those early emotions, apprehensions and excitements flooding back. Congratulations to the Amazing Hip Family.