I signed up for this race last July. Yes, a little over 8 months ago. I don't normally plan quite that far ahead, but the race sells out early and I wanted to be sure to get in on California Dreamin' Series. At the time I had no real goal other than to finish and collect the really cool metal and the California Dreamin' schwag.
After my PR performance at the 10K in October and without the high mileage of a marathon training program facing me done, I thought I might try to better my half marathon PR. My current PR, set back in 2005 at the Fontana Days Half, is kind of a "soft" PR in that it was set with the benefit of a really nice downhill course. A PR is a PR, but I wanted to legitimize it a bit.
Then I started training based on Bart Yasso's plan in his book "My Life on the Run". I'd used the full marathon plan with success. Unfortunately I found it difficult to complete the quality workouts during the dark and cooler evenings of winter. The couple of half marathon pace runs I did try during the daylight did not go well. To achieve a PR I'd have to run the race at a steady 8:00 pace or less. I'd also heard from others that the course is unusually crowded further complicating PR attempts. A few weeks back I'd pretty much given up any hope of a PR effort at Surf City.
Then race morning dawned as a new day. We'd just had two days of scattered showers with heavy rains, winds and gloomy conditions. This morning the clouds cleared and the rains moved on. The temperatures were in the mid 50's. After the rain everything looks brighter and clearer, even the air is clean for a few days afterward. I decided to line up as close to the front as could. I decided to give it all I could for as long as I could and let whatever happened happen.
The race sent the full marathoners off over an hour before the half. With the half they employed a wave start that went off without a hitch. I was only able to work my way into the 2:00 corral. The 1:30, 1:40 and 1:50 were ahead of me. Being in the 2:00 corral actually worked to my advantage. From the get go I was passing people and that never let up throughout the race. The mental boost from gaining on and then overtaking other runners was huge.
I kept a close watch on my mile splits and was shocked from the get go. The first 5 miles went like this:
8:23, 7:26, 8:25 (including a pit stop), 7:58, and 8:01.
During my training I hadn't been able to sustain an 8:00 pace for more than 3 miles. I'd gone 5 so I just kept on chugging away.
The next 3 miles looked like this:
8:08, 7:40 and 8:00
Incredible. I was even stopping at every water stop for a drink and walking through until I'd downed the liquid and then got right back to it. I'd planned not to use a more formal run/walk schedule.
The 8 mile mark was the final U-turn and it was a straight shot down Pacific Coast Highway to the finish line. I figured 5 more miles at this pace and I'd be done in less than an hour. I hoped I could hang on.
Mile 9: missed the marker
Mile 10: 16:52 - I was a little concerned here, the pace had fallen to 8:26
Mile 11: 7:39
Mile 12: 8:06
Mile 13.1: 8:34 (7:47 pace)
Final time on my watch 1:45:13. Live results on the website show 1:45:11 (still unofficial at this point)
At any rate the 1:45:11 is a surprisingly unexpected PR by nearly 30 seconds. I'm really at a loss to explain it. My training wouldn't have predicted it. I guess being slightly under trained and the near perfect race conditions all fell together to make it possible. With no downhill assist on a basically flat course at Surf City, I'd say I now have a legitimate half marathon PR! And some great schwag to go with it.