Race Recap & Review: Long Beach Half Marathon

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#13 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons
Long Beach. The LBC. Home of Snoop Dogg/Lion, the second largest container port in America, JetBlue’s West Coast hub, and now the site of a great half marathon.

Anyone who watches Showtime’s Dexter is also very familiar with Long Beach, which is often used as Miami.

A memorial service in Dexter, also known as mile 5.5.

You call this Miami? That’s the Aquarium of the Pacific in the background and you’re sitting on Mile 5.5!

My legs were still a little sore since running a PR last week, and I was originally intending on taking it easy this race. This would be the second of my four back-to-back races in October. Can you believe we’re halfway through October already?!

The Long Beach race is part 2 of my Beach Cities Challenge: the last one that remains is Surf City in Huntington Beach in February, which I registered for at the expo!

Race Expo
After flying into LA Friday night, on Saturday morning Erica and I drove down to the Long Beach Convention Center for the expo.

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It was certainly a great change of pace from the Rock n’ Roll expos, and there was a lot of small apparel booths and other marathons from faraway places (Hawaii) I’d never heard about.

After the expo, Erica and I headed to Pier 76 Fish Grill for some great food and carb load! Coincidentally this was also the finish line location.

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We then headed back to the San Gabriel Valley, and after taking care of some business in LA my mom and I had a pizza dinner at Carmine’s, one of my most frequented Italian restaurants while growing up. Ah, the memories…

Race Day
With the race beginning at 7:30am, I got up at 5:10am and picked up Erica before we were on our way to the LBC.

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Sunrise in Long Beach.

We bummed around and walked the three blocks to the start line. The marathoners started at 6am, and saw many of them huffing their way through the course.

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The race was self-seeded, meaning you choose where you believe you should begin. Wave 1 was known as the “Elite Runners / 1:15-2:10 pace,” and this was the wave I was in. I never thought I’d ever be grouped with elite runners.

The race started slightly late at 7:32am and we were off!

The Course

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Mile 1: 7:49 / mile
The beginning of the course runs along Shoreline Dr. up onto the onramp to the 710 freeway.  I think I can now say I’ve ran on two freeways this year (the 5 back in Seattle and now this).

Mile 2: 7:49 / mile
The course heads up a bridge and into the Port of Long Beach. It was a gentle slope up, and I tried to maintain my pace.

I thought that the course would actually take us to Queen Mary herself, but it stopped short about a quarter mile before turning around back into the Port. By the third mile we were heading back onto another onramp for the 710.

Mile 3: 7:49 / mile
5K: 23:49
Mile 4: 7:51 / mile
The third mile brought us back across the LA River through another bridge into Downtown Long Beach and the LA World Trade Center.

Bridges are pretty tough. Even little ones like these have an uphill slope that can get pretty painful. I’m glad that this was early in the race. With my Nike+ app reporting this pace, I felt like another PR was in my grasp.

The course heads back towards the harbor, past the Catalina Landing and began one of the most scenic races I’ve been to.

Mile 5: 7:32 / mile
Here’s where that Dexter screenshot above was. I ran around the lighthouse, past the Aquarium of the Pacific (it’s terrific!), and along Rainbow Harbor and past Shoreline Village.

The course then loops back to the start line, and you can hear the 5K runners getting ready, the first of the marathoners complete, and the finish line festival getting underway. It was tempting to stop, but there was a lot more to go!

Mile 6: 7:55 / mile
10K: 47:49 (10K record!)
Mile 7: 7:58 / mile
Mile 8: 8:04 / mile
Mile 9: 8:10 / mile
This part of the course was on the beach part of Long Beach I never knew existed. It ran on Alamitos Beach, Junipero Beach, and Belmont Shore Beach. I knew there was a turnaround point somewhere, and that it would require me to go back uphill onto Ocean Blvd. But, the view was very picturesque. Course support was sporadic, but that’s expected for a beach on a Sunday morning.

Mile 10: 8:17 / mile
At last, the turnaround point showed up and people were distributing donut holes and the Clif bar version of Gu. It was a very straightaway part here, and with only a 5K remaining, I tried to push and cut down my mile time.

Halfway here was the split between the marathoners and the half marathoners. Unfortunately this was at a point where the course went uphill a slight bit, and it was pretty painful.

The marathon course continues up into the Colorado Lagoon, through Cal State Long Beach, and comes back onto Ocean Blvd.

Mile 11: 8:14 / mile
Mile 12: 8:12 / mile
The last mile had JetBlue’s “One More Mile,” which was a gigantic poster of people’s scribblings and doodles of encouragement. With only one more mile left, I mustered up as much as I could and kept pace with a runner who ran at a similar pace to me for the whole time. More and more people were showing up on the sidelines, which only meant that the course was coming to an end.

The marathon, half marathon, and bike tour (held earlier in the morning) began to split off into their own respective lanes, and I sprinted past the runner I kept pace with to the finish. Thanks, random stranger!

Mile 13: 7:57 / mile

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I finished at 01:44:17, or 7:57 / mile. Only 14 seconds slower than my PR last week, but on a course much hillier than the PR course. I also didn’t feel all that tired too! I really don’t think I’m running that hard enough, at least towards the end.

The chip timing site was down at the time I finished, and I didn’t know my official time for several hours. Nike+ reported my time as 01:44:32, and it seemed like I was seconds away from another PR. Oh well, there’s still time this year to do it!

When we headed back home I found out one glaring error in my medal…

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Apparently some volunteers distributed defective medals, and I was one of the unlucky few. RunRacing (the organizers) have already contacted me about it and will be sending me the corrected medal shortly. Hooray!

For lunch, my mom, Erica, and I feasted on 牛肉麵 (beef noodle soup), 蔥油餅 (onion fried pancake), and 鍋貼 (potstickers) at House of Mandarin Noodle.

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It was a great race, and although I wish I PR’d this course, I now know that I am not really pushing myself to the limit just yet.

Overall, the course itself was great. It was a scenic and beautiful course in Long Beach, and I’m glad to have flown down for it.

The organization and logistics had some hiccups, some that I feel could have been prevented. The medal distribution and site going down (after advertising their live tracking results) should have been prevented, but RunRacing remedied it accordingly and professionally.

A thank you to the course organizers, the never ending amount of volunteers, my mom, and Erica for supporting me through this race!

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