Race Recap & Review: Surf City Half Marathon

SurfCity

#1 of the 2014 Half Marathons

Surf’s up! My first race of 2014 begins in Huntington Beach, CA, also known as Surf City USA. After running the OC and Long Beach, I was qualified to get the Beach Cities Challenge medal at this half marathon.

Subsequently, after I registered, I heard that because I ran the San Francisco Marathon, I would qualify for their new California Dreamin‘ medal. What great coincidence!

The Expo

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In keeping with the surfer theme, the Surf City expo was held right alongside the beach and was decked out with palm trees, surfboards, and everything surfing related. The Beach Boys were playing, and “Surfin’ USA” playing everywhere.

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It was definitely one of the more unique expos I’ve gone to, and certainly a very memorable one! It’s much better than a convention center like Rock n’ Roll’s (which can feel very dull after going to so many of them), and this one felt much more local and personalized.

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One of the cool things about this race was that the bag they gave is a reusable grocery bag, so you can show off to all the other shoppers that you’ve ran a (half) marathon. The bag itself also has the course right on it in vibrant colors! Very cool.

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Before we went to the expo, Erica and I stopped by an old place we went to before the OC Half Marathon last May: the Bear Flag Fish Company. We had ahi tuna poke salad, salmon poke salad, clam chowder, and a swordfish burrito. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

We then headed back to the San Gabriel Valley where I prepared for the race the next day.

Race Morning
I rolled out of bed at around 5:20am, picked up Erica, and headed out for the 40 minute drive to Huntington Beach. Street parking was already mostly filled since the full marathon started at 6:30am. At around 6:15am, we found a spot a half mile away and waited until the half time began.

A beach sunrise

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It was initially freezing cold along the beach, but as we got to the start line the temperature was steadily rising.

I was in Wave 4, but moved up to Wave 3 when I saw the 1:45 and 1:40 pacers nearby. Being that it was Super Bowl Sunday, lots of people were dressed in Broncos or Seahawks gear. It was obvious knowing who was going to win the Super Bowl based on the number of Seahawks fans present.

The race started on time at 7:45am, and we were off!

The Course
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The course pretty much is the PCH (CA-1) except for a 3 mile detour into Huntington Beach’s suburban housing.

Mile 1: 7:33 / mile
Mile 2: 7:34 / mile
For the first couple of miles, I felt great and thought a PR was in my grasp. Would a sub-1:40 be possible?!

At the 2.5 mile mark, the course veers inland to the stereotypical Orange County housing complexes. Despite a severe drought going on in California, several of these homes had lush green lawns and sprinklers going off on a Sunday morning. Only in the OC!

There was a slight uphill here as well, but nothing too major.

Mile 3: 7:42 / mile (22:51 official)
Mile 4: 7:51 / mile
The course looped around a string of houses and headed back the way it came, towards the beach. Here I stumbled upon the 5 hour marathon pacers, who were making their way through the course.

And of course, anything uphill soon became a downhill. I sped up and capitalized on this elevation loss!

Mile 5: 7:36 / mile (37:16 official)
After being inland, we were back on the Pacific Coast Highway where it was nothing but ocean views!

Mile 6: 7:41 / mile (46:06 official)
Mile 7: 7:49 / mile

Nothing but beach!

Nothing but beach!

The great turnaround point was here, near Bolsa Chica State Beach. I was starting to tire out from not running a half marathon in a while, especially at this pace. From here, I knew that it was a straightaway to the finish, so I tried to pick up the pace.

Mile 8: 8:00 / mile
Mile 9: 8:10 / mile (01:08:58 official)
Mile 10: 8:19 / mile
Mile 11: 8:09 / mile (01:26:35 official)
Mile 12: 8:09 / mile (01:33:39 official)
Mile 13: 8:05 / mile
The course was now a simple, southern route on the PCH back to the finish, all familiar and in the opposite direction as the beginning. At around the 12th mile the marathoners split off and went back north onto the beach for an additional 10 miles or so before coming back. That must’ve been a terrible feeling, knowing you’re so close, but still have lots of distance to cover.

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I finished at 01:43:36, or 7:55 / mile. A pretty good time! It’s my third best recorded time so far after LA and Berkeley, and I hadn’t really trained for this after a two month break. I didn’t hit my sub-1:40 goal, but it’s definitely within my grasp at a future race.

I met up with Erica and we headed back to the expo, where Erica stretched me out and I picked up my Beach Cities medal and California Dreamin’ medal. Both were really gnarly!

Being at the beach, it was really windy at the finish line and I tried to bundle up as much as I could before Erica and I headed back to my car.

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We then made the drive to Santa Monica to try out a place I’ve been wanting to try for a very long time: Chipotle’s ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. While it was very delicious and I enjoyed the food, I hadn’t fully recovered from the run yet and didn’t have an appetite at that time.

After making the drive back and taking a well deserved long shower and nap, I gained back my appetite and devoured the whole thing. I hope ShopHouse expands to the Bay Area!

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Overall, I enjoyed this race. Running alongside the beach is very cool, the expo was very well done and the organizers upheld the surfer theme with every detail. The course is very flat and is held in a time of year where there was optimal running weather. I’d highly recommend this course!

A thank you to Erica, the organizers, and all the volunteers who were a part of this race!

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