Hey Trippers,

This Sunday I’m lacing up my shoes to run the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach. It’s the site of my very first ever half marathon back in 2009 and this will be my third time pounding the pavement along this beautiful stretch of coast.

Last year I posted a 2:06:33, which was a PR for me at the time (I’d break it two months later at the Hollywood Half Marathon and then again at the REVEL Big Cottonwood Half). It’s a fun race with a great “surfboard” medal and a good calorie-deficit primer for all of the Super Bowl chowing to come later in the day.

If you asked me what my gameplan for the race would be six months ago, I’d say this was a no doubt “balls to the wall” PR race attempt.

But times change and instead I’m going to apply a little “strategery” (to quote SNL). You see, here’s my new gameplan for Surf City. I’m going to go slower in order to go faster.

Say what now?

Let me ‘splain.

To the finisher goes the spoils.

To the finisher goes the spoils.

Surf City is the last race I’ll be doing before the LA Marathon in March. In essence, it’s the “warm-up” or “shakedown” race for that 26.2 mile trek through the City of Angels that I look forward to each year. I should treat it as such.

While I think I’ve got this whole half marathon thing pretty well down (I’d hope I have some notion after doing 36 of ’em). My times for the half marathons have gotten faster over the years and I almost always run a “negative split” (running the second half faster than the first). That’s the telltale sign of a successful race for me.

But after 8 full marathons, I still haven’t quite figured it out. I start out at what I think is a good pace for me. And I inevitably slam into the wall between mile 18-20 and end up dragging myself to the finish. Now while I know the last few miles of a marathon typically aren’t comfortable for anyone, I want to do better. I want to finish stronger. I want a negative split.

And I want to break 5 hours at the LA Marathon this year (and a marathon PR to boot).

Works for me.

Works for me.

Baseball players and football players all have exhibition games to get themselves primed for the regular season. I’m going to employ that method here. Surf City is going to be my “spring training” race. Instead of pushing it, I’m going to play it smart. I am going to run at race pace… just not at half marathon pace (typically sub 10:00 min/mile), but rather at full marathon pace (just under a 11:00 min/mile).

It’ll be hard to hold back (keeping that competitive side of me at bay), but I figure if I can rein things in while in a race environment, I’ll be able to manage my pace better at LA come March.

And by going slower, I’ll finish my full marathon with a faster time. Hopefully my fastest full marathon ever.

Seems logical… at least on paper.

Besides, I’ve got the rest of 2015 to chase a new half marathon PR (and a sub 2-hour time).

I’ll let you know how things go. But no matter what, I plan on a fun race and another bit of surfboard bling.

Run on!

Posted on January 30, 2015, in General, The Race "Experience" and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I have always wanted the surfboard bling. It is one of the nicest medals in running. But, I am from MN and traveling to CA is a huge time and financial commitment. And I have to say that the course does little to inspire a desire to run it. I ran Route 66 a few months ago based on bling and reputation. The bling was great. The course and event weren’t. I will be more selective in my destination races. CA has a lot of great events. If I travel for a race, it would likely be Disney/Star Wars half (I love SW, Disney, and running…so this hits ALL of my geek buttons), LA marathon, SF marathon, Big Sur (in that order of priority). If I lived nearby, I’d get the surfboard every year.

    Glad to hear that I am not the only one that cannot figure out the marathon. My first ever marathon time was 4:27. In 9 further attempts, I beat that time once…by 52 seconds. My finish times always end up around 4:30-:4:40. Doesn’t matter it I am well trained, if the weather is good, if the coarse is flat. If I start too fast, I crash and burn early. If I start slow, I crash and burn later. Both give me the same time results. My shorter races have improved dramatically. My HM has gone from 2:10 to 1:44. On paper, that should give me a 3:40-3:55 marathon. I would need a 3:25 to BQ, so I should be in the hunt. Nope, not even remotely close. My lack of marathon improvement has been frustrating and I may start focusing a lot more on shorter events. My 2015 schedule is already set and top heavy on the marathon (5 marathons and one ultra). 2016 will likely be 1-2 marathons unless I get a breakthrough this year.

    Enjoy your surfboard (jealous!), and good luck cracking the code in LA…

    • Thanks for the note. True Surf City has a great medal, yet a very average course. I would highly recommend the LA Marathon (this will be my 6th time with that). It’s a great course that really gives you a “tour” of the city. I hear SF is quite nice, although hilly. And I too plan to run Big Sur someday.

      The marathon continues to challenge me. I often feel I “run” half marathons, yet I “survive” full marathons. I keep tweaking things in a hope to find that magic formula. I’ll let you know how this goes. Please let me know how your marathons go (and if you figure it out too) and I hope to see you at a CA race in the future.

  2. Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor

    Best of luck and have fun at your race this weekend!

    Marathons are tough for everyone to figure out. You never know what’s going to happen on race day, but hitting the wall is not inevitable and there are a lot of tweaks you can make in your training to avoid it. Practice running on tired legs – for example, go on a race-pace run the day before your long run to simulate what it will feel like to run many miles on tired legs. Try splitting your long run up into two 8-milers one day, for the same effect and to shake things up. If you don’t already, I would do more than one 20-miler in your training. Folks argue about how necessary that is, but I did 2 20 milers and a 22 miler in training and it benefited me immensely in my marathon – if not physically then at the very least mentally. Maybe even throw in a big hill at the end of one of your long runs – even if it’s not a hilly race, this is a good way to practice getting over the wall, figuratively and literally!

    And of course, fuel fuel fuel. Take in water, Gatorade, Gu/whatever floats your boat throughout the race, even when you think you don’t need it yet. Inadequate fueling is a one way ticket to Wallville.

    Best of luck to you, I look forward to hearing more about your training and the LA marathon!!

    • Thanks… I appreciate the kudos and advice. I actually employ many of the suggestions you have (with my charity training group). I’ll be doing a 20 miler and 23 miler in the hopes of pushing the wall later. And we do incorporate hills (oh they hurt sometimes).

      Fuel is another thing. I do eat/drink during the race… currently honey stinger wafers (I’ve tried many others) and I drink gatorade. I sweat a ton, so I also have to balance between drinking too much and too little (I also carry salt packets).

      And then there old “unknown” factor. At last year’s LA Marathon, the temperature was supposed to be upper 60s and it ended up being in the upper 80s (which crushed everyone).

      So, I keep on keeping on. I’m planning on three full marathons this year, so I will have a few chances to get it right.

      Thanks for reading.

  3. Dude, we have exactly the same strategery for this race. I, too, will be running the L.A. Marathon with a goal and sub-goal for that race. The primary, “not quite sure I can pull this off” goal is a sub-4:00 time, the secondary is beating my PR of 4:27:34. Either way, I’m using Surf City as (as you say) my spring training. My plan is to run miles 1-7 at a 9:00 pace, dial it up (or is it down . . . I’m never sure when talking paces) to 8:45 for miles 8-11, and then going for it for the last 2.1. We’ll see how that works out.

    I’m planning on getting to the expo Saturday around 11, so if you happen to be there around then shoot me a Fb message and maybe we can chat for a bit.

    • It’s all about LA! I’ll have a serious of goals in mind when I run, the big one being the marathon PR (hoping for a 4:48). But if I can bring it in under 5 hours at all, I’ll be thrilled.

      I hope your pacing strategy works for you at Surf City. My girlfriend (she’s not running) and I will be heading down a little later tomorrow… probably around 2:30- 3:00pm. But maybe we can try and catch up on race day beforehand. Where are you parking? This will be the first time I’m heading down “day of” (usually get a hotel for this race). I’m probably going to do one of those lots away from the beach and catch the shuttles down.

      • We’re also driving down race morning . . . probably just going to park wherever we can find. I’ll look for you in the corrals (crapshoot, I know), and I of course will be making a beeline to the Beach Cities booth after the race for my bonus medal. Have a great race!

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