TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Big Cat Challenge 2009 / Central Park, Huntington Beach

Just when I thought that I wasn't going to get in twenty races this year (because Crystal Cove was rain-postponed), I received an e-mail with a list of local races -- one of them the Big Cat Challenge in Huntington Beach. It offered a half marathon, a full marathon or as many miles as you could put in during a 12 hour period. The course: a 2 mile loop around Huntington Beach's Central Park. I wasn't sure about the repeat loop thing -- 7.5 times I would need to run it for 13.1 miles. And I always hated running a track. Still, it sounded interesting enough to give it a try.

When my phone alarm went off at 5 AM this morning, I thought to myself, "Whatever I've got planned I'M NOT DOING IT." I had to think hard before remembering -- I've got a race! And so I was up and out the door under darkness by 5:45. (I felt good driving in the dark for a run -- brought back good memories of amazing races and club runs.)

Breakfast in Central Park -- a quaint little joint with a lake view


The friendliest birds on Earth??? Coots. These birds just walked right up to me.


Bundled up good, layered with long sleeves (but wearing shorts), gloves, beanie and even scarf, my teeth still chattered from the cold as I picked up my bib. The t-shirt was top-notch, black with the gold Big Cat logo. I chuckled to myself over the fact that I'm embarrassed requesting a Small. I have this idea that the person giving me the shirt is thinking "You're NO small." : ) (Really, though, Medium race t's are too big.)

The crowd was indeed small. Less than 100 runners it seemed, all of us cold, but chipper on this beautiful December morning. I recognized some faces, runners I've seen at races, at least one that I've read her blog. I also recognized and talked to Mark, the guy I came in neck-in-neck across the finish line at the Route 66 half marathon in '08.

This was a "small town" race in the big OC, put on by Bob and Jenn English (I hope I got their names right) -- and they really couldn't have done a better job. We got off to a late start (thirty minutes), as Bob still had some course marking to do. Then Bob stood on his chair with the race directions, and after they played a recording of the National Anthem, Bob and Jenn set the clock, and we were off.

Listening to Race directions

At the Start Line


The loop was two miles. And it was surprisingly pleasant knowing just what to expect, having run it again and again. Mostly paved, we got in some trail portions also, with beautiful lakeside views. We all seemed to take that first loop pretty slowly at first. So cold it was, the woman in front of me ran with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Before finishing the first loop I ran into the parking lot (a quick detour) to put my gloves and beanie cap away.) Coming up on the aid station for the first time, I stopped quickly to tie my long sleeve around my waist. Before finishing lap 2, I took a second detour to my car to put away my shirt -- Now, that's something I've never done in a race. That's just how easy going I felt. This race for me was more about the experience than it was about my time.

Mid third loop, mile 5, I was lapped by two runners, a male, and the female who won Surf City's half marathon last year. I laughed and said, "Oh No, you lapped me!" The guy said, "Don't worry, you'll catch up."

That was nice. : ) I finished the third loop at 1:03:00. Not great, but not bad at all. I felt fine about the time -- this was a no pressure race for me -- my last of the year, my twentieth race : )

I took time on my fourth loop (miles 8 and 9) to document the course with photos. After each click, I tried to speed up my pace to make up for the photo stops. I'm not sure I did that. What can I say? Have camera, will click. That's just me.

The beginning of the loop, leads to a turn around toward the left corner of photo

After turn around, gonna veer off to left, making our way toward lake

Entering the dirt portion of the course (the one slight incline in the course)

We got a nice down hill just before entering this lovely grassy field

Running around the lake to finish up the 2 mile loop






Swans


There's those Coots again




Mile 8, a different guy lapped me. Mile 10, the first two who lapped me and that Mile 8 guy lapped me all at once. I was amazed at their pace. Then, at mile 12, the woman who one the Surf City Marathon, lapped me again -- she was minus those two other guys. She really was amazing.

I finished up lap 5 at 1:46:00 (again, not terrible, but could have done better). I felt pretty good, and tried to increase my pace on lap 6 to make up for those trips to the car and photo stops. Lap 7, I pushed. I knew I wasn't going to beat my best half marathon time (2 hrs, 15 minutes), I figured if I came in under 2 and a half hours, I'd be happy. And that I did. I finished at 2:21:??. And I was happy.

Me at finish (notice cool finisher's medal)

1 comment:

  1. Picture 12 is of White Pelicans, not Swans.

    ReplyDelete