The Outstanding Half Marathon Race Recap

We’ve been back from California for about a week and I’m still feeling a little loopy. In the last month, we’ve been on 4 flights (actually doesn’t seem like a lot now that I type it out), but it sure feels like it wrecked havoc on our routine or whatever one I can have with a 9 month old.

We decided the last minute to (re)book the trip to Southern California for the sun and warmth. We were able to get fairly inexpensive flights and found an Airbnb (our first time) in a great location. I had decided to not sign up for another marathon and when I learned about A Better World Running and The Outstanding Half Marathon in Santa Monica, it seemed like a lot of fun. A low-key, really casual race along Santa Monica State Beach – perfect!

The race was the day after we arrived and between tired legs and jet lag, I had serious thoughts about downgrading to the 10K or 15K but am glad I stuck with the half. The start and finish line at Crescent Bay Park was an easy Uber ride from where we were staying (though if I had planned my morning better, I could have easily run the mile there). The race is measured in clock time so in type-A fashion, I was super anxious about making sure I got there in time. Bib pick up was easy and there was also in-person registration available that day. A race that doesn’t sell out months in advance, wow, very different from the NYRR experience at home. I pinned on my bib, dropped my bag off behind the registration table, and stretched out a little all and then we were off. The course goes along the different beach paths on Santa Monica State Beach. There is chalk marking the turns for the 5K, 10K, 15K, and half. The half marathon goes a little over 2 miles north and then turns back around. You run the out and back loop 3 times. I’m not generally a fan of out and backs but this one wasn’t so bad. I enjoyed the flat course, knowing about how much distance I had left before turning around, and seeing others on the course at various points in their race. All of the runners and organizers were super nice. The runners cheered each other on during the course (a benefit of an out and back), which is also very different from what I am used to with the crowded NYC runs.

The water and fuel station was at the start and finish line, so it was only available 2 times for the half. I hadn’t really thought too much about whether this would be an issue for my hydration and as I watched others on the course with their own water bottles, I probably should have carried one as well. The temperatures were in the low 60s at the start but by the time I finished it was well into the 70s. Parts of the course were shaded and there was a nice breeze from the Pacific Ocean but it was still hot (especially in comparison to home) and I was a sweaty mess.

While this race was not a PR (and I wasn’t aiming for one nor am I in shape enough), I ran a very well executed race. The first mile was 9:59 and the 13th mile was the fastest at 9:10. I gradually ran around 10 seconds faster for the first 6 miles and from mile 7 on, ran at a very consistent pace ranging from 9:22 to 9:10. While I was feeling tired and my legs started to cramp a little towards the end, I knew Josh and Charlotte were waiting for me at the finish (thank you Forerunner 35 for the text notifications) so I was motivated to run faster. This was Charlotte’s first time spectating one of my races so it was extra special to see her at the finish. I even ran over to hug her right before the finish — I think she was confused who the sweaty weirdo was wearing a hat and sunglasses. My finish time was 2:04, a little less than a minute slower than my Central Park Half time in February. I have some work to do, if I want to get back to the fitness level I was at pre-baby but I am in no rush and just happy to be able to run these distances.

Overall I had a great time running The Outstanding Half Marathon and really enjoyed my first casual race environment. It’s also of course hard to not enjoy running along the beach and watching the sun rise along the Pacific Ocean. If I lived in the area, I would probably be running one of A Better World Running’s races every weekend! There’s something to be said about the weather and simplicity of a low-key race culture.

And oh, we had a great time eating our way through Santa Monica afterwards. There were a lot of walks along 3rd Street Promenade, Tongva Park, the beach and Santa Monica Pier. With a baby, our vacation was much more low-key but it was exactly what we were looking for.


NYCRUNS Central Park Half Marathon Recap

I haven’t been very good about blogging lately (as well as taking non-baby pictures, so please excuse the lack of pictures in this post). My training for the LA Marathon isn’t stellar, that’s okay though. I’ve accepted that the race will just be a fun-do-not-get-injured-really-really-long run. I’m so exhausted most days and in my down time, I am either trying to sneak in a couple of hours (or in most cases 30 minutes) of work or watching mindless television. There are still a number of posts that I’d like to share and some that I have promised to share for a while but haven’t gotten around to it yet — i.e. my review on the Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones. And now to add to that list, I am wearing a Garmin Forerunner 35 all the time even when I am not running. Wonder what happened to my Apple Watch or the Garmin Forerunner 220? Well, I guess you’ll have to wait patiently for me to write up that post!

However, in other news, I ran my first official half marathon postpartum on Sunday. This was also my first NYCRUNS race ever. So on Sunday, I ran the Central Park Half Marathon. The course was slightly different from that of other Central Park half marathons that I have run. Instead of two full loops of the park, this one was two loops from Harlem Hill to the 72nd Street transverse and a partial third loop ending at 102nd Street on the East Side.

In my one race experience with NYCRUNS, they are very different from NYRR. The races are not nearly as crowded even when they sell out. Also, the races do not sell out far in advance. In the example of this one, the race didn’t sell out until the day before and the field was less than 2,000 people where in the case of a comparable NYRR half marathon, the race would have been sold out further in advance and there would be likely nearly double the amount of people and in some cases way more. As a result, bib pickup and the logistics are not nearly as elaborate.

The bib pickup for this race was at Paragon Sports the day before and available morning of the race up to 30 minutes before the start. I opted for morning pickup and the process was smooth. There were barely any lines and while the pickup didn’t use any fancy technology like NYRR uses now with the QR codes, it was still efficient. After bib pickup, I waited on line for the port-a-potties which were not available near the start area (96th Street and West Side) instead were all at the finish area (102nd Street transverse). From there I picked up my race t-shirt and dropped off my bag. I jogged over to the start area (since when I did become one of those obnoxious runners that I used to make fun of who ran before races?) and had over 20 minutes to spare before the start. There were no corrals and everyone just hung out while waiting for the start of the race.

As I was starting the race (about 3 minutes after the gun went off), I was thinking about how if you’re someone who truly appreciates the corralling system — meaning you put down your actual anticipated pace and start in the assigned corral — then you wouldn’t enjoy the type of start at the Central Park Half Marathon. Without corrals, you’re next to people of all different paces and if you rely on the person next to you or the crowds to help pace you to a more conservative start, well this would be tougher to gauge. Sometimes I’m that person and in the case of the race on Sunday, I was really concerned that I went out too fast and I might have a bit since my fastest mile was mile 4.

Anyway, I ran a consistent race. My pacing was a little slower going up the tougher hills in Central Park – Cat Hill and Harlem Hill. It’s great knowing the course so well that you can expect the hills and adjust your pacing accordingly leading up to them. The course was not crowded so I really ran the race in my head, mentally free and did not have to worry about dodging people. The water stations were roughly every 2 miles, so that threw me a bit when I really wanted some water around the same time as a gel (by the way, the Honey Stinger Chocolate Energy Gels taste incredible especially if you love chocolate and when they’re cold – tastes like fudge!) towards the end and couldn’t remember when the next one was. As for the signage, I always run with a watch (for good or bad) so the mile markers and elapsed time clocks are a little less important to me but I usually prefer to look at them than down on my watch if I can help it. There were no elapsed time clocks in this race but there were mile markers.

I saved a little gas for the last stretch as my second fastest mile was mile 13. Overall, I’m incredibly pleased on the outcome – 2:03:59. This is over 7 minutes off PR time but I wasn’t expecting that due to the lack of training and speed work but this time is faster than my first half marathon time and back then I was in the peak of marathon training. Now, if the LA Marathon was a half instead of a full, I might actually feel a little more confident!

Post-race, NYCRUNS did a great job. There were heat sheets and medals and you can quickly navigate through all that. There were no bottlenecks between you and the food. I was able grab to a cup of Gatorade, bagel and my bag really quickly. I didn’t stop to enjoy but did notice a station with cream cheese for the bagels, hot chocolate, strawberries, and energy gels. All in all, I was pleased with the race experience and while it lacked the excitement of being able to run into so many people you know from the running community, it was low-key and easy.

Tell me about your non-NYRR race experiences in the NYC-area.