Tuesday, January 23, 2007

01/21/07 Carlsbad Marathon

Carlsbad... caves! Stalagmites as big as trees! Beware falling bat guano!

Wait. Wrong Carlsbad. The Carlsbad Marathon used to be known as the San Diego Marathon, so that will give you a better idea of where it is located. However, somewhat like the Indianapolis Marathon, calling it the San Diego Marathon had been a bit of a misrepresentation... because it has nothing to do with the city in the name. Now it is the Carlsbad Marathon, and life is good. Carlsbad is about 30 miles north of SD, and the marathon makes good use of the town.

If you watch enough Amazing Race, Survivor, or Apprentice, you know that video and sound editors serve a huge purpose in adding to the drama. In fact, sometimes they place drama where it might not have otherwise existed. AND if you watch enough, you can tell when the editors are doing ham-handed foreshadowing for you. This is especially true regarding the sound and music. When a contestant makes a bold statement, and it is followed by a from the trumpets or a from the woodwinds... well, that contestant just messed up. And on Apprentice, you can always tell which contestant is considered to be The Big Dork by the editors based on the music. Whenever she/he is shown on screen bumbling around, it is accompanied by a goofy bassoon riff. On Amazing Race, Team Dork gets oompah music.

If my racing had a soundtrack, my experience at Carlsbad would have been loaded, just loaded, with and the stupid bassoon.

I raced without a plan. This is wrong. Always have a plan. I run in so many that my plan isn't always "go that way, really fast... if someone gets in your way... turn." Sometimes I want to run even splits. Sometimes I want to run X miles at a pre-determined pace. If it is a true goal race, then it'll be "go that way, somewhat fast..."

This race starts and ends in the parking lot of the local old-school shopping mall. The expo is there as well. It was a nice expo, although they made us wait in a hoooooge line (and three little lines) to get our stuff. I went to the expo on Saturday afternoon, and then tried to find something to eat. Everything in Carlsbad was packed. At 4:30pm. Everything. After driving between pizza places for an hour, I landed at Taco Bell. And it was exactly as I dreamed it would be.

There were 7,000 people racing in the half and 2,000 (or more) racing in the full. They did two different early starts... walkers at 5:30a and slower runners in the full at 6:30a. Anyone who could beat a 4:30 cut-off for the full and all half-marathoners started at 7:30a.

The race course itself is a series of different out-and-backs from a central hub, kind of like a Y shape. It also turns out that this is a hilly race... which I did not expect. Nice, challenging, endless hills. The kind with false tops. Yay.

On the plus side, they had lots of entertainment on the course. No, this wasn't San Diego Rock-and-Roll... but it was still nice. On the negative, they offered hateful Ultima as their drink. Ew.

Have I mentioned that I didn't have a plan? That bassoon you hear is there for a reason.

I decided to do this race in a bright pink shirt (female size large) on which I wrote BREAST CANCER SUCKS with a magic marker. Now, if you don't know this yet, I am a guy. I looked somewhat gnarly and low-tech compared to all the TNT runners with nice, painted messages on their shirts... but I like low-tech. Lots of people came up to ask me about it, and I met coolrunner runnerparris.

7:30a. On your mark, get set, horn blow. We were off. And I didn't have a plan. I was worried that the roads would be clogged with 9,000 of my closest friends, but I shouldn't have been. These were wide roads, and they were closed to all traffic. I didn't feel packed in.

I met a woman who wanted to know about my pink shirt, so we talked. It turned out that this was her first half marathon since having a baby. Cool. She wanted to run a 1:50. No problem, I can run that with you. (Amazing Race: )

This part was pretty fun... and M2-M5 were right next to the ocean. The weather was blue-sky perfect too, no wind. We ran together until the half marathoners turned off. I think this was around M5.5. This was also where I encountered the surf guitar dude and his band. He was great.

After the half marathoners turned off, we headed away from the ocean and up "the hill". Mind you, this race is just lousy with hills, but "the hill" is special. It starts about M4 and up and up you go. It gets steeper and steeper until you crest about M10. At which point you turn around and come back down to M13.

Here are my splits through M13. You can see the hill in them:

8:51 (crowd), 7:27 (huh??), 8:29, 8:20

Up: 8:31, 8:25, 8:43, 8:44, 9:55 (potty)
Down: 8:23, 8:15, 8:48 (uh oh), 8:37

I distinctly remember saying to myself on the way down "I think I can crank this" . But as I headed through M14, I could feel my body downshift from 4th gear down to 3rd. I tried to occupy my mind with other things. I like out-and-back sections because you get to see people who are faster than you and people who are not. So whenever I'd see a Maniac, I'd shout-out. Alas, I was the dude in pink, so they 1) didn't recognize me and b) didn't want to acknowledge the weird dude in pink.

Also, there was the woman running in basically a bra and panties. That matched her skin tone, roughly. Yeah, baby, yeah. This is why I like a series of out-and-backs. M14 through the end of the race really, really rolled. Up and down and up and down. We were back next to the ocean, which helped. The last "out" turned around at M18. At this turn around, all of the sudden we had a little headwind. Pleasant at first. Annoying later. Still, the ocean was great to ponder.

If what I've shown above is considered my 4th gear (no laughing, faster people), then my splits through M20 will indicate 3rd gear:

8:55, 9:15, 9:10, 9:08, 9:33, 9:41, 9:41

Yeeks. This is not good. But I remember saying "ok, I'm not feeling badly, I'm fine, I'm not thirsty, I just need to concentrate. I can pick this back up."

I hit M20 at 2:57:00. I'll be under 4 for sure.

And that was the last I'd see of 3rd gear. As with a great many marathons, the last 10k was really 'the second half'. After M20 was a different and almost otherworldly experience. I slowed down. Way, way down. It was cool because all kinds of people were coming up to me and talking to me about my shirt. And all kinds of spectators were shouting for me. Just me and my mummy legs.

M21, I encountered the surf guitar again. This time, he and his buddies were playing Misirlou. You know this better as "The Pulp Fiction Song" or maybe "that Blackeyed Peas Turn-it-up song". Surf guitar was AMAZING. But not even that could speed me up.

M23, a lady in pink put her arm around my shoulder. She said something completely incomprehensible. I'm sure part of this was because I was cooked... but it turned out that she was Australian. She repeated: "I'm running for the cause too. Breast cancer really does suck. Let's go."

I couldn't. So I watched her go.

Here was my miserable last 10k; you can see the rolling hills if you squint:

10:44, 9:54, 11:40, 10:08, 10:36, 9:24, 1:57

They didn't call my name out at the end because the announcer was obsessed with flirting over the PA system with some woman who finished a few spots ahead of me. No, it wasn't bra-and-panties gal... I figured she ran a 3:45.

4:01:23. This is actually slightly better than I ran in Richmond back in November... but I was way happier in Richmond. Why? I had a plan in Richmond, and I followed it. In Carlsbad I just toodled the bassoon.

I picked up my bag of food. The pink Australian lady came over and said hello one last time. Aside from that, I had Deep Thoughts.

Ah well. The weather was awesome. The views were wonderful. The surf guitar will stick with me as a great memory.


Next up: Pacific Shoreline Marathon in a couple weeks. Maybe there will be another surf guitarist.

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