The Huntington Beach Distance Derby got a major face-lift. Gone are the mom & pop 5 and 10 mile races along the beach path with 400 other mostly local runners, where the times were tabulated manually and the only entertainment was some classic rock playing through a glorified boom box. Instead, the event producers that also do the Surf City Marathon got involved and sexed the whole thing up. They closed down PCH this year to put the course on the streets - a truncated version of the Surf City 1/2 Marathon course. We got timing chips. They announced competitors from over 200 cities. And we even got live bands! Actually, I missed the boom box. But then again I'm a musical snob.
Another change they made was cancelling the 5 mile race and replacing it with a 10K. I was actually happy about this because it solved an internal conflict I was having. Since I won my AG last year, I was feeling obligated to defend. Yet, I really didn't want to do the 5 mile race again - that's so 2010. So with the 5 mile race cancelled, I was able to enter the 10 mile race guilt free.
The 10 mile race started at 7 AM, which was extremely serendipitous, because rain was forecast to start sometime in the 8 AM hour. I don't mind running in the rain save for one thing - Newton running shoes are expensive, and the pair I am wearing now only have about 150 miles on them. So I'm feeling (at least) temporarily precious about running conditions. In fact, at 7 AM it was bright and sunny, the morning being the beneficiary of last night's time change. There were, however, storm clouds hanging off shore completely obscuring Catalina Island, 20 miles to the south.
The race went right off on time. I've run this course a million times (though maybe not from the middle of the street) so I knew exactly what to expect. I put down a 7:24 first mile and the a 7:22 for miles 2 & 3. Miles 4 & 5 undulate a bit and my heart rate was a bit higher than I wanted it to be, so I cut back to what ended up being a 7:33 pace. I figured that with the turn-around coming at mile 6, I'd get my heart rate down for a little bit before I picked up the pace again for the shot back up PCH to the finish line.
Of course when I got to the turn-around point, this was about the time that those storm clouds that were safely over Catalina Island just 45 minutes ago were now directly overhead. And though it wasn't raining (yet) the wind had picked up from the east. So when I made the turn, I started running directly into a newly minted and stiff headwind.
The wind sucked. Despite my best efforts I slowed way down - I ran mile 6 at 7:40 and mile 7 & 8 at 7:56. Mile 9 was horrible - at least in the context of the rest of the race - at 8:09. I managed to pull down mile 10 at 7:58, but I was wasted - the twelve second gain had nothing to do with a late race kick and everything to do with wanting to be done.
I finished in 1:17:35, which was good enough for 94th place out of 653 total, 72nd place out of 298 males and 12th place out of 44 males 40-44. I could have finished in 1:17:25, but I wasted about ten seconds just before the finish line high-fiving Ian and some random guy next to him who insisted on getting in on the action. Had I just high-fived Ian I probably could have finished in 1:17:28 - it took a few extra seconds for me and random guy to get it together.
I was hoping for 1:15, and considering that my Strava.com Suffer Score was "Extreme", it would have been a nice reward for my effort. But it wasn't meant to be - once the wind kicked up any hopes of that time where gone.
Still it was a fun race and I thankfully missed most of the rain. It didn't really start coming down until I was safely ensconced in Starbucks having a coffee, my Newtons already off and tucked safely away in the back of my car.