Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Surf City Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
This past weekend I ran the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I’ve been traveling like crazy for the past few weeks, and with the polar vortex hitting the Midwest recently, I have had more than my fair share of flight delays and cancellations. On Thursday evening I flew home to Chicago from a business trip to Cincinnati. My flight was delayed by about an hour, and then we sat on the cold tarmac for an hour and 40 minutes once we landed at O’Hare. By the time I got to bed it was midnight, and just seven hours later my taxi picked me up for my early morning flight to Santa Ana. Exhausted was not the way I wanted to start race weekend!
My flight to Santa Ana was on time, a real treat after the week I had just had! I picked my car up at the rental desk – a 2019 Chevy Impala with leather seats, lots of bells and whistles, and just four miles on the odometer. Nice. I then arrived at my hotel, where I was upgraded to a king suite. The travel gods had heard my cries! I relaxed for a couple of hours before heading to the race expo, which was held in a huge tent right on Huntington Beach, where the race would start and end.
I picked my race bibs up for both the one-mile race along the beach on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. Running both races was part of the Cowabunga Challenge, which would reward participants with a second medal and a little souvenir football. I spent a good hour and a half at the expo, talking with different exhibitors and checking out some cool new products. There were several booths for time shares, personal insurance, Lasik eye surgery, and even new gutters for your home! Personally I would prefer all of the exhibitors be promoting running-related products, but I guess for someone looking for one-stop shopping, this would be the place!
After the expo I headed back to the hotel, but decided to stop for an early dinner. Having traveled to five states in three different time zones in the previous five days, I knew if I went back to the hotel at that point I would likely not want to go back out. I had an early dinner and then hit the hay at 7:00 p.m. California time, sleeping a full 12 hours until 7:00 a.m. the following day. Glorious.
At around 8:30 a.m. I texted the four other Bib Rave Pros to see what everyone else’s plans were. One of the BRPs (Renee) was staying about two miles from the race venue and said she planned to call for an Uber, so I offered to pick her up. Being around the same age and both being from the Midwest, we hit it off immediately. We walked around the expo for a bit before I headed to the start for the Cowabunga Challenge one-mile race on the beach. After being misdirected several times, I finally made my way to the start area, only to find that everyone had already taken off! I motored as fast as I could in the thick wet sand and caught up with the back of the pack. It was extremely windy and cool, drizzling that entire morning.
By the time we made the turnaround at exactly 0.5 miles, the wind and rain had picked up and we were being pelted by rain and coarse sand. In case you were wondering, wind and rain on a sandy beach make for a great skin exfoliator! I pulled my hood up, put my head down, and walked as fast as I could to the finish. I quickly made my way back into the expo tent, and within minutes the sky opened up and the torrential rain started. I headed to the Sand Bar and enjoyed a beer before meeting up again with a few of the BRPs. We took some photos and then went our separate ways.
Once back at my hotel, I obsessively watched the news reports of massive rains and flash flood warnings in the area. I seriously wondered if the race would happen. We were in contact with the fifth BRP (Fallon) who was trying to make her way to the area, but was being diverted because of the flooding. She finally made it late in the afternoon, safe and sound. Still exhausted and not wanting to deal with the rain, I stayed at my hotel for dinner and was once again in bed by 7:00 p.m. I slept until 5:30 a.m. and then got up and got ready for the race.
By morning most of the rain had moved out of the area, so things were looking up. I picked Renee up from her Airbnb and the hunt for parking was on. We drove around for a bit thinking we would never find a spot, but then found several of the resort hotels in the area were offering valet parking. We pulled up to one but once I heard they were charging $40 I quickly made a U-ey and again began the hunt for street parking. We pulled up 1st Street just about a half mile from the race start. Metered parking was available on the entire street, which made us nervous since no one else was parking there. Multiple tow trucks were out pulling cars off the street everywhere. I found a police officer and asked if we could park there and he first said no, then yes, then ‘you should be okay’. That’s reassuring! Just then the person in charge of parking came by and assured us we were good to go. The metered parking cost just $1.50 per hour, so just to be sure, we added $10.00 to the meter and were on our way.
We met up with the other BRPs and then split off into our start waves. Renee was planning a 3 minute run/40 second walk strategy and while I hadn’t been running or training at all (shocking), I decided to tag along and see if I could keep up. After just a few miles our walk breaks became a little longer, but we were doing okay. We made it to the 5K mark at 38:13 which for me is not so bad. By the 10K we were at 1:20:33 which, considering my lack of training, I was completely okay with! We continued our run/walk intervals, but by about mile 8 or so I started to need more walk breaks and Renee’s stomach was starting to bother her. We mostly walked from that point on, and I would say by mile 10 Renee’s knee was giving her some trouble so we slowed our walk at that point with only a couple of extremely brief runs whenever I spotted a camera ahead. I kept making little goals in my head and would have been happy just to have finished in 3 hours. However, by mile 12 I knew that wouldn’t happen without me taking off, so I got it in my head that I just wanted to break 3:05. With the finish line in sight, I took off running, coming in at 3:04:33. Slow as molasses, I know, but this is the longest distance I’ve trekked since the Chicago Marathon in October, so I was happy to get the miles in. With several spring and summer races coming up, I’m hoping this will be the first of many more long distances to come.
Luckily the rain pretty much held off for the race. It was actually sunny before the race started, but soon the clouds rolled in and it remained cloudy and gray for the entire race. We had some drizzle here and there, but nothing like what we experienced the day before. We caught a bit of a headwind in the final miles to the finish, so that unfortunately made for a difficult last few miles.
Despite the weather, I loved this race. The course is beautiful, heading up and down the California coastline. The weather wasn’t perfect, but at least it cleared up enough to allow the race to take place. I can imagine how beautiful the course would be if the sun was out and the wind was a little more tame. There wasn’t a ton of spectator support along the course, though the weather might have had something to do with it. I’m sure in better weather there would be many spectators on the beach. There were several bands playing along the course, so that was fun and provided some needed motivation along the way. There are options for a 5K, a half marathon, a full marathon, and a virtual race, so pretty much anyone can find the perfect race in Surf City. I think the Cowabunga one-mile race the day before the actual event would be nice for families to get their kids involved.
The expo was very nice and larger than I expected. I would prefer only health/fitness/running-related products, but it was no big deal to move past the booths that weren’t of interest to me. The participant shirts are very nice long-sleeved tech tees, and I was pleased to see exchanges were available if the fit wasn’t quite right. I love the medal – it is a wooden surfboard with a Surf City medallion, and actual sand from Huntington Beach imbedded in the medal itself!
Have you ever run any of the Surf City races? What is your favorite place for a racecation? Yay or nay on non-running related products at a race expo? Follow me on Athlinks where I’ve claimed my race results!
I’m linking up with Wendy over at Taking the Long way Home and Amy at She Runs by Faith for this week’s wrap-up. Holly at HoHo Runs is on a little break from the Weekly Wrap, but I’m linking up with her as well! Be sure to visit their blogs, and check out a few of the other linkers while you’re there. You may just find a few new friends!