This year I ran the Surf City Half Marathon in 1:36.53. Last year my official result was 1:36.50. So yes, I was just 3 seconds slower this year. But wow, did the race play out differently. Last year, I thought having a “tres leches” 3 milk dessert the night before the race was a good idea. It wasn’t, and starting at mile 6, I thought I wouldn’t finish. My stomach was unwell. Last year my splits started at 6:58 and ended around 7:56 or so. Every mile after 6, I struggled.
This year, I took it out more modestly (7:26) and ended around the same pace (7:28). I also went on to run 20 total miles, and it marks 2/4 of my 20 milers done before the LA Marathon.
Before Surf City Half Marathon:
I was well aware of my result last year. It’s hard to forget one of your most miserable races of the year. I was excited to run with 361 in the updated 361 Flame. I’ve known Phil forever, but the last time we hung out was when I worked at RunningCo. of Haddonfield in 2016. Whew, time flies, and a lot has happened for me and the brand 361 since then. Most notably, the new 361 Centauri is an excellent daily trainer.
Getting to Huntington Beach is always a challenge. For me in the desert, I must go almost directly through Los Angeles, Anaheim, or Irvine. That area breeds traffic, and getting to the race on Saturday was no different. It was supposed to take about 2:15, but it took around 3 hours. We barely got to the Surf City Half Marathon packet pickup by 4 pm on Saturday. But we did. Then we relaxed, got dinner, and went to bed. I got seafood pasta with clams, oysters, squid, and octopus. It was tasty, but I think I didn’t learn anything about the Surf City Half Marathon 2022 race. I am mostly lucky to have a stomach of steel, but you would think I would learn my lesson. I digress.
I woke up around 5, and we got to the Surf City Half Marathon around 7. I planned to run 20, including the 13.1 miles at the actual race. The goal was not to take the race out so hard that I couldn’t complete 20. I ran just under three before the Surf City Half Marathon. It was faster than my usual warmup for halves (I averaged about 9:30 pace; usually, I do 1ish miles at an 11-minute rate). But I did want to get some decent paced miles in beforehand.
Surf City Half Marathon Race:
The Surf City Half Marathon started on time at 7:45. I probably started too far back, but I didn’t know what moderate pace would be like for me. I was about 10 seconds behind the 1:40 pacers, which judging by the last six months, seemed probably the correct spot for that pace. I thought moderate should feel like marathon pace. I feel like 3:30 is a good goal marathon pace at the moment. I haven’t done the distance in a while, and it would be my slowest marathon, but who knows what the Los Angeles Marathon weather will be like. 1:40 pace is a 3:20 marathon pace which is much faster than that. I digress.
I ran the first two miles of the Surf City Half Marathon in 7:26. I didn’t know what the 1:40 half pace was, but I thought it was much slower than the 7:26 pace. (It turns out, it’s actually 7:38). Still, I wasn’t passing the pacers, so I figured I would likely run around 1:40. I wanted to feel relaxed, and like I could hold that pace for a while.
Mile 3 of the Surf City Half Marathon has some downhill, and I ran a 7:09. I was pleasantly surprised. Around mile 3, I also passed the 1:40 pace group, and we crossed 3 miles in just under 22 minutes.
Miles 4 and 5 of the Surf City Half Marathon climb a few smaller hills but then go back down, and you head out on the main road. Last year around mile 6 of the Surf City Half Marathon, things went south fast. Because of that, I seemed to forget what the course was like. You basically head out for 2 miles and come back for 2 miles. It’s honestly boring. Plus, we were weaving in between marathoners because the course joins them.
After mile 4 of the Surf City Half Marathon, we were with the marathoners ranging in pace from 6:00-4:30. It didn’t give the half marathoners a lot of extra space because it was so crowded. Twice, I stopped during the race when two marathoners darted to get water and then just stopped. Those 3 seconds were likely the ones I needed to beat last year’s (I am not that concerned about that). I don’t love the joining of races like that. The marathoners hate it because they don’t have the full road and the half marathoners hate it because we are weaving. Plus, with so many paces colliding, people tend to actually collide.
We finally turned around at roughly mile 8 and headed back toward the start. The following five miles of the Surf City Half Marathon are just a straight line back to the beginning. Plus, the last 2-3 miles of the Surf City Half Marathon are uphill. For some reason, I thought the Surf City Half Marathon had 0 feet of elevation gain (ok, well, 50), but it has about 175 feet. The Surf City Half Marathon is probably the least hilly west coast half I’ve done, but it does have a few rolling hills.
The next few miles started to feel much more challenging. It was a relatively humid day, affecting me a bit. I kept reminding myself that Los Angeles could be humid, and I needed to get used to it, which is true. I was also running near another male that pulled me along. One of the biggest factors of LA Marathon (minus you know me not running a marathon in 4 years) is the weather. That time of year, it could be perfect but the weather could also be very hot and humid. So I have started to practice running in warmer conditions when I can.
I hit mile 10 of the Surf City Half Marathon at around 1:14, and I was pretty surprised. I thought, just maybe I could beat my previous time. Then the hills came. Last year I blacked out the last few miles of the Surf City Half Marathon because I wanted to be done, and I honestly didn’t think I would make it to the finish. That means I forgot the last couple of miles for Surf City Half Marathon are not easy. You end up doing most of the climbing!
The last couple of miles of the Surf City Half Marathon did feel very challenging, but somehow, I held onto a 7:33 and 7:28 mile. When I saw the clock so close to my last time, I added as much energy as possible. But it wasn’t enough, and I crossed the Surf City Half Marathon at 1:36.53.
Surf City Half Marathon Thoughts:
I’m happy with my time. While just over 2 minutes slower than the hillier Rose Bowl course, it was more humid in Huntington Beach. I was also very untapered, with the goal of 20 quality miles over running my fastest in recent times (if that happened, I certainly wouldn’t complain, but again, not the goal). I took three gels (with my plan of 5 for a marathon). Gels between the warmup and race, around mile 8 and again around mile 12.5…translating to the 20 miles would be 3, 11, 15.5). It’s daunting to think 2/4 of my twenty milers are done, but the next one will likely be in about three weeks.
Of any half marathon I’ve done 20 total for the day, I ran the fastest post-race. So I guess that is a good sign.
Finally, I ran in a new shoe (the updated 361 Flame) to add drama to the fire. Is it a good idea to do 20 miles in a brand new shoe? Of course not. I tried the original version and liked it. It felt fine during my warmup, so I chose to use it. This entire race recap could have been another story if it had gone south.
Questions for you:
Have you run the Surf City Half Marathon?
What is your favorite half marathon?