I love the beach. I hate sand but I love the smell and the air and the sounds of the waves brushing up against the sand. And this weekend I had the pleasure of spending a good portion of the day along the sunny shores of Long Beach and Belmont Shores.
Maybe it’s because I was born and raised here in southern California and spent many many summers playing in the sands of our coast or camping along the shore or learning to surf in its waves, but I’m a sucker for the beach. So when my sister moved to Belmont Shores and took up residence a block from the sandy coast, I’ve been happily plotting visits to her abode. Especially now that summer is around the corner. There is something soothing and rejuvenating about the sound of the surf and the smell of salt in the air. AHHHHH!!
And it turns out, Seal Beach hosts a race every year. This year it celebrated its 40th anniversary so we signed up to run the 5k this past weekend! Sign up, packet pick up and prep for this race was all super easy, especially since I was coming off of a 5k the weekend just before. The best part was getting to have some one-on-one time with my sister which included some cheesy movie watching and facial masks that probably did very little for our skin but gave us some good chuckles.
The day of the race started off normally with a bagel and peanut butter for fuel and a cup of coffee. Ahhhhh, coffee!!! I watched the eastern horizon slowly lighten up as the sun began to rise and could tell it would be a good run. My sister started to rouse from her sleep and I got down on my foam roller to give myself a good stretch. My last 5k had a finish time of 33:20, a HUGE PR for me. Before that I was running about a 35-36 min 5k but breaking that wall into the 33 minute territory was amazing and totally unexpected. Even so, I didn’t expect to break any records with this race. I figured we’d go out and run our best but not to push for that new pace. Just have fun and enjoy the moment!
Getting to the start line was a bit hairy as parking in such a quaint harbor town was a little tight. But we found a spot (a legal one!) and got our numbers tacked on before we snapped a quick pre-race selfie.
Soon we joined the massive crowd funneling to the start line and found ourselves elbow to elbow in the sold out crowd. There was some confusion as to what side of the street we were to line up on because the 10k and 5k participants started at the same time but in waves. After laughing with a few other racers about accidently running a 10k because we were in the wrong corral, we picked a wave and a side and just said “Screw it!”
The sea of anxious and excited racers filled both sides of the street as we waited for the waves to start moving forward. This picture doesn’t even capture the whole crowd but once we began running and we turned the corner toward the main area at the start/finish line, the amount of people running was overwhelming. I wish I had that picture because it was awe inspiring and amazing to see so many people packed into the small streets of Seal Beach all running together. And instead of dampening the feeling of the race, it boosted it. Everyone was seemed to be in a good mindset to enjoy the course and running all together. I must say, this was probably the most crowded race I’ve ever run! For the first 1.5 miles we were elbow to elbow and bumping into someone every other step. I felt like I was apologizing A LOT but everyone seemed really cool about the amount of people.
Together my sister and I ran the 5k at a decent pace of 11 min/per give or take a few seconds when the crowd thinned out and we could speed up a bit. The course was fun and it wound through the streets of Seal Beach. We spent much of the run pointing out the cute houses and discussing the differences between this area and my sister’s neighborhood in Belmont Shores. I point this out as a huge area of improvement. When my sister and I ran together years ago while she trained for her first half marathon, me talking while we ran was a NO NO situation. I just couldn’t do it. And here I am now, running at a faster pace AND being able to talk for most of the ride. Cool, huh?
I did have a few personal issues crop up for this race that weren’t horrible (thank goodness!) but enough to make me uncomfortable. One issue was my stomach. For some reason it decided to not play nice and even with two trips to the restroom pre-start line, about a half mile in, it started to give me problems. I was able to push it away and make it through to the last 0.6 miles. At this point my stomach had been quiet for the majority of the race and I thought I was in the clear until we got close enough to see the finish line. At this point I was ready to kick it up a notch and speed through the finish but my stomach had another idea. Since I didn’t visit and restroom when my stomach first started to revolve, it decided to act up as I was nearing the finish. And instead me cramping up lower in my digestive tract, I could feel the discomfort travel up. I started to feel nauseous and could tell that it was affecting my pace. NOOOOOO!!! I was so close! So I took a few deep breaths and chugged through the finish with a chip time of 33:56!!!
Another issue is one of choice. I keep wearing the same damn long sleeved shirt. I’m in California!!!! Even through the winter I didn’t need a long sleeved shirt no matter what it claims to do! It gets WAY too warm after that sun comes up and add to that running and sweating, I end up feeling overheated. I think some of it has to do with the cool temps when we’re standing around waiting for things to start. I must think I’m going to freeze or something. But from now on I need to just suck it up, deal with the chill before the race starts, and then be more comfortable during the race itself.
Our pace ended up being sub-11 mins/mile and my app time was 34:18! WOOHOO!! Even with the tummy-rumblings and the overheating I was experiencing, I raced a good one! The best part, even though this was good to start with, was when I received my official chip time in an email. After it was all said and done, I finished in 33:56! It would seem that my new time is in the 33-34 min range and I couldn’t be happier!
A few things to note about the race itself. It was well run and well organized. There was water and fruit at the end and some Clif Bars to snack on. The race tee-shirt was pretty awesome (great fit, nice soft cotton) and the supporters along the way were cheerful and wonderful. We did encounter one issue towards the end. As we came around to the final stretch, we were seeing 28 minutes on our app. At the same time, the finishing 10k runners were closing in on their finish line. As we neared the last turn, we saw signs directing runners to the right and walkers to the left. Since we were still running at a good pace, we moved to the right only to find the volunteers yelling for all 5k runners to shift LEFT to allow the 10 racers to pass on the right… HUH?! So the last half mile was a mix of bad communication. One group of volunteers were telling us one thing then the next were saying something completely different. It got to the point that was we neared another sign pointing the walkers to the left and runners to the right while the volunteers hollered for the 5k runners to the left and 10k runners to the right after hearing the opposite from other people just before them, I hollered back that they were confusing us. I pointed out that different people we telling us different things and that some were separating runners and walkers while others were making room for the 10k finishers to cut through.
That would be my ONLY gripe for an otherwise beautiful morning for a race. And it was something easily forgotten when we crossed that finish line and grabbed our waters, completely satisfied in our accomplishment. Even with the crowding and the confusion at the end, this is a great race to participate in. Seal Beach is quaint and homey and very welcoming. The air off the coast is cool and salty. A great race in a great city put on by a well organized team.