Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 4th Race - 2013 Semana Nautica 15K Run

This was the second year in a row that I've competed this July 4th event. Both times, I was intimidated by the sheer number of elite runners who flock to this race. You know what I'm talking about, right?  The professionals with glorious tans, cut arms, muscular legs and ripped abs?   I asked myself, what am I doing here? I am at home with mid-packers and walkers.  Anyway, since this race is a USATF sanctioned race, it draws many elite participants both locally and from out of town. (The men's winner finished in a blazing 48 minutes and change and the women's winner in 56 minutes.)  This year was a good turnout of about 274 participants. For one thing people come to race this because  the course is fantastic. It is somewhat rolling, but not too bad. Two, as was last year, the weather was perfect in the low 60s. It was a little humid but with the breeze and cloud cover the whole time, we couldn't ask for anything better.

I invited my running buddy, Heidi, along to this race.  It was  either this race or a local 5K. The draw to this one was the 15K "tempo-ish" distance and the much cooler temperature. The 5K is fast and fast but we would be running in the heat; not an ideal combination. So we decided to run the 15K.

We left San Luis Obispo about 5:45 am. we got to San Marcos High School to register with about 45 minutes to spare. We picked up our bibs and ran about 0.85 miles as a warm up to the actual staging area. There were no porta-potties at the start so we had to make sure we did our business at the high school.  It was no biggie.  It looked like a smaller crowd of 300 runners compared to last year. The race promptly started at 8 am with participants donning their best July 4th attire--tops and bottoms in red white and blue with stars and stripes. It was a festive atmosphere.

Since it was a smaller event, there was no chip timing.  I had to remember not to stay too far back like I did last year.  This time, it took me 2 seconds to cross the start line.  The course for Semana Nautica 15K has somewhat of a keyhole course, which begins at El Camino School, cuts through the Goleta neighborhoods around Kellogg School and finishes on Turnpike road at San Marcos High School. There was a significant incline on Cathedral Hill. Since you had pass through it twice, you get to look forward to it coming back. This last hill was between mile 5 and 6 and this was where I decided to take my one walk break and chomp on my peanut butter sandwich. 

Let's back up a bit. My purpose for this race was to run it like a tempo. At the same time, I wanted to practice drinking using the aid stations where I would pinch the top of the cup and maintain somewhat of a fast pace while gulping as much as I can. I've never really gotten a chance to practice this skill which is very important for a marathon. While drinking I was still running and I had 3 good practice shots at it.  I still carried an 8 oz fluid flask just in case I got thirsty where there's no aid station. It turned out I never needed it.  I got hungry after the 5th mile. I decided that on the last hill was where I would walk and eat the smashed sandwich stuffed in my back shirt pocket. This was where I wasted 30 seconds to eat and drink.  Funny thing is when you're trying to catch your breath after a hard effort up the hill, at the same time, chewing and drinking takes a tremendous amount of skill.  I was only able to swallow one bite and had to go, because 20-something year old blondie in red shirt I passed earlier, had caught up to me and passed me.  I threw the sandwich in my back pocket and just like that, break time was over.

Once we entered the bike path, blondie put a 10-second gap between us.  Then, what happened in Ojai Marathon, happened here again: I lost focus on my pacing. I wasn't tired, my mind just wandered for a bit. Before I snapped out of it, the gap had increased to 30 seconds. that was it, I was not able to catch up again. I thought I could try and increase my pace to catch up but, I was afraid that I may be risking muscle cramping. I mean I had no cramping at that moment, but running fast might hasten it to come.  As long as I can keep focus now and still keep her in my sights I could still stay on pace.  I felt pretty good after the bite of sandwich. I was able to hold on to my pace and I was not suffering, meaning, my breathing was under control and I was not panting. There was no feeling of leg cramping sneaking up on me.  Around this area last year is when and where the wheels fell off.  I slowed down dramatically.  I was happy not to see any 9's from my Garmin these last 2 miles.  I felt great knowing the finish was not too far.  As soon as we got off the bike path, I knew the finish was around the corner.  I made an effort to reel in two more people in front of me.

The most memorable one is the lady in a white ruffled running skirt. We had one sharp U-turn to the finish.  I was in full sprint trying to go under 1:19.   This lady asked where the finish was. Really, you don't see the cones and the clock ahead? I was not sure if she was directing the question to me or to the guy navigating the runners. I certainly wasn't in the condition to answer her question as I was running in full sprint. She realized that I was going to pass her so she picked it up. It was clear she didn't want me to pass her because she began sprinting too. Stride for stride I matched her. I couldn't gain a step on her nor she me.
...can I take one more pass?

finishing at the same time: 1:19:05

It was fun racing with her even for just 100m. I felt  like a kid. We ended up finishing together at 1:19:05.   Even though I missed going under 1:19 by six seconds,  I have no complaints.  Having shaved off 3 minutes and 53 seconds from my results last year, I gained a new 15K personal best and a course record. It couldn't have gone any better than that.  Icing on the cake was coming in 4th place in my age group category.  Heidi also did wonderful finishing 6th in our age group.
Heidi at mile 1.5

There were plenty of food at the finish:  Gatorade, water, muffins, oranges, bananas and Clif bars galore. Semana Nautica has a nice finisher technical shirts, but I opted out, since it knocked off $5 from my entry fee. It's a quick drive from San Luis Obispo to Goleta. It took us no more than hour and half via I-154 (Cachuma Lake Pass).  I'm thinking this might become an annual tradition. I'm looking forward to next year already and, maybe even bringing in an SLDC team.

Happy Running!

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