One of my big-time hobbies is running. I try to run at least 10 miles per week, but I rarely “race.” I generally push myself to meet my own goals: run under 10-minute miles, increase my weekly mileage by X amount, complete a half marathon, etc. I realize that I am not in danger of being a contender for any competitive running awards, so I get out there, have fun, and do my thing.
This weekend, however, I had the opportunity to travel for a race. My lovely friend “Bean,” who blogs at Just Plodding Along, has a goal of completing 30 half marathons before she turns 30. In pursuit of that goal, she signed up for this past weekend’s Temecula Valley Half Marathon and 5K. I love to travel, and Bean and I ran a half marathon together in 2010, so I was invited along as a travel companion and driver. The half marathon seemed a bit ambitious to me at this time, though I have been adding mileage in pursuit of the goal of running a 10K soon, but I settled on the 5K this time around. Sure, 400+ miles is a lot of driving for a 5K, but Southern California Wine Country beckoned.
Considering that this was a first-time race, I give this event high marks. The organizers of this race are also the organizers of the Havasu Half Marathon, so they are experienced in the business. Race day weather conditions were bad, but they responded appropriately. Start times for both races were delayed to give folks time to drive in and find a place to park and to allow the weather to improve (maybe a tiny bit, but it was still cold and rainy), and we were given places to wait indoors before the race started. I still didn’t envy my friend running 13.1 miles in these conditions, but at least everyone had a chance to get to the starting line on time. A couple of complaints: It was irritating that main roads were not completely closed for this event. Running on a road shoulder may be fine in good conditions, but with hundreds of runners and lots of rain, the dirt shoulder turns to mush and it is hard to pass slower runners/walkers. It also doesn’t help to have California Highway Patrol driving up and down next to us, yelling at us to stay in the cones. Jerks. Who is driving to wineries at 8AM on Saturday, anyway? The goodie bags/”expo” were also very minimalist, with only a couple of exhibitors at the race, and about two free samples to pick up. It irked me that even the winery itself didn’t offer a coupon or a free tasting for runners. Not even of the $25/bottle commemorative race wine? Some positive aspects, though: $5 engraving for medals and souvenir wine bottles were nice, and the medals and race tees were quite stylish.
There was a finisher’s medal for the 5K, which ordinarily I would not keep, however it turns out that I had my best competitive finish ever. In spite of wind, rain, poor course conditions, and an unimpressive time of just over 32 minutes, I was 10th in my age group. This was quite a surprise to me, but times were slow for this race overall, and I like to believe that years of experience running in upstate New York weather conditions served me well here. I didn’t feel like I stopped or slowed down the entire way, not even when I had to run carrying my glasses because I couldn’t see a damn thing. Bean, who arrived back soaked after 13.1 miles, also met a time goal for the event, though it was not a PR.
As an epilogue to the race, we had a great time brunching at the South Coast Winery and touring Old Town Temecula in the evening, when weather conditions cleared up. We also discovered that on Sunday, the Carlsbad Marathon was going on a short ways away along the coast. Since we had planned a detour on our route home to see the ocean anyway, we decided to go watch. (OK, actually we got a little crazy and tried to buy race numbers off Craigslist, but that wasn’t in the cards, so then we decided to watch.) I’m glad we did. The weather on Sunday was beautiful, and I really enjoyed being able to stand at the finish and watch the elite runners come in. We saw the first, second, and third place women finishers, and a number of sub-3:00 marathon men. Folks who have that kind of speed amaze me.
I’m not in a position to review a race I didn’t run, but from time spent at the finish line and walking along the course, and based on our visit to the expo, this looked like another well-run event. I was impressed by the crowd at the finish and along the last two miles of the course, shirts and medals were very nice, and there were a lot of bands along the course for entertainment. I’d definitely consider doing this race in the future, when I’m in half marathon shape.
In all, this was a successful running weekend. A bit more driving than I would like, but that just means I should plan to stay longer next time! In closing, here is a moment of Zen: The Pacific Ocean.