On Sunday, February 3rd, I finished my second marathon - the Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. What an incredible experience from start to finish!
Shortly after I completed my first marathon (the OBX Marathon on the Outer Banks of North Carolina) in November of 2006, I began looking for another marathon to run. The first marathon that caught my attention was the Surf City USA Marathon. The thought of running a marathon along the Pacific shoreline was quite compelling.
In August of 2007, I registered online for the 2008 Surf City USA Marathon. On the registration form I was asked to put down my predicted time of finish. Based on my OBX Marathon time of 4:11:15 (4 hours, 11 minutes, 15 seconds), I nervously typed in 3:59:00, hoping that if I trained hard enough I could shave 12 minutes off my OBX time and break the four-hour barrier.
At the end of August I began training in earnest. Having recently joined a local fitness club, I decided to incorporate weight training into my training regimen three times a week. The payoff was almost immediate. I recovered from my longer training runs much more quickly and the nagging aches and pains that had been a regular part of my OBX Marathon training were almost nonexistent. I felt great!
As late summer turned to fall and fall headed towards winter, I had to face the prospect of doing something that seemed utterly dreadful - running indoors on a treadmill. Yuck! I had never run on a treadmill before, and I surely didn’t want to start now. But I was a man on a mission, and if achieving my goal of a 3:59 marathon meant running on a treadmill, then I was willing to bite the bullet.
Fortunately, I found the perfect training partner to accompany me on my dreaded treadmill training runs - a purple iPod Shuffle. Armed with a collection of my favorite Motown, R&B, Disco, and Pop tunes from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, I was ready to tackle treadmill monotony head on. One advantage of using the treadmill was the ability to closely monitor my pace and mileage. This proved to be a key component of my training.
Following several of my training runs, my thoughts would turn to Lindsay Dunn (see “lindsay dunn” post dated December 29, 2007) and I’d begin to cry. Running was one of our common bonds and this would be my first race since her death. I missed Lindsay’s kindness and encouraging words. I began to think of the Surf City USA Marathon as my “Dunn Run” - a way to honor Lindsay and her positive influence in my life.
After playing around with the pace setting on the treadmill, I felt comfortable with 8.2 miles per hour, a pace of 7:19 per mile. As my training progressed, I was very encouraged to see that I could maintain a 7:19 pace for 4 miles, 8 miles, 12 miles, 16 miles, and finally, 20 miles. When I compared my 20-mile training time (2:26:43) to my 20-mile split time for the OBX Marathon (3:13:46), I was blown away. I had shaved 47 minutes off my 20-mile time from the OBX Marathon!
Pretty soon I got to thinking that my goal of a 3:59 marathon wasn’t quite ambitious enough. Maybe I needed to set my sights a little higher. Out of curiosity I went to the Boston Marathon website to see what time I would need in order to qualify for the 2008 Boston Marathon. The magic number was 3:30. I now had a new goal - to qualify for the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon, the Boston Marathon!
Towards the end of January, with the Surf City USA Marathon fast approaching, it was difficult to contain my excitement. I was so focused as I began making last-minute preparations for the trip to California. My flight from Harrisburg to Los Angeles presented some challenges, but in the end it all worked out perfectly. Thanks to a canceled flight, a delayed flight, and then a missed connection, I ended up arriving in Los Angeles almost 24 hours later than originally planned, but the upside was two solid nights of sleep - one in my own bed and one at a Holiday Inn in Kentucky.
When I touched down in Los Angeles on Saturday, the southern California sunshine was in full effect. A short drive down the San Diego Freeway put me in Huntington Beach just in time for a beautiful afternoon along the Pacific coast. After picking up my marathon bib number and timing chip from the Expo, I met up with my brother, Peyton, for a leisurely stroll through the lively streets of Huntington Beach. We stopped for a nice pasta dinner before he headed back to LA and I headed to the hotel for an early bedtime.
Sunday morning dawned and just as forecast, it was raining and windy. I caught a 5:30 am cab to the starting line where I spent the next hour trying to keep warm and dry. Fortunately, I brought along my disposable “poncho” - a 30-gallon trash bag. “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, the classic Beach Boys tune, signaled the start of the race at 6:50 am as the rain and wind continued unabated. Despite the adverse conditions, I was thrilled to be running along the Pacific Coast Highway with a perfect view of the storm-tossed Pacific Ocean on my left.
My shoes were completely soaked in no time thanks to some very large, unavoidable puddles. By Mile 5, my “poncho” had become more of a hindrance than a help, so I tossed it aside. The Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Central Park, and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve were some of the more interesting stretches along the 26.2 mile course. Nine of the last ten miles were run on the beachfront running path right along the Pacific Ocean. I laughed out loud at the irony of running in such terrible weather at a place known for its warm, sunny climate.
When I checked the race clock posted at Mile 25, I knew I had Boston in the bag. I ran past the Huntington Beach Pier one more time en route to the finish line. Nearing the finish line, I could hear Peyton cheering me on. As I crossed the finish line, I was completely spent. With bottled water and finishers’ medal in hand, I slowly walked across the road to a spot where Peyton could pick me up and drive me back to the hotel to recuperate.
After a warm shower and a cold bath to help my legs recover, I was ready to roll. I checked out of the hotel and headed over to the Olive Garden with Peyton for my post race lunch. I followed Peyton back to LA after lunch and we arrived just in time to catch the kickoff of Super Bowl XLII.
During the Super Bowl, I checked the Surf City USA Marathon website to see if the race results had been posted. I could hardly believe what I saw! I finished 44th out of 1087 runners overall and 5th out of the 95 runners in my age/gender category. My time was 3:22:01, shaving over 49 minutes off my previous marathon and qualifying me for the 2008 Boston Marathon. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.
Several days after the marathon, I told Lindsay Dunn’s parents about my desire to honor Lindsay and how her life had given me a sense of purpose and determination I would not have otherwise had in preparing for the race. Lindsay’s mom, Diane, shared the following with me last week - “Lindsay would have been very happy for you. She had hoped to run a marathon with you one day. She shared that with me. Sounds like she did--two weekends ago.”
Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!