Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Run By the Sea 4K Race Recap!

Race t-shirt!  Love the design, and it's a soft cotton shirt, women's cut, so I'll get a lot of wear with this one.

Whenever I make travel plans, I always look to see if there's a race to run.  It doesn't always work out, but on this visit to California, there was one that started so close to my friend's house that I had to do, it was on my last full day in California, and what better way to close out a vacation but with a race along the coastline?  While I have to admit that looking at the route both intrigued and frightened me, but in the end I couldn't resist signing up for it.

Here's the route (click to enlarge):
You start in a park, run down cliffs to the beach, and run with farmland on one side and the ocean on the other!

And there's the part that frightened me:
I figured I'd be carefully picking my way down the steep rocky descent and ascent - and the race organizers even recommended "ninja running" across the beach crossing to minimize sand in your shoes.

So I originally signed up for the 12K, which is 7.5 miles.  And then, when the race got closer, I started seeing more things about the dangerous route...the cliff descent was worrying me - let's face it, this is not something I've done before, and the idea of slipping and falling was not appealing to me.  I decided to switch my distance to the 4K when I went to packet pickup a few days before the race, and I was really glad to have done that when, on race day, the race director said he had about 10 minutes' worth of instructions to give the 12K runners on safety concerning the cliff crossing.  Whew - I was definitely not ready for THAT kind of adventure!  This is the 4K route - it was still a trail run, and had some good elevation change along with a challenging terrain to run on, but no cliffs were involved, thankfully:
One of the fields we ran near was full of day lilies, but I was actually on a good run and didn't stop to take a picture.

I wasn't very nervous about the race - I think I'd already decided to take it easy, enjoy the route, and stop and take pictures along the way, so the pressure was off.  Maybe I took it a little TOO easy, because as it turned out, when Barbara and I arrived at the park, I looked out across the fields to the ocean only to realize that I'd forgotten to put in my contacts!  I've never done that before, but because I was sharing a bathroom with a teenager, I kept my stuff in the guest room, and was off my game.  I could still see, but things weren't as clear as they could have been.  Oh well!

The race was held at Wilder Ranch State Park:
I've been there once before, on a previous visit to Santa Cruz, but I didn't realize it was as big as this map shows!

This race was put on by Bike Santa Cruz County; naturally, they encouraged people to bike to the race and even had bike valet parking available:
The bike valet was located next to the bathrooms, which was nice - no porta potties were needed, although the organizers had brought in a few, just in case.

Both distances started a little way down from the staging area, so we walked to the 4K start...and as it turned out, missed this sign and kept going:
The cone wasn't there when we walked past it...

You can see why I missed it:
I mean, even if I HAD been wearing my contacts, I don't think I would have noticed the bit about the 4K.

Anyway, we figured out where we needed to be and our group (probably about 150 people?) lined the sides of the road, because the 12K group would be starting before us and running through:
It was fun to cheer on the 12K group as they started their race!

Did you notice the uphill start?  I did!  I began running it, but then decided to walk to the top.  What the hey, right?  Barbara had gone ahead and caught a picture of me as I was running:
Goofy face, check.

I handed off my sunglasses to Barbara right after this - I'd forgotten that the earpieces on this pair hits my hat and feels funky, so I don't usually run in them.  It was still a bit overcast anyway, so I really didn't need them.  We turned off the road and onto the trail, which was covered with gopher holes:
I carefully picked my way through these.

We made a turn and the gopher holes disappeared, but it was rocky, so I was being pretty careful about where I was running.  Right around the half mile mark, I came upon a runner who was sitting on the side, holding her ankle - she'd twisted it and couldn't walk.  Luckily a friend of her arrived just ahead of me and helped her, poor thing.  I continued running and came to the cliffs/beach crossing that made me change my distance (click to enlarge):
I literally stopped in my tracks and was a beautiful sight to see the runners snaking back and forth, but as I watched them climb up the cliff, I was really glad I dropped back to the 4K!

I continued running, but walked when the trail got too rocky and uneven.  I took more pictures and really just enjoyed being in the moment:
Eventually, I saw Barbara in the distance - she'd walked out from the opposite direction!  She was taking pictures as well - this one is hers - same area as the shot I took above, only from the other side:

She got this one of me approaching her:
Here I come!

And this one as I left:
There I go!

I caught up to a dad and his little boy walking - the boy was OVER the race, while the dad was trying to talk the kid into how much fun it would be to finish, with ice cream at the end.  For the record, the boy DID NOT want vanilla ice cream, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, or vanilla ice cream with peanut butter candy on it - LOL:
I turned around to take a picture of the route behind me and saw Barbara running to catch up (she's in the purple top in the center of the shot).  She said that when she caught up to the dad and his son, the kid was saying that he wished he had his bike...totally understand that, kiddo.

I had one more uphill push before the finish:
Rocky and uneven, along with being uphill.  I'm a road runner at heart and didn't embrace this terrain all that much.

And then I was done!  Because I got there before Barbara, I don't have a finish line picture to show you - she tried to get me to do a dramatic reenactment, but this was as much as I wanted to do at that point:
Finish line...

They had bagels, fruit, cookies and coffee at the end:

We had a little snack and sat down to wait for the raffle drawing, and that's when I realized that my new shoes were FILTHY:
Dirty shoes, along with a dirt ring around my ankles.  Well, the shoes look broken in now, that's for sure!

I didn't win anything from the raffle, darn it, but it was fun to see the age group awards - the winners all got a medal and chocolate.  

Couple more pictures to leave you with - the elevation (via my Garmin):
Up, down, up, down... 

And a cool panorama that Barbara took:
(Click to see better)

This was a fun race and I'm glad I did it, plus all of the proceeds went to support building the Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail.  Win-win all around!


  1. Bravo! Even though it is a trail, it is truly a beautiful course.

    And now I'm wondering if you've found the answer to your occasional jitters: just plan to run and be in the moment. Take all the pressure off yourself to do any particular pace!

    P.S. I bet now you realize why there are special trail running shoes, huh?

    1. For sure, if I did runs like this more often I'd have a pair of trail shoes. Now I need a rain run to get my current shoes clean, LOL.

      And yes, it was interesting to do whatever I wanted (walk, run, stop, take pictures, breathe in the ocean air) vs trying to get to the finish. Not for every race, but perhaps I can adopt some of that attitude for future races.

  2. What a fantastic course! So beautiful.

    I love the bike valet, too. That would be nice LOL

  3. Wow, what a way to make the 4K people feel less important by putting their race in teeny tiny print! I would love to do a race on this beautiful coast and yay for it being a 4K, I can handle that! I would love to have walked that 12k route just to see what it was all about but it does sound dangerous to run. I hate when I I have worry about my safety during a run so that would not have been a race for me either!

    1. They could have at least chalked a start line on the ground for us, LOL...

  4. I love to run races when I visit someone. It looked like a beautiful course. You are brave to do a trail race. I have a hard enough time on the road. Good decision to do the 4k.

    1. I've done a couple of trail runs and honestly, I don't see the huge appeal - well, except for the beauty surrounding you. But the running part is extra hard! ;)

  5. My comment disappeared! I think I just said I was glad you opted out of going up and down the cliffs! Oh, and I started thinking about how the race was to support biking in Santa Cruz, and thinking about how fun that would be to do sometime.

    1. Boooooo on comments disappearing! Those cliffs were no joke. Glad I opted out of them, too.

  6. What a neat, INTENSE, race! Wow! Good call on doing the 4K. That cliff climb and descent sounds, well, intense! :)

    LOL @ that boy. How could he not want ALL those ice creams? LOLOLOLOL

    I think it's awesome to race when you're traveling and see more of the area. Too bad you forgot your contacts! It looks like you were still able to enjoy the view, though! :)

    1. I was just laughing so much (inside) at the boy's responses...

  7. The scenery must have been amazing - but glad you decided to drop down to the shorter run - no need getting hurt for a fun run! :D

    1. No kidding! And this is for another post, but I actually hurt myself walking about a week prior, so yeah...running the easier route was definitely a good choice.

  8. WOW...gorgeous setting! YAY you Shelley!!! Doing what you needed to do for you!

  9. Wow such a beautiful course. How much it must have been for you to run there and in a totally different setting.

    Beautiful photos.


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