One of the benefits of fun running (i.e. not training!) is that I can drop into events that would not be great races for me but are really fun. This was the case last week when I ran Race Thru the Redwoods and it was true for yesterday’s Run by the Sea 12k as well. For some, these events are ideal settings but I am just not super fast on trails (whether they include hills or not) and therefore they aren’t great events for me to test out speed training or look for a PR (although since I’ve never run a 12k before it’s an automatic PR ;) ). But they are great for going out and having a great time while supporting a good cause and being a part of the running community. And sometimes, you surprise yourself and walk away with a spot in the top three in your age group too!
Yesterday was the second annual running of the Run by the Sea. Last year, I couldn’t run it because it was the same day as the Santa Rosa Marathon but this year I had no conflicts. The race wants to raise both awareness and funds for the Santa Cruz Rail Trail project. It follows the trails through Wilder State Park, including a little off-road adventure down to the beach (another reason I wasn’t interesting in “racing” this one). My morning started with a few texts from family members checking to see if we were ok from the earthquake… so then I had to go figure out what earthquake they were talking about since I slept right through it. (We are about 2 hours from the epicenter but some did feel the quake here, including the hubs and one of our pups). Then, of course, I spent a bunch of time reading about the early reports of Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake and trying to determine if my friends running SRM would be ok (they were!). Then I just wanted to go back to sleep… forget the race (especially considering the several glasses of wine I drank the night before…) But somehow I still managed to head out.
This was definitely not a “race” morning for me. Besides the wine the night before and the atypical wake up, I didn’t run any warm up or cool down miles and I didn’t wear my normal racing singlet. This, I wanted to remember, was just fun miles to support a good cause. I found my teammates Sam, Josh, and John right before the start. I positioned myself a few people deep and started out on the trails. I encouraged a gal to pass me since she clearly was in race mode (she came in 3rd overall) and happily ran toward the water. I took it easy climbing down the rocks and across the sand. I happily took the volunteer’s hand to help over the rocks on the way back up to the trail. At the first water station, a volunteer cheered her friend behind me – telling her to pass me. Fine by me. I let her go and continued toward the turn around. There I saw the first woman (who went on to win) and Sam looking strong. I counted the women and realized I was 6th woman. Cool, I thought, it would be fun to end up in the top 10 women but still no pressure.
I felt really good after the turn around and unintentionally picked up a little speed but nothing too crazy. I passed the 5th woman and was back at the beach. I saw Jason from Santa Cruz Running Company, SCE’s sponsor and said hello. Then I saw the gal who has passed me back at the water station. She was a few minutes ahead of me and I didn’t expect to catch her, but I felt good and caught up to her. There was less than a mile left, so I just cruised along to the finish line. I finished with an official time 58:27, a 7:51 pace. Good enough for 3rd in my age group, 4th woman, and 16th overall. Not too shabby. All age group winners got chocolate (nice!) and a medal.
This was a really nice, low-key event. If you’re in Santa Cruz during August next year, I definitely recommend it. While you will do a little climbing for the beach portion, the Wilder bluffs are on of the best running spots around. And this race, unlike other races, is ran entirely on them. For those into swag, the shirt is nice – I wouldn’t run in it but it will be good for the gym. There are two water stations and helpful volunteers. There is both a 4k and a 12k (instant PRs for uncommon distances) and this year, just over 150 runners.