Can running conditions be more perfect? Overcast skies, virtually no wind and temperature holding steady in the upper 50s or maybe touching 60 degrees; that was today. The race atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. 300-odd people showed up for a “flat and fast” track in Santa Barbara including some really fast runners.
6:55AM: After waking up at around 6:15AM getting ready and eating some nutrition, I left our rented VRBO cottage at around 6:55AM to arrive at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara at around 7:10AM. The race start was about half-a-mile from this point.
7:50AM: The race atmosphere was relaxed. It seemed like a lot of people knew each other. I had spoken briefly to the race director yesterday when I registered for the race. I saw him and chit-chatted for a couple of minutes before eating half a banana, using the rest room, talking to a few random people and jogging my way over to the starting line. The starting line was even more relaxed; hardly anyone was expending nervous energy. It felt like people were out on a routine group run. I was just going to go along for a ride!
8:15AM: There was no national anthem, no announcements, no speeches, no advertisements or promotions, nothing. Someone with a bullhorn simply said “two minute to race start” and everyone lined up at the starting line. This was not a chip-timed race. They were doing everything the old fashioned way. The time started when the starting horn went off precisely at 8:15AM and would end manually with someone using a stopwatch at the finish line. I was lined up a few rows back to not interfere with the faster runners.
The start of the course sees a gentle rise for the first hundred yards before the course goes steadily downhill for the first couple of miles. Dozens of us were running at the same pace. Even though I was told that the course is flat and fast, I expected a few hills. After all, this is Santa Barbara; their definition of flat is not exactly flat!
The first couple of miles are downhill. The course has lots of twists and turns and goes through neighborhoods and parks, over and under bridges with random people cheering you on. For the first couple of miles, the slight wind was on our back pushing us along. I ran alongside a couple of guys who looked like they knew the course well. I felt good! My average for the first 4 miles was a faster-than-expected 7:50/mile.
8:45AM: After a few twists and turns, the course heads back uphill and slightly against the wind. This is where I started to draft a few people. On the downhill portions, I would pick up speed and pass a bunch of folks; and on the uphill portions they would pass me back. At around the 5-mile mark, I ate a Clif gel with caffeine. I felt good. My heart-rate was well maintained in the 140s and low 150s.
With two-thirds of the course done (10k or 6.22 miles), I picked up my pace. I found a woman wearing an Oiselle outfit and drafted behind her. She was running at around a 7:40 pace and I had no trouble running a couple of feet behind her.
9:15AM: With just over a mile to go, I picked up my pace again. I passed the Oiselle woman and a few others. The caffeine was kicking in now giving me just the boost that I needed. With half-a-mile to go, we could see the finish line. I picked up the my pace yet again to finish strong with a kick.
I was sure I had done quite well. I had averaged 7:40 per mile for a total time of 1:11:50. To my dismay, I had finished 15th in my age group. This is Santa Barbara, California. They have fast runners here. More than a dozen women had finished faster than me.
Overall though, I’m quite happy with the race. I feel good about my race tactics and my final time. I didn’t even go all out! I’m not sore at all right now.