Friday, June 6, 2014

Race Report: Laguna Hills Half Marathon

The Laguna Hills Half Marathon is a Memorial Day race that is run by the good folks over at Renegade Racing.  This event honors all of the military, past and present.  Specifically, for this year, it honored the United State Marine Corps Dark Horse Battalion.  The event is fantastic with a huge expo / fair and fosters quite a few people who come out to run the race.  They have a 5k, 10k, and half marathon option for the race - as well as a few youth fun runs.  There's literally something for the entire family to do and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this race to anyone considering attending.

I was set up to push my son in the half marathon, and then afterwards - he would run in the "Diaper Dash" 50 yard race.  I was really excited to see him do his race - since he's finally walking now, so this would be his first official "race" where he was moving all on his own.

As for the Half Marathon - the course is fairly technical (in terms of turns) and has several rolling hills with a few steep sections.  It is NOT an ideal course for a stroller because of this and one can expect to lose a fair amount of time from their standard half marathon times if they are pushing a stroller (at least, *I* can expect that).

There were metric shitton of people corralled into the start line and everything went off without a hitch with one exception - and that would be my chief complaint with this race:  They made everyone with a stroller go to the back.  This was more or less loosely enforced (since I passed a few people pushing strollers - which means they started ahead of me and not in the back), but when I tried to line up in the front I was told to go to the back of the line because all strollers had to be there.  Despite my attempts to protest ("Dude, I'm expecting to finish this under 1:30 - I won't be in ANYONE'S way!") - I was sent to the back.

Now, that leads to several issues and probably one of the worst things about running with a stroller in a race if you're a faster runner.  If you cannot get out in front of the main pack - then you're going to be stuck behind it.  There is no inbetween.  So when you're stuck in the very back of a gigantic race with people doing the 5k, 10k, and half marathon in front of you - you WILL be slowed to a slow jog (or even a walk at time) for the first couple of miles because of the people in front of you who are casually doing the race (not that there is anything wrong with that - in fact - I applaud anyone who was supporting this cause).

Unfortunately, this is what happened to me.  I was in the very back when the race started, and as we began the race - the streets were narrow and windy before it opened up to "open road."  I did the best I could with what I could do - but there were several people walking, lightly jogging, and more than a few with earphones in (and subsequently not paying attention and drifting back and forth throughout the course).  This lead to (what felt like, at least) 9:30 miles for the first two miles or so of the course.

Weaving around people delayed me a bit, but once I got opened it worked well enough.
Once the course was open, I was able to kick it into high gear though and spent most of my time saying "Stroller on your left! Heads up!" and smiling and waving as I passed whoever was kind enough to sidestep for me.

I would rate this course as a difficult half marathon course WITHOUT a stroller.  It was hot - and once you got out in the open road there was absolutely no cover from the sun until the turnaround.  However, there were a multitude of aid stations that were well placed and the volunteers did an outstanding job getting the water and sports drink out to the runners.  In addition to the heat, the rolling hills would wear you down after awhile.  There were several long climbs with long descents and some steeper, shorter ones mixed in as well.  It made for a challenging course for the people running it - but provided an extra challenge to those pushing a stroller.  The problem with hills and a stroller is that you're pushing a bunch of extra weight going up the hill and then you're pulling the stroller coming down the hill (to prevent it from getting away).

Pushing up a hill is tough.
In any case, I pushed fairly hard and gave it as good an effort as I could and ended up with a 1:32:00 - well short of my expectations but considering the delays in the first couple of miles and the dodging of people I was doing - it's about on par with the effort I put in.  It was good enough for 5th in my age group, but pretty far down the list overall.

Crossing the finish line.
Happy but disappointed with the finish - but super stoked on the medal I received.  It's definitely one of the better ones of the year.  In addition, because I did the Reaching for The Cure event in March - I got a special "March to May Marathon" medal - which was equally as nice.

With Bruce and the wifey before his race (I know, he looked THRILLED)
After the event, we went off to do the kid's fun run with Bruce.  The only other complaint I had with this whole race was that the fun run was so delayed.  I'm not sure as to why it was (there was no traffic or street closures or anything to delay it) - but it was.  Suffice to say - once it finally went off - it was awesome.  All sorts of kids of all ages having fun and exercising.

Bruce did well.  He started walking and about halfway to the turnaround saw a dog playing off in the field and a kid bouncing a ball - so he immediately decided that those things were more interesting than the race and started walking towards them.  I had to redirect him several times, and he eventually finished.  One of the volunteers apparently took away the medal box too soon - so they had to go hunting for a medal for Bruce.  They eventually gave him the same one that the Half Marathoners got - which was pretty cool since it was a much nicer medal (not that my one year old would care either way, but still).
Brucie crossing the finish line, so proud of him.  

All in all, a really good day and a really well run race.  I will be back next year (probably sans stroller) to give it another shot.

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