When I first started running a little over 4 years ago, I heard of a "little" race in Santa Cruz. At that time running 6 miles seemed so long. I barely could run a 5k. Yet, the idea of running in an Oceanside town to another Oceanside town seemed like a wonderful experience. Great views and cooler weather. I had my eyes set on running Wharf to Wharf (Santa Cruz to Capitola) one day, but what I didn't know was how insanely popular it was and how difficult it was to secure a entrance. That's saying something because we are "experienced" runDisney runners and it is as difficult or even more challenging in last year to run Wharf to Wharf as a Disney race!
Registration opens in March and this year I had it on the calendar and in my phone. Since I work in the classroom, the 10am registration opening was not possible for me. Thankfully, I enlisted Dave to try his luck and sure enough I got in!!!
As race day approached, I read and reread the race brochure mailed with my bib. It wasn't a think brochure, a trifold and the information was all in there without the fluff. I rather enjoyed the course map. If it was made as a print, I probably would have bought it. I think a lot of races should keep their brochure short and to the point. Easy read and perhaps more people would read them. 😜.
As race weekend came, I somehow became nervous that I could complete the 6 miles. There is no rhyme or reason to this, perhaps a new course I would tackle solo made me more nervous than other races. I am not sure. I do know I am not a fan of 10k races. Never truly sure how to pace myself without losing steam halfway through. Maybe this was why there was doubt in my mind. (NOTE: This race is NOT a 10k. It is 6 miles. That's it. Not 6.2, just 6). Regardless, I had mapped out my race day outfit weeks in advance, straying from my typical darker colors and opting for pink!
The night before the race, Dave insisted on driving the course...it was dark. Glad he did though, I got to see that it was continuous rolling hills. There really wasn't any flat point along the course aside from the almost half mile path from the start. It got me a little more nervous because I haven't been doing any work on inclines lately. Not to mention, Asher was having one of his bouts of insomnia. Fortunately the race has a later start, 8:30, but all said there would be traffic to the start line and even more traffic to the finish line. Dave really wanted to him and the kids to see me finish so I had to be dropped off early. So between nerves and Asher not being able to go to sleep until almost 2am I was not feeling my best. However once race morning came and I got a little food in my stomach I couldn't wait!
The corrals didn't seem to huge when I was in them but there were only 5 corrals, including the Elite and 16,000 runners!!! Once I heard the race director announce this, I quickly reminded myself that this race was for fun and not to look at my watch for my pace. It was a good reminder to myself right before the horn blew because the race course was congested until about mile 3. In the first half mile I almost ran into a pole and fallen into a hole on the side of the road.
I generally don't like to weave too much in a race. I also, since I study the map, like to run on the side I need to cut the tangents. Really I study the map and try to memorize lefts and rights, landmarks for turns or narrowing, etc prior to a race. It helps me when I run to not focus on the miles but almost like I am laying out a puzzle I saw before. With this race I was weaving a lot at the beginning and having a hard time making my way around some groups. So I quickly divised a plan. I'm not a tall woman at 5'3" and petite frame so passing through sometimes can be challenging. I noticed gentlemen who would taller, broader shoulders, some heavier set than I making their way through. So I would speed up when I noticed such a man and kind of rode their tail wind. When they excused themselves through runners, I just kept on their heels to make my way through. It worked and I was able to find my groove a little after mile 2.
Along the way though, I tried to stop and take pics. The morning was very foggy so the idealistic ocean in the background pics were impossible. They would all look like grey mist. So I tried to snap pics of bands along the way, but by mile 3 there were so many bands I couldn't keep up and decided to just cruise on the next 3 miles giving hi 5s and thanking the endless amount of spectators. It was AWESOME!
This race lived up to my expectations and so much more. I heard there was a lot of spectators and bands for this race, but nothing could have prepared me for the number of bands on every BLOCK and the nearly 6 miles of endless spectators. Seriously, the streets were lined with people cheering, whole neighborhoods making it a fun block party. It made the 6 miles seem so quick. The hills, although relentlessly rolling, I didn't notice and they didn't slow me down too much since I was smiling ear to ear and enjoying the view of spectators. The only downside, in my mind was the expense of the hotel. It is an oceanside town so hotels are pricey but it still is a sticker shock. Oh and the congestion on the race course for so long is a little bit bleh but the race overall is just great.
As I was sprinting to the finish (thank you downhill finishing chute for about .25 miles!) I just kept thinking how great the 6 miles were and how much I wanted to do this race again. When I saw Dave and the kids, I immediately told Dave this race would be great for a group of people to do together. The race itself is affordable at $40; you might not get a medal, but a shirt, good treats and wonderful course support. There are so many picture stops, so much music and just a great time! It's a must people, put it on your calendar for next year to run "the best little road race in California". I'll come run it with you!!! 😉.