With all the sizzling opinions in the Wall Street Journal, I decided to please everyone and 1. Not Stay Home; 2. Go for a Run; 3. Pack my Broom stick. In other words, Celeste and I went away for Girls Weekend bannered under the excuse of “Race.” Is it any wonder that there are more women entrants into running events than men?
“But I have to go! I’m sorry little Tommy is sick, but I SIGNED UP FOR THIS RACE!”
“Oh, oh, OK honey, of course.”
Indeed I had signed up for the 2012 40th anniversary of The Wharf to Wharf road race held in Santa Cruz, California. Tagged “It’s the best little road race in California,” The Wharf to Wharf is very much Santa Cruz. It starts at the board walk in Santa Cruz where I dare anyone to not hum The Doors and eye for vampires. The Lost Boys is tattooed into the landscape as much as is the smell of corn dogs and cotton candy. The starting line is a jumble of 15,000 people smushed behind a tethered rope. Officials scream, “Back up! Back up!” We sardines glue ourselves together. Then suddenly without anthem and without punctuality comes a blast, “GO!” Stampede. Runners fight for space while hurling themselves full speed into the 6 mile plus a bit race. Apparently it is well known, but not advertised to be over six miles and under a 10K. That seems very hippy happy to put the start line somewhere here and the finish line oh-somewhere-there in Capitola. However, if a runner can get their mind off the order and into the free love of random distances that roll like a paved cross country course, then they are sure to have a very good time. This is a race that is all about racing those around you because time and distance seem to not matter. ”It’s all relative Man!”
Celeste and I arrived to town Friday evening and checked into a small bed and breakfast that housed everything a grandmother ever threw out, a parrot, and a cat with one ear. I don’t want to draw any conclusion there, but I decided to not actually kiss the squawker.
We did typical girl things like eat chocolate cake for dinner and look at pictures of hot vampires. This is Santa Cruz after all. With weeks of flat workouts, neither one of us expected to set the roads on fire. Having crashed in my last two races coupled with some more recent terrible workouts, I frankly wasn’t arriving with six shooters loaded on my hips or in my shoes.
Saturday’s easy run didn’t do anything to boost my confidence further. I decided to go out not too conservative that I ruined my race, but not too fast that I potentially destroyed my race. In other words, the kettle was on low heat.
My enthusiasm sparked Sunday morning. Every major race is like a party. I train and train and train and this is the time to celebrate. Even if my effort tanked into another whirl pool of drowning alveoli, well….wait…..now let’s just make that not happen: Stay controlled, run the route, and celebrate another starting line. I realized what I needed more than anything for my running right now was a consistent effort that did not come with an epic byline. I needed to run a smart race. Not shine. Not crash. ”It really is all relative Man!”
When the stampede carried me out onto the course, I felt the swirl of rushing runners move around me. I toed close to the front line right behind Stephanie Rothstein and Clara Peterson, but I ran a 6:00 opening mile. This felt as though I was standing still amongst the masses flying around me. As we began to climb, I began to pass. I enjoyed the experience of passing almost the entire race especially on all the digging little power climbs and each mile clicked through smoothly around 6:00 despite the varied terrain. My effort simmered at consistent burn- no terrible scorching hurt. I became aware that I was not giving it my 110%, but this was what I needed- to not die a spastic, suffering, epic all out finish line drive. I just really wanted to Cruz. That being said, after running shoulder to shoulder with some guy for the last two miles, I did have to out kick him in the last 400 meters. Hey, kick or be kicked.
I finished in 36:25 14th female over all.
I was unable to locate Celeste in the finish line area- 15,000 people is a lot of heads! Warming up in my race T-shirt, I ran backwards on the course to return to Santa Cruz. I saw all the things I normally don’t- the crowds of runners, the members of the some 50 bands, and the intricate details of the cheering crowds. WOW! Can you say “Mimosa?” The entire course smelled like a winery. How did I miss that?
“My bottle’s bigger than your bottle!” A blonde shouts at me as she lifts up a huge over sized bottle of sparkling wine. I was almost tempted to ask for a traveller’s cup, but I decided that would be wildly irresponsible of me- recovery drink first. Pat-Pat-On my back.
We are not convinced that this is the best little road race in California, but it is definitely worth doing once or twice or maybe three times. Alright, Alright, it was a good one.