Ocean Views and a Chance to trail a USATF Masters Legend – My memorable Encinitas Half Weekend

 

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I will excuse the Encinitas Half Race Directors for false advertising the course as flat and fast. I run and train in OC, and I forget that the definition of flat is not quite the same as in OC as it is in San Diego County! The course was rolling hills, some gentle, and some not, but it was quite a workout for my unassuming plan that was hoping to see flat course as in Surfcity Flat or OC Half Flat. But hey, we run races at different cities, because of the unknowns and new challenges each course bring in. If we wanted it easy, we will all be running San Diego Holiday Half Course, year around, and we just don’t!

For an inaugural race, Encinitas Half brought in 5,129 race finishers. Its a pretty big turn out for an inaugural race! I did get frugal with not paying $15 for race day bib pickup, and opted to drive to the expo the day before. Never having been to Encinitas in the past(even tho I drive this way a lot), I wanted to check out the parking situation as well. The expo was pretty fun, with lot of vendors. The goody bag was a cute sack bag and came with bunch of protein bar, kashi breakfast mix, pain ointments and whole bunch of coupons. The race tech-t wasn’t bad either. Nice color. I haven’t washed it yet, but I will be wearing it for my training run next week!

The start line was at Moonlight Beach/parking lot, and the course was an out and back loop on 101 fwy.  I got to see Nadia Ruiz who just finished her 19th LA Marathon the week before, and my running group mentor Marc Owen and his girl friend Renee! I also got to see one of my best friends cousin Dominic. It was pretty good feeling at the start line!

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Photo Credit: Encinitas Race FB Page

Part of the course was street view/city view, but as we got past mile 6 the ocean view welcomed us! I liked the course. It was scenic, and the course support was excellent, with tons of crowd on the side streets cheering all of us! There were these little kids, wanting to high five all the runners! It was just an amazing feeling at the race. Gels were available at mile 9, but i wish they had it at mile 6 or 7. With all the hills, I was already tired when I hit mile 8. When I planned the race and pace, I didn’t think too much of the elevation here, as I kept seeing ‘fast and flat’ as the catch phrase on the race site. I got to see my Lets Go Run Group Coach Cindy who inspires me with her workouts and training posts on Instagram. She was guiding a blind runner on her 9 mile run that day who shared the course with us. What an inspiration. She took few minutes to push me a little to get started at mile 4. I had such a good feeling to see her there.

As the hill approached at Mile 4.5, I could tell I was going to have a workout. It was a steep hill, and as I struggled, I saw this lady who seemed to be in her 60s pass me. I thought I would finish climbing the hill and will catch up with her, but I couldn’t. Her pace was pretty consistent so all I could do was to make sure I don’t get any slower than I was. I kept my pace to be close to her. The whole time I am thinking damn this lady seems like a Iron Woman. Her strides and form were perfect! Around mile 8 I got tired, and she took off, but after a serving of gel at mile 9, I got to pick up little speed, and catch up to her at mile 10. At Mile 12, with all downhill finish mile, I picked up a little speed finishing about 40seconds ahead of her. But drafting her helped me keep my pace, and helped get through the race, so I wanted to wait and say thanks to her which I did. When I told my friend Anthony about this lady he wanted to look up her name up on google. Suzanne Ray (64), is a USATF Master’s legend, who holds world record for 55-59 age division/30km with a finish time of 2:11:58(since 2009)(read more about Suzanne Ray here ). She ran all her PRs and best times after turning 40. It inspires me to see how Running defies age and redefines what getting older means.  Just the fact that all of us at this Encinitas Race got to share the course and miles with this lady who is passionate about running, and still striving to run her best times – just inspires me to be more and try more!

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Finisher medals were big and beautiful! Race announcers Rudy and Fitz kept the energy going at the finish line, and when Fitz pronounced my Indian given name Uma Sethuraman, I was pleasantly surprised. that was a mouthful name! Thanks Fitz!!!! We all got our complimentary coffee mugs and hot chocolate which is kind of cute, and a cup of oat meal! For those of us who are used to beer at the finish line, this was a pleasant surprise. I did enjoy my coffee and oatmeal thoroughly!

When I signed up for this race last minute I was expecting to run an ‘another’ Inaugural race but the race ended up being one of my most memorable race experience! Congrats Surfing Madonna Project team for putting together an amazing race, and giving us an opportunity to run with some most amazing runners!

 

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