46 of 52: Summer Dash Half Marathon

A Better World Running

This is the name of the group that put on the Huntington Beach Summer Dash. From their web site:

“We are offering a friendly, fun racing atmosphere in Southern California.  There are no hidden motives, everything is straight forward.  We offer the pure essentials of racing. “

And that they did. Imagine any race you’ve ever done – but scaled way back. There were racers – but like 100 of us. 27 doing the half marathon. There was water and nutrition at the turn around – but like a six pack of water and a box of GU. There were start and finish flags – but small ones – like just a hair taller than me. There was an entry fee – but a very modest one.

And it was perfect.

If it sounds like I’m making fun of this race it’s just because I’m doing a bad job of expressing how I felt that everything was in perfect alignment with their mission.

The pre race communication was good. Directions were good. Check in was fast and easy (although here – even with a small race they could have benefited from signs or matching t-shirts for the volunteers.)

Why Huntington Beach? I was in town to drive my oldest, Mikey to College and I just searched online for any Half Marathon happening within driving distance during the time I would be there. And this one came up. I wasn’t super thrilled with the web site (but I rarely am) as it’s a little dated and I was looking at it on my phone – but I liked the name and I liked the mission so I signed up.

“We believe in keeping costs low so everyone can enjoy the experience of participating in a race, achieving personal goals, and making new friends in the process! “

I had a 630 am flight to CA on Thursday which meant no sleep for me on Wednesday since I didn’t want to risk missing the flight. My Sister Sherry (who lives there with my grandmother) and Mikey (who was crashing there for a couple weeks before college) came to get me from the airport on the way to Sherry’s coaching session. (Professional singers have coaches too!) . We had time for breakfast but once Sherry went into her session Mikey and I found a shady tree and took a nap. For an hour.

After the coaching session/nap we headed to Gram’s house where I was gonna be crashing over the weekend. I had a couple more 1 hour snoozes during the day and then a few solid hours from 10-2am when we got up to get ready and load up the car. Wheels up at 3AM. We were driving from La Mirada to San Luis Obispo. It was supposed to take 4.5 hours – it took 3.5. I guess we could have left on Thursday and got a couple hotel rooms in SLO – but where’s the fun in that? Also this was low key a road trip for me and my siblings on the way back.

So we were a little early for breakfast – but that was fine by me. We had time for an extra cup of coffee before dropping Mikey at school. We ate at a tiny diner type restaurant in SLO called Louisa’s place. Service was pleasant and the food was good. Will go again.

I blinked and then we had dropped Mikey off and were on our way back home – though here is photographic evidence of me napping and also getting one last hug.

Then we drove back – which did not go as quickly as the trip up. I mean – my brother and sister and I had planned to take our time coming home so it took about 5.5 hours all together. We stopped to drive my brothers new Jeep on Pismo Beach, then we hit Solvang and grabbed a bowl of Andersen’s split pea soup. I prefer my mom’s soup but we had been here a bunch with my grandparents growing up and wanted to get a little nostalgic so we all got the soup – even though none of us were really all that hungry.

I write all this – well because it happened and I wanted to share – but also to say I was really frickin’ tired for this race! We rolled in around 930 or so and I had to be up at 530 to get to the race in Huntington Beach on time.

The Run

The race was held right on the Huntington Beach bike trail and started at Bolsa Chica State Beach. I had pictured running next to the water under a blue sky listening to the waves crash – like the opening to Bachelor in Paradise (not that I have *ever* watched it šŸ˜‰ ) – but that’s not really how it went down. It was hazy and the beach is huge so you can’t really see the water all that well from the trail.

Still it was pleasant and there was plenty of iconic beach culture and scenery to take in along the trail. VW bugs, countless people surfing, a veritable neighborhood of RVs camped out along the trail with people cooking eggs and bacon on the grill. There were also numerous groups camped out on the beach including birthday parties, class reunions, and what looked like a volunteer group picking up trash.

A Better World Running boasts taking a ton of pictures during the race and again they delivered – by way of a facebook gallery. No fancy web site or expensive prints. Just “hey man, I took some pictures of the race and posted them on Facebook. I hope you like it.” There are way too many of me but a couple turned out OK.

The race itself was preceded by some really quick announcements and a review of the course – run to the cones, turn around, come back. Unless you’re running the half marathon – then keep running till you hit the other cones, turn around and come back – three times. Each out and back for me was 4.4 miles.

The first lap I swear I was asleep for. I sheepishly ran out, mentally taking notes of some things that might make good pictures… later. I wondered if the sky would clear up. It did not – but that sun in CA is no joke so I was actually a little happy about that. The California sun brings heat like the Maryland humidity brings suffering. I may try running in a completely new state to avoid them both. Alaska is looking good.

By the second lap I started to feel a bit more alive. I had tried to count how many of us half marathoners were out there so I could explain away all the faster people as running shorter distances. It’s funny – I know I’m not a super fast runner but I still like to joke to myself “oh – they’re only running 5 miles” or “yeah I remember my 20’s” just to take the edge off how I feel about my pace during a run. It’s easier than track work I guess.

When I came in from my second lap the guy at the turn around joked that the gal in front of me told him I would never catch up to her. He was pulling my leg, trying to wake me up and have a good time. It worked and I replied – “I bet she’s right!” I *did* catch up to her but mostly because I was just running how I felt and that’s the way it happened. It also happened that at the final turn around she dropped me again. I was running out of steam so I decided to make some intervals out of the last two miles to pass the time.

It was a nice simple race and as much as I loved running in the woods of the mountains last week, I loved running next to the ocean this week. I bet if I lived in the area I would do a lot of their races. I had planned on sticking around to meed the Better World people but I wanted to get back home.

Not The Run

I just dropped Mikey off at college. First kid. First year. I joined a couple Facebook groups for their school so I could get details about check-ins and paperwork deadlines for parents and stuff like that. I did get that info – but what I also got was a lot of parents posting about how hard it was for them to let go of their child.

I get that I guess but some of them were really over the top (for me) and look – if you’re having a feeling, you’re having a feeling. Who am I to say it’s wrong? No one – that’s who. But I WILL say I could not relate in the least. It’s not because I don’t love my kid – because I do. It’s not because I won’t miss hearing their voice – because I will. It’s because I am *way* more excited for them than I am sad for me.

This is true of both my kids… Being their father is just one of the many things I *am*. Yes, it’s a HUGE part – but in the way that being their father has influenced (and improved) every other part of me not in the way that diminishes all of the things I was before. (I don’t believe in that sort of thing.)

So I was feeling pride. This kid has been amazing me and challenging me in ways I never could imagine along the way. They’ve been preparing for this for a long time and – as their dad – so have I. Looking at where we are I’d say we did a damn good job. Nothing left for me to feel but really really excited for them. There are good times and shitty times, huge wins and dumb mistakes waiting for us in the future but that-is-what-it-is-all-about.

Is my apartment quieter? Yes. Is the group dynamic here different now? Yes, of course. But you know how I love to embrace change – so embrace it I will.

Next Week: A Run Out of the Darkness

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