Star Wars Half Marathon – The Light Side 2017

Star Wars Half Marathon

January 15, 2017

Paradise Pier Hotel

We arrived at Disneyland on Friday afternoon and settled into our lovely hotel room at the Paradise Pier Hotel. The best thing about the hotel was the cute beach ball pillow on each bed! I wanted to take mine home with me, but the card warned that there would be a $65 charge for any beach ball pillow that made its way into a traveler’s suitcase. Cute, but not $65 cute!

It had been a long day, driving down from Tehachapi with a stop at the Burbank Airport to pick up my friend, and then sitting in stop-and-go traffic the rest of the way to Disneyland, so, after picking up my race packet at the Disneyland Hotel and making a quick turn around Downtown Disney to grab some dinner, we made an early night.

Saturday we visited Disneyland Park. I hadn’t slept well, had a migraine and queasy stomach, but did my best to enjoy the day. Went on Star Tours, Hyperspace Mountain, Matterhorn Bobsleds, it’s a small world,  and then had breakfast at the Carnation Café. After that, we went to the Enchanted Tiki Room. By then, we were winding down, so we went back to the hotel to rest. My friend was wiped out, and stayed at the hotel, but after an hour and a half nap, I went back to Disneyland for a few more rides: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Had a delicious pasta dinner at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, then called it a night. My migraine had finally subsided, and I felt better but still tired, which I hoped meant I’d be able to sleep early and get up reasonably rested at 3:30 AM!

I did get to sleep by 8:30 PM but woke at 1 AM and didn’t sleep much after that. Still, I felt pretty good when I got up at 3:30 AM, got ready as quietly as I could so as not to wake my roommate, and headed out for the starting line at around 4:30 AM. The starting line was somewhat confusing—we gathered in a parking lot, with a stage and entertainment, photo ops, bag check, and numerous toilets, but no sign of where the starting line was. I ran into a woman I know from the library in Tehachapi! It is a small world.

Eventually, we got herded out of the parking lot and onto Disneyland Drive into our corrals—which were actual corrals of pipe fencing, with crew checking our bibs for our corral letter to make sure we got into the right one. I, of course, was in Corral J, the very last one.

There was a staggered start, with five minutes in between each corral being released. Which meant that Corral J, way at the back of the pack, didn’t start until nearly 6:30 AM! It was a long, cold wait, but finally we got to cross the starting line and begin running!

Radiator Springs RacersWe entered Disney California Adventure and ran past the Radiator Springs Racers just as the sun was coming up.

A Bug's LifeThen we ran through “a bug’s land”.

Paradise PierAnd past Paradise Pier, with Mickey’s Fun Wheel and the California Screamin’ roller coaster, as the day brightened.

Buena VistaFinally, we ran through Hollywoodland, and out of California Adventure.

tunnelWe ran through a tunnel that was filled with flashing red and green lights.

it's a small worldThen we entered Disneyland Park, running past “it’s a small world.”

MatterhornWe continued through Fantasyland towards the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

TomorrowlandThen on to Tomorrowland, where the staff directed us on our way with lightsabers.

matterhornAround the Matterhorn again.

Disneyland castleAnd through a castle.

into AnaheimAnd finally out of Disneyland and into Anaheim to finish the race.

duck pondWe ran past this picturesque duck pond.

I didn’t take many pictures once we’d exited the parks—it was a lovely city, with lots of cheerleaders cheering us along, people holding signs, people in costume—mostly Star Wars, but a few others. I just wanted to run and enjoy the sights. I was also a little worried about keeping my pace, but it turned out not to be a problem. It was a nice, flat course and the weather was good—the sun did come out, but it was early and the air was still brisk so it didn’t bother me. I managed to keep up a pace of around 15:30-minute miles pretty much all the way.

There were staff at each mile marker telling us how many minutes ahead of pace we were. Since they didn’t start counting the limit until everyone had crossed the starting line, and I was somewhere in the middle of my corral, I started out with a few extra minutes, and gained another minute every couple of miles or so. I felt good and never got really tired. I brought Clif Shot Bloks with me, and tried to remember to eat a couple every couple of miles, and also drank water at each water station.

The only pain I ended up with was a blister on the inside of my right little toe, where it was rubbing against my fourth toe. I don’t know why, when I never got blisters in any of my long runs. It might have been because I re-laced my shoes to try to leave more room for my toes, because they’d been getting very sore from bumping into the toes of my shoes. It did seem to help that, because my toes didn’t get sore, but I got a blister instead! Oh well!

My official finishing time was 3:22:53 —my second best half marathon ever, coming in almost a minute ahead of my first Long Beach in 2008. I was very pleased with my time, especially considering how difficult my training had been—I missed many runs, due to injuries, bad weather, and holiday preparations. And then, what with having a migraine the day before, I was not at all sure of being able to finish in the the 3:30 time limit. But it turned out to be a good race, one I was able to finish in good time fairly easily! And it was a lot of fun to run.

me with my medalOur finisher’s medal was awesome!

I hung about at the finish area for a bit, eating some of the snacks we were given, then headed back to the hotel for a shower and lunch before spending the rest of the day at California Adventure Park. We rode Soarin’ Around the World, The Little Mermaid, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel before grabbing early dinner at Smokejumpers Grill. Then it was back to the hotel for one more night before heading home on Monday.

It would have been nice to go on a few more rides, but the parks were jam-packed with visitors for the race weekend, and I needed my rest for the half marathon, so I didn’t want to push myself or stay up too late. Save that for another trip! But it was still a good trip, and a fun race.

OC Half Marathon 2016

OC Half Marathon

May 1, 2016

View from my hotel

I drove to Costa Mesa on Saturday, arriving at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel at 3 PM, just in time to check in and catch the shuttle to the Expo. Unlike other races I’ve attended, the finish line and Expo were seven miles from the starting line, and none of the hotels listed on the race website seemed very close to either, so I just stayed at the host hotel and took shuttles everywhere! It was somewhat less convenient than just walking to and from the race, but the shuttles were pretty well organized, so it worked out well enough.

The Expo shuttles were a bit far apart, though. We got there around 3:20 PM but the return shuttle wasn’t until 5:15. The other passenger on the shuttle just wanted to rush in, grab her race packet, and return to the hotel, so the shuttle driver agreed to wait for her. But I wanted to at least walk around a little, so I decided to stay. Two hours was way more time than I needed, but I was glad I’d stayed for several reasons: one was that I bought four packets of GU Chews and took them with me on the race instead of the GU gels I’d brought with me. They were delicious and kept me going without upsetting my stomach, as the gels sometimes do.

Me wearing my runner's shirt

The other reason was that I was so tired after driving for 3-1/2 hours and then spending two hours at the Expo, I found it easy to go to bed at 8 PM (after a yummy Carb Load dinner of giant goat cheese raviolis with pesto sauce and beets at the hotel restaurant) and get nearly a full night’s sleep before getting up at 3:30 AM on race day.

Our morning shuttle bus picked us up at 5:05 AM and delivered us to the starting line by 5:30 AM.

Corral 5I found my way to Corral 5 at the back of the pack and waited for the race to begin. I was feeling pretty good, if a bit chilly. I wore my capri-length leggings and short-sleeved tee shirt, because I knew I would be warm enough once the race started and the sun came up, but at that time of the morning, it was still only around 55 F.

The starting line approachesThe race begins! This time, I decided not to use my running app to time my intervals, but used my new Timex Ironman watch instead. This is my fourth? fifth? Timex sport watch—I wore out several, then lost my last one in the fire. I only bought this one recently and had used it on maybe one run. Found out after the race started that I’d accidentally programmed the intervals for 30:45 minutes rather than seconds and had to reprogram them on the fly while already running. Heh. But it was nice to use that instead of wearing earbuds. I didn’t bring a water bottle with me, either. Figured I’d just use the water stations along the way. All I brought with me was my watch, phone (to use the camera), GU Chews, and a handkerchief, plus my ID and card key for the hotel.

I trained for this race with a 30:30 second run/walk ratio, but at the last minute decided to bump it back to 30:45, which is what I used in Long Beach. I trained hard this time, doing speed work and longer runs, but my long training runs didn’t always go well, and I went to Costa Mesa feeling somewhat worn out and depressed and not at all confident of being able to finish within the 3:30 hour time limit. But I was already registered and trained up and figured I might as well go and do my best. But I did think that maybe the 30:30 run/walk ratio was too hard. I was slowing down a lot during my longer training runs, running out of energy before I was finished, so I thought an easier ratio might help me conserve enough energy to keep going throughout the race. I think it really did help!

We started out circling around Fashion Island, then headed down MacArthur Blvd towards the ocean.

Running towards the oceanI meant to time my splits to see how I was  keeping my pace, but I either missed the first two mile signs or they weren’t there, so I didn’t get to mark a split until mile 3.Mile 3My time for the first three miles was around 44 minutes, so I was keeping a pace under 15 minutes. That was good to see, but keeping a good pace at the beginning usually isn’t the problem—it’s keeping it up throughout the run!

Corona Del MarWe were running through Corona Del Mar. Some absolutely beautiful homes! I don’t even want to know how much they cost.

Corona Del Mar State BeachTo the west was Corona Del Mar State Beach, which was also beautiful. The whole course was lovely and enjoyable to run. I continued to feel good and have no trouble keeping my pace.

Mile 5Around Mile 5, we were running along Bayside Drive, through more lovely homes.

Balboa Yacht ClubWe passed the Balboa Yacht Club.

Flower bedsProfusions of flowers grew on the slopes in front of many of the houses. I could have stood all day taking pictures, but I had to keep running! One of the runners I passed had a GoPro strapped to his chest. He recorded every inch of his run!

Just past Mile 8Just past Mile 8, we were running along Newport Bay. I kept forgetting to time my splits, but when I did, I found that I was managing to keep close to a 15-minute mile pace. Still feeling strong and running well.

Watch for PedestriansWatch For Pedestrians! We ran for a while on a bike trail. Pedestrians were everywhere!

TreeAlso, watch for trees!

Another treeI don’t know what kind of trees they were, but there were some really handsome ones along the side of the road.Finish line aheadThe finish line comes into view! I decided to run in the last quarter-mile or so, since I was still feeling good. (I just noticed that that woman in the pink top and blue leggings was also right in front of me at Mile 3. We paced each other the whole way!)

I finished in 3:16:19! A personal best, as well as the best race I’ve run since I started running again last year. I was beginning to think maybe I’d have to stop racing again, but I’m all enthused again now! I think the speed work I did this time really helped, even though it didn’t always feel like it at the time. It also helped that the weather was perfect, and the course was net downhill. I was reasonably well-rested and well-fed, and kept up my hydration and ate my chews every three miles. I think the 30:45 second run/walk ratio also helped. Everything came together just right this time, so I was able to run just about the best race I was capable of. Yay!

Flashback Heart Attack at the finish line partyI even had enough energy to hang out at the finish line party for a while, after picking up my medals and snacks. This band was called Flashback Heart Attack, an 80s cover band. They really rocked the place! We were encouraged to sing along, and since we mostly all knew the songs, we danced and sang and had a great time.

Me with my finisher's medalsThen I caught a shuttle back to the hotel, where I posed in the mirror with my finisher’s medals—one for the OC Half Marathon, and the big clamshell for the Beach Cities Challenge. I did it! Three half marathons in a row, Long Beach, Surf City, and the OC.

I rested a bit, took a shower, drank lots of water and ate a Clif Bar, then went down to grab some lunch at the hotel restaurant. I checked my iPhone for restaurants in the neighborhood, but didn’t see any that inspired me to go out exploring. The hotel restaurant, the Silver Trumpet, was good but fairly expensive. I had some good meals there, though. Lunch was a cheese panini with shoestring fries. After lunch, I stopped in at the gift shop for some snacks (fruit cup and chocolate covered dried strawberries), then settled in front of the fireplace in the lobby to enjoy the ambiance and do some web-surfing, since the WiFi in my hotel room was very spotty.

After I’d been sitting there for a while, one of the desk clerks, I think, brought me a bottle of water, which was awesome of him. Very friendly and nice people at the hotel.

The only place in the room with WiFiAfter I got back to my room, I did some experimenting and found the one place in the room where the WiFi reached: in the hallway by the door. So I put down some pillows and hung out there when I wasn’t watching TV or reading.

I didn’t feel like going back down for dinner, but fortunately I’d brought enough food with me—cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cheese and crackers, as well as extra Clif Bars, coconut water, and soy milk—that I made a meal of that, along with the snacks I’d bought at the thrift shop. I went to bed early again that night.

I had one more meal in the restaurant the next morning for breakfast, an absolutely delicious bagel with creamy goat cheese and smoked salmon, then hit the road for home.

A great weekend! Now I’m ready for the next one.

Surf City Half Marathon 2016

Surf City Half Marathon

February 7, 2016


I arrived in Huntington Beach on Saturday afternoon, checked into my hotel, the Waterfront Beach Resort, and went to the Expo to pick up my race packet. My room was on the sixth floor, overlooking the pool, with this view from the balcony of the ocean off to the left.


Race day! All set to go.


The hotel was right on the starting line. I took this photo from the front steps, with the sunrise over the ocean, as the full marathoners started off.


The half marathon started at 7:45 AM, but since they were using a wave start and I was way at the back of the pack, I didn’t cross the starting line until around 8:20 AM. The weather was pleasant, sunny but not too hot. I was chilly earlier, but knew I’d be fine once the race started, so I didn’t wear a jacket. I was glad to be wearing short sleeves as the day wore on!


Mile 1! The half marathon course started out the same as the full marathon course, running up the Pacific Coast Highway, so both Mile 1 markers were in the same place. The surfboard markers were for the full marathon, the highway sign markers were for the half.


A cheerful drummer played for us as we passed. On the other side of the street, the fastest of the full marathoners, who started at 6 AM, were already coming back from the other direction towards the finish line.


The road was lined with palm trees, and the lovely blue ocean sparkled off to the west.


Just before Mile 3, we turned up Seapoint to run past some beautiful homes.

At some of the water stations, they were giving away Clif Shot Bloks. I’d brought GU with me, but I really like gummy snacks, and I was already hungry when I started, so I was happy to have some extra fuel to keep me going. I picked up three packs of Bloks along the way at various stations.


Only 10.1 miles to go!


We ran along tree-lined boulevards.


At the top of the Bluffs, the half marathoners turned the corner to go back, while the full marathoners continued on to run an extra four miles or so.


On the way back, we ran along the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, which were dotted with oil wells.


On our inland side were these fancy homes with views of the wetlands.


Then it was back to the Pacific Coast Highway.


The wetlands were off to our right. There were herons on this bridge, but the photo is too small to see them very well.


Mile 6! Nearly halfway there!


Just after Mile 8, we turned around and headed back the other way. We ran through this Clif Shot Energy Zone, but all the Clif Shots had already been given away, so we slower runners didn’t get any. I should have eaten a GU at this point, but I was hoping for more Clif Shot Bloks and kept waiting for the next water station to see if there would be any more. I was starting to fade from low blood sugar by Mile 10, when I finally realized I’d better eat some GU.


Mile 11! Getting close! I’d eaten a GU about half a mile before, and was feeling perkier again.


The full marathoners turned off the PCH at around the half marathoners’ 12-mile mark, and ran another loop along a beach trail. They had over 10 more miles to go, but we half marathoners were nearly done.


The finish line is in sight!


The band Cosmic Reaction played in the Expo area past the finish line. I hung around for a bit, had a few snacks and some water, and enjoyed the sun before heading back to the hotel.

Here I am with my finisher’s medal! My time was 3:30:17. I slowed down a lot at the end, mostly due to forgetting to eat after the Shot Bloks ran out, so my time wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either. It was certainly better than Long Beach! Now, on to the OC Marathon, to complete the Beach Cities Challenge.

Long Beach Half Marathon 2015

Long Beach Half Marathon

October 11, 2015

view from hotel
View from my room on the 11th floor of the Renaissance Hotel. After a 7 year break, I’m back for another half marathon. I’d been planning to try the full marathon, but due to the intense heat and difficulties with my last few long training runs, I decided to switch to the half. I was really glad I did! It was in the 90s all weekend, which made for a really hard race.
Wave 5
I headed out around 7 am for the 7:30 start, and found my place at Wave 5, for expected finish times of 3:32 and over. I didn’t know it at the time, but I could have done an early start at 6 am with the full marathoners. That would have really helped escape some of the heat!
starting line
Crossed the starting line at around 7:40 am. It was already hot and humid, but I felt pretty good at the start.
Mile 1
Reached Mile 1 under the underpass.
Approaching the first turn, circling around this little park.
Crossing the bridge just after mile 2.
Queen Mary
Early morning sun over the water, with the Queen Mary on the right in the distance.
running along the water
Running along the water.
Cheerleaders cheered us on
We passed a little lighthouse on the hill above us.

running along the beach
Running along the beach, we passed the halfway point.
Mile 8
Passing mile 8 on the beach.

rock band
One of several rock bands who entertained us along the way.
mile 10
Nearing the turnaround at about Mile 10. Here was where I began to get in trouble. I’d taken an electrolyte drink instead of water at one of the water stations and it upset my stomach. Because of my stomach troubles and the heat, I didn’t eat any more GU, which I suspect led to a blood sugar drop. Anyway, I got very weak and eventually couldn’t run any more, so I had to walk the rest of the way.

Shade! It was very welcome to get out of the sun for a bit.
full and half marathon split
We passed the point where the full marathoners split off. I was very glad to keep on the left with the half marathoners.

mile 12
Only one more mile to go! It was a hard, hard last mile, but I kept going.
finish line
The finish line is in sight!

I did it! Made it past the finish line, picked up my finisher’s medal, water and coconut water and some snacks, then found a patch of shade in the grass to sit and rest a while. My final time was 3:39:15, quite a bit slower than I’d hoped, but a finish is a finish!

Long Beach Half Marathon 2008

Long Beach Half Marathon

October 12, 2008

View from hotel
This is the view from our tenth floor room at the Westin Long Beach Hotel. We were right across the street from the Convention Center.
ready to go
I got up at 5:30 am, after a sleepless night, to get ready for the race. Mom took my picture just before I left to find the starting line at about 6:45.
I hadn’t figured out exactly where the Start Line would be, but I figured I’d just follow the crowds. We crossed the street and headed past the fountains at the Convention Center.
corral c
Turns out, the starting line was right behind the Convention Center! Here, we gathered in our “corrals” to await the start. Being a smaller race, there were only four corrals. Corral C was for half-marathoners expecting to finish in 2.5 to 3.5 hours, and Corral D was for half-marathoners expecting to finish in 3.5 hours or more. Since I was right on the dividing line at 3.5 hours, I lined up at the back of Corral C.
the race begins
And we’re off! It only took me about five or six minutes to cross the Start Line, unlike Honolulu, where it can be a good 20 minutes before the back-of-the-pack runners get to the start.
ferris wheel
We passed this Borders bookstore, with a ferris wheel in front.
Shoreline Drive
And continued on Shoreline Drive.
circling the park
At the end of Shoreline Drive, we curved around this little park and circled back.
Queen's Way Bridge
Next, we crossed Queen’s Way Bridge heading out towards the Queen Mary.
Harbor Scenic Drive
And came back up Harbor Scenic Drive, coming up on Mile 4.
crossing the bridge
At the end of Harbor Scenic Drive, we crossed another bridge to lead us to Ocean Boulevard.
runners below
As we crossed the bridge, we could see the runners still on Shoreline Drive below us.
mile 5
Nearing Mile 5, we’re curving around towards Rainbow Harbor.
We passed this little park.
And then we ran along the harbor.
running and walking
Most of the racers around me were also doing intervals of running and walking. I used a 1:2 minute run/walk ratio, which worked pretty well in letting me keep up a good pace while not getting too tired.
Aquarium of the Pacific
We passed behind the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Murder Mystery Dinner Tour
This steamboat has a restaurant and does harbor tours. They were advertising a “Murder Mystery Dinner Tour.”
There was a little lighthouse on the shore.
mystery building
I don’t know what this building was, but it was pretty!
mile 6
Mile 6! Nearly half done! We’re now leaving the Rainbow Harbor and entering Downtown Shoreline Marina.
round building
More or less back where we started, we ran behind the Convention Center and this big round building, painted blue with whales on it. It was a landmark for me—on the other side and across the street was our hotel. The race course was very twisty and confusing—I rarely had any idea where I was.
running along the beach
Past the marina, we ran along this beach bike path. It was beautiful, with the sand and the ocean to our right, and the city to our left.
painted building
I don’t know what this structure was, maybe some kind of pump house? In any case, it was painted very prettily.
running along the beach
We ran along the beach for about three and a half miles.
mile 9
Here’s Mile 9! Only 4.1 miles to go!
Ocean Boulevard
Just before Mile 10, the path ended, curving around to join Ocean Boulevard. Now we’re in the home stretch, heading back to where we started from.
full and half marathon split
Between Mile 10 and Mile 11, the race splits. The full marathoners head off to the right, to run another 13 miles through the city, while we half marathoners stayed to the left, continuing on Ocean Boulevard.
full and half marathon rejoin
The full marathoners soon rejoined us. Now we were being passed on the right by runners who would finish the full marathon before we’d finish the half!
pretty houses
There were some beautiful houses along Ocean Boulevard. I bet that’s some expensive real estate!
mile 25 for full marathon
There’s the 25-mile marker for the full marathoners! For us half marathoners, it’s almost mile 12.
finish line
Just after the 26-mile marker, we turned left down Shoreline Drive. With only two tenths of a mile to go, I decided to run the rest of the way. There’s the finish line ahead!
I picked up my Finisher’s Medal and a bottle of water and walked around the finish area for a bit. My unofficial finishing time was 3:24:01. I was very pleased to have broken 3:30.
Then it was back to the hotel.
My mom was waiting for me outside.
Here I am, in front of the hotel, with my finisher’s medal.
After a rest and a shower, we went out to lunch, then visited the Aquarium of the Pacific. All marathon runners got in free! It was nice to run a half marathon for a change, finish in less than three and a half hours and still have time and energy for sightseeing in the afternoon! I’ll have to do this again!