This past weekend I ran my third Wharf to Wharf (W2W). For those of you who don’t know about “the best little road race in California,” it’s a 6 mile race along the Santa Cruz coast, starting just past the Santa Cruz Wharf and ending right before the Capitola Wharf. 15,000 registered participants race, run, jog, and walk the course along with an estimated 5,000 bandits who jump in on the fun along the way. The course also includes tons of bands, awesome spectators, and even the house or two who is friendly enough to hose down the runners. Not only was this my third year running, it was also my fastest Wharf to Wharf!
2011 – 52:52
2012 – 45:10
2013 – 42:39
My goal this year was to run the race in 42-43 minutes and clearly, I did it! I’m not going to lie, it was not easy – it was HARD! This was the longest distance I’ve ran a 7:06 pace. And after weeks of travel with little running on real hills, those W2W rollers really felt tough.
The plan was to start out conservative, my goal was a 7:15 first mile. The first mile of W2W is notoriously fast, especially if you are in the elite corral. You have to make sure you don’t blow out in the first half of the course (which by the way is NOT flat, lots of rollers!). Then I wanted to stay in the 7:05-10 range for the next 2-3 miles. Finally, in the last 2 miles, I wanted to see if I could really push myself and maybe even finish with a sub 7 minute mile.
The day before the race, Elise and I did a little shakeout run and confirmed we had similar goals. We decided we’d stick together but in the end, still run our own races. Then later in the day, I learned another good running friend (who is super speedy), Jenn, had gotten the ok after an injury to run (but not race) W2W. She was generous enough to agree to pace Elise and I would reap the benefits!
Race day, I headed out to the start. I live practically right in the middle of the course, so I ran an easy warm up run from home to the start. I was supposed to run the last 3 minutes at tempo pace, but as I got closer to the start it was getting pretty packed with people so that didn’t really happen. Then I bumped into some of the SCE ladies about to head out on their warm up runs. We took a quick photo and they were off jogging while I headed over to the start line and found my other running ladies as well as a few of the guys. Before we knew it, the gun was shot and we were off!
We started off well, slightly faster than I had planned though (my Garmin had 7:07 for the first mile and I think Elise’s watch had 7:13). I felt the hills after having little access to hill running for the past few weeks. I knew Jenn was keeping an eye on the pace, so I turned my watch to the clock function so I wouldn’t keep checking my pace. Before I knew it we had finished mile 2 (7:01) and were running down by the harbor and Twin Lakes Beach. I tried to enjoy the bands (I had my iPod with me but didn’t use it) but we were cruising past them. We climbed up to East Cliff and 17th, passing the mile 3 marker (7:03). Kevin, the pups, and a few of our neighbors were out cheering. I was stoked to see Kevin, it’s always nice to have support and hear that “Go Meg!” And then we were back hugging the coast and running those hills that I run so often. As we cleared the second downhill, Elise dropped back to use the bathroom right before the mile 4 marker (7:07, hills!).
Then it was just Jenn and me. I was tired and hurting, I really felt I was pushing my hardest. Jenn kept me going those last two miles. I might have accused her of yelling at me, but really she kept me motivated and focused on my goal – thanks so much Jenn!!!! I could not have run this race without you! Mile 5 is a hard one, while it doesn’t really have the hills like the previous two miles, it starts uphill and then has tiny elevation changes as you race through Pleasure Point and come into Opal Cliffs. I finished mile 5 in a speedy 7:01 minutes. Jenn had started pointing out runners for me to pick off. At the time I thought, “I can barely keep this pace and you expect me to pass people!?” but I pushed through. In hindsight, this was actually really helpful and did give me little goals in the last mile.
Opal Cliffs is a hard part of the race, you have a nice downhill to look forward to at the end of it but its a hard little road and can mentally really beat you up. Thankfully there are tons of spectators in this section and they cheer on all the runners. In this stretch, we saw a team member having a tough time and looking like she might drop off. Jenn peeled off to help her out and then I was on my own. I had a hard time keeping the push in this section and was passed by a woman or two. I caught at least one of them on the last downhill, heading to the finish. While the last mile is hard, it does have a sweet downhill as a reward. I pushed as hard as I could down that hill! Last mile was 7:07 (so much for that sub 7 final mile!). When I finished I really felt like I gave it my all (a feeling I always want to have at the end of the race but I have to admit I often don’t have).
SCTC and Fleet Feet Racing team member Michelle saw me and gave me a big hug! That was awesome! I also heard Laura cheering me on. These ladies knew this was a big PR for me and it was great to have their support. Then I found more and more of my team, including Leslie who also secured an amazing PR (39:20!!). I saw my coach and was so excited to be able to tell him I actually hit my goal! My official finishing time was 42:39, 135th overall (not top 100 but I’ll take it!).
This year was a great Wharf to Wharf! They really improved the race by adding corrals to the start (elite plus 4 waves) and having a staggered start. I think their corral system will only get better year after year. I’d love to see less people jumping in along the course as that just makes it feel crowded in the middle, which is no fun! But I think as the race continues to improve like the corral system and accurate timing, more people will take it a little more seriously and actually start at the start! (Ok probably not, but a girl can dream!)
Any of my readers run Wharf to Wharf this year? How did it go for you?