Capitola Half Marathon Recap

Race: Capitola Half
Date: Sunday, May 18, 2014
Start time: 7 a.m. 
Location: Santa Cruz, CA 
Course: Rolling Hills
Field Size: Close to 2,000 runners (Marathon + Half + Relay)
Half Marathon Price: $70-$80 (depending on when you register)

Yesterday, I squeezed in the Surfer's Path Capitola Half Marathon in Santa Cruz, California before our event in Salinas. Casey and I woke up at 4:30 a.m., finally peeled ourselves out of bed, and departed around 5 a.m. 

Note: I never sign up for these races expecting Casey to go. This was a spontaneous race registration so I told him multiple times he didn't have to tag along. I told him I'd meet him at our event, but he insisted on going. Seriously, I am such a lucky girl. You may get sick of hearing it, but I am so grateful for this man. Thank you, Casey!

Back to the race...

It was about an hour and fifteen minute drive from our hotel in Brisbane (just south of San Francisco) to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk but our commute was a breeze. 

From start to finish, this race rocked. Here is every reason why you should add this run to your 2015 race calendar: 

-Race day packet pick up: I absolutely love it when races allow runners to pick up their packet/BIBs on race day. If it weren't for this option, I wouldn't have been able to run this race because I was working all day on Saturday at the Uncorked! San Francisco Wine Festival during the race expo. Not only was it awesome that they allowed race day packet pick up, but the process of actually getting it was painless. The team was set up with volunteers near the starting line so they were easy to find. The entire process was speedy and within 60 seconds I was given my race t-shirt, BIB and timing chip. Amazing.

-Parking: With multiple lots near the boardwalk, finding parking was easy. The lots were close to the starting line which made it easy to drop off my race shirt and shed layers before taking off. We drive a branded sprinter van (one of our two vehicles on tour), so this lot was a major bonus as we are were able to easily park our oversized vehicle. Only catch: parking in this lot came at a price of $12. 

-Distances offered: Marathon (Surfer's Path Marathon), Half Marathon (Capitola Half) and Relay. 

-Course: I'm from the Midwest, where elevation charts look like a flat line on a heart monitor. I absolutely love California for its perfect year 'round weather and its hills. This course is touted for its beach views (which were beautiful) but I was diggin' it for its hills. I didn't prepare or do my research on this course (hence spontaneous registration) so I was pleasantly surprised with the rolling course. They weren't as severe as the hills in the San Dieguito Half, but big enough to make you work for it. Hills are so rewarding mentally and physically. When others stop or slow down, you have to remind yourself to keep chugging along and shorten your stride. You have to be fearless on the downhills and coach yourself to lean forward instead of being cautious and naturally leaning backward. Your legs are worked in different ways going up and coming down and the pain makes you feel euphoric because you know it's only making you stronger.

And about those infamous beach views--they ruled. The course went through more residential areas then I had expected (or than I had imagined since I didn't really know what to expect) but we were still rewarded with gorgeous views of the Pacific as we followed the coastal bluffs of Santa Cruz County. It was really rad to watch surfers catching waves in the early morning hours. Everywhere you looked, you were occupied with breathtaking scenery. 


The course is an out and back race from Santa Cruz to Capitola Village and back. Therefore, it's AWESOME to see the elites pass you on their way back to Santa Cruz while you're still huffing and puffing your way to Capitola Village (which by the way is really cute and had a lot of fan/spectator support). I was hootin' and hollerin' at the elite racers yelling, "Great job! Keep it up." Clapping like a crazy person and of course shouting the token and unoriginal "You go, girl!" to the leading female. Others clapped for the leading male, but past him it was silent. I couldn't believe there weren't more runners congratulating and encouraging the leading pack of racers. These people are INCREDIBLE and absolutely inhuman ripped. We should all be fans of each other. It reminded me of when you're out on a casual run and you wave or smile to another runner only to be completely ignored. Anyway, I love out and back courses like this so you can marvel at the strength and determination of the elite runners; so inspiring and so cool.

-Course Support: There were a ton of lovely volunteers, and I tried to thank every single one I encountered. If it weren't for the volunteers, there wouldn't be a race. Thank you to everyone that volunteered their time or came out to support the runners, you all deserve your own medal! 

-Finish: Where else can you finish in the sand? My favorite part of the entire race! Afterward you could put your toes in the sand on Cowell's beach, collect your race goodies (more on that in a second), enjoy the post race party and take an ice bath in the ocean. If you wanted to escape the crowd, there's always the boardwalk and the pier to enjoy!

Photo cred: Casey

-Post-Race Goodies: After crossing the finish, your handed your medal and a bottle of water. Then you take a couple steps in the forgiving sand and you're in the midst of vendors/race sponsors. Casey and I love Zico Chocolate Coconut Water and they were handing out bottles of it and their original coconut water. SCORE! Then each runner was given a paper bag filled with treats! We're talking two bagels, a banana, an orange, a handmade chocolate chip cookie from Pacific Cookie Company, a Clif Mojo bar (flavor: Wild Blueberry Almond made with organic blueberries), an organic yogurt strawberry granola bar from Nature's Path Organic and a coconut & peanut spread from Earth Balance. Only in California can you make out with such a loot. By far the best post-race goodies I've ever received. I felt like I won the lottery. 

T-Shirt/Medal: Both equally awesome. I love the surfboard logo and surf theme. 

Results: Results were posted on a board and updated frequently right as you make your way up the steps from Cowell's Beach to the boardwalk. As part of my 2014 goals, I haven't worn a watch during any race this year and won't in any upcoming races. Therefore, this was a nice (and appreciated) touch as I was able to find out my results (1:47:33) without having to wait for them to be posted online. Which by the way, they had the results posted on their website that afternoon! Whether you checked at the race or at home on your computer, runners didn't have to wait long to see their results. 


Restrooms: There were a lot of runners that were late to the start, myself included, due to the monstrous lines to use the porta potties. There weren't enough restrooms for the amount of runners present. I think I crossed about a minute after the gun went off. Not a big deal but maybe an improvement for next year. With that said, Casey found a "secret" (not so secret if you're familiar with the area) bathroom on the boardwalk that he introduced me to post-race. I wish I would have found it beforehand. Anyway, if you run this race in the future and find yourself in line for 15-20+ minutes to use the porta johns, ditch it. Leave the line, go past the porta potties (away from the Start line) towards Cowell's Beach (finish line area). There is real restroom on the boardwalk tucked behind Ideal Bar & Grille. There is also a shower on the outside of the restroom to rinse the sand off of your feet or wipe the salt off your body after the race. 

Breakfast Spot: If you have a supportive spouse, significant other, family member or friend waiting for you to finish the race; Casey had breakfast near the starting line at Beach Street CafĂ©. He had a veggie omelet and said the coffee was really good. In his words, it was nothing special but a good spot to hang out.

Start: All distances start at the same time. No wave starts, corrals or pacing groups. Because I was late to start and because everyone begins together, I spent the first 2 miles at a pace slower than I would have liked and had to do a lot of weaving. It got to a point where I was wasting more energy weaving, and just accepted that I would be running the first few miles at a slower pace. They don't need pace groups, or anything fancy but it would be nice to have the marathoners and the half marathoners start separately (maybe 10 minutes apart) so it isn't so crowded in the beginning. 

Props: Best race shirt went to the dude in the bright orange tee with the back that read, "I run for BEER and YUP I just farted." And kudos to the man who embodied the image of a California surfer with long blonde hair, tan skin and nothing but board shorts running barefoot and singing to himself. You put the surfer in Surfer's Path. Lastly, thanks to the best relay team "Sofa King Fast" for making the announcers (and Casey and I) giggle. 

Making friends: Thank you to fellow runner, Lisa. She and I were keeping pace with each other the last few miles of the race, going back and forth with each other. She chatted with me after the race and congratulated me. I thanked her for pushing the pace and helping me finish strong. Apparently, I did the same for her. We're all competitive and that's the fun part about races, trying to beat each other and yourself. I was so grateful to make a new friend. She put a smile on my face because it was just a friendly reminder as to why the running community is so awesome. As she walked away, I looked down and saw she was also sporting Hokas. Solid.

New kicks: Speaking of Hokas. This was my first race with orthotics and my first race in my recently purchased Hoka One One (pronounced: Oh-nay Oh-nay) Kailua Tarmacs. I felt good the entire race. I'll see how my knees feel in the coming days post race but the combination of the two lately has felt phenomenal. From minimalist to maximalist, I'll do anything to stay injury free and to find the right fit for my body. I may love the look and feel of minimalist shoes, but that doesn't mean my body agrees. So far, the old lady look has me running on clouds, upping my mileage and is keeping my knees happy. I don't want to speak too soon or totally disown my beloved Brooks, so I'll wait until a couple more weeks/months for a full review. 

Fuel: I tried the new Nuun Energy prior to the race and had three Honey Stinger gels during the race. I didn't have any stomach issues during the race but I did afterward. I usually have discomfort after a race, but not nearly as bad as what I experienced. I think the combination of the two or the fact I added an extra Honey Stinger (usually only take 2 during a half) did the trick. Or maybe my stomach was just having a bad day. Either way, it's a lesson to never try anything new on race day. Stick with what you know. Next time, I won't over do it on the fuel and I'll save the Nuun (pronounced: noon) Energy for a different day. 

Post-Race Fun: We hung around for a little bit, but we had a 45 minute drive to our event in Salinas. I was a little envious of those that got to hang out as there is plenty to enjoy; the ocean, beach volleyball and cute places along the boardwalk for post-race drinks/food. 

Special Thanks: Thanks again to Casey for waking up before the sun. Thanks for driving with me to Santa Cruz, walking around for almost two hours while I ran, only to have to drive another 45 minutes to our event, work and then drive back to our hotel almost 2 hours away near San Francisco. It was a long day, and I appreciate everything you do for me!

OOTR (Outfit of the Race)
Not that I think you care, but just in case you do...

Overall, this was a really well executed race with a stellar course, beautiful location, perfect weather (low/mid 50s) with great perks/sponsors. The best part, and one not many races can compete with, is finishing in the sand. I highly recommend you add this half marathon to your race bucket list!


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