Monday, September 26, 2011

Surf and Smiles at the 2011 Half Moon Bay Marathon

This Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 500 runners for the sold out inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon in the charming coastal town of Half Moon Bay, CA. Race Directors (and ultramarathon studs) Eric Vaughan, George Miller, and Ron Little put together a polished event that showed off the beautiful Coastal Trail in a mix of trails, road, and hills. I had a great time!

(Scott Jurek signs autographs, photo courtesy of Half Moon Bay Review)
The weekend started with a well-stocked Expo, and guest speaker Scott Jurek gave an educational presentation on fueling during a run to a packed room. Scott was a champion and gentleman, happy to stay to sign autographs and answer questions. RD's note - he is a fantastic speaker! Even after all these years, I found myself taking notes on both pre- and post-fueling with Scott's up to date references (and personal experimentation).

(The sun peaks over the mountain as we get started)
At 7am on Sunday, the sun peaked over the hill and through the clouds giving us a nice, and unusually warm, 60 degree morning. I was looking forward to the course, which tempted us with alternating mix of trails and bike paths along the coast safe from any traffic. I was only two weeks off of the Wasatch 100, but was feeling good in my runs this week, and suspected it was because I had done so much resting during that crazy 100-miler. I decided to go for it, not use a watch, and just enjoy the scenery and community of a small town race. After a beautiful singing of the national anthem, off we went!

(Ready to roll! Photo courtesy of Stuart Nafey)
(And we're off!)
About five runners rabbited out front immediately, and I settled into a quick pace with Jennifer Devine Pfeifer, ultra goddess and sister of my cycling buddy Chris Devine. This was a special race for her since she grew up in Half Moon Bay and graduated from the local high school (long before becoming a running phenom). Her parents cheered her on at every pass! (they later told me, "we still get nervous watching her race"...I guess that never goes away)

(Jennifer Pfiefer and Gary Lindbergh cruise along Pillar Point Harbor)
At the turnaround, recent law school grad Adam Pomeroy was setting the pace out front (~6:30 min/mile), showing little signs that his 13-month old, Jack, has been eating into his training time. He led us up the steepest climb of the day to the bluff above Pillar Point (mile 3), where you could see the great huge surf break of Maverick's if you squinted.

(Only the bravest of surfers take on Maverick's, photo courtesy of Frederic Larson)
(Adam Pomeroy sets the pace)
(The out-and-backs give us a chance to see each other)
(The morning sun lights up the bay)
All the coffee mug-clad locals were out to cheer us on as we zig-zagged through their charming neighborhood of Cape Cod and modern style homes. I kept thinking what a gem this little town is - peaceful and serene, small enough to know your neighbors, yet less than an hour from San Francisco or Silicon Valley. A little slice of heaven!

(Cutting through the cute neighborhoods)
(David Lara looking good as he heads down the the lighthouse)
(Turnaround at the lighthouse)
We hit the turnaround at the Point Montara Lighthouse (mile 7), where I missed the turnaround cone and triggered all the volunteers to hollar to get me back. Whoops! The volunteers were amazing and abundant, making sure we didn't get too far off track, and keeping the aid stations so well stocked it was like a glitch in the Matrix. Combined with the fantastic signage and mile markers provided by sponsor The Graphic Works, this race was top notch! How do they do this at in inaugural race?!?

(Volunteers were great all day!)
As we headed back, I passed a few runners who commented "this isn't flat!". Yup, that elevation chart can be deceiving! I was really enjoying the alternating dirt single track and fast bike trails, which gave us all some muscle use variety. No matter where you were, the sounds, smells, and moist air of the ocean was always within reach, allowing you to breath deep and relax. This was definitely a Ron Little-designed course! We passed the starting area (mile 10) and headed south along the winding bike path.

(The Coastal Trail sneaks along the California coast)
(The speedy half marathoners meet us on the way back)
We mixed it up with the 10k and Half Marathon runners as we crossed bridges and jogged around locals out for their morning stroll. I worked my way up to 2nd place as some of the front runners settled into their second half pace, but Adam Pomeroy never got any closer, always about 75 seconds ahead. We seemed to be the only runners dousing ourselves at each aid station (advantage?), and I suspected the fact that I had opted for the green water bottle refills was allowing me to intake a bit more water than Adam. Navigation got a little tight on the single track, but everyone was courteous and friendly, and there really wasn't that many runners out today. Such a great community!

(Here come the clouds)

(Kelsey Tatum leads a pack through the single track)
(Megan Mozart weaves through the trees)
The Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton came into view, with its castle buttresses strutting out onto the bluff. Bagpipes filled the air as we ran by a fire pit surrounded by well-dressed sippers of hot chocolate, and we climbed up to the golf course to hit a few more hills before turning around (mile 18). Boy, this isn't flat by a longshot! The clouds started to thicken, keeping the temperature a humid 65 degrees.

(The majestic Ritz, photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton)

(Gotta love the bagpipes!)
(Amazing views...sign says "Danger, Unstable Ground")
(Justin Riis tackles the hills along the golf course)
As we returned, I noticed that Adam and I were both slowing, with him faster on the road sections and me faster on the trails. I kept waiting for the Wasatch 100 fatigue to set in, but it just felt like my normal not-quite-optimized-for-marathon training. Just before the 24 mile marker, Adam slowed significantly, citing some shin pain that he didn't want to aggravate further. I let him know my bonky-bonk tunnel vision was starting to kick in, and I was likely running on pure Vespa at this point. He stuck with me for a bit, then wished me well as I tagged on to the lead bike and pushed forward.

(Surfers enjoy some nice breaks right near the finish line)
I quickly built a two minute gap, before slowing along the final stretch to watch the surfers. A slight rain started (it felt awesome!), and I turned off the music that had kept me company the last few miles to absorb the sounds and smells of the surf one last time. The lead bike pulled off to the side, and I headed down the chute with a smirk to cross the finish in first place overall in 3:00:36. Scott Jurek was there to hand me a medal and congratulate me, and we immediately turned to cheer on the other runners that came in every 20-30 seconds.

(Down the chute...)
(...and across the finish with camera! Photo courtesy of Mark Foyer, HMB Review)
Adam finished just a couple of minutes behind me (3:02:56), and Jen Pfeifer came in shortly after to win the Women's division in 3:05:54, 6th overall. Hey, Chris! Look at us!!! We had some refreshments, including some awesome clam chowder from Sam's Chowder House, a perfect recovery meal. That's when it donned on me that the voice I heard over the loudspeaker was Franz Dill, the Ultra Grand Slammer I had met at mile 1 at Wasatch! Such a small world.

(Jen Pfeifer and I warm down as a light rain kicks in)
My favorite finisher was the last, a great guy named Scott Feamster who grabbed a beer as soon as he crossed and thanked and hugged every volunteer he could get his hands on. The Scotts bookend the marathon!
(Cinzia Muzzi gets a little help across the finish, photo courtesy of Stuart Nafey)

(Scott Feamster, the final finisher, celebrates with a beer while Eric Vaughan congratulates him)

(Scott and Scott bookend the marathon, while baby Quinn wonders what the hub-bub is all about)
(Scott Jurek and Eric Vaughan present the award,
with Paul and Julie Shenkman, owners of sponsor Sam's Chowder House)
I hustled home to shower and get the girls, taking advantage of the fact that Half Moon Bay is just 30 minutes from home. Eric Vaughan and Scott Jurek hosted a great awards ceremony, where I won a nice trophy, a Fleet Feet gift certificate, a spinning finisher medal (which Sophie promptly confiscated) and a GoPro camera (a local company!). I got a few smiles from carrying Quinn up on stage...little towns love their families! Not that I had a choice - if you promise the spouse to cover, you cover no matter what your finish place. ;-)

As I sucked down a few beers at Half Moon Bay Brewery, I reveled in the simple pleasures of a small town race. This community generously opened its trails, shared their neighborhoods, and came out in force to make sure we all had a great time. I was stunned at how polished this was for a first time race, and many of the views could give Big Sur a run for its money. This secret isn't going to last for long!

My congrats and thanks to co-Race Directors Eric Vaughan, George Miller, and Ron Little, their great staff and volunteers, the generous sponsors, and all the participants for this sold out race. You did a tremendous job, and I look forward to seeing you next year!

(Sunset at Half Moon Bay, photo courtesy of Allistair Wilson)
- SD


  1. Sweet! Congrats Scott! I wanna run this next year. :)

  2. I was too late to sign up for this :( but still I drove to hear Scott jurek. I will be running next year though. Half Moon Bay deserves to have a good marathon, it is such a wonderful place!

  3. What a stunning race! The views were gorgeous- defiantly a race worth considering in my "running future". Congrats to you Scott!!!!! Thank you for sharing the pictures - breathtaking!

  4. Marilyn Oberhardt9/27/2011 07:06:00 AM

    Love this writeup and the pics, Scott! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Fantastic race report! It was fun seing you near the southern turn-around. I'm always amazed that you can document and photograph a race while being such a strong runner. Thank you for all the kind words and shout-outs to so many of my friends. When designing the course, I tried to squeeze in all my favorite spots without crossing Hwy 1 and you're right, it's not a flat course unless you're comparing it to a typical trail race. And congratulations on your first-place finish!

  6. Congratulations, and it was great to talk to you afterwards! I also look forward to hearing if you figure out a good way to use the GoPro camera when running trails (the optional chest mount seems promising).

    I told Eric afterwards that he is going to have trouble finding volunteers next year since we are all going to want to run the race.

  7. Scott! You running animal you. It was great seeing you at both the Expo and race day. And it cracked me up when at the 12 mile mark you shot me a look of "what the he'll am I doing" while in 2nd place! The best was getting to announce you as the inaugural HMBIM winner (and CR holder)! Congrats. I'm sure we'll be sharing more miles together in the future. 'till then.

  8. Scott, congrats again on the run. It was great to meet you out on the course. I enjoyed your write up and I hope you don't mind, but I used a couple of your pictures for a write-up on my personal blog. Hopefully I'll see you at some future race!

  9. Ron - Well done on the course! A trail runners dream road marathon. ;-)

    Franz - That makes two races in a row where I recognize your voice...once in the dark at Wasatch mile 1, and once at the finish line at HMB! Still not sure what the hell I was doing, but it felt good to pick up the pace.

    Adam - Great to run with you! You are welcome to any photos. Be sure to also check out <a href=">Patch</a> which has a bunch of good ones. Say hi to Jack, and strap that GoPro on him!

    Thanks for the comments, y'all!

  10. Sometimes, nice guys DO finish first!

    Bravo, SD!

  11. I had so much fun running in this marathon. It was my first one and it was just perfect! I never, ever, ever thought I'd run a marathon but when I heard that HMB was going to have its first annual, I knew it was time to step it up. I am so glad I did!

    Scott, I chatted with you and some others waiting in line for the bathrooms before the race and then was excited to see you doing so well at each of the loops (I LOVED seeing everyone at the loops). Afterwards a friend told me your name and it sounded so familiar. I finally figured out why when I checked out your blog and saw pictures of you and Kristen Armstrong.

    As some pre-race motivation, my friend suggested I read Kristen Armstrong's, Mile Markers, which I promptly did. Up until I picked up her book, I was feeling scared and unsure of myself. Within the first few pages, my nerves turned into excitement. I even recorded her epilogue, ".2" and had it on my marathon playlist!

    I so appreciate the other runners out there who are able to put the physical, emotional and spiritual gains from running into words for us all to share. Also, a HUGE thanks to Ron, Eric and George for their vision and follow through in creating this event. What a gift to give our town and your fellow runners.

    Congrats on the win.

    - Sarah Bunkin, Montara

  12. That's awesome, Sarah! Congrats on your first marathon!!!

  13. I'm considering running this gorgeous looking marathon Sept. 2012 as a Boston qualifier. For a non-trail-type runner (do love them but run mostly on the road for training) is this a good one to pick? I'm out of town for Long Beach and St. George in October and really would like to get in another marathon (sub 3:35) before having another child and finally qualify for Boston! Any thoughts? Thanks!!

  14. This is a great race to do, and it's certainly possible to qualify for Boston. But I would say the hills and single track trail with cross-town traffic are going to add 3-10 minutes to your time, so don't cut it too close!


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