Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fog and Fun at the 2012 Half Moon Bay International Marathon

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 1,000+ runners for the 2nd annual Half Moon Bay International Marathon in Half Moon Bay, CA. The secret is now out about this fun local race after their debut last year, and people from over 35 states and six countries showed up for the 10k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon distances. It was foggy, fast, and fun, and everyone had a blast. Such a great race!

(M1 and F1 ready to roll!)
(Some fast new faces this year)
I was in the rare-for-me position of being the defending champion this year, but knew that my 3:00:36 course record didn't stand a chance with a bigger field and newly announced $500 prize for the winner. But I was happy to don the M1 number and run the first half mile with Jennifer Pfeifer Devine, donning her F1 number. Glory days! About ten runners got out ahead of us, but we knew to ease up for the hilly first half. Jen knew for sure since this was her old high school stomping grounds. It was fun to catch up and hear about her amazing 21 hour run at Western States this year, particularly after hearing her brother/pacer's version last weekend.

(And we're off into the fog!)
(Michael Slevin takes it out fast)
We cut through town and did a quick out-and-back along a cove trail before climbing into some nice single track. The fog was still pretty thick, but we could hear the volunteers around every corner. Once again, the course was impeccably marked (thanks, Fernando Ramos, Ron Little and team!) complete with huge mile marker signs from The GraphicWorks. The lead couple of Ryan Neely (a new neuroscience graduate student at Berkeley) and Kimberly O'Donnell (heading to UC Santa Cruz for graduate work after running 400m hurdles for Harvard) were quickly setting a fast pace side by side, and local David Lara was the only one who could stick with them. All of them donned racing flats, so I thought it best to not worry about their pace until they got through some trails and hills.

(Heading out along the cove trail)
(Kimberly O'Donnell and Ryan Neely go stride for stride)
(Palo Alto's Daniel Guzman enjoys the sand)
As we came out of the hilly trails and started through the even-hillier neighborhood, I paced along with Sean Handel from Moss Beach. He said he was new to marathoning, but his stride was very efficient and he was doing a great job staying on liquids and calories early in the race. He soon confessed to being a competitive cyclist for years, and it all made sense. One thing for sure is Sean had the best cheering section, complete with kid-made signs and smiling wife. GO DADDY!

(Sean's super awesome cheering section)
(Kisses from the kids...a bigger boost than Clif Shot Blox!)
(Omaha, NB's Matt Atchison runs by one of the many motivational signs...this one says "strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes")
The volunteers took great care of us as we zig-zagged through the neighborhood (mile 4-7), and the out-and-back sections gave us a chance to give some high fives to fellow runners. There were lots of red bibs denoting first-time marathoners, and they were crushing it! So impressive they started with a tough little course like HMB. David Lara took the lead on the way back, but the Ryan/Kimberly dynamic duo stayed within striking range, and never more than a few feet from each other. Sean commented, "she looks fast...and her bodyguard is keeping up!".

(The historic Maverick's big wave break is just out in the distance)
(David Lara out front)
(Nice little neighborhood!)
(Volunteers were ON IT)
As we wound through the trails one more time and headed back to town, Sean and I picked up the pace to ~6:45 min/mile. We passed the start/finish area where half marathoners were coming in to applause and music, and took turns drafting off one another until we put a minute on the group behind us. When we got back on the single track, Sean found one more gear and dropped me around mile 15. I better keep him in sight! I sped up, but remained about a minute behind him.

(The coastal trail winds down along the beach)
(Sean and I working together)
(Waving to the waves)
(Erin Katsura is having waaay too much fun in the 10k)

(You never know who you have to share the trails with!)
(Sean builds a lead on the single track)
(AAHHRRR...the pirate aid station!!!)
The pirate aid station (mile 17) was a lot of fun, and I gulped as much as I could for the tricky stretch out to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and back. This was the last out-and-back section, so the last chance to get a sense of where I was in the race. Ryan and Kimberly had regained the lead and were moving FAST, with David Lara just a few seconds behind. All three of them were running close to 6:10 min/miles even with the hills, and had a solid five minutes up on me. Sean was looking good, and if my calculations were right, he was GAINING on them! Wow! I had a two minute lead ahead of the next guy, so it looked like I had a few lonely miles ahead of me. Luckily there were plenty of spectators, lots of volunteers, and gorgeous views in all directions.

(The piper returns!)
(The bluffs near the Ritz)
(Rocklin's Eric Williamson charges the hills)
(Jen Pfeifer holds on to 2nd at mile 19)
(Kristin Barsoom is the 3rd woman, and is busy dodging golfers)
(Hao Liu powers up the climb)
The single track trail on the way back is, IMHO, the hardest stretch of the course. Just when your legs and feet are feeling the distance, you gotta balance and dodge oncoming runners on uneven footing. It was much better than last year, much in thanks to the staggered start times, but it still took its toll. When I got back to the pavement and searched for a sprint gear, my quads just groaned something about UTMB and forced me to cruise along at 7 min/mile pace. This is how it played out last year too! Perhaps I should wait more than two weeks after a 100-miler to race a marathon one of these years. ;-)

(Matthew McKloskey leads a pack down the single track)
(Michelle Contini is all smiles in the dirt)
(First time marathoner David Minden takes advice from the sign...the faster you run, the faster you are done!)
(Fremont's Thomas Marrin cruises over a bridge on his way to an age group win in the M70+ class)
With one last wave to the surfers (mile 25), I hit the final stretch and crossed the line in 3:01:44 for 5th place (all results), just a minute slower than last year. Race Director Eric Vaughan and guest of honor Dean Karnazes were there give congratulations and hand me a fantastic finisher medal. I had forgotten that it was Half Moon Bay where Dean's grand adventure began almost 20 years ago!

(Surfers waving back)

(Eric Vaughan, Dean Karnazes, and me at the finish)
I found out that Ryan Neely and Kimberly O'Donnell had crossed the line together in 2:53:58, setting new course records, and Sean Handel finished 3rd less than a minute behind, and five minutes ahead of a fading David Lara. This was only the second marathon for the two winners (they both ran the San Francisco Marathon, where she went 2:51 and he went 2:39), and now that Kimberly was in the capable hands of the New Balance Silicon Valley Team, I suspect we will see more! An impressive performance by all.

(The amazing volunteer team)
(Big money winners!)
At the finish line, I got the biggest surprise of all...Christi and the girls had come down to see me! It has been a few years since they graced a finish line, and I was super stoked to walk them down to the Half Moon Bay Brewery for beers, clams, and grilled cheese sammiches. We came back to cheer on a few more finishers and thank the many volunteers/sponsors, just as the sun broke through the fog and lit up the finish line. Once again, Eric Vaughan and the volunteers did an amazing job putting on a top notch race with all the trimmings. I'll see you guys for sure next year!

(Quinn and Sophie meet me at the finish!)


  1. Congrats on another great race, Scott, good to see you out there. Looks like I snuck into a couple of your photos -- I'm not sure if you recognized me from Bay to Breakers; I was wearing a bit more this time.

  2. 3:01 marathon, and you took pictures. Wow!

  3. Fantastic race report, as usual. Thanks for taking the time to do shout-outs to all the runners and organizers! Great job on the race, too, in spite your sore legs.

  4. Great race report Scott. That sounds like a really great race. I will probably not choose it, however, for my first marathon. I hope to do a full sometime within the next year before I get too much older and it becomes more difficult to train. I put a link to your blog on my blog,

  5. Thanks, Kern! And good luck on the training! HMB would be a tough first marathon, but an awesome 2nd or 3rd.

  6. That looks like an incredible course. I wouldn't mind running along the ocean and through golf courses. 3:01 is an incredible time, especially with the fun you were able to have along the way. We're going to include this in our follow Friday blog post tomorrow.

  7. Amazing performance Scott, given you combined racing hard with such a photo shoot!


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