Monday, May 02, 2016

Orange County Marathon Review

Sunday, May 1, 2016:

Don waiting for the start.  Photo courtesy
Orange County Register, by Mindy Schauer
They don't get much better than this.  I can't remember when I have enjoyed a marathon more.  I finished my 95th marathon in 6:33:53, about 25 minutes faster than my next previous marathon three weeks ago.  More important, I had fun.  Can a marathon be fun?  Well, this one was - even some parts of the last six miles were enjoyable.  I recommend both the OC Marathon and the OC Half Marathon to all.  But see comments about the waiver contract, below.

My Race:

I finished 9th of 10 in my 75-99 age group, not so great, but only 11 minutes behind the man who finished in the middle, 5th of nine.  It's a rather unusual result, so many of us finishing almost together. Actually I'm quite impressed that ten of us old geezers ran the marathon and did reasonably well. I did finish ahead of 70 other runners out of the 1900-runner field, and I more than met my own finish-time expectations.

Don with Chris Yee, reporter
with the Orange County Register,
The back of my shirt showed my name above the words "I'm alive thanks to novel cancer medications," and in 95 marathons I have never had so much affirmation by runners going past.  "Good job Don," "Keep it up," and so much more.  One hairy, shirtless guy just patted me on the shoulder and ran past without words.  The message touched people.  Me too.

Plenty of Whining:

The back pain that I have dealt with in recent months, possibly caused by a myeloma lesion in a vertebra, did not appear until the very last mile, and then was only a dim reminder of times past.  Slight pains in the right hip and right ankle resolved themselves.

When the race was over, though, I discovered a significant blister on my left big toe, between that one and the second toe. That will require some care between now and the next marathon, just three weeks away.

On Monday, the day after the race, there is some pain near the outside of the right knee.  It's unfamiliar, and appears mostly when I bend the knee, not when I stand up straight and put weight on it.  It might be the ITB or a bursa, except that I can't make it hurt by pressing on the knee with my fingers.  The start of a knee problem, or gone in a day or two?  Time will tell.  Gone is most likely.

The OC Marathon:

What's not to like?
Beach at Newport Pier
  • Race directors would certainly control the weather if they could, but they couldn't have chosen better weather than we had.  About 55 degrees at the start, mostly cloudy with little wind, rising to maybe 65 at the finish with a little cooling wind.  Dry - I poured water on my head a couple of times, soaking my shirt, which soon dried off again. 
  • Roads were all closed to vehicle traffic, or coned off with police or explorer units at every significant corner.  I saw and greeted police from each of the cities we passed through, as well as the California Highway Patrol.  I never once felt at risk from vehicles.
  • Some of the course was quite beautiful, with great views of the ocean, valleys, and more.  It was interesting.  At one point I realized that I wasn't just plodding along, as in some marathons, but I was having fun! Some of the course was on trails made for pedestrians and bikes - lovely. 
  • Volunteers were wonderful, of course. 
  • The race instructions give time limits of 3.5 and 7.0 hours for the half and the full, but those limits simply mean that on-course support may disappear as a runner falls behind pace.  I rather doubt that anyone was denied a chance to finish and get a medal. 
  • Medals are quite attractive. 
  • The expo was a good one, big enough to be interesting.
Along the way

Suggestions for next year:
  • Do away with the gratuitous adhesion contract that every runner is forced to sign before picking up their bib.  I'm a lawyer and I'd love to tear that to shreds in court.  In 95 marathons, we have encountered this only once before.  It's lawyering gone overboard - mostly it just puts everyone in a bad mood as they enter the expo, having to write their personally-identifying information, including name, address, birth date, and email address, on a sheet of paper available to practically anyone including all of the volunteers. No runner reads it and no runner gets a copy of it.  Do the waiver during on-line registration before people have already spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on registration and travel - it might be valid if done that way.  The race committee is trying (unsuccessfully) to protect themselves, but they are certainly not protecting us or our information. Is that what the OC Marathon is all about?
  • Sign in Best Western Cafe
  • They ran out of men's shirts.  Really?  This is otherwise a classy marathon.  We arrived hours before the closing of the expo, but I had to sign up to have the shirt mailed.  Is it that hard to predict?  Did they screw up the order, or did they give give the shirts away to those who registered at the last minute, in preference to those who registered way ahead?
  • If there was a good map of the race course, good enough to follow most of it in a car, we didn't find it on line.  If there was a turn-by-turn description we didn't find that either.
Other stuff:
  • Some marathons have interesting signs for runners as we pass by.  I didn't see too many here, but there was one that said "Sweat is just fat going 'Woo Hoo'." 
  • Shirt:  Strip down / Run the race / Never quit. ~ Hebrews 12.  (Look it up)
  • We stayed at the Best Western Newport Mesa Inn, which was right across Hwy 55 from the Fair Grounds where the expo and the finish were located.  This allowed us to avoid cars and parking altogether, with a 15-minute easy walk to the expo, the busses to the start, and back from the finish.  The Best Western is a nice hotel, too.
Mile splits: 13:29, 39:39 (3 mi), 14:21, 13:53, 27:36 (2 mi), 15:05, 14:19, 42:25 (3 mi), 14:39, 32:12 (2 mi), 15:28, 15:52, 15:22, 16:47, 17:04, 15:05, 16:44, 17:15, 17:06, 16:01, 3:32, total 6:33:53, average pace 15:01.  I do seem to slow in the second half these days, even though it feels like I'm pushing just as hard.

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