11 August 2009

This Time, It was Better

The last time I was in Santa Cruz, or, at least, the last time I remember, things did not go so well. I was there for the Western States Lacrosse tournament, a huge two-day affair. At this tournament, there was also a president's meeting, and, since I was a co-pres at the time, I attended. When I left, I realized I did not have my keys. It was night, everyone was gone, and I had no way to enter the car that was sitting there, all alone, in the parking lot. With all the dirty uniforms in it, no less, because I had committed to doing the laundry at my parent's house.

Keep in mind, this was pre-cell phone days. First I called AAA, thinking I perhaps left the keys in my car. They came, and there were no keys. Then I called my parents, crying, I'm sure, asking if they could please please come pick me up. I wasn't quite sure where I was on campus, so trying to describe this location to my father was tough. Then I told campus police, who monitored the parking lot every once in a while, as I sat in my car, exhausted and crying. My dad finally showed up, I am sure he either yelled at me or didn't speak to me (which was worse), and we headed home.

The next day, I found out that I had left the keys on the table at the tshirt stand. Go figure.

So that was my last experience in Santa Cruz, at least as far as I remember. This time, some friends and I rented a place there for the weekend, with the main point of the weekend being to run the Wharf to Wharf 10K race. Our home for the weekend was just a few blocks from the beach, and we descended upon it with 8 humans and 4 pooches, ranging from 4 to 80+ pounds. We were quite a motley crew!

On Saturday I got up early (shocking, I know) and took Luca for a nice, long walk. I had never been to this part of Santa Cruz -- as children we mainly went to the Boardwalk and surrounding areas -- and it was cool to see all the homes and summer cabins dotting the streets. It was foggy, but I could see the sun breaking on the ocean, which is always a cool thing to see, and one of the things I love about fog. Soon I arrived back, and a little while later, the house began waking up. They cooked breakfast, I made mimosas.

The day was lazy...a trip to the beach, a nap here and there, and then a bike ride to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This was particularly eye-opening...was it always so dirty? And so scary? As we approached, there was a guy being questioned by the police, and then he decided to just take off. How stupid! And, not what you want to see when you are approaching a family hangout. Post-Boardwalk, we headed downtown, and eventually home in the darkness. (Mom, skip this part)...we had two bike lights between four of us, so we rode with one in the front and one in the back, and, let's say we were all grateful we made it back in one piece.

The highlight: seeing a man walking a cat. Yes, walking a cat, with a harness, and on a leash.

Sunday we woke up to a fog covered coastline, and headed down to the start of the race. Shortly after we arrived, the gun sounded, and the 6 of us, along with 14,994 other people took off towards Capitola. It was crowded, but, wow, it was awesome. The fog was tickling the curves of the race, and in front of it stood bands of all kinds. First, there was a drum band of some sort, getting us going with a very peppy beat. Then, right around the bend, a bagpipe troop. Of course, the sounds of bagpipes made me all teary.

At that point, we were going at about an 11 minute/mile pace. Then it was up the hill and around a few bends towards the water. As I was rounding a corner, I saw a familiar face, once I hadn't seen in over 10 years -- my old pal and coworker Pollywog from day camp. A quick stop, hello, and hug to him, and then I sprinted to catch back up with my friends. A sprint, in the middle of a 10K, smart, eh? Again up another hill, and then the first water stop...where I promptly lost my friends.

No clue whether they were in front of or behind me, so I just kept running. Feeling good, and going at a good clip, I listened to even more bands...this time a windpipe trio of middle-aged women, a rock band of middle-aged men, and a punk/emo group of pre-teens. It was so cool. There were new bands every few hundred feet, so there was never a dull moment, or need to put on my headphones. Soon I was at mile 5, nearing the end of my race, and still feeling good! Then, suddenly, I caught a glimpse of my friend's ponytail. Hooray!

Again I sprinted to catch up to them, and finally caught them. At that point, I couldn't slow down. I said hi, chatted a moment, and kept going. I couldn't catch my breath, but there was no way I could stop. Mile 6 rolled around, and I knew I had this one. I wasn't quite sure where the finish was, but soon we were on a downhill, getting our pictures taken for posterity. I was flailing down the hill, trying not to run into people but not succeeding. I couldn't speak to say I'm sorry, couldn't breath, but was determined not to stop. Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line with a 1.02 finish.

1 hour, 2 minutes. This means I averaged a 10 minute mile. It also meant I had shaved about 6 minutes off my last best time. I was shocked, and so, so happy.

It's been a few weeks, but I am still thrilled. And, am even more happy that this time, my visit to Santa Cruz was better.

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