The Wharf to Wharf race, labeled as "the best little road race in California", has been on my radar since moving to Santa Cruz. It is a 6 mile race that runs from Santa Cruz's wharf to the wharf in Capitola, hugging the seaside for pretty much the entire course. It sells out the 15,000 slots months in advance and always attracts a very competitive field. Unfortunately last year I wasn't able to run as I had just ran my first 50 miler the weekend before. While it really didn't fit into my plans again this year, I had received a comped entry for running on the Santa Cruz Track Club team in Boston back in April, so I figured I would at least go out and give it a tempo effort. There hasn't been a whole lot of road running going on on my end lately, and the speed work has been pretty minimal, so I honestly had no idea what to expect. To make things a little more interesting, the race fell on the tail end of a 116 mile week, including a 29.6 mile trail run the previous day. This obviously kept my expectations pretty low, but the main goal was to just finish in the top 100, which gets you the free Top 100 jacket. I figured that should be easily attainable.
Like I said, yesterday was another long, 4 hour 25 minute trail effort with a decent amount of climbing. I knew my legs would be dead for the race, so I decided to take my first ice bath in a good year and half to hopefully alleviate some of the fatigue. It seemed to do some good, but I still knew that it was going to be tough to get the legs moving fast. On the warmup on the way down to the start I was honestly thinking that I would run 5:30's, maybe even 5:40's. After a slow 2.3 mile warmup with a few strides thrown in, I headed to the front of the masses. This was the first year they have gone with chip timing and the start was an absolute clusterf#ck. They just jammed everyone in there like a bunch of sardines, and as usual, most of the people that were up there didn't belong there. A couple minutes later the shotgun went off and my competitive side took over.
Mile 1 - 5:18 -- Lots of bobbing and weaving, and it took a good half mile to find some room, but it quickly thinned out shortly after. I was quite shocked at the amount of people that went out at sub-5:20 pace. I started off at 5:30 or so in the traffic and there were a ton of people in front of me.
Mile 2 - 5:18 -- I am thinking to myself that this is way too fast and that I am probably going to pay for it later, but I am actually really surprised at how easy the pace felt, so I am rolling with it.
Mile 3 - 5:21 -- I can't believe how good I am feeling. Breathing is normal and everything is under control. Hit the halfway mark and begin to realize I am actually going to have a really good race.
Mile 4 - 5:16 -- Latched on with another runner in this mile and we would end up running together all the way to the finish. We never spoke a single word to each other, but you could feel that mental energy flowing, as we pushed each other hard for the last 3 miles.
Mile 5 - 5:11 -- We are passing a ton of people at this point and the heavy breathing finally set in in this mile. I honestly can't remember the last time I threw down a mile this fast.
Mile 6 - 5:12 -- Words were finally exchanged with one last mile to go and all that was said was lets get this sub-32. We were easily running sub-5 pace for the first half mile. Unfortunately I faded a bit in the last half mile and couldn't keep up, but was still able to finish off the last quarter mile pretty strong.
Last .03 in 0:08
Official Results: 31:48, 5:18 pace, 29th overall, 2nd in AG
Garmin Stats: 31:47, 5:16 pace, 6.03 miles
Ummmmm, so yeah, that sort of came out of nowhere. I guess I am in a little better shape than I thought I was. And obviously all these hills are paying off big time. This is a huge confidence booster. On fresh legs, on a true 10k course, I would put money on a mid-31 finish time. Of course all that doesn't really matter for my upcoming 50 miler, but it is good to know that the speed is still hanging around. Great day, great race, great result. I am a happy camper.