Surf n Santa 5-Miler Recap

I know there have been a lot of race recaps here the last couple months, but the races I've done recently have just been too much fun to not recap! This past Saturday I completed my last J&A race of the year, the Surf n Santa 5-Miler. I've done this race twice before, when it was still a 10-Miler; the distance changed last year, as did the time of day: rather than an early morning start like usual, it became an early evening race. The 4:30pm start time was chosen so that the sun would be setting as runners ran along the boardwalk, which would highlight the light displays on the beach from ~10th Street to ~30th Street.
I didn't get to run this race last year, the first year with the new format, so I was excited that it worked for my schedule this year! I've run on the boardwalk a million times, but doing so at sunset with the lights displays all lit up seemed like a fun spin on an old favorite. And, as if I needed another reason (or another medal), a couple months ago J&A announced th Triple Jog Dare: participants of the Wicked 10k, Harbor Lights Half Marathon, and Surf n Santa 5-Miler would get an extra medal for finishing all 3. Sign me up!

The race starts and ends at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, which has a huge parking lot, so parking was easy. My dad was the only one I could talk into doing this race with me, so we rode together. We could have picked up our packets the day before, but we opted to wait until the day of so we arrived around 3:15pm. Pickup was quick and easy, as usual. We perused the expo for a few minutes, mainly because I'd been on the hunt for a replacement pair of Newtons and hadn't been able to find them online in my size. The Outer Banks Tri Sports booth ended up having a pair in a half size up so I tried them to see if the half size would make a difference. I momentarily forgot that we were there to run a race, not buy shoes, so I spent like five minutes going back and forth on whether or not to get them. Finally my dad reminded me that I had to make a decision because, uh, we had to go run in like 30 minutes, so I bought them.

We walked back to the car to put all our stuff away, then we went back into the convention center to wait for the race to start. The weather really wasn't too bad - high 40s with some wind - but it was colder than the unseasonably high temperatures we had during the week leading up to the race. Suddenly people started making a mass exodus out of the convention center and toward the start, so we followed. I was assigned to Corral 1 and my dad was in Corral 2. We both headed to Corral 2, as I figured I'd start with him and then break away, but we ended up getting a little separated in the crowd so I just made my way to my own corral. We stood there a little longer than anticipated, as the race did start at 4:30pm but they let Team Hoyt go at that time instead of a few minutes before the official start time, like usual. My corral had another five minutes to wait, then the countdown came and we were off!

My goal for this race was to finish in under 40 minutes (8 min/mi), although I had no plan for how to achieve that. I've only had one run in the past several months that was even close to that pace, a 5k at 8:01 a couple weeks ago. In the car on the way there I figured I could probably managed something in the low 8's, but five miles at a sub-8 pace sounded like a stretch. That time was pretty arbitrarily chosen, as I've only run two 8ks before but had never really raced one. One was in June 2013 and was my first "long run" after a few weeks off healing an injury and I ran it around a 9:45 pace; the other was the Shamrock 8k in March 2014, which I ran as part of the Whale Challenge (meaning I had to run a full marathon the next day), so I ran it at a 10:15 pace. So even though I wanted to race this one, the exact time didn't really matter because I was pretty much guaranteed a PR.

So, back to the race. I did a little bit of weaving in the first mile, but not much. I did come across a couple who were walking on the left side at less than half a mile in - it looked like they were doing run/walk intervals and they played back and forth with me for a while so their overall pace wasn't exactly also BUT STILL. Anyway. I know I looked at my watch probably forty times during the first mile but I couldn't tell you what my pace was. I think it started in the high 8's and kept dropping to the low 8's, but I don't really remember. I was able to dial in pretty early, which usually means I'm either going to have a great race, or I'm going to lose my focus at some point and blow up before the end. The first mile of the course is the exact same as the first mile of Wicked. It usually goes by pretty quickly but this time I seriously felt like I blinked and there was the first mile marker! I do remember seeing that first mile chime in at 8:02.

Something weird keeps happening to me during oceanfront races. I think it's because of the difference from running in the mountains to running at the beach, but the last several races I've done at the beach, I've just felt so calm. It's like my legs just keep moving forward, and since there's nothing to slow them down or stop them, they just keep going. I can feel my body working hard and pushing the pace, yet I feel really relaxed and calm. It's a strange but amazing feeling and I wish I felt that on every run! Even though I started with a sub-40 goal, I really didn't think about that for most of the race. I remember seeing my first mile pop up at 8:02 and thinking that I felt okay, and wondering if I could get my pace under 8:00. It really wasn't even about finishing in a certain time, it just became a game to see how fast I could run each mile and how long I could keep that pace.

My average pace dropped down to 7:59 just after the mile 1 marker, and it was shortly after that that we made the turn onto the boardwalk. I remember feeling a little sad that it wasn't really dark yet, so I couldn't get the full effect of the lights. I was running strong and even though it felt like I was backing off a little, my pace continued to drop (I do think there was some wind at our backs that was helping). Unlike the first mile, mile 2 felt like it was taking forever. My average pace was around 7:57 and the realization that I still had over 3 miles to go made me question how long I could actually hold on to that pace.

I'd had Ironman North Carolina on the brain for the last few days, and truthfully, I had hoped to run Surf n Santa knowing that I was an official IM NC entrant. My team wasn't ready to sign up that early, though, so instead I ran it still dreaming about actually hitting the "Register" button, and wondering if I could really do it. As I was pondering this just before mile 2, I realized that I had made my way behind a guy with an M-Dot tattoo a few yards in front of me. That gave me the push I needed to realize that yes, I could keep up a sub-8 pace in this race and that yes, I could complete an Ironman. Shortly after that I finally saw the mile 2 marker and my watched beeped with a mile 2 time of 7:52 - thanks for the motivation, M-Dot calf tattoo guy!

Nearly all of mile 3 was still in the boardwalk, so I tried to focus on getting past the halfway mark and distracting myself by looking at all the pretty lights! I tried to take pictures but my running photography skills are not great. I did get a few shots of the different displays and, of course, I had to get a shot of my BFF King Neptune. We turned off the boardwalk shortly after we passed him and I realized I won't see him again until Shamrock in March! The last of the lights was a super cute Virginia Beach scene, which I wanted to get a picture of but couldn't get my phone out in time. (I saw afterward on Instagram that Jenny got a great photo of it though!)

Mile 3 chimed in at 7:54, still on pace. The mile 3 marker was almost right after we turned off the boardwalk. This course is essentially the same as the Wicked 10k course - both make a T shape, but since Surf n Santa is 5 miles, the two ends of the T are cut short, if that makes sense. I thought running it would feel short in comparison to Wicked, and it did. We only had about 14 blocks/about a mile to go to the turn that would take us back to the convention center and the finish. 

I kicked it into high gear those last couple of miles. I was starting to feel ready to be done, and I also passed someone I knew and didn't want her to catch me, so I spent the last mile and a half feeling like I was being chased haha! I passed a lot of people toward the end, which was especially fun considering I was in a slutty Santa dress with a giant light-up bow on my head. This is only the second time I've ever dressed up for a race and both times I've felt a little insecure, like maybe people wouldn't take me seriously or something. But yeah, I managed a sub-8 pace in a dress so check me, haters.

The end was kind of a blur and the last mile flew by. By mile 4 we had made it to the home stretch and could see the convention center; the only thing left to do was keep running until I got there. I forgot to look at my mile time for mile 4 but my pace had dropped to 7:53 average, which was way faster than I ever expected. It was dark by the time I was in my last mile, which I actually think helped make that mile seem not as far. The end actually has you run all the way parallel to the convention center, then turn to run around the back for the last quarter mile to finish inside. During the last half mile I saw a girl who I thought might have been in my age group, so I used her as motivation to get to the finish as fast as I could #sorrynotsory. I didn't run the race I did only to get beat out at the end like at Beacon of Hope and Breezy Point. At the very end I was pretty sure I saw that girl in the corner of my eye racing to the finish, and I had a flashback to the last time I ran Surf n Santa: in a similar situation, with a quarter mile to go I passed a couple guys I had played back and forth with all race and was all proud of myself coasting into the finish....only to see them come sprinting by me during the last 5 seconds! I lost the battle with those guys that year but I wasn't about to lose to this girl this year. I surged ahead as much as I could in those last couple seconds to make sure I hit the timing mat first! I'm really not that competitive but sometimes the little games you find to play with fellow runners are just what you have to do to get through. 

That heel strike though...please don't tell my physical therapist!
After I finished sprinting to the finish line I really wasn't even concerned about my time, I just wanted my medal and my Triple Jog Dare medal! The race has live tracking so I pulled that up on my phone to double check my time, and I was surprised to see that my official time (39:02!) was actually 10 seconds faster than my watch time (still not sure how that happened, but whatever). I called Ben to tell him how I did while I waited for my dad to finish. He ended up finishing a couple minutes faster than I was expecting, and I almost missed him at first but then I caught up to him just as he walked out of the finisher's area. After we walked around for a bit I got a Tweet from Jenny that she had just finished, so we went back over to the finisher's area. I tried to look for her but I didn't see her, and cell service in the convention center wasn't great so none of the responses I tried to send her were going through. I'm bummed that I missed her but hopefully we'll run into each other at a future J&A race! Instead I had a great time hanging out with my dad - we enjoyed some beverages, rang the PR bell, and wrote our names on the PR chalkboard! Another fantastic J&A race (that's #16 and counting) is in the books! I'm so grateful to have such amazing races right in my backyard!


  1. Your running outfit is so cute, looks like a great race!

  2. check me, haters - hahaha. love it. you're awesome. congrats on the time, that's fabulous! seriously, i swear i don't heel strike, but in race photos apparently i do :-|

  3. Got sad reading this at first because once upon a time this was on my list for this year. Maybe next year though :) (Or Wicked, but we can talk about that TOMORROW when you're HERE!)

    Sigh, if you're planning to walk in the first mile, no matter how fast you run when you run, you should be at the back of the pack. Period, the end.

    Ahhh so cool that you were running behind that tattoo! (Hopefully it wasn't an obnoxious one ;)) I LOVE your race costume and seriously can't wait to run a J&A race because of that PR bell. (Shamrock 26.2 2017...)

  4. Congrats on the PR and grabbing those pics :) I think sunset took a little longer this year compared to last year. I remember it was pretty dark by the time I reached the boardwalk last year and I was about 3 minutes faster haha. Yes, hopefully we'll get to catch up at a J&A race next year or even Cherry Blossom! I'll be running the 5K with Cliff (race #2).