June 15, 2002
Laura and I decided that we wanted to run the Valley of the Flowers Half Marathon. Neither of us had gotten around to registering in advance for it, but we didn’t see anything on the website that would convince that we couldn’t just sign up on race day.
The race is at Vanderberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, a little north of Santa Barbara. Since I can typically get up to Santa Barbara in around 2 hours, I figured it would take a little longer. We allowed 3-1/2 hours to get there, based upon the directions saying, “Exit at 1st Street, turn left on A Street, right on G Street, go through the gate, and you’re there.” (This is before the advent of Mapquest, or I didn’t know about it and we didn’t have a local Thomas Guide. We assumed that it wouldn’t be too long a drive.)
So, like I said, two hours to Santa Barbara, another hour to Lompoc, got off the freeway and followed the directions, except that each of the 4 streets named in the directions were 3-5 miles between turns. Then we got to the gate, and of course, we were not on the list, because we didn’t preregister, so that took a little bit longer than expected. By my watch, when he let us through, the race was to start in 5 minutes, and we had not registered or parked or anything.
In fact, we couldn’t get to the parking lot, because we would have to drive across the starting fine staging area. A volunteer directed us to park the car on the shoulder (leave it there, too) and then they would get us registered just after the race started.
Laura ran off to the port-a-pottie (as we had been in the car for nearly 4 hours without a break), and I registered us, and watched even the slowest-of-the-slow fade off into the distance.
Laura and I started off a good 3-4 minutes after everyone else. We decided not to run together, but made every effort to catch some people and not have to run the race by ourselves.
I was a bit ahead of Laura and started catching up to people. It made for interesting conversation, as everyone had seen us pull up late. Basically a lot of “Oh, good you caught up.”
Part of the course was paved, but for the most part, we ran on a hard-packed dirt road. When I say “Hard-packed,” I am also referring to the fact that these roads were the ones used to transport tanks and other vehicles with treads. The hard surface was made harder with having to run on the uneven hardened tread-marked dirt.
Around halfway, we were back on the paved portion and running into a powerful headwind. It was so loud, that conversation was impossible… but then we came to the turnaround, and had the wind at our back. I tried to tell the people heading into the wind that it gets better, but they could not hear me over the wind (from my standpoint, I was shouting very loudly, because the wind was behind me.).
The finish of the race was back up the hill we descended at the start (I don’t think I mentioned that, but that is what helped Laura and myself make up some time at the beginning.). After we finished, we noticed a couple of our hasher friends from Los Angeles, Dwight and Cathy, who also ran the race (and were having a weekend with Cathy’s dad and stepmom (or the reverse?)). Cathy won an age group award, and then the shockers! Laura got 3rd in her division and I got 3rd in Clydesdales. That’s right! The people who showed up late still got awards! And, no, it was not chip-timed. We made up the 3-4 minute stagger and STILL placed.
We had breakfast with Cathy and Dwight (and parents) and then decided to head off and find out WHY the race was called Valley of the Flowers, since we saw neither valleys nor flowers.
So, nowhere near the race, there is a large rectangle of planted flowers, in the shape of an American flag. The only way to see it with any perspective is to climb up a big hill and look down on it. We were too tired for that after running 1:46 and 1:50. We unobjectively looked it from eye level.