Run Santa Barbara’s Summer Sunset Series: Nite Moves
Aquathon & 5K Run
5:30 is the time of day most folks are winding down for the night. Belts are loosened, stockings discarded and pleats and collars are exchanged for fuzzier, more forgiving ensembles. Generally, I’m all about knocking off right now, too, inclined to be inclined at this hour, and beating most to the punch in premature pajama attire, but not tonight. Tonight I’m taking part in Santa Barbara’s long-running (pun intended) Nite Moves, a 5K run with optional 1 mile swim that’s staged every Wednesday night at Leadbetter Beach.
Better still, you’re coming with me, so we best gets to stepping, then, and go get my number for the race.
I’m excited to participate, but a little nervous, too. I haven’t competed in years, and racing’s definitely a young man’s sport, making me 0 for 2 right from the get go, and though I say that last in jest, the competitor in me is none too happy at the prospect of getting spanked in such a public forum. So it’s with self-conscious reservation I start the trek up the ¼ mile slope to the start line, rubbing my arms to lessen the bite of chill in the air.
Some 200 odd runners are clustered at the hill’s verge, and soul runner that I am, it takes everything I have to join the brightly attired herd of spandex, bike shorts and Dolfins, instead of veering off to tread a path less beaten. I’ve run Nite Moves before, so the scenario isn’t entirely unexpected, but the claustrophobic feeling imparted by so many clustering people still unnerves. I want to leave it all behind—not take it with me!
Which I very well might, if I don’t kick into gear. A cap gun shot sends us surging forward en masse, and I immediately forego an optimum finish time by choosing to run on the turf as I usually do, favoring the lawns of Shoreline Park to cushion my feet falls rather than the sidewalk the front runners are blazing.
Even so, the instant we’re underway, I find myself testing the limits of my stamina. My stamina is a C student at best these days, and while I’m smart enough not to sprint off the mark, it takes me a solid quarter mile to find a comfortable pace; one fast enough to compete, but not fast enough to combust. Or so I think. When a father & son baby buggy team pass me up minutes later, I realize I’m not pushing near hard enough.
A collective rhythm is established in the next quarter mile. The first half of the course is a slight uphill grade the entire way, and as a frequent runner of foothills, this is my comfort zone. I take grades literally in stride, and so I’m especially pleased to pass a few runners that passed me earlier as we ascend. By the time I reach the turnaround traffic cone on Elise Way, I’m solidly in the middle of the pack.
Nothing to write home about, but blog-loggable, and at least I have enough wind to return #392’s whoop of encouragement in passing–and enough auxiliary energy to pick out a pace buddy I think I can beat. (a gal named Rynell) She eventually beats me by less than 30 seconds, but I like to think it’s because I slowed down at a scenic stretch to enjoy the view, and after checking the results, my pride also dictates I mention she’s my junior by almost 18 years.
The finish line is a powerful motivator, and soul runner or no soul runner, I give it my all for the final half mile. Breath burns short and hot as I sprint the last several yards, calf muscles cramping from lactic acid, but I push through it to ultimately clock: 26:42, average pace: 8:36.
Of 253 “run only” entrants, I finish 145, which isn’t stellar, but isn’t horrible either, and I comfort myself by blaming my sluggish pace on the softer turf whereon I opted to run. If you’re a stats person, and want to check numbers, here’s a link to the race results: http://www.runsantabarbara.com/nite_moves.html. (click: event results in lower right corner)
The fat lady hasn’t sung her swan song yet, though. And won’t—the live bands that play at Leadbetter park before and after the race are “phat” but not fat. The beautiful chanteuse that graced us with her rich voice pre-race has finished her set, but Haddon Cord is still on hand to support the next band as they take the stage.
After grabbing some grub provided by Santa Barbara’s Chicken Ranch, I’m ready to support the band, too. As are we all. The faces of the crowds fairly ooze with excess endorphins, and the atmosphere is invigorated with good health and happiness. It’s true, readers, running makes you happy!
The talent of the closing band is just the icing on our happiness cake.
But really, really good icing, as befits the top of a happiness cake. Band: False Puppet fairly crackles with youthful energy and musical and vocal skill. Event worker Stephanie is quick to tell me the young men are partly responsible for the big turnout tonight, and it’s easy to see why.
While Brennan Benko provides a steady beat on his drumkit, frontmen: Tyler Benko and Channing Peake work the crowd like Hendrix worked an electric guitar: upside down and backward. The guitar wielding men jump from the stage to picnic tables, from tables to woofers, woofers to lawn and back again, wowing us with their Van Halen-esque acrobats and better-than-Van Halen riffs. From cover songs to originals, they’ve got all the Rite Moves for Nite Moves, and they’re even tuned-in enough to bring the tots in attendance into their act.