|Long Beach Half Marathon|
Long Beach, CA - Nov. 14, 1999
The half-marathon course started on Ocean Blvd. and toured through
the adjacent communities of Belmont Shore and Naples. There were
many turns as the skaters wound through the residential streets.
It was completely flat except for 3 short hills.
The pro men's start was moderate at first, but then Chad
Burdzilauskas (Hyper) took off. Derek Downing (FILA/Verducci) and
I followed, gapping the pack. Forth Lacey (Hyper) joined, but
eventually the fast pace forced me to drop off and I resigned to
the chase pack. The three leaders maintained their gap the entire
race, with Derek crossing the line first, followed by Forth and
Our chase pack of about 15 skaters was mostly uneventful as no
major breaks were initiated. Towards the end, a volunteer directed
us the wrong way, which separated the pack. With just over a mile
to the finish, we scrambled back as fast as we could. There was a
sprint among 6 of us, but unfortunately for the rest placements
were based on how fast they were able to get back on-course. I came
in 11th among the competitive field.
The pro women started a minute after the men. The lead pack was
quickly formed by Julie Glass (FILA/Verducci), Helle Carlsen (Bont),
Michelle Bizeau (Hyper), Heather Gunnin (Hyper), and Jilleanne
Rookard. Towards the end, the same volunteer also misdirected the
women, which resulted in Julie crashing. As the skaters waited for
Julie, Jilleanne took off, initiating the final sprint. Julieanne
was able to hold it to the finish, followed by Michelle and Heather.
SDSE's Wendy Holbert finished just a minute off the pace of the
The advanced skaters started a minute after the pro women. With so
many competitors, nobody was willing to organize a successful break.
Our own Andy Pele finished with the lead pack of around 8 skaters.
Organizers were unable to extract advanced results using their
timing software, so age group placements were unavailable. We'll
have to wait to find out how Sandra de Bruyn, Alice Eads, Bob
Hirsch, Bob Minami, Joe Prescott, Debra Rangel, Jay Smith, and
Brandon Thorsten did, all from SDSE.
Overall, the race was well-run and fun. After the hometown team BSI,
SDSE had more competitors than any other team. We'll be back next
year when Rollerblade extends the inline race to a full marathon.
The advanced skaters at Long Beach went out fast
and quickly organized into a large steady paceline.
Jay Smith (SDSE) felt it was too slow, however, and
went out on an early flyer. No one chased immediately,
but after a while I decided to break from the back and
test the pack. They followed and we bridged the gap
quickly, so I decided to wait until near the end of
the race to try and get away. I encouraged Jay to save
his energy and pull off the front, took my own short
pull and then sank back into the pack.
Bob Minami (SDSE) and Brandon Thorsten (SDSE)
started with the lead pack, Brandon hanging on for
half the race. AJ Comer (BSI) was also with us, but
the real surprise was Kim Kucera, a local skater, who
finished only ten seconds behind us on Reidell skates
and only a few races under her belt. Other people I
recognized were Dennis Cummings, Mark Fitzsimmons, and
Critter Crittenden from Northern Cal., and Steve
Blair, who surprised me at the end of the race because
I didn't see him until he beat me. He played the
invisible man to a tee, as I was advised to do.
Alex Dunn and another young skater, who seemed to
be teamed up with him, controlled the pace of the
pack. Alex was the one who jumped on me when I bridged
up with Jay, and he also stepped out of line to block
me a couple times as I accellerated past the front.
Rather than annoying me, the move made me respect him
as a seasoned racer in spite of his youth.
The three short hills in the race gave me another
opportunity to test the pack. As Brandon said later,
we slowed down too much on them, but this just gave
me confidence that I'd be able to drop the pack on the
Mark Fitzsimmons was chomping at the bit and
looking very strong. He repeatedly tried to break from
the pack, but always alone. Seeing his final attempt
near the end of the race, I joined him saying, "OK
Mark, let's go," but the pack reeled us in.
I made my final move on the last hill, but it
wasn't as long as I was hoping it would be. I gapped
the pack by less than twenty yards. With less than a
quarter mile to go I initiated the final sprint but
was passed by Scott Wolf first, then Alex Dunn, Mike
Miller and Steve Blair just before the line. That left
me in fifth place (advanced), not fourth as reported
on the race results.
Congratulations to Brandon Thorsten for coming in
shortly after the lead pack, earning him a second
place finish in his age division. This was only his
second road race!!
Thanks to all the skaters who made this race fun
and especially the volunteers. They continued to cheer
us on, even as we slowly skated back to the start line
after our finish. I can't wait untill next year, when
this event will be a full length marathon and
participation should climb toward the thousand skater