Long Beach Half Marathon
Long Beach, CA - Nov. 14, 1999     T   P   R   S  
San Diego Street Elite

Over 400 skaters competed in the Long Beach Inline Half Marathon Sunday, November 14, 1999. The event, which attracts around 10,000 runners, returned this year from a 3-year break. It was foggy, but dry, for the 6:30 sunrise start with temperatures at a warm 60.

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 Chad.

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 younger skaters.

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 last hill.

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 mark.

Andy Pele

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