I hesitate to write this recap lest you, dear reader, think you have been following the blog of a crazy person.
So for eleven weeks I’ve been posting about my training for a marathon, but my post the day before the marathon divulged that I had switched events and intended to run the half marathon instead due to the ongoing pain in my chest and forearm. I later had second thoughts and contacted one of the race organizers, who told me that I could decide during the race, and that all I had to do was check in with the timing booth afterwards and let them know if I switched events. I mean, how easy is that?
And so that was my mindset going into this race. I literally did not know until I stepped out of my car and started walking up to the pier which race I was going to run. However, I had taken a moment in the car to think about it. I didn’t have that “You’re a pussy if you don’t run the full marathon” voice, instead was a quiet “I want to try” afterwhich I asked the Universe to give me a sign if I really wasn’t supposed to run the full. Even though the forearm pain had been bothersome the night before, it felt somewhat manageable walking up to the start, and I made sure to put a few Advil in my iFitness belt. I met a runner on the walk over, and when he asked me which event I was doing, I said it out loud “I’m doing the full.” Then I met up with my FMC, and by this time it was fifteen minutes until the start of the marathon. You probably won’t see “Fuck it” as a recommended mindset for a race in any of those mental training books, but that’s the one I was riding with for this – say it with me – marathon.
I thought I would hang with the 4:23 pace group, but I couldn’t locate them at the start of the race, so I found some unofficial pacers (thank you guy in aqua t-shirt and lady in fluorescent pink shorts!). Things were quite uneventful for the first half of the race. The course is flat, so there isn’t even a moment of “uh-oh, here comes that hill” – unless you count a freeway overpass as a hill. It’s also an up-and-back, so the most exciting thing to happen during the first seven miles was seeing the elite half marathoners, who started half an hour after the marathoners, run past us on their way to the finish line. Very inspiring.
The arm pain was negligible. Go figure — perhaps adrenaline kicked in. I was aware of it, but there were no wincing moments. Thank you, Universe. Near the turnaround point, I saw my FMC’s husband and little girl, and that was the moment to call it a day and catch the ride back to the beach if I was in too much pain…Kept right on pushing. So far, so good. Feeling “comfortable” and on pace for 10 minute miles and a 4:20ish finish.
The course is advertised as “scenic,” and let’s just say that this is quite generous. The start/finish is picturesque because it’s at the beach, but imagine running past mini malls and long stretches of, well, nothing, and oh, hey, a large resort. There is one point where we cross an inlet, which is a cool marshland moment, but it’s pretty much 100 yards. The worst part of the course though is the lack of cover. The last eight miles were run exposed to the blazing sun and cloudless sky on black asphalt, and friends it was toasty. I think it hit about 77 degrees with an added bonus of rare humidity in SoCal. This was the hot and sticky race.
Still, I was having a good race until mile 20. And it was at this point that the heat got to me. I still felt relatively strong, meaning, my legs weren’t feeling particularly tortured and my breathing wasn’t labored, but the heat sapped any ability for me to drop the hammer. Even though my last six miles were decidedly slower than my otherwise overall 10:00 min. mile pace (12;39, 12:02, 11:23, 12:19, 11:15, 11:01), I did not feel like it was due to any mechanical issue. I know for sure that my 12:39 mile was the result of an extended walk at the mile-21 aid station during which I took in extra fuel and was quite reluctant to part with my cups of ice water that I chugged and threw all over myself. Sorry Cali Drought!
As for the arm, well, turns out you don’t think too much about your arm when you’re sweating buckets and your quads are throbbing, so during the race it was about a 10% factor. After the race, however, when the adrenaline wore off, well it was back to intermittent throbbing pain. The rest of my body – knock on wood – seems to be in decent shape. Perhaps the most surprising body issue are the places where I experienced chafing due to the extra sweat. I didn’t chafe here, but check out the salt deposits on my calf.
My finishing time was a solid 4:32:59. Not a PR, but it was my third best marathon time, and I will take it! I was most interested to see how I did against the field. Even though I PRd at Mountains2Beach, it’s a fast course, so I was disappointed in my age-gender-overall rankings. I performed much better at Ventura. Whereas I was age (63%)-gender (67%)-overall (75%) at M2B, I was age (38%)-gender (41%)-overall (48%) at Ventura. About a twenty percentage point jump. I felt like that might be the case because I passed quite a few people at the end due to what looked like a lot of cramping going on. Maybe I should give a shout-out to the Valley heat since I may have been better prepared than most.
I don’t generally enter into things that I am not feeling prepared for or don’t have some idea of the outcome, so this was an interesting experiment. It is good information to know that circumstances don’t have to be ideal – whether it’s my own physical state or race conditions – to experience a good race. I felt solid, and as far as marathon misery goes, this wasn’t that bad.
Thanks for being along for this roller coaster week leading up the marathon. Marathon number eight is in the books!