After my triumphant Hollywood 5K in April, I decided to start training for the Ventura Marathon rather than continue half marathon training for Mountains2Beach at the end of May. I had been hanging out at the 25-30 mile per week range for a few months, and this decision meant putting micromanaging my paces on the backburner and focusing on piling on the miles. Building up to the 48-50 miles per week that I’d need to hit to feel ready for Ventura would take some time and waiting until after M2B would be pushing it. So I dusted off my old marathon training schedule from FMC and proceeded to ramp up the mileage.
Marathon training and I greeted each other like two people involved in a long distance relationship seeing each other after a long absence. Excited for that first longish midweek run, then reminded of those odd behaviors accompanied with an “oh yeah, I remember how you used to do that” feeling, and culminating in being tired and hungry AF. I went on a rapid bump-up to 34-36-38 miles per week, topping out at a 16-mile long run and myself reunited with that familiar but not unpleasant sensation after a long run when I’d be super tired and yearning for a nap, but my legs would be too jacked up to settle down. They didn’t hurt; just very, very Awake.
My long run paces pre-5K and during my hamstring issue were slower than before Surf City, and that messed with my confidence. Post-5K they continued to be slower, but since I was focusing on building endurance rather than speed, it was easier to metabolize. I also helped knowing that my overall fitness was improving. When I first started with Trainer, I could workout with him OR get my run in, but no way I was doing both. Then I built up to getting short runs in after my training session, and by the end of this training cycle I was getting my regular runs in (including an 11-miler!) post workout with him. My increased strength was encouraging, but I just wasn’t sure how fast I was, which didn’t have my confidence at optimal level pre-M2B.
In the couple weeks before M2B, I had two good track workouts and, even better, a long run of 14 miles that came in at 9:05 min. per mile pace, which was about where I was for Surf City. This finally made me think that I could PR and go sub-1:55 at M2B. Just in time!
With my newfound confidence, I set my goals for the race as follows:
C-PR (sub 1:55:59)
The A-goal seemed a little crazy since my training times didn’t indicate that, but what the heck, that’s what A-goals are for, right? Shoot for the moon. I had really hoped there would be a 1:55 pace group like in Surf City, but M2B is smaller, and it was either a 2:00 or 1:50 pace group. I decided I would go for it and try to hang with the 1:50 group as long as I could and then drop when I had to.
Race conditions were perfect: overcast and in the upper-60s pretty much throughout the race. I hopped into my pace group, and off we went. The group immediately felt too fast, but I hung in there and didn’t drop back until about mile 5, which was exactly where I wanted to be. The course is a net downhill, with the only uphill portion in the beginning of the race. After mile 5, it is downhill or flat, and I knew that even if I couldn’t quite hang with the 1:50 group, I could do well on that backend due to the favorable elevation.
One race tactic that Trainer has tried to get me to do that I have been unable (read: unwilling) to do – even on the 5K! — is to stop at less water stations. It is surely a mental thing, because even though I don’t need and don’t drink that much water on my training runs, I stop at ALL the water stations during a race. All.Of.Them. And I walk them. It’s a nice little mental break. However, I did notice that it seemed to take a wee bit of energy to get back up to pace when I stopped and started (Ya think? Can you believe I just figured it out?) , so I was hoping to minimize my stoppage. Well, there are only seven water stations on the M2B half marathon course, so there was an enforced water stoppage restriction, and even though I did find myself getting water at each station, I did run through all of them, minus when I took my gels and ended up walking through them. So a small mini triumph and hopefully the start of better water station habits.
Things were going well from miles 5-11, and I could still sort of see some of the 1:50 group, so I knew that I was in the sub-1:55 mark for sure. My goal was to get to mile 10 at 1:25 so that even if something bad happened (stomach, fatigue, etc.), I could still come in sub-1:55.
Sure enough, “something” happened at about mile 11. I started cramping. WTF?!? After cramping during Surf City and getting a charley horse post-race, I switched to SaltStick caps instead of the electrolyte pills I had been using, and they worked well during the 5K and on my training runs. I had also thought that not walking the water stations would help with this issue. Nope. I got that twinge in my left calf, and thought “Oh hell, no.” It seized up a little, but rather than stop, which is what I did at Surf City, I just ran through it. I mentally pictured my calf relaxing, and after about 100 yards or so, it loosened up. My other calf seized up later in the race, but same process, and again it relaxed. Unfortunately, while I didn’t have to run with a calf cramp, it did slow me down because whenever I tried to accelerate, I’d feel that twinge. Arggghhh. I really wanted to go for it in that last mile, but my calf wouldn’t let me be great!
I know by this time you must be on the edge of your seat wondering how your heroine did. Well, despite not seeing those fast paces during training, and even though my crampy calves conspired against me, I finished with a 1:52:28 half marathon time! Friends, that is insane. I never thought I’d see that number. I’m a steady-eddy 2:00-2:07 half marathoner. It takes an extraordinary effort or luck (like a short course in 2012) to get me in at sub-2:00, and that has only happened twice in over twenty half marathons pre-Trainer. Not only did I PR…not only did I go sub-1:55… I even beat my A goal! Crazy.
As for the race itself, it wasn’t as scenic as the full marathon course. It was pretty blah and seemed like quite a bit of running in the town as opposed to on the bike path with beautiful mountain vistas, as well as along the beach with six miles to go. However, that old beach route did mean running by the finish line and circling back, so after a listening to the complaints, they made a course change this year to avoid that. The crowd support is spotty, but that’s not why you run this race; you run this race because it’s a fast course. The medal was nice; the t-shirt meh; the swag negligible. Again, people don’t run the race for that stuff. So, did the course deliver and meet expectations? A resounding yes.
It was awesome to end the first half of my racing season on a high note. Two half marathons and a 5K resulted in back-to-back half marathon PRs and a 5K third place AG finish. 2016 has started off well, but as you know there is no rest for the weary. After a short vacation in NYC, I am back at it this week training for that full mary in September. Yikes. Not gonna lie, I have some nervousness about my body’s ability to withstand the beatdown it’s about to take, but I’m also curious and excited. Having these solid race results will be good information to draw upon when training gets tough mentally and/or physically in the coming months. And so here I am just two months shy of turning 49 and still setting new PRs, so perhaps it should be said again: Getting injured last September may have been the best thing to happen to my running.
Age Group (45-49): 11/157