A Unicorn's Journey: Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Chapter 3 "How Much Further" + "Chasing the Unicorn"
“How Much Further?”
The bike path winds through Casistas Springs, Home of Johnny Cash, and Mira Monte, a quaint town with towering red steel horses. Every time I see them, I pretend those are the gates to Ventura and I’m so close to passing through the city line. We wind through some oil businesses and eventually make our way beside the 126. Once we pass through a busy intersection of Stanley Ave, one of Ventura’s last exits off of the 126, the air turns lighter and the ocean breeze replaces the heavy Ojai air. Here I meet the dreaded and all too well known wall. Having ran this section MANY times, you become familiar with every bump, crack, smell, and homeless person you pass. By this time my husband and I were the only 2 left in the 3:33 group. Having finished the majority of the incline the pace declined from a 8:00, 7:58, and solidifying a 7:56 for the last 4 miles of the race. I had started feeling signs of betrayal from my limbs. My feet were moving, however my hands and mind could no longer function. Having dropped my water bottle and 2 GU packets Josh began holding my nutrition and fueling me when I called out for a random item. As we began the race, my token earbuds kept falling out of my ears AND my watched spazzed as I crossed the start so I was unable to track the entire race! I was calling out to him every line quarter mile “How much further?” “what’s our split?” “Are we on pace” “are we there yet?!”..you know, the random thoughts we usually keep to our self that I chose to enunciate every other step. Man, Thank goodness he loves me and didn’t decide to drop me on those hills, again, I was thankful he was my pacer, however I’m not sure he was lol.
Chasing that Unicorn
By mile 23 we were joined by many spectators clad in Boston jackets and holding unicorn signs. This is the point in which our body AND Mind begin to shut down. Some years as runners head into Ventrua the wonderful cooler breeze turns into a headwind. Now, if you’ve ever ridden a bike by the coast, you’ll know that even the mildest of headwinds will knock you on your feet, or what I deem creating a flag out of your ponytail. As we turned off the bike path, we met up with some past pace group members who had succumbed to the hills, we high fived them and gave them encouraging words, the end wasn’t far, the finish line of course. Josh yelled for me to get behind him and follow his pace, we were clipping along at a steady 7:56 and it wasn’t getting easier. Instead of looking at how much farther I had to go, I focused my eyes on his shoes. Finding something to focus on gave my mind relief from the constant “are we there yet? I’m SO TIRED.” The mind is a powerful thing. Months leading up to this I had pinned a poster with running quotes from Chrissie Wellington and Shalane Flannagin, as well as “BOSTON” in huge block letters across the middle. It had been the motivation to the run on the treadmill after a 10-6 shift at REI. It was there to remind me that when I hit THIS EXACT moment in the race, to chase my Boston Unicorn. I had to tell myself over and over, in 30 minutes I would be banging that Boston Qualifying celebration gong, in 40 minutes this would be over. I regrouped, put my head down, and charged ahead, up the long, slow incline of Santa Clara Hill, around Chestnut Park, and on to San Juan, to where in front of me I was welcome with the sight of the sun glistening off the ocean. All I had to do was turn my 2nd star to the right onto the familiar beach boardwalk and I would be crowned a Boston Qualifying Unicorn. With my arms by my side and headphones in my pocket, I soaked in the sound of the waves slapping the sand, spectators cheering, friends from my running club cheering our names. We hopped off the curb, onto the road, and through the finishing shoot. The clock read 3:32:50. WE…DID…IT! I bent over catching my breath for the first time, tears rolling down my cheek. They wrapped a medal around my neck and we turned to cheer on the last of the familiar of faces that were running in the next 5 minutes. I stood there marveling at the sight of the next few waves of runners, watching the emotion on their face as others look at their watch and stagger in with disbelief on their face. The finish line always gets me. It’s my favorite place to be and watch as hours upon hours of emotions and training finally unfold.
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