Top 3 Things I love about this race
1. Closed Roads/boardwalk
2. Beautiful Course
3 . Time of year
I ran this race in 2016 and achieved a Boston Qualifying time of 3:32:10. I had signed up this year in hopes of doing the same for the 2018 Boston Marathon.
I love how this race is basically in my back yard. The boardwalk we finish on is the same one I run up and down for almost every long run. The bike path we run down is one I use for hill training (only I run the opposite way). The rolling hill section around mile 17 and 18 is part of a lake loop I used for bike training. It's extremely convenient for me and I felt really lucky to have trained multiple times on the course by race day.
Due to well, life, my training for this race had not been extremely comforting. In February I lost a family member which was during the same time of the Crossfit Open. I had a mild case of shin splints followed by a 3 week sinus infection, all while training an Ironman in July. Had I gotten in over my head?
With 2-3 weeks out of race day friends kept asking "are you ready? How do you feel?" I just would shrug and say I did what I could, we will see. I had the confidence I would finish (having already ran Boston in April and a 50K trail race 5 Days later), the distance isn't what concerned me, more so the 8:05 pace. I had tried multiple times to do small runs, with a sub 8 minute pace, and had to stop every mile to catch my breath. I was in rough shape.
Please Give Me Wings
Minutes before the race I joined my pace group. By then I could only look up into the sky and say a little prayer that this would be my last marathon for the year. I hope I had the wings I needed to fly that day.
My plan was to stick with the 3:32 pacer as well as using my findmymarathon pace band I had found for that time. Using the estimated times, mile per mile, I had the math laid out before me, in conjunction with the elevation, for what I needed to finish in 3:32:00.
My pace group took off and I instantly had a little twinge of pain in my ankle, seriously?! I had warmed up about half a mile before the race and felt nothing, it was going to be a long day if this was what I was going to have to put up with.
By Mile 2 we made the left turn and started the incline. My pacer was setting a pretty fast time at 8:10. My pace band recommended around an 8:30ish pace to accommodate for the incline as well as the first major climb at the end of this mile. The first major down hill came at Mile 3 and I kept my pace group in sight. I had my first battle at that point. He seemed to be going pretty fast . I pulled back a little to catch my breath and debated going on my own. I already felt defeated. I knew it would be a very long day to run this by myself, so, I kicked in a few extra strides and caught up with the back of my pace group. Before long I had mixed in the middle and let them carry me on.
It was at this time I noticed a girl with a green pack beside me, IT WAS MEGAN! I knew her! This was a friend I ran with at my LA running club. I waved and we ran together for quite sometime. I high fived her every passing mile. We chatted about members we miss and how she was just back from having her baby (dang she was moving fast!) It made the miles fly by. I was so lucky to have her by my side.
By mile 6 we were back at the start in Ojai. The pain in my ankle had subsided and I felt extremely good. My heart rate and legs had finally settled in for the run and I said a prayer, "please let me keep feeling this good."
We were going along at a great pace : 7:45, 7:46, 7:58., 7:52
There were some hills along the course but nothing long or steep, just little rollers. I would do my Jeff Galloway, "mini steps" up the hills to keep from expending a lot of energy, then let the hills carry me down.
We got to the bike path around mile 11 and had about a minute banked on where my pace bracelet said we should be at that time. I was happy and knew it would help come mile 15 and 23 (the 2 biggest inclines of the race)
"Keep rollin' rollin' rollin' rollin"
By Mile 15 we started getting into the big rolling hill section around Lake Casitas. We had been clocking some 8:06, 8:08 time and felt like we were holding back a little on the downhills . There were 2 extremely long legged girls who I just couldn't get around. I had to keep holding back my stride to keep from tripping over them. On a down hill I moved to the side and extended my stride to pass them. The hill carried me past the group and down, down, I went.
It was then I had a mental battle. Do I hold back and stay with the group? or do I keep going on this pace? I re-evaluated my vitals. No leg cramps, I felt good, breathing was easy, energy was high, looked down at my watch, I was pacing at a 7:50..is this too fast too soon?
I looked around and saw an aid station in the distance. I decided I'd jog through the station and grab some water. By then I had a sense of where I was and knew the rest of the course, all the hills and turns I had left. If the group didn't catch up to me by then I'd try and see what I could do. I felt bad leaving Megan but I felt good and If I didn't go then I'm not sure I would get my BQ.
The miles ticked by and I kept under the estimated time by at least a minute. Again, I was nervous, is this too fast, too soon?
I had been alternating Cliff Energy Bloks and Salt Stick capsules every aid station with water and Fluid electrolytes. By the time I got to mile 19 I could feel my legs starting to tighten up. With my past 2 marathons ending up with horrible charlie horses I started to intake my salt capsules every mile. I had enough to get me to the finish line and figured with the sun now out I'd be losing more salt through sweat. The last thing I wanted to do was miss my BQ because of cramping, again.
I saw Crossfit friends at mile 19 and 20. I also knew I had a friend, whom I ran with at Boston, at mile 21. If I could get to her, I would be closer to home.
As a Blue Boston jacket came into sight, I knew it was Krissa. She was cheering and holding up a "Unicorn Stampede " sign. It made me smile and gave me more energy to get down the bike path.
"The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall"
By mile 21.5 I hit the wall. I knew every curve of this bike path, we had a tiny incline left, 2 more turns, and we would be in downtown Ventura. It seemed like we still had forever to hit the beach. I kept my head down and would glance at my watch every 20 or 30 steps. I once saw an 8:50 on my current pace, as much as I hated to I pumped my arms and got that back down to an 7:55.
We turned off the bike path and onto the street, YAY!!! The bike path is done!! That's when I saw my RunMDR friend Dylan. I had to conserve every bit of energy I had. I felt bad because I wanted to run with him, but I was on a mission. I waved as I passed him and hoped the best for him.
I saw another friend, tapped him on the shoulder, waved hoping he knew i was wishing him luck. By then it was a left turn onto the awful last big hill of the race, Santa Clara Ave. Now, this hill isn't one to be compared to those in Colorado nor any mountainous city, however at Mile 23 in a marathon, anything with elevation is a hill. This incline lasts for about 1/2 a mile and you can see people on it all the way up until you turn off. Nothing but bobbing heads and incline for what seems like miles. I put my head down and focused on just maintaining a decent speed. I was happy to see that my pace only dropped from a 7:50 to a 7:59, however I was waiting for that instant charlie horse to kick in that I always seem to get around this point in the race.
I would look up, see more hill, then put my head down. This routine lasted for what seemed like miles but I finally reached Chestnut street, the park, and FINALLY the right turn that took me on to Thompson. I couldn't wait for the BIG down hill at Sanjon. Looking at my watch read an overall time of 3:16 with 1 mile to go. I let Sanjon fly me down and was ecstatic when I saw my swim coach, and amazing triathlete, Brittany Oliver. It put a huge smile on my face.
"Don't Stop Believin', Hold on to the Feelin'"
I rounded the corner and told myself "don't stop, you've got the longest mile of your run now, don't stop" I had 10 minutes to finish that mile. If I kept my cool and just maintained my rhythm I was going to get a sub 3:30.
I kept my feet steady and broke the mile down into segments. Road, to bike path, YAY RAILINGS, past the grassy finish line, and finally, finally saw the turn at Surfers point and onto the finish shoot, I was going to do it!!!
I turned my headphones off and let the cheer of the crowds bring me in..
Arms up and DONE.
I had done it, I ...am done. :)
I honestly couldn't believe it. I cheered and clapped as I finished. I knew, without a doubt, I was going back to Boston. I put my head down with praise and said "thank you for the wings".
For God knows I love to go fast, i love the wind in my hair, so, he gave me long red hair and wings to fly.
I did it. I couldn't believe it, I had the race of my life. I had NO business running that well.
I hobbled over to a curb and sat. No cramps, no charlie horses, Yes, I was in pain, I was exhausted, but I felt good.
I found my husband and many, many friends afterwards. That's my favorite part about a local race. I don't have any family within 200 miles but my friends and running community are my local family.
I loved seeing everyone, all the smiles, all the hugs, and all the stories whether good or bad. We are all different ages and have different backgrounds but shared each other's physical pain that day.
My husband also set a personal record of 2:57:00 for his marathon time. He had previously qualified for Boston at local race last fall, after the 2017 cut off . He was hoping I would qualify so we both could go back and run Boston again.
I jumped in line to hit the Tradition BQ gong loud and proud, smiling ear to ear.
I chased and caught that unicorn once again.
I'm passionate about running, fitness, nutrition and all things that make me and everyone else a better version of ourselves.