2017 Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Recap

SMS and I drove down the Central Coast on Saturday.  Why?!?  I had signed up for the Mountains 2 Beaches marathon to try and qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon.  My time at Boston (4:01) was not great but I knew it was mainly due to the heat.  I had so much fun in Boston that I wanted to run it again so…Mountains 2 Beach it was.  I wanted a marathon that was known for providing BQs (Boston Qualifiers…ack, I’m using the lingo and drinking the Koolaid!) and with a 700 feet net downhill, M2B was it!  Also, I didn’t want to do an extended marathon training plan again so I tried to keep my fitness up for a few more weeks.  M2B had been sold out but right after Boston, they opened up 200 slots.  I signed up for one and kept up my training after the marathon, mostly in the form of long runs and a few interval workouts.

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Papi’s Grill- so good!

So!  On Saturday, we stopped at Papi’s Grill in Pismo Beach and had excellent Mexican food.  We had several awesome tacos- butter beef, chorizo, potato, chorizo and veggies, shrimp- and chipotle chorizo french fries.  Although the fries were written about in a lot of reviews, the tacos were the winners in my book.  SMS thought that I had ordered too much food (truth!) and that chorizo was a bad choice before a marathon (false!) but he went along with it!

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Outside the Expo.  I feel that if the driver got pulled over, s/he would not have an easy time getting out of a ticket!

We went to the expo which was small and efficient.  Parking cost $5, which I was a little annoyed at but hey, parking by the beach is not usually free, I guess.  (Tip: Park near the Patagonia store and walk over).  I picked up my bib, shuttle ticket and shirt in about 7 minutes.  We looked at the vendors but left fairly quickly.  We walked over to the original Patagonia store.  We poked around for a bit and I got ideas for things I wanted to look for on sale.  SMS found a nice pair of board shorts but they didn’t have his size.  They directed us Surfboards by Fletcher Chouinard Designs where several Patagonia suits are carried.  We found the right size and got a 30% military discount!  Yay! [Re-reading this paragraph, I realize like I sound like such a cheap bastard- 3 money-saving tips in one paragraph?   I can’t believe I stopped clipping coupons long enough to even type these words!]

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Missile Park outside Pt Magu

We drove South about 25 more minutes to Pt Magu Naval Base where we stayed at the Navy Gateway Inn.  It was near the beach and the room was really nice.  I would highly recommend the place.  I would like to go back later in the Summer to enjoy the beach (and maybe beach camping!?).

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Pt Magu beach- the rock Central/South CA divider is on the right.

For dinner, SMS and I decided to drive a little further South to Malibu.  The drive along Rte 1 is really beautiful and there’s a spot where the highway runs between two large rocks that were blasted apart for the road.  We decided that it was the gateway between Central Coast and Southern California.

Malibu didn’t seem to be the most walkable place.  Most of the restaurants and shops were in scattered small shopping centers rather than one central “Malibu” town.  We ate at Ollo, which was really delicious.  We shared several dishes- beef shortribs risotto, grilled artichoke, burrata & peach salad and curried lentils.  The shortribs were amazing and the grilled artichoke was beautifully charred.  The burrata was a bit of a miss- I thought it was going to be more of a baguette & spread rather than salad.  The curried lentils were tasty.  Afterwards, we drove back to Pt Magu and went to bed.  I was pretty tired since I was on East Coast time.

The next morning, I woke up, quickly got dressed and drove to Ventura to catch the shuttle.  Parking was pretty easy and fortunately, I parked on the correct side to get to the 101 without having to cross the course later in the morning.  There seemed to be a few more people than there were buses but fortunately, I made it on the last bus.  We arrived in Ojai about 25 minutes later.  I headed straight for the Porta-Potties which, as reported in other write-ups, have fairly long lines.  I would think a few more are needed but Ojai doesn’t seem like much of  a Porta-potty town so maybe the number is limited.

The start was well-organized and I started about 4 minutes after the official start.  I set out with the 3:37 pace group but I realized that I felt really, really good that morning.  So after the first mile, I had caught up to the 3:32 group and ran with them for awhile.  I didn’t necessarily think that I would finish in 3:32 but I thought that building a time buffer would be a good idea and make the end of the race less stressful.

I felt great for the first 16 miles.  I had my headphones in and really got a lot of energy from my music.  Nothing great, just pop music with a good beat.  At mile 16, I stopped for a quick bathroom break.  This is where I lost the 3:32 group because there was no way I was going to sprint after them.  I slowed down a fair bit after that but it also corresponded to where the course flattened out and a headwind started to pick up.  It wasn’t a terrible headwind (in fact, it was slightly cooling) but it was definitely noticeable.

Around mile 21, my legs really started to hurt.  My quads felt so tight and my calves were almost as bad.  It progressively got worse through the last 5 miles but I just gutted through. The last mile, I had a pretty hitch-y gait but I knew that as long as I kept running, albeit slowly, I would very likely make my time goal.  I thought of SMS and his hard climbs, telling myself that this race was like a 12A climb and “the crux is at the finish,” which means the known hardest move is at the end.  I also thought about my friend Jyotsna and how I really did not want to text her bad news about missing my time goal.  I tried to find internal motivation thinking that it was important to do it for myself, not just others, but my internal motivation was telling me to walk so I didn’t listen.

The 3:37 pacer passed me shortly after the 25 mile marker.  His group numbers had significantly dwindled compared to the start.  I kept him in my sights as best I could through the last mile.  I had a suspicion that he was running slightly faster than a 3:37 finish since my TomTom sportwatch was pretty spot on with mile markers and pace.  I crossed the finish line, fairly confident that I had BQ’d but I didn’t know by how much.  I went through the finishers corral where I was given a medal and a delicious snack plate with watermelon, orange slices, peanut M&Ms in addition to a few other things I didn’t eat.

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I went to the gong line, which BQ-er’s can hit after the race.  In line, a very nice couple from LA was behind me and he looked up my time.  3:37:19.  Yay!  Not only had I BQ’d but I likely have enough of a time cushion to make the cut-off time as well!  A woman joined me in line- I think she was a little out of it since she was completely cutting the line but she was so happy to have BQ’d.  She said she had been trying for over 30 years! She was crying and a little snotty (like from the nose, not attitude) so how could I tell her the line started back there (even though I am usually a mega-line enforcer!).

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So, yes!  It was a great course and I met my goal.  My legs have never hurt so much in a marathon but I think it’s a result of low-mileage training.  I would not recommend that type of training, but it’s just what happened after recovering from Boston and not running enough.  I don’t think the leg soreness was from going out too fast, but I don’t know.  Would I have been able to keep up with a steady 3:37 pacer?  I don’t think so since I usually slow down a bit at the end of every marathon.  I was glad that I built the time cushion up early and I think that a positive split marathon is what works for me.  Next up, Boston 2018 (cut-off time allowing)!

 

Boston Marathon 2017 Recap

The Boston Marathon was a dream experience.  Seriously.  My love for running is renewed and I am so happy.  I feel so effusive that if I kept typing, I’m sure the average (sane) person would think, “Is she for real?”  Yes!  There are some reality checks in this recap so I promise, it is a balanced perspective with several highs and a few lows.  Also, I don’t know why I’m finding it now, but this article has the best mile-by-mile analysis of the course itself if you want a more “objective” overview.

Ok, but I’m going to stick to Marathon Monday.  I slept until 6:45 and then I was awake!  My training partner had noted the day before that, as Wave 3, we didn’t have to get on the buses until 8 a.m.  Sweet, sweet sleeping in….yeah right!  Too excited!

We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard downtown, which was about a 1/2 mile from the bus loading area.  I went to the Hilton around the corner, picked up to Starbucks, picked up Jyotsna and then headed over to Charles St.  Jyotsna had a gear check bag, which was about a 1/4 mile in the other direction on Boylston St.  The gear check was very smooth, both drop-off and pick-up since at the finish, you just kept walking ‘till you reached your stuff.  The Adidas plastic bags were fairly thick and had drawstrings, making them pretty secure.

We both had our little plastic baggies approved for the start line area/Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton, filled with snacks and water.  There were freebies in Athletes Village (Clif, Gatorade, bananas, water, sunscreen) but we felt better having our own stuff, especially our breakfast of choice.  There were donation boxes for castaway gear which filled up fast because, unfortunately, it was very warm.  Very, very warm. 

Oh, the weather.  Forget heartbreak hill, the weather was the heartbreak.  The average course temp was 74 degrees and I know!  It makes me sound like such a whiny baby to say it was hot!  But I once read that in long-distance running, a runner should dress for 20 degrees warmer because that is how it feels.  I would definitely agree with that ballpark estimate.  Continue reading “Boston Marathon 2017 Recap”

Napa Valley Marathon 2016 Recap

This past Sunday, I ran my first marathon in 11 years!  It was the culmination of a pretty awesome training program.  I was really happy that I stuck with the 18 week program and it’s all due to having an incredible training partner.  I never would have done it on my own, which I’ll be honest, I don’t totally like admitting but hey, if I need some external accountability and another person to get me to stick to my long runs then so be it!  I’ve also made a great friend in the process so this whole experience was much more than just the race but since that was the goal, let me tell you about it!

At the Expo for our number pick-up

So, J and I decided to stay in Calistoga the night before the race.  This allowed us to “sleep in” until 5:45 rather than wake up even earlier in Napa to catch the 5:15 shuttle.  We walked over to the race and a couple of notes for future reference.  One, the Calistoga Roastery opened early so we could have had real coffee instead of lukewarm instant made from tap water.  The lukewarm instant was all part of the experience but if you’re looking for slightly higher quality coffee, the coffee shop apparently provides on marathon Sunday.  Two, the traffic in Calistoga was highly overstated by the race organizers.  It would have been very easy to drive and find nearby parking if one wanted to avoid the Napa shuttle departure time.  I wouldn’t show up five minutes before start time but still, nice to know.

J and I dropped off our sweat bags filled with our finish line supplies.  The race ends at a high school and shower access is available at the end.  We brought shower toiletries, towel, change of clothes and flip-flops/slippers (pick your favorite regional noun for flip-flops- just don’t pick “shower thongs”).

Next, I dropped off two 0.5L disposable water bottles with Honey Stingers taped to the sides.  These were transported to specific aid stations and laid out on a foldout table right along the course.  At 9.3 and 20.4 miles, my water bottle was waiting for me.  I ran with the bottle until the next mile marker and then put it in the provided trash bag set up at the base of the marker.   This ended up being a pretty awesome perk of being in a small marathon.  Even though there were plenty of water stations with fruit options, it was nice to be able to drink a little more water at two specific points while still being able to move.  In addition, I was happy to fuel with my known Honey Stingers rather than risk an upset stomach with a weird flavor goo.

So excited!

After a quick stop at the PortaPotties (plenty of toilets but you know, sometimes the less said about those things the better!  Ok, ok, there was a little bit of poop on the seat.  Eeeeemwwww!!!!), we headed towards the start.  After “The Star Spangled Banner,” we were off!  The RF trackers are now located in the bibs instead of the shoe chips I was used to from the 2000s.  J even signed A up for text message updates.  We crossed the tracker line and started running.

Our goal pace was 8:12 for a 3:35 finish.  Although this may seem obvious, I realized in the first two miles that we would have to run a little faster than that in order to finish the marathon in our goal time since there’s a little bit of distance added unless a runner runs the tangents perfectly, which we did not.  By the end, I think I had added about 0.2 miles to the total distance.  Not terrible, but something that needs to be taken into account.

We started out a good clip.  Our first mile was 8:18 but then we picked it up for several sub-8:00 miles.  We weren’t too far below 8 though, so I wasn’t worried.  I felt that we would do better with a slightly positive split.  There were two inclines, one at 2 miles and a slightly longer one in the 4th mile.  They were definitely doable and similar to the pedestrian overpasses we would run up on the Steven’s Creek trail.  I’m glad we had those small inclines under our belts but really, it wasn’t too bad.

The vineyards were beautiful.  The early morning light was gorgeous and there was so much vivid green punctuated by the fluorescent yellow of the mustard flowers.  There was a merciful break in the weekend forecast of rain that lasted about 4 hours just in time for our marathon.  We were so lucky!

It’s a no headphones race.  J and I didn’t talk to each other a lot, but it was fine to not have music.  It would have been a little bit of a nice distraction in the last few miles but whatever, we knew the rules!

Based on prior race reports, we were expecting a big hill somewhere between the 18-20 mile markers.  On the course elevation map, it looked like there would be a big incline right before mile 20 but when running it, I didn’t notice any significant change.  Because the elevation changes are fairly slight with this race, I think the scale on the course elevation profile threw me off.  I was happy not to encounter a perceptible hill challenge so late in the race!

J and I ran together for about 21 miles.  Around the 21 mile mark, we went our separate ways which was disappointing since we thought we could hang together the whole time but J was starting to get affected by congestion that had been plaguing her the week prior.  Argh, marathons are fickle like that.  You hope for the best, but illnesses and injuries happen.  I also think Winter/early Spring is challenging because of cold, flu and/or allergy season.

Around mile 23, there was a light sprinkle of rain but that was it for the race.  Very lucky!  My legs were becoming more and more leaden, but I was determined to keep pushing.  I felt like I could make my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon and I wanted to leave it all out on the course.  I did pretty well effort and pacing-wise because at the end, I really didn’t have any juice to sprint it in to the finish line.  I just held my pace and crossed the line.  Hooray!  My Garmin time was 3:35:12 for the marathon and my official clock time was 3:37:10.

After some finish line pictures, swag bags and a congratulations kiss from SMS, we all met up and headed towards the gym.  There, J and I took showers in the two available stalls.  There were group shower heads but surprisingly, no one was in the locker rooms so we opted for the privacy of the stalls.  I don’t necessarily mind group showers but it’s sort of weird to opt for it when you’re the only one and there’s a nice individual one available.

I stepped into the gym and just as I entered, my number was called from the massage waiting list.  Score!  I got an awesome 10 minute massage from Julia, who was my new BFF.  Afterwards, we headed out for lunch, wine tasting and the rest of our Napa day.

Mumm Champagne!

I definitely recommend the marathon.  My only other experience is the Marine Corps Marathon in 2002, 2003 and 2005 so this was my first “small” marathon.  Significant perks include the option for water bottle drop-off for course pickup, showers at the end, kind volunteers, good time-keeping system and fast course.  There are two potential drawbacks based on personal preferences of runners. No headphones are allowed and there are a lot of lookouts trying to catch violators.  The second is that there aren’t that many spectators along the course.  There are about 10 easily accessible spectator stops based on feeding roads leading onto the Silverado trail.  Some people also watch from the end of their driveways and wineries.  I don’t need constant cheering but at the MCM, it is pretty cool that there are spectators along the entire course.  It’s hard to believe that that many people want to watch or cheer a bunch of sweaty runners!  So, the energy levels along the course are different but for me, that’s ok.  I appreciate both types of marathons although at this point, I think I’m leaning towards this smaller marathon as more of my personal favorite.

My #1 fan!