#Mountains2Beach Marathon Recap

25 May

Yesterday I ran my third marathon – Mountains 2 Beach which started in Ojai and ended on the beach in Ventura. I wanted to get my recap done ASAP to remember all of the highs and various lows from this race.  Overall, it was a fabulous race experience and I also learned a lot for future training cycles.

My training going into this marathon was better than my previous two — I got in more long runs, and my pace was consistently better than it has been in the past.  I felt strong, and I wasn’t nervous heading into yesterday.  This is in stark contrast to when I ran LA in 2014 — I was a ball of nerves the entire week before because I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, even though I realized no one really cares about my time except for me.

Anyway,  my parents generously agreed to come up to Ventura with me on Saturday.  We hit up packet pick-up at Ventura High School on our way, which was a huge chaotic mess. I loved this race but their organization was awful at packet pick-up.  Various unmarked lines and very little space for the number of people it was trying to accommodate.  Also, the expo was really tiny and there wasn’t much going on, but it at least made it relatively easy to make quick work of it.

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My parents and I headed to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ventura which was great — we walked onto Main Street for an early dinner at Bombay Burger Bar which beyond hit the spot.  I’m pretty sure if you’re craving something the day before a marathon you should not deny yourself that craving and my body was telling me I needed a hamburger.  Granted,  my body tells me this a lot, but I listened on a pre-race day.  It was insanely hard to watch my Dad have a couple of beers while I drank water.  But there’s a first time for everything.

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I managed to get to sleep around 9:30, which was helpful because my alarm was set to 3:15.  This race shuttles everyone from Ventura up to the start in Ojai, and my shuttle time was 4 a.m.  Waking up that early is never easy, but pre-race adrenaline got me going, and once I got to Ojai I ran into my #DTLARunning buddies Alvaro, Cynthia, Kevin, and Kendra and that helped pass the time.  On the shuttle,  I met a guy who had done this race before who suggested I stay to the left because sometimes the water stations are only one side.  That tip came in handy later on.

My race strategy was to conserve the first 10, pick up the pace the second 10, and to hang on for the last 6.  This worked very well for the first 20 – and the first part of the race was nothing short of euphoric.  We started in Ojai and essentially did a big loop to add mileage.  I was hovering in between the 3:28 and 3:33 pacer for this portion.  There’s one very gradual uphill for about a mile at mile 6 and I made a conscious effort to slow my pace and not to push it.  My iPod was set to shuffle and everything was on-point, one great song after another.  I had this amazing feeling of “this is going to be my day…I’m going to shatter my PR.”  Even the signs were inspired.  My two favorites were ones that said “One if By Land – Boston Bound” and “San Diego – 200 miles.  Boston – 22 miles” held by someone at mile 4.

  • Mile 1: 8:00
  • Mile 2: 7:53
  • Mile 3: 7:36
  • Mile 4: 7:44
  • Mile 5: 7:37
  • Mile 6: 8:11
  • Mile 7: 8:07
  • Mile 8: 7:54
  • Mile 9: 7:31
  • Mile 10: 7:20

The miles were sort of blurring together and before I knew it I was at mile 10.  At this point I realized I could pick it up if I wanted to, so I accelerated when I felt like it and used the downhill.  I passed the 3:28 pacer.  And then I passed the 3:23 pacer. I knew I’d slow down once we got to the flat portion for the last 5 miles or so, but I figured this would give me a solid buffer to still BQ.

  • Mile 11: 7:33
  • Mile 12: 7:19
  • Mile 13: 7:05
  • (1:40:xx at the half)
  • Mile 14: 7:17
  • Mile 15: 7:39
  • Mile 16: 7:49
  • Mile 17: 8:02

Around this point I started to get a little bit tired, so I started walking through the water stations.  It was starting to get hot, and this portion of the bike path did not have a lot of cloud cover.  Based on my rough math,  I thought I could slow to a 9 min/mile average and still BQ, so with small walk breaks I’d be about 9 minutes per mile with my running pace still around 8 minutes/mile.

  • Mile 18: 8:49
  • Mile 19: 8:34
  • Mile 20: 8:51

Somewhere in the 21st mile is when things got rough.  I started to feel the beginnings of muscle spasms earlier in my race, and I had taken a salt pill to try and prevent them from taking over. In mile 21 I took another pill, and walked A LOT.  At one point when we made the turn off the bike path, I started running again and BOOM.   Both calves instantly seized up at the same time.  Every time I tried to run, they’d be okay for maybe a minute or so, and then spasm again.  Literally charley horse after charley horse with both calves.

  • Mile 21: 8:30
  • Mile 22: 12:39

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I thought I’d maybe have a chance If I could get my calves to cooperate, but by now the 3:23 and 3:28 pacers were long gone.   At this point, I saw my parents who were cheering.  I told them “it’s gonna be close” as I ran by — I was still hanging with the 3:33 pacer.  Little did I know my calves would only get worse, essentially leaving me to walk the last 3 miles. Every time I would try to run both calves would seize.  

  • Mile 23: 8:23
  • Mile 24: 11:46
  • Mile 25: 12:58
  • Mile 26: 12:42
  • You can see the pain.

    You can see the pain.

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    Total Time:  3:46:11

    This was unbelievably disappointing — I never really felt like I went into glycogen debt and I felt strong most of the way.  I crossed the finish line and started to cry.  Not from the disappointment of missing the BQ — I frankly did not deserve it with that race and that day will come.  What frustrated me is how EVERYTHING else was perfect — my nutrition,  the course, the music, the weather…Ugh.

    I rallied myself to a slow walk back to the hotel, showered, and took some standard social media photos.

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    Later, my mom did some research and we think poor hip extension is the cause of my muscle spasms/charley horses.   So I will definitely be working on that and adding yoga into my routine.

    Overall, I am proud of what I accomplished yesterday and I loved the race.  The course was BEAUTIFUL and FAST.  I didn’t love miles 17-19, but I would know that for future years and plan accordingly.  I also loved that the race started at 6 AM – making it much easier to beat the heat, since it never really got THAT hot, although it did get sunny.

    I spent the rest of the afternoon eating In-n-Out and drinking an IPA while watching Pitch Perfect with my mom.  Fat Amy’s “horizontal running” even seems too taxing right now…

    Thank you to EVERYONE who sent me positive vibes and social media likes the last couple of days.  Yesterday was an emotional ride but so worth it.

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    4 Responses to “#Mountains2Beach Marathon Recap”

    1. Casey Clow May 25, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      Sorry you didn’t PR, Gillian! What would have qualified you for Boston? Is ii possible the leggings are not necessary for such a long race? Could they have somehow contributed to your calves seizing up? CC

    2. Kevin May 26, 2015 at 1:24 am #

      You looked SO strong when you zoomed past me, so I’m really sorry the cramping derailed your race. But you still finished in a great tim, considering.

      I was going at a good clip until I cramped as well – I had lots of electrolytes and salt tablets, so I’m thinking maybe I needed more calories along the way. Live and learn. I felt so good for so long — the course was so fast it really did feel like I was zooming along. Even the “hilly” portion I think my splits were in the very low 8s.

      The good thing is despite missing it on Sunday, you definitely have Boston in you, sooner rather than later. The day will come, and when it does it will be all that much more spectacular. I can’t wait to do this one next year, I would love to work up my endurance and try to knock 20 minutes off this year’s time.

    3. Katherine Swanson May 26, 2015 at 9:55 am #

      Aw, Gillian that sucks you had almost a perfect race until the charley horse(s). Your training was on point and I know you will get the BQ sooner than later. Marathons are unpredictable for sure. Congrats on what was still a fabulous effort and race.

    4. hautechocolaterunner May 27, 2015 at 6:30 am #

      You freaking rock, G! Nothing is more frustrating than having your body give you the ol’ middle finger when your mind and heart clearly have other ideas. You are strong, speedy, and rad. The marathon is a beast. You should be proud for showing Charlie and his stinking horse what you’re made of!

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