We interrupt this Santa Rosa Marathon recap with the least original thing said after a marathon, ever: I am so sore. It’s been 48 hours since the race ended. I feel pretty good if I keep walking around, but as soon as I sit down for any length of time, or worse yet, sleep? I can barely get moving again. My quads are so sore that it took me three tries to get up off the couch this morning. Finally I succeeded by doing a newborn giraffe move involving spreading my legs wide and using my arms to press myself up to standing.
If you missed the thrilling first installment of the race recap — Earthquake! Axe murderer! — you can read Part 1 here. I left off at the starting line.
Start: 6:03 a.m.
You might recall that one of my goals was to go out slow, up to as much as 40 seconds slower than marathon goal pace, in the hopes it would help me keep from bonking later in the race like I did at Mountains2Beach when I went out too fast. I had written up a marathon pace band starting at 9:10 for mile 1, 8:50 for mile 2, 8:40 for mile 3, 8:30 for mile 4, and 8:25 for every mile after that. Assuming I could run the tangents well enough to run 26.4 miles total (just 0.2 over the plotted course), that would bring me in at the finish line at exactly 3 hours 44 minutes. The night before the race I decided I couldn’t quite bear going out 40 seconds slower, but I would try to go 15-20 seconds slower for that first mile, and then ease into marathon goal pace over the next three miles.
Miles 1 to 3 (8:43, 8:33, 8:32)
I loved starting out at an average 8:43 pace for the first mile. My legs felt fresh from taper but I didn’t make the mistake of going out too fast because of that. I found that I wasn’t huffing and puffing, and the first mile felt like a nice warmup. The whole field of runners set off in harmony and I easily settled in without having to dodge around other runners as is often the case at larger races.
The first 2.5 miles of the race wound through the city streets of downtown Santa Rosa. It seemed like a lot of turns but it went by quickly as I focused on running the tangents (running the most direct route possible). I knew that those 2.5 miles would help spread out the field of runners so that when we hit the narrower greenway path at 2.5 miles it would not bottleneck and back up. Thank goodness that was indeed the case. It didn’t feel crowded on the greenway and I didn’t feel any frustration with my position in the trail of runners. I did worry that at some point I would want to pass the 3:45 pacer and the pack of runners clustered around him, but — spoiler alert — that didn’t happen until mile 15 when we were out on the road.
The greenway is just that: green and beautiful and mostly flat. Note that for safety reasons, runners are only allowed to have one earbud in while they are running on the greenway (that was the 2014 rule anyway). I choose not to listen to music while I race. I can listen to an audiobook during training runs, but during a race I like to focus on my surroundings, on how my body feels, and on my pace and form. I don’t mind if others listen to music as long as they are aware of others around them.
Miles 4 to 6 (8:30, 8:27, 8:24)
Aid stations popped up every 2 miles or so on the course. They were well stocked with Gatorade Endurance and water. (Only once did I suspect my cup of Gatorade had been watered down a bit. The lemon-lime flavor that tastes like liquid gold when I need it tasted more like Gatorade-flavored water that time. Overall though the aid stations and volunteers get a big thumbs-up from me). The best stations were the ones that had water on the left side of the course and Gatorade on the right. That made it easy to grab the correct cup from the volunteers. I also saw volunteers handing out oranges, bananas, and gels at aid stations later on the course. I did not carry any fuel with me and I relied solely on the course aid stations. I had practiced this at the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon in May and on interval workouts during training. I knew I needed to get 6-8 ounces of sports drink at each aid station, which meant asking for two cups and taking about 8 gulps as I walked. I burn over 3,000 calories during a full marathon and I wanted to take in at least 1,000 calories on the course. Ten minutes before the race I had gulped 16 ounces of Gatorade (enough to prime the system, taken in close enough to the race start that it did not make me have to stop at a porta potty along the course. There were plenty of those but I’m grateful I didn’t need one).
Miles 7 to 9 (8:24, 8:22, 8:28)
Just after mile 8 the course leaves the greenway path and hits the road. There are some rolling hills, never more than 30 feet of elevation gain and loss. Any potholes were marked with yellow spray paint around them. The course was marked in green sticker arrows and white chalk (blue arrows for the half marathon). I never had any problem navigating the course.
Miles 10 to 12 (8:23, 8:25, 8:27)
Around mile 10 the course veers into beautiful DeLoach Vineyards, one of the sponsors of the race. That’s the one hiccup on the course — you have to run on a very short section of dirt road, just a few hundred feet. I wouldn’t have minded it but the runners ahead of me kicked up a lot of dust. The reward for running over that stretch though is getting to run through the barrel room at the winery. Watch out for runners stopping to take photos at this point and of course if you are one of those stopping to take a selfie, remember to be considerate and step all the way to the right to stop. The course heads back out past the rows of grapevines. The vines were dripping with full clusters of grapes at this time of year. Some of the trees on the course were already starting to blush with fall color even though it was only the end of August.
Mile 13 and 0.1 – The Half Marathon Point (8:30)
At the half marathon point by the distance shown on my Garmin, my time said 1:51:05. The race timing mat at the actual half marathon point registered my chip time as 1:51:48. That was just 3 seconds slower than the target time I had written on my pace bracelet: 1:51:45. Things were looking good, but I knew from experience that the race really starts for me around mile 18. Only then would I know if I could break through the proverbial wall and run on pace to qualify for Boston with a 3:45 or less. And now, Part 3, the thrilling conclusion!