Note: Four days after the Mountains2Beach Marathon, my emotions about the race remain as raw as the blister on my left big toe. So I’ll stick to the facts and save any analysis for later.
In spite of some serious race jitters, I had no trouble going to sleep at 9:45 p.m. the night before the race. Good thing, too, because I only had about five hours before my alarm would go off at 3 a.m.!
For breakfast three hours before the race, I ate some oatmeal and a banana, and drank coffee with unsweetened almond milk. Two hours before the race I drank a couple of cups of Fluid sports drink. By 5 a.m. I was dressed and ready to leave for the race. We had rented a vacation home just minutes from the starting line and it was very nice not to have to board a shuttle in Ventura for a 25 minute ride to Ojai.
The point-to-point race started just north of Nordhoff High School. I had hoped the school would be open so the runners could stay warm and use the facilities like we were able to at Santa Barbara. Sadly, no. Picture lots of runners shivering in the dark, waiting in long porta potty lines. I seriously considered befriending someone who had been smart enough to bring a trash bag to keep warm under. It wouldn’t have been at all weird to offer to share my body heat with a stranger, right? Instead I spent my time slathering on sunscreen and waiting about 15 minutes for the porta potty. Shortly before the 6 a.m. scheduled start time, I did a little warm up and then entered the corral. The actual start time was delayed 10 minutes to accommodate all those people still in line to do their pre-race business. The race started in two waves and people self-seeded by whether they planned to finish before or after the 3:45 mark.
In the days leading up to the race I studied the course map and elevation map. I had trained for an average 8:35 pace for an “A” goal of a 3:45 time. I planned to go out at 8:20 for the flat and downhill portions of the race, with a 9:00 pace on any hills and the flat 5 miles along the beach at the end. As it turned out that was a decent strategy because it was pretty much what the 3:45 pacer did; it just was a little ambitious for me….
Miles 0-3 (8:17, 8:24, 8:23)
The race starts with a 10K loop through a pretty section of Meiners Oaks. Miles 0-2.75 are relatively flat with just one very short uphill jog before you head down to the Ojai Valley Trail. I was worried it would bottleneck where we joined the trail but the pack had thinned just enough by then.
Miles 3-5 (9:01, 8:55, 8:12)
At mile 2.75 there is a slight uphill grade until mile 5. Nothing intimidating at all and I just watched my breathing and kept a constant effort rather than a constant pace.
Miles 6-10 (8:12, 8:20, 8:15, 8:19, 8:22)
At mile 6 we looped back past the start at the high school and Mike and the girls met me with a bottle of Fluid. My youngest two girls paced me for a bit:
(Psst: If you “like” this photo on Facebook it could help me win a free entry to next year’s marathon!)
Miles 11-17 (8:22, 8:24, 8:47, 8:41, 8:42, 8:30, 8:27)
The Ojai Valley Trail is gorgeous and the gentle decline helped my pace and didn’t hurt my knees. Mike and the girls met me again around mile 11.4 with another bottle of Fluid.
My family all wore lime green t-shirts so I could find them on the trail. They had a harder time finding me in my generic blue t-shirt, but they did it on time every time and were a fantastic support crew.
At mile 12 I took a gel with caffeine. Interesting that my splits started to slow then rather than pick up….
I was disappointed that there wasn’t a timing mat or clock at the 13.1 mark on the course. By my Garmin at 13.12 (half of my 26.24 race), I hit a personal best half marathon time of 1:51:01.
Read on for Part 2, also known as “where I hit the wall and the wheels fell off.”