The Ventura Marathon: I Did It!
I did it. I finally did it! I finally finished a marathon where I am completely satisfied with my performance. Heck, I didn’t meet my sub-3 goal and it really doesn’t matter. This was my performance of the year – not because I finished first place, but because I know for a fact that I am not the same runner I was a few years ago.
This realization occurred to me after I excitedly messaged my friend Radell a few days after the race to share the good news. He was so excited for me and his immediate response was, “You are a terrific athlete. I always thought you were grinding yourself too hard.” He was so right. Looking back a few years ago, when I wanted to break 3-hours at any cost, I wasn’t running for pleasure anymore, running was running my life. I basically took the fun out of running. I was dealing with injury after injury. It was horrible, really. And the best memories I have at that time are not the races, but the great friendships I made during that time – one of them being Radell, my coach at the time Sylvia Mosqueda, Adrian Broca, and so many more.
This time around, my coach Andy and I approached things differently. His first rule was: STAY HEALTHY. GET HEALTHY. This would be my biggest challenge because I used to always be injured. He also worked with me wanting to reaching several goals at once: racing ultra marathons and train for a sub-3 marathon. This type of training was different, and some days I worried my speed workouts weren’t fast enough for the marathon and that my weekend-only trail running wasn’t enough for my ultras. At the end of the day though, it all worked out. I have had the best year of training and racing and have some of the best running memories and experiences ever. I am thoroughly enjoying my time out on the trails, seeing new places, meeting new people and I know that plays a big part in my success. The pressure is still there, I always want to run my best and I worry sometimes that I won’t perform, but it doesn’t control me anymore. I am not in a hurry or frenzy to race another marathon to break 3-hours. I don’t see the point in it right now, especially when I feel confident enough to say that I know I can do it when I am ready to go there. Just not interested in that right now – I have a 100-miler to run in October and that is my next priority. 🙂
Anyway, so back to race day:
I had the absolute worst sleep before any race the night before. I was tossing and turning ALL night. It wasn’t until after midnight that Ashley suggested I take half a melatonin to help me until my 3-something in the morning wake-up call.
When my alarm sounded in the morning, I jumped up and quickly got ready. I was not going to remind myself that I had a crappy night’s sleep, I was just going to pretend everything was on point and on track. Ashley drove us from OC to the Valley where we switched cars with Balmore, who wanted to help out by driving us the rest of the way to Ventura. We got to the start with enough time to get my bib from Marathon Mitch and also warm-up a bit by running the length of the pier a couple of times. Our game plan was re-reviewed: I’d run with a handheld and have salt/gu’s in my ifitness belt and I would meet Ashley and Balmore at specific aid stations to swap out my bottle for a fresh one.
I gave Ashley and Balmore quick hugs before I jumped in to the starting line area – they needed to take off because they were going to be meeting me around mile 6. As I stand on the start line, kind of stretching, I realize I didn’t take my water bottle from them! Really? How could I just forget the most important thing I needed at that moment? And then I realized I didn’t have my wrist handkerchief that I must have for nearly every run. Way to go Trace! Hehe. Quickly I just told myself, “no handhelds for the rest of the day – depend on aid stations.”
When the race started and we were off, I was so calm. 6:52 was going to be my pace for the day. I didn’t care about adding buffer, and didn’t want to run any faster than I needed to. My headphones were blasting motivational songs, mostly suggested by my FB friends and I would not be distracted today – no checking out other runner’s outfits, no short talk with other racers, no counting my racing position, none of that – just me and my Garmin splits, that’s it.
I ran through the first aid station to avoid the cluster of runners that had yet to settle in. There were quite a few runners around me – both the full and half marathon started at the same time. I got distracted before I got to the 10k when I saw Aaron Sharp heading our way – apparently he had already reached the half turnaround and quickly stuck out his hand for a high-five. When I reached mile six, I did not see Ashley and Balmore and knew they probably had issues driving to the location with all the street closures. I saw them at the next aid station and just grabbed my handkerchief, telling Ashley NO HANDHELD.
I really felt good, no pains, no heavy breathing, but I was just finding it tough to maintain that tunnel vision of non-stop focus. I was right on pace. A while later, maybe around mile 10 or 11, I see Ashley and Balmore again – I just grabbed a water from the volunteer and blew by again. Poor Ashley, still holding on to the bottle, not sure if I was just not going to take it now or not at all. She would continue to offer it to me even though I declined. As I approached the half way mark, we simply looped back in the direction we had came. I was able to see, especially after the half marathoners were out of sight, that there were two women in front of me and not too far ahead. I didn’t go any faster, still keeping my sights on 6:52. About a half mile past the turnaround, I caught both women about a minute a part from each other. Again, I glance down and I am still on pace. Not sure what was going on with them but I couldn’t think about that.
Again I see Ashley and Balmore around mile 19, they are smiling and Ashley is screaming “F1!” I just give her the eye and say, “I don’t want to know!” Deep down it felt good but I couldn’t focus on that. I just had to get through this long, tedious road all the way to the finish. My mind was exhausted. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to not think about anything. I didn’t think about yesterday. I didn’t think about my boyfriend. Nothing. Just this race. And then things started to get in my head. My right butt cheek, both of my toes and my left calf, they all felt like they were on the verge of cramping. “Relax girl, it’s going to be OK. You got this. You can do it.” I repeated this over and over again.
I started to lose my pace – I had a slower mile 18 an d 19 (6:59/6:55) and then was back on track for mile 20 (6:50). After this, I would not be under 7:00 for the rest of the race. Although it seemed like I was running WAY off pace for the rest of the race, it wasn’t that bad (7:03/7:09/7:13/7:22/7:16/7:13), I just had to stay calm, focus on the race in front of me and remind myself that I could do it.
Finally, as I headed onto the path that led me into the finish, another runner, a stranger, generously pushed me to the finish. He basically ran my pace to get me in the chute, totally disregarding his own race. That was a touching moment for me and I wish I could thank him. When I glanced at the clock, I felt nothing but pure happiness. FINALLY, I ran my own race. It was tough, but it was over. 3:01:53 and F1! Yay!