Date: May 29, 2016
Location: Ojai to Ventura, CA
Start: 6:00 am
Finish: 3:32:41 (new PR and third BQ)
The first part of this recap is mainly on my history with this race and the lead in to the actual race. If you are not interested in that, you can probably scroll down.
It's been over a month since I ran this race so I figured that I should probably do a recap before I forget all the details. Unfortunately, I've already forgotten a lot but I've found these recaps to be useful when I look back on them to see what I did surrounding the race. Memory don't fail me now.
I haven't ran this race since 2013 right before my pregnancy but I've always liked this race. Not just because I've always done well on this course (I progressively run PR times in consecutive years and it's where I first qualified for Boston) but I also love the location and the race day weather. So this race has been good to me. After I had my baby, I wasn't sure if I had wanted to do this marathon-ing thing again but after my baby turned one I started casually running again and boy that good old feeling just came rushing back. That year when the Boston Marathon rolled around, I suddenly felt the desire to go back to run that race again. Which meant that I would have to put in the time to train to run a qualifying race and I knew exactly which race I wanted to target.
I started gearing up for this race around early October 2015. I had been logging some casual miles earlier in the year to the tune of maybe 20/25 miles per week after having ran zero miles for two years due to aforementioned pregnancy. So I had a lot of work to do to get back into marathon running shape. I decided to use the Hansons Marathon Method for this cycle because it had been sitting in the back burner for so many years and I thought 'why not?' Isn't that always how every good decision starts...'sure, why the heck not!'
So I went from 25 miles a week to 40/50 miles on the recovery weeks and up to 60/65 miles on peak weeks. I was not really prepared for this to say the least but I sucked it up and took rest days where needed. I had signed up for the LA Marathon as my practice race to get re-acclimated with the whole marathon-ing thing and this proved to be a good decision because boy was I rusty. A few weeks after I completed the LA Marathon, I resumed training for my goal race. I didn't restart a new training cycle. Instead, I just picked up a couple of weeks into the cycle since I already had the mileage training in my legs. This time around, I felt much stronger, still pretty tired from the higher mileage but overall pretty happy with how I was handling the fatigue and being able to hit my goal pace.
Fast forward to taper week...
...all the training was done, I've arrived at taper week injury-free and ready to race but then the nerves started to set in and it was Monday. It was going to be a long week!
When I signed up for the race, I was aware that the course had changed a couple of times since I ran it last but a few months before the race they announced that the course was changing again and at the time there was not even a map to look at. This was where the source of my nervousness was coming from...an unknown course. In the month leading up to the race, I saw some postings on Facebook from a couple of individuals who had taken it upon themselves to run different sections of the course and reporting back. Some said the changes were good while others said it was more difficult. So at the end of the day, I didn't really learn anything new or useful.
Let me just say that the course I ran this year was completely and totally different from the course in 2013 and it is slightly more difficult in my opinion. We lost some of the drop and made some gains in elevation. The only part of the course that felt like a decline was mile 4-5 and 12-14, the other parts felt flat. Those little blips around miles 12, 15 and 17 did not feel great to maneuver at race pace and that tiny bump at mile 23 mentally messed with me when my legs were pretty tired. My mind was making mountains out of mole hills. Overall, my quads were way less trashed than in 2013 since the decline was more gradual. This is still a fast course with historically good weather to boot.
When race weekend rolled around, I was full of excitement. Especially after I saw my bib number. Lucky sevens all across.
My husband and I made the 3-hour drive from the OC to Ojai the day before the race. I'm borderline OCD so I had planned out the entire weekend hour-by-hour on paper but most of it just went out the window because things just sort of fell into place on it's own. I've ran this race so many times that I've developed a ritual of things that I must do prior to the race, thereby the planned out weekend. Mostly because of superstition than it actually attributing anything to my running. As in years pasted, our plan was to stop by the Camarillo Outlets to do some shopping then have lunch at this little Mexican place, then go to the expo, check in at the hotel, watch an action flick (and yes it has to be a action flick...bonus if it is Marvel/Star Wars/Superhero), have dinner, set out my stuff for the next morning and then turn in. I leave out the part where I toss and turn for several hours but I assume that's a given.
I did manage to do all those things, just not in that order. The deviation started early on. My coworker kindly offered to pick up my bib for me the weekend before the race so I didn't even go to the expo the day before so I had extra time. We got hungry on the drive up and was not able to wait until lunch time so we ended up stopping at this quaint little restaurant called Jessica's Cafe where I ordered this giant cinnamon roll that was really disappointing.
After our meal we did end up at the outlets where I scored on some Oakley shades, True Religion jeans and some clothes for our little man.
Normally we would have dinner in Ventura or Ojai the night before the race but we ended up having dinner at this place near the outlets called Lure Fishhouse since we didn't have to drive into Ventura to pick up my bib since I already had it. That bread basket was pretty amazing! Strangely my dinner was not so much. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing. I was so tempted to eat some oysters but I'd imagined that would have been a bad idea.
I slept for a couple of hours that night and woke up before my alarm went off. I guess I was ready to go. Our hotel was about a mile from the start so after I had some coffee/snack, I got dressed and made the warm-up jog to the starting line. We have stayed in Ventura in previous years but it turned out to be a pretty good idea to stay in Ojai because I got to sleep in a bit more, got a warm-up jog in and arrived 15 minutes before the official start. I was even able to find my coworkers who I had trained for this race with as the race is still relatively small. Weather was perfect for me in the 60s and logistics looked pretty smooth from my point of view at the starting line and they started right on time.
My goal for this race was to beat my time from 2013 and in doing so would also get me a BQ time. I started the race very conservatively as I had wanted to run a negative split. Everything felt great up until mile 16 when I started to feel less than great for the first time. I kind of panicked at that point when I should have just soldiered on. My heart rate was fine but my legs started to feel tired and I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to finish strong so I would slow down every couple of miles to make sure that I didn't hit the wall. Looking back I should have just ran my goal pace and not over think it so much. In the end I'm happy with the outcome because I did manage to check off both my goals of a personal course PR and a BQ. I'm also pretty happy that I was able to maintain a somewhat even pace throughout and didn't fade the last six miles like I have historically done in the past. A true testament to the effectiveness of the Hansons Marathon Method which really helped me hone in on the feeling of a pace.
Race photos were free but I only got one and it was very bad. Luckily, my friend Pam took this one of me at mile 25. I don't know what I was doing here...maybe trying to fly. Yep, I was still smiling but it was mainly because I was so happy to see Pam at the mile 25 marker. She paced me to the finish line at a sub-8 pace so that I could be put out of my misery. She's a good friend.
Pam and her husband drove a couple of hours at the crack of dawn in order to get to the finish line in time to pace her friends in. That's really a great act of kindness on their part. I'm really appreciative to have her as a friend.
It was a really great day for a race. Good weather, good course and I had a really good race. Couldn't ask for more.
Later that day, my husband and I ended up meeting Pam and her husband for lunch at that Mexican joint I mentioned earlier which was really nice since we haven't had time to hang out in a really long time. See...we managed to hit everything on my OCD list.
I'm really happy that I ended up signing up for this race because despite all the changes to the course, it is still one of my favorite!