Monday, February 8, 2010

Surf City Marathon Race Report (AKA Marathon Redemption)

I have run three marathons.
  • The first one I ran just under five hours (4:54:xx)*-- It was a success, since I finished, but I was a little disappointed in my time.  I knew I was capable of running closer to 4:30. 
  • The second one was on track for under four hours until around mile 15, when I walked quite a bit (4:16:10)-- Once again, it was a success because I finished and I had a major PR.  Again, however, I was a little disappointed that I didn't come closer to four hours, since I knew that I was capable of it.  It was really really hard and I didn't have all that much fun.
  • I ran my third marathon today.  It was an all-out SUCCESS.
  • I got the time I was hoping for-- success
  • I made a plan and stayed with it-- success
  • I had fun!-- success
    Here is the report (and in true Lisa fashion... it is a long one, so settle in and get comfy):

    Pre-race (FAIL):
    As I was getting ready last night, I started checking things off my checklist.  I got to my Garmin, which was happily sitting on the charger.  However, the wrist band** that it snaps onto was nowhere to be found.  That search derailed me for at least a half an hour.  During my search I thankfully came across the original band to the Garmin.  My dear, sweet husband (who was trying very hard to deal with a very panicked me) put the new band on.  I hadn't run with the rubber wristband, but it was better than no wristband at all.  I finally went to bed a little after 10 with everything (so I thought) laid out for the morning.

    I woke up at 3:45*** (yikes) and felt surprisingly well rested.  I had gone to sleep relatively quickly and slept more soundly than I usually do the night before a big race.  I went to get dressed.  I put on my capris, sports bra, shirt, arm warmers, hat.  Wait.... where was my hat??!!  I had it last night.  I noticed that it clashed with my shirt.  I spent an extra fifteen minutes looking everywhere for it!  Thankfully, I found my visor.  I just hoped that it wouldn't rain.****FAIL.

    I had my Zip Fizz and my Luna Bar while I waited for my body to "wake up."  I have had a couple of "issues" during races involving emergency stops at the porta potty.  I have learned that I need to completely empty myself, which means going three times (sorry if this is TMI).   Before leaving, I only went one time.  FAIL

    I was finally ready to go twenty minutes later than I had originally planned.  I grabbed my English muffin with a tiny schmeer of peanut butter, my windbreaker in case of rain, my throw-away sweatshirt, my hydration belt, and my drop bag and headed out the door.  I was not as relaxed as I would have liked.  I was cutting it a little close in terms of parking, porta-pottying etc.  I was worried that the stars were not aligning for my race.

    I was picking up my friend, Jimmy,***** who was in for the marathon from Las Vegas.  I picked him up at his hotel, allowing his wife and daughter to sleep in.  There was a bit of traffic and I had to do a U-turn, which was a pain.  Luckily, Jimmy is one of those really laid back guys and his attitude rubbed off on me.  Surprisingly, I was not a stressed-out mess as the clock ticked and we weren't parked.

    As we were pulling into the parking area, we both chuckled a bit at people wearing garbage sacks.  My car said that the outside temperature was in the 50's.  As soon as we got out of the car, I regretted making fun of those garbage sacks.  The wind made it feel much colder.  As we walked to the restroom, I wondered if I should get my windbreaker and then stuff it into my drop bag at the last minute.  It looked like we were going to get a killer headwind for the first few miles.

    After checking in my drop bag, we headed to the starting line.  After parking, using the restroom (yeah for beach bathrooms instead of porta potties) and checking gear, we only had ten minutes or so to wait in the chilly air.  I could tell by this point that it was going to warm up nicely. I was wearing my $3 Wal-Mart Sweatshirt and was very comfortable.  The wind had died down as the sun was coming up.  Yippee!
    Here I am at the starting line.  I still haven't mastered the self-portrait without getting a blurry photo.

    Jimmy and I are ready to go!

    The sun was starting to come up and it was going to be a beautiful day!

    Ready to go!! 
    Jimmy is training for a fifty mile race in four weeks, so the marathon was just a training run (with beverage support).  He was going to take it nice and easy.  So when they started us (after some unofficial waves to keep runners spread out), we waved good luck to each other and I took off ahead.

    Miles 1-9   (9:02, 9:09, 8:57, 9:05 [hill], 8:53, 8:59, 8:58, 8:59, 9:05 [hill])-- Keeping the pace in check- (SUCCESS)
    We were pretty far back from the start.  We were still near the 4:10 and 4:20 pace groups, so I wasn't too worried.  I wanted to start out pretty easy anyway.  As you may recall, my race plan was to keep my pace between 9:00 and 9:09 for most of the race, slowing down if I needed to and speeding up closer to the end if I had it in me.

    My foot had been hurting since arriving.  I had a pain (almost a cramp) in my arch, toward the back. Stretching didn't help at all. I am pretty sure there is something going on with my left foot.  I am going to go see a doctor to make sure everything is ok; that it is just tendonitis.  I get mild pain in or around my ankle almost every day.  It is not enough pain to sideline me, but I really don't want it to get worse.  So the pain stayed, but it didn't get worse.  I made sure that I didn't limp at all.  I knew that limping would cause problems later in the race.

    By mile two I was warm enough to take off my sweatshirt.  I put it right by the mile marker sign, to ensure that someone would pick it up to donate.  Other than the pain in my foot, things were going well.  

    The other runners weren't particularly chatty.  I was running easy and feeling good.  I wanted to chat with people, but everyone was in the zone.  I would make a comment and nobody responded.  Poo.  Lighten up folks!  So I started interacting with the volunteers.  I was that bubbly, annoying runner that I am sure at least one person rolled his eyes at, but I wanted to have fun.   There were a ton of teenagers out there volunteering.  I swear an entire high school was out there that morning.  Several of the girls (and even one or two boys) did cheers for the runners as they came by.  I thanked each of them.  A few times I pointed at some volunteers and said "YOU'RE AWESOME!"  The kids loved that.  At one point some kids were yelling, "we believe in you, runners."   I looked right at them and said, "and I believe in YOU."  I was having fun and I think they appreciated that I not only acknowledged them with a thank you, I even interacted.   I did this at almost every water station and intersection where yellow volunteer shirts were standing.  When I thanked volunteers/spectators and gave high fives, I thought about the runners who I gave that advice to over the past couple of years.  Irish threw the same advice back to me the other day.  Perfect!

    I did chat with an older gentleman for a minute or so.  He was well into his 60's (maybe older) and was wearing a t-shirt that said that he had run a marathon in all 50 states and D.C.  I asked him what was next. What does someone do after accomplishing a feat like that?  He told me that he wanted to complete 200 marathons.  This was number 183, so he was well on his way.  He was running a bit slower than I was, so I wished him good luck and went along my way.

    This first part of the race ran through some residential streets, had the only two hills of the entire race and a lovely park.  We ran through the park, on the path, around a beautiful lake.  It was still early morning and the sun glistened off the water.  It was a great setting for a race.

    I was grinning most of these miles.  I actually felt giddy.  Is that possible during a marathon???

    Miles 10-16 (8:49, 9:00, 9:03; 8:58, 9:04, 9:06, 9:01)--Keeping it going strong on a boring out-and-back section on the Pacific Coast Highway -(SUCCESS)
    Alissa wrote me a comment that really stuck with me.  She wrote, "Just remember those first 10 miles should be the some of the easiest 10 miles you've ever run."  Every time it started feeling like work, I looked at my Garmin and saw I was speeding up a bit and slowed down.  Those first ten miles were a breeze and they flew by.   My foot was still bothering me, but it hadn't changed at all.  It wasn't getting worse and I often forgot about it.

    I kept checking in with myself, making sure I was feeling good.  I caught myself a couple of times getting over confident.  I am currently listening to a book about K2 in the Karakoram mountains.  Like other books I have read about Himalayan Mountaineering, a key theme in the book is that getting to the top of an 8000 meter peak is only half the battle.  You must make it down from the top alive.  Similarly, in a marathon, getting to mile twenty is half the battle.  Running the last six is the hard part.  I kept reminding myself of this as I was confidently running those middle miles.

    Around mile twelve, the front runners of the half marathon caught and passed us.  One of the runners whizzed past and I made the comment that I couldn't run a 5K that fast.  A woman next to me responded.  Finally, a chatty runner.  I asked her if she was hoping to finish under four hours.  She was.  We told each other that we would try to help each other along.  Her name was Lisa from Sunnyvale, CA.  She is turning forty next month and trained for a marathon as a present to herself.  She had started a few minutes later than I did and had run faster miles.  She had averaged pretty close to 8:45 up until that point.  I told her I was closer to 9:00.

    Lisa and I ran together for a while, chatting occasionally.  Unfortunately, she started falling behind in mile fourteen.  I went on ahead.  As I hit the turn-around at mile sixteen, I saw her.  I cheered her on.  She waved and gave me a sheepish smile.  It was a smile I knew all too well from my other two marathons.  She was starting to hurt.

    Miles 17- 24 (9:08, 9:05, 8:59, 9:02, 8:56, 8:53, 8:50, 9:04)-- Kicking into another gear- (SUCCESS!)
    After the turnaround at mile sixteen, the course goes onto the bike path on the beach (as opposed to the previous section on the highway.  I liked this better.  It was a little narrow, but by this time things had spread out a bit.   I ran this stretch during my sixteen mile run a few weeks ago.  I was feeling much stronger this time than I did during that training run.

    I was starting to get more and more confident that I was going to be able to reach my goal.  My splits had been very consistent and I was still feeling good.  My foot was actually not hurting like it was.  Maybe it had gone numb?  In both my previous marathons, by mile seventeen, I was in trouble.  I was stopping, taking walk breaks and in some significant pain.  I had not stopped at all thus far.  I was carrying my own water and sport drink and didn't  need to stop at the aid stations.

    As I approached mile twenty******, I was getting excited.  I had just under an hour before the four hour mark.  If I kept it up, I would make my goal.  This thought really pushed me on.  Believe it or not, miles twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-three were my favorite miles of the day!  I felt good and I knew I only had a short way to go.  A 10K?  That is a short run for me normally.   After that twenty mile mark, I decided to try to push the pace to ensure that I made my goal.

    I ran those next three miles faster than any three mile stretch of the entire race.  I'm not sure what happened, but I was feeling really strong.  A few things happened during those miles that helped to inspire me to keep going strong.  First, I saw L.B., another blogger,  running his first marathon.  He looked like he was still having fun, judging from his smile.  That gave me a boost.  Next, I saw Jimmy.  He gave me a big grin and we gave each other high fives.  Seeing a friendly face is great so late in the race.  I told him that I was right on target.  This is why I enjoy out and back segments.  I love seeing other people who are ahead or behind you.

    Next, a song came on my iPod that really made me smile and remember what is really important to me.  My husband likes country music.  I do not.  He always changes my car radio to a country station, just to mess with me.  He downloaded a song that cracks him up because it is so country (not the Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts kind of country that he usually likes).   I put it on my playlist on purpose and it worked beautifully.  Somewhere in that third hour I heard the twangy sound of a group called Trailer Choir.  Seriously... that is the name of the band.  The song is called "Rockin' the Beer Gut.*******"  It made me smile from ear to ear.

    It wasn't until right around mile twenty-four that I started to hit that wall.

    Miles 25-26.4 (9:14, 8:47 [!!], 3:14 [8:11 pace!!!]********---Pushing through the wall and across the finish line- (SUCCESS).

    That twenty-fifth mile was my slowest of the race.  Finally, my body realized it had been running a really long time.  My legs started to hurt (that all-over kind of hurt) and my feet felt like they weighed a hundred pounds.  I concentrated on keeping my footfalls light.  I didn't want to shuffle.   I just wanted to be done.  I knew that if I kept up a decent pace I would be done in less than twenty minutes and under four hours!!

    I hadn't eaten my last Gu at mile twenty-four.  I figured that I was so close to the finish, why bother.  As I started to fade, I realized that it couldn't hurt.  I had stuck with my race plan so far and I should continue.  I ate the last Gu.  Whether it even had time to kick in or not is debatable.  I think it helped me mentally, knowing I was doing everything I could to make sure I finished strong.

    When I finally saw that twenty-five mile sign, I knew I could make it.  One more mile!  One more LONG mile.  Just past mile twenty-five, we turned back onto PCH and merged with the half marathoners.  Since the half marathoners started more than an hour after us, these folks were most likely finishing after three hours, so most of them were walking.  I passed hundreds of people.   It was pretty cool thinking that I was running my twenty-sixth mile and blowing past people who were on their thirteenth.  Not to take anything away from those people. They ran/walk their hearts out as much as I did that day.

    I saw the four hour pace sign ahead of me.  It became my focus.  I needed to finish before that pacer.  I could tell she was tired.  She kept dropping the sign and then lifting it up for a few seconds before lowering it again.  I pushed hard.   I passed her and kept going.   I was almost done!

    My next goal was to make it in before the race clock hit four hours.  I started three minutes after the gun.  I thought it would be really cool to see a 3 on the race clock.  I sprinted toward the finish (as much as you can sprint after twenty-six miles).   I didn't make it.  The clock showed 4:002x.  Almost! 

    The finish and after- (SUCCESS!!!)
    When I crossed the finish line, I felt that rush of emotion.  It was the rush of emotion I had hoped to feel after my first marathon, but instead felt only relief.  Sunday I felt elation and pride.  I burst into tears.  I am actually tearing up right now writing about it.   I ran a race on  MY terms.  The race didn't define my running... I defined it myself.  I was strong from start to finish and ran MY race.  I had a race plan and stuck to it.  I am actually still in disbelief how well it went.
    I took this picture when my Garmin was still on my wrist.  I posted it immediately to Facebook so my friends and family would know that I did it.

    I was holding my mylar blanket because it was pretty hot at the end of the race.  I'm glad I kept it because I got chilly on my walk back to my car an hour later.

    I had my short burst of emotion and then wanted to get my bag, put on my flip flops and get a beer.  I was hoping to meet up with Penny.  I failed to get her number before Sunday and was trying to communicate via Twitter rather than texts.  I was also hoping to run into Alice and the Heffers.  There were other bloggers like Danica, Aron, and Glenn who were running the half who I was hoping to see.  I didn't.  I still waited in the long beer line and drank my free beers.  They hit the spot.   I chatted with some very friendly runners and had a nice time.

    Since Jimmy had found his wife and daughter, I walked back to my car.  I was still on cloud nine.  I drove home and had a nice afternoon with my family.  It was a low key Superbowl with just us.

    Thanks for reading this novel!  I will post some thoughts later this week on my training and preparation for this race.  I want to document my thoughts so I can try to recreate it for my next one.    Thanks to all of you for all your support and encouragement.

    Happy Running....

    Final results:
    Overall: 628 out of 2349
    Women: 171 out of 961
    F 40-44: 28 out of 141
    Age/Grade: 61.13% Place: 409
    Finish: 3:57:17 Pace: 9:03
    Tag Time: 3:57:17
    Gun Time: 4:00:23

    *the 2008 race report was in three parts.
    ** since my husband and I were sharing the Garmin, we bought a band that can snap off so it can be mounted onto a bike.  I actually like the band better than the original, since it is more of a cloth-like band (instead of rubber) and adjusts with velcro.
    ***I need at least an hour to let my body "wake up" and for me to get set for a race.  I wanted to leave around 4:45 in order to get a decent parking spot.  I have about a half hour drive to Huntington Beach.The race started at 6:30.
    **** for the record, I haven't found either item.  I think my house must be in some sort of vortex, seizing key items and sending them into the unknown.
    *****Jimmy and I met during our RRCA Certification Training.  We hit it off right away.  We then discovered that we had a mutual friend.  Jimmy is very good friends with Jill from the blog  She and I have become friends over the internet (blogs, facebook and twitter) and Jimmy is friends with her in real life.
    ******For those of you who cyber-stalked me, I really don't think that twenty mile split was accurate.  If I recall correctly, the mat was closer to the twenty-one mile marker than the twenty.  The splits recorded on the Surf City website show I averaged 9:29 for the twenty miles.  I never ran a single mile slower than 9:15.  Even the course map shows the turnaround between miles twenty and twenty-one.  The timing mat was right at the turnaround. 


    ******** My Garmin measured 26.4 miles.  I didn't think I had done that much weaving or going wide on the turns.  In fact, I consciously ran the tangents on the turns.  It is possible that I ran it long.  However, Jimmy told me that he measured 26.4 as well.  I also talked to a couple after the race who thought the course was a shade long.  Who knows?  It doesn't matter now, does it?


    Alissa said...

    I have been checking your blog all day hoping to read your race report!!! I was so excited to read it. Its all the excitement of running a marathon without having to run it LOL! I cyber stalked you all morning sunday... did anyone tell you that originally the 5k and 10k splits had you running like a 7:40 pace?! By the 12 mile split they corrected themselves, but I wanted to yell at the computer screen "REMEMBER THOSE FIRST 10 MILES SHOULD BE EASY!!" I was relieved to see it was a glitch!!! I can't believe you have that rockin the bear gut song on your ipod. I love country music but that song makes me CRINGE! LOL. I would have been so annoyed by having to finish with the slower half-ers. I'm glad it only had a positive effect on you. Isn't that just the greatest feeling in the world to come in under four hours?! I'm so so happy for you. Are you running Rock N Roll in SD in June? I am planning to... we should think about running together. Now that we have practically the same PR! :) Congrats again!!!!

    Aka Alice said...

    Wow...congrats Lisa on running the race that you knew you could.

    Yep, I like to think I was already across the finish line when you crossed, but I think you probably finished before I did. :-) I'm guessing you were on your second beer!

    Love that you cheered for the volunteers! It's so you!

    L.B. said...

    What an awesome race report!! Great detail!

    I can't believe you went from 4:54 to 3:57!! That's amazing!!

    And it's funny because I got the same exact distance on my Garmin, 26.40. Then again, my Garmin was also showing 4:44 or something, and the clock showed 4:45 something when I passed but my time was a few minutes under that.

    I can't imagine running such a strong and consistent 26.2 as you did! Congrats again!!

    Zoƫ said...

    Found you through LB's race recap. Congrats on your under 4 marathon!! That's fantastic! :)

    bethtrue said...

    Wow that's awesome - congrats. great write-up - thanks for sharing. I'm a newbie runner myself and hope to someday do a marathon but for now my biggest challenge is 1/2 marathons. :-)

    Jill Will Run said...

    WOOOOO HOOOO!!!! You got your marathon redemption! I was so excited when I saw that as I cyber-stalked you!

    I'm glad you and Jimmy got to hang out together before the race. He's such a good person!

    Great race report, it was fun to read everything and I could feel the achievement and happiness and pride... I'm just so excited for you.

    You should run SD with Alissa... see how you guys can push each other! ;-)

    Kristin said...

    Really fun race report to read! I saw it on my Google reader last night but "saved" it to read at the Y this morning (pass the time on the elliptical :). A lot of it sounds very familiar to me! Like getting in ahead of the 4-hour pace group :) and really really wanting to beat 4 hours on the clock as well as by chip (didn't make it). So what I really want to know is, how did you make it through without a bathroom stop at all? I think that is going to be my goal for my next marathon...4 hours without needing to pee. :) CONGRATULATIONS again, you ran a perfect race! And really even splits too!

    Unknown said...

    Congratulations Lisa!!!!! I knew you would make your goal :) Thank you for chatting with me, i needed it. I did hit my wall at 15 and then had some asthma issues so never recovered. I swore to everyone I would never run another Marathon! My friend Shirley, the one who waved to us, thinks differently. My time was 4:23. I loved ready your blog.
    Hope to see you at another race :)
    The other "Lisa"

    Lindsay said...

    congrats!! soo exciting and i thoroughly enjoyed your race recap. :) your pacing was amazingly even! hitting the wall at mile 24-25 is a great place to do it - only 1-2 more miles to go, you can push through that anytime. awesome, awesome job. i am speechless!

    Irene said...

    I'm so happy for you! I'm tearing up, too! ;)


    MCM Mama said...

    Excellent! And that song totally cracked me up!

    Anonymous said...

    Wonderful !!!! Congrats Lisa

    Road Dog said...

    Lisa, great race and report! I also had NO IDEA there could be a band called Trailer Choir or a song called Rockin' The Beer Gut! I must live a sheltered life.

    You ran a smart, determined effort. I'll tell you something else that's really cool. You were less than 7 minutes away from qualifying for Boston. Based on this performance, I'd say you've definitely got the motor to get there. Again, congratulations!

    eig's Blog said...

    Great post. I had similar emotions ( This was my first and think it was a success. I also met the guy who ran marathons in every state.

    Chic Runner said...

    I am so glad you had your dream race! I totally remember at long beach that my miles 20-23 were the best too because I realized what I was on target for and how close I was :) So glad it was magical!

    Irish Cream said...

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!! You ran such a smart race, Lisa-- I am SO, SO proud of you!! Isn't it insane to feel so good during the last miles of a marathon? Ha, it sure beats feeling like death, eh?

    Anyway, I am so glad to see that you finally got to run YOUR race. You have grown into SUCH a strong runner! You have great things in your future, for sure! :)

    Congrats again!! So happy for you!

    Angela said...

    We are just now reading this b/c Matthew has been so busy with work that we haven't had time to sit down and read it together until now.

    WOW! Loved your long write-up. Love the beer gut song, love the fact that you cried. I always cry when I read your posts outloud and feel like a fool! :)

    So proud of you!

    RunnerMom said...

    Lisa!!! Great race!!! You ran so smart. I'm SO HAPPY for you! I wish I'd read this last week before my race.

    Your last paragraph about your emotions at the end---I can absolutely relate. Well-said!

    Annette said...

    Awesome race report!! I can't believe I haven't found your blog before this. I also ran the Surf City Marathon and my Garmin showed 26.5 miles but that was partially because of all of the bathroom stops!! LOL
    Congrats on an awesome marathon!!!

    Julie D. said...

    Hi! found your blog through nuun h2coasters and saw the link to this race. Surf City was my first half in 2008 and I'm thinking about heading back for the full this coming year. I'm shooting to BQ in May at the Eugene Marathon and this would be a practice run for me. Fun to read your marathon success. It is between Surf City and LA marathon but I'm now leaning toward Surf City. Thanks for the great report.


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