I’m so excited to finally write the recap of my first full marathon. Throughout the entire 5 months of training, a small part of me doubted whether or not I’d make it to the starting line. It had nothing to do with my actual training or how hard I was working, it was just hard to believe that I was going to do this thing that I never thought possible. Now that it’s done, I’m still processing it, but my first thoughts are that it was fun, exhilarating, emotional, and incredibly tough all at different parts of the race.
Jeremy and I took Friday off work and headed up to Ojai after stopping at the Kogi food truck downtown LA to have the best chilaquiles of my life (Jeremy’s kimchi quesadilla was delicious also):
I made sure to to not eat the whole thing since I was sticking to foods lower in fiber the few days leading up to the race and who knows what this could have done to my stomach.
We stopped at the race expo in Ventura on the way to Ojai, and I picked up my bib and shirt, and ended up buying a pullover and a pint glass with the M2B logo on them. Once I actually got my number and bib, it FINALLY felt real. The expo was small and the people working there were super nice.
We got to Ojai around 3pm or so, and checked in at the Ojai Rancho Inn.
Our room wasn’t ready so they treated us to a free drink at their cute little bar. I cut out alcohol the week and a half or so before the race, but I just couldn’t pass up a free glass of nice wine.
We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner and I got a flatbread pizza with speck, tomato sauce, and a little arugula on it. I was craving vegetables so much after carb loading for a couple days, but I didn’t want to overdo it.
I didn’t get much sleep that night (I usually don’t sleep well when we travel), so I felt pretty exhausted all day on Saturday. Jeremy and I took bikes from the hotel to ride to get coffee downtown Ojai, and I hadn’t ridden a bike in a long time, and a nerve in my left butt cheek started hurting and I was convinced I pulled something and wouldn’t be able to run the next morning. I was so paranoid for the few weeks leading up to the marathon, that this was a common occurrence. After we got back from breakfast, I went out on the bike path behind the hotel and ran about a mile very slowly. This helped a lot; I felt energized and got a boost of confidence from it and felt ready to take on the 26.2 miles the next day.
We headed to Santa Barbara for the rest of the day, so I could eat my two go-to meals the day before a race: an avocado sandwich for lunch and an Asian noodle soup for dinner. We got back to Ojai around 8pm, and I made sure everything was ready for the next morning and tried to get some sleep (pretty unsuccessfully).
I woke up at 4am, made some instant coffee (there wasn’t a coffee maker in the room, unfortunately) and a packet of oatmeal, tried to eat half a banana and half a Honey Stinger Waffle. Jeremy and I left the room at 5:25 or so, and walked the 10 minutes to the starting line.
Man, it was so nice being that close to the start of the race. Many people had to take 4am shuttles from Ventura; if I do this race again I’m definitely staying in Ojai again. I made sure to use the bathroom as many times as possible before we left because I didn’t want to have to use a porta-potty at the starting line – it’s a good thing, too, the lines were super long.
There weren’t clear corrals, but everyone’s bibs were one of three colors and apparently that was the wave you were supposed to enter… but I think everyone was confused. After the National Anthem was sung, the announcer started the race for the 3:20 marathoners and under. Well, people started running and the wave was supposed to stop when it reached the people that were aiming for 4 hours and under, and then another wave for 4 hours and above. Nobody stopped though, even though the announcer kept yelling “You’re supposed to stop now!” and everyone just kept going. I wasn’t prepared though! I didn’t even have my watch turned on. But alas I had to go because people behind me were telling me to, so that’s how I started my first marathon.
The week before the race, coach Lauren gave me a race plan that included a 3:55-4:00 finish and this is what I aimed for. I tried to get some under-9 minute miles (the ones that were downhill) and otherwise not have any miles over 9:20, eventually aiming for 9:00 or so average. This worked up until mile 23 I’d say; I think I did a really good job with pace and time went by fast and I listened to music and just kept running. Mile 10 came around and I got tired and a little freaked out, but that’s when I started repeating “embrace the hurt” and “get comfortable being uncomfortable” in my head, and that helped. I got over that hump and then I felt fine again.
I tried to take 1-2 Honey Stinger chews every mile starting at mile 5 I think, and drank a few sips of water frequently. I also picked up water at the water stops, but somehow missed the Fluid electrolyte drink at every stop.
Mile 20 came and I was still feeling strong. I had grabbed a smallish bottle of Gatorade from a spectator handing them out, and ended up carrying this for the next few miles. I was so happy to have this! Whenever I tried to think “only 5 miles left, that’s nothing to you!” or whatever, my mind would come right back and say, “yeah but I’ve run 21 miles already, five miles is a LOT!” so I tried not to think like that. Every time it would cross my mind of how much longer I had it made me feel worse, so I avoided it and just focused on keeping my pace up instead. I’m so glad I had a specific pace to aim for, it helped distract me so much.
Around mile 22 or so, the course goes right by the finish line, but then veers away from it and you still have 4 miles to go. I knew this was coming and tried to mentally prepare for it, but I just couldn’t overcome it. I’m not sure if it was how I was fueling (since I had nothing to compare it to) or the elevation (these last miles were flat after the first 20 were slightly downhill) or seeing the finish line and thinking I was done, or what, but the next few miles, I just completely lost it. So much so, in fact, that I missed a sub-four hour finish by 33 seconds. I slowed way down, my quads and calves were so incredibly painful and tired, and I wanted to walk. I almost did a couple times, but somehow I kept going. I teared up a few times, cursed out loud, just kept thinking about how much it sucked and I wanted to be done, and just generally felt horrible. It was humbling for sure, since I was feeling pretty cocky up until that point about how good I was feeling and about how I hadn’t hit the wall after seeing people who had. I’m glad it happened though, it was a good reminder of what a true beast the marathon is and how you must respect the distance (and not get cocky).
Since I didn’t start my watch on time, I didn’t really know how much faster I had to go to get a sub-four, but as soon as I only had one mile left and I could see the finish line again, I was able to push the pace a bit. I kept looking at spectators and telling them thank you to try to get boosts of energy and that helped, and one lady even exclaimed that she couldn’t believe I was still smiling.
When I got closer to the finish line, I took my earphones out, saw my parents and got really excited, then saw Jeremy and started sprinting. I’m not sure how I was able to sprint to the end, but I did and then I was more happy that it was over than about anything I’d ever felt.
I wanted to collapse and cry, but Jeremy found me and I was able to remain standing and after a few minutes, as long as I stood still, I felt pretty good. It hurt to walk, but I eventually made my way over to the tents with the food and got some watermelon and Famous Amos cookies, maybe the two most delicious things I could have eaten at that time.
I waited for them to post the results since the tracking app I had downloaded for the race didn’t work and my watch was off, so I didn’t know what my time was. When I finally got it, I was very proud of my 4:00:33 finish. Jeremy and I hung around a little bit and watched people hit a gong to announce they’d qualified for Boston, then headed back to Santa Barbara to eat at In-N-Out, something we had been looking forward to for months.
Later that day, we drove up to Santa Ynez to hang out with my family for my nephew’s birthday, and instead of putting compression socks on right away and some comfortable shoes, I stupidly wore these slip ons that made my blisters/toes hurt so I was walking weirdly on my right foot, which led to the bones in my foot hurting, and they still hurt to this day. I’m sure I’ll be fine after the loads of rest I’m enjoying, but it’s a good lesson to remember for next time. Oh yes, there will be a next time. Even when I was in agony those last few miles, I knew I would run another marathon, and hopefully maybe one day BQ if I work really hard. I’m not sure when my next marathon will be, but I can’t wait to start training for it whenever that day comes.
Overall, I would recommend Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, the course was beautiful, fast, everyone was super nice, there were lots of water stops, and the finish line is fun and beautiful, right on the ocean. I wish the course didn’t go by the finish line at the end with 4 miles to go, but it just makes it that much more of a challenge. The weather was great too, nice and cool the whole time, and last year there was a heat wave so I’m obviously very happy that didn’t happen. Somehow, I didn’t chafe at all except a small part on my arm. I was so surprised; I’m guessing it had to do with the weather being cool, but even on long runs when it hasn’t been too hot and I put Glide on everywhere I still have chafed bad in the past.
I have to thank my coach, Lauren, for creating my plan, getting me to the starting line uninjured and pushing me and believing in me more than even I did sometimes. The fact that I ran a marathon with a 9:10 average pace blows my mind. Not too long ago, if I ran a 3- or 5-miler on my own with that kind of pace I would be super impressed. But, you never know what you’re capable of until you try it (cheesy but true). I hope to get faster and work hard to have a big PR at my next marathon down the line.
In the meantime, I’ll wear all my M2B gear with pride and drink beer out of my pint glass often!