Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Recap

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.

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Pre-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):

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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.

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We got to Ojai around 3pm or so, and checked in at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

The Race

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.

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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).

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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.

A picture from my parents.

Huffing and puffing to the finish line.

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Post-Race

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.

So happy to be done.

So happy to be done.

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.

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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!

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47 comments

  1. A HUGE congratulations to you.!! you look great in all of those pics, seriously you’re making it look easy.
    You’re officially a marathoner now. 🙂

  2. You sure looked good coming near the finish line… and afterwards too. If we didn’t know it and/or you’d said nothing, the idea that you’d just ran a marathon would have seemed absurd. Congratulations are definitely in order!

  3. Amazing job!! I ran a 4:01 last year and I remember trying to figure out if I was able to get in under 4 hours as I was on the last few miles of the race. You should be so proud of yourself!! That is an amazing time and it seems like you have made huge gains in your running over the past few months!

  4. Holy crap that is such a fast average page to hold for over 26 miles. You are amazing. Great first marathon. I have run 2 courses that went by the finish early and kept going, it is the worst tease EVER!

  5. Yay, Lily! I’m so happy for you. You ran a great time, especially considering it was your first full. I think the last 4 miles on that course would have psyched me out. I’ve heard before that seeing the finish line at that point and then having to pass it is psychologically crushing. You pushed through, though, and finished with some kick left in you. I’m so impressed!

    I hope your foot feels better soon. I’m sure your coach has instructed you, but take it easy for a bit. You just ran a HUGE race.

    1. It really was crushing, that’s a good word for it. No matter how many times I told myself to expect it and not psych me out, I just couldn’t avoid it. But thank you so much, it’s kind of crazy to think that it’s over now! And I’m definitely resting until my feet feel 100% better, thankfully they are almost there now.

    1. It was such a mess! Hopefully they learned from it and will organize it better next year. And In-N-Out is a perfect post-marathon meal, I highly recommend it 🙂

  6. Incredible job!!! I am so happy for you. What a great marathon debut and awesome pics too!

    You deserve to be super proud of your accomplishment. You put in so much hard work during training and it totally paid off for you! Congrats!

    1. Thank you Kristina!! I’m really excited to choose a 2nd marathon, who knows when it will be. I’m also excited to follow along as you train for Chicago!

  7. You did amazing, Lily!!! You’ve come so far the past few months and you really did so well. I can’t believe you were able to run the whole way in your first marathon too (actually I can believe it because you’ve been killing your training!!!). Once I reached mile 20 in my first one, I needed walking breaks because I hurt so bad. I’m glad to hear you’ll be doing another one!! They are seriously so addicting. Great job and amazing time 🙂

    1. Thank you so much!! They are addicting! I’ve already been looking online for my second one. I can’t decide if it will be in the fall or next spring. Hopefully my body will remember what it felt like to run 26 miles and not hit a wall at mile 22…

  8. You killed it! I can’t believe you ran a marathon in four hours flat your first time. That’s seriously amazing! I also cannot believe you sprinted at the end! That out and back was awful – I tried to be mentally prepared too, but it was so gut wrenching by the end. Congrats!!!

    1. Thanks! I can’t believe we weren’t able to meet up, but I’m sure we’ll be in the same vicinity again sooner or later. Yeah those last few miles… so painful. I want to do M2B again next year but I think I am permanently scarred from that portion of the course.

  9. It was so wonderful to see you coming to the finish line – you did it! And you didn’t look
    tired! It takes a lot of courage to run for 4 hours! You go girl!!

      1. It is exciting! I was toying with the idea of doing on in October but not certain if I will be able to commit the time to training over the summer. I will be applying to go to Boston for April 2016. So, perhaps then. You?

        I love training for them though so they will be a thing I do. 😉

      2. So exciting you’re going to run Boston!! I hope to be at that point someday. I know it will take a lot of hard work, but I’m willing to put in the effort. I was looking at the Portland Marathon in October but it feels too soon… So I’m looking at one possibly in December.

      3. I was thinking of running the one in Victoria in October but not certain I can commit the time to training over the summer. So, will do some trail running and some other events this summer and start training again in the fall. 🙂
        What one is in December?

  10. ! I’ve said it before and will say it again, you are such an inspiration! It’s amazing that you have a full marathon under your belt! I know it won’t be your last and it’s so awesome the way you set a goal and make it happen! So proud of you! xox

    1. Thanks girl!! I am still in disbelief, I never thought I’d be able to say I ran a marathon. Can’t wait to catch up more in a couple weeks!

  11. This is so awesome and inspiring. I am actually starting training today for my first full marathon, so this couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I love how honest you are about the different emotions you experienced during the race. It made it real for me. Congratulations on such an amazing feat.

  12. I’m so glad you had such an awesome race, Lily!! Woo hoo! I felt like I was reliving my first one (back in December) as I read this…mile 23 was the toughest, for me. You did GREAT! I’m so impressed with your time!! YOU ARE A MARATHONER!!!

  13. YOU DID AMAZING!!!!! Mountains to Beach is a dream race for me and I loved reading this recap so much. ❤ Congratulations, you marathoner!! I'm so proud of you!!!

  14. So many congrats! Running your first marathon in 4:00 is epic. I’m planning on running Mountains 2 Beach someday (on my list for whenever I attempt a BQ) and this recap reaffirmed that it’s a great race, minus those nasty 4 miles at the end.

    1. Thanks Jen!! You should definitely do it – it was such a great race. I’d like to do it again next year… And yeah, I’m thinking the same thing for when I try to BQ 🙂

  15. Congrats!! ANY marathon finish is worth celebrating. I think you would’ve cut that 33 seconds off for SURE if you’d had regular coffee & not instant. LOL

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