After the race Sunday I said I was going to go home and write my recap RIGHT AWAY so I could just move on and be over it.
And then I sat down, and just stared at the screen. I couldn’t even summon the courage to upload Garmin data – UGH I did NOT want to see those splits. So I sat there, and every time I started to recount the race, I shuddered a little. I really didn’t want to relive it.
Brian called to ask how it went, texts/emails came in, all responded to with a word or two. I went internet AWOL all day and pretty much avoided any run talk like the plague.
slightly dramatic. should have clarified “INTERNET world” or “RUNNING world”. not life-world.
Rebecca bribed me with Yogurtland as a sorrow drowner when I got home. As I cracked and slowly started opening up about the race, she said something kind of NO DUH that I think I knew, but needed to hear from someone else…
“The more races you do, you’re bound to have some bad ones. Let it fuel your next one!”
Yes I realized my days of continuous PRs would eventually come to an end. Boohoo I missed my goal. Get over it. I also realize a year ago I would have been freaking over the moon thrilled with a 3:50 marathon, and that it’s not a “bad” time by any means.
But we’re not talking about Long Beach Sarah anymore. We’re talking about BQ Sarah.
So what happened? Did I not execute a smart race? Were my legs just physically not able to handle the downhills? Was it my own dumb head that got in the way?
I’m finally ready, so let’s try and talk through it…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
enthusiastic, confident, & SUPER EARLY alarm? check
all the required shit littering Danica’s spare room? check
flash, breakfast & crotch mirror shot? you’re welcome. ps those are shorts. hopefully that makes it less barf-worthy
O2O is a small race – capped at 1000 runners for each the half and full. Everything from aid stations, to bag drop, to race communication was handled very well which I was impressed by. This was its second year, and all races have sold out both years I believe. It’s a favorable, very scenic course and a great time of year for racing, so if you’re itching to run make sure to sign up early.
We got to the Ventura Fairgrounds around 4:30 for our 5:00 shuttle – there was some back up getting in to park but the busses were running efficiently and timely. There weren’t any bathrooms at the fairgrounds, which hopefully they’ll change next year, but the 20 minute ride to Ojai deposited us in front of a nice batch of them so it wasn’t a huge deal.
hi Danica! congrats on your first marathon. you’re super cute in the porta potty line
I heeded Molly’s advice and discontinued beverage consumption 1hr before gun time. Hit the pee box a few times, and lined up ready to go.
Time to BQ.
As soon as I crossed the mat, I realized I forgot to tuck my necklace (that I’ve worn EVERYDAY for the last 6 years) into my sports bra. I reached up and twisted it around like I have a million times, and hear a “CLINK CLINK CLINK”. Oh god. Look behind me, and sure enough my NWM charm was laying on the ground. Even though we were only about 100ft into the race I didn’t want to stop and risk getting trampled by the pack, so I threw the broken chain into the back of my bra, hoped the other charms were safely secured under the strap, and kept going.
from some other sad day before sad broken-necklace-failed-race day
“Well, that sucks. Now you’re just going to have to MAKE SURE you BQ, or else this is going to be an extra super shitty day, Sar…”
(you already know how that ends)
The plan for the first 5 miles was to run on effort, and try to keep the average for that chunk near MGP (8:10). It was half downhill and half up, and being the flatlander I am I knew those would NOT be even splits. So I avoided the pace groups and quit hawking my watch and just tried to run.
38 seconds behind pace, but totally easy to pick up on the downhill coming up.
The first 8.5 miles were a residential loop we ran 1.5 times. It was funny to see the same groups of people cheering at multiple points on the loop – they’d pull their cars off the side of the road, hop out to cheer, and then drive a few more miles and do it again. Same group of people, over and over. Including some dude yelling in Spanish to someone that must have been right behind me the whole time.
farmland! open pastures! is this really California?
Once we hit the trail I settled into my low-8 pace I was hoping for, and passed the 3:35 group around mile 9. The decline was gradual but noticeable, and I definitely caught myself flying a bit faster than I should have been at times.
Somewhere around here I picked up a friend. We ran side-by-side, matching stride, fuel, and passes for nearly 8 miles and didn’t say a word. I never felt like I was setting the pace or trying to keep up, we kind of just fell into perfect stride together. It was strangely comforting company, having someone there but not having to talk or engage at all. Just run.
Even though we were still descending, it became harder and harder to “easily” hold that low-8 pace I wanted (as apparent by the splits). I would check my watch, pick up the pace, and get frustrated with how hard it felt. So I’d back off again, fearing burnout and remembering my goal to get the the level-off point at 21 still feeling strong.
“This is still downhill, Sar. If 8:15 feels hard here it’s going to be damn near impossible to pick it up once you hit flat ground. You’re fucked.”
(Hindsight : it felt hard because RUNNING DOWNHILL IS HARD ON YOUR LEGS. Breaking news.)
I lost my shadow and turned on my ipod to try and drown out the noise my brain was making. When that didn’t work I went through some of the mantras I’d put together (thanks to some of you!) in an attempt to keep reality checked and my shit together.
“You put in all that work for NOW. THIS race. There isn’t a tomorrow or a next time. Are you going to throw away all of those weeks of training? When you think back on your race, will you be pissed you gave up right now? This will be the moment you keep saying ‘if only I could have…’. Don’t let it go.”
At the end of mile 19 I finally gave in. I was exhausting myself trying to force my mind back into the race, and my legs were starting to give out. Every muscle group took a turn cramping/spasming, so I slowed to a walk and tried to shake them out.
My watch joined the “let’s stop working!” party, and while I dicked around trying to get it to switch back to the data screen, the 3:35 group passed me.
I heard someone yell out, “Sarah! Noooo!” and looked up to see Madison – in the heat of the pack, looking over her shoulder at me. I yelled to her “I’ll be right there!” because at the time I really thought I had a chance to pick it back up and catch them.
When I gave up on my watch and started running again, they had probably 200 yards on me.
“Totally doable. You can catch them. Cmon let’s run! Faster!”
After a few minutes of what felt like a sprint and not getting any closer, I realized I had more than 10K left to make it up the ground.
So I walked again.
Running slow and steady made me want to jab my eyes out, so I spent about a mile fartleking. That’s what I’m calling it anyway, because “run/walking” makes it sound like I totally gave up.
(that didn’t for at least two more miles)
look at all those walk breaks! and sea level! and huge numbers!
With 5 miles to go, I did the math and realized I need to run 8min/miles to squeek in under 3:35. So I sped up to that pace (garmin started working again), realized it was completely unsustainable, and quit.
QUIT! I QUIT.
thank you, reader Crystal, for memorializing the
run/walking FARTLEKING. you guys in your funny hats and cheers were really great. also, I realize that skirt is grossly short. sorry
The next few miles were an internal debate on whether or not I sucked because I gave up, or I sucked because I thought running downhill would be so easy and wouldn’t affect my legs. I knew a lot of my struggle was physical, but it’s painfully obvious my mental game still needs SO MUCH WORK.
I took my good ol time getting through those last miles. Not once did “at least make it a respectable time!” tempt me, and the sweet girl who tried to pull me along to “finish strong together!” got a good 20 steps out of me before I told her to go on by herself.
Finally at half a mile to go I decided to put myself out of my misery and run to the finish. For accuracy and to put you more in touch with the moment, I edited my official finish line photo for you…
Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon, 6.3.12 - 3:50.05
I’m still struggling to accept the fact that despite going in with every fighting chance on my side, I was able to completely wall like that. Again, I know a lot of it has to do with being unprepared for the hills and underestimating their effects on my legs, but again I let my mental game throw me.
I’ll work on it. Somehow. Later. Boston 2013 won’t be happening, but I’ll get my BQ soon. CIM is on tap as my next full, but 26.2 is OFFICIALLY out of my mind until training re-commences in September.
This summer is for running fast.
artist-cut bottle opener medals. very nice touch, and handy for post-race celebrating/sorrow drowning! source
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This course is DEFINITELY one built for PRs, as long as your body can stand up to a little beating. Any amount of hill training (or not living at sea level where your long runs have a net elevation change of 60 ft) would totally prepare you to DOMINATE this race. It was well-managed, had a great local vibe, and there was free beer at the finish (local IPA, no light fizzy shit). Add it to your “To Race” list.
After the race Annette (the shadow) found me and said she made her goal time. She thanked me and said the part we ran together helped and meant so much to her. We took a picture together, and she left. It was so bizarre to have such a connection with someone over literally NOTHING but our steps. As far as I know she has know idea who I am, but Annette, if you’re reading this, thanks – it meant a lot to me, too.