Ventura Marathon–Another Faltered BQ Attempt

.Well let’s just go ahead and get straight to it.

After 10 weeks of training, including falling back in love with “running to run”, squeezing in miles on an 18-day road-trip, tackling the track solo, and an odd late-season crash, the Ventura Marathon did not exactly go as scripted.

I can’t say I’m completely shocked – I’ve not felt great the last few weeks, running-wise and in general, but kept hope that if the day was nice to me I might have a fighting chance at my 3:35 BQ goal.

And for a good part of the morning, I thought that was going to be the case.


standard – threads, tats, breakfast, and a 6am selfie with K

From the good night of sleep, actually waking up to the first second alarm, a no-hassles drive with Kristina up to Ventura, and easy peasy prime parking we were already off to a better start than 95% of other races. I felt “with it” – energized but contained, focused but lighthearted, and totally void of the sense of doom most long runs had haunted me with. Don’t underestimate the marathon beast, but by god don’t go in already defeated.


don’t let the ironman champs hashtag fool you, this was obvs directed personally to me

We met up with Pacer Dave, Kristina’s parents randomly in from Delaware, Pam, and a few other friends/readers/teammates. I felt the buzz of the start line and the infectious nervous energy from everyone around me – so many with big goals on the eve of Boston registration opening. I answered every “how are you feeling? are you ready?” with a big smile – genuine, actually – and,

“I guess we’re gonna find out!”

I had re-read my HTC recaps from last year, which uhh, may seem narcissistic, but was the last (/only?) time I went into a race with the shit scared out of my butt and managed to power through. I feared those Runner 5 hills with my life, but tackled each of the three runs with a task-at-hand focus and hopeful will that my body would find a way to succeed. Which, spoiler, it did, and even better than I could’ve imagined.  I figured with a similar “thrive, don’t just survive” attitude I could do the same today.

As part of my Get the Fuck Out of Your Head strategy, I didn’t wear a watch. I handed all control to Dave, an experienced pacer, putting my faith in him to lead the best race I had in me. I wore a heart rate monitor strap synced up to his watch so he could monitor my effort and was told to just let him do all the work.

We got lined up, further back in the corral than I would’ve liked, but for a smaller race I didn’t bother bulldozing my way to the front. Dave told me to take the lead to break the pack, and after a mile he’d come up and pull me onto pace to settle into.

Just as planned, Dave came up next to me at the mile marker and I waited to respond to his move. But he just stayed there next to me.

S: “Are you still following me or are you leading now?”

D: “I am but you’re right on target. Locked in, girl.”

In that moment, I thought the day was mine. How often do you kick out of the starting gate – watch or no watch – and lock immediately onto target goal pace? Any runner knows those first few miles are a constant battle of finding a rhythm that feels good and syncs up to the blueprint. To have it happen immediately, and feel completely comfortable in it? Lord have mercy this marathon is fucking mine! WATCH OUT, NEXT 25.2 MILES!

We headed out into the out-and-back and around mile five the half leaders came through, a favorite distraction of mine. Kristina went flying by – top 10 female I thought I’d counted – cruising in to what ended up being a huge PR, a sub 1:32 finish, and 12th woman overall. WHAT! Girl needs to graduate from running with me and find some equi-fast training partners.

Shortly after though I could feel the wheels starting to come off. We’d been on a slight incline for a while, which I was thinking would be SO nice running final miles on, and told myself at the top of the “hill” I’d feel better. My stomach was off and I was oddly dizzy. It was perfectly foggy and cool, so I knew heat wasn’t an issue, and my heart rate was in normal range. Why did I feel so weird?

ventura marathon course map

ventura marathon elevation


Almost instantly that slightly squeeky shopping cart wheel turned into the one that spins all around and won’t let you steer straight.

At mile eight I took a big swig of Nuun and immediately ran to the side of the course for a little dry heave. Which, up until that run with Margot two weeks ago, is completely unheard of for me. Did you not know my nickname is Iron Stomach? I caught my breath and we started again – I could see the 3:35 pace group just ahead and felt confident we’d get the lost minute or so back in no time. But then I tried to take a chew… and a gel… and more Nuun (all my usual, tested and proven products), and nothing would stay down. Fuck.

I pulled to a complete stop at the next aid station – mile 10? – and managed to keep some plain water down. There was no way I’d be able to stay on pace having to stop for hydration, and plain water with no fuel is NOT enough for my body. Hi I’m Sarah and I’m a super heavy, super salty sweater.


get it?

My legs were refusing to give up – after each stop they took off at a pace determined to get back on track, but the nausea and accompanying dizziness would not subside. Once 3:35 was out of reach, I decided trying to push through just for “I ran a marathon!” sake would be dumb. Call me a quitter, call me a snob, or call me smart, I don’t really care.

I had the mile 15 aid station call in a Saggin Wagon “reservation” and shooed Dave off to finish the race, assuring him I was fine both mentally and physically (there may have been a small “catch me I’m blacking out” moment right before.) He crushed out the last 11 miles at sub7 pace like NBD while I made fast friends with Annette at the Wagon pick up zone waiting for our ride of marathon defeat.

saggin wagon

wasn’t big on taking photos this weekend. car source

While I believe every marathon is an accomplishment worth celebrating – covering that distance takes a lot of heart and hard work, regardless of your finish time – it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve set a hard nose goal to it and find yourself out of the running for it. After eight marathons and one other DNF, I didn’t feel that sacrificing my body and any future training was worth just putting a finisher’s medal around my neck. (not to mention what would’ve likely been a pretty poor time on my athlinks profile)

Am I upset? God yes. After weeks of wavering confidence I finally got into the race feeling like it was mine to conquer, only to have a new, honestly slightly concerning, ailment knock my ready-to-run legs out from underneath me. I’ve had races turn sour from injuries and mental struggles, but a surprise cockblock from an organ that’s never wronged me hurts. Like, what the fuck, stomach? Jerk.


Pam’s medal, because obviously I don’t have one of my own to show

Some of you have suggested redemption, to find another marathon to tackle and not waste the training. I don’t think I will. There aren’t any feasible options nearby or within my budget, and Boston 2014 registration will be closed by then (it opened today for qualifiers of 20+minutes or more and goes through next week.) Plus I’m realizing, ahem again, I really just don’t love the marathon. That long, dull ache of 26.2 miles is really not my barrel of monkeys. I’d rather be in extreme pain for a short amount of time than be uncomfortable for hours.

Plus, you need to be a really special kind of stupid crazy runner to devote months of diligent training to a singular goal, line up race day, and not get eaten up by the pressure of “this is your one shot.” I’m still working on that.

So this is me signing off from the Boston Qualifying Attempt Camp. I’m not saying I’ll never be back, but don’t expect to hear those two initials together here anytime soon. I’m gonna go hang out in the energy gel-free zone for a while and see where that takes me. (also maybe figure out what the heck is wrong with my body)

To all of you hoping to register for Boston this week, BEST OF LUCK TO YOU. Sincerely. It will be a magical year in Hopkinton and I can’t wait to cheer everyone on from afar.

I’ll totally be drinking while you’re running.

Sarah OUaL

Ventura Marathon–wk10, the Final Update

This is a day early, but I don’t plan to post again before the race so let’s just get it out of the way now. Formalities first, this is what a very lax, other-things-busy taper looks like :

Week Ten (9/1-7)

Su – 10mi with last 4 at MGP (marathon goal pace) <—no garmin, regular watch + landmarks says just over 8min/mi   |||   M – rest   |||   Tu – 1-4-1 between MGP and Tempo (7:45avg)   |||   W – 50min hard SUP   |||   Th – 5 easy, feels-like-floating, farewell-elephant-legs night miles + strides   |||   F – [planned SUP]   |||   Sa – [planned 4 easy]


= 25 holy-crap-it’s-really-here miles total

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster. I never hit a super confidence high (like, “I’m totally making all 26.2 of these miles my bitch”), but had been holding a pretty steady contentment(?) with my training and abilities. Feeling good, you know. Then two(three) bad long runs tied up any shred of marathon confidence I had, put a gun to its head, and sent me a really mean ransom note.

I’m sure none of you noticed.

But Tuesday’s MGP test and last night’s light and airy, super easy run are swaying my mental visualizations away from Pachyderm In Bum Wrap to someone who might actually manage forward motion for 26.2 straight miles. Here’s hoping.


see the resemblance?

Still need like, 93% of those stars to align for me Sunday AM, including the Mother Nature one, but I’m feeling pretty good. Calm, collected, ready to run for fucking forever. Wring the towel all the way out and see how close to 3:35 it gets me.

Good luck to Kristina running the half; Pam, Jessica, Emily, and Michelle also gunning BQs at Ventura; Jocelyn at Lehigh, and everyone else racing this weekend! Run fast, stay strong, shuffle till you make it, die trying… Pick a few, see ya out there.

BQ twitter party Sunday night? RSVP TBD.

Sarah OUaL

Ventura Training–Wk9, The One Where I Quit Booze and Sugar

“How are you feeling?” [about the marathon next week]

”Like I hope I get hit by a bus so I don’t have to race.”

The dramatics are high, energy is low, and my confidence is MIA. It’s been too long to remember if this is normal taper activity or if I’m actually really in bad shape for Sunday.

Physically, honestly, I don’t feel great. Granted I ran double 50 mile weeks and my highest monthly mileage ever (185), but the fatigue and dead legs seem a bit skewed in respect. Plus there have been no redeeming qualities from any of my runs the past two weeks – my long runs have been absolute death marches, speed work feels harder than it should, and I can’t remember the last solid tempo I had.

But I’m healthy! Uninjured! Have not been hit by a bus!

I’m going to give myself a few days to try and put the pieces together, and if nothing forms then fuck it the pieces are all going in the ocean and I’m showing up on Sunday with a hair up my ass and a do-or-die game plan. I’ll need quite a few stars to align (ahem, all of them) in order to reach my BQ goal, but I don’t want to spend the next week analyzing my training log to try and pull some magically arbitrary number I “should” be able to run from the depths between its cells to comfort my nerves. 1) the expectation pressure will make me feel worse and 2) excel doesn’t have a formula for that anyway.

Luckily Super Pacer Dave will be there with me – he’s really smart and wasn’t just handed the nickname, so I’ll give him the reins to gauge my effort and adapt the plan as we go. I don’t even think I’m going to wear Garming (haha, bc it’s still dead)! How’s that for breaking up with one dependence and promptly handing it over to some(one) else?


Anyway, so far my “race strategy” email to SPD looks like this :

“Run me hard but don’t let me actually keel over and die. Be mean to me, but wary of 20+mi Homicidal Sarah.”


Week Nine (8/25-31)

Su – 14 mi, partial with Margot, first ever mid-run puke (not effort-based) Not really so fun.   |||   M – 2mi shakeout + 20min easy bike   |||   Tu – 5ish at Crystal Cove with the new OC Run Club (next meeting 9/10 – come join!)   |||   W – off   |||   Th – 7mi fartlek *   |||   F – 45min hard SUP   |||   Sa – 45min easy dirt path


cred SR, Heather, SR

= 33 total, about 8 fewer than planned

Oh and I suppose I owe a Booze/Sugar Detox update :

The good news is I’ve managed to stay clean the first week. Big win in the discipline department! The bad news is bloat, cravings, and general ickiness have already significantly decreased so this bullshit plan is working and I’m so sad about it. I mean, great for the race but sucks for life in general. Booze and sugar why can’t you just play nicer with my body?

Sarah OUaL