|The sign that sums up the experience!|
The 2014 Surf City Marathon was my seventh completed marathon. While I had run the half marathon course twice (with my PR at 1:51), I had had given no thought to it being easier than the other marathons I had run before. Yes, I wanted to beat my marathon PR of 4:42; however, I also didn’t want to put myself at risk for not running Way Too Cool50K in a month (March 8th).
I love this race venue so much since this is like coming home in sorts. Huntington Beach is where I used to play as a kid before we moved to Washington State. I have many fond memories of the area including the first time I ever ran the half marathon distance.
|Savoring the pre race coffee at 5:30.|
It was at that race I began my goal of completing the California Dreaming series which at the time meant that I complete either a half or full marathon at both Long Beach and San Francisco. In both of those races both my wife and I chose to run the marathon distances and this lead to us running Napa twice, San Francisco twice, Fresno/Clovis once (pretty much for the sweatshirt and sundae), not to mention the completion of two ultras.
I am pretty pleased with the run. It was a cold start with temperatures in the 40’s and it never reached above 58, ideal running weather. The sunrise was beautiful at race start. With a quck lapse in memory, I started my GPS watch a minute and 10 seconds after the start (this would come back to get me).
I locked in at the very beginning with the 4:20 pace group and maintained my 9:47ish pace for the first 18 miles. I felt good during this time, climbing the small hills and through the park without any problems. I began my refueling, like my training, at the 1:15 minute mark. I have been using Pocket Fuel (which is a whole food almond butter mixture) instead of a gel and it worked like a gem. Every 30 to 40 minutes I would eat half a packet ( there are two servings per packet).
|Beautiful sunrise at the start.|
I also had brought a water bottle. This was more to help get me through the aid stations and to prepare for the longer trail run coming up. The biggest challenge here was that when I needed to refill the bottle at the aid station, the aid station help really didn’t know what to do. The would end up pouring Dixie cups into my bottle, which was fine but took a little longer than I would have preferred.
At mile 17 I saw my wife and kids which gave me a wonderful but soon to be short lived pick me up.
|An enjoyable run through the park before PCH times two.|
One of the challenges with this course, and especially with me having run the half marathon course twice, is that you do two out and back runs along PCH. While the view of the ocean and Santa Catalina is awesome, mentally having to back out along the bike path after realizing you are one mile from the finish played a psychological trick on me. So about mile 18 I started to feel my legs burn. This is more the feeling of extreme achiness, which brought me down to a walk between mile 18 and 19.
I had hit the abyss. I started questioning why I was out there, why would I even consider doing the ultra in a month, if I should pull the plug and DNF. The funny thing with this thought process is that I have run enough marathons to know I can get myself past this point. I did some squats which seemed to help and made it to the aide station where I began drinking electrolyte. I was still ahead of the 4:40 group so I briefly thought I could still meet my PR; however, she quickly passed while I tried to keep up.
|Coming in strong at the finish.|
My pace was slow at this point, with a lot of running as well as walking. At the turnaround, at about mile 22, I got a burst of energy as I realized I had less than 4 miles to go. Piece of cake as I told myself, then the 4:50 pacer passed me quickly followed by the 5:00 pacer. I knew the pacers were running faster so I paid them no attention. My main struggles at this point were a storm was coming in off shore and was now running with a strong headwind. My thought process here though was to keep my time under 5 hours.
However, at mile 25 I remembered my 1 minute time delay. Well I really didn’t know how much a time delay I had on my watch so I knew I would be cutting it close to that 5 hour mark. It took me 14 minutes to cover that flat 1 mile, and then I really pushed up the pace for the final 0.2 to a 9:30 pace. I missed the mark and came in at 5:00:56.
|Feeling surprisingly good, ready for Way Too Cool 50K.|
I have been struggling with what I could have done different to reach my goal. Psychologically the course got to me, I know that. However, I am feeling the best I have ever felt after an endurance run. In fact I ran a 4.4 mile / 9:11 per mile pace recovery run three days after the marathon. I have had no DOMS, no Achilles pain, etc., which makes me think that I didn’t leave it all out there (even if I did play it smart with the 50K within a month). I did not take any electrolyte until after mile 18 which may have contributed to hitting the abyss. I talked with a couple of endurance athletes and while one swear by drinking electrolyte through the entire race the other (who runs 50 mile and 100 mile distances) only drinks water. Yet, with all of this I can’t help to be happy that I completed my seventh marathon and that this will be my third best finish time of the bunch.
So now I am looking forward to the next big challenge in a month. Time to get ready and focused for that one.