If you take nothing else away from this post, or rather, get tired and bored midway through, please just know this: I Beat Oprah’s Time. Finally! After two failed attempts, I bested the Mighty O. Skinny Oprah, mind you. Let a girl have her micro-victory.
True to the theme of this solo runner opening up and sharing my running via this blog and/or running with others (at times), it’s fitting that I ran this marathon using, for the first time, a pace group. What a fantastic experience! Now, it sounds like this is not always the case, as people in my group told stories of uneven pacers, but running with this pace group was awesome. Most especially because of our pacer Tammy. She stuck to the plan, reminded us throughout the race to relax our shoulders, breathe, take gels and fluids, as well as generally encouraged us. She made all the difference in the world.
The group itself seemed comprised of a wide range of runners, including three high school boys who were running their first marathon and showed up with zero gels. Luckily, Tammy made them pick up at the aid stations. All ages and levels of experience were represented in our motley crue.
So as noted in my pre-race post, I wanted to not be Garmin-dependent in this race. I just wasn’t in the head space for it, so I basically pushed start on my watch and switched screens. I put my faith in Tammy and the pace group. The first 9ish miles are a loop around Ojai (the mountains portion), through neighborhoods and a lot of horse country. I didn’t notice the scenery too much, as our pace group was pretty chatty and upbeat. Not only did I switch off my Garmin, I turned off my music, and just hung out. It was like a fast-paced weekend group run. I felt pretty comfortable and just enjoyed the company, and the first part of the race went by in a blur.
TMI side note. I did have another new marathon experience: Dropping trou with three other women behind a row of port-o-potties and relieving myself. Our pace group wasn’t going to wait and nature was calling, so…it was a bonding moment, for sure.
It seemed like a good portion of the pace group was doing the course for the first time, and so when we hit the downhill portion at mile 9, there were quite a few cheers. However, I was burned by this downhill portion last year. Last year, elated like those newbies in my pace group, I charged down this hill. I wanted to gobble it up. Yeah, well, I’m the one that got chewed up and spit out. My quads and knees were on fire last year, and I hobbled the last 8 miles. Miserable. So, while the group was happy, I was cautious and a little fearful. My quads were already starting to tighten up around mile 12, but they weren’t fatigued, so I just went with it and again, trusted in Tammy.
Things started to get quiet at mile 14 as shit started to get real. I turned on my music but kept it low. I didn’t want to miss any important instructions from Tammy. This is the prettiest part of the course as you run down the mountain into the valley and cross a quaint wooden bridge. By mile 18, our group of 20-25, dwindled down to about 8-10. I’m sure there were a few just behind us, but I dared not look back. While it’s still slightly downhill for miles 18-22, it’s also shade-free, and we had no cloud cover, so it was challenging. The scenery also switches to kind of an industrial setting, which is weird and interesting. I told myself that I would hang with the pace group for as long as I could after mile 20. I just needed to get to mile 20.
I finally looked at my watch at mile 20, and I was at 3:18. Good news. Even though my quads were tight and my knees were feeling it, I didn’t feel injured, and felt OK. I was able to hang until 22, but then my pace group lost me. I needed to walk at the water stations, and they weren’t having it, so at mile 22, I told myself that I was now going to have to run my race and go with what I had left. I also told myself “Don’t do anything stupid, run smart.” Wouldn’t you know it, at just this moment, the sidewalk jumped up at me, and down I went. Splat. Yup, another ugly little gash on my left knee. Anyway, I picked myself up and just.kept.going.
Well the last four miles were just as painful and slow as you can imagine. I walked a little bit but not much, kept a good shuffle and managed to reel in a few people. At mile 24ish, I just wanted to walk, but even though I had left myself a little cushion to PR, it wasn’t much, and I couldn’t risk it. And this is where my pettiness worked for me, because seriously, I had the thought “I will NOT let Oprah have a faster time than me!” My last few miles I finally lost my goal pace and went 10:26; 11:14; 11:23; and 10:52. The last mile plus is along the beach, and I saw my FMC and waved. At the finish, I had a huge smile and raised hands — I was elated! I met up with Tammy and another person in my pace group and we high-fived. Yay!
So like my other two races this year, I reached my “B” goal, which was to PR. I got about a five minute PR! I also didn’t feel miserable (relative – you known what I mean). This solo runner hates to admit it, but running in a group was not only helpful, but fun. Did I say that?!? In fact, this was my most enjoyable marathon experience. Eff me. The only disappointing thing is how far down I finished in my age group, gender, and overall. This is a fast course, and a lot of speedy people run it to BQ, so I was pretty way down there in the race results. Hopefully I can rise up in the ranks.
I dunked myself into an ice bath when I got home and spent the afternoon for the most part just icing, compressing, and Adviling…in between eating. My quads and knees are toast, but I never felt that searing IT band pain, just a dull “OMG, this [marathoning] is not a good thing to do,” so I’m hoping there won’t be any post-marathon issues unlike the last two I’ve done. Cross fingers. Next step is to email my FMC to come up with a plan for Ventura, and then go on a much-needed vacation for a couple weeks.
Marathon Week 22: SUCCESS!