RACE RECAP: Ventura Half Marathon – Shoulda Woulda Coulda

OK, so what’s the time limit on posting race recaps? ‘Cuz I’m just at three months and one day after I ran this race, and while I realize it’s slightly obnoxious, hopefully it’s a forgivable offense. The plan is to post two race recaps this week AND get back to a regular blogging schedule now that I’m in my offseason. So if you’re still hanging in there with this MIA blog, here goes.

The plan was to the run the Ventura FULL marathon. That was the plan anyway.

After my triumphant Mountains2Beach Half Marathon, where I landed a brand new PR at a time that I never dreamed of, I took my usual vacation week to recover. As soon as I returned, I dusted off last year’s training plan for the Ventura Marathon and got busy. I knew I’d only have 12 weeks to build up my mileage to marathon standards, and that I would be cutting it close, but I felt in good enough half marathon shape that the plan would be doable.

ventura-1
First run after M2B — along the East River in NYC.

Training was going well. I was curious to see how my body would hold up to the added mileage on top of my increased speed and strength training and, as had been the case since starting with Trainer, I was unsure if the speed and strength work would translate into a fast marathon. The first 4½ weeks of training went as planned as I increased my mileage slowly and busted out an 18-mile long run for the first time in nearly a year. Then it happened: I strained my right Achilles. Gah! I had a weekend trip to Vegas planned, so even though I was not thrilled about missing a long run, I figured the timing was right to sit out a few days, get healed up, and still have enough time to get in three 20-mile runs.

My Achilles had other plans. I ended up having to take a little over two weeks off, plus a week to test it out and taper up, which left me only five weeks before the marathon. I am a fan of symmetry and had been looking forward to running the full distance at Ventura as it was exactly this race and one year since my last full marathon, but I decided to downgrade to the half marathon and use it as a training run for the Revel Canyon City Marathon in November instead.

ventura-2
Bib pick-up. This is a super fun race expo on the beach.

With this decision, I approached Ventura with the mindset of running it at 80% effort. I had to take time off after the Surf City Half Marathon, and if I hadn’t already planned a vacation after the M2B Half Marathon, I probably would have had to take a week off then too. My body just needs to recover after race effort. Since I could not afford to take a week off in the middle of marathon training again, this race was not going to be a full-out effort.

ventura-2a
Kicked it on the beach for a bit.

My goals were as follows:
A-sub-1:50. Why not? That’s what “A” goals are for, right? Shoot for the moon.
B-PR (run sub-1:52:18).
C-sub-1:55 and not get injured.

I also had an unconventional A-minus *goal*, and that was to not stop at so many water stations! My number of water stops has been an ongoing battle — I mean, discussion — between Trainer and I. I have always stopped at EVERY water station during a race, no matter if there were one (like in a 5K) or twenty-six. I stop/walk and drink whether I’m thirsty or not. This, despite the fact that I never drink water at every mile when training and could easily run eight miles during a weekday run without water. Part of it is physiological, the body is expending more energy during a race, but I also knew part of it was a mental crutch. Yikes! The mere thought of skipping water stations terrified me. I felt dehydrated just thinking about it!

I lined up hoping to run with the 1:50 pace group, but there was no pacer for that, and I ended up – gulp – starting out with the 1:45 group. 1:45?!? Just like Mountains2Beach, I planned to hang as long as I could, hopefully until the 4-5 mile mark, and then hold on. I glanced down at my watch a few times during the first few miles and saw some 7:30-7:45 min. mile paces, which seemed about right because the pace felt just out of my reach. I dropped out of the pace group around mile 4 but felt good about cruising into a sub-1:55 finish time.

I found two women who were just slightly ahead of me and running 8:10-8:25 min. miles, which felt fairly comfortable, so I hung with them for the next five miles. This is an extremely flat and boring out-and-back course, so there’s not much to report here other than Ventura is flat AF. Anyway, I bravely and courageously passed by water stations. Oh, yes, friends. I was determined to reach at least one goal at this race, even if I collapsed from dehydration. (Part of me hoped that this would happen just so I could tell Trainer “I told you so”, but no such luck.)

ventura-3
Nothing but flat highway for miles.

I started fatiguing and cramping as per usual around mile 9-10, only now not only was my body starting to break down, but my Garmin was dying too! It had been going in and out since mile 6, and I had no idea what my actual time was. At this point, I reminded myself of my overall goal for this race, which was to run it at 80%, use it as a training run, and stay injury-free. Thus, I backed off, and did just that.

And here’s where the I Shoulda Woulda Coulda comes in. My finishing time was 1:51:18! Yes, of course I was happy about a new PR by 1 min. 10 sec., but I was also left disappointed – I was thisclose to going under 1:50. If I had known how close I was (why, trusty Garmin, why?!?), I would have kept the pressure on. To top things off, I ended up having to take five days off after the race to recover from a minor bottom-of-foot inflammation anyway, so I just shoulda kept the pace up; I woulda felt better about my race effort; and I coulda gone sub-1:50…argh!

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Hey Finish Line, I see you!

Moral of the story: There are no training races. I don’t race enough to have some “fun” races, and I am competitive enough that if I line up, I want to go hard. So lesson learned…leave the 80% effort for training.

Here are the final race stats. Not bad considering I turned 49 a month before!

Finishing Time: 1:51:18
Pace: 8:29/mile
Age Group (45-49): 9/131  — finally cracked the top 10!
Women: 73/938
Overall 203/1490
Water Stops: 4

So this makes three half marathons and three PRs in 2016. It is astonishing to think that for seven years, I hovered in the 2:14-2:04 range, breaking through only twice to hit sub-2:00 finishes, and now I had run three races in one year at 1:55:59, 1:52:28, and 1:51:18. I mean…

But would these half marathon times translate to the full mary? That question still remained and hung over most of my marathon training cycle. The next recap is scheduled for later this week and will document my first full marathon in over a year. Here is the teaser in hopes you will tune in: It involves the word “Boston.”

Hope you have a great running week!

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I love this medal — so Ventura!

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