Marathon weekend started on Friday afternoon with a very trafficky drive down to the Expo at the Orange County Fairgrounds. It was the kind of traffic that makes people who live in places like Bend, Oregon, absolutely loathe LA and never want to come here. It was fairly annoying. The Expo itself was just okay. Maybe I was just tired from the car ride, or maybe it was because it was too hot outside, but the booths did not interest me at all and the whole place smelled like horse poop. So we got my bib and left, but not before an obligatory Mama/Nathan/Race bib picture.
|That is one super excited baby.|
After checking in, we headed out to dinner at Mama D's Italian Kitchen. We were having a splendid carb load dinner until Nathan lost his marbles and we had to scarf down our food and go home. To his credit, he was a sleeping angel the whole car ride down, so the little guy deserved a free pass at that point. On Saturday, Ken headed down to San Diego all day for some interviews so Nathan and I just chilled out at the hotel and had a lovely lunch at the mall with my friend Michelle. After a pre-race dinner at the True Food Kitchen in the mall, I hopped into bed early for my 4 a.m. (yee haw!) wake up call.
In my opinion, one of the biggest pluses of this marathon is that it is super small. There were only about 2000 full marathoners, compared to the boat load of half marathoners (which makes sense, since the half marathon course > the full marathon course). Since the half marathon didn't start until 6:15 a.m., it seemed practically empty in the morning by the start line. There were no lines for the bathrooms inside the hotel lobby, and Katie and I were able to hop into corral 1 about 15 minutes before the gun and creep up pretty close to the front. When the gun went off, it was the most un-congested marathon start that I've ever experienced. We had no trouble hitting our opening mile in exactly 8:50 per Adrian's race plan.
I should back up a bit. Originally, when I signed up for the race, my "A" goal was a 3:55. I had no idea how my body would respond to training after having Nathan, and how much time I could really devote to running, especially after I went back to work. But I responded better to training than I thought, and I was able to figure out how to fit in running with everything else that was going on. I gained a lot of confidence after my half marathon PR at Pasadena, and it became evident that I needed to re-think my goals. 3:40 became the new "A" goal, and I even toyed with the idea of shooting for 3:35 before I got the flu two weeks before the race. On race morning, I set my sights on the 3:40. To hit that time, Adrian had written up a race strategy that had me running the opening half marathon in 1:51:xx and speeding up the second half to hit my goal time.
The first half of the OC marathon was definitely the more scenic half, with views of the harbor, boats owned by rich people, houses owned by rich people, the ocean, and this cool ecological reserve. Although the course was definitely the flattest course that I've ever run, I wouldn't necessarily describe it as flat, because both halves (and the first half especially) had a number of rolling (but relatively non-intimidating) hills that definitely took a toll on your legs. The biggest "hills" were at mile 7 (which really wasn't bad at all - more like a steady grade) and again somewhere around mile 11 (that one was not so fun - a short but steep big bump). The first half also had a lot of turns. Like, a lot. At one point, I remember getting frustrated and saying something out loud about all of the U-turns we were making, which both slow you down and add distance to the course. (Luckily, you run straight for a lot of the second half so I was able to minimize over-running the course) The course also significantly narrows in parts (around mile 6.5 and again around mile 8), which led to some annoying bottle-necking.
|Flat, but not as flat as it seems.|
After mile 11, the course makes its way out of Newport Beach into Irvine and Santa Ana and the shift in scenery and demographics is quite, um, obvious. We ran over two freeways - first was the 73, which was empty. Just after mile 14, we had to run over the 405 overpass which was a short, but steep, loud hill (since the 405 is never empty) that I just didn't appreciate at that point. On a happy note, I caught up with the 3:45 pacers after the hill, who, for some reason, were only about 30-40 seconds behind the 3:40 pacers. Based on my half marathon splits, I guessed that the 3:45 pacers were a bit fast and the 3:40 pacers were a bit slow at that point. Around mile 15, the course flattened out significantly until the last 10K or so, which allowed me to catch up to, and pass the 3:40 pacers around the time we were running next to this random farm. I had an oddly slow mile around mile 17-18, which zig-zagged through a performing arts center, some office buildings, and the South Coast Plaza parking lot, but otherwise was keeping up with the 8:10-8:15 pace that I was supposed to be running at that point.
I hit mile 20 before the 2 hour, 50 minute mark, and remember trying to do a quick calculation of how fast I'd need to run the last 10K in order to BQ. After figuring out that I would need to run a 10K PR, which was not going to happen, I scrapped the idea and just focused on coming in at under 3:40. When I hit the Santa Ana River Trail just after mile 20 (which, by the way, had no river in it), we were all greeted by a pretty nasty headwind. The weather up until then had been pretty ideal (overcast the whole way), so I really couldn't complain too much about the headwind, but it definitely took a lot out of me. I was pretty toasted approaching mile 23, so when I saw what was, and felt like, a decent sized incline, my legs were not happy. But, luckily, at the top of the hill, I spotted Marissa, who had managed to recruit a bunch of awesome spectators to cheer for me as I came by. After I made Marissa confirm for me that I was indeed way ahead of the 3:40 pacer, the goal was just to gut it out the last 5K and not keel over. At that point, my legs weren't managing anything faster than an 8:30-ish mile and I'm pretty sure I started to see splotches after the mile 25 mark. I did my best to keep up with Marissa, who did a splendid job pacing me, getting me water, keeping me from stopping, and listening to me tell her how I couldn't run any faster and how boring the course was.
When we finally got to the mile 26 marker, Marissa took my water bottle and I sprinted to the line. As I approached the clock, I saw it ticking in the 3:39:40s so I knew that I had to pick it up if I wanted to squeak in under 3:40. I crossed the line with 3:39:52 on the clock, which translated into a net time of 3:39:46.
I hobbled through the finish area, grabbed a food bag that had some orange coconut water and fig newtons (really?? who eats fig newtons anymore?) and found Marissa at the family reunion area. Ken and Nathan, who unfortunately fell victim to the horrid, and disorganized road closure system (OC Marathon definitely loses points for that), met us a few minutes later. If they had been ten minutes earlier (or I had been ten minutes slower), they could have seen me finish, but unfortunately missed it. I was definitely sad, as was Ken (we're pretty sure Nathan didn't care one way or another), but there will be other, better races.
While a tiny, tiny part of me wondered if I could have made some adjustments during the race to chase down a BQ, 99% of me was extremely satisfied with how the race went. There was absolutely no way that I could have run any faster during those last few miles of the race, so rather than second guess myself, I'm just going to be happy. This was a tough training cycle, and at times I was convinced that Coach Adrian was crazy, but so far he's trained me to 2 marathon PRs (one when I was pregnant) and a half marathon PR, so his methods work. It is kind of crazy to think that this race was almost exactly 25 minutes faster than my first marathon. I'm excited for what's next.
For now, though, I'm enjoying my recovery, and am going to focus on working strength training back into my routine, getting acclimated to the jogging stroller, and eating delicious meals like this one:
|Post-race meal at 25 Degrees. Burgers and beer. Perfection.|
Garmin time: 3:39:53/26.3 miles/ 8:21 min/mile average
Official time: 3:39:46/26.2 miles/ 8:23 min/mile average
Overall place: 213th/1875
Gender place: 36th/725
Age group: 7th/110
Mile 1 - 8:51Mile 2 - 8:23Mile 3 - 8:39Mile 4 - 8:38Mile 5 - 8:32Mile 6 - 8:31Mile 7 - 8:37Mile 8 - 8:30Mile 9 - 8:20Mile 10 - 8:17Mile 11 - 7:59Mile 12 - 8:07Mile 13 - 8:26 (half marathon split 1:51:39)Mile 14 - 8:09Mile 15 - 8:13Mile 16 - 8:09Mile 17 - 8:30Mile 18 - 8:06Mile 19 - 8:03Mile 20 - 8:13Mile 21 - 8:17Mile 22 - 8:12Mile 23 - 8:24Mile 24 - 8:26Mile 25 - 8:25Mile 26 - 8:34
Last 0.3 - 2:21 (7:49 min/mile average) (second half marathon split 1:48:07)