Race Report: Mountains2Beach Marathon 2016

The 2016 Mountains2Beach Marathon was not quite the race I’d prepared to run.  I’d run the race in 2015, and achieved a BQ time that was not enough to save me from the 2016 cut-off time (BQ -2:28). When I studied my 2015 performance, I thought about the factors that slowed me down toward the end of the race (heat, sun, lack of hydration), and I worked and planned to be prepared for those obstacles in 2016.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was a course change. A change that, while on paper didn’t seem that different from the 2015 course in terms of elevation, ended up being enough to keep me feeling rather disoriented as the course wound its way down a highway (where’s the bike path?), from Ojai to Ventura. Last year’s peaceful bike path through the trees was replaced by a rolling highway, and cars held back by police officers (thank you!) at a number of intersections along the way. I saw a couple of drivers, clearly frustrated from having to wait, dart across the course with little separating the runners from their car. It was definitely not a time to “zone out.”

Actually, perhaps the biggest change was in the first 6-7 miles of the course. Last year, runners were leaving downtown Ojai by mile 2; this year, we spent more time wandering around Ojai, beginning the race with a not-insignificant elevation gain for the first 3 miles, then pretty much doubling back past the start line, and finally heading down the road. We didn’t join the bike path until mile 11; I’d driven the course the day before specifically to be more familiar with the course changes, however when we got to mile 11 and I saw the bike path, I assumed the rest of the course was the same as last year, save for the last 2 miles at the beach. I mean, the course map showed a squigly line from Ojai to Ventura, and the elevation chart showed a downhill profile that, at least from mile 11 on, seemed like last year’s course. But I’m not familiar with the area, so I completely missed the fact that about 1.5 miles in on the bike path the course left it – and never returned.

It’s not that I mind a rolling course; in fact, I totally love California International Marathon because of the rolling course. I just like knowing what to expect. In my brain, for months now, M2B was a downhill freight train. Turns out, not quite so much.

Around mile 15, a funny thing happened. Not funny. Tragic. Shitty. Frustrating. My left hamstring, which I confess had been a little tight after Revel Mt Charleston a couple of weeks ago, decided to go full cramp – OUCH! Like, stop and scurry to the side of the road and try to stretch it out kind of OUCH. Here’s a confession: I have been fortunate in that I have not been injured during a race. Between December 2014 and August 2015 I ran 3 marathons, BQ times in each, without any problems during training or the race. I know, I’ve been damn lucky.

M2B2016_1After a brief stop to stretch, I tried to resume my pace. I lasted about 2-3 miles, each mile getting slower and slower. My hamstring was not feeling better; in fact with each step it felt like a painful balloon threatening to pop. The reality of the situation hit me hard and fast; this race was not happening. A BQ was not happening. I looked at my Garmin, where I could see that I was still within 30 seconds of my target, and I glided to the right side of the road, slowing down to a walk. I could have settled into a major pity-party right there and then, however my hamstring was KILLING me with each step, keeping me very much in the moment. I was at mile 17, on some random highway. I had 9 more miles to get to the finish line. I texted my husband; he was waiting at mile 23, ready to pace me to a strong, on pace finish. I was afraid he would think I was just having some sort of stressed-out breakdown, that he’d try to convince me to “suck it up.” But I’d never felt anything like what I was feeling with my hamstring before. Ever. When I tried to run fast, it stabbed with a sharpness that was unsettling.

Had there been a van waiting to pick me up at any point, I’m about 99% certain I would have gotten in. I wasn’t concerned at all about a DNF. I was concerned about not being able to run for weeks or months – who knows how long? But I didn’t see any van. It was miles before I would see a medical tent too. So I walked. But walking didn’t last long at all (maybe a minute). Not because the pain went away; because my brain started calculating how damn long it would potentially take me to walk 9 miles. OMG. I couldn’t fathom the thought. I settled into what had to look like a very uncomfortable “wog,” dragging my left leg along.

The other thing that really kept me going, however, were my friends who became my cheer squad that day, chasing me down the mountain with signs, cowbells, smiles, laughter; they were amazing! They cheered me on from no less than 5 different spots on the course; earlier in the race I breezed by with my arms raised, bolstered by their voices! After I was hurt (and I didn’t tell them, but I think they figured it out), I hobbled by and found real strength and energy in their supportive words.

As I approached mile 23, anticipating seeing my husband, my left foot, which was dragging, caught some torn up asphalt and I tripped and splatted into the road. Somehow I managed to bang up my right knee, right shoulder, left side of my forehead AND left side of my ribcage. I looked up from the ground to see a handful of volunteers: “Ma’am, are you okay?”

Um. NOPE. I was dazed. I was bleeding. I couldn’t breathe (my ribcage was killing me). Holy. Cow. When is this race going to be over?? I pulled myself to my feet, grabbed some water to wash off my wounds, and moved on.

I finally reached my husband who, while understood I was super slow from a hamstring blow up, wasn’t aware of the fall until he saw my bloody knee and shoulder. A pained expression washed over his face. Seeing that, I began to choke up, only the physical act of choking up was excruciating – of course it was, because why should I get to cry? So we continued on; I got slower and slower as I became breathless with each step, not being able to take deep breaths, or even normal breaths. But I kept moving forward; along the final mile, my cheering friends once again greeted me, along with some more friends who I didn’t know would be there – what an amazing surprise! As horrible as I felt, as in pain as I was, I was so damn happy over the course of that last mile, and I credit that 100% to my husband and my friends.

Mountain 2 Beach MarathonI approached the finish; I wouldn’t be “stuffing it in.” Nope. No more falling. No more hurting. I hobbled in but, seeing the photographer at the finish line, I threw up my hands and smiled. Why? Because I was so, so happy that I managed to finish that race!

Ironically, it wasn’t even my worst marathon time; like, not even by a long shot. 4:18:09 isn’t a BQ but in any other circumstance I would be so pleased with that time. So I’ll take it.

I stopped at the medical tent; the medical voluteer listened to my lungs to make sure I hadn’t done serious damage. He cleaned up my knee and gave me ice for, well, everything. I had a friend who was running her 2nd marathon that day and, with all the love and support I’d just received, I definitely wanted to pay it forward, so we waited along the final stretch and cheered runners in until we saw her. While waiting, I sucked down a double margarita (my amazing friends brought it to me at the finish), shed some quiet tears, and reflected. I don’t know where my Boston dream goes from here.

March 6, 2016: 12 weeks and counting

Training Log for 2/28 to 3/5 – 44+ miles

IMG_0117
Why is it still cold??

 

  • Sunday: Pacer for Hot Chocolate 15k (9.3 miles)
  • Monday: 7 miles
  • Tuesday: 3 miles
  • Wednesday: 4.24 miles (5×800 plus warm up/cool down)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 7 miles – 3 miles at GMP
  • Saturday: 14 miles – with 4 short fartlek interval

I won’t lie – by the time I showered yesterday morning, after the 14 miles, I was totally spent. It was a tough week – I haven’t done speed work in months, and my legs/shins/ass sure felt it the rest of the week. I wish I could say something funny, or clever, or inspirational, but I’m just not feeling it this morning. Sometimes, to get to a goal, it’s just about getting the work done. And you don’t always have rainbows and unicorns flying out of your ass while you are staring down a big goal.

 

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Running in 90+ weather and longing for the 20s. Be careful what you wish for!
I was looking at my “run selfies” from last summer, when I was training for Santa Rosa. How did I remember feeling during those workouts? Miserable. Hot. Slow. But when I look at those pictures now, as I emerge from a chilly winter season, I see them much differently. I look triumphant. I look tough. I look bad ass. But that’s how the memory works right? I’m freezing, so hot weather running seems wonderful. In a matter of weeks I’m sure I’ll be longing for freezing cold weather. Or…maybe not.

So to get through these mentally challenging, physically taxing weeks, to get the work done, I start doing countdown math. I’ll often do the same during a race, but for training the countdown is spread across weeks instead of miles:

I have a super-early (read sorta-long run) morning tomorrow. Seven more super-early Monday mornings until Mountains2Beach.

I’ve got a midweek hill workout. Four more hill workouts until Mountains2Beach.

I’ve got a long run at the end of the week. Six more runs of 16 miles or longer until Mountains2Beach.

You see, those numbers: Seven, Four, Six – they are much easier to stomach, right?

February 22, 2016: Jumping back into beast mode

Training log: 6 miles: 1 mile at HMP pace:Monday Mode

Me and my dorky love…

 

Today is Day 2 of Mountains2Beach “Boston-or-Bust” marathon training. After what seems like a super  quick recovery week last week from my very slow LA Marathon journey, I’m back in the marathon training craziness.

I have 14 weeks until race day – 90 more days!   

I’ve been reaching back into my old training plans in order to utilize what worked, and drop what didn’t. Without getting into too much detail, here is what my typical training week will look like:

  • Sunday: Short trail run: 3-5 miles. No pace expectations. Just stay fully focused, don’t trip, keep moving forward. Strength training afterwards, time permitting.
  • Monday: Sorta-long run: 6-10 miles. Easy, “Zone 1” pace (140-151 bpm) EXCEPT for 1 mile, any mile, run at HMP (which is 8:21).
  • Tuesday: Short run: 3-5 miles. Easy, “Zone 1” pace (140-151 bpm) .
  • Wednesday: Hills or 800s. Strength training in the evening, time permitting.
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Sorta-long run: 6-10 miles, work up to MP (8:47) after a 2-3 mile warm up.
  • Saturday: Long run: 16-20 miles; Easy “Zone 1” pace (140-151) except for the last 25% of run, to be run at MP (8:47).

Okay – here are my honest thoughts about this plan, dream, and journey:

  1. I hope I don’t get injured. I really really really hope that doesn’t happen. Major injury. Minor injury. Overuse injury. Trips and falls.
  2. I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t reach my goal at this race. I’m a runner everyday, for life.
  3. I just want to leave the best race I can possible run on the course that day.
  4. Did I mention that I hope I do not get injured?
  5. I need to drop 10lbs. It simply has to happen.

And here we go!

 

January 24, 2016: Tapering and what happens after

Miles run today: 0
Miles run 2016: 135.5

January has been busy yet I feel I’ve accomplished very little. Without getting into the boring minutia of my life, let’s just say I’m very grateful to be in a taper period for the next three weeks. It’s definitely a time to start planning for the rest of the year in terms of running goals (as well as life goals).

After LA Marathon in February, I’ll be digging into my next attempt at a BQ. That will be Mountains2Beach. I just put together my training plan, and it’s a bear. Luckily its only 12 weeks long (I only feel like I can get away with a 12 week marathon training plan because of all of the marathon training I’ve been doing over the last 18 months). It includes speed work, hills, and even optional trail workouts. All the workouts that I know have made me stronger in the past. It gives my husband, who is my training partner, an opt out of the longer miles. And it only makes me wake up ridiculously early two workday mornings.

I’m also going to try to do strength training; I say this all the time, but I end up dropping it because it leaves my legs so sore. But this time I have a different approach; I’ll be doing strength AFTER hard workouts, not before. I’ll also be limiting my alcohol intake – absolutely no drinking the day before a scheduled run. That’s mostly because waking up dehydrated really hurts my workouts. I’m also hoping this will help me shed a pound or two. So adios Tequila – but just for a while.

But the other thing I’ve decided about this next training phase is that this will be my last attempt at a BQ for the foreseeable future. Honestly, I barely want to go for it right now; I’m really at peace with my 3 BQ times, even though they didn’t make the cut. One

Smiling on the outside - beating myself up for the bathroom stop on the inside
Smiling on the outside – beating myself up for the bathroom stop on the inside

thing I do know is that running with that kind of intensity is sort of ruining running for me. Example: I ran the Star Wars Half Marathon last weekend. Now, I didn’t really have any goal for that race except to run my best race for the shape I’m in. Did that happen? No. I didn’t follow my normal pre-race routine, ended up with 2 long bathroom stops (ugh) and then I felt compelled to “make up” for those stops by beating myself up along the course instead of enjoying the awesomeness that is that race (seriously, the Star Wars Half Marathon is awesome).

My mental game has shifted; when I’m racing, I’m not having fun. Instead, I’m pushing myself and pushing myself, even when there is no reason to, because I’ve spent so much time learning how to push myself during a race. Its a bummer beating myself up during and after races, and I think, I mean I really think, I’m done doing that.

So when I run LA next month with my best friend (yah, still my husband), who himself is a reluctant marathon runner, I’m DEFINITELY not going to beat myself (or him) up about anything – our pace, our time, nothing. I might even throw in regular walk breaks. Why not? The week after we have a Color Run, then I’m pacing a Hot Chocolate 15k (both events scream HAVE FUN KIM right)?? Then I’ll dig back in for 12 months and whatever will be, will be.

January 2, 2016: Trippin’

January 2, 2016 Training Log:

  • Type: Fast Finish Long Run (fast finish didn’t happen)
  • Miles: 10ish
  • Time: 1:41ish

What’s with the “ish?” Just past mile 9 of this morning’s run, we were crossing a street and I tripped and fell.

Okay, let me flesh out some details there; we did not cross the street at the intersection that I ALWAYS cross the street at. Why? My hubby, who I was running with, didn’t want to wait for the light. Since it was early and there were few cars on the road, he wanted to cross further up (like, as in jaywalking). So when the street was clear, we dashed across the street. And I tripped and fell.

I am a notorious tripper. I just am. It happens when I’m tired, or when I’m zoned out on music or a podcast, or when I’m otherwise distracted and not paying attention to the path below my feet. I’ve tripped on the tiniest pebbles. In fact, I have tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. Today, I think the very idea that we were jaywalking (my rule-following brain was short-circuiting from the idea) was such a distraction than when it was time to cross, seeing that there was no traffic anywhere, I decided that I needed to dash across the street as if my very life depended on it. And in my sloppy, tired (mile 9 of 10), partially-blinded-by-glaring-sunlight attempt to cross, I failed to consider the various lane markers and bumps that sat between me and the other side of the road. And just like that – SPLAT!

And then I totally freaked out. Splayed out face down on the ground, I rolled over and cried for help. I think it sounded like HELP ME UP – HELP ME UP – GET ME OUT OF THE STREET – WAH WAH WAH!! Something like that. Because that split second fall happened in slow motion for me, and it seemed like many minutes had already passed from the time I’d left the side of the road to the time I hit the ground; as a result, I was certain there must be a car approaching, ready to barrel over me!

Once at the side of the road, I sobbed like a baby for a minute – I was FREAKED out. My hand was throbbing; my knees were throbbing; my chest was throbbing. As I assessed the damage, I figured that the places on my body that were throbbing had actually landed on the lane markers when I fell. I figure I must have hit those lane markers – and the asphalt – at about 6-7mph. DAMN those hurt!

It was a shitty way to end an otherwise beautiful run. I posted a run selfie on Instagram from about mile 3 of the run. The sky was clear, the weather gorgeous, and I was feeling great and loving my run. I prefer to remember it that way, even as my body stings with pain hours later!

Are you a tripper?

January 1, 1016: Deconstructing dreams

I know, I know, it’s New Year’s Day, 2016. I should have a list of goals I want to accomplish. And in particular, running goals.

So far I have one: Qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon.

I have been really struggling to find a new goal to work toward. Boston was last year’s goal, after all. And I did qualify. But I didn’t make the cut. So I’ll try again. And in trying again, the Boston goal has all sorts of mini goals, such as:

  • Strength train at least twice per week.
  • Eat a clean diet; cut down on alcohol, up the water intake.
  • Slim back down to 130lb; try to race at 128lb. (I ran the Wine and Dine Half Marathon and literally ate my way around Epcot for a week; I have yet to drop that weight.)
  • Get plenty of sleep.

But I haven’t gotten anything new. And I know why.

The real problem, (it’s nothing exciting), is that I find myself smack-dab in the middle of a bonafide mid-life crisis.

I know, right? Big deal. Everyone goes through it. Having just turned 48 years old, I probably should have gone through this a few years ago. But I was too busy. And now I’m in the middle of this big, fat, ugly crisis. It has manifested itself in the form of a metaphorical, 10,0000-piece Lego world. A world I constructed over the course of the last 40 some-odd years, one Lego brick at a time; a world that represents my dreams of the kind of contributions I wanted to make in this world.

In one part of that world, I constructed a dream where I was a writer – there was a fiction writer area, a journalist area, and even a technical writer area.

In another part of that world, I constructed a dream where I was an attorney – I built little areas where I brought justice to unjust situations.

And in another part of that world, I constructed a dream where I was a programmer – in this section of my masterpiece I wrote code that made people’s lives better.

And like any world, there were small corners scattered here and there, representing short-lived bursts of passion for this or that. Photography. Graphic Design. Academics. Even running.

Well I “woke up” recently, and I realized this world just isn’t going to happen. And I’m really okay with that. This is not a self-pity party, I promise. I can look back at my life and see where I made mistakes and bad decisions, didn’t properly prepare myself for opportunities, and at times simply ran into bad luck. And as a result of these things, I won’t be saving the world.

But that’s okay.

If my contribution to the universe consists solely of raising three healthy, happy, educated, compassionate, productive young men, being a loving and supportive wife, and being a kind and dependable friend (and citizen of the world), that will be a life well lived.

But in the meantime, I think I owe it to myself to give myself the space and time I need to deconstruct my old dreams, to carefully take my Lego masterpiece apart, and to put the pieces away.

So you see, surrounded by thousands of these bricks, it’s difficult to think about setting new goals. After all, these bricks represent goals and dreams that will not come to fruition.

But once each brick has been put away, I think it will be very important for me to hone in on a new goal. And without all of that mid-life crisis clutter and it’s accompanying emotions (and that would include ALL the emotions), I think I will be able to wrap my mind and heart around a new goal. Or two.