(on the organic manufacturing of “The Secret Marathon”)
All week the weather was forecasting rain.
So? What’s some rain? Remember LA??? You ran a 4:02 there without trying AND took a pee pit-stop. Maybe rain’s your thing! LET IT RAIN, BABY!
After driving 3.5 hours of rush hour to Santa Barbara in it – not so Johnny Jacked Up about it.
The heavy rain and wind was still going strong when we fell asleep race eve, but miraculously we woke to dry, overcast skies. PERFECT running weather.
… Did you hear that? That was the sound of good runner karma points being cashed in. All those times not littering gu wrappers or crop-dusting the 4-wide chatty ladies finally paid off.
We made it to the start area at Dos Pueblos High School drama-free. Timing on all fronts was superb…
Porta-potty’d, met a few readers (you’ll have that when you’re with SkinnyRunner), hawked some ibuprofen off a stranger…
(Funny how I’m paranoid about roofied bottle service, but will take drugs in plastic baggies tucked into stranger’s shorts without question…)
… and even had enough time to work up some pre-race nerves. Definitely didn’t have time for those last time…
Right at 7:15, the gun went off and we took off. I’d like to take this time to praise the ~1200 marathoners who know how to properly line up without formal corralling.
Plus one, runners of Santa Barbara.
The course had a few rollers and one BIG, STEEP 1/2 mile climb at mile 23, with a downhill finish. Since I trained almost exclusively on the pancake-flat beach path, the hills worried me, but I knew if I held goal pace up to the monster I could make up some time coming down it and give myself a chance.
So my Sub4 strategy was to hit the half right at 2 hours and run a negative split. HUGELY innovative, I know.
The thought of not having a time cushion for when I’d inevitably fade in the final miles has always scared me outta the gate too fast – Bank time = security in my head.
(surprise : bank time = BONK time)
But knowing negative splitting was my best chance – this is me trusting the experts and not my stupid make-believe running M.O. – I fought the urge to fly through the downhill start and kept close to MGP (marathon goal pace)
(9:09 miles = 4:00 marathon)
In other plans against my grain, I started the race without music. This gave me time to get my head in the game and really commit to what I wanted to do.
‘Focus, Sarah. Find your pace and remember why you’re doing this. Remember Long Beach. Sub4 today and you don’t have to run another marathon ever again if you don’t want. Stick to the plan. Execute.’
I told myself at mile 10 we’d turn on the tunes and get to work. Really helped I knew I had a kickass playlist waiting for me…
In a stroke of what’s more likely luck and not my running or math skills, I hit the halfway point at 1:59.45. With every successful split I got more and more confident – rather than worrying about my capability to achieve the BIG goal, I focused on each mile, each 5k, each landmark as its own victory.
‘Another mile right on pace – good job!
You are CRUSHING these little hills – mile 23 isn’t going to be so bad!
Crazy cowbell lady says you’re looking great – keep it up!’
Around mile 18 we came out of the park we’d been in for a few miles, and for the first time I felt a slight waiver in energy.
I’m no cheerleader, but I stayed really positive through this race – TOTALLY uncharacteristic.
Instead of “OMG 8 MILES LEFT?! BLAHGA##!JOIRHTG*AJFD!” I was all, “You’ve run 18 PERFECT miles, exactly according to your plan. High five! You’re so awesome! Keep it up!“
At mile 23 I was still right on target for Sub4, but didn’t have much cushion for the big 1/2 mile bitch coming up. Not to mention that fatigue had set in, my hip flexors were screaming, and my inner cheerleader seemed to have rudely jumped ship.
I said if I wanted to let 22+ miles of hard work slip away, I could give in and walk the hill, gambling that I might be able to make up the time on the way down.
Or, I could suck it up, keep my head down, and run up it.
So I did. I probably passed 50 people on that climb – each one giving me a little more energy.
When I got to the top I expected to hit that exhilarating high of 1) conquering a giant hill you almost gave in to and 2) AHH LESS THAN 2 MILES TO GO!
Instead? Dead legs.
I hadn’t been concerned about how taxing that hill would be, because WAHOO downhill finish! The only problem with running downhill is actually being able to turn your legs over fast enough to keep up with your momentum. A homestretch asphalt facial was NOT in my game plan.
The ocean came into sight. The battleship was out for Veterans Day. The crowd got louder with every step. The course congested with half marathon walkers and marathoners who’d run out of gas.
I kept flying.
Weaving when I had to, bumping shoulders when I couldn’t (no I will not apologize if you’re 4-wide), and trying not to calculate how many steps were left.
Finally we leveled off and SkinnyRunner was jumping up and down like a maniac on the sideline. I gave her a nod and a half-assed smile as if to say,
‘YES – I’m going to make it.’
Which she took as,
‘YES – Run with me, yell at me, and push me to the finish because I’m still behind the 4:00 pacer and clock time says I’m not going to make it.’
We made the turn onto the the Santa Barbara City College track, and SR peeled off while screaming at me to ‘PUSH IT!!! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!!!’
(from SBI’s facebook, sort of)
I crossed the finish, and have never felt more proud or satisfied with a race performance. Or that close to puking.
My “I-want-to-hurl-but-am-so-happy” face is pretty ghetto fabulous :
Santa Barbara International Marathon, 11.12.11 : 3:57.34 (NEW PR!)
Goal accomplished. Other marathon tidbits worth noting :
- First negative split
- First entirely-ran (no walking)
- First 100% pain-free
- First (partially) without music
- 3rd time in a brand-new top (Target’s new seamless C9 line – LOVE)
- 4th (of 5) in Brooks Ghost 3’s
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I can’t say enough good things about the SBI Marathon. Course, weather, spectators, support, timing… EVERYTHING was perfection. I’m not sure how many of those things they’ve got actual control over, but they sure took care of what they did. Top-notch race (and I swear that’s not PR-biased). Big big thumbs up.
Also another thanks to my travel buddy and cheerleader. If nothing else for making sure I didn’t drive myself off a cliff on the rush hour drive up.