Santa Barbara Marathon (Sub4 – “the secret race”)

(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.


72 thoughts on “Santa Barbara Marathon (Sub4 – “the secret race”)

  1. OK, your recap and the comments on your pictures are pretty funny, which tempts me to leave some smart-@$$ comment, but I’d rather just compliment you on your race.

    Your splits were awesome. Very consistent — not too fast, not too slow. I’ve run a lot of marathons and the ones I’ve run the best I was consistent like that. You were a metronome out there, which is the way to run a marathon … know your ability, run at the right pace, knock off the miles consistently like you have a to-do list with 26 things on it.

    Loved your attitude about sucking it up at 22 … when I’m running a marathon as a pacer, I start telling my people at mile 21, “21 miles of good, consistent work put in … don’t let it go to waste over 5 miles!” … at each mile (22/4, 23/3, etc.) it makes them that much more motivated to stay strong. You’ve put in the training, you’ve laid the foundation of a solid day with > 20 good miles … get it done!

    I can just tell by your recap and your splits that you were awesome out there and as a marathoner, I get excited to see that … hope you’re on cloud nine all week!

    One thing, though … you should have only been holding up three fingers in the last pic! :)


  2. YES! Great performance. I ran a sub4 this weekend but it was POSITIVE SPLIT CITY…working on reversing that for my race in March :)

    You’re an inspiration!!


  3. AWESOME! Congratulations! Now … tell me more about new C9 clothes at Target … although I may or may not already have that top in both green and pink. Can’t tell. It’s like crack.


      • Oh man the good stuff never lasts long enough to make it to clearance at the Targets near me. Too bad I’m not an XS or XXL. I have to snatch up what I find as soon as I see it. The only thing that makes it to clearance at the cotton shirts and the basketball shorts.


        • Don’t even wait for clearance! It’s not that pricey to start. They have great lightweight non-cotton wicking tanks that are usually ~$12-15 full price. Sometimes one color will get marked down to <$10. I have 3 of them, and to be honest, I like them better than lululemon's racerback tank that costs 3x the price.


  4. YOU! YOU are one bada$$, boss muthaf—-. yep. i threw out the nasty words for that one. CONGRATS to you, Sarah! Super happy and proud :) Maybe when I grow up someday and become a real runner, I can be hot and fast like you and SR ;p

    And maybe I will come to Cali someday and fulfill an item on my bucketlist. Until then, beers cheers to you, my friend!


  5. I am super jealous of your SUB 4. I want it SO bad. I just ran #5 in 4:03 and can not decided if I should find another race and try for it right not or just take some time off and retrain for the Spring. I live in KY where there are no races so I would have to fly since all the “close” stuff is full. By close I mean 5 or more hours : (

    Either way you ROCK and I love the play by play. I still try to bank time which I am going to have to get over. LOVE the blog and will be adding you to my side bar for sure.


  6. Good for you. SO happy for you that you got back on that horse. You and SR are my fav. bloggers, so to have you together in a race is a bonus. “Asphalt Facial” = one laugh-out-loud part – a close second to “I’m no cheerleader”. – no shit Sherlock. You girls (I’m practially old enough to be your mother, which somehow makes me think I’m entitled to call you “girls”) make me laugh.


  7. Amazing!! Congrats on your sub 4, you earned it!! Great pacing, and you KILLED those last two miles. I had the satisfaction of passing people uphill at my April half marathon. Training on hills does wonders! I’m amazed that you wore long sleeve and tights while SR wore a tank and shorts! How warm was it? I usually err on the side of under-dressing, I hate being too warm!


      • hehe. Overnight low this Saturday in Philly is supposed to be in the 40s, so I’m planning on shorts for the half marathon which starts at 7am on Sunday :) I’d probably want sleeves for wind though, too.


  8. 1. Congrats!! That’s awesome.
    2. How are you in long tights and a long sleeved shirt while SR is in a tank top and shorts?
    3. Thanks for the playlist. My ipod was desperately needing some new music.


  9. oh my gosh, u are hilarious!! i’m just bummed i haven’t found ur blog until now, but CONGRATS on breaking 4!! :)

    ur play-by-play is amazing, and i’m also gonna thank u too for the music playlist because like lyndsey i sorely needed to update my selection.


    • I was tossing the idea of play-by-playing everyday, but no amount of picnik’ing or sarcasm can spice up my boring daily life. Guess I’ll just have to run more races. Sorry, bank account!


  10. Congratulations Sarah! I remember seeing you out there! You totally crushed your PR, and I’m so happy for you. That is not an easy course either! Fantastic job!!

    Thanks for writing this great race recap! What an inspirational post! Also – love your sense of humor :)

    Recover well!



    • I would LOVE to do wineglass – not sure how NY will fit into our travel plans next year but maybe I can “accidentally” book my next eastbound flight with like a 2 day layover in NY. I’ll keep you updated on that.


  11. With putting a beastly hill at mile 23, it had better be a well run race!

    8:18 for those last two miles! I know it’s downhill, but still. With tired-ass quads, that’s hard to do. Awesome recap!


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