Ventura Marathon–Another Faltered BQ Attempt

.Well let’s just go ahead and get straight to it.

After 10 weeks of training, including falling back in love with “running to run”, squeezing in miles on an 18-day road-trip, tackling the track solo, and an odd late-season crash, the Ventura Marathon did not exactly go as scripted.

I can’t say I’m completely shocked – I’ve not felt great the last few weeks, running-wise and in general, but kept hope that if the day was nice to me I might have a fighting chance at my 3:35 BQ goal.

And for a good part of the morning, I thought that was going to be the case.


standard – threads, tats, breakfast, and a 6am selfie with K

From the good night of sleep, actually waking up to the first second alarm, a no-hassles drive with Kristina up to Ventura, and easy peasy prime parking we were already off to a better start than 95% of other races. I felt “with it” – energized but contained, focused but lighthearted, and totally void of the sense of doom most long runs had haunted me with. Don’t underestimate the marathon beast, but by god don’t go in already defeated.


don’t let the ironman champs hashtag fool you, this was obvs directed personally to me

We met up with Pacer Dave, Kristina’s parents randomly in from Delaware, Pam, and a few other friends/readers/teammates. I felt the buzz of the start line and the infectious nervous energy from everyone around me – so many with big goals on the eve of Boston registration opening. I answered every “how are you feeling? are you ready?” with a big smile – genuine, actually – and,

“I guess we’re gonna find out!”

I had re-read my HTC recaps from last year, which uhh, may seem narcissistic, but was the last (/only?) time I went into a race with the shit scared out of my butt and managed to power through. I feared those Runner 5 hills with my life, but tackled each of the three runs with a task-at-hand focus and hopeful will that my body would find a way to succeed. Which, spoiler, it did, and even better than I could’ve imagined.  I figured with a similar “thrive, don’t just survive” attitude I could do the same today.

As part of my Get the Fuck Out of Your Head strategy, I didn’t wear a watch. I handed all control to Dave, an experienced pacer, putting my faith in him to lead the best race I had in me. I wore a heart rate monitor strap synced up to his watch so he could monitor my effort and was told to just let him do all the work.

We got lined up, further back in the corral than I would’ve liked, but for a smaller race I didn’t bother bulldozing my way to the front. Dave told me to take the lead to break the pack, and after a mile he’d come up and pull me onto pace to settle into.

Just as planned, Dave came up next to me at the mile marker and I waited to respond to his move. But he just stayed there next to me.

S: “Are you still following me or are you leading now?”

D: “I am but you’re right on target. Locked in, girl.”

In that moment, I thought the day was mine. How often do you kick out of the starting gate – watch or no watch – and lock immediately onto target goal pace? Any runner knows those first few miles are a constant battle of finding a rhythm that feels good and syncs up to the blueprint. To have it happen immediately, and feel completely comfortable in it? Lord have mercy this marathon is fucking mine! WATCH OUT, NEXT 25.2 MILES!

We headed out into the out-and-back and around mile five the half leaders came through, a favorite distraction of mine. Kristina went flying by – top 10 female I thought I’d counted – cruising in to what ended up being a huge PR, a sub 1:32 finish, and 12th woman overall. WHAT! Girl needs to graduate from running with me and find some equi-fast training partners.

Shortly after though I could feel the wheels starting to come off. We’d been on a slight incline for a while, which I was thinking would be SO nice running final miles on, and told myself at the top of the “hill” I’d feel better. My stomach was off and I was oddly dizzy. It was perfectly foggy and cool, so I knew heat wasn’t an issue, and my heart rate was in normal range. Why did I feel so weird?

ventura marathon course map

ventura marathon elevation


Almost instantly that slightly squeeky shopping cart wheel turned into the one that spins all around and won’t let you steer straight.

At mile eight I took a big swig of Nuun and immediately ran to the side of the course for a little dry heave. Which, up until that run with Margot two weeks ago, is completely unheard of for me. Did you not know my nickname is Iron Stomach? I caught my breath and we started again – I could see the 3:35 pace group just ahead and felt confident we’d get the lost minute or so back in no time. But then I tried to take a chew… and a gel… and more Nuun (all my usual, tested and proven products), and nothing would stay down. Fuck.

I pulled to a complete stop at the next aid station – mile 10? – and managed to keep some plain water down. There was no way I’d be able to stay on pace having to stop for hydration, and plain water with no fuel is NOT enough for my body. Hi I’m Sarah and I’m a super heavy, super salty sweater.


get it?

My legs were refusing to give up – after each stop they took off at a pace determined to get back on track, but the nausea and accompanying dizziness would not subside. Once 3:35 was out of reach, I decided trying to push through just for “I ran a marathon!” sake would be dumb. Call me a quitter, call me a snob, or call me smart, I don’t really care.

I had the mile 15 aid station call in a Saggin Wagon “reservation” and shooed Dave off to finish the race, assuring him I was fine both mentally and physically (there may have been a small “catch me I’m blacking out” moment right before.) He crushed out the last 11 miles at sub7 pace like NBD while I made fast friends with Annette at the Wagon pick up zone waiting for our ride of marathon defeat.

saggin wagon

wasn’t big on taking photos this weekend. car source

While I believe every marathon is an accomplishment worth celebrating – covering that distance takes a lot of heart and hard work, regardless of your finish time – it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve set a hard nose goal to it and find yourself out of the running for it. After eight marathons and one other DNF, I didn’t feel that sacrificing my body and any future training was worth just putting a finisher’s medal around my neck. (not to mention what would’ve likely been a pretty poor time on my athlinks profile)

Am I upset? God yes. After weeks of wavering confidence I finally got into the race feeling like it was mine to conquer, only to have a new, honestly slightly concerning, ailment knock my ready-to-run legs out from underneath me. I’ve had races turn sour from injuries and mental struggles, but a surprise cockblock from an organ that’s never wronged me hurts. Like, what the fuck, stomach? Jerk.


Pam’s medal, because obviously I don’t have one of my own to show

Some of you have suggested redemption, to find another marathon to tackle and not waste the training. I don’t think I will. There aren’t any feasible options nearby or within my budget, and Boston 2014 registration will be closed by then (it opened today for qualifiers of 20+minutes or more and goes through next week.) Plus I’m realizing, ahem again, I really just don’t love the marathon. That long, dull ache of 26.2 miles is really not my barrel of monkeys. I’d rather be in extreme pain for a short amount of time than be uncomfortable for hours.

Plus, you need to be a really special kind of stupid crazy runner to devote months of diligent training to a singular goal, line up race day, and not get eaten up by the pressure of “this is your one shot.” I’m still working on that.

So this is me signing off from the Boston Qualifying Attempt Camp. I’m not saying I’ll never be back, but don’t expect to hear those two initials together here anytime soon. I’m gonna go hang out in the energy gel-free zone for a while and see where that takes me. (also maybe figure out what the heck is wrong with my body)

To all of you hoping to register for Boston this week, BEST OF LUCK TO YOU. Sincerely. It will be a magical year in Hopkinton and I can’t wait to cheer everyone on from afar.

I’ll totally be drinking while you’re running.

Sarah OUaL


39 thoughts on “Ventura Marathon–Another Faltered BQ Attempt

  1. Oh Sarah. It just wasn’t your day. The good news is that you definitely have it in you and we all know that the marathon is a funny thing. We can train and do all of the right things but if everything does not come together on race day it is bound to take us in another direction. Take the time you need to gather your thoughts and then come back and show us what you are made of. I believe in you. You definitely inspire me and more than anything NEVER GIVE UP. YOU ARE AN AWESOME AND TALENTED RUNNER AND WHEN YOUR TIME COMES, THE REDEMPTION IS GOING TO BE HUGE!!


  2. You really never know what will happen on race day. You made the right decision (running when feeling that crappy is miserable, and why be miserable for another 11 miles?) and if you decide to try again, you can. I had to DNF my first marathon for a similar reason and it’s frustrating but then other, better races happen. And you know that already!


  3. I’m sorry, friend! So proud of you though! Great job listening to your body and great job with your training. You’re still my favorite Lime =)


  4. Yuck! Sorry this one didn’t go in your favor. I’m with you though, after completing 3 marathons (Detroit, Flying Pig & Chicago) I have come to the conclusion that the marathon just isn’t my bag. Halfs? 10K? Heck event throw a 5K and/or a 30K in there & I’m pretty happy. But the required training for a marathon gets me down, then the actual event…. while it feels like a great accomplishment at the end, feels like poo most of the way through. For me, the first half is spent dreading the second half… and then the second half is… the second half. Poo.

    Not everyone has to be a marathoner all the time to be a good runner. I feel that it’s better to focus on what you actually love to do rather than what you think you should love to do :)


  5. Hey,
    I did a 1/2 a few months ago and had the same thing happen to me, with stomach issues, vomit, verge of blacking out. I used the same gel and spots drink I always have, and never had an issue with, but this time it just hit me wrong! While training for the next two I found that mixing Nuun and GU had started bothering me for no reason I can come up with, after years of zero issues. I’m chalking it up to my body changing/growing as a runner with pace/breathing/stride becoming more and more efficient. I have had to make fuel changes that seem to be working much better for me. Good luck figuring it all out!


  6. Bummer you had to pull out of the race. Sounds like a smart move. And getting into Boston is going to be so tough this year that a close time most likely won’t make it in, so you mine as well save your attempt for a year that you have a better chance of getting in. How much of a bummer would it be if you qualified and then didn’t even get in?!


  7. Hi Sarah!

    While I don’t take any pleasure in you not finishing your race, I have to admit its a little refreshing to hear others have the same situations arise. I’ve checked a full marathon off my list—twice. And I’m happy with that. Now my goals have changed to beating my time in a half marathon each year…or maybe twice a year. But the training for a marathon is brutal, and I’d like to still be able to walk normally when I’m 50 years old ;-)

    Thank you for your training updates and humor. And especially your recap, and making it clear to us AND yourself that listening to your body is best.


  8. So sorry to read this. After a confidence-shattering long run yesterday for my Oct marathon, I was hoping to read some good news that may reinstate my confidence. I really think it all just depends on the day and your body and a lot of factors out of your control. I always say 13.1 is my best distance, but I am determined to keep going to nail a 26.2 that I will feel good about. You are right about all the time, effort and training that goes into these. Not sure after October if I have it in me to keep training like this. Anyway, have a beer and try not to think about it! Be glad with what you have :)


    • Now seems like a good time to have a bad run for an Oct race. This weekend will be better ;) Take care of what you can control now, show up race day with a good brain in your head, and hope the last few stars line up for you. Good luck!


  9. I’m so sorry it wasn’t the best day! It’s completely okay to call it quits during the marathon – 26.2 takes a lot out of your body and It doesn’t seem like your body was agreeing with you! Keep your head up! Find what you love – I took a good 3 months off of running at the beginning of this year and I needed it. I was burnt out and it caused me to hate running – now i’m back and going stronger than ever but there is no doubt in my mind I Needed that break!


  10. Sometimes our bodies just don’t cooperate unfortunately. As you know I’ve had a similar situation and it was heart-wrenching. I know it doesn’t help much but at least know you aren’t alone and no one thinks that you don’t have BQ potential just because of a crappy day at one race.

    PS: I’m hoping you’ll change your mind by Mountains to Beach for next year about going for that BQ but totally understand if you never run another one again. They are a bitch.

    PPS Love the Salt Sweater.


  11. I’m sorry this marathon didn’t go your way. I was rooting for you, and will be rooting for you again in whatever running and racing path you head down next.


  12. Sorry to hear it wasn’t your day. Same happened to me at my local half marathon last November. Previously always had an iron stomach too. Felt great through mile 8 or so. Used the stuff I had trained with, then side stitch and vomit. I attribute it to nerves, and maybe changing body chemistry or changed tolerance for nutrition when running at race effort, who knows. I’ve become nauseous while running a few times since and I still can’t pin down a cause. You’re smart for stopping when you did, no reason to beat up your body at that point. Find a fun half marathon in the next few months to make your bitch. Or come to the dark side of trail running :) Love the salty sweater.


  13. I’m sorry the race didn’t go your way. I think you made the best call. Odd question – did you take any painkillers? I totally bonked at my first 70.3 because I took 2 ibuprofen at the transition from bike to run (dumb idea, won’t do that again) and I immediately got nauseous and couldn’t eat. Around mile 6, that equaled dizziness, and I ended up walking most of the rest of the race. I’m also usually an iron tummy.

    I hope you find some run love again soon!


  14. Way to listen to your body/mind. Also…..I admire your “meh” attitude as for what happened. Way to realize life frickin’ goes, on BQ or not. I gave up running a full this fall to attempt to PR in a half this Sunday. I’ve been working my ass off hitting tempo/speed workouts. But…….if I don’t PR, ah yeah, so it goes. I will be drinking post race, PR or not.


  15. I really, really appreciate your honesty. As another head case runner who’s had some stomach issues throughout running/racing, I get it. I actually turned to utlras, because of the relaxed atmosphere. I did MUCH better in the laid back world, even though I still run into stomach issues occasionally (less so now that I joined the Picky bars/Nuun bandwagon!)

    Just.. keep at it! Find the distance that you LOVE. Marathons are NOT everyones cup of tea and there’s a huge world of running!


  16. Sarah, sorry to hear you had a bad race, I have dealt with stomach issues before and it sucks! I have yet to run a marathon and honestly am not sure if I ever will. I really love the half marathon distance but I have yet to run past 13.1 miles. I want to believe me but when I am done with the 13 miles, I can’t imagine running any more miles lol
    Better luck next time with your next race whatever it may be.
    You are one of my favorite bloggers to follow because you just have a drive about you when it comes to running and your passion for it! Never give up! Maybe one day we will get to race together!


  17. Oh man. I’m so sorry to hear that didn’t go as planned. Marathons can be such heartbreak and misery because of all the months of work you put in to get there. I’ve actually asked myself before: at what point do you give up trying and think, okay, I am completely talentless and have reached my speed limit? (The answer is: not yet.) I think you have plenty of great running left in you. Just take a break and find something else for a while…now, how about a tri? :)


  18. I don’t know you at all and this is probably totally inappropriate but the first thing that came to mind is …..PREGNANT! And that is like the mother@#$%er of all marathons!

    Sorry it didn’t go as planned but I do look forward to the day in the far far future where you take on that goal again and we can all follow along because you are probably the best blogger out there.


  19. Never say never. You might already feel better about it today. I’ll come out there and pace you to a 3:30, I promise. You definitely have the heart to do it. Stomach issues plague me, too, but it’s the poops. Have you tried pepto or tums? I was too chicken the last 2 marathons to try anything but I have teammates who swear by pepto. You’ll get a BQ someday, though, no doubt. Maybe stepping away for a bit and focusing on a faster 10K or 5K would perk you up. That’s good advice for both of us. I have one more mary next month, then I’m using the rest of fall and early winter to do just that. I have to wait to reg for Boston on the 16th so I’m not too hopeful my 3:36 will get me there, but I’ll take it as a sign to try something else. You should, too!


  20. This happened to me a couple of times (though I believe that it was heat related) and it was so hard to give up the idea of qualifying while I was sitting on the side of the race watching everyone go by. (I eventually finished with a LOT of walking and far off of the BQ time). Just relax. You will probably be upset for a while – but give yourself time (it sounds like you will). Do whatever you need to to refocus your head – that was the hardest part for me. Running shorter kind of got my confidence up again!


  21. I’m sorry that your race did not go as planned. As a person who suffers from “bubble guts” and “wretched churning and burning” while running (and in life in general), I feel your pain. My first marathon is next month and I am praying that my stomach cooperates. It’s good that you listened to your body. It can be so hard when you have trained mentally and physically for a goal. I know you will be back stronger than ever! Keep up that positive attitude, you are amazing!


  22. I joined the stomach issue club too this weekend and no stomach problems was the one thing I had going in my favor in the world of running. Go figure. But maturity and responsible behavior in the form of not killing yourself for another 11 miles have to count for something, right?


  23. Ah Sarah, I don’t comment much on your blog but I’m sorry the marathon didn’t go well for you. I was out there cheering everyone on that morning and I’m sure if things had gone as you had hoped, you would have BQ’d. Sometimes, we just can’t make it work. I hope you’re feeling better now!


  24. Heavy sigh, I’m so sorry that your weekend didn’t go as planned. I’m proud of you for listening to your body (and hearing heaving helps). Two things:
    Are you knocked up?
    Have you tried upping your vitamin B or D? I did those two things and stopped getting dizzy/nauseaus while I run. Just a thought.
    I stand behind you/your blog for whatever wild ass hairs you chase, including no BQ, no more mary’s and just running for fun. Go Sarah Go!


  25. Maybe just run because it’s fun? You could make a workout plan that is goal-less. I’ve done that before. Then when you get bored and want to race, you just enter one and do it. Whatevs. Zero pressure. Happy happy :)


  26. Sorry to hear the race didn’t turn out the way you had hoped. I have definitely been there! I will say that posts like this are the reason why I love reading your blog. You are completely transparent and willing to be honest about how you are feeling. I’m sure you are disappointed but I have a feeling you will be just fine :) I know I’m looking forward to reading where your new goals take you!



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