"Mountain 2 Beach Marathon"

Mountains 2 Beach (M2B) is a full, half and 5k race. I ran the marathon, which starts in Ojai and finishes in Ventura. It is also known as the third fastest qualifying race for Boston.  I had the most ideal situation in terms of where we stayed and getting to the race. Jen, her friend (Wendy), and I stayed in a VRBO (vacation rental by owner) 1/2 a mile away from the start. I’m pretty sure I had one the latest wake-up calls of anyone running the marathon (a majority of people stayed in Ventura and had to shuttle at either 4am or 5am). With a 6am race start, I woke up at 4:45, ate my banana and almond butter, made a cup of tea (because I was so cold!) and left the house around 5:40am. I did a light jog to the starting line, and got there about 8 minutes before the race began. I shed my throwaway gear right before I got to the race (it was a lot warmer than I anticipated). I ended up entering from the front of the line and stopping right behind the first wave.

To BQ (3:35) I would need to run an 8:12 pace, so my goal pace was anywhere between 8:10 and 8:15. I didn’t know if this was actually possible, but I decided to trust my coach and give it a try. Even if I blew up, I would know where to go from there the next time.

The first mile of M2B is an out and back. My race plan was to go out 10 seconds slower than goal pace, but to average around an 8:10-8:15 pace between the first 2 miles. I think this was very crucial. It set the tone for the entire race as disciplined and not faltering towards other people’s paces.

At mile 2.5 the race moves to the bike path, which also signifies the start of the downhill. My goal was to run this section (2.5 to mile 5) 10 seconds ahead of race pace.

The only issue I ran into was at the beginning of the path when everyone was so crowded. Then there were poles at each intersection where the path stopped and started but everyone worked together to notify each other. There were also large mile markers that kind of protruded into the path. Lastly, there was a water station in the early miles that kind of clogged everyone up. I was kind of worried that I would get bogged down and a trapped, forced to run one (slower) pace whether I liked it or not.

Around mile 3.5 “the loop” starts, and you run in a big circle until you exit around mile 8.5. However, during this loop you encounter a gradual uphill portion from mile 5 to 6.5 with one more significant hill towards the end (just for that kick :-P). I was to run this 20 seconds slower than goal pace. I just made sure that my watch didn’t show any slower than 8:30-8:40 through this section.

From mile 6.5 to 8 the course flattens out, and I supposed was to run even splits — somewhere around 8:10-8:15. I kept popping in and out with the 3:38 pacer. However, I felt like I couldn’t look at any of my surroundings, I could only focus my gaze on the person’s legs in front of me. When I would try to look up and out, I would get dizzy from so much going on.

From 8-11.6, you encounter the bike path again, signifying the start of the downhill section. It’s a very slight negative grade, with subtle rolling hills. Our coach advised us to not get too aggressive, but to be more reserved and run 3-5 seconds faster than our goal pace.

Miles 11.6 to 21 provides a 10 mile section of downhill, where we were allowed to go 12 seconds faster than pace where our legs felt good. I kept this in mind, trying to stay around pace or slightly faster (but nothing faster than a 7:55 pace).

At this point I moved in front of the 3:38 pacer, but not for long. Around mile 12.5 I did what I wasn’t supposed to and stopped to go to the bathroom (oops). However, I knew that if I didn’t go, it would be the only thing I could think of, and my bladder would bother me the whole time. I knew I would run faster even if I sacrificed 30 seconds.

After the bathroom I kind of dropped my pace to catch back up with the 3:38 pacer (yea like 7:30-7:45 on the watch). I tried to keep it reigned in because I knew eventually at some point I would meet up with them again. Eventually I did, and at some point I weaseled my way in front of them.

However, around mile 18 my morale was starting to get low and I was just getting bored. Luckily, the 3:38 pacer came up behind me, and I tucked back into their group. I invisioned other people in the group towing me and it helped me mentally to have someone take the lead at this point.

The pacer advised us that if we were trying to qualify for Boston, not to pass her until we reached mile 22.  My goal was to get to 21 and then to adjust my goals depending on how I felt. My coach gave us instructions to 21-22 at goal pace or 10 seconds slower, depending on how we felt. The best advice I took from this was just to take it mile by mile, and that’s exactly how I ended up approaching it.

Mile 22 we popped down onto the boardwalk. This was refreshing until we hit the last out and back portion (~24-26) which felt soooo long and brutal.  It seemed like we would never turn to make it back to the finish line. Eventually we did, with about 1.5 miles to go. However, after you came out from the Ventura pier, there was still half a mile to go. It seemed like it was soooo far away because you could see the finish line but it didn’t seem like it was getting any closer.

My mantra was – you can do anything for a mile and a half. You can do anything for a mile. You can do anything for half a mile.

I didn’t realize how close to 3:35 I was cutting it. At the end I felt like I was going to puke, but I just put my head down and tried to focus on moving my legs quickly and getting the damn thing done!

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (3:34:32):

1 – 8:14
2 – 8:10
3 – 8:09
4 – 8:08
5 – 8:07
6 – 8:33
7 – 8:22
8 – 8:14
9 – 8:09
10 – 8:10
11 – 8:17
12 – 8:00
13 – 8:11
14 – 7:59
15 – 8:08
16 – 8:03
17 – 7:58
18 – 8:08
19 – 8:06
20 – 8:13
21 – 8:10
22 – 8:12
23 – 8:11
24 – 8:10
25 – 8:08
26 – 8:08
Last .29 –2:03

IMG_6650

I would HIGHLY recommend this race to anyone looking to qualify for Boston or to have a really great race. Whether it was the course or just everything panning out for this specific day, I had an amazing run. The biggest pressure for me was not qualifying for Boston, but to do my best and perform well. I liken the marathon to being a final exam, where you worked hard for 5.5 months, and you don’t want it all to go to waste.  This race definitely did not and my running club (Seaside Striders) pulled out with 7 PR’s, 6 BQ’s and 2 people under 3:20! All-in-all it was a great day at M2B!

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