And that’s marathon #4!
This race wasn’t originally planned. After recovering from Boston and from the cold I got following Boston, I started looking around to see if I could find a marathon to make another attempt at a 3:30. During Boston, I made the conscious choice 16 miles in to pull back. So I felt like it was worth looking a few weeks out rather than picking a race later in the year & having to train the full 4 months ago.
Luckily, a fellow runner and friend (Katherine) was also chasing a 3:30. After asking what time frame I should be looking at, to realistically recover and get in a couple weeks of training, she and I connected to try and find a race.
By the way, the recommendation was to find a race 7-8 weeks out. We picked one that was 5.
The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon is a small race (the marathon usually caps out at 2,000 participants) and was already long sold out, due to it’s mostly downhill course (hopefully the name gave that away) and its status as a good race to qualify for Boston at. Luckily, they allow bib transfers and she found 2 runners looking to trade their bibs off to someone else.
Unfortunately for me, work went from being (relatively) light to madness in the weeks leading up and included some travel. I was able to get a bit of training in (thanks Steve!) but not as well as I would have liked.
Now I do want to be upfront. I wasn’t intentionally trying to re-qualify. I fully believe I have a 3:30 marathon in me and wanted to try to run it. If I did, I would as an added benefit get a BQ. But Boston is a different thing altogether.
Katherine picked me up from the airport Saturday afternoon and off to Ventura we went. It was a bit of an adventure, as the ‘expo’ and packet (actually, it was bib not really a packet) pickup was in a courtyard area at a high school. Very, very small. They had more vendors post race than there.
Mountains 2 Beach is like Boston, a point to point race, so we had to be up ridiculously early to catch shuttles up into the hills for the 6AM start.
It was definitely chilly but by the time we lined up I was good to drop my gloves and jacket. This race is really structured to target those looking to qualify for Boston, so the pace groups are set at 5-10 minute intervals and a couple minutes under the times.
I decided to fall in with the 3:33 pace group, aiming to maybe pick it up later in the race for a hopeful 3:30 or at least stay with the group and attempt to PR. It was a chatty and fun group, with an entertaining pacer and a number of women in their mid-30s aiming for that 3:35 qualifying time.
The course takes a mini out-and-back as well as mini-loop in the upper elevation (around 800 feet) to get up to about 8-9 miles before the real downhill trek begins.
I found it nice as it kept us in the cooler temps. Then right into a nice decline that wasn’t so much that you were constantly trying to hold yourself back from rolling too fast downhill. The only downside with the pace group is that it was a larger group (that qualifying time represents women 18-34 and also works for men 55-59 who have a time target of 3:40). I missed a few water stations because I was on the wrong side and couldn’t get across through the group. Luckily, spectators likely anticipating it heating up as southern California is able to do in May had some water later in the race. I was able to get water from 3 groups of spectators in miles 16-22.
Now the pro and con of this course is that from about mile 9 to 22 is on a bike path that’s 3-4 people wide. Great for staying tucked in with a group and not letting yourself roll away. On the downside as I mentioned, tight groups could also mean missing some water grabs. Those weren’t quite as important until mile 16 and on, when the course lost tree coverage and was fully exposed to the sun.
Keep in mind that we’re running to the beach, so we’re losing elevation and essentially running into warmer temperatures. Honestly, with a 6AM start I didn’t expect to be as hot as it was by the time we hit mile 20 and the course flattened out.
Shortly after, I had to bust out my inhaler and pulled off the group to try and get myself in some sort of order. It definitely wasn’t the worst asthma attack I’ve had, but heat tends to amplify the effects. I lost my 8:04 pace and eventually about 5 minutes of time trying to recover from it in the last 4 miles of the race.
Katherine caught up to me somewhere in mile 24/25 and started to pull me along as we looped onto the beach path and back towards the finish. I wasn’t able to stay with her, but it was definitely a boost to try chasing her to the finish. There was no extra speed at the end, just a steady gait to the finish.
Guess I looked less than great, as they grabbed me and put me on a bench just after the finish. Unsurprising as I get pretty unsteady when recovering from an attack, especially in the almost summer like heat at the finish. Had help using my inhaler and some water before I wandered off, as usual declining the med tent. Though an IV probably would have been nice.
Final finish time was 3:38:13.
Not a qualifier or a PR, but still more than 7 minutes faster than my time at Boston. My half splits were about 1:46 and 1:52. I probably wouldn’t have managed the 3:30 but if I hadn’t lost that time in the last 4 miles, I could have had a PR. The reality is that I can only anticipate so many things and asthma isn’t quite one of them. So I’ll just train harder next time.
I had a blast, enjoyed a pretty and fun course, got to see Katherine again, and got another marathon under my belt. More than anything it was a mental accomplishment, as it gave me another sub-3:40 race, proving that MCM was not a fluke.