Monday, May 26, 2014

The Big BQ: Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Race Recap

This post has been in the works since sophomore year of high school; it has taken me a year and a half to gain base fitness, 11 months to plan, and 14 weeks to train. All this amounted to one very nervous me standing on a start line at 6 AM yesterday morning. This was the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, but the battle had been fought on the long runs and sore muscles and trial-and-errors and self-doubt and self-reliance of the past 3+ months. The only thing left to do yesterday, I tried to convince myself, was hold on for the ride.

My spectacular family had driven all the way down to Ventura (an hour south of Santa Barbara) with me for this race. My sneaky sister had previously told me she couldn’t make it to this mini-milestone, but, of course, was waiting for me when I walked out of my apartment on Saturday morning to begin our adventure. What a lovely, unexpected surprise! With my parents, my best friend, and my sister all in toe, we made our way down the coast. All the while their high spirits were both hugely comforting and mildly stressful, as I knew I’d share either a great triumph or a relatively crushing disappointment with them in the next 36 hours.

After a six-hour car ride, 2 huge meals, and a whole lot of ‘together’ time, I was at last crawling into a lumpy hotel bed hoping for some restful z’s before my 4 AM wake up. And, naturally, none were to be had.  So after maybe 3 hours of sleep, my gracious mom and I were climbing into the car and heading to the start line. This wonderful lady drove me 35 minutes into the mountains on windy backroads so I could avoid the 3 AM wake up required to catch my allotted shuttle time. How great is my mom? Really though, that’s love.

Now the start was pretty smooth, especially because the race was relatively small. I started in the fastest heat (a triumph on its own) and before I could even really get a handle on what was going on, we were counting down to the start gun. Off we flew! I found myself feeling like I was flying and it felt great! When I took a glimpse at my watch at mile 1, I realized I was indeed flying – about 30 seconds faster than goal-pace – in fact. My primary concern for this course was that I would hit the first 16 miles too fast, since they were almost entirely downhill, and burn myself out for the last 10. And try as I might to regulate my speed, I couldn’t seem to drop back to an easy 7:40(ish) pace as I had planned.

After seeing my mom cheering me on up the only actual hill at mile 5, I resolved to feel comfortable and worry about time later. By mile 8 I was all over the chart. Some 7:15 miles, some 7:40s, a super-quick bathroom stop, and taking an extra second or two to give high-fives to some pint-sized Ojai kiddos who had come with their mini-lawn chairs to cheer us on (there is always time for a run-love high-five). After the first 9 miles, we were released onto a meandering bike trail that would take us 12 miles down to Ventura. I was a loose cannon. Pocketing time where I could, taking tangents, letting my legs do their thing, and ticking off mile after mile with the mantra “the time will pass anyway” wandering through my mind. By the time I reached mile 20, with 6.2 miles to go, my quads were spent and after checking my watch, I had a little under an hour to get to the finish line and still qualify for Boston (I usually run 8 miles in an hour). So instead of pushing the limits and testing my pain/endurance threshold, I backed off. That’s right; on the threshold of qualifying for my dream race, I pumped the brakes and coasted with a 10K to go. Rationalizing this with a "don't fall, break, or pull anything and ruin your shot" attitude. 

Grinding out those last few miles dropped me down to an average 8:25 pace, which was pretty disappointing based on what I had trained for, but I had banked so much time earlier in the race, that it cushioned the slowing. My biggest day-to-day champion and insanely supportive best friend, Camille, was waiting for me at mile 23. Cow bell in hand and what I thought was a tie-dye shirt beacon, all she shouted was “CATCH THE UNICORN” and that was enough! It was the longest 5K ever getting to that finish line because there was a fire in my heart, but a fatigue in the rest of me that formed a rather staggering juxtaposition. I didn’t feel a thing the last ~quarter mile as I barreled (it felt like barreling, but was really 7:30 pace) down the flat beachside harbor trail across the finish line in 3 hours and 25 minutes (officially 3:25:51).

All the feelings came up at once. The deed was done! My sister came running down the beach and as she turned the corner to meet me staggering down the chute, I noticed a giant unicorn on her shirt. And my mom trailing behind her had one too! My dad, naturally, was clad in a bright purple tie-dye unicorn t-shirt to match. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? My sister wrapped me in a massive hug with a “you caught the unicorn!” and it all came together. These are my people. I welled with watery eyes and a heart swollen with happiness. This is what being alive is all about!

glorious unicorn shirts
all the happy, all the feels

And now that I am showered, somewhat rested, punishingly sore, and able to function at a reasonable level, it turns out I came in 3rd place for my age group and 277th out of ~1700 total marathon racers for the day. Not too shabby for my second marathon. I have a lot of experience to gain and some really stellar role models to learn from (Erin, Chris, Meg, and The San Francisco Marathon Ambassador team, I’m looking at you!), but I am also sincerely satisfied with the race and the results overall!

The fire is lit, the stage is set: Boston 2015, I’m coming for you!


  1. You, my dear, are a ROCKSTAR!! Smart, fun racing and AMAZING support! Way to chase that unicorn! Can't wait to see you soon (hopefully sometime before SFM). CONGRATS!!!!

  2. You really ARE a rockstar. Amazing!!!

  3. You chose an ambitious goal, trained accordingly and executed! Love it!
    -Will M.