This past weekend I ran my 13th full marathon! I haven't run a full marathon since June of last year and was a bit nervous going into the race. I had such a terrible #12 and the feeling of disappointment from that race has haunted me for almost a year. I knew going into this race that I needed to go easy on myself and just have fun, so I set several goals prior to this race.
- Complete the race without getting injured
- Complete the race without a total emotional meltdown like last time
- Complete the race with a smile
- Complete the race feeling like I've pushed myself as much as I could
- And as always... complete the race under 4 hours!
I managed to accomplish goals 1-3, but sadly not 4 and 5. Well hey, as I learned while getting my engineering degree, 60% counts as passing. Haha!
Christina and I planned on meeting at the race expo around 3pm, so at 1pm I kissed my dogs goodbye, told them not to have a party, and hid all of the good liquor that they usually get into with their friends. and drove up to Orange County. (Their mom #2 came over to watch them. Don't think you can rob me when I travel! My dogs and petsitter will get you!) The expo was held at the OC County Fair grounds and was a good size and not massively crowded like expos often are. (Maybe because we got there so late.) I arrived at the expo hungry and tasted about 6 different kinds of protein bars. Oink. I managed to hold back my inner shopaholic and only bought a pair of inexpensive polycarbonate sunglasses to wear when I bike.
Super Cute OC Marathon Race Shirt
Christina and I were staying at a Residence Inn about 2 miles from the race finish and when I searched for restaurants in the neighborhood it looked like 85% of the restaurants were Japanese. While I love sushi and all Asian food, we actually had Japanese together the night before the Rock N Roll last June. I jokingly told Christina that I didn't want to do anything this time that I did last time, and she admitted that she had been thinking something similar. We ended up going to the same California Pizza Kitchen that we went to before the Surf City Half Marathon, had our usual soup and salad, and then headed off in search of a grocery store so we could stock up on food for breakfast. Let me just say I LOVE Residence Inns for trips like this! Their rooms are like little studio apartments and have a kitchen with a full sized fridge, stove, and microwave. Perfect for cooking up breakfast!
The marathon was set to start at 6am and since I was in Wave 1 I was assigned to a 4:15am shuttle from the finish (where we'd park) to the start. Um ... 4:15am?? Christina was assigned to a later wave with a 4:45am shuttle time so we decided to just go with her wave. I'm not into getting to a start-line super early and milling around. I like to eat within an hour of starting to run and didn't want to eat my full breakfast in the dark outside. We parked at the fairground around 4:30am, got in line for the shuttle, and and before you knew it we were over at the start line waiting in the dark with a sea of other runners.
Smiling at 4am
I'm always amazed how you can bump into someone you know in a sea of tens of thousands of runners at a race. When I ran the Rock N Roll in San Diego in 2006 and 2007 I bumped into my college friend AJ at the start line both times. What are the chances?? Anyways, as I was standing in line waiting for this race to start I looked ahead of me a bit and caught site of my friend and former carpool mate Suneel from my last job! This was going to be his first full marathon! We wished each other luck .. and then we were off! I didn't want to stress about my finish time so I set my Virtual Trainer on my watch to a distance/pace combo of 26.2 miles and 9:00 minute miles, but then switched the view to a mileage countdown and current pace.
The First Half
I tried to take the first few miles easy and realized that miles 1, 2 and 3 just flew by! Before I knew it I was up to mile 8 and feeling great! This was a mental win for me since my failure at the Rock N Roll last year started at mile 6. Every mile past 6 felt like victory! Soon we were coming up on mile 10, 11, 12... wow! I still felt great! The course for the first half was absolutely beautiful! We went along the ocean, passed countless beautiful houses, ran through neighborhoods with houses on little lakes/canals. I had never really been in Newport Beach before and with each street we turned down I thought man, I want to live here!
The course was advertised as being "net downhill" and from the course profile it looked relatively flat. Um, it actually didn't feel relatively flat and had a LOT of rolling hills. Overall my Garmin said we covered a total elevation gain of 3118 and elevation loss of 3300. The crowd support was great and the first half really flew by. We split from the half marathoners at mile 12, and then .... hey wait, where did everybody go?
Pushing On a Small Hill
The Second Half
Almost immediately after splitting off from the half marathoners I noticed that there were very few people running the full marathon. The next few people were 50-100 yards ahead of me, there was a distinct drop off in crowd support, and suddenly we were running in an industrial office park area. The course went through the office parks around John Wayne airport, around the sidewalk of the South Coast Plaza mall, along the riverbed (think of the big flood ditch where they drag race in Grease), and then through a trail behind a neighborhood.
Crossing a Bridge in an Office Park
At some point around mile 15 I got tired, and at mile 17 I succumbed to running and walking. I physically felt okay (nothing hurt or was cramping), I think I had my nutrition okay because my stomach felt fine (I had a 600 calorie breakfast and ate 6 gels on the course), but I just didn't have the will to keep running without stopping. I ran walked for the remainder of the race and tried to just be happy I made it this far without really hurting, and I resisted the urge to flip the display on my watch to start predicting when I'd finish. I had no idea if I was over or under a 4:00 projected finish time until mile 22 when someone came up behind me and said "You can do it! Let's go!" I turned around and saw the 4:00 pace leader and gasped OH NO! really loudly without thinking. A guy behind me said "Yeah, I just said the same thing". I picked it up again and figured I could hold onto him for 4 miles, but a few minutes later I succumbed to my next walk break.
Floating in My Tutu
As you've noticed from the pictures I ran this race in a big pink tutu. I've never even worn a running skirt before, and made a bold jump to a more flamboyant outfit. I decided to run in the tutu to make the race more fun and to help me not take myself so seriously. Guess what? Running in a tutu is AWESOME! (BTW a friend and I are selling these handmade tutus as a fundraiser for Girls on the Run. Like us on facebook to see other styles and pricing!)
Christina - aka Blue Tutu
I can't even count how many women yelled out "GIRL POWER" to me and pumped their fist. Dozens of people on the sidelines shouted out "I love your tutu", and the girls at the water stations and several of the friendly police officers manning the course gave words of encouragement as well. Every time someone cheered me on, it made me smile. In addition to support from the crowd I also had the support of fellow runners. A couple times on the trail when I started to walk I had people behind me shout "Come on tutu girl! You can do it!"
Approaching the Finish
A Small World
Somewhere around mile 23 (?) when I was walking, a girl just ahead of me turned around and said "Hey Monika, its Jenny". It was my dailymile friend Jenny who I knew would be doing this race and I had told her to keep an eye out for me in my big tutu. I am SO SO glad I bumped into her since we chatted and ran/walked the last few miles together and kept each other company. It turns out she works with one of my cousins and knows another. How crazy is that? We stuck together to the very end and crossed side by side.
Christina had originally told me that she wanted to go to mile 22 to cheer me on, but as miles 22 and 23 passed and I didn't see her, I figured she'd be at the finish line instead. She actually had a spot right around mile 26 and when she saw me coming she started madly waving her two signs and jumping up and down and cheering. :o) It was a nice welcome to the finish of a long race and it really made me smile.
Blue Tutu's Got the Spirit!
Soon after crossing the finish line I almost walked into Danica from Chicrunner who gave me a well-appreciated congratulations hug. Luckily it was so hot out that I probably just had a nice salt mustache not wasn't channeling my inner banana slug like I usually am after a race. I went over to bag check and got my stuff and my phone and then managed to find Christina about 20 minutes later. We bumped into two guys in skirts (well, one was actually wearing a loincloth) who turned out to be from the San Diego Hash House Harriers who put on the San Dieguito Half Marathon which I ran earlier in the year.
Running in Costume is FUN
After the race Christina and I went back and showered and then went to get lunch ... where else? At a Mexican restaurant! Nothing hits the spot after a long run the way a burrito does! We had a nice relaxing lunch and then both hit the road to head home. I was soooo tired on the drive and felt even worse for Christina who had to drive all the way back up to San Francisco.
When I got home I thought about taking a nap, but instead I managed to motivate to head off to church to share my thanks for a successful race. At several points in the race when I was walking and running and trying to push myself but listen to my body, my mantra was "God, please guide me". I think that worked. :o)
Humbled and Grateful Crossing the Finish
For my running nerd friends out there who love looking at splits, here are my official stats for the race. You'll notice that I kept a nice 8:30 pace average through mile 16, but with constant walk breaks for the next 10 miles I ended up averaging a 9:30. Not my best race but not my worst. Notice how there were only 1658 people doing the full marathon! I think there were ~15,000 racers total, meaning 90% did the half!
Official Finish Time 4:09:26
Later in the afternoon after I had finished the race my dad had emailed me my race stats from the website. He pointed out that of the three 32 year old women from San Diego, I had come in first. He ended his email with "YOU ARE A CHAMPION!!" Aww... so cute.
I have two shorter races planned for May, a triathlon in June, and then the San Francisco Marathon in July! Eek! I haven't put my training schedule together yet but will do so this weekend. I'm going to need to blend in some biking and running in the first half of this training round to prepare for an International distance tri, and I'm going to try to start going to the Tri Club's Tuesday night track workouts to work on my speed. I also have a groupon for Bikram Yoga that I need to use to help work on my core. Overall this race was a huge success for me. Regardless of my finish time I finally believe in my marathon abilities again. I can do this! And I can do it with a smile.
Bending like Bikram After the Race