Two marathons in three weeks, even I felt a little crazy! The Santa Clarita Marathon, my 4th marathon ever, has come and gone my crazy runner brain has me excited for #5! Marathon weekend started Saturday at 12:30 when BF dropped me off at Danica’s house to head out to the race expo. Santa Clarita is about 30 minutes north of LA, and is home to Six Flags Magic Mountain. We were both so surprised how pretty the suburban town was; obviously master planned, I loved the curving wide streets, rolling hills it, openness, and mountain backdrop, it really reminded me a lot of where I grew up in Arizona. We made our to the tiniest race expo I have ever been to, where they ran out of goodie bags, which was a bummer. We grabbed our bibs, a slice of pizza and snapped a few pics then made the absolutely necessary stop at a cookie store Danica’s cousin told us about. With awesome flavors we picked up half a dozen as “pre-race fuel.” We checked into the hotel and headed to our room to lay out our clothes for the race and to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.
Unfortunately I realized I had forgotten something, something pretty important! I had left my GARMIN at home! I managed to pack the charger but left the watch unceremoniously sitting on my nightstand. I knew my iPhone wouldn’t have enough battery to power my Nike+ and my music for over four hours, so I just decided to run watch-free for the first time ever!
A short nap later we went out to grab a few nutrition essentials at Sport Chalet, pick up some hair ribbons at Michael’s, and then went to dinner at Lazy Dog Café. Danica loves this place and you can bring your dog on the patio! It was really crowded but we managed to snag a bar table pretty quickly and plopped down to order a beer and our prerace dinner. After dinner it was back to the hotel to double check everything and head to bed.
Race morning came after two alarms, since the time was changing here in California, we were scared we would miss the race; luckily we just gained an hour of extra sleep! I pulled on my clothes, pinned on my bib and packed my nutrition into my capri pockets, water bottle and race pouch. We headed out the door to drive 10 minutes to the starts line. Greeted with a chilly morning I knew it would heat up quickly once I started running, so I shed my long sleeve and left it at the car. On the walk to the start line I found a $20 bill lying on the ground! no one claimed it around me, so race day was already off to a good start! We made a quick port-o-potty stop and got a great pre-start pic then we lined up for the race to start.
The gun went off and my fingers were so frozen! It took about 2.5 miles to really warm up but soon I was in a groove. I honestly didn’t even miss my watch, I had no idea how fast or slow we were running I just kept on pace with Danica. The miles ticked by and by feel I could really tell where the up and down hills were, it was kind of nice not running with a watch! At Long Beach my biggest problem had been going out to fast, but looking at out splits later I was running faster this time, but felt all around stronger! Mile 6 came and went, I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle and chugged along from miles 6-9 it was a slow incline and I could feel it, but we hit the first of the turn around at 9 and proceeded to run down a nice slow decline to the half way point. A quick bathroom break for Danica and some stretching for me and we were back on pace in front of the 4:10 pacer. I was tired but, it was a marathon and that’s to be expected.
At mile 14 I could Danica was feeling great and I couldn’t keep pace with her so I fell back as she went on ahead, but she did give me a salt pill to hopefully stave off cramping at the end of the race. We had both talked a lot about running your own race and I knew that by mile 14 that’s exactly what we both needed to do. I chugged along hitting a little bit of tiredness at mile 15, but soon felt great again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good from mile 15-20. I made up a little mantra that played through my head, “just keep cruising to mile 16, you feel great! Just keep cruising to mile 17, you feel great!” and I did feel great! The mantra worked and stayed far ahead of the 4:10 pacer. I had my food when I felt I need a little kick and just move along.
Mile 20 I hit a bit of a wall, I was just tired and I could tell the course was moving up a slow incline, it was also another section of out and back, which at times can be really mentally fatiguing. I saw Danica just after the turn around and cheered her on! The slow downhill back helped me pick up the pace a bit, but by now the 4:10 pacer had gotten pretty far ahead of me. The last 6 miles were pretty uneventful, I got that weird cramp in my right quad again, but at least this time it didn’t come on until close to mile 23. Unfortunately the cramping forced me to walk and stretch a bit more than I had wanted to but I just did my best to keep chugging along. Luckily it was never as awful as it had been during Long Beach. Finally I saw the mile 25 marker and did my best to run a bit faster. In the last half mile there were two hills that normally would have been a breeze but in the last mile of a marathon they seemed like death! Soon the 26 mile marker was in sight and I tried so hard to sprint but I had nothing left, I felt strong but tired, with no juice left. I crossed this finish line with no idea what my time was, but heard Danica excitedly yell, “You got a new PR didn’t you?!?” I looked up and the clock said 4:13:23, know we had started about a minute and a half back I thought maybe I had! Without a watch I had to wait until a few hours after the race to find out that I did indeed have a new PR for the marathon! 4:12:09!! Over 10 minutes faster than I had run Long Beach as well!
My first marathon, the Tucson Marathon had been my PR for the last 7 years, and for 7 years I somehow thought my time was 4:12:48. When we got back to the hotel I decided to look it up and found out that I had been wrong all that time! It was actually 4:14 and change! Happily I determined I had, no matter what, gotten a new PR that day!
Overall it was a really great race day for me. The weather was perfect and the course and scenery were great, save maybe one too many out and back loops. Not having a watch was nice and I was never worried about being on pace or worried I wasn’t running fast enough. It would have been nice to have at the end since I think I could have pushed myself a bit more the last 3 miles. I’m learning, slowly, the difference between “racing” and just running a race. It’s about doing work and pushing yourself. Having Danica to talk to and strategize with, I’ve picked up a lot of tips from her cross country past. I think if I can get my head around “racing” and really doing work during a race I’ll have no problem breaking four hours.
My last race of the year will be the Tucson Marathon and I’m shooting to run it in under 4. I have 5 weeks to really put in some work with my training to make this my best race yet. It’s so exciting to be racing again and really seeing progress!!