Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ventura Marathon Race Recap

Sunday was the Ventura Marathon - my fall goal marathon, the one I'd be attempting to run a new PR {personal record}.

Any finish line that I can cross with a smile on my face is a MAJOR WIN in my book!

Well, at least that was the thought process back at the beginning of the summer when I was putting my fall racing schedule together. You see, I was having a tough time deciding whether I wanted to chase fast times or longer distances. I was going back and forth, reaching out to friends for their input and even turning to the InterWebs to get their opinions. When the hubby "kindly" reminded me that I wasn't getting any younger and that maybe I better chase down a new PR while my age was still on my side, I figured he might be right and decided speed would be the focus for the fall.


I ran the Ventura Marathon last year and despite having tummy troubles it was the location of my fastest marathon, so I figured I'd try to go back for a "redemption" race. Okay, okay, maybe it wasn't so much redemption, seeing as I couldn't be upset with running a PR last year, but I thought all things being equal, if I didn't have stomach issues I could have run even faster, so why not attempt it again?! I guess you'll just have to read on to see how things "weren't equal" this year...


Well, if you're new around these parts, first, WELCOME, but second, you may not know that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was in 9th grade. I have been dealing with this chronic illness for the past TWENTY YEARS. There are good days and bad days decent days and terrible days, but for a stretch of about six weeks (but it felt like an eternity) during this training cycle I had a major fibro flare that knocked me on my booty. In fact, there was a point where I was worried I might have a tumor on my spine and broke down to the hubby that I was scared it might be cancer or something equally as serious because I couldn't find any relief. (FYI: I did go to the doctor and after test upon test was told "everything was perfectly fine"... but, hey, that's fibromyalgia for you...) I was doing my best to honor my body, but also trying my best to stick with the training plan my coach had laid out for me. Some days that meant I would scrap the speed portion of the workout and just get in the miles, other days that meant alternating between ice packs and heating pads and trying not to cry the entire day. Eventually the flare let up a bit (not sure if it was due to the praying, the weather, the stretching, the CBD salves, the new mattress, the fibromyalgia just loosening its nasty grip ever-so-slightly or a combination of all of them) and I was able to get back to business. Well, that was until I came down with some summer sickness (aren't they the worst?!) that started out feeling like the flu and then transitioned into something more like pneumonia. I would say I was hacking up a lung for a good two weeks before I was able to start getting a little relief. All-in-all, before we even made it to race day I'd say one of the MAJOR things that wasn't equal when comparing last year's race to this year's race was my training (but not due to a lack trying...). It's like my body had made its mind up and it was not in the mood for a PR attempt... but I didn't care. When I was able to put in the effort, I pushed as hard as I could. Even still, I knew I would need to adjust my goals from what I originally had in my head at the beginning of the training cycle. I took the time goals off the table (although, more on that later) and decided to focus on effort rather than outcome.

About week or so before the race the hubby and I still hadn't decided on a place to stay in Ventura so we were chatting about the accommodation options. He asked if it would be okay if he sat this one out because he wanted to try and knock out some of the last remaining house tasks that needed to be done on the renovation. He is normally my number one cheerleader so I told him it was totally fine to skip this race. Since he wasn't going I decided to just stay in a room I found on AirBnB (the hubby looked over the options to make sure he felt comfortable with the people I would potentially be staying with). It was much cheaper than a hotel (especially when we had waited so long to book) and since I was only using it to sleep in, it worked out perfectly - but I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back it up a bit.


The race was on Sunday morning, but I needed to get up to the Ventura area on Saturday to pick up my bib (last year race-day bib pick-up was free but they had made it a $20 fee this year... I obviously wasn't planning to drive up to Ventura the morning of the race since it was a 3+ hour drive, but it did mean that I needed to make sure to get into town before the expo closed for the day, which was at 5pm). I left the house around noon on Saturday, hoping the weekend traffic wouldn't be too terrible. Thankfully there were only a few accidents along the way and I was able to get to Ventura a little before 4.

Trip essentials - a good audio book, snacks and water to hydrate!

Thankfully I enjoy driving, so didn't mind the journey too much.

Bib pick-up
was super easy. I was able to get in and out of the "expo" in just about 5 minutes (and that's probably because I had to use the restroom after drinking 40 ounces of water on the drive up). There were a few vendors with tents, but nothing seemed to tickle my fancy (but, let's be real, I rarely ever shop at expos anyway) so I was in and out lickety-split.

Bib acquired - LET'S DO THIS THANG!

Then it was time to CARB LOAD! Pizza is normally my go-to pre-race dinner, so I had done a little research before heading to Ventura and found Native Pizza (Yelp to the rescue ;)). They had a pizza that sounded AMAZEBALLS - the Mad Hatter. I love me some mushrooms and when I saw they offered a homemade vegan cheese I was sold. Thankfully the pizza was as good as I was hoping (and had I known it was going to be as tasty as it was I might have ordered a larger pizza and saved the leftovers for the drive home after the race #YouLiveAndYouLearn #NextTime).

After I chowed down it was time to go to the AirBnB. FYI: This is the first time I've booked an AirBnB where the owners would still be there (I was just "renting a room" rather than taking over the whole space). I was worried it would be a little awkward, but since my game plan was technically just use the place to sleep I figured it wouldn't be too terrible. Thankfully the couple who owned the home were nice, the room was fine and I even was able to do a little walking around the neighborhood to get my legs moving a bit after being in the car for a big chunk of time before settling in for the evening.

This little water inlet was at the end of one of the neighborhood streets... FANCY!

Since I knew the alarms would start super early come Sunday morning, once I got back to my room I did some stretching, grabbed my book and tried to mellow out for the evening (the AirBnB didn't have WiFi so it kept me off my phone). I was hoping to be "asleep" by 8pm (although I never sleep well the night before a race) in hopes of getting 7ish hours of sleep.

Thankfully I had triple checked to make sure I had all of the gear I needed for the following morning (I went through everything before I left home, once I arrived at the AirBnB and then again before going to sleep... one can never be too careful, #AmIRight?!), so there was one less thing to stress about while I lay tossing and turning in bed.

I was struggling to decide on a race outfit for this race so sent a few options to different friends and this seemed to be the winning combo, so
we went with it. #FlatCarlee included: Black and Yellow Dot PRO Compression Socks, Yellow Sparkle Athletic Skirt, #teamsparkle trucker,
Nathan Speedmax Handheld, PROBAR BOLT chews, Sarah Marie Design Studio "RUN" muscle tank, elite Road ID, black QALO
silicone wedding bands, black and yellow Momentum Jewelry wraps, COROS APEX Watch and Brooks Ghost 11.

As I suspected, I didn't get much sleep Saturday night. I'm sure it was a combination of being in a new place, stressing about the race itself, worrying that I would sleep through my alarms, my fibromyalgia sleep issues, etc. (FYI: Because I know I never sleep well the night before, I do my best to prioritize sleep the week before the race as best as I can.)

I think I was out of bed by 2:30am anyway...

The Ventura Marathon is a point-to-point race, meaning you do not start and finish in the same location. The race provides shuttles from the finish line to the start line for runners. They recommend you park near the finish line and get to the buses (for the full marathon) by 4:45am since the shuttles are all supposed to leave by 5am. The Ventura Fairgrounds parking lot is open, but they charges $8 to park (last year it was $5 and we "splurged" so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a spot to park before the race) so I decided to leave a little earlier and look for a free spot. (PS Before I reserved the AirBnB I did reach out to the owner to let her know I'd be running the race and planned to be up around 3am and gone by 4am to make sure that wouldn't be an issue with them. She said they were totally fine with it, but just thought I'd mention it so if you were planning to do something similar you were courteous to those you may be staying with.) Seeing as I was near the finish line of the race around 4:10am, there was plenty of street parking available. I snagged a spot about a block from the finish line festivities. (FYI: If you're planning to do the same, make sure to take note of the signs. Some of the free parking lots said you couldn't park in them between 4 and 5am {assuming it's their way to make sure folks aren't camping overnight in the lot} so I was worried to park and risk a ticket {which I assumed would be more expensive than the $8 fairground parking I was trying to avoid ;) }. The spot I found was a 2 hour spot, but it started at 9am, which meant it'd give me until 11am before I was technically required to move my car and I was hoping to have finished the race by that time.)

When in doubt, selfie it out!

Before I move on, I've gotta pause to share a quick video. When I got down to the car in the morning, it was all decorated. The hubby had asked me for the address of where I was staying when I got there, but he is normally extra cautious so I didn't think anything of it. I was flabbergasted when I walked out and saw the notes covering the car.

{PS At this point I didn't realize who had decorated it. We have a Ragnar sticker on the back window and when I quickly walked around the car I thought it was in the same "paint" as the rest of the notes so thought maybe it was some Ragnar friends, but didn't put two and two together until later in the race... but more on that soon!}

The word "FRAMILY" should have keyed me in immediately... or the hashtags they put on the side window,
but I guess I wasn't thinking clearly that early in the morning ;)

The shuttles were picking up runners from the fairgrounds starting at 4:45am and I still had about 30 minutes to kill so instead of sitting outside I chilled in the car and listened to more of my audio book. Around 4:35am or so I made my way over to the buses. They were all ready for the runners to hop in and bus us to the start. I jumped in line and just happened to be behind Eric and then we saw Carleigh, who was volunteering and helping get runners onto the buses.

Seeing friendly faces before a race (especially if you aren't expecting them) is such a great way to alleviate some pre-race stress.

Last year we had a less than amazing experience with the shuttles (I am always a little leery, if I am being honest), but thankfully this ride went off without a hitch. We got on right around 4:45am and got up to the start line at about 5:20am.

This was how the path between the bus drop-off and starting line was 'lit'...
Glow sticks in water bottles, but I thought it looked like radioactive Mt. Dew ;)

My game plan was to jump in the port-o-potty line as soon as I arrived at the starting area, then max and relax a bit (I had a Mylar blanket to wrap myself in/ sit on), then get back in the port-o-potty line (even if I don't have to go, it's always better to double check, especially because the closer to the race start time you get, the longer lines and wait times can become), then my coach wanted me to get in a 10 minute warm-up jog before the start. I normally never warm-up before a race (isn't that what the first few miles are for?!), but I was trusting her with my training, so I better trust her with my pre-race plan too. A word of warning - the starting area is DARK (in case you are reading this in preparation for running the race). I ran from back and forth from the start line back down to where the buses dropped us off until my watch hit 10 minutes. I don't think my GPS had officially located me because my distance was just over a mile and I didn't think I was running 10:00/mile pace, but it was more about getting the blood flowing than anything else so I didn't really care or pay attention.

Obviously I had to snap a quick selfie before we got ready to run!

Eventually it was time to get the race started, so I made my way into the hoard of runners (the race offers pacers, which is great, but they tend to bunch up in the starting area which makes it hard to find the correct place to stand - thankfully runners don't care about personal space and are okay being smooshed together like sardines) and got ready to run.

It's always a little confusing as to which side of the start line runners should line up... Eventually we were
told which side to stand on (and then very specific directions for the course which no one was listening to).

Now, if you read my goals post {HERE}, you know I had to throw my time goals out the window. My training cycle didn't go the way I would have liked and I knew the stars would have to align perfectly and my shoes would have needed some a ton of magic dust on them to hit the times I originally was aiming for. Well, being the numbers girl I am, it was hard to throw those goals entirely out the window, so I still lined up around the 3:20 pacer. I know this is silly, but deep down I was still holding onto hope I might make a sub 3:20 race a reality. I told myself I'd stick with the 3:20 pacer (if I could) until Mile 23, then push the last 5K to try and get in under that. (I even printed off a pace band with a finish time of 3:19:59.) I knew I might be shooting myself in the foot, but since my reworked goals included "No Limits" and "Give It Everything", I was somewhat okay with pushing myself and potentially blowing up in the process (obviously hoping that wouldn't happen).

MAJOR THANKS for Almi who was not only out on the course cheering
us on (she is pregnant and her doctor has told her she shouldn't be running
currently), but she snapped some pictures of me throughout the race! 

Let me tell you, I had a strong 11 miles... If only the race was 15 miles shorter than it was I might have hit my goal... HA! I was able to stick with the 3:20 pacer through the first 40% of the race... but then I could feel myself slipping. It was getting warm quick (not using this as an excuse, just telling it like it was) and I could tell I wouldn't be able to hold on with the pacer. I didn't let off the gas per say, but switched my mind-frame a bit from "Original Goal A" to "Original Goal B" which was instead of a sub 3:20, maybe a PR was still within reach (I still felt like I was following through with my "Updated Goal B", giving it my all {I don't think I was pushing beyond my limit for "Updated Goal A", because in my mind I was "okay" with not hitting sub 3:20 and once I accepted that the drive to push past my limit quickly flew out the window}).

Another picture captures by Almi (this one was probably around the Mile 12 mark)

I crossed the halfway point about a minute passed where my pace band said I should have been, but I could still see the 3:20 pacer, so I thought if I could stick with it maybe I could still get a PR... but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn't a possibility. Around Mile 15 the 3:25 pacer passed me and I knew a PR wasn't a reality. #RealTalk - I was a little bummed because of the time, energy, blood, sweat and tears I put into this training cycle, but I knew from the jump it would be a long shot and after giving myself about 30 seconds to be frustrated I turned my frowned upside down and switched to an attitude of gratitude instead. I shot up a quick "Lord, thank you so much for the ability and opportunity to be doing something I love and I pray I can bring your name glory in the process" and kept chugging along, coming to terms with the fact that my "Updated Goal C" was now what I would be chasing. #LiveToFightAnotherDay

Around Mile 15.5 there was an official photographer on course so I started cheesing it up a bit for him (one of the best perks from this race {in my opinion} is that the race photos are FREE, so you better believe I was going to live it up for any photographer I saw). Shortly after I passed him I heard some folks yelling "Carlee" and thought it might be Almi on the course again or maybe friends who follow me on social media... To my surprise it was my three bestest friends who came to surprise me on the course! Like, guys, I was FLOORED! I started running in 2012 and these girls have never been to one of my races (and I wouldn't even ask them to because I know how stressful and, let's be real, somewhat uneventful spectating can be when you only see your runner 1-3 times over a 4ish hour race). Below is a video Kelly caught of me running towards them. I don't know if you can fully see the surprise in my face (since I was just cheesing it up for the photographer and heard folks cheering for me), but I literally could not believe it. THEY ROCK MY FREAKIN' SOCKS!

This is the picture the photographer caught shortly before I saw my girls!

I'm not sure if you heard at the end of the video or not, but I say "Oh, I'm not going to PR" because they were telling me to keep running. At this point I had already come to grips with the fact that this wasn't going to be my magical PR day. Also, I didn't realize until I watched this video how close the 3:25 pacer was at this point... so maybe I could've stuck with her for longer, but once I saw my girls I knew I had to stop, give hugs and thank them from the bottom of my heart for being there.


Here is where I must mention the next MAJOR reason why last year was different from this year... THE COURSE. You see, about three weeks before the race there was an IG post that said the course would be changing... Apparently a portion of the bike trail was under construction so they needed to reroute the runners. Well, let's just say the gradual downhill, somewhat shaded course we were expecting became an exposed uphill slog for a good 2 miles. I realize I had already made the mental switch to save my legs for Big Bear in three weeks, but had I not, this probably would've been where I threw in the towel. I walked a large chunk of the uphill, tried to cheer on runners around me (so I might avoid getting in a negative headspace myself) and drank as much water and electrolytes at the aid stations as possible.


Trying my best to stay positive... 

By the time we finally got back on the bike trail I was fried and pretty "over it". I kept plugging along mostly because my friends were there and I didn't want them to have to wait forever and a day for me to finish. They surprised me again around Mile 20 (for never having spectated a race before, they were pretty boss at getting around and seeing me multiple times!) and so I stopped briefly to chat. It was funny, Almi was a little further up on the course from them and she was yelling "Your non-runner friends are here!". Apparently she saw their signs that said "Carlee" and she mentioned she also had a friend named Carlee and they quickly realized it was ME! It's funny to have your two worlds collide.

How fun are their signs?!

My cheer squad!

The last 10K of the race was pretty craptastic. Seeing as I had already decided it wasn't my day, anytime I even contemplated slowing down my legs had already started walking. The desire to push was no longer there and the heat was zapping my energy with every step I took. In my mind, there is no real difference between a 3:35 marathon and a 4:35 marathon because neither is a PR and both are a finish. With that mindset, it's easy to see how my mental game was in the gutter way before I crossed the finish line. And although I really enjoy progression runs during training (where you get faster throughout your run), I am terrible at executing negative splits during a race. In fact, I even selected "positive split" on the pacing strategy for the pace band I made because I knew I would likely be slowing down. I never like "wishing away" miles, because I should be grateful I've been blessed with the opportunity and ability to run, but man I was done-zo.

Heading towards the finish line with a smile on my face, ready for it to be over.

Surprisingly, looking at my splits, they weren't too terrible. I mean, sure, I slowed down... and I wasn't close to the pace I wanted (for a sub 3:20 marathon I needed to run an average of 7:37/mile and my average ended up being 8:27/mile - 50 seconds per mile slower), but any day I can run a 3:41 marathon is a good day! It was actually my 10th sub-4 marathon!

My paces (via my Strava account) along with the elevation gain in each mile

I was able to cross the finish line with an official time of 3:41:40. But, let's be real, this race will not be remembered because of my pace, it'll be remembered because my girls came to support me. They may not be runners, but at the finish line they had tears welling up in their eyes and said that they can see why I love the sport so much. Watching a marathon can change your life - seeing people overcome doubt, adversity and training to cross a finish line is AMAZEBALLS! 

I DID IT! Marathon #25 is in the books!

Because my friends were there, I decided to opt out of the waffle at the finish line (last year I was a bit disappointed, so instead of grabbing a less than stellar breakfast I gave my waffle {and free beer} ticket to a runner's significant other so they could both partake). We snapped a couple quick photos, said hi to some friends and made a bee-line to the exit.

These ladies... I just can't... They mean the world to me!

Casey caught me at the finish line and of course I had to thank Almi for all her energy and support on the course!

We did stop and grab food together (because it was only fair that I reward them for having driven 3+ hours Saturday night, stay in a 'shady' hotel, wake up early on a Sunday, spectate a marathon and then drive another 3+ hours home), but we did so a little ways away from the finish line in hopes of avoiding the crowds. After brunch, we all made our way back to North County. On the way home I had to bust into a bag of Red Fish because I had given up sweet treats for the three weeks prior to the race in hopes of making it to the start line feeling as healthy as possible and was ready to celebrate ;).

Please ignore the crusty salt marks around my eyes... OOPS!

Once I got home the hubby wanted to go for a run, so I changed my clothes real quick and then we grabbed the pup to make our way to the beach. I walked Walt for about a mile and a half while the hubby got in a 3 mile run. (Because after you run 27+ miles and drive 3+ hours, of course you want to walk a slow-poke dog for 40 minutes ;))

It might not be Ventura's beach in the background, but it's still the Pacific Ocean ;)

All-in-all, it wasn't the day I wanted, but it was the day I got and I'll be forever grateful for it. Could I have pushed harder and ran faster? Of course, but in the long run, no one will remember my times... It's a personal thing... And I'm personally okay with how the day unfolded (FYI: I absolutely believe you can be both disappointed and proud at the same time). I will continue to celebrate finish lines (and finish times) and pray my body allows me to keep running for many years to come.


PS Just because I didn't run a sub-3:20 marathon this race doesn't mean I'm giving up on the goal forever... I don't plan to run another "fast" marathon anytime soon, but that doesn't mean I won't attempt it again in the future! #FasterAsAMaster

How do you bounce back after not hitting a goal?


Jamie King said...

Great work, a marathon finish (any finish!) is a damn good one! Way to put in the work.

eslang said...

Heck yeah!!!!!!! Thank you for the good vibes pre race..but I feel bumping into a guy with a pink hat was good vibes too! Lolol