Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thoughts on My Marathon...

Okay, so any of you that are regular readers know that my marathon was actually back on September 7 of this year and it might seem just a little odd that I'm barely now really doing any kind of serious thinking and sharing on it. I had fully intended to do a race recap and review, but I think I just wasn't really ready to actually process it into bite-sized pieces. It was still just occupying too much of a big picture place in my brain. Honestly, I think I'm still kind of surprised that it even happened. It feels like a dream and I sometimes have to pause for a moment to convince myself that it really DID happen. I actually did complete a marathon. Crazy...

I did write one post where I briefly talked about the marathon and posted a few pictures. If you missed that one, don't worry about going back and re-reading as I will probably say a lot of the same things here and share the same pictures. That's not my usual style, but since I've taken so long to really process the marathon experience I figure ya'll have forgotten it anyways. tee-hee...

My first thought always when I think about my marathon was that I'm really glad I did it and that it was really, really, really hard. I am even more amazed now by folks that run these things repeatedly than I ever was before I actually experienced it. I said it before, and I'll continue to say it until the day I die - completing a marathon is no friggin' joke.

How it all started...with a registration confirmation!
I remember the elation and terror all mixed into one when I hit the submit button on my registration. It felt like I had temporarily given myself over to some crazy bodysnatcher that decided I was crazy enough to run a marathon. That bodysnatcher stayed in control for about 24 hours before I got my mind back and went "Oh sh*t...what have I done?!?!?" I think I pretty much vacillated back and forth the entire time wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into and feeling like a crazy badass that could actually pull off a marathon. hahaha

Flat Kristen...ready to go!
Let's talk training for a moment...my training was less than stellar but I feel pretty good that I managed to get through it without dying or serious injury. Some of my training highlights include: new distances that I'd never run before; finding new routes to run; seeing my city from a different perspective; watching my legs gain strength and definition that weren't there before.

One of my favorite training spots was Diamond Valley Lake
A training run with my DIL's and a much deserved reward of feet in sand once done!
A training run in Dana Point through the Harbor

Hmmm...looks like I enjoyed pretending I live near the ocean because a lot of my running was near bodies of water. However, there were also some lowlights to my training: It was hotter than Hades through a majority of my training (more on this in a moment); I did suffer from some anterior tibialis tendonitis - AKA upper foot/ankle pain - for several weeks of my training that threatened to derail me; most of my long runs were completely and totally solo for major chunks of time which could be nice for parts, but were really boooorrrrinnnngg for others. Honestly, it was hard to keep my motivation up all the time when it was so hot and so boring and that I had to get up earlier and earlier to try to beat the sun. I ended up having to abandon Diamond Valley Lake as a training location because there was simply NO SHADE at all and it was just too hot once summer really heated up. So that meant hitting the city streets and running 18-20 miles through town which exposes you to a lot of stinky exhaust while simultaneously having to stay close to restrooms and well populated areas for safety. It was challenging to say the least. If I ever lost my mind had to run another marathon, I would choose one in the early to mid-spring so I could avoid training in the middle of summer. It wasn't very bright on my part to not consider the fact that I would be training during the hottest months of the year.

Hot, Sweaty, Mess...and I wasn't even done...Still had 12 miles to go!

Okay, let's talk actual race...but before we get ahead of ourselves, I'm not talking about my performance in the race. I don't feel the need to go back and rehash all the times I walked or all the times I hurt or how I had blisters on my feet that took about a month and at least a hundred gazillion applications of lotion to repair the damage or how I lost one toenail completely and battered all the rest of my little piggies on a weekly basis. I'm not even going to talk about how long it took me to finish the race because I just don't care how long it took. All that matters to me is that I finished it and that my husband was there to see me cross the finish line.

Giving my Hubby the thumbs up just after crossing the finish line
LOCATION: I had never been to Ventura before and really wasn't even sure where exactly it was at on the map before choosing this race - I just saw BEACH and that was all I needed apparently. HA! So now that I have been to Ventura two times I will say that I chose a really perfect location for my marathon. It is absolutely beautiful there!! Even in early September the temp on race day was upper 60's/low 70's which is still a tad warmer than I would prefer, but was still way cooler than if I was running in my hometown where it is common to be in the low 80's/upper 90's by the time the sun comes up.

Panorama of Ventura Beach from my hotel room balcony
It was easy for us to get there too. My husband and I drove to Los Angeles and took the Amtrak from Union Station (our first time on a train!) to the drop-off platform in Ventura just a short walk from the hotel. We both loved riding the train and would totally do so again. We paid a little bit more for the business class seats and the slightly higher cost was definitely worth the upgrade as you had a guaranteed seat and snacks that aren't available in the regular fare section. It's also elevated seating on the upper level so we had great views the entire time. I will add though that the Amtrak route - even though billed as the Coast Starlight - does NOT follow the coast between LA and Ventura. We really didn't see any water at all while on the train until we were actually in Ventura. So don't do that trip expecting to see miles of beaches...not gonna happen. But it was pretty and I saw areas of my state that I wouldn't normally see.

The afternoon before the race it was just a *tad* breezy...

RACE PERKS: There were a lot of nice little race perks. The race organizers did a great job at communicating with runners throughout the lead-up to the race. They provided a well-organized website with timely and accurate information. One of the biggest benefits, even though I was too far away to take advantage of all of them, is that they offered three free training runs leading up to the race! I thought that was a really awesome benefit to have and I wish I had been closer so I could have done all three. However, I did drive out for the last one with another registered runner and my daughter-in-law who did about 6 miles out with me before turning back. I was so glad I did that training run because it provided a great opportunity to see the location, get a lay of the land, run with others and enjoy the cooler weather for the morning. A major perk of the race in my opinion. The other big perk is the Beach Party that is part of the entire race weekend. They had bands, a beer garden and more which made for a very festive atmosphere.

After the training run

EXPO: I've seen better, but it wasn't terrible. There were a variety of vendors and I even purchased a Flip Belt since I'd been wanting one but didn't want to buy it sight unseen. They had a good amount of race merchandise, but I would have preferred to see even more variety in what was offered. Call me spoiled because I've been to too many runDisney expos which, IMHO, are the absolute best. The hubby and I did have a good time wandering around checking stuff out though, so even though I wouldn't say it's a good enough expo to make it a must-go destination, it wasn't disappointing.

COURSE: The actual race course was pretty awesome. It was an out and back course running from the Ventura Pier to the Port Hueneme Pier and then back again. You have sections that are near the ocean, but I don't remember actually seeing much ocean during the race. You cross a couple little inlets that are quite pretty and the waves crashing on the rocks at the turnaround point were pretty spectacular. There are a lot of long straightaways which is actually kind of nice, unless you like a lot of variety in the scenery, then not so nice. Personally, I liked using the long straights to get in a zone. There's good stretches of shade and lots of places where spectators can cheer (more on this in a moment).

One of the inlets as the sun was coming up

AID STATIONS: There were plenty of aid stations along the way stocked with lots of water and Fluid Performance beverage. They also had more than enough Clif Shot gels at the aid stations that they were designated as being available at. And not just a single flavor, they usually had a variety so you could get one that you liked. I learned during the training run that I really enjoy the Vanilla Clif gel. It is like eating vanilla frosting! I tend to be a Gu Girl, but if I was buying vanilla it would be the Clif brand. I also have to say that the volunteers manning the aid stations were fabulous!!! They were very complimentary and encouraging and ready to help with whatever you needed if they were able to.

I would have LOVED to see an aid station like this! LOL
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: I don't have a lot of negatives about the race, but there's always at least a couple things that could be improved, right? Keep in mind that these are only MY observations, others might have had a different experience. There wasn't a ton of spectator support even though there are plenty of locations perfect for it along the course and since it is an out and back, you get double the bang for your buck. It would be nice to see the community support the runners more in the future especially once you get to the Oxnard area where I saw almost none.

The aid stations didn't have anything else but water and Fluid Performance, and Clif Shots at every other one. I always hear about aid stations that have gummy bears and licorice and bacon and pretzels. I didn't see anything like that at all which was weird to me because they had ALL that stuff on the training run that I attended previously. I was a back-of-the-packer though, so perhaps there had been things that were gone by the time I got there. Totally possible. But at one point I would have died for a popsicle, but got lucky that one girl at the turnaround point had ONE ice cube left. I treasured that single, solitary ice cube like it was the last one I would ever have.

The second part on the aid stations was that none of them had any kind of body glide or vaseline available. They did have some folks helping with medical needs so I was able to get a band-aid and finally at the next to last aid station a gal finally had some vaseline. You see, I had some arm chafing and the aforementioned blisters on my feet and would have KILLED for some body glide. (Side note: I had body glide on my person when I left but it fell out of that previously mentioned Flip Belt that I purchased at the expo which was extremely frustrating and disappointing, but had nothing to do with the actual race).

And seriously, those are the ONLY negatives I have. The tech shirt and medal are AMAZING! The race organizers were fabulous. There were a ton of port-o-potties (although there could have been a few more on the route in a couple places, but not a deal breaker), the atmosphere, location and course were wonderful. If it wasn't so far away from me at about 2.5-3 hours driving, I would totally do the race again - well the HALF anyways. hahaha

This picture...well, it just says it all!!!

In closing, running a marathon is hard, but if you want to do one, you could certainly have a great time doing the Ventura Beach Marathon!!

And just in case you think it was just writing this post that took forever, I just barely put my 26.2 sticker (that I ordered the day after my race) on my car on the 7th of this month - exactly three months after actually earning it! Apparently my marathon processing time is 3 months. :-)


  1. You more than earned that sticker, girl!

    Thanks for the recap!

    1. Thank you, Mrs.!! I feel like one of those stereotypical runners that feels the need to broadcast my accomplishments on my car - you know, the kind that are mocked in articles on a regular basis...but I couldn't help myself because it's not for any of them - it's for ME! :-)

  2. I somehow missed your first post about running so I was so glad to see this one! I am so proud of you! I know you were struggling with motivation there for a while....but you are amazing. You stuck to it and accomplished your goal! You are such a strong woman....overcoming that mental and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. That sticker has been earned! Great job.