Sunday, September 29, 2013

Inaugural Ventura Marathon 9/8/13, Part II

I tried to establish in Part I that the Ventura Marathon was unlike any I've ever participated in before, but as a matter of fact, Race Day started EXACTLY like most other Race Day mornings: pre-dawn alarm clock, coffee, Clif Bar and yogurt.  About a 1/2-mile walk to the starting line to warm up.

As I mentioned in my short post the night before the race, We drove the race route several times (once on purpose and then it turned out to be part of our daily routine).  One thing I learned and was able to prepare for: we noticed there was a particular section of the course that ran past... something very stinky.  I don't know if it was a waste treatment plant or a swamp or what, but there was about a 1/2-mile right on the Ventura / Oxnard border that just SMELLS.  Really bad. I've never done that before, driven the route; and it completely psyched me out! I was getting nervous, but after a sort-of night's sleep, I felt pretty average for a race morning. 

I found my sister-in-law and took our requisite "Before" picture for the blog!  Hi, Heidi!

I don't have a photo, but had a chance to talk (way too briefly!) with Cari, who I've known since maybe 4th grade (!!) and reconnected with via Facebook in the past few years.  Cari was visiting Ventura with her sister - neither of them lives here anymore.  Her sister had planned to run the half but was injured just days before the race, so they were there by 6:15am to cheer on all the runners in the full and half marathon!  Hi, Cari; it was GREAT to see you!  Mr. Glines would be so tickled that his old students are still keeping in touch.

I'd talked to my mom on the phone a couple of times and texted, but couldn't seem to find her.  She works nights and had been up all night scouting the best place to hang her banner where I'd see it during the race! But I couldn't find her and we were running out of time before the gun would go off, so I made my way to the back of the crowd to get my stretching done - my PT would be so proud.  This was the point where my mom found me and, of course, more pictures!
The gun went off about 7am, with a wave start.  I was in the third and final wave but had found Heidi again by then and we started off together.  We split up pretty quickly - she's faster than I am - and I was on my own, just like my training runs (well, except with no Coty to pull me along!) (oh, and there was the palm trees) (and the fog).  But yeah, JUST like my training runs!  I really wanted to just take in the scenery and the experience and enjoy the moment, and as I'm sure I've mentioned, my intent was to be training for the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon at the end of the month and treat this as a training run for that race... so especially during the first half of the route (it was an out-and-back course), I pulled my phone out of my fanny pack and snapped pictures along the way. 
You can see it was fantastic running weather.  The marine layer didn't burn off until after the race was finished, the temperature remained in the mid-to-high 60's and foggy.  No breeze and WOW this must be the flattest 13.1 miles on earth, they really had a nice flat course!

We ran past the harbor, with all the boats in the background (which, it turns out, you can't really make out in the photo, but there ARE all those palm trees...) and I stopped to snap a photo of that.  A runner behind me saw what I was doing and yelled, "Hey, you wanna be IN that??" And he stopped his race to snap a photo of me!  I thought that was pretty darn awesome.
Jason planned to stay at the start / finish line through the entire race; he wanted to make sure he was there when I finished.  My mom and other family members were to be at various points along the route - they'd made signs and banners to hold up, and the kids would be there cheering Heidi and me along.  I used that nifty "Talk to Text" feature on my phone to send Jason messages along the way and keep him posted on progress, knowing he could update the others.

Looking through my text message history tells the story:

Jason:  "I musta just missed your start.  Ben is going to the halfway point to cheer you on."
Me:  "Love you."     
Then I got to that smelly segment.  Me: "Who farted?"  
Jason:  "VENTURA farted. Or Oxnard?"  
Me:  "I'm feeling good.  Just hit 4 miles."

And I WAS feeling good, and doing really well - split times were right on pace with my goal of 2:45.  My training runs had been basically running one mile at a time, with a 0.1 mile walk at each mile.  I had decided to run 2 miles at a time for the race, with the same interval, a 0.1 mile walk.  So starting with Mile 3, I should have a slower pace every other mile (3,5,7,9,11).  I finished the first 4 miles under 50 minutes.  And remembered to eat my ShotBloks.
Another couple of miles and I realized I was coming to the turnaround point, or rather, that Heidi was probably already there and would be passing by me on her way back.  I took out my phone and got it ready, hoping to snap a photo of her as she came past.  

Here she comes!

I passed the 6-mile water stop and the turnaround point, and still hadn't seen anyone.  Jason texted me:  "Keep an eye out, they really don't wanna miss you!"  So at this point I'm worried I've missed them, but really, the way the route was set up, that would have been difficult to do.  This was the first time Ventura has had an event like this one.  There weren't TONS of supporters and cheerleaders and community folks on the course.  There was terrific community support, don't get me wrong... but it pales in comparison to what I've seen at the Illinois Marathon event.  But that event's been going on for years and years.  And anyway, if I missed them, I was bound to catch them on the way back because I'll go back exactly the same route I took coming out.  I sent J another message:  "They are not at the turn around.  I'm heading back.  Passed the halfway, making good time."

The next water stop was at the 7.5-mile mark and (TMI here...) I really had to pee.  I stopped my Garmin ("it's just a training run after all...") and hit the Port-A-John.  Took my GU, and got going again.  Still no family sighting!  Lots and lots of people had passed me along the way and asked about my shirt:

"Is it really your first??  Congratulations!"  
"You're looking great - keep it up!" 
"You got this!"

This event was large enough that even at my slower pace, there were lots of folks behind me, and as I went past, I high-fived nearly everyone I saw (well, I tried not to be annoying and intrusive, but... ) I tried to pass on a word of encouragement to each, especially anyone who looked like they were struggling.  Mostly women, mostly people with more weight to lose than I do.

Somewhere along the way, I accidentally hit the button to take a photo while running, and got this shot.  it's basically a throw-away, but for some reason I really like it.

I sent J another update:  "Look for me at 2:40 or so!"
Then:  "8.0" - only 5 miles to go.  This would have been about 1:30 to 1:40 after the start.
Another message:  Me:  "I say again.  Who farted?"  Four miles to go.  I stopped for my last couple of ShotBloks.

At this point, I was really missing my dog/ running buddy!  I'd been running for about 2 hours.  It was lonely running a race this long without my running partner and none of my Lake Run Club friends on the course.  My knees were hurting, my ankles too.  My feet were killing me.  Texting Jason was really helping me to keep focused and remind myself how far I'd come and how much progress I'd made on this journey.

You can see by the time - compare 9 to 10 here - where I took a little longer walk break during Mile 9 AND took those ShotBloks.  My mile split goes right back down to  12 for Mile 10.

I sent one more message: "Still haven't seen anyone.  But I just hit 10.  Walking a minute."  Jason responded with about 1 text every 10 minutes:

"An 84-year-old beat you, but he's been doing it a while."
"Just saw Heidi finish.  Get moving!"
"They have cookies!"
"You're late!"

What he didn't know what that right after I sent my last message, I saw THIS:
See that kid in the red shirt??  That's my nephew Logan!  The kid in black, sitting with a sign in his lap?  That's his brother Caden. Those are my baby brother's boys.Beyond them, holding a GIGANTIC blue banner - my older brother's boys:  Carson and Charlie!    And behind them, my brothers and sister-in-law, with ANOTHER banner!  man, I wanna cry right now, just looking at these pictures, and it's been three weeks since this moment.  It was the greatest sight for sore eyes!

And then I saw THIS:
I was frantically taking photos but stopped to give everyone a big, sweaty hug.  This just happened to be where the official race photos were being taken, and they caught the moment:

LOOK AT THE SMILE ON MY FACE!  Wow I have NEVER been so happy after a 10-mile-plus run!

My baby brother, Ben, my sister-in-law Jenny, and my big brother Brian, all with their banners!

The boys jogged with me down the block, where we found my mom again!
Fabulous 40 - May the Course be With You
Mom's sign pays homage to the fact I was running my first half as a bit of a 40th birthday present for myself, and one of my very favorite running / Star Wars references... LOVE IT!  She made the banner, hung it on a bridge at the start of the race, then went and took it down from the bridge, drove to this spot and waited there with the rest of the family  where I'd be sure to see it again!

Then, something AMAZING happened.  The boys - all four of them! - kept running with me, down the block, past mom, around the corner toward the keys they were running in the street and on the sidewalk - and Charlie didn't even have any shoes on!  They had a football with them and were tossing it back and forth, circling me, running ahead and looking back and yelling encouragement, "You can DO IT, AUNT CHRISTAL!!"  I was shocked and completely taken off-guard, and humbled by their support.  I felt like Rocky Balboa, with his community surrounding him, running through the streets of Philly in a training montage!  There is absolutely NO WAY to top that feeling.  Ever.  I'm certain of it.  My family is truly a wonder.

After about a mile, the boys were still running with me - football and lack of shoes and all!  I kept advising them to be sure and stay out of the way of other runners so that they could pass easily.  We passed a water stop, and the boys were all concerned whether it was okay for them to take some.  (I don't think they were quite prepared for a run this long!)  Then I heard a horn honking... Charlie's parents had gotten in the van, somehow slipped past the police and volunteers guarding the race course... and insisted that Shoeless Joe join them in the vehicle.  (Well, I figured that couldn't last forever.)

At the same moment, I caught sight of my dad, his wife, and my step-sister Courtney.  They were on the corner and it suddenly hits me that I'm running in MY old neighborhood.  We used to go to the beach here ALL THE TIME when I was growing up, and THIS is the beach we went to.  This is MY BEACH, my home town, my family.  This is the most amazing race, the most amazing day... 

I had another scheduled walk break right about then, so I explained to the remaining nephews - who did NOT jump in the van with Charlie; they were still hanging in with me, determined to run with me all the way to the finish line! - that we would walk for 0.1 miles and then run the rest of the way... about one more mile to the finish line.  And that's just what I did.  I was so energized by their company at this point, I felt like I might not even need the break, but didn't want to run out of gas at the last second.

We veered off the road onto the beach walkway for that last 3/4-mile or so.  The sand dunes on my left, beachgoers making their way from the parking lot, weaving through the runners.  There is a public restroom there and one or both of the younger boys had to pee, so they dropped back.  Carson kept up with me, but I asked him,
"What happened to Caden and Logan?"  
"They stopped at the bathroom."  
"Dude, you're in charge of making sure they don't get kidnapped!  I'm slow; you'll catch up with me! Go get 'em and bring them to the finish line!"  

And that was the last of my entourage.  They ran with me for over two miles, and wonder of wonders, they crapped out before I did!  After nearly 13 miles, I was on my own again and feeling stronger than ever.  My feet and knees and hips ankles and shoulders all still hurt, but those kids had restored my super powers! I was going to finish this race, and run it right to the end!  (Whisper:  And check it out... don't tell them, but I was faster without 'em.  Those were the slowest and best two miles of the day.)

Jason was right there at the finish line.  I saw him before he saw me.  I was sad that I didn't get to run in with all my nephews - I had texted J at some point:  "I have three nephews with me - you can't miss it!"

I think I'm trying to wave, but holding my towel, so only got the one finger up!  Gotta love those finish-line photos!  I'm just glad I saw him and still smiling!

Another picture I like but can't explain why.
The next hour or so was a blur.  We walked to the beach, on the other side of the pier.  My pier.  My beach.  I took off my shoes and thanked the running goddesses I'd had the presence of mind to pack a pair of sandals for after the race.

I wandered out into the water to cool my ankles and my knees.  I looked back and snapped this photo.  My family - boys playing with their dad, Jason chatting with mom and Heidi and Jenny, Ben getting something for little Lyla.  The foothills in the background.  Such familiar sights from my childhood home.

 "Cool your heels" - LITERALLY!
There were quite a few marathoners in the ocean, most up to their knees to "ice down" their aching joints.  One woman was a bit further out, doing squats and dipping her sore hips into the cold water to help with the swelling.  I decided to copy the professionals and kept my feet and ankles submerged for about 15 minutes, eventually going out enough to get my knees in on the action.

Best race medal, ever.  It's so colorful!  And it doubles as a bottle opener.  :-)

I don't remember taking this photo, but I really like it.

There was an Expo and post-race party - locally-brewed beer - called "805" (Ventura's area code)

My best friend Robert called and was headed in from LA.  He picked up his mom and came to join us at the Expo. Here he is with his mom and mine.

Eventually, we all headed back to my brother's house for the afternoon.  Games, food, and great old friends joined us again.  It was a fantastic day.

Me and most of my siblings!

Can we get everyone in one picture??

Mom and her kids.

My original crew.

So that's it.  My first half marathon.  I'm so glad to have done it, and to have flown to California and made it a part of our family vacation.  This was definitely the most memorable and most emotional race I've ever been involved in.  

I may race faster some day, but nothing's going to beat this one.

Inaugural Ventura Marathon 9/8/13, Part I

The Ventura Marathon event started pretty much like every other race.  We flew to California,

Spent a couple of nights with my best friend in the world,

Went for a run down Sunset Boulevard, through Beverly Hills, and back up Santa Monica Boulevard...

Drove to San Diego to spend some time with my brother and his wife, and to spoil my nephews and niece...

We lounged at the beach, and at the pool...

Then drove to the desert to visit with my dad and his dogs. This one's ALL MOUTH:

Then to Ventura, our final stop, where we had a chance to visit with my mom, watch my nephews play soccer and practice football...

There was food, and lots if it:
The night before the race, it was the birthday of my baby brother's best friend, and we got to spend the evening enjoying the company of some of our oldest and dearest friends. 
And THEN, after a plane ride, a friend's house, three hotel rooms, and about a thousand miles of driving, it was time to get ready!!

To be continued...