This past weekend I ran my 3rd marathon in the past 9 months (and my 4th overall marathon). I had been pretty quiet about this race, not writing much on Twitter and the blog about it. I wanted it to be my race with my goals but also not let it dictate all of my life, which can sometimes happen when I’m writing about races. But now that it’s over, I’m happy to share my experience.
After the LA Marathon, I immediately begin thinking about my next marathon. I decided to work with a coach (I’ll share my experiences of working with a coach in another post) and looking for courses that appealed to me. I eventually settled on The Santa Rosa Marathon. This was the 5th running of the race and they put on a great event. I’m very happy that I chose this race. I went into this race with several goals: My first goal (as with every marathon) was to finish. I feel like with marathons that is always an important goal. My second goal was to run a strong marathon. LA shook my confidence in running and I wanted to fix that! And my third goal was to qualify for Boston. I met two of the three goals and I’m very happy with that.
Originally this weekend was going to be a fun weekend with the hubs and another couple (my friend Hillary was also running the marathon). Unfortunately, at almost the last minute the hubs had to go on a business trip. My friend Hillary offered to make it a girls weekend and leave her hubby at home. While it was a bummer to not have Kevin there, I had a great time with Hillary. Before leaving the house, I had a bit of tumble. While carrying all my gear downstairs, I slipped and fell down half a flight of stairs. Ouch! I just sat there thinking, of course I fall down the stairs the day before a marathon!! I was a little sore but nothing serious. Hillary and I headed up Saturday morning to get to the expo. The expo was held at DeLoach Vineyards, one of the sponsors for the race. I think this was the best expo I have ever attended! The race is relatively small (only 1600 registered marathon runners plus the half marathon and 5k). Most of the expo was outside. There were not too many booths and short lines to pick up everything. Instead of a shirt, they gave away jackets (score! I’ll actually wear this!) and a bottle of wine (what!?!). Plus they provided a taste of their Pinot Noir to the runners. (I loved both their Pinot and the red blend of the giveaway wine, Finisher’s Red.) This was definitely the best swag for a marathon.
After the expo, Hillary and I ran a little shakeout run on part of the course and then settled into the hotel. We finished up the day with some delicious food at Flavor (yum!).
My alarm rang the next morning at 3am. The race start time had been moved up from 7 to 6am in case the day proved to be a warm one. I wanted to get plenty of time to eat, prep, and head over to the starting line. After forcing my non-hungry self to eat and walking around a bit to warm up, Hillary and I headed out. Parking was easy and there was plenty of port-a-potties. The only issue was that with the earlier start time, the starting area was pretty dark. If they continue to keep the early start time going forward, the race organizers might want to consider renting some lights. Before I knew it, we were lining up to start. We wanted to situate ourselves near the 3:30 pacer and keep them in sight. We couldn’t find him but did see the 3:00, 3:15, 3:25, 3:50, and 4:00 pacers. Oddly the 3:50 and 4:00 hour pacers were in the 7 minute pace area. Not sure what that was about. A few minutes before the start, we spotted the 3:30 pacer. It ended up not really mattering anyway since the plan was to keep a 8:05-8:15 pace until about mile 18 or so. The first part of the race winds through downtown Santa Rosa, which was very pretty. I love running through a town, especially when its early and all you hear is the feet of all the runners hitting the pavement. Then the course heads to the Santa Rosa Creek Trail for the next 5.5 miles. This is a very nice trail, away from any road traffic. The only down side is at times it gets narrow, only 2-3 runners wide and can allow you to get stuck a little (it did contribute to one mile slower than my goal pace). I felt great during this portion and was just enjoying the run.
8:14, 7:55, 8:05, 8:16, 8:11, 8:24, 8:08
After leaving the trail, we headed out to some of the larger roads on the course. We then headed down to DeLoach Vineyards, where we ran through the barrel room! This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the course!! Between miles 8 and 9 I took my first Sports Beans (I took little water sips at almost every aid station). Also at about mile 8, I reset the auto-lap of my Garmin to make sure that it giving splits according to the mile markers rather than how it was mapping my run (there is always a difference and it seemed running under a few bridges on the trail might have added some extra mileage). Then we headed out to the country roads. This was beautiful, at times we could see the sun peaking through the clouds over the vineyards. Another favorite sight was seeing the runners ahead of me on slightly rolling hills with tree cover. It looked like a postcard! The 13th mile was definitely the longest mile for me, it just seemed to stretch FOREVER! But then I felt back on track. We did have to run in the bike lane on part of the course (around mile 15 or 16), that was a little bit of a bummer but it was flat and there was still ample room. At this time, I fueled with the Sports Beans again. Around mile 17 or so, my back started to ache a little – likely from my tumble the previous day. Following this section, we headed back onto the smaller roads.
8:18, 8:10, 8:10, 8:10 (steady pacing!), 8:14, 8:18, 8:14, 8:12, 8:18, 8:26, 8:27
At mile 19, Hillary dropped back to fuel again and slow down through the aid station. I felt pretty good, tired (but that’s to be expected) but my legs still felt strong. At this point we also headed back to the trail. This time it felt much less crowded. At mile 20, I tried to turn on my ipod to give me a little extra motivation. However, I hit some setting (that I seem to only trigger when racing!) that had the device announcing the name of my playlists and albums. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, so I just took the earbuds out of my ears and kept plugging along. I was able to pass some people during this section, which always feels nice. Mile 22 had a portion on gravel, this was not my favorite part of the run. I slowed down and lost some of my momentum. Following this, I started to notice that I was losing a lot of salt. I decided to stop drinking water at the aid stations and instead drink Gatorade for the electrolytes. At the next station I did this and had an orange slice (my favorite during a marathon!). I started slowing down a lot and felt that I had lost too much energy. My legs weren’t the problem, it was my fueling. Hillary caught me around mile 25 and we ran together for part of that last mile. I had to slow down so we were about 40 seconds to a minute apart when we crossed the finish line. I wish I could have stuck with her to cross the finish with her! Oh well. I crossed the finish line at 3:43:43, about a minute slower than my PR (but well within a strong finish!).
8:22, 8:25, 8:37, 9:10, 9:24, 9:35, 9:10, 9:17, 2:24 (0.2 mile)
After the run, Hillary and I both did what we knew we shouldn’t – sit down! I don’t regret it! As we were sitting and looking at our giant spinner medals, a man came up and asked us how we liked the course (this was a different course from previous years). He introduced himself as Arthur, one of the race organizers and writer of Art’s Alley. It was clear that he had a lot of passion for the event and it was fun to chat with him for a minute. I really liked this course, it was pretty and had enough variety to keep things interesting. There were a few rollers but very small, never more than 100 feet climb. I liked that aspect a lot! This is a course that results in a lot of BQs, so that also says something. I definitely recommend this race for those looking to PR or BQ (even though I didn’t do either).
After showering and checking out of the hotel, Hillary joined me for my post marathon tradition of eating an In n Out lunch! (Yep, I still love their grilled cheese sandwiches!) Then it was time to head back to Santa Cruz. I recovered that night by trying out the Finisher’s Red and it was also pretty tasty.
Going forward, I am going to take a break from marathoning for a little bit. It’s been a lot of training and running since I ran CIM in December. I have learned a lot about myself as a runner and my racing. For my future marathons, I’d like to do a better job of practicing fueling on my training runs and try salt tablets to see how that affects my nutrition during a race. But for the time being, I’m focusing on goals I have for shorter distances.