After running 4 minutes 21 seconds shy of a Boston Qualifier, I registered for the Ventura Marathon knowing that this race would be my last attempt to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I had contacted their race director before officially registering because the website had advertised the first year marathon as “the marathon will be a Boston Qualifier”. After seeing the actual course number, I was set and ready to go. This would give me 1 week of recovery after running a 3:09:21 at The Wipro San Francisco Marathon, before putting in 8 weeks of work before toeing the September 8th event.
The marathon was a smaller event, with less than 900 runners running the marathon. The race also offered a 5k and half marathon distance as well. Based on the Ventura Marathon Facebook Page there were about 1,000 registered for the 13.1 and 350 for the 5k. With the smaller event, the race still offered packet pick-up at their pre-race day expo. Along with this packet pick-up, the race allowed for morning of pick-up for all distances.
Day before the 26.2 – Saturday, Sept. 7
My travels were a little different to this marathon unlike other away marathons where I would typically spend 1-2 full days in that particular city before the race. In fact, I did my shakeout run at home before jumping on a plane to LAX with my family on Saturday afternoon. This decision was made to fly to allow for us to do our normal family stuff around home as well as limit the time our son had to spend in the car driving the 6+ hours. We were also fortunate that we had family down there to pick us up and take us to the Ventura area after flying into LA.
After a dinner with the family down in Ventura and some final preparations it was lights out as Sunday morning would come quickly enough …
Race Day – Sept. 8
With a an early morning wake up, I made my morning smoothie got my gear together and headed out the door by 5:15AM to get to the race morning pick-up just after 5:30AM. Parking around the start / finish area was easy to maneuver through and with a short walk I was at the race area.
|a dark and early morning start|
Morning pick-up lines were short, so getting my bib, zip ties, and timing chip was quick and painless. T-shirts were provided after finishing. The only discrepancy during this time was one person told me the start line was 20 feet away and another person told me that the start line was down a way under the pier. Nonetheless, everything was pretty smooth. I had some time before the 7:00AM start so I took a walk to find the gear check as well as find the finish and start areas along with the port-a-potties.
|volunteers getting everything set up for the finish|
As start time approached more people arrived to the start area and you could sense the excitement of the runners who were ready to start the 26.2-mile route from the Ventura Pier to Port Hueneme in Oxnard and back. The 13.1-mile runners also started at 7:00AM but would turn around at the 6.55 mile mark. 5k runners started about 20 minutes after the longer distances.
|timing chip ready|
With about 10 minutes to go, I made my way to the start line. This is where runners would begin to group and find who was running various paces. The race did have official pacers, but starting at 3:15 and every 5 minutes after that. I found a couple of runners at the start who were looking at running around the 3:00 – 3:05 time, so I was going to start with them. This was was short lived as they took off way too fast and I opted to run my pace.
After the signing of the National Anthem and a 10 second count down we were now on our way. Like I mentioned the group I thought I was going to run most of the race with took off down the first descend way too fast, so I held back.
The course was pretty flat with a few rolling hills. In fact the first 3 miles was pretty even the only “climb” occurred during an overpass which was about .15 before descending. Once I got to mile 6, I found my rhythm and in fact felt really good. I was able to run with a couple other runners, both who had previous best of 3:03 and were trying for that time or better. For me this was the perfect group to run with, they both talked and were willing to share the work pulling and pushing one another along the course.
The group kept a pretty nice pace and conversation going. As we got closer to the Port Hueneme in Oxnard we started to see the lead group turning back so we were able to gauge how far back we were from the leaders and even other runners ahead of us. As we wrapped the half marathon mark, we noticed that the girl who we were running with during the last couple of miles was in fact in 3rd place at this point. Based on my Garmin I crossed the half marathon mark at a time of 1:29:51. I was feeling really good at this point and felt that I still needed to make sure I could get to the 30k and 20 mile markers at my goal times to be able to hammer the final 10k.
After looping around and heading on the back portion of the course, we greeted many other runners still making their out portion of the course. For me this provided some energy as other runners and volunteers cheered us on, however you can only take in so many “you are almost there” comments, before it becomes generic cheer overload when you still have 10 miles to go.
As I started to approach the 30k mark, I was on track to where I needed to be. I crossed the 30k at a time of 2:09:44. Well on track for good pacing and even holding back a little knowing that the final 10k would be rough even with a flat course, the one thing I learned is that the last 10k is ALWAYS HARD!
Getting to the 20-mile mark was my next goal, with a preset time of 2:20:00, I would be able to put myself in the best position to get a BQ today. I got to the 20-mile mark at a time of 2:19:24. Feeling good, I knew I could really give my BQ attempt a chance here. At this point in the race I was running solo and hoping to be able to push myself to the finish. As I started to make for my final 10k push, I started to feel tired at this point, not looking forward to the overpass climb on the way out at mile 3 and coming back to it before the finish, I knew this was going to be a bit of a struggle.
As I got to the bottom of the climb, I tried to kick my way up and had nothing in my legs, I knew this final 5k at this point was going to be a struggle … it was. Like my previous races, I still had another goal in tact even though my BQ had fallen out, I would still enjoy the finish line and the completion of another marathon (15th overall).
After getting over the hump of the run, I took a few deep breathes and reminded myself focus on finishing and enjoying the event. I crossed the finish line at a time of 3:13:18, which is my 3rd fastest marathon and my 4th marathon finish in 2013.
|the bling that doubles as a bottle opener|
After crossing the finish line, I was provided my medal. I was able to quickly find my wife and son and other members of my family before grabbing a few free eats provided by the race. With the race officially completed we made our way through the festivities which was all part of the 2013 Ventura Beach Party. It was a nice set up with food trucks, local vendors, artists, a beer garden, and the shops present at the Ventura Pier.
Though my goal of a BQ didn’t happen this weekend and my hopes of running the 2014 Boston Marathon are done, I know that it is a matter of time before I get to toe the line at the Boston Marathon. I have made some strides in the last year and look forward to what running has for me as I try to toe the 2015 Boston Marathon.
|the finish area from the Ventura Pier|
Have you ran a marathon lately? Ever taken part in a first year marathon? If you are training for a Fall Marathon, how is it going?