Race Report: Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon

I have been waiting to write this race report for one reason, you will see it towards the end. I typically try to write my reports right away so that the info is fresh in my head. However, this one finished a little different … 
In 2012, I ran the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon and did very well. In fact, to this day it is still my personal best in the 13.1-mile distance. After crossing the finish line last year at a time of 1:26:27, I said to myself, I bet I could do really well in the marathon. So I signed up for the holiday weekend marathon that is ran on a Saturday.
With the race being on a Saturday my family and I traveled down to Santa Barbara on Friday morning to allow us time to get into LAX and move our way up to Santa Barbara after picking up our rental car. In regards to the travel, the flight was pretty smooth, but it was a nightmare getting our car from Dollar Rental Cars. This is the last time I ever use them. It took us nearly 2 hours of waiting in line before we actually got into a car! 
Once we got into our car we were on our way to the packet pick-up and expo at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. The one thing about this race is that the expo is pretty simple, there is a ton of parking for the expo so getting in and out of there was quit easy.
outside the SBI expo
Within 10 minutes, I was in the expo, got my bib, technical shirt, confirmed my timing chip, took a couple of photos and was back into the car with my wife and son. The expo offers the normal booths and information centers, but for us we just wanted to get to our hotel so we didn’t spend too much time in the expo.
After a good nights rest at the Courtyard Marriott (the host hotel), which was just miles away from the start line at Dos Pueblos High School. The hotel offered a shuttle bus to the start, which was convenient in that my wife and son didn’t have to wake up early to drop me off for the 7:30AM start.
the shuttle from the hotel to the start
Once I got to the start area, I ventured around taking photos in front of the start line and checking out where everything was located. I saw a group of people walking towards a building so I wanted to see what was going on and followed them in. The school gym was open for runners to hangout in and stay warm, though with the 50 degree temps it was needed to be indoors so I headed back out and found a spot to plant myself until it was time to get to the start line. 
While hanging out near the start line, I had been exchanging Facebook messages with some fellow #SFM2014 Ambassadors. After figuring out a meeting spot I was able to say hello and meet in person for the first time Matt and Lauren.
Matt and I almost getting run over by the lead vehicle.
After all the greetings took place it was time to start heading to the start line area. This race is a bit different when it comes to bag drops, they provide you with a bag tag and you bring your own bag as well as put your own bag in a box that is labeled with a range of bib numbers. With the smaller field you can pretty much have your layers on all the way until the start and just drop it at the last minute. The gear drop boxes were placed just yards away from the start area.

As the group started to thicken up at the start line, a fly over of six jets made way for the National Anthem as a firefighter raised the American flag over the start line. With the 10 second count down beginning, I was nearing the start of my 5th marathon of 2013.

The first 10 miles took us on a loop around Dos Pueblos High School where the marathon started. During these first 10 miles I looked for finding a steady pace, running comfortable, while hoping that my first 2 miles weren’t too fast. After passing the front end of Dos Pueblos High School for the second time hitting the mile 10 mark, the course would now take us towards Santa Barbara Community College where the finish awaited us inside La Playa Stadium.

As we moved into the more community oriented areas of the course we would soon be approaching the half marathon mark, at this point I felt like getting after a sub 3:00 marathon was in tact. I crossed the 13.1-mile mark at a time of 1:31. With the goal of running negative splits, the 1:31 is where I needed to be at this point in the race.

While the course moved us onto a pedestrian / cycling trail through the neighborhoods of Santa Barbara, there were more crowds and great support, this is where we would start to catch up to many of the half marathon runners who were on the back end of the group with their 7:15AM start in Santa Barbara.

Around mile 17-18, this is where I started to fall apart, I just got tired at that point. I couldn’t pin point to one certain thing, but I knew, it was going to be a strugglefest to hit my sub 3-hour time that was intact just a few miles back. This is where I decided to quit the race and join the event. I didn’t literally stop running, I just looked at it as an 18-mile long run with a 8.2 mile cool down.

feeling good and cruising just before mile 18

By jumping into the event and no longer really caring about my time, I was able to talk to other runners around me and run a couple of miles with different people hearing their story. At the mile 23 mark which is “THE HILL”, I tackled the climb with a runner name Mark from Hollywood, we looked at each other and said, not our day. We both smiled and said well let’s get after this thing. From my experience in running the half last year, I knew that getting up over this hill had a great reward with a view of the ocean as well a 2-mile down hill into La Playa Stadium.

With one mile to go, this is where you could really sense the appreciation for our Veterans who sacrificed themselves for our beautiful country. American flags were held by people on the side of the course as well as being handed out to runners who opted to grab one. I grabbed one and ran it into the finish.

As I wrapped around towards the stadium, I kept my eye open for my wife and son and wanted to find them before heading across the finish. I saw both of them and out of no where I grabbed my son from my wife put him on the ground next to me and opted to walk the final .2 miles of the marathon. To me this was my defining moment of “The Spirit of The Marathon”, this finish was greater than any other finish I had ever experienced, I crossed the line holding my sons hand. It took us around 5 minutes to make our way for the final .2 mile, but like I said I jumped into the event, the time was not an issue for me, I wanted to end with a smile and that I did! 

this is what the marathon is all about

Overall, this is a great weekend event in that it is a Saturday race, which allowed my family and I to enjoy the remaining days of the holiday weekend hanging out with our family down in that area. The only thing I wish was a bit different was that the onlookers and supporters would be allowed onto the field inside the stadium like last year. Once we entered the stadium the finish line was on the opposite side of the bleachers where people were situated. This made for a fairly lonely finish. Other than that there are no complaints on my end. This is one that I think people should put on their races to do list as it is a small race but offers a great final stretch to the finish with the view of the ocean.

Have you ever decided to throw the time goal out of the window and make a race into a long run? What made you decide to forgo the time goal and make it a workout instead? Do you have a race report to share? Feel free to link-up on the race report link up page.

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