Sunday, January 24, 2016

Carlsbad Marathon

Marathons (and any long endurance events) are really impossible to predict. I went into this race very pleased with where I was and looking forward to seeing what race day would bring. I had goals but I didn't really have any expectations as I know from experience with this distance that I just don't know what will happen.

I had some goals but I didn't really achieve any of them.  Well, I did finish but that wasn't necessarily a goal. Am I disappointed by this race? Surely. Am I upset by it? No, not really.  I did the work, I had a race plan and for whatever reason(s), it just didn't work this day.  That doesn't mean it won't work in the future or that I would've done anything differently.

Frankly I think marathons have been very good for me. I can't control this and that's OK. I work on those areas I think need attention and stay focused on what I can control. I can control where I am mentally and how much I enjoy the challenge. I also look forward to the next challenge whatever that is.

OH! I do think i hit one goal during this race. I have never had any alcohol or beer on any run course. Why? Either I am feeling so awful or so on the edge that i think having a sip of beer would be a Very Bad Thing or the beer offered looks and smells so unappealing (beer snob alert) that I cannot fathom taking a sip.  This race? At mile 25 they had a tequila shot station with lime. Yes, you know I did.  And it was good.

I cannot recommend the Carlsbad Marathon and Half marathon events enough. Really, this was a fantastic event.

Easy Logistics: Carlsbad is just a 40 minute drive north from San Diego. Packet pick up is at a large tent at a mall so plenty of parking race day as well.  It was a nice size expo and very quick to get in and out. We had lunch at a greek cafe nearby that was very tasty too!

Driving a portion of the course.
Scenic and interesting course: The half marathon is a straight out and back. The full marathon has an extra out and back up the hill side and then goes to a farther turnaround than the half.  It's considered a rolling course but nothing was ever too hilly. Most of the rolls are because of overpasses.  the majority of the course is along pacific coast highway with sweeping views of the ocean. This California girl misses those views and it was just wonderful taking in the sight and sound of the rolling waves.  I did have a friend say that she found the back challenging because you could see where you were heading to for many miles but I just found that helpful. I knew what was ahead. I also really enjoyed running through the scenic old part of Carlsbad. 

Nice touches: There were many of these!
Excellent finisher's jacket and a very nice race shirt. I ultimately decided the finish the race because i wanted to be able to wear the jacket so that is saying something about how nice that jacket is!
I worried about half marathon traffic when the marathon course rejoined the half marathoners.  I was shocked to find that a separate lane had been designated for marathoners for many miles. That was a really big boost.
Separate half and full finishing chutes. I was finishing pretty much by myself and I felt like a rock star as I came in and could hear people say "here's a marathoner!" I wasn't really feeling like much of a marathoner at that point and it was great to get a high five from the announcer.

The only downsides to this race were a result of things like weather and course logistics. The weather was pretty good especially if you were a local. The low was in the low 50s and the high was probably mid-60s with typical high humidity. Ultimately this was too warm for me.  I ended up getting a tan! The marathon has a very early 6:15 start. I'm sure that is to clear roads and keep the heat to a bearable level. Hey at least you are done early in the day with that early start!

My race?

I got to the race with plenty of time to spare and found easy parking. With temps in the low 50s, I planned to wear just shorts and singlet but had planned for a throwaway shirt, gloves and headband. I did do a bag check of another shirt and long pants and got that settled early.  Before the race started, I ditched the extra shirt and was just standing at the start in shorts, singlet, gloves and headband. I was just a touch cool but not cold.

I went out on plan 10-15 seconds slower than goal pace and gradually eased into pace after a few miles. My biggest mistake was not realizing this course was considered rolling. I thought it was flat and it is not. I run hills often enough to be able to pace correctly with this but still it was a surprise.

After a few miles, I ditched gloves and headband and settled into goal pace. I felt good and enjoyed looking around. As I have mentioned the rolling nature of the course was a bit of a surprise so I was a little nervous about the start but I think most of the hills were in the first couple of miles.

At mile 5.5, we took a turn up into the hills where there was an expected climb until mile 9.5. Already I was having some foot issues with pain in my little toe on one side. I'd had some issues with this in training and expected it but was not happy to have it start happening so early. Eventually this did stop hurting and did not bother me the rest of the race. That is good except it stopped hurting because the toe is still numb a week later. Hmm.

I was on track with nutrition. I carried a small hand held water bottle and did gels every 5 miles but took half the gel a half mile earlier. At every 6 miles I took an electrolyte capsule.  At mile 9, I refilled my water bottle.  I was feeling the uphill at that point and had noticed some hot spots on my feet. I know from experience that the hot spots can be heat/electrolyte related which was discouraging. The sun had come up and it felt warm to me.  At this point, i saw the elite men's leaders coming back down the hill and that was exciting. They were just gliding along!

I reached the turn around at mile 10 and immediately started developing a side stitch. That is bad news and I had it for a couple miles. The only time i have these lately is when i'm having electrolyte issues (ie it's warm) and typically i've had them most recently during Ragnar Relay during the day time runs.

That did settle and I stayed on pace and relaxed. I passed the half marathon mark and expected to feel rather crappy. Typically I do at this point and that is ok. I don't expect to feel good during this long race. I focused on my form and at this point (as planned) my playlist switched from a book to fun bouncy music and I enjoyed that.

It got very sunny quick. I tried not to be discouraged about it but all of a sudden the pace was feeling hard.  The half marathoners turned and the marathoners continued on. I could not remember how many more miles we continued. I knew it wasn't that long but it felt lonely in here.  There were some bigger rolls right before the turnaround and then I knew I was in trouble. I was having trouble maintaining power up the hill.

At mile 17.5, I knew i was done.  I debated just stopping but yes, i wanted the right to wear that finisher's jacket! My feet were killing me and my legs just weren't cooperating but nothing was injured. There was an aid station at the turn around with the best Star Wars themed signs and constumed volunteers and for the first time I consciously walked through an aid station adn up one of the rollers. I didn't feel like I was running any faster uphill than walking.

Mile 18. It's only another 8 miles to the finish and I run 8 miles before work many times a week. It shouldn't be a long distance but it was. I ran/walked the rest of the way in. I figured I'd finish before the cut off but was surprised when I realized I'd be well under 4:30.

So I had an excellent 18 mile tempo run with a scenic walk to the finish. When I finished there were so many half marathoners around that I had trouble navigating through all the crowds. I realized that I really, really needed to sit down but didn't need any medical support. Fortunately they had self serve medical help and that was perfect. I was able to ice my feet for just a bit and a kind volunteer sprayed them with the "magic spray" which provided enough relief to be able to walk normally again.

I headed straight to an In-N-Out for a hamburger, fries and shake fix. Oh yes, that was another thing this California girl misses.

Would I do this race again? Absolutely!

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