Monday, June 11, 2012

Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon Race Recap

Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon-June 3, 2010

Picture courtesy of Dan Holmes
Five marathons in eight months. This has been my longest marathon streak and it ends right here in Ojai. It was not my intention to run another marathon six weeks after SLO. However, a running buddy, (thanks Julie) planted a seed in my head. The seed grew bigger when I finally decided to add my name to the waiting list. It was already a sold out race. Days with no call-back or email updates, my interest waned.  However, when I read a gal on Face Book looking for someone to transfer her bib, I jumped all over it. I gotta help a girl out. The process took over 2 weeks. Lots of back and forth from the RD (cause of the delayed response due to a premature baby—his first and understandably so!) to her and to me and finally it was a done deal. I was in. My next concern was, training time—there was hardly any time left for it. Up until this point all I had been doing was maintenance runs.

This was Ojai’s second year running. Last year was the inaugural with 300 participants in the full. This year's full marathon was 170% bigger with 809 participants and over 1,200 halfers. It was a sold out race and quickly filled up when word spread that it was a net downhill and flat course; the perfect recipe for a BQ’ing. Not that that was what I was going for, but it was good to know in the future when I can properly invest the training time to do so.

The marathon’s location was perfect. We have family in Ventura whom we haven’t visited since late last year. So we killed two birds with one stone. We celebrated hubby’s birthday, his niece and finally his Dad. All three have May birthdays within 3 days of each other.
Bib pick up was available in different locales on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I picked up mine on Saturday held at Ventura High School. (VIP pick up was also available on race day Sunday for an extra fee of $25, if you weren’t able to pick up prior). The process was quick and easy. I looked up my bib number, grabbed a bag, then lined up for the actual pick up of the bib chip timing. I was handed an envelope and it was off to the t-shirt line. It was while with their Ojai 2 Oceans logo. Women’s sizing was available. Including parking, we were out of there in less than 10 minutes.

Packet pickup after you've located your bib #.

Checking out the tech tees, white this year...lavender last year..
Saturday evening was my third round of pasta meal. I must have gained two pounds in the last week while carbo-loading. My father in law cooked up some spaghetti (my favorite) with sausages, salad and garlic bread to top it off. I knew I was not going to have any problems facing the wall with this kind of meal. I stayed as relaxed as I could, I was not the least bit nervous coming into this race. In fact, I felt like I was too relaxed. Part of the day, I had completely forgotten about my race the next day. It cross my mind, "Oh yeah, race tomorrow, better get to bed early."

I set my gear for my 2 am wake up call. I went to bed at 10:30 pm. I had no time to mess around with trying to fall asleep seeing that I only had 4 hours to get some. Thanks to Mr. Tylenol PM, I was knocked out the minute my head hit the pillow. I didn't even need to hear my alarm clock. I was up five minutes before it went off. I had my breakfast: coffee, bagel, and oatmeal. I packed a banana for the bus ride with an 8 oz of Fluid instead of Gatorade. Hubby and I left the house at 3:45 and got to the Ventura Fairgrounds at 4:05 for my shuttle to Ojai. I was only wearing shorts and it was already nice at 4 am, so I thought, this could be a problem later on. But I didn't let the heat mess with my head; i was not worried about it. What happens, happens.

The bus ride was only half an hour long. When I got to Ojai, it was still dark and the temps dropped a bit. First order of business was porta-pots. There were enough of them, thank you. Very much unlike the stories I've read from last year's reviews. I was among the first buses to arrive. There were runners huddled together to keep warm, telling stories, sharing training experiences--the usual. I love getting to race starts early so that I can get into the groove. I hate running late and rushed. It's another stress I can do without. Coming here that early gave me a chance to go over what I need to do. I love people watching too, runner's especially. This morning was not any different.
Calling all runners to the start.

Checking out the fashionista behind me...Hmm liking that skirt...

Finally met up my FB friend Lauren, who also ran NYC but we didn't get a chance to meet up in NY.

Lauren finished today with a 3:25 for a BQ!

I love meeting new people and receiving positive vibes. I met the Hajime Nishi once again. I've met him in our local marathons in Paso Robles two years ago when I volunteered in an aid station. He is an eco-marathoner who advocates slow running. Being last, gives him a chance to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.    He has been featured in Runner's World Magazine. It was great seeing him here this day. He was very interested in my hydration pack and wondered if the bottles came with it. By the way, I was wearing my lovely UltrAspire Spry with my Fuel Belt flasks. They happen to fit nicely in both front packets.
Nishi and Me. He recycles band-aids by using them in two marathons.

A few welcome words from the RD, Tom Taylor and we were off. We started at Nordoff High school slightly 10 minutes late. I was not sure what the cause of the delay was. The weather couldn’t have been perfect at 54 degrees. It was misty for the most part and cloudy all the way to Ventura.
The course wrapped around Ojai for the first 6 miles with what I counted 2 minor, short steep hills and one more significant which took about 45-60 seconds to crest. Other than that, the first 6 was flat. Then the fun began. From mile 6 on and more than 10 miles after that, it was all gentle downs. We ran along the bike trail all the way to Ventura.  I was green with envy of those around me flying down so effortlessly on this section: those who knew about the course and specifically trained for just this race. I knew my legs weren't fit to run a faster pace than what I had this day knowing I just didn't have the training. I did the best I could and hoped that when I reached the flats by mile 20, I would still have some gas in the tank. 

The last 10K was a 3mile loop to the finish near the Pier, a place called Promenade Park. Once we made that left turn leaving the wonderful picturesque Pacific Ocean view, it felt like we can taste the finish but it was just a tease. I kept going and going--hoping I would see the turnaround. It felt long and endless. I could see the orange cones from the horizon and I could see plenty of people on the way back, but not the turnaround. It seemed forever and finally it came. Once I made that turn, I knew I was home free, just one foot in front of the other.

I knew this marathon was an exploratory one for me and I was happy with that. Between miles 6 and 18, once in a while I would let myself go on the downs and realize that the legs were just not ready. My friend Mr. Cramps kept tugging at my calves when I would pick up the pace. So I had no choice really but to back off and hopefully finish strong.   As I got closer to the finish with the banner in sight, even at my sloth like speed, I managed to pick it up just a little bit. I was able to achieve my third best marathon time of 4:11:11.  

Picture courtesy of Dan Holmes

What I wanted to emphasize is how fast this course was. Even with little training I had left, I came out with a 4:11 (and that's including two porta potty stops and a mental breakdown between mile 14-15). Not impressed? Check this out: 436 of the marathoners broke 4 hours. That's over 54% of the field. When does that happen? On a downhill course! Everybody's uncle BQ'ed. Okay I'm exaggerating, but it seemed that way. This course was so much fun, you bet I'll be back next year. Now that I know the course, I can really hone in on the trouble spots. Mind you some parts weren't that pretty, or smelled that great! But hey, with the downhill portion, it would be worth it. 

Downhill Baby!

The Good Stuff:

What do you think? Can this double as a bottle opener?
The medal was unique. It is made out of recycled steel. (By they way, if you want to keep the medal from rusting, better spray it with clear enamel coat of spray paint.)  Out of all my medals, this is one of the most unique.

The shirt is white, short sleeve with female sizing--always a plus in my book.
Crowd support? Don't look for them on the course.  There were not very many, but the finish was at its thickest.

The volunteers were great and always cheerful. I always thanked them at every aid station.
Aide stations were placed every two miles or so.   I knew it would be spaced out infrequently so I brought two bottles of 8 ounces water flask of my own, just in case. It worked out well. The only thing I had trouble with was anticipating where the Fluid was and where the water stations were.  It would have been helpful if on the course, they would have the water on one side and electrolyte on another. But that is minor.

Overall, the organization was superb. They listened well to the comments last year and they've made improvements.  The course was truly the star of the show. I won't be surprised if they quadruple their entries for next year. As for me, I'll be sure to sign up way in advance so I'm not lurking in Face Book trying to find a bib for sale. Until then...Happy Running. 

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