Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ventura Half Marathon Race Recap - NEW PR: 1:27:43!!!

It's been almost exactly two and half years since the knee surgery. I knew it would be a long and winding road and one that I was willing to take whole heartedly, joyfully, without hesitation. It never felt like a chore or something that I dreaded - only a challenge that I was ready to handle, one in which I relished. I knew it wouldn't be perfect, at times it might be pretty grueling, but that would make the reward so much sweeter.



Free race photos + I promise I'm racing! ;0


Let's look at where I came from for a moment... pre knee surgery, I spent the years having babies with some fun running in between, but zero marathons ( I had run five marathons pre babies), hardly any racing (I can count the races on two hands) and just a complete focus on motherhood. My story is a little different in that I wasn't able to run during pregnancy, and once I got over the shock of it (I did run the first trimester with Josh and raced a shorter race - I think a 5 or 10K), I embraced not running - for the sake of the babies health and my own.
When I stepped foot on the Ventura Marathon course three years ago - I was fit as I could be in that moment. Training consisted of nursing Elle during the base building, weaning her and then diving into a training plan that summer of 2014. There wasn't a coach in the picture, just me, a training plan, three little kids and a dream. The race was an eye opener, it definitely wasn't the best experience I've ever had, and I hit the wall in a very bad way. However, I did it - 3:32 and in that moment I knew it was just the beginning of a long road of dreams and accomplishments.
The knee injury happened right after that and a major set back, but it made me stronger. I needed that time with my PT, I needed a dose of reality and education above and beyond running. Runners think they know oh so much, but in truth you are always learning. I learned a ton about my body and it continues to shape my running to this day.

These two and a half years have been shaping a foundation, bit by bit, little by little, never rushing things - or be prepared to pay the price. A horrible case of plantar fasciitis last summer derailed me again for four months, but it's a risk you take when putting in the miles, you take time to heal and keep going.

So here I am in this moment and it seems slightly surreal. In January of this year, I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon in 1:37. Yes, you read that right - 1:37 - ten minutes slower than I ran on Sunday. For me to cross the line ten minutes faster than nine months ago, was like a dream...(I did go on to run 1:33 at the Encinitas Half in March as a tune up for Boston). I knew going into Sunday's race that I was fit and ready for this PR, I just needed to believe in myself, reach out and grab it. Sometimes, that is not as easy as it seems... how many times are we ready for a breakthrough and we talk ourselves out of it?

Coach and I talked about planning a race or two before CIM and a half marathon was definitely part of the agenda, but by the time September rolled around, I hadn't given a lot of thought as to which October race I would tackle. Training was going well, but I was in a place where each day I could only focus on the kids, writing, training and LIFE. It kinda doesn't sound like much, but it was a mountain. The kids are all at different stages and each day is like the ultimate juggling act - what craziness is on tap for today? One afternoon I saw something about the Ventura race and it hit me that I needed to go back to where it started for me. I needed to go back and tackle this race with zeal and give it everything I had - I was ready.


I was ready for this moment.


Three years ago, we made it a little bit of a racecation - booked a hotel right on the beach, hung out - the kids raced on Saturday, we cruised around town, had a nice pre race dinner.
This year, I just wanted to go, race and come home - let's just get this done. Josh and Megan are at the age where they want to come to every race - they don't mind the wee hours of the morning, the driving, watching Mommy get ready to race... I realize this is shaping their childhood in a major way. They'll have so many memories of all the races they went to and cheering on their Mom, being part of the racing culture, running kids races themselves. This has been building for years, but gosh, this is our LIFE. Wow.

I guess I could wax poetic for days, but let's get on with the race details, shall we?

Saturday afternoon, I got down to serious business and the kids knew the plan - dinner at 4 PM, bathtime after and hit the hay BEFORE 6 PM - no exceptions. A 3 am wake up had to happen and we all needed to go to bed to make that a happy reality. Mission accomplished - 5:58 PM they were all in bed (Elle would not be going - I'm not completely insane and it would take her a week to recover from that - but she happily went to bed, she's a girl who loves bedtime!).

I really wanted to be in bed by 6:45 PM and had everything organized, but somehow my head didn't hit the pillow until 7:15 and I tried not to stress about it (type A in full effect - but I was afraid of what I would feel like at 3 am). 

Zero hiccups, I had a pre race meal of a Picky Bar, a banana, lots of water and a big glass of water with Nuun. That's it - I don't need a big breakfast for a half marathon and I in no way want to start the race feeling full and heavy. Also, I stop drinking a lot of fluids about two hours before the start of the race - no peeing during the race. We arrived in Ventura at 5:20 am which gave me one hour and ten minutes before the start. I hit the porta potties, picked up my bib and took a look at the starting line. I was also taking over Women's Running Magazine's Instagram and stories, so I took some pics and video too.










I got to meet Nancy IRL!



Jerold and the kids were hanging out, so I was free to do everything I needed- back to the bathroom again, and started the dynamic warm up while waiting in line. Next, was a one mile warm up around the race area (and ended with some strides to really warm up my body and get ready to race) as it as too dark to venture off on the road and before I knew it they were telling us to line up. Very, very smart for the organizers to have a 6:30 am race start - the day was promising to be a hot one and the earlier the start, the better. There was a bit of a delay and we actually did not begin until 6:54 am, which gave us 20 minutes of jumping around trying to keep warm. Temp was about 47 degrees and without a jacket, it was chilly, which I loved - finally good racing weather.



National Anthem


Then we were off. Coach had written a plan for me and I was sticking to that for sure, but I knew mentally that I wanted to get out ahead of the 1:30 pace group and stay there. I also wanted to run by feel and test out my body the first couple of miles. Well, my body was ready to rock and roll and I went for it.

Mile one: 6:36. Okay, let's talk about this for a hot second. I have never, ever started a half marathon with 6:36. Never. Let me say that I knew I was going into new territory and yet it felt good.

Mile two: 6:59. I knew there was a hill at mile two and yet I didn't really know what it would look like. I did a bit of research on google maps and Map My Run, but you never know until you're in it. Annnd this is why the pros run the course beforehand. The hill was a nice one, but pretty short and I knew I just needed to get up it as fast I as could and put it behind me. Trail running pays off.

Mile three: 6:26. I mean, when you run a 20:25 5K in the middle of a half... hot dog - I knew it was going to be a good day!

Mile four: 6:39

Mile five: 6:38. Nice, cool weather - no sun beating on me - beautiful course. Bring it.

Mile six: 6:30. Um, 10k time was 40:56. Yeah - this is what I've been working for.

Mile seven: 6:37

Mile eight: 6:44. Okay, don't lose your grip here. Smooth it out...

Mile nine: 6:36

Mile ten: 6:44

Mile eleven: 6:39. Lots of self talk. Coach had told me there was a hill around mile eleven and I would have to fight for it. I was nervous and kept thinking was this the dang hill? Also, the sun was blazing at this point and it was time to wrap this up in a hurry.

Mile twelve: 7:13. Darn. I really want to run this race without a seven something mile, but it is was it is. It was a long gradual hill, my legs were feeling it, but not toast so that's good. I needed to be a bit stronger here, but patience. It will happen. I'm also in the middle of marathon training, so there's that. No excuses, I simply slowed down here. When my watch beeped the mile twelve split time, I had to glance down. 1:20 total time. My mind was racing - crap, crap. 1:20 - how can I finish this race under 1:27? I couldn't think - just RUN.

Mile thirteen: 6:52. I'm freakin proud to finish the last mile in 6:52. YES. It was very rewarding to end on a high note + this is evidence that I'm getting stronger.

Last .1: 5:55 pace - I sprinted down that last stretch and gave it my all - no regrets.

Total time: 1:27:43 (6:41 pace!!) - a shiny, beautiful new PR!!!

11th woman overall, 2nd in my Age group




I kept thinking - I did it, I did it! Look how far I've come and the future is so bright!!! This is so fun!








All the cheese...




Real moments



Soak it in... I tend to not soak it in as much as should - I tend to pick everything apart - NOT TODAY!! #itsawin


Celebrating with the kids and also the fact the it was 80+ degrees at the beach and they were loving it!



Beach life!



Then it was time to refuel, cool down and have fun! 


The race offered fruit, waffles and beer! :)


I love when I meet Internet friends in real life...


Finally got to meet Emily!


I went off for a cool down (total of 15.66 miles for the day) and more streching while the kids played and then it was time to go home.




He is my rock - I couldn't do this without him.


If you are thinking of a great course in a beautiful location and want to come out West to California - this is the race!

It is a great course, scenic and easy to navigate, ends IMMEDIATELY at the beach, FREE race photos, great aid stations, bands afterwards with good food and beer. Very festive atmosphere and a GREAT course to set a PR. Loved the early start time to beat the heat and you can literally go and jump in the ocean afterwards. I highly, recommend the Ventura Half Marathon (and the marathon looks great too - go get that PR and BQ!) and I will be back! 

Nope, there isn't a pause button - just a lot of good recovery, keep training with heart and onward to CIM.


What is the best food you've had after a race?

Best race course you've run so far?


Do awesome things.

xo,
Natalie

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