Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mountains To Beach Marathon Race Recap

Leading up to Sunday's Mountains To Beach Marathon I had a pretty unbelievable (for me) training cycle. Coming off of CIM in early December, I felt fresh, rested and ready to get back to work in January with a new training block and dreams on the horizon. My body was used to the rigors of training as this was my fourth marathon training cycle (10th overall marathon) in the last two years. I've been lucky that each marathon has provided a personal record (PR) and that is not something to be taken lightly. My body has been strong and adaptable to the slow ramp up of increased miles and harder workouts. During this particular build up for M2B, I tested myself quite a bit (double runs twice a week. Yep. I can do that. 70+ miles almost every week topping out at 80. Bring it. I'm happy to make it work), and yet it was very seamless and overall an enjoyable experience - which if you aren't feeling that way, something needs to change.
As I stepped onto the starting line, I felt confident in our race plan and calm that I would execute and achieve what I was capable of and trained to do.





The plan was simple, start conservative. The first three miles of the course were a net uphill and there was no need to rush things. I literally ran into Ashley and started chatting with her, which really relaxed me even more and was a great way to start a marathon. Got to mile three cool as a cucumber and we all breathed a sigh of relief at the turn around (and I hear - "Hey Nat!" and see the other Natalie and shout back my hello) and the lovely gentle downhill we would encounter for a bit. The 3:05 pace group was well in front of me and I knew going into the race that I wouldn't begin with the group because it would take me away from the plan of a very conservative start (first 3 miles were 7:19, 7:27, 7:16. Coach said to keep it between 7:10 and 7:20, so I was good, a little slow on mile 2, but I knew that would come together later). I needed to trust the process that I would eventually catch up to that group.
The miles flew by and I was running with a group of guys that I knew were on a mission (no words were exchanged, but we all knew) to catch the 3:05 group as well (my overall goal time for this race was 3:02 - 3:05), so we all worked together. Finally, I could see the white sign ahead that I knew was the correct group - although there was a moment that I thought - what if it's the 3:10 pace group instead?
The beauty of this race was, I felt so relaxed in the miles, happy as the majesty of the mountains passed us by, the rolling hills taking us closer to the ocean. I felt so calm, that I knew 3:10 and beyond was behind us and our only job was to keep moving forward.





I didn't check my watch very much, just a peek at each mile to make sure I was staying on the pace coach laid out for me (6:55-7:05) and each mile clicked by with ease. Jerold and the kids caught me probably about mile 7 or 8 - so loved seeing them - and the next thing I know, we've hit the half way timing mat and there it is: "half down, half to go." Crossed the half in 1:32 and away we go for the next chapter of the saga that is every marathon.
At this point, I was within reaching distance of the 3:05 group and I said to myself: "You see them, now make contact. Get in the group." And that's what I did. The guys were welcoming and kind. I chatted for a few seconds with one guy (by the way, I never chat during a marathon - was this happening? Was I really chatting with someone at mile 15 of a marathon? I worked for the fitness that this moment afforded. I felt proud. Miles 13-17: 6:43, 6:52, 7:13, 6:56, 7:06) and then all was silent as each runner kept gliding along the road, less and less focused on the mountain views and inching toward mile 20 when the race truly begins.



Mile 20


Jerold and the kids were all cheers at mile 20. I remember pulling out the sleeve of chews from my back zipper - needing something at that point other than GU, and feeling ready to tackle the challenge I had in front of me - get through this 10K and don't blow it.
I remember the heat rising a bit, the sun irritating just enough, but nothing I couldn't handle. I've ran in plenty of hot marathons and this was no big deal at mile 21, although I could feel my body pulsing. I could visibly see that I was losing my grip on the 3:05 group - in fact, they were now gone. Gone? No. How can they be gone. I remember hearing a guy on the side of the road look at me and yell "catch up to the group!" I swear, it had to be God himself on that road, telling me to not lose contact. Well, now they were gone, but I was far from defeated. You see, I've done this enough times to know, even if you see them go around the corner (I did), they still aren't far from you. Probably at this point - one minute ahead of me.
Just keep pushing.
Then mile 22 comes and mantras are reeling in my head - I will not give up. I start to recall everything I read in Deena's book. I see the words on the page. Fight for it.
I see a man on the side of the road convulsing in the heat.
I will not give up.
I see a woman literally trip and fall in front of me, shaking.
I will not give up.
I pass a man dry heaving out of control. Bent over at the side of the road.
I will not give up.
Mile 23, 24, 25 are a gradual uphill that is never ending. I'm slow. I can't see where it ends. Why is the sun in my face? Did I wear sunscreen. Yes. My mind is sharp, my body is fading, my legs are heavy, but thank God not cramping. My stomach is fine, I'm just... slow.
I see a girl with two long pretty braids - very Jordan Hasay-like, pass me by with her friend/coach/someone and he says to her "Come on. Let's GO." 
I realize he's telling her to fight for that 3:0something. COME ON. 
I desperately want to go with them. Hey. Wait for me. I want it too.
But I can't. My legs are struggling. Cursing me up that blasted hill. 
You're stronger than this. The hills outside of your house makes this look like child's play and you run them practically every day.
I go into salvage mode. This can't last forever, it will end soon, make the turn and book it to the finish. COME ON.
We make the turn.
Two girls pass me by. Desperate to claim their time. Puffed with determination.
I trail behind them. I need to fight harder. Get angry.
I just want to finish.
I'm not sure if I want to do this ever again, I think to myself.
Don't say that.
Just start sprinting.
How long is this straighway anyway?
Expect success. That's what coach says.
I am strong. How much time have I lost. DOG GONE IT.
Oh, I see it. I see the finish.
Just like that, I start running with what I have left. Wait. I'm strong. I do have it.
RUN.
I hear Jerold frantically yelling, his face contorted, like the sports fanatic that he is in these moments especially.
GO NAT!!!!!!
I had no idea how close I was to 3:10 - I saw him and waved my hands and he's yelling at me. GOOOO.





3:11:00.

They drape the medal around my neck.

I'm not in pain.

I can't wait to come back.

This is freaking awesome.

Wait. This kinda sucks that I gave that time away, although I knew I couldn't help it. I need to get stronger. Go back to the drawing board. 

But right now. At this moment.

No. This doesn't suck.

I worked my butt off. The time on the clock today doesn't define me. I will joyfully take these miles, training and experience with me and it will carry me through the next and beyond. I'm stubborn. I'm grateful. I'm proud.

But right now. At this moment.

This is awesome.




Thank you to my family for everything. I love you infinity.

Thanks so much to Brooks Running for keeping me in an endless stream of running shoes, clothes and gear. I could not do all the training without shoes to keep me going (I'm wearing the Launch 5 for the race and train in the Ghost) It means so much to me to have their support.
Thank you to Lululemon (Santa Monica - the best store) for the sweet race outfit (energy bra and speed up shorts), complete with a tank and warm, beautiful jacket to wear afterwards. You guys are always so good to me.
Thank you to the lovely Kristine for providing me with awesome sunscreen that has protected me through hundreds and hundreds of miles.
To Jaybird Sport - who always has my back when it comes to music. Thank you for the earbuds that keep me pumped during training.
To Roka Sports - your sunglasses are amazing and I could not train in So Cal. weather without them. Thank you.
Garmin - your watch never fails. It's permanently attached to me. I love it.

More details to come on the clothes, gear, fuel, next steps/goals and all the little things that I'm probably missing now.





A HUGE thank you to my coach, for always believing in me.


Never Stop Dreaming.

xo,
Natalie



















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