Ah – where has the month gone?! I’m so sorry it’s been a while, my friends! I have some very exciting news to share with y’all – hopefully official by the end of this week – so until then….let’s recap my California half!
Sunday, September 8th marked my sixth Half Marathon! (Remember my very first 13.1 HERE?!) This was my first time running this race – the inaugural 2013 Ventura Marathon (I ran the Half Marathon) – which was held in sunny California! I had to take a trip to Bakersfield for a week-long training class for work – so I hopped on over to http://runningintheusa.com/Race/Default.aspx and searched for any races the weekend before (or after) my week in the area. Turns out…Ventura, California just happened to have a half marathon the Sunday before my class. AWESOME!
GOAL A: 2 hours. This was my stretch goal. I was thinking that if EVERYTHING lined up, and I felt stellar, then I might be able to finally break this goal! This would give me an overall 9:10/mile pace.
GOAL B: Sub 2 hours, 2 minutes. This was my most realistic goal – allowing for a 9:19/mile pace. Not too bad considering a VERY flat course…I thought I could at least PR by 30 seconds or so.
GOAL C: Sub 2 hours, 5 minutes. This would give me 9:32/mile pace.
I left New Orleans early on Saturday morning and arrive in Los Angeles at 3:15 pm. From there, I gathered my bags, picked up a rental car, and drove on over to Ventura (a little under 1.5 hours). Due to package pick-up closing at 6 pm, I knew it would be a tight schedule – but I arrived just in time to pull up to a near-empty pier. The pick-up was smooth, using my race number to pick up packet, shirt, and goodie bag. Once there, I took a few beach pictures, and headed the short 1 mile drive to the hotel. Once I got up to my room, I unpacked all my race gear, laid out my pajamas, and headed back to the front desk to ask for “local” recommendation for pizza. I was referred to Toppers– the best local pizza joint. I drove the couple of miles to the pizza place, grabbed my order to go, and was back to enjoy the rest of the evening in the hotel.
The race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am, so I set the alarm for 5:00 am to give myself plenty of time to wake-up, eat my breakfast bar, and walk the mile to the start line. The hotel was super close – following a bike path (or beach boulevard) the entire way! There was hardly any traffic noise – and the sound of the waves had a super calming effect on me! I ended up following this blonde-haired lady in black (as seen in the pic below) the entire way from the hotel to the start line. Once we got to the “13” mile marker, we both stopped to take a pic – and finally got a chance to chat! We ended up talking the rest of the way to the start line, all the way up to the beginning of the race. This was only Deborah’s second race, the first being the Disney race with her daughter – how cool, right?! – and she was all by her lonesome, just for fun. I felt like a pro being able to explain the corral system to her…and the purpose for pacers in the full marathon, etc.
The race area before the start was AWESOMELY organized….everything from the gear drop-off, to the many, many, many potties, to the lines leading up to the start at the pier. Once at the top, the runners all gathered to listen to the announcer who was revving up the crowd.
We then listened to the National Anthem – were given directions for the “yelling” start command – and were off! The path began along the main road, so it definitely did not feel too cramped. I fell right into step with those around me, not really having to weave in and out of slower runners ahead of me (like in other smaller races)….it was really nice!!!
The website describes the course as “flat, fast, and scenic with an epic beach finish.” They were pretty close. It was SUPER fast and flat (maybe only 30 ft. rise/fall) with the highest elevation less than 100 feet, and did finish the last half mile along the beach walk. The course was an “out and back” – starting at the Ventura Pier, heading out along the road towards the Oxnard Harbor, and ending back by the Ventura Pier; however, I didn’t find it particularly scenic as we ran mostly along the main roads and highways. Granted, there were palm trees along almost every stretch…and we passed agricultural fields…and the Harbor…so overall is was a pretty good run.
There were water stations at miles 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, 9, 10.5 and 12. All the volunteers were wonderful!!!
A huge plus to the race staff/planning committee: All the major roads were coned off…and every intersection had police presence. I think that shows a lot about the community! Also speaking of community…there were lots of locals out on their porches/driveways cheering on the runners…even yelling out my bib number for encouragement! I love small towns!
The main downside for me was that there were no photographers along the course. I know this is not a pre-requisite for a good race….but it is a very good “nice to have!” to document your memories. I found out later that there were some volunteer local photographers who kindly shared their pics of the race, but as there was no system to identify your race number and therefore pic yourself out, you could spend hours flipping through hundreds of pics. I may have spent an hour, to an hour and a half just to find (3) pics of me…. I suppose though, that if no photographers along the course is the worst thing about the race, then it was a pretty darn good race!!!
So how did I do?
I finally broke 2 hours – completely surprising myself!!! I actually felt pretty strong for the majority of the entire race…focusing on maintaining my pace and staying positive. Mile 1 was a bit fast (8:29)…but then I settled into my groove maintaining a solid 8:50 pace through Mile 7. Miles 8-10 were slightly slower, averaging 9:10/mile. Then I certainly slowed at Mile 10 – my times were 9:23, 9:31, and 9:29 for my last three miles. I was able to “sprint” at a 8:50 pace for the last .1 mile, but overall….not too shabby! I was so excited I could barely walk out of the finishers corral and remove my timing chip off my shoe. I aimlessly walked over to grab a bottle of water and then my finishers medal…all the while with this huge, stupid grin on my face! I couldn’t wait to send a message to the hubby and my mom and Jenna to tell them the good news!!!
Overall: 379 / 1195
Gender: 173 / 774
Female 30-34: 31 / 122
Below are some of my favorites from the race:
The after race spread was amazing! Two rows of bagels, bananas, watermelon, oranges, cookies, pretzels, water and Starbucks! Gear Pick-up was super organized. Also, the “after-party” was all along the beach front – plenty of music and vendors to keep a runner busy. I eventually walked the mile back to the hotel, filled a tub with ice, and sat for a luxurious 20 minutes in freezing water. Then I showered….got dressed….packed up…and headed out for my drive up to Bakersfield.
In my quest to run half marathons in half the states….I have now completed State #3 – California! (Original Post HERE)
Until the next race…