This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Parts 1 and 3 to follow.
Jesse and I arrived in Ventura on Friday night after spending four days driving down from Vancouver. I had Hotwired a hotel deal which landed us at the Crowne Plaza, right beside the pier and start line. We were exhausted so we checked in and went to sleep.
Packge Pick-up & the Expo
Saturday morning we went for a walk along the beach and over to the Ventura Marathon race expo by the pier. I had been eyeing up Altras for a while so we stopped by their booth. They are a little pricy (especially in US dollars) so we didn’t try any on but we were both drooling over them.
We carried on to package pickup where we got our bibs, technical shirts, and tote bags. The swag was really nice. The shirts were light blue with a surfboard graphic and the tote bags featured bright images of the pier and palm trees.
By this point we had worked up an appetite, having only had a bowl of cereal for breakfast in our hotel room. Jesse wanted to take the overpass and see what town was like on the other side of the rail tracks. We were surprised to find not much there in the way of shops or places to eat.
I googled restaurants and found a vegan one close by, Mary’s Secret Garden. We ate lunch there and it was amazing. Jesse ordered a salad and a pistachio smoothie and I ordered pad thai and a green smoothie. Both meals were huge and delicious!
After lunch, we kept wandering around and stumbled onto the downtown strip where a car show happened to be in full swing. Jesse picked out a black Dodge Challenger with red accents and I picked out a teal and wood-panelled vehicle for our future cars … but the Flintstones vehicle or the old school bus seem much more realistic!
After buying a couple souvenirs, we went back to the hotel. My legs were getting tired and I knew I shouldn’t be on my feet all day before my race.
We rested up for a bit and then went back to the Altra booth to try on shoes. Jesse (as usual) didn’t find a pair that fit his giant feet properly, however, I bought a pair and got a free Mile 26 shirt with it.
It was dinner time so we headed back to Mary’s for another mouthwatering meal of little taco things, a burger, and smoothies. Yes, I know, we are really adventurous eating at the same place twice in one day!
We went to bed early and watched Forensic Files, which is similar to Dateline. The show narrates and reenacts past murder investigations. They are usually about couples killing each other so it was a little odd to watch on a honeymoon! I made Jesse promise not to murder me and we went to sleep.
5:00am came fast. We woke up and got ready quickly. I wore my BibRave hat and shirt, Lululemon SeaWheeze shorts, Injinji toe socks, my new Altras, and my Nathan hydration pack stocked with snacks and water. I went back and forth on whether to wear my hydration pack but I really wanted to carry snacks and my phone on me, plus I figured I could use a little extra water in the heat.
It was still dark when we left the hotel at about 5:45am and walked over to the pier. Jesse came with me to see me off even though his half started 30 minute later. I weaseled into what I thought was the back of the corral. There was a fence not far behind me with people on the other side. I thought they were half marathon runners but it turns out there were two waves for the marathon. They played the US national anthem and then we were off! I was wishing I had been in the back corral as everyone started quite fast. But no big deal!
I didn’t know exactly how this race would go but I knew it would be a slow one for me. Yes, I had done a 50k just three weeks prior but I didn’t have much time in between then and the marathon to train, with the wedding and all! Also, the 50k was slow – taking me almost 10 hours to complete. My previous marathon times had been about 4 hours and 20 minutes but I figured this one would be close to 5 hours. Boy, was I wrong!
I anticipated having a few hours of cool/warm temperatures before the scorching heat but that was not the case. I don’t remember feeling a normal temperature since the start corral when I was comfortable wearing just a tank top and shorts. The previous day, a lady had told us that it was uncommon for it to be this humid there – oh great, hot and humid!
During the first half of the race a tagged along with the 4:48 pacer and a couple other people. The pacer had run a marathon in every state and had been in the US military. He told me he ran the Victoria Marathon shortly after 9/11 and was touched that they had not only played the US national anthem, but played it first. He had also done an unofficial triple marathon (I forget which one), where some runners elect to run the course twice during the two days prior to the specific race (unsupported) AND then do the official marathon race. Pretty impressive!
I made it to the halfway turnaround with a time of about 2:20 but I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace much longer. Shortly after, I began taking walk breaks. I’d tell myself to do 10 and 1’s … then 5 and 1’s … then 2 and 1’s … then speed walking … then slow walking … then JUST DON’T STOP. I walked most of the second half and let me tell you – it takes A LOT longer which means more time in the sun and more time between aid stations. Also, it was a big hit to my ego – not that I’ve even been a fast runner.
At one point, a vulture LITERALLY circled above us slowpokes. My only consolation was that there were a lot of other people I had seen on the way out that were also dying on the way back. This is probably a great time to talk about the aid stations. They were about 1.5 miles apart the whole route and were well-stocked with water, however, I found that on the way back there weren’t electrolytes/sports drink at most of them which was disappointing – I assume they ran out.
There was an abundance of volunteers, including lots of school-aged children. I think some of them had a contest to see how many waters they could hand out to runners! Most stations had volunteers to mist you with a cool spray and some even had kids with Super Soakers who were very polite and asked if you’d like to be sprayed before shooting you with water. At one of the last few aid stations a kid was handing out packages of trail mix which was THE BEST THING EVER! I was totally craving salty food after having packed mainly sweet snacks.
As I was dying on the way back, I reapplied sunscreen three times (which was probably futile due to the layer of sweat on my skin) in the hopes of reducing/avoiding sunburn/heat stroke. I texted Jesse about every 15 minutes to update him on my progress so he wouldn’t be standing at the finish line for over an hour wondering what had happened. Even only a couple kilometres out, I still questioned whether my legs would make it. I knew that I HAD to get the medal, plus we had driven all this way, so quitting wasn’t an option! At one point I used tying my shoelaces as an excuse to sit on the curb for a good 30 seconds, luckily I was able to get back up.
Jesse greeted me just before the finish and I ran the last 50 metres or so across the line. FINALLY, I made it! My legs were done and I was completely spent. The announcer said my name and that I was from “the great state of Canada!” I got my medal, some post-race food (bagel, banana, etc.), and promptly sat down under the pier. We immediately went back to the hotel room where we died a little. Unfortunately, I was too destroyed to go to the post-race party or meet up with fellow BibRave Pro, Sarah Martinez, which I totally regret!
Overall the race was well-organized and a fun event! I have only a couple criticisms … First of all, the route was further from the ocean than I had thought it would be – obviously I should have checked the map better. Despite it being from “pier to pier”and despite the route being mainly parallel to the beach, the ocean wasn’t in sight for most of the race. I did, however, see a couple cacti! There were some more scenic areas and cute residential neighbourhoods near the start and turnaround, as well as lots of palm trees to be seen. Secondly, I think this race wins the “most roadkill” award – I don’t think I’ve ever seen roadkill during a race, let alone like four different times! I guess that’s more usual around those parts, but maybe the race should consider getting it cleaned up beforehand?
That evening, Jesse and I lounged around for a while, drifting in and out of sleep, until I finally worked up the energy to shower and go for dinner. We went to the closest restaurant, a Mexican joint in the hotel called NOM Tequilla Grill, where we sat on the patio and ate copious amounts of delicious tacos and burritos. Stuffed to the rafters, we went back to the hotel for an early night to rest up for our return road trip to Vancouver.