Let me begin this post by stating that I’m a competitive (with myself) hobby runner. I’ve only run one marathon, and I learned a lot, but I’m far from an expert when it comes to course analysis or advice, so the information below is intended to help ME and those who are also in the Last Chance to BQ boat/First time marathoners/first time course runners gain the confidence necessary to sleep well the night before the race. LOTS of elements go in to making for a successful marathon experience, one of which is the stars aligning, so please don’t blame me if your race blows. At least the course it good.
And if you rock it, you can thank me with a beer at the finish line!
Now, there aren’t too many race directors (or any at all) that I know would sacrifice a Sunday morning to give runners a preview training run on what I’m calling the Last Chance Marathon course.
Why Last Chance? Well, Boston reg typically opens up in mid-September, and with the Ventura Marathon/Beach Party going down September 8th, it’s pretty much the last chance any of us in So Cal will have to execute a decently run mary in a qualifying time good enough to get in. My qualifying standard is under 3:35. You can see what yours is using this chart.
(Note: Last Chance should be called The Super Awesome and Amazing Fun Times Marathon, but it’s not because of my first failed attempt at a marathon/BQing.)
If you don’t want to read the rest of this blog post/analysis of 22 miles of the Ventura Marathon course, you can skip it and go sign up here. It’s going to be epic. I promise.
Runners gathered at 7:30AM for event organizer Josh (the same dude who did this race) to hand out maps of the course and to crunch runner numbers (who’s running what distance).
V and I headed out after everyone had already left ( I told her that I MUST squeeze in a last minute pit stop and dynamic stretches!). Then we took a quick Pre-V’s-PDR shot (PDR=personal distance record).
BTW, can we order up some race day weather just like today? ‘Cause that would be super. Please and thanks.
After working our way down the bike path south of the pier and through Pierpont, we ran up to Harbor Blvd, where we continued towards Oxnard. I think the beginning of the race might start out on Harbor instead of the bike path and then to down to Pierpont, but V and I went this way to avoid running along the more narrow part of Harbor. Once on Harbor, the course seemed to descend slightly, but it might have been flat. The course map and elevation map can be seen here, but I always like to cross-check elevation. In any event, even if it was a little uphill, I couldn’t tell.
Harbor curves around towards the Ventura Harbor until it straightens out for about 5ish relatively flat miles. Again, the elevation chart shows minor rolling, but it wasn’t noticeable.
The beginning of the straightaway is where things started getting stinky. As in, there’s a sewage treatment plant, the one that my sister and I told a gazillion jokes about when we were little turds riding in the backseat of Mom’s car.
Can we take a moment to appreciate the source of that image? Dumpaday.com?
It reeks, so plan on listening to my bad jokes if you’re running near me on race day. I apologize in advance.
The best part of today’s long run? I didn’t have to pre-plan my course around Sea Fresh or Carl’s Jr. (although I stopped in Carl’s to say whattup to my homies anyway) to fill up the handheld because Josh and his wingman set up AID STATIONS!!! ON A TRAINING RUN!!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!?!?!?
The wingman had the first aid station. Look at V’s form. She’s destined for greatness, I know.
BTW, this will be V’s very first full marathon, and it’s the day before her birthday! So now you HAVE to come out and run or cheer for us!
At mile 4, the run was still relatively flat…
Then we crossed the river mouth:
Where it was still pretty flat. Then I tried to take some more pictures of us running:
Because the long stretch gave me lots of time to work on my selfies-while-running skills and contemplate important things like what I was going to have for breakfast when I got home.
Soon enough, we were at the second aid station at mile 8ish. (Still no climbs.)
I’ve heard that Josh is a great runner, but what people don’t know is that his roadside dancing skills are spot on! While he was handing out fuel, his partner in crime was giving out free kisses.
After mile 8, Harbor Blvd. turns into Channel Islands Blvd, where there is this bridge.
Can I tell you how awesome it is to run a long run with a friend?!?! It’s pretty amazing. Time flies, for sure.
My advice to get over the Channel Islands bridge: practice good form, shorten your stride, and pump your arms just like you do in hill repeats. Because this is an out-and-back course, and the return side of the bridge is steeper than the approach, you might even want to consider slowing down on the return just to conserve energy for the trip home. But def shorten your stride and pump them armsies over it on the way back.
Past the bridge, we ran to Ventura Road, part of my normal ‘nard long run course. I had fully intended on taking a picture of the giant Sea-Bee at the naval base, but I was daydreaming about golf and Boston being on the Oiselle team. So, instead, you get another selfie by the Naval Base golf course.
Ventura Road is the rolling-est part of the course. Not huge-hills-rolling, but a little bit wavy, with the intersection of Ventura Rd. and Channel Islands Blvd. being at a higher elevation than the Hueneme Pier. When I have run this section of the course during my long runs, I always seem to slow down a little bit in a couple spots, so there is definitely a minor elevation gain. Whenever I can get my jank Garmin to load onto my computer, I’ll let you know for sure what that stretch looks like. It’s nothing serious, but it definitely makes me want to pace myself smartly.
Running back after hitting just over 11 miles, I picked up the pace. Even over the bridge. Today’s long run plan called for a steady first half, followed by neg splitting the second half, and I did that.
Oh, before I forget, I learned something about race-day nutrition and my body today! The past two long runs, I’ve gotten super hungry around mile 15. Rungry, if you will. The same thing happened to me in M2B, which is why I completely bonked. Today, I grabbed a mini Clif bar at Josh’s aid station on the return, and it was a game changer.
As I continued up Harbor (rolling ascent? Need Garmin Connect to confirm.) towards Pierpont, I felt good, and decided I would let Pierpont Blvd. know what’s up.
You see, I walked A LOT up and down this damn street during M2B. I might have even stopped; not sure. I cussed A LOT. A lady shouted at me to GO! Get MOVING! I let it beat me. I hate it. I loathe it. I want to slay it.
It will not beat me this time. Right here, right now, I VOW not to walk, not to stop, and not to even grace the blvd. with a single piece of profanity or negative thought. I will make that blvd. my bitch (sorry, Mom).
The end of the course along the bike path seems a little bit uphill. It’s not a major climb or anything, but I think it’s important to remember as I’m training. All the hill training, the speed work, the runs where I really focus on my form… all of those are going to be important because while the course is pretty flat, it’s not pancake-flat, and I’ll definitely feel it when my legs are fatigued.
Finally, the end of Ventura is similar (along the bike path) to M2B, except the finish is before the pier instead of after it (score!).
My Run Today
It’s important to note that I started out super slow so that I could negative split (where mile times get faster in the second half of the run). I went out WAY too fast in M2B and failed. Lesson learned. I felt strong in my second half today BECAUSE I paced myself. Now, the work in figuring out what my pacing should be come race day begins.
I have one more 22-miler before 9/8, and if there’s another mock-up training run, I’ll totally be there, no questions asked.
I will say, the bonus of round 2 of marathon training is that I’m not sore at all after my long runs, I don’t get blisters, and my toenails aren’t blue. But that might be because almost all of them have fallen off.
Only 2 of them have fallen off (each with a nail polish place holder), but I’m certain they’ll return.
The Best Part
I have been coming up to Oxnard since I was 5, so I know these roads pretty well. The best part about this course is that I can break it up (mentally) into good chunks: The Pier (at the start), Pierpont, the stinky treatment plant, the power plant, McGrath State Beach, the pirate park, the bridge, Ventura Road, the Sea-Bee statue, Pleasant Valley Road, the Hueneme Pier, and back. Having those check-offs are great for me because they give me something to move towards instead of breaking up the marathon into two 10-milers and a 10K or whatever increments.
I still have a lot of work to do. I’m 5 weeks out, and I need to continue to make sure that my three key runs during the week (hills, speed, and long) are done well, all without over training.
The course is not completely flat, but the rollingness of it is a good balance to where I can utilize the terrain to benefit my pacing (use the descents to my advantage and save energy, focus on my form when I start to slow down, because I can’t really visually tell there is an elevation change except for when I come to the bridge (depth perception has never been my forte)). It should be a good race as long as I don’t pull some weird hijinks like go out too fast or fail to fuel properly, or fail to hydrate/replenish electrolytes (all 3 mistakes were made by this HCR in M2B. Don’t judge unless I make the same mistakes again this time around).
So, have I convinced you to sign up? There’s also a half marathon and a 5K!
What’s next on your race calendar?
What is your favorite homemade dinner?
What do you use to fuel during a race?
Disclaimer: None of this run could have been possible without the help of my mother. She is amazing, and even though I’m 31, she still helps me out by supporting me and watching my kids so that I can do this. Yeah, my mom pretty much rocks.