January 27, 2016

Carlsbad Marathon Race Recap

Well, it's been a week, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the experience!  The Carlsbad Marathon is in the books!

Short story:  I did it! I became a marathoner (again) and this time feel proud of the experience!  I didn't reach my "A" or "B" goals, but I'm very pleased with my "C" goal, and only missed my "B" goal by less than 8 minutes.

Long story:  The Friday before, I went to the expo.  Unlike past times I've done this event (I've run the half marathon twice) I felt there weren't a lot of vendor there.  I met my friend T there, got my bib, shirt and finisher's jacket, made a pass around the expo, and got out of there. I had wanted to buy another shirt that said 26.2, but I couldn't find anything I liked.  I ended up only buying a 26.2 sticker, to be put on my car after the race. I also picked up the packet for my friend Mihael, who would be running the race with me.

Pre-race, I really struggled with what to wear.  I knew I'd be out there for a long time, and comfort was key. And while I knew the morning might be very cold, the forecast didn't look like it would stay that way.  I decided on long capris, a short-sleeved tech shirt (decided on my Divas Half Marathon one, where I got my current half mary PR), arm warmers, and my Vineman 70.3 visor, along with my throw-away gloves and jacket (and handwarmers). Regardless of how cold the morning might be, I knew once I started running I'd warm up quickly.

Also, I was worried about the hills on the course. I've done the half twice (recaps here and here) and LOVE the rolling hills on that course---I got some of my best race times on that course.  But the elevation for the full had me a bit worried.

look at that big peak on Palomar Airport Road!

Sunday morning I got up (of course, before my 3:45 alarm), got dressed, ate a Luna Bar, and was out of the house by 4:20.  There was no traffic, and I parked in my new "usual" spot there---far from the finish line, by the entrance, backed in. I know from experience that getting out of the mall can be a bitch!  I found Mihael and T, and hung out until the race start time, which was 6:15.  The full marathon only had a few hundred runners, unlike the very popular half marathon, and that didn't start until 7:45----so it wasn't crowded at all.  No lines for the port-o-potties.  And it wasn't cold! I was expecting it to be freezing, but it wasn't. 

When the race started, I stuck to my plan right away. I was to do the first four miles at a 1:1 ratio (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute) and then kick it up to 2:1 from miles 4-13 (and then assess from there).  It's always hard in a race to start at a 1:1 ratio, as it's demoralizing to start walking almost immediately after starting---but I knew, especially in order to finish 26.2 miles, that I would need to be conservative.

It was dark when we started, but the sun started to rise very soon.  In fact, about a mile in I was ready to shed my jacket and gloves.  A few miles in we turned toward the ocean (this part of the route is familiar to me, as it's the half marathon route) and it was gorgeous seeing the sun's reflection off the ocean.  I randomly met two women from my local Moms Run This Town group, and throughout the race we'd leapfrog each other.  I was feeling good here---keeping a good pace, doing my run/walk ratio, enjoying the view and the runners and my music---and of course, my friend Mihael, who is crazy entertainment.  Seriously, he kept me laughing throughout the race with his dancing, antics, schmoozing with runners, volunteers and police---he was a gem and a true friend to run this with me.  Early on a saw a port-o-potty with no line and ran in. (I had decided that if I needed to go to the bathroom, I'd only go if there were no lines, unless it was an emergency situation, which luckily never came to pass).

still fresh and happy
After mile 5, we veered off the half marathon course and onto Palomar Airport Road. I've never been on this road on this except once while biking. I didn't remember how hilly it was, but I've heard it's pretty hilly for the marathon. It wasn't super steep, but it was a definite incline, and it was LONG.  By this time we were "only" at miles 7-9, and I was already getting tired. I was keeping on top of my needs. My Garmin reminded me to take a Gu every 4 miles, I was drinking, both from the Gatorade on my fuel belt and the water and sports drinks at the aid stations, and was periodically taking my salt.  But I was getting tired already, and my sciatic was starting to hurt here (it hurts especially on uphills).   We turned around at about mile 9.5, and I took advantage of doing back that street DOWNHILL....let gravity do the work and skipped some walk breaks. I also took my second bathroom break around here.

all race pictures courtesy of Mihael. Thank you!
At mile 13 I took my pickle juice, to avoid cramping, something I have been doing with all my long runs.  I was supposed to try to start doing a 3:1 ratio, and did a few cycles of that, but it was too much.  I started to bonk, more mentally than anything. I started to struggle even with the 2:1 ratio---the pain in my legs was pretty intense. I was having big sciatic issues in my left leg, and my quads were starting to hurt, especially around my inner thigh.  I didn't understand why---two weeks before I had done 20 miles, and didn't hurt until mile 19, so hurting so early in the race was demoralizing to me.

hurting but smiling

Around this time we ran into the half marathoners, mainly the back-of-the-packers. The course got really crowded for a while, but it was nice to have new people to interact with.  I needed to use the restroom again, but because of the crowds, there were long lines.  I stuck to my original plan---it wasn't an emergency, so I didn't stop.  Not too long after, we left the half marathoners and continued on the full course alone.  We were on an out-and-back portion that got really hard for me.  I was in pain, and was really missing my family.  I had seen a girl walking the half with her parents, and as I ran by I noticed she was wearing a hearing aid---the exact same waterproof model that my daughter wears. That got me crying, and thinking about my kids. I was so raw, but Mihael told me to cry at the end, and save my energy for the race.  Around this time I stopped for my third, and final, bathroom break.

Mile 20 was a milestone for me, as I had not run past 20 miles in training.  Of course, we had to stop for a picture.

my initial thought on mile 20. note the finger

convinced to try one smiling

Now I was in uncharted territory.  I was taking a lot more walk breaks than was in my plan, and not doing well.  I continued to take my nutrition, and salt, as planned, and was almost out of Gatorade when I ran by a spectator handing out ice-cold bottles.  That may have saved me, as I stopped to refill my bottles.  The aid stations seemed fewer than I had expected, so I was glad to have filled bottles on my fuel belt again.  I hobbled along in pain, trying to run when I could, and walk when I had to.  I had a marathon race predictor installed on my Garmin 920xt, and would see the predicted finish time hover at about 5:58.  Could I beat my sub-6 goal?

At mile 23 I texted my family  as planned. I assumed I'd be about 40 minutes away from there.  But at mile 24, I was diverted!  On the website it says;

All full marathon participants who are unable to maintain the required 13:44-minute-mile pace will be redirected at Carlsbad Boulevard/Hwy 101 and Carlsbad Village Drive to the finish line via an alternate route. These participants will be using the sidewalk and will be considered pedestrians. The diverted route will be marked and supported, and will equal the full marathon distance.

I didn't know the time, but I heard other diverted runners grumble that they diverted us too early. I didn't know and didn't care---all I knew was that I was not going on the planned route. They had handed out maps to us, but I was too out of it to notice, so Mihael and I were running blind up Carlsbad Village Drive. Luckily he used his phone GPS, and we also eventually caught up with other runners.  We were on a regular street, on a sidewalk.  As promised, the sidewalk WAS marked (we saw where it was painted with "Carlsbad Marathon Mile 25) but it was NOT supported.  There were no aid stations. I was glad I had filled my bottles a few miles back!  Because we were now considered pedestrians, we had to stop at the intersections, which of course added time.  This was frustrating, but as I was exhausted, and this street was mostly uphill, I knew my sub-6 goal was out the window.

almost done!

Finally, FINALLY, we turned left on Monroe street, and it was a downhill toward the finish.  A false alarm, though, as we had to still do a small out-and-back before we were able to cross. I was mostly walking here, but when I turned the corner to the finish, you'd better believe I was running! I saw my family and best friend dressed in their orange team cheer shirts, along with some other dear family friends.  I was so happy to see them!  Mihael slowed down and I think was dancing before crossing, but I sped up and raced through the finish line. I wanted this to be over!  I crossed, was given a medal, a mylar blanket and a bottle of water, and I was done.

26.2 miles later

Finish time was 6:07.  Not shabby at all!  My previous marathon was 7:20, so a HUGE PR.  And only 7 minutes and a few seconds off my sub-6 goal.  Combined with 3 bathroom stops and stopping at all those intersections, I am very pleased with this.  

proud finisher

I saw my kids through the gate and stopped to hold their hands and get kisses, and then continued through the chute. I was very pleasantly surprised to see my friend T, who had finished the full 2 hours before and had waited!  He was with Steve, who had finished the half some time before as well. I was touched that these two friends waited around to watch me become a marathoner.  After reuniting with my family, we all (minus T, but including Steve) went to Soup Plantation for a much needed re-fueling meal.

I told my family (and they got it on video) that I was 90% sure I'd never do a full again.  But now, 10 days later, I'm already contemplating another one for next year.  But I really need to get a handle on my sciatica first, if I do.  That was very painful.

I'm proud. I'm proud of this race.  Yes, it was slower than I wanted, and yes, I wasn't able to stick to the run/walk ratio the way I wanted (more walking than planned)...but I did it. I finished, and finished strong, and felt proud enough to add this 26.2 sticker to my car.\

A huge thank you to Steve for training me yet again.  A huge thank you to my family, who gets my passion and understands my need to run long. And the biggest thanks of all---to my dear friend Mihael, who put up with me for 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning.  You gave me the good marathon experience I desperately needed (despite my pain) and I will never forget that.


  1. Love ya, kiddo. Well done.

  2. Great job! I've never read about a race diverting people to an alternate course before. Glad you were able to find your way.

  3. Mihael is a keeper!! I know from experience the difference a friend can make and I'm so glad you had one by your side. Congratulations on the huge PR and strong race - you have much to be proud of!!


I love to read your comments!