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Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Race Report

What a crazy day! I still can’t believe that the Mountains to Beach Marathon went so perfectly and am in shock! Let’s begin with pre-race activities. I spent the day before the race at CIF Finals for our Track team where we had a few athletes running. I tried to stay sitting for the most part except when cheering :) Unfortunately, our season ended there. I drove up to Ventura to meet up with Mary Kate. I was spending the night with her before the race and she was nice enough to pick up my bib for me while I was coaching.

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon Race RecapOnce I doubled checked that I brought everything I needed, we walked around Target for a bit and then went to Yard House for dinner where I had a beer sampler, as I did before the Santa Clarita Marathon (the last faster race I’ve run in a LONG time) and had sliders for dinner. I laid out all my clothes and was as prepared as I was going to be!

That night we went to bed at 10 pm and I knew the alarm going off at 3 am would be way too early. Of course, when it went off the first thing that went through my mind was… NOOOOOOOO!!!! But instead of letting myself get super anxious, which is what normally happens before I race, I just reminded myself to relax over and over. I took a lot of deep breaths and kept myself calm. We were dropped off at the shuttle area and loaded up on a bus to head off towards the start line. The entire time I tried to keep myself calm. God made the weather absolutely perfect and gave us a great day to run, which I took full advantage of. We did a quick portapotty stop and then sat down under a little overhang for about half an hour until they said ’10 minutes to the start’ over the loudspeaker. I felt my anxiety level rising but I just reminded myself to calm down and not to think about it. Finally, we were off!

Mountains to Beach Marathon Race Recap - The Starting LineI thought that this could be a good race to see where I was at because I was toying with the idea of planning on trying to qualify for Boston at Long Beach in October {See that post here}. I knew I would have more time to train for Long Beach, it’s one of my favorite races, and I would be running faster with a whole summer of running with the cross country team I coach under my belt. I had thought that maybe I would qualify at Mountains 2 Beach, but I just didn’t feel totally prepared. I told myself to push as hard as I could, for as long as I could and that was my goal and I really imagined myself finishing around 3:45. We started two minutes behind the faster pack and the first mile was an out and back, so it was fun to see the leaders and pace groups in front of us. Over and over I told myself that I could run fast, I needed to breathe and to just keep running hard. I listen to Pandora when I run and I was nervous what the first few songs would be, because they are usually in a good pattern or bad pattern. The day kicked off with I’m the Man, which I love, and the next song was Turn Down for What and from there I knew it was going to be a great day music wise.

Mountains to Beach Marathon Elevation Chart and Race Recap

Mountains to Beach Marathon Race Recap and Boston Qualifying Marathon

Every time the mile splits came through my headphones, I was happy with how things were going. And, my stomach was cooperating, which is rare for me! The first 9 miles were a loop and at mile 6 and 7 we ran up the only big ‘uphill’ that the course had. It was a pretty long uphill but I just put my head down and ran. At mile 6, I ate a piece of my Bonk Breaker Bar and a Hi-Chew. I somehow turned off my watch at mile 6, but turned it back on when we passed mile 8, so it was off by two miles, but I mainly just used it to see what pace I was running. The elevation chart was pretty true to the website and the downhill was awesome and very gradual so it didn’t hurt my knees. I took water at mile 6, because I got worried that I hadn’t had anything to drink yet. I kept catching up to different pace groups and was surprised that I kept passing so many of them.

At mile 8, I caught up to the 3:35 pace group. I had my eyes on the little sign the pacer was carrying for a while and when I caught them rather easily, I was worried I was going to explode at the half marathon point. I just reminded myself to relax and just run my race. I pretty quickly passed the group after asking the pacer if he was FOR SURE going to get to the finish in under 3:35 and made him promise. I kept moving forward and I got into a groove and things just clicked. My Pandora was playing great music and I didn’t have to skip any songs. I reminded myself that every step was one closer to the finish. The miles were blurring together and that is always a great sign. I took another piece of bonk breaker bar, 2 salt pills and another hi-chew at mile 12. I also grabbed some water at mile 10 and again at mile 12.

I knew if I hit the 13 mile marker at 1:44, I was well ahead of schedule so I was shocked when I hit it at 1:40, which apparently pumped me up to run Mile 14 at 7:17. My half PR is 1:46, so I was surprised I was consistently running fast splits. I thought about my training and got a little nervous because on all my training runs, I had stop lights that I would stop at, catch my breath, or I’d go into Taco Bell and get a water, stop and go to the bathroom, there would just be a lot of stops… which made me start to wonder if I could keep going without stopping, but I just told myself that I was strong and I could do this. I repeated Philippians 4:13 in my head about a million times.

Around mile 15 I caught up to and passed the 3:30 pace group, which made me really nervous. I talked with the pacer for a bit and he told me this was the fastest course he’s ever run and everyone told me that I looked great. There weren’t many spectators out along the course, but the ones I did see were supportive and refreshing to see. I tried talking to a few people, but most were not interested. The scenery around was really great. Very green, lots of trees and a very nice bike path to run along. It wasn’t too crowded either. After mile 8 it seemed that all the runners were spread out. I saw a ton of signs about Boston and people wearing Boston clothes and it kind of clicked with me. I started to believe it could happen, I could qualify here! Every time I thought about it I almost started to get choked up so I tried not to think about it. After Mile 14, I continued to be more consistent in the mid 7’s and then at mile 17 I took one last piece of bonk bar and tried to eat another hi-chew, which I unfortunately almost choked on and spit out. No more hi-chews for a while…

Mountains to Beach Marathon Race RecapMile 19 was when the wheels started to slowly fall off, as you can see in the graphic display of the ‘hitting the wall’ above. At least it was a gradual explosion instead of an all of a sudden one! I started to feel tired and my toes were really starting to hurt. I knew I had to get to mile 20 and then I only had 2 5Ks left to run. I kept thinking about the time I was ‘ahead’ of a possible BQ and started to get excited. I just had to struggle through the last 6 miles! I tried my hardest to keep running as fast as I could, but my feet were really hurting and my right quad was really tight. I told myself I couldn’t stop, I just needed to keep moving forward with a fast walk, then run, then fast walk, then run. Every single inspirational quote on Pinterest was probably repeated in my head during these last few miles. I thought a lot about the team I coach and I pictured them lined up along the course yelling for me just like how I yell at them during the race. I thought about how exciting it would be to PR and even qualify for Boston, when I wasn’t even thinking that was a real possibility before starting this race. I thought about how I would regret if I finished in 3:36 or 3:38, knowing that I was SO close and would analyze on how if I didn’t walk, or if I didn’t stop for that short moment.

Miles 22 – 24 were ROUGH. This is where I told myself BE TOUGH, Danica. You’re going to have to push if you want this. Mile 23 was right by the finish line and then it was a long out and back to the finish line. I saw MK’s boyfriend and he told me to Be Tough just like I told him to yell at me and I just tried to keep running. Right after I passed Mile 23, the 3:30 pace group caught up to me and I thought oh no… this isn’t happening now! My legs were sore, my feet hurt and I felt like I was running on fumes. The out part of the run seemed SO far away from the finish line. I kept looking over my shoulder, terrified of the 3:35 pace group swallowing me up.

Finally at mile 24.75 they caught me. I ran with them to 25 and asked them their overall time. They were 2 minutes ahead of 3:35 pace and had started 2 and a half minutes before me, So I had a 4 and a half minute cushion behind them to finish under 3:35. I ran with them for about 2 minutes but I couldn’t keep up with them and they slowly kept getting farther and farther away. It was hard watching them go, but I just kept pushing myself and knew I was on track if I just finished strong. FINALLY, the finish line was in view and I saw the crowds. I realized I was going to not only PR but I was going to make it! I was going to qualify for Boston! I started tearing up and then almost hyperventilated, so I took a few deep breaths to calm myself back down. I texted B, who unfortunately had to work, that I was going to qualify! Then got really nervous that I wasn’t going to make it and I had just jinxed myself so I really gave it everything I had that last .2. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I felt tears streaming down my cheeks and my throat closing up and I reminded myself to breathe. I was screaming and so excited, even the announcer said, “Whoa! That girl has way too much energy, go run another lap!” I saw MK’s BF and gave him a huge High 5 and said, “I did it!” I also saw the 3:35 pacer and he gave me a huge high 5 and I told him thank you. He said that I looked great the entire time and he was glad he could help. I couldn’t believe it! I finally had a race that was like Long Beach, over 4 years ago. I pushed myself and did something I never thought I was ready to do!

Mountains to Beach Marathon - Boston Qualifying Race Recap

Mountains to Beach Marathon Race RecapIt was also extra special because Mary Kate PR’ed by 13 minutes and finally broke 4 hours too! We waited for her at the finish and yelled so loud for her! It was so great to be able to have her there and to both be so excited for each other. Could you ask for a better finish line than on the beach? It was so pretty and the weather was perfect the entire time. We wanted to go in the ocean for our ice bath, but it was really rocky and I knew getting back up would be really hard for my messed up feet.

Mountains to Beach Marathon Finish LineMy last PR was 3:55:57 and from October 2009. I haven’t come anywhere close to that time in over 4 years! I’m proud to say my new official PR is: Mountains to Beach Marathon Race RecapApparently, I really like ending my run in 57 seconds. To everyone who commented on my twitter, facebook and instagram with such encouraging words and congratulations this weekend, I truly appreciate it. I read them all again this morning and they are all so kind and mean so much to me. As I was driving home after the race, I cried because I was so happy with this unexpected surprise.

I can’t believe my first BIG marathon is going to be the BOSTON MARATHON because I actually qualified for it!!!!


P.S. In case you’re wondering, Here is the training plan I used for Mountains 2 Beach

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