Back in February I realized that I spent over two months without running, so I started back slowly without putting pressure on myself averaging about 12 miles a week. In March I ran the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon to really see in what shape I was. After this race I decided I wanted to do a Half Ironman so I signed up for Raleigh 70.3. Only 3 weeks into the base training I realized that I was not going to be able to do it because I had to travel out of the U.S. in June... Oh well!
Right away I learned that we were going to be traveling to southern California at the end of April so I looked for a race in the area. Here’s the deal: I’m very bad at training and having a solid workout schedule if I don’t have a goal (and by goal I mean a race). I always stay active going to yoga, barre, spin, etc. but it’s not the same… At least not to me. When I’m not training for a specific event I find myself slacking more and making excuses.
So I found the OC Marathon. I signed up without even thinking about it because I was determined to do a big spring race, then I realized that I only had 3 ½ weeks to train (the average marathon training plan is 16 weeks, so do the math!) I started adding some extra miles every week realizing that time was critical but I didn’t want to go too crazy because getting injured to the starting line was not an option.
Reading about minimalism and always trying to live my life to its full potential I decided that this would be a great race to run without my main distraction: my Garmin GPS watch. Since I started taking running seriously about 5 years ago I’ve never done a race without a watch. I’m always looking at my distance and pace putting unintentional pressure on myself, even if I’m going for an easy run. A few times I’ve left my watch at home to break free from this habit and it feels good (once it’s over). Most runners probably understand what I’m talking about, it’s almost addicting!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that running with a GPS watch is bad, I just wanted to step out of my comfort zone and since I didn’t have enough time to train I knew I was not going for time but for feeling. Oh! And talking about getting out of my comfort zone: I stopped eating animal products back in January. This was my first time running these many miles after this drastic dietary change so I was really nervous about it. I kept asking myself: Am I going to crash? Am I going to feel dizzy? I hope I don’t pass out!
Shortly after I signed up I found out that a group of runners from Savannah were training for the Eugene Marathon, which happened to be on May 1st, the same day as the OC Marathon. I talked to my friend Cecilia and she kindly invited me to do the long runs with them. I did 15, 17.5 and 15.5 miles on my long distance runs each weekend and averaged around 35 miles a week. Then came taper. I was on my way to L.A. that week so I ran 3 miles three times and did one SoulCycle class, that was it.
Saturday morning, I did a short 2.5 mile shake out run and went to Venice to take a plant-based culinary course for athletes at the Matthew Kenney Culinary School (this will be a whole different post). The class finished at 4 p.m. and right away I rushed out and took an Uber to Newport Beach.
I went straight to the expo and got there 30 min. before they closed. At this point I realized that I left back home the gels that I’m used to running with (Huma gels) so I went straight to all the vendors to see what they were offering and of course none of them were carrying that brand. I end up getting some Honey Stingers because I’ve used them in the past and most likely they were not going to upset my tummy.
The expo was kind of big with good vendors but I didn’t have much time to wonder around. When I got my bib I found out that I had to take a bus from the finish line (same place where the expo was taking place at) to the starting line. The race started at 5:30 a.m. (earliest race I’ve ever done) and my bus was the 3:45 a.m. one, say what?! I was planning on waking up at 4 before I found out about this bus situation so I had to adjust. I walked to my hotel that was like 0.8 miles away a little disturbed with this idea.
I left my backpack and headed to a couple of places I wanted to see (post coming about this soon on my new travel section!) and had a veggie burger with sweet potato fries for dinner. I got back to the hotel at around 9:30 p.m. and that’s when I realized that I was exhausted. It was a full day that started with an early shake out run in L.A., a 6-hour cooking class in Venice and finish with some sightseeing in Costa Mesa… Wow! Since I was by myself it was hard for me to fall asleep fast. I watched T.V. for a while and went to bed at around 11 p.m.
I woke up at 3, had some black coffee, changed and walked to the finish line to jump in the bus. A guy sat next to me and I knew he was latin just by reading the name on his t-shirt. He became my companion until race time. He was from Mexico and came exclusively to do this race. We shared some stories about how we started running, our families, etc. While talking to him in the starting line on Fashion Island I ate my traditional slice of bread with almond butter and banana hoping to hit the porta-potty before the race started… And so I did, yay!
The bus situation was super organized and took me a second to hop in. Around 5:15 I checked my bag and lined up with the 3:50 pacer. Ok so as I said I was not going for time, I was so committed to running at whatever pace I felt like that I didn’t even bring my watch, right? But inside of me I knew I wanted to finish under 4 hours. If I didn’t, it was ok but at least I wanted to try and the pacer was my only resource.
The race started and about half a mile in I knew this was not going to work out so I fell behind the pacer. I decided I was just going to do whatever I felt like and just accept the end result. The good news is that this race had sooo many pacers! There was a 3:55 so if he didn’t pass me I knew I was within my goal.
The first half of the race was just incredibly gorgeous. I honestly believe this is the prettiest marathon route I’ve ever ran, at least the first half. The first 10 miles were all along the coast. I could hear the waves crashing and didn’t know if I should look left to see the ocean or right to see the incredible houses… There was so much to soak in and I didn’t want to miss a thing.
At around mile 3 this super fit guy not much older than me passed me pushing his dad on a wheelchair. The back of his shirt read #run4dad and when I saw this I couldn’t contain myself and started crying… I don’t know if it’s age or what but I find myself crying a lot during races lately.
The first 8 miles went by pretty quick with that beautiful view. The temperatures where about mid to high 60s and it was mostly cloudy but the few times that the sun came out I got really hot and was tempted to take off my shirt more than once. Then I’d feel some breeze and cooler temperatures would hit again.
I have to admit that at the beginning I felt extremely disorientated. I kept looking at my wrist to realize that there was no watch. I felt pretty good but I didn’t want to go too crazy because I didn’t know exactly in what mile I was. I wasn’t sure if I was running too fast or too slow so the uncertainty was pretty uncomfortable but that was all part of the experience I was looking for: getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
When mile 11 came around I saw the 3:55 group running next to me! What? I was clearly slowing down and realized that maybe I was feeling too good. I ran with them for a couple of miles until the pacer pointed out to me that it look like I was smiling too much, which meant that I should be like 2 min. ahead of them so I picked it up.
To my surprise the first 13 miles of the race had a bunch of mini hills that I was not ready for but I guess they helped my legs stay fresh. The second half of the race was still pretty but instead of going through the coast we ran around some schools, mall, business area and beautiful residential neighborhoods. There was also more crowd support than I expected. People were cheering outside their homes offering fresh cut fruits, water and beer… Classic!
At around mile 15 I was already feeling my quads and butt screaming and my left knee starting hurting a bit. I kept running feeling pretty comfortable and at mile 21 the 3:55 group made its appearance again, for real?
I joined them for 3 miles because I felt I was running out of gas. The pacer was really nice and was always sharing his plan and interacting with the runners. At mile 24 I decided to pick it up again to give it all I could but my knee was starting to scream.
I slowed down for a bit but when I saw the crowd my body kind of got numbed and started running faster and faster until I crossed the finish line… My time? 3:52:23!
The post-race party was fun! They had a bunch of delicious food, live music, massages and more! I walked back to the hotel, showered and went back to L.A.
I’m still very surprised on my time and how good I felt considering my little training and especially my big dietary change. It doesn’t cease to amuse me how powerful the human body can be and I can’t wait to pick a new race to really train hard and hopefully surprise myself again!