My first question to the organizers of the Santa Barbara Marathon: Where's my shirt??? You ran out of shirts, and your volunteers asked me for my name, bib number, and t-shirt size, and said it would be coming in the mail. It hasn't. Size medium in women's, please. Thank you.
I was ready. Or, better yet, I was ready to run the Santa Clarita Marathon the week earlier, but I ended up sick and missed it. So I was still sort-of ready.
I signed up for the Santa Barbara Marathon three days before the event, knowing that I wanted to do a race with the fitness I had accumulated from months of marathon training. Hence the high bib number of 1348, not otherwise accounted for by my name being at the end of the alphabet, and no name on my bib either.
Luckily, my friend Lenny was going to be running the half marathon, so I had a travel companion.
I stayed at a chain hotel in Carpinteria, the closest hotel that I could get to the race parking area, about 20 miles away. The hotels were all booked up with race participants and the two hundred or so weddings taking place in the greater Santa Barbara area that weekend. So I was stuck at said unfancy chain motel. Cars on the freeway kept waking me throughout the night. So, I wasn't terribly well rested.
On race morning, I parked at UCSB, then took a shuttle to Dos Pueblos High School, which is where the marathon started. Unfortunately, the buses dropped us off a half of a mile away, which is a minor annoyance when you are running, oh, another 26.2 miles later that day.
Someone must have been reading the comments about the race because contrary to previous complaints of lack of facilities, there were more than enough port-o-potties, an important matter for someone like me who likes to empty her bladder three or four times before the start of the race.
With only eight hundred or so of us running the race, it felt a little silly to line up under a "Start" banner. Nonetheless, off we went, to run a 9-mile loop around Goleta. Boring. Completely boring. The first few miles were a slight downhill, then a slight uphill for the next few miles. At mile nine, we pass the high school again, and I'm thinking, have I really gone anywhere? I wasn't feeling terrific, perhaps a bit tired, and I was struggling to keep my mile splits at 9:30 per mile, which was my goal. I was worried because my heart rate was staying in the high 160's, which I knew for me was a bit high.
Around mile 8 was a photographer. I'm not sure what came over me, but I decided I needed an interesting race photo of me with my arms stretched out and my tongue sticking out.
In spite of not feeling awesome, I figured I'd stay the course. Miles 10-12 felt like I was moving downhill, and after downing a Gu gel or two I felt a second wind. I enjoyed all the locals standing out on the roads cheering us on. I smiled and thanked them of course. I was annoyed by the guy on a mountain bike who passed me within just a few inches, to then ride next to his girlfriend (presumably) for the next three miles, passing her food and water. Granted, this girl wasn't going to win anything, and neither was I, but seriously, if we want food or water when we want it, we have to carry it with us, and I didn't want any near misses with this guy's stupid mountain bike crashing into me.
So perhaps my annoyance with Mountain Bike Guy was a bit over the top. I may have been getting cranky because I was feeling tired and lousy.
The "wall" came around mile 16. My mile splits had dropped off and I decided from then on that any time goal was out the window and I was going to ignore my Garmin. The goal at this point was to put one foot in front of the other and run the rest of this race, avoiding the temptation to walk, and just get this 26.2 miles done.
The next 7 miles were no fun. The scenery continued to be uninteresting for the most part. And I maintained my fatigued shuffle of a jog, walking only through aid stations. Then at mile 23 was a huge hill, which I managed to run up, or more accurately shuffle up at a whopping pace of 15 minutes per mile. But the reward at the top of the hill was what a marathon based in Santa Barbara should be -- a nice view!!!! The ocean!!!! Finally!!!
I think the next couple miles were downhill, and were kind of pretty since we could see the ocean. I slugged through, and finished as strong as I could. One benefit of doing all these races is that I know a couple of the local race announcers through the LA Tri Club. Tim Bomba was announcing finishers, and typically he'll give me a shout out, which is kind of cool, "Here comes Heather Shenkman, of LA Tri Club, cardiologist, so if you want your heart checked...." or something like that. It's good to hear when you feel like crap, completely spent, and need an extra push to get across the finish line.
My finish time: 4:27 and a few seconds that actually put me closer to 4:28. But let's round down and call it 4:27. I feel better about that.
I believe that under better circumstances, I could have pulled a 4:05. So what happened? I have learned to never take a trans-continental trip within the weeks before a marathon. I think that led to me getting sick And I can't say I was completely recovered, even if it was a week later. There was an extra week of taper and being sedentary, which may have helped an extra pound or two creep onto my frame. The peak of my training was too far in advance of this race. And then there was the noisy freeway in front of my motel.
I've learned my lessons, and I will continue on in my quest to become a faster marathon runner. My next full marathon is the LA Marathon in March. I have two half marathons in the meantime.
My suggestions to the people who run the Santa Barbara Marathon:
-Please make the course more interesting. Goleta is beyond dull to run through. Last I checked you have an ocean nearby. Can we maybe run near that instead?
-Your volunteers are enthusiastic, along with the locals. They couldn't have been nicer.
-Thanks for ample port-o-potties. Really.
-More aid stations with Gu and food. And how about some banana or orange slices at aid stations?
-More food at the finish line. No, I don't mean places where we can spend money and buy lunch. I mean, more than just orange and banana slices. How about granola bars, fruit salad, something a bit more filling so we don't have to binge on food from the vendors giving out free samples? Note to Pure Bar people -- thank you for letting me take 4 bars. They were awesome. I'm sold on them.
-Please send me my t-shirt, women's medium. And that's how I'll start and end.