The concept behind this marathon was cool: Fast, downhill course, beautiful scenery, small race limited to 1000 participants.
In practice, there were a few things that could be tweaked to make the race better.
I came into this race in a rut. My last half dozen marathons have all been between 4:11-4:18. My LA Marathon in March was 4:11, but I felt like I had the training to do better. Today was the day to prove it.
Race started at the awful early hour of 6 am. I took a 4:15 am shuttle to the start line, where we sat in pitch darkness, while a couple of pickup trucks parked with their lights on to set up the start line. It was quite eerie at that hour sitting by the side of the road, as there was no indoor shelter for us, and it was a chilly morning.
I must say, I was amused by the placement of the port-o-potties. With my small bladder, I'm always observant of where they are set up. Just off to the side of the start line was a row of five port-o-potties. So, as racers lined up for the race, there were lines of port-o-potty users intersecting with the race start. It was very interesting trying to discern who was in line for the port-o-potty and who was trying to gun it to the front of the starting pack.
Gun went off a little after 6 am. The first three miles were downhill. Then the next three were back uphill to the start, as we did a short six mile loop. As always, a lot of people passed me at the beginning -- and I remember, they're either faster than me, or I'll pass them during the second half of the race.
In my LA Marathon race report, I talk about all the friends I had on the course. Here at Ojai, there were only a couple people on the course from Fortius or LA Tri, and none of them were around my pace, and there were no familiar spectators, so I was solo.
Around Mile 4, I found a woman who was about my pace. We started talking, and she and I ran together for the next 12 miles. Stephanie, as it turns out, is my age, has run a few more marathons than I have, and is aiming for a similar goal pace. So, we stick together and chat about everything from work and dating to silly things people do and wear in races, like a racer with his running number on his back, or a woman wearing a running skirt so low-cut that her butt crack was showing.
We also encountered another runner named Tim, who apparently eats Cup O Noodles before every marathon. He seemed to have boundless energy, joking around with people, dashing ahead, falling back, and just having a good time. For some reason, I decided that every time I encountered him during the race I would refer to him as "Ramen" (noodles, right?). He cheered us on and kept us smiling.
Aid stations were spread out, probably about 3 miles apart from one another. The first few aid stations had only water and no electrolyte solution (ie Gatorade). I do all my long runs with some sort of electrolyte, so I was concerned, but kept going.
Mile 11 -- port-o-potty stop. Quickest pit stop ever, fortunately before one of the steepest downhills, so got out of the port-o-potty and made up time within a couple of minutes.
Mile 13 -- 1:58 split for the halfway point.. Making good time, feeling good, heart rate where it should be in the high 160's.
Mile 15 -- the worst smell of my life. I think we were running through a sewage treatment plant. The scenery along this path was horrible. Oil wells. Factories. Yuck.
Mile 16 -- still keeping about a 9:15/mile pace. Other than a mild aching in my feet, feeling good.
Mile 20 -- surprised that I was still keeping a 9:15 pace! A little tired out perhaps, as we turn on to the beach path.
Mile 21 -- I see the finish line. But we have to keep running all the way down the beach and loop back around to the finish line. Dammit!!!
Mile 22.5 -- Side stitch! The pain was terrible. I slowed to a walk. While I ran a bit ahead of Stephanie a couple of miles earlier, she caught up with me, and I forced myself to run.... briefly. That didn't last, and I was again walking, doubled over in pain.
Mile 23 -- Aid station. I figured my side stitch may have to do with being electrolyte depleted or dehydrated. I grabbed two cups of Fluid (the electrolyte solution) and a cup of water. I started trotting, jogging slowly, and within a minute I felt better.
Mile 24-26 -- through neighborhood and then along the beach. Getting it done. Pace a little slower, about 9:45/mile, but not terrible.
Mile 26.2 -- Finally!!! 4 hours, 5 minutes, 17 seconds. A personal best by 6 minutes, accomplishing my goal for the day. Were it not for my side stitch issues, I think I could have finished a couple minutes faster, but I'm still pleased.
Suggestions for Race Organizers:
--I love the Ojai 2 Ocean concept. But how about a more scenic course? I understand the convenience of a bike path, but Ojai is so much more beautiful than what we ran, I think.
--Better positioning of port-o-potties. Not next to the start line. Not good to mix up your start line and your port-o-potty line.
--Shelter at the start. It was very cold at 4:30 am sitting on the road by the high school. How about a couple tents? Or let us into the high school gym to wait?
--Electrolyte solution at the first few aid stations, please!!! Water only until mile 11 was not cool.
--I do love the green concept of the race. Love the recycled steel medals that apparently double as beer bottle openers, and I do love the fact that I didn't get a plastic bag full of paper coupons that would have landed in my recycling bin. Thanks for keeping it eco-friendly.