I’m ShokzStar Ebony Blackwell, taking over the AfterShokz blog to tell you about my experience running the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon.
The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon is a beautiful race starting in the mountains and ending near the historic downtown Ventura Pier in California. It was pretty much everything I hoped it would be. The name alone sounds dope, making me feel like I was about to go on one hell of a 26-mile adventure! On my mission to run a marathon in every state, Mountains 2 Beach was not my first pick for California. I had my eyes on another marathon that is known to be full of spectacular views – The Big Sur Marathon. I’m sure that Big Sur is a spectacular race, but my soul is quite happy that my 26.2-miles through California were spent running from Ojai to Ventura.
After a disappointing 2018 Chicago Marathon (recap on my blog around Marathon Expectations), my heart was quite broken. My initial post-Chicago reaction was to sign up for a revenge race, but I wasn’t ready to jump back into another marathon. My game plan was to train for a spring half-marathon and work on speed before transitioning back into marathon training mode for a May marathon. Mountains 2 Beach was perfectly situated in late May, giving me time to prep for a March half-marathon.
I flew into L.A. the Thursday before the race to get settled in with my group of friends that were also running the half-marathon that weekend. We booked a beautiful, inexpensive condo through Airbnb that was not too far from the beach. When I am traveling for races, I prefer to be in the comfort of home – able to rest, cook my own meals, and not feel confined to a room!
I’d love to tell you that I was calm and ready on race morning, but that would be a front. While I went into race day with minimal expectations, I still was so nervous all morning. I was so worried that I would have a similar experience to Chicago. The long story short is that I got very sick around the half-way point of the Chicago Marathon and had the worst race.
My coach and I spent time on Saturday afternoon hashing out my plan for the race. We felt I had the potential to run something close to 4:10 (a 9:33 pace), but didn’t know for sure with the rolling hills throughout the race. I planned to pace at 9:45 for the first 10K and ease into a 9:30-9:40 pace for miles 7-13. The first 6 miles were uphill, and we didn’t want to push too hard here and burn out early. I planned to pick up the pace for miles 14-20 by easing into a 9:15-9:20 pace. For the last 10K, the goal was to PUSH as hard as I could to the finish without worrying about the pace!
Miles 1-6 were 9:34, 9:48, 9:35, 9:21, 9:18, and 9:23. While most of these were faster than my goal of 9:45, this pace felt good as a warm-up, so I stuck with it. As the race began, I put on my AfterShokz, pumped up my playlist and took off. The views started immediately. As soon as we turned the corner into the second mile, we began running alongside a ranch that had rows upon rows of orange trees. It was beautiful, and it was peaceful. It was a very serene feeling, and all of my nerves just went away. In this moment, I felt like this was going to be a great race.
For this stretch, my pace goal was to sit comfortably between 9:30 and 9:40. My times were 9:36, 9:27, 9:29, 9:24, 9:39, 9:24, and 9:14. These miles felt great. I was still really comfortable. I remember thinking to myself that if this had only been a half, I definitely could have PRd it! Around mile 12 we had the best downhill view of the fields and mountain.
By this stretch, I really had to pee. I could see myself being one of those runners that accidentally pees on herself! I just kept telling myself to make it to the next mile, the next port-o-potty, and then I could stop. My legs were also starting to feel the hills, and then we rounded the corner into the 15th mile and came across what felt and looked like a monster of a hill! While it wasn’t incredibly steep, it was a long hill. Nevertheless, I tucked my head and pushed.
My goal pace during this stretch was 9:15-9:20. My legs were tired, and I was struggling to stay in the zone, but mentally, I was still in a great place – I usually start questioning my existence around mile 18. My times were 9:23, 9:47(hill), 9:26, 10:07 (port-o-potty), 9:48, and 9:36. I also had barely any water left near the end, and the course water stations were pretty spread out.
During this stretch, I was finally out of the mountains and heading into Ventura. Unfortunately, with the mountains left the beautiful views. This portion of the race takes you through some back service industrial area; water was scarce. Thankfully, my marathon playlist pumping through my AfterShokz kept me in the zone.
Sometime around mile 18, I felt like I had a second wind coming. I was able to keep the pace below 10 minutes even though my legs were heavy. My times were 9:43, 9:16, 9:33, 10:01, 10:30, 10:43, and 11:13, rolling through some longer hills to finish off the race. I knew the day was going to be a PR day, and I was holding on to finish under 4:15. I managed to cross the finish line in 4:15:56 with a 15-minute PR from Chicago and a 19-minute PR from the Flying Pig last May!
This race helped me get my mind and heart back into running! For me, the marathon is always a humbling experience that teaches me so much about myself - like how to dig a little deeper and go a little further when I think I’ve done all that I can. I’ve learned three valuable lessons:
Up next, I am returning to Chicago in October to get redemption on the course. Then, I am running the Gulf Coast Marathon in December to scratch off Mississippi!
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