Mountains 2 Beach – Race Recap

Way back in October 2015 I set M2B on May 28, 2017 as a goal race. Back then I figured that 18 months was enough time to improve enough to run a Boston Qualifier (I had just run my second marathon with a time of 5:04:36). The closer the date came, the more my goal seemed to be audacious. I needed 4:10 officially but based on last year’s Boston entries I needed a bit faster than 4:08. So I set my goal at 4:05, which is an average pace of 9:21.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.32.41 AMMountains to Beach is a mostly downhill course. At first I thought, “sure it’ll be easy to just run downhill for 26.2 miles.” Then I realized that we go up too… Thankfully I was able to do the majority of my long runs on the course so I knew where I’d encounter difficulty.

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I discovered a website ( that predicts a finishing time by comparing previous marathons and courses. I ran the Carlsbad Marathon in January with a time of 4:14:20. When I plugged this number in for a prediction I thought it’d give me a “good” number. Instead it said 4:12:01. Hmmm…not going to be easier like I thought!

The closer I got to the race, the more nervous I became, vacillating between “I’m ready” and “what the hell was I thinking” and “it’ll be so embarrassing if I don’t make it” to “I’ve got this!” Helpfully, all my training runs were fabulous (I’ll write about this in another post).

Before the race, my coach gave some excellent advice:

You are ready to rock! Just be patient and relax. On this course I think the second half is a little faster than the first half so do not force anything early. Just like a long training day except you have the greenlight to dip as deep into the well as you can at the end 🙂 

So how’d it go?

First 5K
The race starts with a gradual 3 mile climb. My plan was to run this very conservatively, knowing that I can run downhill fast enough to make up the time lost.

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Taking it easy up that first big hill gave me a big deficit to make up. 

Slow…slow…slow… telling myself, “this is a training run effort right now.” It was challenging not to match the pace of all those who were flying past me. It was even harder when the 4:07 pacer passed me at about 1.5 miles. There was a great temptation to stick with this pace group. My mantra became, “I’m running my own race,” as they pulled away from me. A friend from the running club joined me for a bit.

Miles 4-13.1
Once we turned and headed downhill, I had to be careful not to run too fast. My plan here was easy effort…no heavy breathing! My daughter was running with me at this point and when we approached the 4:07 group at about 5.5 miles, she helpfully reminded me not to increase my speed to get past them. It was a bit challenging because this was a big group.

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Miles 4 up to the half felt very easy…

Mile 6…feeling good!

Once we passed this group the rest of the race was nice in a non-crowded way. I steadily passed runners throughout the entire race. According to the date, I ran a positive split (faster first half), finishing a half marathon in 2:01:51 (this is my third fastest half marathon time!). Throughout the race I wasn’t watching my lap pace, opting to occasionally look at average pace instead. I remember turning onto Baldwin and heading up a small hill when I noticed that for the first time I hit my goal pace of 9:21…as I climbed I lost the pace but didn’t panic because I knew I’d be going downhill again. My mantra was “keep it easy.”

Miles 13-20
This middle section has a nice little climb in it, plus a few rolling hills. Having run it three times in training I was ready for it. I passed people going down and some of them passed me going up.

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I started a slow increase of effort which shows in the avg. pace as we also had a big hill in this portion.

My goal here was to increase the effort on the downhill portions, take it easy going up and make it to the the final 10k without blowing up.

Mile 17…smiling and soaking wet from all the water I’ve dumped on my head.

We encountered a slight head wind in this section, but it wasn’t too strong and it was cool, so actually beneficial. I was also dumping water on my head at every water station in an effort to stay cool. My average pace was around 9:19-9:20.

At one point I thought, “hmmm, maybe I should speed up and try to get to 4 hours.” I felt that good! Good sense prevailed however and I decided that it would be a mistake to get greedy. So I stuck to the plan.

Miles 20-23.2
Time to go! After a brief physical inventory I concluded that I felt good, so from a perceived effort level (remember, I wasn’t watching lap pace) I increased the effort.

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I began passing more and more people. I admit that it was fun to run past all those who sailed past me those first three miles! I knew that the last two miles were going to be hard so I was bracing myself for this, but meanwhile miles 20-23 felt like a wonderful groove where I was just running. I was realizing that I was on pace to qualify for Boston.

Last 5K
I started the last 5K with an average pace of 9:18. This was great because it meant that I had a 3 second cushion for that last hard uphill run. As I ran I told myself, “I have 3 seconds to spare…don’t give it away easily.” This was the hard part…the suffering part…the I’ve got this if I can hold on part.

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This last 5K was a “hold on” effort! I learned that it’s hard to do but much easier to hold on when you know that you’re meeting your goal.

Climbing…”this is hard!”. I encountered a friend who obviously recognized the suffering in my facial expression, gave me a high five (barely had energy for that!) and said, “you’ve got this Nancy! In a block and a half you’ve got a downhill.”

My new mantra was “hold on! hold on! I’m doing it! Just. Hold. On!”

Then with a mile and a half to go…with my quads screaming, my left leg decided that it was done. I felt a heavy, numb sensation all throughout my left leg. Shit! My average pace was now 9:19. There was no way I was giving up now…so dig deep as my coach said and force that leg to work.

Heading down the last hill I opted to skip the last water station because I was afraid that if I slowed down my leg would take that as a sign that it could quit. Thankfully I was now on very familiar running territory…I just had to hold on to the end.

As we turned on to Harbor Blvd, two different people commented, “you’re doing great!” I responded to one of them, “If I can hold on, I’m going to Boston!” Average pace was now 9:20.

Mountain 2 Beach Marathon & Half
I did it! And I can honestly say I gave it all I had!

I had told my family that this part of the course was going to be either happy-hard or miserable-hard, depending on how the rest of the race had gone. The happy was the only thing that kept that left leg moving. One mile to go, “hold on… Boston… hold on… Boston… hold on… OMG Boston…HOLD ON” With less than half a mile, my average pace hit 9:21. Dig a bit more because at this point 9:22 is not acceptable!

My husband, son, and some friends were cheering at the finish shoot…I didn’t see or hear them. All I could focus on was making it to that finish line.

I finished at 4:04:49! According to Garmin, my average pace was 9:21. According to the official race results it was 9:20. According to both…I’m going to Boston!

I had trouble getting up on the box because my quads were fried!

That’s a goal!

An indication of integrity is to respond truthfully. A sign of decency is to respond with gentleness. These types of responses may not be easy, especially when the person standing before you has just expressed a crazy, seemingly unrealistic goal.

I’ll remember forever my first conversation with Josh Spiker about coaching. I had recently completed the Ventura Marathon with a time of 5:04:36. This was an improvement of about 45 minutes from my first marathon. How did I improve so much? I attribute hard work and participating in a group training plan through the Ventura Marathon and Josh.

With a big improvement I set my sights on another big goal, to qualify for Boston in 2018. This would require me to take another hour off my marathon time. Thus my conversation with Josh about coaching. We were at Wednesday track workout. It was October 2015. I would need to get my qualifying time in the 2016/17 qualifying window. So I said, “I want to do a 4 hour marathon and qualify for Boston 2018.”

Josh managed to keep a straight face as he responded with, “That’s a goal.”

He gave me a training plan for Surf City 2016 and I was able to improve by another 30 minutes. Then his response was, “great job, you only need 30 minutes more!”

Some time after this we had another conversation at track when he playfully asked, “What about 4:05? Would you be happy with that?” Yep…if it gets me to Boston!

All of 2016 was preparation for trying to qualify in 2017. The first attempt was Carlsbad in January. I had another PR but was disappointed that I missed a BQ. Josh, said something like, “great job, you’re on track for Mountains 2 Beach.”

Mountains 2 Beach was yesterday. I ran a 4:04:49! I’m going to Boston!

I still hope to get at or below 4 hours. Meanwhile I’ll enjoy this feeling of accomplishment knowing that it wouldn’t have been possible without good coaching. Thanks Josh!

That’s a goal!

A beautiful day!

Race Day – Gratitude 5/28

Today’s the day! In the fall of 2015 I set this as a goal race, so I indeed have a time goal. I also plan to have fun, enjoy the scenery, and dig deep when the going gets tough.

Today I am personally thankful for: a supportive family; good training; and living in beautiful Ventura county. 

I never get tired of this view…looking forward to it today at the home stretch of M2B

Ready! – Gratitude 5/27

One of my course long runs…remember to enjoy the scenery!
On this Saturday morning I’m thinking about tomorrow morning when I’ll be running my 6th marathon. My first was the Ventura Marathon, September 2014, and I had 2 goals: to finish and not be last. I did finish in 5:51:02. It was hot that day! I was not last, but was definitely bringing up the rear as the course time limit was 6 hours. In addition to my extreme fatigue when crossing the finish line I remember thinking, “I can do better.”

A couple months later I signed up for the LA Marathon. This is so far the only race I’ve signed up for but bailed on before the race. I wasn’t ready, mentally and probably physically. I remember the forecast was for a hot day and I panicked, thinking “I can’t do it in that heat.”

So, I signed up the Ventura Marathon again…and I signed up for a group training program. This was one of my best decisions!  

Painful finish at the Carlsbad Marathon…a PR by about 7 minutes but short of my goal
I successfully took close to 45 minutes off my time (finished in 5:04:36). After this I started working with Josh Spiker with the long term goal of qualifying for the 2018 Boston Marathon. With Josh’s help I’ve gotten closer and closer!

What to do after a disappointing finish? Remember! That was the purpose of this photo…relentless forward progress.
Tomorrow is my second attempt to qualify. The first was Carlsbad last January where I missed the qualifying time by 4 minutes (4:14:20). I’m ready…scared…ready…nervous…ready! Now I get to wait about 24 hours…and I’m ready!

Today I’m personally thankful for: the running support from my husband, Scott; good coaching; the ability to run.

Boogie Nights Week 1 – Gratitude 5/18

Wednesday night (5/17) was the first race of the 10 week 5k Boogie Nights series at the Ventura Pier. This is the third year that my family and I are participating.

Matt, Scott, and I the first year…for some reason I don’t have a photo of the four of us. We’ve all lost a bit of weight since this photo!

The first year I remember the races being very hard! I always went out too fast and struggled to finish. My goal through the series was to run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, which I managed to do on the last night with a time of 29:54.

2016…we’ve started a tradition of family race photos!

The second year I remember the races being very hard! I surprised myself with a first race time of 26:17. I bounced around this time, ending the series with a PR of 26:10… and frustrated because I couldn’t get below 26. And! I won first place for my age division for the series.

We almost forgot our race photo! Usually it’s pre-race…this one was a “let’s take a quick photo” as we were walking to our cars.

Now we are one race into the third year… and it is still very hard! I ran a 25:38 (which is not a PR because I managed a 25:10 last November). I once again started too fast which led to a struggle at the end. I think 5k’s are the hardest races…and can’t wait until next week (however for at least the next two races I’ll be going slow since my goal marathon is the 28th).

Today I am personally thankful for: my running family; the friends we’ve made through running; a lifestyle that includes eating and drinking…just after running first!

The theme was crazy socks, and I actually participated in this theme (we’ll see about the others!).

Gratitude 5/16

As I watch the early morning news, I’m feeling the same horrible awfulness that I felt last November. Each week we, as a nation, learn the news of a new low in our national government. Last week it was the firing of the director of the FBI because of his investigation of Russia’s involvement in the election. Last night the story broke of this president sharing classified information with Russia. This story was refuted strongly by others in the government. Then this morning the occupant of the White House admitted doing it on Twitter. Unbelievable! What is giving me a feeling of hopelessness is that our congress will do nothing…just as they’ve done nothing about anything else to date. Will our nation survive the government? 

These gratitude posts started because I needed to think of something in the midst of the despair after the election. Over the past couple months my daily need to explicitly “count my blessings” has waned and so I haven’t posted daily. Today’s news drives me back to the need to remember that life is a mixture of that which is good…and bad. So while I’m horrified at the awful state of our nation I’m also grateful in other ways.

Today I am personally thankful for: the mental health benefits of long runs, hard runs, any and all runs; true patriots who are doing whatever they can to oppose what is happening in our government; and, especially, the promise of faith that while the world may seem to spiral out of control, God is with us. May this knowledge give us courage.

Healthy (with a preexisting condition) – Gratitude 5/5

This morning I am thankful that I’m healthy, more than healthy, I’m fit. Yet according to the desires of our GOP representatives currently in congress, I would not be able to obtain health insurance outside employer based health plans. This is because my two children were breach, resulting in their births via cesarean section, and because I have an artificial disc in my lower back. I don’t understand the spitefulness behind this bill…I don’t understand how a political party that claims to be pro-life can be so gleefully anti life. I hope and pray that this monstrosity dies in the Senate.

Today I’m personally thankful for: my two (now adult) children who both tried to come into the world upside down; the miracle of my artificial disc that removed debilitating back pain; and living in California.