2014 Ventura Marathon and Beach Party Celebrate Record Success

In its second year, the Ventura Marathon and Beach Party reached record numbers, drawing over 3,200 participants from 34 states and nine countries.

Overall marathon winners were Dirian Lenin Bonilla who ran a 2:32:34 (5:49 per mile pace) and Bonnie Axman Keating who finished in 2:45:15 (6:18 pace).

The men’s half marathon was won by Westlake Village resident Sean Gildea who ran a 1:08:04 (5:12 pace.) The women’s half-marathon title was won by Allison Maxson in 1:15:57 (5:48 pace).

The 2014 event raised over $25,000 for local schools and charities including Pier Into The Future, the Humane Society of Ventura County, Autism Society Ventura County, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, Max Cure Foundation, the Rotary Club of Ventura, and over one dozen local school groups and teams.

Race director Josh Spiker was particularly excited about the event's support of local charities and programs and gives thanks to the over 700 volunteers that made the event such a success.

The flat and fast course took runners and walkers through the cities of Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme before culminating at the beachfront finish of the historic Ventura Pier.

The event included a full two-day beach party which featured over 60 vendors, food trucks, a beer garden by Firestone, seven live bands and various kids’ activities.

For more info or to check on updates about next year’s event, go to VenturaMarathon.com.

The event is managed by Vendurance Sports, a Ventura County-based running club and event management company aiming to bring high-quality, well-organized and affordable events to the region.

Hamstrung by Hamstring This Past Sunday

Since reaching my 40s, it seems my training has regularly been a routine of two steps forward, three steps back. I've had a few good performances and enjoy running when I'm injury-free, but find oh so often find my body disagreeing with me. Sunday was one of those moments.

Having run a solid half marathon 3 weeks prior, a 20 miler the weekend after that, and a slow 22 miler the weekend before (3 weeks out from the Los Angeles Marathon), I decided to run one final half marathon, but not as a race. My goal was to run about a 6:45 per mile pace, just slightly faster than the pace I'm looking to do at the marathon to break 3 hours.

Yes, I paid some serious cash (about $65) to run this race that I wasn't racing, but to me that was a small price to pay to practice for race day, with mile markers, water stops and other runners there to simulate race conditions.

The Seaside Half Marathon in Ventura was this past Sunday. A nicely organized, fairly small, out and back race starting at Promenade Park in Ventura, going up the bike path up the coast, turning around near the Faria Beach area. Plenty of sun with constant ocean views. And decently supported.

Within the first 5 minutes of the race, I felt my right hamstring become a little tight. I considered stopping for a second, but thought perhaps it would loosen up. It didn't. It was a bit of a nagging stiffness that impeded my stride. But I figured, well, I'm not running "all out," so let's just grin and bear it. Bad move.

Yes, two weeks out from the LA Marathon and my right hammie is hamstrung. I visited my chiropractor a few days ago and plan to visit him again. He says it is a nerve issue, which I believe to be the same issue I faced nearly a year ago at a 5K race. It took over 3 months to eliminate the problem. I'm hoping this time I can be pain free by March 9th. Kind of a longshot. I definitely will not run LA if my hamstring continues to feel the way it still feels today.

So perhaps next time I will learn...DROP OUT if something feels awry. Don't run through pain that feels like an injury. It ain't worth it. I slowed up quite a bit after the 10 mile mark, stopped and stretched at mile 12, and completed the half in 1:31.

So let me finish this so I can roll my hamstring on my roller and sit on some ice. Hoping for the best but mentally prepared if I have to bail out. But I won't be at the starting line if I feel any pain as it ain't worth it!

Optimism Following a Decent Performance at Yesterday's Ventura Habitat Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran my first half marathon in about 15 months, the Ventura Habitat Half Marathon. My last half was the Marla Runyan Half Marathon in October 2012.

The course is run almost entirely on the Ventura River Trail from Ventura to Foster Park and back. My target was a time in the 1:27 range, a time that equates to a 3:03, or 7 minute per mile pace marathon. I managed to achieve a better than expected time of 1:24:12, good for 5th place overall and 1st master. I was particularly happy just to finish solidly, without any hamstring issues. Using my 2.1 rule of thumb (2.1 x half marathon time = projected marathon time), this time indicates potential for a 2:57 marathon...if I can get one or two 18 to 20 milers done in the next few weeks.

As with most races in recent years, I didn't take this one particularly seriously. But I did do one thing. I didn't run the day before. Yes, a mini taper. I take that back, slightly. I did run/jog/walk with the dog for 3 miles, but nothing intense.

The race started at 8 am. I set my alarm for 6 am and snoozed a bit more until 6:15. After readying myself for the cold I did a little warm up jog to help empty my system. I hopped in the car, stopped by the local donut shop for a warm blueberry muffin and cup of coffee. I figured a blueberry muffin is a step above a donut.

Josh Spiker of Vendurance Sports does a really nice job in his local races focusing on the things that really impact runners. He starts his races on time. His courses clearly marked, with clear mile markers. And he has plenty of porta-johns at the start of the race. As a highly competitive runner himself, he knows oh so well the things that really matter the most on race day. And it is well appreciated by folks like me that want to focus on running and not get sidetracked with logistics issues.

One thing Josh mentioned before the start of the race is that the 2nd half of the race should be roughly 20 seconds per mile faster than the 1st half, given the gentle climb to the halfway point. I took off at a pace that felt decent to me, which was roughly a 6:40 or so pace. It was cold out and I had gloves and a long sleeve shirt on, but after a mile I pulled off the gloves and later rolled up the sleeves on the shirt. And after scooting by a couple folks about a mile in, I ran alone the entire remainder of the race.

The beauty of an out and back course is that you get a better view of those in front of you and in back of you. It's a good way to measure how much distance you have on your competitors. I felt pretty confident at the halfway point that my placing in the race would be challenged, not that that would really matter, leaving me free to focus on how my body felt.

There was a song clearly in my head that kept me on pace the entire race. But a day later I can't remember it. It was an 80s song that I believe they were playing on the loudspeaker before the race. I felt my right lower shin twinge every now and then and I was afraid my right hamstring, problematic in recent years, would give out. That beat in my head kept me moving through my doubts.

I didn't track my splits during the race but the math in my head indicated I was somewhere in between 6 and 7 minute pace, well below 7 minute pace in fact, which gave me confidence that I was on track for a decent performance. It wasn't until mile 10, when my watch showed 1:05, clearly a 6:30 pace, that I felt clearly confident that, barring a sudden problem, I was having a good day.

In fact, the final 5K of the race I ran at a 6:12 pace and it didn't even feel that fast. I was starting to hurt while pushing it a bit over the last 2 miles, but with plenty of targets ahead (walkers start the race an hour before runners), I had something else to focus on.

Today is Monday I'm quite sore. Hoping with a bit of luck that my body will recover for a slow 20 miler this coming weekend, four weeks out from the LA Marathon.

Congratulations to overall winner, 30 year old Matthew Russell, who finished over 3 minutes before anyone else in 1:13:50. Yes, I could run that time at age 30. But not at age 50 :) Russell runs for Sketchers Go Run team and boy, he knows how to run. He actually wrote about the race himself at www.mattrusselltri.com. According to his profile, Matt is one of the top American athletes at the half ironman/Ironman distance. In 2011 he competed in his first Ironman World Championships as the third overall American in a time of 8:43. Six weeks later he competed at Ironman Arizona finishing as the first American in a personal best of 8:29 (subsequently improved to 8:19 in 2013).

The overall female was 42 year old Anissa Faulkner, who was right on my tail at 1:26:06.

The Porta-John - One of the Most Welcome Sights to Marathon Runners

As I was picking up my Ventura Marathon race bib before the race a few weeks ago, I came across an awesome sight...this perfectly arranged line of porta-johns. Kudos to local Cal State Site Services for this beautiful line-up.

After 20 years of running and racing, I have no qualms chatting about the use of porta-johns. Well I don't like using the porta-john, they are a welcome sight, particularly when unoccupied.

Having access to porta-johns are a critical aspect of marathons as well as other races, as the lack thereof can cause massive problems and/or messes.

Well organized marathons have an adequate number of porta-johns at both the start of the race and dispersed throughout the course. Every few miles. The Ventura Marathon did a pretty decent job of that. In fact, I visited one of them around Mile 9 of the race.

The time and momentum lost in visiting a porta-john mid-race is not a good thing. But...as they say...when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Probably my single biggest pre-race stress point is ensuring my innards are empty, yet have enough fuel in me to power me through the full 26.2 miles. I didn't quite achieve that goal in Ventura and that sliced probably two minutes or so from my time.

Perhaps I'll figure the timing one of these days. Perhaps not. After running 30+ marathons you'd think I'd figure that out.

Signed Up For the Inaugural Ventura Marathon This Sunday...But Should I Run It?

The Inaugural Ventura Marathon is this coming Sunday, September 8th. This 26.2 miler starts on Harbor Boulevard near the Ventura Pier and will take runners to the Port Hueneme pier and back. The course is roughly 95% on roads, included approximately 18 miles on Harbor Boulevard and the adjoining Channel Islands Boulevard as the course past Channel Islands Harbor to Surfside Drive near the Hueneme Pier.

A long time ago I signed up for the race, well before my latest spate of injuries, namely a hamstring issue, that has basically eliminated long runs from my training for quite some time. I could easily just skip the marathon or perhaps change over to the half marathon or 5K. I'm not in particular speedy shape and I have done very few runs of any distance on the roads, so running a full on marathon solely on roads is probably a bad call for me.

But, what can I say, I'm a stubborn runner. Although I have no delusions of a speedy time on the course, I'm intrigued by the fact that the course is flat as a pancake, with course elevation ranging from 20 feet to 56 feet (I suspect that must be the bridges on Channel Islands Boulevard). I can't remember a flatter course than this one other than the graham cracker flat Chicago Marathon.

While there are no 18, 20, 22 milers in my logbook this entire year, I do have a couple recent hilly 15.5 milers on the Bulldog 25K course in the last 6 weeks. So my legs are reasonably strong for climbing and descending hills on dirt trails, but I've done pretty much diddly squat on the roads. That could be a major problem for me lasting through the entire 26.2 miles on the hard pavement. I did do a 2 hour, 20 minute trail run on April 7th and about 17 miles in Hidden Valley on March 17th, but that was a long time ago. I will have to think carefully about my choice of shoes for this run. No racing flats for me this go-around.

So let's see how it goes for Sunday. Perhaps I'll run with my camera and just take it easy and have some fun.  The weather in theory could also be a factor as we are currently in a heat wave, but it is supposed to crescendo by Friday (two days from today), then taper off over the weekend...not to mention, this run should have ocean breezes much of the way.

Clif Bar Mountains 2 Beach Marathon and Half Marathon Results From Last Sunday

The Clif Bar Mountains 2 Beach Marathon and Half Marathon took place this past Sunday, May 26th, on Memorial Day wekeend. The course begins near Nordhoff High School in Ojai with a 10k road loop followed by over 10 miles of downhill, paved bike path before beginning a road and bike path loop near the Ventura Oceanfront. There is a net downhill of over 700 feet over the course.

We saw some of the final finisher coming through back up the bike path from Marina Park to Surfers Point underneath the pier.This I believe was the 3rd year of the event (previously called the Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon) and it has fast become very popular , selling out registrations for both the full and half marathon. I think it is safe to say that this is the fastest marathon course located solely in Ventura County. There 1,258 finishers this year and the top 3 finishers were:

  • 41 year old Ricardo Ramirez of Sun Valley in 2:31:23
  • 22 year old John Svet of Brea in 2:31:57
  • 52 year old Matt Ebiner of Covina in 2:32:55 (Run at age 52 and just 6 weeks after running the Boston Marathon 2 seconds faster! In fact Matt is something else...according to his El Camino College website, he is currently ranked #1 in the WORLD for age 50+ marathoners and ran the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Trials Marathons. Wow Matt, let's get you transfered out to a local Ventura County college!)

The top female finishers in the race were:

  • 33 year old Jenni Johnson of Tustin in 2:51:34 (16th place overall)
  • 20 year old Paige Burgin of Los Alamitos in 2:53:20 (23rd overall)
  • 29 year old Jill Himlan of Santa Barbara in 2:55:25 (32nd overall)

A total of 54 runners, or 4.3% of the total, ran under 3 hours at Mountains 2 Beach. That compares to less than 1% of runners at the Los Angeles Marathon, 2.2% of runners at 2012 Santa Barbara Marathon and 1.1% of the runners at last year's Rock 'n Roll Marathon in San Diego as a comparison.

The fastest marathoners based in Ventura County were:

  • 38 year old John Kitt of Ventura in 2:52 (18th overall)
  • 28 year old Jose Lastre of Camarillo in 2:55 (30th overall)
  • 40 year old James Casper of Newbury Park in 2:55 (33rd overall)
  • 37 year old Joseph Jauregui of Newbury Park in 2:59 (51st overall)
  • 28 year old Melissa Hernandez of Oxnard in 2:59 (54th overall, 6th female)

Congratulations! Learn more about this race at www.mountains2beachmarathon.com.