The Day of the Santa Barbara Marathon

In my last post, I described my day before the marathon on Saturday, December 5th.  The next day was Marathon Day.

Before going to sleep the night before, I did remember to set my watch alarm to 5:30 am. But I realized midway into my first dream that 5:30 am probably wouldn't cut it for a 6:30 am start.  But to no avail, I stayed asleep.  (Note to self: plan better next time.)

Luckily though, even though the Bacara is an expensive, fancy resort, the phone in the room next door went off at 5 am sharp and I heard it clear as a bell like it was a Motel 6 paper thin wall. So I was up and atom.

First thing I did was go outside to grab the Gatorade bottle I placed outside the door to keep it cold (the mini-fridge didn't have room for it).  My Gatorade was gone.  Darn it!  Who took my Gatorade!!??

Another odd thing.  No coffee maker in my fancy schmancy hotel room. What the??  Pretty much every single hotel room these days has one. But not the Bacara.  Well, I later discover that there is complimentary coffee in the main lobby...but would have loved to have it in my own room.

My 2nd chocolate chunk muffin went down nicely at 5:30 am. Probably would have been good to eat more, but that's all I had other than some leftover trail mix.

So after dressing and downing the coffee, my goal was to warm up a bit and get my bodily functions moving, if you know what I mean.  For some, all it takes is a cup of coffee.  For others, ya gotta move around a bit. I ran slowly, for 10 minutes, I came back to the room, bodily functioned. Then repeated this process 2 more times. Huh??  Yes, I believe it was Return of the Quesadilla.

So I suddenly realize that the race STARTS in 20 minutes and I'm 1 1/2 miles away. So I go through all the preparations, change into my singlet with a long sleeve coverup and gloves (it is about 40 degrees outside...pretty cold), pack my bag and jog to the start of the race.  I've already run 3 miles today.  Not exactly a good idea.

With 7 minutes to spare I get there and there is a mass of people at a the local Ellwood School in Goleta.  I'm all warmed up, sucked down a "GU" packet and drank all my water.  Given the race was to start very soon I removed my 2nd layer and gloves, knowing I would not need them during the race.  I dropped off my goody bag and situated myself in the runner corral.

Within a minute, there is an announcement.  Accident on the 101 freeway. Race has been DELAYED by 30 minutes!  Wait a sec!!! I'm ready to run RIGHT NOW!!!  You've got to be kidding me!?  We're not running on the 101 freeway, are we?  So now I'm standing there, freezing, in light singlet, no gloves, no warm pants.  DAMMIT!!!  This sucks!!

This was no fault of the race organizers and they handled it quite well, offering up several heated rooms for runners to congregate in like sardines.  But I was very frustrated, having never experienced such a long race delay in my 16 years of running.  I was fuming but most people took it in stride.  The atmosphere of the race was very laid back. People were having fun.  I was soon over it. But still cold!

Lesson learned...prepare for the worst case scenario.  I should have worn a 2nd layer and throwaway gloves for this unlikely situation.  As it stood, I was freezing, burning calories off just to keep warm.

So 20 minutes later we are lining again, and of course, before the start of the Star Spangled Banner, I've gotta pee.  So I run off, and in the most respectful and quick way possible, I manage to finish as I hear "land of the free" (as I'm thinking, "land of the pee" for me that particular moment).

Kudos to the race announcer.  He did an OUTSTANDING and entertaining job organizing the start of the race and using humor to ensure proper placement of faster runners in front.  Too many local races start dangerously due to slower runners and walkers situating themselves at the front of the pack.  This race had 3,000 runners and got off to a perfect start at 7 am.

The Santa Barbara Marathon course overall is pretty flat with some rolling hills.  I wouldn't call it a fast course but it is a very runner friendly course.  Well organized, decent number of water stops, very clearly marked.  Over half the course takes place in Goleta actually, including an initial 12 1/2 mile loop.  The crowds were supportive and gracious. While the race ends at Leadbetter Beach, only the last 1 1/2 miles of the course provided ocean views.  The weather was perfect for a marathon.  Mostly mid 50s to low 60s.

While I was perfectly happy with my 3 hour, 16 minute performance, there are always lessons to learn from. For starters, I made not one, but TWO porta-john stops in this race, adding about 3 minutes in lost time.  I'm thinking it was the quesadilla but I must figure out how to eliminate this problem for my next marathon.

After the first pit stop (around mile 4) I felt good enough to gradually make up a 1 1/2 minute gap and pass by the pack of runners I'd been running with before the stop.  This took place around mile 8. BIG MISTAKE!  I wasn't really trying that hard to catch them but what I should have done was take my time and reel them in.  I just wasn't thinking.

Tough Going at Mile 23.5 of SB Marathon...Up Cliff Drive (Photo Courtesy of Simon Ibsen**)They caught up with me again around mile 11, then a few miles later, I believe around mile 15 or 16, I made pit stop #2.  Yikes! At that point the wind came out of my sails a bit but I remembered my under 3 1/2 hours and finish with a smile on my face.  Given I had passed the halfway mark in 1 hour, 30 min, I had plenty of leeway to get there.

The last 10 miles took us through residential areas, bike paths and later, a 170 foot climb up Cliff Drive.  My hamstrings were killing me around mile 19/20 and I walked for about 5 minutes. Then I thought, there's no way I'm gonna walk the rest of this course!  I resolve to shuffle my way in, come hell or high water. The 3 or 4 GU packs I took in earlier in the race must have started kicking in, as I picked up a steady pace to the finish.

My friends all did well and we enjoyed sharing stories after the race. None of us have anything to prove. We all went out and gave it our best shot on that particular day with whatever training each of us, given life's challenges and surprises, could muster. 

The beauty of running a marathon is that we all have our own reasons for running...a challenge, competition, a charity, exercise, etc...and all run together on the same course at the same time, cheering each other on. 

At the end of the day, while I didn't quite make the "big" comeback I really was seeking to do when I started this adventure on April 27, 2009, I'm certainly glad I did it.  I'm thrilled that I'm here writing about it, uninjured!

I've now taken 2 days off.  Tomorrow I'll be back at it.  So stay tuned...

**For more of Simon's photos from the race, visit: