When I started this whole marathon running hobby (or obsession) I quickly learned that I I could use running marathons as an excuse to travel. Or as a corollary, I could use traveling as an excuse to run marathons. Have to go to Sacramento, California for a work meeting? Run CIM. Want to go visit a friend in Columbus, Ohio? Schedule the trip for the same weekend as the Columbus Marathon. And while you just happen to be in the Midwest, why not run the Chicago Marathon the next week?
So when I knew I was going through a transition in late January and early February, end my job and starting student teaching, I wanted to make sure to take some time off in between and I knew I needed to run a marathon during that transition. Now, I don’t like to travel during the holidays to visit my family in Southern California so a trip to Southern California seemed in order. Naturally, I looked into what marathons were on the calendar in Southern California during this transition. Hmm… the Surf City Marathon is February 1. I’ve read good things about that one, flat course, run along the beach. But wait… the Carlsbad Marathon is January 25. How to decide which one to do? Well, why not do both? So that was the plan a few months ago. But when it was time to book flights I discovered the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon in Hemet, California the day before Carlsbad. Hemet is about an 80 minute drive from my parents house. Hmm… why not run Diamond Valley Lake also. I mean, it’s reasonably close, fairly flat, on groomed trails, along a lake. Lot’s of things in the positive column. So that was the new plan.
Fast forward to yesterday when I ran the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon. I got to Hemet about 45 minutes before the 8am start time and parked right in front of a carload of Dudes. Not “dudes” in the generic sense meaning guys or men, but “Dudes”. These guys threw around phrases like “that’s what I’m talkin’ about” and “bring it” at least a few times a day. For example, Dude #1: “Did you bring it?”, Dude #2: “Hell yeah I’m bringin’ it”, Dude #1: “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”. They also played their music from the car stereo loud enough so you can hear 10 meters away. And they played stuff that sounded like it was entrance music for wrestlers. I secretly hoped they didn’t hear about nipple chafing. I seriously wanted to see these Dudes at the finish with two red streaks down the fronts of their shirts.
Okay, back to DVLM… as usual, I started out too aggressive and ran a faster pace than I really planned to. I was going for a sub-4:00. After all, this was supposed to be just a training run for Surf City, which is the fastest course, on paper, of the three marathons I was running). I forgot to charge my Garmin so I was without my GPS and had to run by feel. That worked out okay. It’s just that I felt like I was running fast.
DVLM is a small marathon, I think maybe 100-200 runners, so you don’t see very many people. I did met a few other Marathon Maniacs (Guillermo, another from Utah whose name I didn’t catch, and another from San Diego whose name I already forgot). Amazingly enough for a small marathon, the aid station support was great. There wasn’t a lot of aid stations. They were spaced maybe 3-4 miles apart. But the volunteers were always great and helpful.
The course started with a 2.5 mile out-and-back followed by a single clockwise loop around Diamond Valley Lake. It was a nice, pretty course. The signs for what to do when you encounter a mountain lion kind of concerned me though. But I think I was more afraid of wandering off the top of the 3-mile long dams while taking in the views and falling a hundred feet or so into either the lake or even farther on the dry side than I was about mountain lions.
I managed to get in a pretty decent 20 mile training run but then things started to fall apart. The next 4.5 miles involved a bit of walking. But my internal clock thought I was still in sub-4:00 territory. I ask another runner what time she had and confirmed my feeling. I started feeling good for the last 1.5 miles and ran almost all of it and got into the finish line at 3:48:50. BTW, I didn’t see if the Dudes had bloody nipples because I didn’t see them. Their car was still there when I left. I guess they didn’t bring enough of it.
Amazingly enough, I felt great afterward. No soreness, no cramping, no blisters, no chafing, nothing. I did have my usual GI issues, namely an acid reflex-ish kind of feeling. Not sure why, but I get that way when I run faster than I should. I only took in 3 gels (Hammerhead) so it wasn’t gel overdose. But I felt optimistic about Carlsbad the next day.
Let me start off by saying that Carlsbad has got to have the greatest expo I’ve ever been to. Okay, maybe Chicago, with it’s shear enormity is the greatest. But more isn’t always better. More is just more. Carlsbad on the other hand, well, at Carlsbad they give out free loaves of bread. That’s right, not a few slices, but entire loaves. Weird, huh? And that’s why it has the best expo. Do I remember what I got at any of the other expos I’ve been to? Okay, I do remember the cowbells at Chicago. But I’ll never forget the bread.
Now, because of the bread I had a good feeling about Carlsbad (I know, weird), despite the 6am start, which meant I would have to leave my sister’s house (she’s closer to Carlsbad than my parents are) at 4am. Of course, at that early of an hour there was no traffic and I got there a bit sooner than I expected so I managed to take a 15 minute nap in the car after landing a nice parking spot near the exit of the mall where the start/finish line was. After the nap, I got my shoes and race belt on, shed my warm layers to reveal my Obama ’08 singlet I got but never wore for the Chicago Marathon and headed to the start line. There I found Julie, rather she found me, a friend from Portland who decided to run Carlsbad also because her boyfriend’s sister lives in the area. She told me she drove the course the day before and realized how hilly it was. I thought it was supposed to be flat? Hmm.
We start the 6am race in the dark. I lose Julie in the crowd of 1000+ marathoners (there’s a half marathon that starts later in the morning). Then the sun starts to rise about 3 miles in and I realize that we’re running on the Pacific Coast Highway along the beach. Nice! Julie finds me again now that the crowd has thinned out and we run together with the 4:00 pace group. Then, for some reason, the 4:00 pacers dial it up and run noticeably faster than needed for a 4 hour finish. Man, these guys suck. I don’t feel bad about myself since this is another training run for me. I feel bad about the first-timers or folks with hard goals they want to hit who trained specifically for a 4 hour finish and might bonk because they started out too fast. Oh well, it’s not my battle to fight.
Julie and I run together just slightly faster than a 4:00 pace (the 4:00 pace group is so far ahead of us we can’t even see them). Her boyfriend, Brian, is on his folding/travel/clown bike, riding the entire course and meeting up with us every couple of miles (well, mostly Julie since I’m just tagging along) taking pictures and offering support. Chatting almost the entire time helped pass the time. By mile 19 I think Julie senses I’m running fine and she’s starting to fade and tells me she won’t mind if I drop her. I give it another mile to make sure I’m feeling strong and at mile 20 I pick up the pace. We merge with the half marathoners for a second time soon after. This time it’s the 2:30-ish halfers so a slower group than the first time the marathoners and halfers merged. So I’m having fun picking off halfers, the only downside is weaving between them. But I’ll never doubt the psychological boost of passing people (and conversely, getting passed). Amazingly enough, the GI problems I fought the day before aren’t happening today. I take in a gel at mile 23 and another at mile 25. At this point I pass the 4:00 pace group. Feels good since I know the pacers badly managed their pacing. I feel so good by the time I hit the mile 26 marker with 0.2 miles left, I start into a full-on sprint. I totally could have finished a few seconds faster but I slow down 30 meters from the finish because a full marathoner realized she was about to cross the half marathon finish line and crossed over to the full marathon side right in front of me. Kind of annoying, but she seemed more enthusiastic about getting a good marathon finish photo than I was so I was okay about that. After all, this was just a training run for me. I still managed to get in a 3:53:53 finish (chip time). A little slower than the day before but a smarter race.
So my second double averaged faster than my first. I think I’m getting better at this. I’m also less sore today than I was right after my first double. Now I just need to rest up before Surf City.