According to the Brazen Racing web site, “Used in the 1800s to transport gravel for the construction of the western section of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Western Pacific Trail now forms a part of this mostly-flat course where you can haul in a personal best.” This course is also USTAF certified and you can use it qualify for the Boston Marathon! I had just come back from a six hour drive on Friday and wasn’t entirely sure how ready I was going to be. That said, I got two amazing 15-mile trail runs this week in the Marble Mountain Wilderness with multiple stream crossings, which, including the marathon made it a 50+ mile week! Tapering before a race is not quite in my vocabulary just yet. 🙂
Western Pacific Marathon
The night before the race, I went over my race day checklist and based on the 12 aid stations and the heat wave, decided to go as light as possible. I added one snap-in container and one 10oz bottle to my Amphipod with 5 Clif Shots and a few Succeed Caps. I drove up to Quarry Lakes at 6am and the day started beautifully with a spectacular sunrise as I was driving across the Dumbarton Bridge. Checked in, picked up my bib and race package and hung out for a while warming up with my skips, jumps and 100 ups. The day began innocuously enough at 60°F, but only got worse after that.
We toed the starting line and were off at 7:30 sharp. The cool breeze felt good and I noted that there were a few pacers this time around. Ron was the 3:35 pacer (leading the pack on the right) and he announced it as much. With an 8:12 pace, I figured I could maybe keep up with him and that would be a great first sub-4:00 marathon. The Western Pacific Marathon was also my first full-length marathon. I was in front of the pack and took off at what seemed like a comfortable pace. When I got to the 1-mile marker, I noted that I was running at 7:48 pace and slowed down a bit.
To avoid cramps, I decided to pop one of the Succeed Caps every 45 minutes (along with a Clif Shot) and this worked like magic. By the time I got to the 5th aid station at 8.75 miles, it was starting to get warm. The 4-mile stretch to the first turn-around point was kinda hard in that it was monotonous. With expansive, but unchanging view of the bay and Coyote Hills, it was hard to know if I was moving at all. The mile-markers along the way were the primary indicators. I was still in a very joking, playful mood when I got to the turn-around aid-station at 12.75 miles. My time so far was 1:40ish which was pretty decent. I was thinking that if I could sustain that it was going to be an awesome finish. But, life’s full of surprises.
By mile 18, it was hot, maybe around 85°F or 90°F, and I was definitely getting tired and also realized that I still had over an hour to go. One thing that I did consciously at each aid-station was to dunk cold water on my calves and feet. It made a huge difference and my Luna Sandals didn’t get slippery either! Made a quick stop at one of the porta potties and kept moving. My jovial mood was slowly disappearing and I had to focus to keep my feet moving forward. I was touching the shrubs and trees as I ran past them to soak up as much earth energy as I could. Hey, anything to get past the finish line, right? Noted that Ron had gotten past me and some of the runners that took off at a fast pace from the starting line looked like they were fading. Their heads were down and they were digging deep. By this time, my elaborate goals of a sub-4:00 marathon boiled down to little things, like making it to the next aid-station or running up to the overpass or a tree before walking for a bit. The shorter goals were keeping my mental fatigue at bay and allowed me to keep moving forward.
Earlier in the run, I told myself I was going to take a picture of myself at the 21-mile marker since that’s the furthest I had run before, but never got around to it. When I got to the second turn-around point at 23.27 miles, I was so happy that they had a bucket full of ice-water and a sponge. The cold water felt so amazing and it was on to the last stretch. Bit by bit, kept inching forward, one more potty break at mile 24 and pushed myself towards the finish line. Finally crossed the finish line at 3:49 and it put me 16th place overall and 4th in my age group. I’ll take that over a DNF!
Things that worked for me: A light hydration pack, Clif Shots, Succeed Caps, the Vaseline in my inner thighs and the repeated reminder on my Timex watch to drink water every 15 minutes. I also didn’t encounter the wall nor bonk around 20 miles. But with my wet t-shirt, from dunking cold water on myself, I discovered a new problem. Nipple chaffing. Luckily it wasn’t bad, but still something to watch out for in my next run.
Where you there at this Western Pacific Marathon? What was your experience?
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