My anticipation was high for this race. The Surfer’s Path was the first full marathon since my disastrous performance at the Forest Park Marathon in Portland last August. To be fair, the blame for that event lay squarely with me. I had not trained sufficiently. After that I resolved to do a marathon again but that I would train better this next time. Nine months later, four months of which training with a coach, I was at the starting line of the Surfer’s Path in Santa Cruz.
We chose Surfer’s Path because my girlfriend has family in Santa Cruz. We thought it’d be a great to tie the visit in with a marathon. The plan turned out better than I could have imagined because the love and support I received while in Santa Cruz helped almost as much as all the prior months of training.
We stayed at my girlfriend’s uncles’ house, a few minutes walk from the beach. We were able to relax and they treated us with great food and great company. We went to the race expo, which was notable for being outside. I appreciated the non-existent swag, which is great because I normally toss that stuff. (Way to keep it eco, guys!) That night before the race, my girlfriend’s uncles invited friends to partake in a pasta-fest with us. Since most of my pre-race meals have been at restaurants, it was wonderful having a home-cooked meal.
The next morning I woke up at 5:45 for a quick breakfast and coffee before the 7:00 start time. I already found one of my uncles in the kitchen ready to give me a ride to the starting line. I arrived at the starting line five minutes before the start and ready to go.
If I were to sum up the nearly four hour event in one word it would be the defining word of our generation: awesome. And I mean it in its true sense. As in: to inspire awe. The whole time I was running, I was filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the beautiful course, gratitude for my health, gratitude for my training, gratitude for my family (who cheered me on periodically on the course) and gratitude for the opportunity to push myself in this race and in future events. If being filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude isn’t awesome, what is?
All of this stood in such stark contrast to my experience at Forest Park. Back then I had hit the wall. People *think* they hit the wall at mile 20 of a marathon when really what they’re experiencing is running a marathon. Getting a little tired and your legs being sore is just part of running the marathon. The wall, by contrast, is when you run out of all the glycogen reserves available in your body. What results from this is a feeling of fatigue and pain unlike any other. This physical sensation brings about an emotional gloom from which you feel like you will never emerge.
This is what happened to me at Forest Park. It was made doubly worse by the fact that I was alone. In the woods. I had to walk the last six miles of the marathon in pain, deeply tired, and feeling incredibly sorry for myself. And because I didn’t train properly, I also knew it was entirely my fault.
So it is a testament to the awesome training I’ve been doing (courtesy of my coach) that helped the race go so well. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard. After mile 20, my body hurt. A lot. But it was not The Wall. It was nowhere near. I was smiling through the pain. In the last mile I started chatting it up with another runner. He said he was tired and he was “hitting the wall.” I assured him he was doing no such thing, it was normal to feel tired towards the end of the race. I told him he looked good and he was going strong. He looked at his watch and said we were at 3 hours, 38 minutes. I told him that lifted my spirits and I was able to pick up the pace.
I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 39 minutes, a new PR for me. I was feeling good, all things considered, and glad to be back on track with where I’ve wanted my training to be.
With that in mind, I’ll reverse taper and get ready for the next race, the Cougar Mountain 8 Mile trail run and the rest of the Cougar Mountain Run Series. Then the St. George Marathon which I am really excited for. That will be an incredibly beautiful course. As amazing as that race will be, that’s a training run for the Cougar Mountain 50K later that month, which will be My First Ultra.