2012 Santa Rosa Marathon

Every marathoner wants to go out strong, hit the ground running, bank some time… But that’s not how my husband, Doug rolls. The best marathons he’s run have been when he’s been patient, ran smart, and saved his energy for the last 6 miles or so. He runs a very conservative first half, even though wants to go faster. He drinks water at every water station, takes in electrolytes religiously, even though he’s not thirsty. And the result? He runs negative splits, finishing his second half much faster than his first, and his final 6 miles are the fastest overall. He runs like a pro.

Doug’s races not only serve as tremendous accomplishments for him, but they are a classic example of HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE.

…you CAN run a marathon and feel good.

…you CAN run a marathon and not hit a wall.

…you CAN run a marathon and finish faster than you started.

So, where does this patience come from?  


That’s my husband!

9 Tips to Running the Race of Your Life

"Suck it up buttercup"
This was the racing mantra I used for the 2011 Oxnard Santa-to-the-Sea half marathon. I wrote it on my hand on the drive down to Oxnard for the race. Every time I felt tired, or wanting to slow down, I would think to myself, “Suck it up buttercup.” And push forward.
This race was particularly special because it was the first time I ran relaxed, strong, and was extremely happy with my performance. I raced better than I could have ever dreamed. Here are nine ways that made the race so special for me (written as tips for your next half marathon).
1. Sign up for a race last minute… spur of the moment.  I signed up for the race last minute, just three days before. I didn’t have any grand expectations. I didn’t know much about the course, except that it went from the Santa to the Sea. All I knew was that it was time to race…I hadn’t raced since Boston, but had been training hard. I wanted to run a 1:35, to qualify for the New York Marathon. My best time was 1:36, so I really needed a PR.
2. Pick a course that is flat. The course was flat, and slightly downhill. I didn’t know much about the course, so I was really happy when there weren’t any hills.
3. Use pacing groups as a bench mark. After the gun went off, I held back, ran with my music, and took it slow. I didn’t know my pace because I wasn’t wearing my Garmin GPS watch. But I could see the 1:30 pacing group ahead of me…”Oh shoot!” I panicked. I need to slow down… I’m going to burn out… I did my best to pull back a little. But I was feeling really good, so I just tried to maintain my pace. It’s only a half marathon, I thought… You can’t burn out during a half!? Right?! Just try to keep behind the 1:30 group… you’ll break your 1:35…
4. Bring a spectator.  Even with a perfect flat course, and gorgeous weather, nothing beats having someone you know out there cheering you on. For my race, my father in law came along… Every time I saw him, I got a bust of energy to go faster. I saw my father in law at the bottom of this overpass…
5. Make the decision to break your PR or not… during the race. I didn’t go into the race with any grand expectations. I wasn’t trying to keep any particular pace, except what might help me qualify for the NYC Marathon. But suddenly, half way through the race, I decided wanted to break 1:30. I saw the 1:30 pace group a head of me, and knew that if I caught them, I could at least finish in 1:30. I thought about what Chad said to me… “Rusty told me to just real them in. Just keep your eye on them, relax, and soon they’ll come to you.  I did it, running 8:30s, and soon I was running 6:30s.”  I wanted to replicate this so badly… My husband would be so proud of me if I broke 1:30!! I love making him proud.  After several LONG, boring miles… I caught the 1:30 guy. It was about mile 10, and I could-not-believe-it. I was running faster than them to catch them, so I just kept up my pace. Just 3 miles to go… I got this…

6. Know the last two miles before the finish… backwards and forwards.  The last 2 miles, it felt harder and harder to keep the pace. Felt like vomiting, the lactic acid was setting in, I was t-i-r-e-d. I wanted to stop, and had no idea when the end was coming. I wished I had studied the course better, or walked the end of the course… I was so grateful for that 1:30 pacer… Just tried to stay ahead of the 1:30 pack. Gotta love those pacers!! I used my new mantra: “Suck it up buttercup.” :-) I was definitely tired, but my legs were fine.

We made our final turn for the home stretch, and I heard the 1:30 pacer say, “Almost there. You are going to break 1:30.” I couldn’t believe it, I was sort of in shock. I was gritting my teeth, hurting in pain, but didn’t want to miss breaking 1:30 because I gave up. I sucked it up, and picked it up for the last 300 meters or so. I turned the corner and sprinted to the end. I couldn’t believe it! 1:29:23!! 

I saw Doug and started jumping up and down. He gave me a BIG HUG. Love that guy so much.

Four more lessons learned from this race:

5. Be patient with your threshold training. It will take time to build up, but enjoy it. It will pay off… I paced a marathon at 9min pace, and it brought me strength. Run 26.2 as a fun run leading up to your next race. You’ll be surprised how much fun you have, and how much it will help you improve.

6. Don’t eat beats the day before the race. I didn’t mention this part during the post, but we ate beats with our pasta the night before. I didn’t feel sick until after the race. I DEFINITELY don’t recommend it!

7. Run with a mantra. I’m surprised how well this worked for me. Focusing on one quote, saying, proverb, verse… it can really help you make it a reality. Tell yourself to “Suck it up, buttercup,” or “it wouldn’t be a marathon if it wasn’t hard.” Google them, pick one, and write it on your hand. You’ll be glad you did.

8. Run with music. If you haven’t done this yet, you really don’t know what you are missing. Every time a good song came on, I felt like dancing. Pick music that has a good rhythm, beat, and/or makes you want to dance. I normally feel distracted by the music, but it really helped me relax. When I wanted to slow my pace down, I told myself to just keep moving my legs to the beat of the song, and it really helped. Songs came on that I LOVE to dance to… it felt like a dance party out there!

9. Suck it up buttercup. You will feel tired, but for a half marathon… if you have been putting in your long miles, don’t worry about burning out. You’ll be fine, you won’t hit a wall… Or at least you won’t hit it until nearly the end, so you won’t have to run too long on tired legs.

Jabs fly as races draw near

Something I have noticed about myself and other runners is that sometimes we take races too seriously. We are so afraid of failing, hurting, getting injured, and not getting a PR, that we forget about finding fulfillment in the many other areas of our lives.

This week I ran a PR in the 5k… my best time ever. It was hard, I wasn’t relaxed, and started dry heaving at the end. Even though I had run my best time, I wasn’t happy with my performance. My dream is to finish races strong and energized… but my finish was weak and painful.

I wonder if my attitude in the days leading up to the race had anything to do with this.

…I stressed out shopping for gifts for my family.
…I whined and complained A LOT when we went skiing.
…I snapped when we were late to see friends.

When races draw near… the tensity looms. I think I focused so much on getting a PR that I neglected so many other important areas of my life. I think I do my best when I’m relaxed, and when I’m not solely relying on my running life to bring me fulfillment. I definitely went overboard, stressing over a PR, and it wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be.

Getting a PR is incredible. But I can’t make PRs my only fulfillment in my life. We need to find fulfillment in other areas of our lives…

…giving thoughtful gifts
…demonstrating gratitude
…being in each others’ lives
…figuring out how to conquer our fears

Start your next race fulfilled. Spend time and effort in other areas of your life that matter.  Start bringing happiness to your race, rather than chasing it during the race. You might just run the race of your life.

Have you ever accomplished something, but weren’t very happy with your performance? Please share!

2010 Santa Barbara International Marathon

It was a pretty amazing race. The weather conditions were perfect, and I was as prepared as I could possibly be. I broke my time from last year, but still finished thinking of what to do differently next time. I ran hard, and pushed myself all the way to the end.

JILL’s STORY of her 2010 MARATHON:

We woke up really early (4:30am) to get dressed, and put the final touches on our race jerseys. We picked up our friend, who was staying at the Bacara, and drove over to the start at Dos Pueblos High School. 

The start was amazing - 1300 runners all got together at Dos Pueblos High School to start this event.  The race started 30 minutes late, which gave everyone extra time to use the bathroom (which I appreciated!).  The mayor of Goleta addressed the runners and shot the gun off right after we listened to the National Anthem, and we were off!

I started out at a pretty quick pace, even though I was trying to keep my pace at 8:00 miles for the first two miles.  At about mile 2 Kara found me, and we ran together for the rest of the first half.  She is quick, and keeps a fantastic pace. This was really great because she she is really fun to run with, and was wearing a Garman watch, and could tell me what our pace was.  Before we knew it, the first 5k was over with, and we were running by Citrix Online!

At about mile 7, I saw my husband’s cousin Bob, who was taking pictures! It pumped me up to see a familiar face.  I caught up with a couple running club friends, who were also wearing watches and confirmed the 7 minute 30 second pace I was aiming for. Things were looking good.

At mile 12, I saw my friend Elizabeth with a sign cheering me on! That was really special because it was so early, and cold outside, but as I came running down Cathedral Oaks, there she was, jumping and yelling “Go Jill!!” I felt a surge of positive energy and picked up the pace!  Here is a picture of the sign Elizabeth made me (it’s now on my wall at work!)

Just after mile 12 I heard a little girl yell out, “Your are like the 8th girl.”  I said, “Really?”  I couldn’t believe it!  I kept running, and then saw some fellow Citrix people cheering us on, and saying they saw Doug just a little while before I came running by.  Suddenly I saw “Tall Mike” from our running group, and ran with him from mile 14 through 17, along with Jerry. They paced me for a few miles, and they both have very positive energy and are great to run with.

Somewhere before mile 20 though, I started to slow down. I could tell something wasn’t right, but couldn’t tell exactly if I was just getting more tired, or if my pace was slowing.

Right around mile 20 my legs started to fill with lactic acid. At this point I knew I was slowing down significantly.  I couldn’t get my legs to turn over fast enough to keep up with the other girls that I had been pacing with the whole race.  I was starting to get really bummed out.

I remember at about mile 22, just as I was turning to run down Las Positas toward the great “Killer Cliff” Drive, two spectators yelled out “You are in the top 10 women. Pick it up, make them work for it.”  I was shocked.  How could I possibly be in the top 10?  I kept thinking of how neat it would be to finish in the top 10, but could not get my legs to go faster.  It was the strangest feeling.  Then at the end of Las Positas, another man came running in the opposite direction and told me again, “You are in the top 10 women. Pick it up if you want to make it.” Still my legs would not listen, but I thought after I get over this hill, the .6 mile hill of Cliff Drive, then I will pick it up.

As I was running up the hill, just about getting to the top, I could feel a small cramp starting in my left ankle.  I started to get very scared.  Also nearly 10 girls passed me, and that glimmer of hope to finish in the top 10 was slipping away.  And then, I had a breaking moment where I started to cry.  Not really over the fact that I wouldn’t finish in the top 10, but because my plans of running at 7:30 pace the entire race did not happen. I kept thinking of how I’d be disappointing everyone I asked to come out and support me, my coach, etc. I was in pain, bummed out, and disappointed.

Then suddenly at about mile 24, I saw two running club buddies screaming, “GO JILL!! YOU GOT IT!!” These two individuals are extremely good runners, and I really look up to them, so their encouragement meant the world to me! We were going downhill at this point, and I just had to hang in there.  I was still amazed that my legs just didn’t want to go faster, but the downhill helped them move.

I saw Elda and Jamie at mile 26, and they were very encouraging.  They yelled, “Great job Jill. Its almost over. Hang in there. Finish strong.”  It was the kind of positive encouragement that I was trying to tell myself, but when I heard it from more running buddies that I look up to, I believed it.  I came flying down Cabrillo to the finish with all the energy I had left.  The finish was one lap around the Santa Barbara City College track, and it was EXHILARATING! It was a brand new track which was rubber and very bouncy! I felt like I was running a hundred miles an hour (even though I wasn’t)! I turned the corner of the lap and saw the Finish line.  I looked to the left and saw Drea yelling, “Go, go, go!! Jill!” (Drea was the first place girl in the inaugural Santa Barbara Marathon. So it was so neat to see her cheering me on!) And then I saw Doug’s Mom, Elaine with the biggest smile on her face! I then charged for the finish!  It was over, and done, finally. 3:27.

The Nitty Gritty

Mile 1-13.1 (7:33 pace) - right on pace

Mile 13.1-20 (7:59 pace) -I started slipping…

Mile 20-26.2: (8:39 pace)- I couldn’t get my legs to turn over fast enough

Finish: 3:27:57.