I first heard about the Santa Rosa Marathon when I was on my way home from Boston last April and searching for fast fall marathons that could get me a BQ. Two days later, I registered.
After training through a very hot and humid Texas summer (there’s no humidity in Austin, they said… uh huh), it was finally time to hit the road last Friday! We had a direct flight into San Francisco and then drove an hour and a half up to Santa Rosa, which is such a cute California town. It’s on the southern end of wine country and filled with super cute shops, antique stores and restaurants. It was chilly there, which I didn’t mind because I definitely packed a hoodie (or two).
On Saturday, we headed to the race expo which was held at the winery that you run through around mile 10. It was a pretty nice sized expo, considering that there were about 5,000 participants for all the races (marathon, half marathon and 5k), with about 2,000 marathon participants. There were a ton of wine vendors, along with race and running gear vendors. For the race, they give you a jacket instead of a shirt so I of course opted to buy my own finisher shirt (which were perfect colors — gray with pink writing!).
You also pick up a bottle of wine with your packet pick up. So there’s that. (P.S. I did NOT get any safety pins in my bag or see them anywhere and luckily was able to get some from the hotel. Not sure if I just wasn’t paying attention or if there were supposed to be some in my bag, but FYI.)
We headed to lunch at the East West Restaurant where I had a classic BLT. Afterwards, we spent some time hanging out downtown Santa Rosa before the inevitable Chipotle dinner.
Race day essentials
(Brooks tank | Under Armour shorts | Brooks Glycerin 13 | Honey Stingers | PROBAR Bolt | Garmin 220 | Brooks Moving Comfort Juno Sports Bra | Brooks Out-of-Sight Workout Bikini | Bottleband)
The next morning, I was up around 4:41 a.m. and got dressed, grabbed my bagel and gear and headed downstairs. I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott and they told us that there was a bus for pick up at 5:05 a.m. Turns out, they had no idea what they were talking about so all of us ended up walking to the start. It took about 10 minutes and wasn’t a bad walk at all (we actually took part of the trail that you run on).
When we were walking over there, one of the girls’ friends texted her and said that the wait at the port-a-potties was terrible and the lines were so long. I literally walked up and went right into one so not quite sure where that story came from. But anyways, I headed to the start area and chilled out for awhile. Funny – I was sitting there eating my PROBAR Bolts (I always eat a package about 30 minutes before a race) with a classy Delta blanket around my shoulders when a race organizer came by and asked if I was okay. I guess I was too subdued for race morning. 😉
The temperatures felt really good; it was in the low 50s and there was a chill in the air but I could tell that it was a little humid. Anyways, we all lined up and I was in the middle of the 3:28 and 3:33 pacer. Once we started, the 3:28 pacer took off and I tried to keep him in sight but I really didn’t want to push it too hard (usually my problem).
Running through downtown, you do a ton of turns. You can tell the organizers were just trying to build mileage. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, and I tried to stick to the tangents. I ran between 7:50-8 minute miles through here, trying to be closer to 8 minute miles. I wasn’t thinking about much beyond how nice it was to start at 6 a.m. in the dark.
I LOVED this part of the course. You ran on a running trail next to the river and it was excluded and just gorgeous. At this point, I realized that maybe the smaller marathons are for me. I saw my family for the first time around mile 4ish, and also took my first Honey Stinger around this time.
We ran on the road and headed towards the winery, which I was really excited about! Not too many races actually run through a winery. And then…
I HATED these miles so much. After looking at the elevation map, I knew that it wasn’t a “flat” course but I wasn’t expecting rolling hills like this. KILLER. I thought about everything and anything to keep pumping along… especially those 12 incline hills that we run at Orangetheory.
These miles were dedicated to recovering from the hills, ha. There were still some sporadic hills here and there but nothing like the miles before. We looped around and headed back towards the trail and all I kept telling myself was that we were going to be on the trail soon. My legs were starting to hurt so bad and I was trying to hold on, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be doable… My mantras? “You feel awesome.” I also told myself around mile 18 that it was going to hurt no matter how fast I ran, so I better at least try my goal pace.
HAPPINESS. Back on the trail! I was dying out, no matter how hard I was pushing, I just could not hit and maintain my goal pace. At this point, I’m pretty sure I became a crazy person because I did start talking to myself out loud. I was getting irritated by the fact that I couldn’t maintain my pace and started worrying about NOT getting a BQ. What if I did all of this, and I miss my BQ by a minute or two minute? I was NOT going to let that happen.
Oh, and I’m pretty sure I was also grunting. So hot.
I feel like this was a changing point… I got passed by the 3:33 pacer. They were running an 8:20 and try as hard as I could, I could NOT stick with them. The grunting and yelling got worse when I realized that because I did not want to give up my BQ.
All I wanted to do was hold on. I pushed as hard as my body would let me and when I was .1 from the finish, I saw the time was ticking at 3:33 and change… I tried to pick it up as much as I could and finished at 3:34.08.
Since it was such a small race, my family was able to find me before I exited… which was good because I had the worst cramping I’ve ever had in my life. I ended up on the other side of the start, laying in the middle of the street for a good 15 minutes, trying to recover. Oh man, I swear, that is probably the worst pain I’ve ever felt. My calves still hurt from those cramps. Thank goodness for a husband who is a PT. 🙂
After the race, we headed over to check out the free beer and wine but the lines were out of control so we skipped — plus, we went to a beer fest that afternoon so skipping two free samples wasn’t a big deal.
I’ve thought about it quite a bit in the past few days and I honestly don’t think there is anything that I could have done different during the race. I am still wondering if my work travel two days before the race had an impact on my performance. I am SO proud of how I ran the race because “old” me would have given up when I saw that pacer going by at mile 24.5. In fact, that’s when I fell apart in Dallas. There was NO way I was going to let it go away and this flash of determination… I don’t think I’ve ever pushed that hard.
I am not sure if its from building my mental fitness at Orangetheory or truly learning how far I can push myself, but I want to be able to run more races like this — physically and mentally ready to get it. I KNOW I have that sub-3:30 in me, there’s just a little bit more work I need to do (speed work and some weight loss).
A look at my splits confirms that… I just need a little bit more OOMPH in my training to get there. SO CLOSE.
And then the last six miles…
Now the question remains… is that a fast enough time to actually get into Boston next year? We won’t know until September, but fingers crossed!
And P.S., NO GUT ISSUES! This made me so happy. I have a theory behind it… need to test it a bit more but will share soon. 🙂
What You Need to Know About The Santa Rosa Marathon
- It is touted as one of the marathons that has the most BQers in the nation, and I think that is partially because it attracts that caliber of runner. It is a good BQ course but be prepared for those hills (nobody talks about them!).
- I carried my own fluid with me… they had tables every few miles, but they were short and I tried to grab water at a few of them and couldn’t because they just weren’t long enough.
- It gets hot fast… but since they start early, it shouldn’t affect you *too* much. I think the sun was out by 10 a.m. and it felt like it warmed up 20 degrees or so.
- I would definitely recommend this race because it is extremely well organized, not too crowded and pretty good weather. The town itself has some good attractions (beer festival afterwards! Snoopy gift shop!).
- There’s not a lot of crowd support. Don’t run this race if you like having the course lined with screaming fans. My family became celebrities because they were the only ones who traveled from spot to spot.
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