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Mountains 2 Beach Marathon 2024

Oh boy, where do I start?

In November of 2018, I ran a 3:48 marathon at Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, It was a 43 minute PR, and I had an amazing race. This was the race that opened up my mind to the possibility of ever qualifying for the unicorn race known as the Boston Marathon. Prior to that day, I had never even considered this being a possibility because I was "too slow" and "not a real runner".

a marathon finish Line
Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2018

Fast Forward to 2019. In April 2019, I set a new half marathon PR at the Carmel Half Marathon,well on track for the BQ dreams. May 2019 I raced Chattanooga 70.3, and had yet another PR. I was feeling the strongest I ever have as an athlete when my world came crashing down in June. I woke up to mild right hamstring pain... but it wasn't something that I was able to massage or foam roll away. I visited my chiropractor, and they couldn't even find a tight spot.... it was... odd. It conitnued to get more painful that week, and then I tripped and caught myself which shot shooting pain down my entire right side of my body, my leg went numb and I couldn't walk, stand up or really do anything. I had never felt pain ever before, even with childbirth. It was a L5S1 hernaited disc, 10mm in size. I somehow avoided surgery, dedicating myself to PT and a long recovery. I did not run a step for 4 months. I did not bike for 3 months. I swam with a pull buoy but that was also limited. As I was finally released to full training again, and started to jog lightly, COVID hit the world like a bomb, and shut everything down. I did not race in 2020.

Since I moved to San Diego, I have tried to sign up and race a marathon at least 4 different times. Something has always gotten in the way. FINALLY, this year was my year to get my run back, I decided! I registered for the 2024 Moutains to Beach Marathon in Ventura, CA. -- April 28, 2024. I knew that a BQ was highly unlikely. It had just been WAY too long since I had done this distance and so much has changed since then in my body. But, I was ready to have a great race and see where I was at.

The training cycle went well. I had some lingering hamstring tightness that I worked through with my friends at Peak Form Performance Center and One Nine Sports Physical Therapy. I only missed a total of 2 runs the entire training cycle when I had the pleasure of catching Influenza A from my daughter in March. I was able to complete two 20ish mile runs, hit 1-2 speed sessions a week and keep my overall run volume up higher than it has been consistently in years. I felt confident going into the race that I would be somewhere around the 4 hour mark.


The race was on Sunday, so on Saturday morning I drove up to Ventura. I had my water bottle filled and was very good about elecrolytes and staying hydrated. I also was very good about staying fed as wel with GI friendly foods the days leading up to the race. I got to the race expo at 10am and it was right next to a bike path. I did my 3 mile shakeout run there before heading into the expo and picking up my packet. The expo was MUCH smaller than just about any half or full marathon expos I have been to - so the good thing was, I was not there very long. I left and headed to my hotel which was in Oxnard, about 10 minutes away. I got checked in, and then met my friend Steve for an early dinner - he was also racing. I then went back to the hotel, layed out everything for the morning and lights out at 8pm.

the night before a marathon
Ready to race

My alarm went off at 3:15am (ooof). I immediately drank a bottle of water and made a cup of coffee in the room. I changed and prepared my bagel to take with me for the shuttle. I drove to downtown Ventura, as I had selected the first shuttle to save myself from being anxious for being late. The parking was easy in the free parking garage right next to the shuttles. I got on the bus and off we went. I ate my bagel while I chatted with a nice woman from Alaska!

We were the first group to arrive at the race start in Ojai around 4:45am. Race start was 6:15am. and it was simply beautiful there. I would love to go back to Ojai when I am not racing and bring my husband -- so pretty! I immediately went to the portapotty and it was super clean, had toilet paper AND soap! SCORE! Had a successful bathroom visit. Then, I went and sat down to stretch and sip my electrolytes (I had Skratch Hydration in my toss away). I saw the large amounts of runners arriving and I was glad I was there early. I did go the portapotty again around 5:30. Another success. Then I decided to do my little warmup. I jogged down the road slowly and back, did a few drills and strides. Then I went and used the restroom one last time at 6am. Threw away the water bottle, discarded my throw away clothing (It was 48 at the start -- really not cold for running). Then I went to line up.

Lining up I decided to start a little faster than usual just so I didn't get stuck in my "run all day" pace. Looking back, I think this was a mistake. As soon as we started running I was flying and feeling great because I wasn't hot, tired or depleted. Ugh. Live and learn. The course is net downhill, but there is a hill miles 1.5-3. It didn't feel bad to me at all. I am used to hills and honestly I barely noticed the uphill. I felt great-- I did however notice the downhill when we turned around and went down... weee hhaha. But my pace was way too fast for where my fitness is now. 8:12 at mile 3. Slow down Mandy, you aren't that runner today.

the starting line of Mountains 2 beach Marathon
The starting line

I carried my handheld bottle, and had LMNT in it. I took a Maurten gel before the start of the race, then again at mile 4, 8, 12... my 1/2 marathon time was solid at 1:53. I was feeling good until... mile 14. Suddently my legs started talking back. I PANICKED. Full blown anxiety... "WHY ARE MY LEGS HURTING ALREADY/! its too EARLY!" ... in my previous marathons,I didn't feel this lactic acid build up until like mile 18. I stopped. I am still mad about that, but I did it. I took some more water, texted two friends in panic mode (Thank you Nha and Kristan for managing and kept running. Slower, but moving well.

Then .. my day changed forever. Mile 17ish... a man collapses right in front of me. Unconcious. I stop and yell for help. Another woman stops and tells me she is a nurse and starts helping me. He starts seizing. I pull out my phone and call 911. I am not sure how, but I never saw a race support person. Not one. We waited for the ambulance to arrive. The man thankfully, was breathing. His seizure lasted 12 minutes, we timed it. Our total stoppage time was somewhere around the 30 minute mark. We left when the parademics took over, and we knew he was going to be okay. I called my parents and told them I was sorry they would be waiting much longer than expected to see me finish.

I can 100% tell you that I do not recommend coming to a dead stop after running 17 miles for 30 minutes and then try to run 9 miles after that. It doesn't work. My legs were completely locked up and I could not run properly no matter what I did. I ran out of water. I ran out of salt. The aide stations were spread out and they ran out of electrolytes. It was the hardest and most painful 9 miles I have ever run in my entire running career. I did eventually make it to that finish line... but I cried when I saw the 4:30 pacer pass me. Then the 4:45. What should have been a 4 hour day turned into 4:56.

Ojai, CA
Mountains 2 Beach Marathon 2024 - when I was feeling good

I would not have changed my decision to stop and help that man. My legs slowed me down enough to be where I was when he needed my help. There will always be another marathon.

I still finished, and earned my medal. I could not walk right for 2 days! Thankfully now, I can say it hasn't been 5+ years since I ran a marathon.

I took two full weeks off running and am now starting to train again, with all 3 disciplines. I am planning on an International Triathlon in August, a marathon in October, and likely Indian Wells 70.3 in December. I still have dreams of qualifying for Boston, and will not give up!

For those of you reading this, thank you. Please remember to wear a RoadID on your wrist with any identifying information and medical alerts -- it could save your life.

finishers medal for Mountains 2 Beach Marathon
Finishers Medal 2024

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