December 10, 2009

Santa Barbara Marathon

Santa Barbara is a lovely town on the California coast about 1-1/2 hours drive north of LA. It has a long running tradition, so they decided to hold the Santa Barbara International Marathon. Fortunately for them, I showed up to make it “international.”
I arrived in LA on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, so had 10 days before the marathon. Had turkey for dinner and the next day drove to Las Vegas with my wife, daughter and her fiancee. First time to Vegas. I’ve never been eager to go there, not liking glitz, glitter or gambling, but I have to admit, it is a place everyone should visit once. It’s not just a different kind of city, it’s a different planet. Saw the Barry Manilow show to please my wife, but it was a good show—he’s still got the voice and is a nice, engaging guy.
I ate well and continued to do so back in LA. Had a thrill at one of my daughter’s favorite restaurants when Michael Emerson, Ben from the TV show Lost, walked in and sat down near us. It’s my favorite show and he’s one of the main actors, so that was cool. And for you Gray’s Anatomy fans, T.R. Knight stopped by his table to say hello.
Had lunch with one of the two main guys organizing the LA Marathon and confirmed that I am the official representative for Japan. The object is to get a lot of Japanese runners to go over and run it. We will have an ad in the Jan. 22 issue of Runners magazine, just to create some awareness of the race (which is March 21st and which I am going to run, as is Barry Bergmann), looking ahead to trying to create real interest for the 2011 race. It’s going to be a great event on a great course!
Anyway, I probably ate too much in the 10 days before the race, although I cut back the last four days. A larger problem was lack of sleep—I was jet-lagging the whole 10 days. This is one drawback of doing an overseas marathon, at least for me. Next time I think I will take sleeping pills to knock myself out each night.
I followed my training program fairly well, with a bit of extra taper . Ran early each morning to get used to that (was up at 4:00 or 5:00 anyway). So by race day I felt ok, but not great. Legs were rested but probably my body was not.
Drove up to SB on Saturday and met my cousins for dinner, along with blogger friend Michael from San Francisco and John, another SF runner. Michael is famous for running 12 marathons in 12 months (SB was his 12th), as well as for his terrific blog (12 months 12 races). Naturally we carbo-loaded at a good Italian restaurant.
Race morning was clear and cold. The 6:30 start was delayed for 30 minutes due to a traffic accident (which was not on the course, so that was strange). Retrieved my t-shirt from the garbage and sat on a tiny chair in an elementary school for 25 minutes. The sun warmed things up later, but my hands were pretty cold for the first four miles.
Lined up near the front and started behind the 3:00 pace group, letting them get gradually further ahead. Felt a bit cold and stiff, but was moving ok. My target pace was 7:01/mile (4:21/km), for a 3:04. The first mile was 7:14, then picked it up to 6:49. I’m not going to list the rest of the splits, because about 5 mile markers were missing and numerous others were placed wrongly. At one point I ran a 6;30, followed by a the same pace. This was very frustrating. I need the markers to hold a steady pace, otherwise I tend to slow down. This was especially true since I was running alone the entire way. People were passing me and I was passing others, but I didn’t have a group, or even an individual, to run with. I slowed quite a bit in miles 8, 9 and 10 as there were no markers and it was uphill, but managed to get to the half in 1:32:23 (if marked correctly), so I was basically on pace.
After that we had another a gradual uphill for two miles at 18 and 19, and I had been gradually slowing anyway. My legs were tired and sore enough that it was hard to hold the pace running alone. The downhills didn’t really help, as I didn’t want to go faster and stress my quads. There was another long hill (the steepest on the course) in mile 23, which reduced me to a slow slog. I recorded 8:15, but I think it was slower. However, from 20 miles my legs didn’t feel as bad as they had at Napa Valley in March. In fact, after the hill I picked up the pace considerably and held it to the end. I had planned on doing that, so was glad I was able to (maybe I was able to because I had planned on it).
I wore my Nike fuel belt and drank the four small bottles of sports drink (with protein powder) and also ate four gels. At mile 20, my daughter gave me two small bottles of an energy drink (rich in carbos and amino acids) which was almost too sweet to drink, but I managed one and a half. Does all that really help? I don’t know, my legs still got pretty sore.
The new shoes — Nike Air Zoom Cage+, at a light 240g, were problems at all.
So the final time was 3:09:17, or 3:08:33 minus a 44-second nature stop at about mile 15. I didn’t really HAVE to go, but I felt better afterwards. (Besides the damn mile markers, there were not enough porta-potties on the course.)
At least it was faster than Napa, but I have to say it was disappointing, as I had trained for 18 weeks to run a 3:04. I did win my age group, by about 10 minutes, which was nice, but, well, I expected to (most US marathons, except the big ones, have very few strong runners over 50 and none over 60). Only one 55 year old beat me, and only 4 50 year olds.
I was 68th overall out of 1,686, and 61st male out of 922. There were also more than 1,000 relay runners—teams of 3 or 4 people. It was a little weird to be running behind someone, maybe trying to catch them, and have them stop and hand off to another person. My age-graded rank of 82.5% is apparently “national class” (not quite world class).
I’d like to say it was a good race, but I can’t quite do it, due to the hills, the bad mile markers, the shortage of toilets and the scarcity of food and drink at the finish. It is a really nice town and the support along the course was pretty good.
Looking forward to the LA Marathon in March—and a faster time!


  1. Bob

    Great report. I wouldn't be too disappointed with that time, you could have just as well ran 10 mins faster under better circumstances.

    I know what it's like to run in international marathons outside of Japan and although I enjoy the experience they seem to come up short in terms of organization and general consideration for the runners. I always complain that the Japanese are just too fussy but you'd have to say they kniow how to put on a race and the rest of the world could learn a few things from them in this respect.

    Anyway I'm sure the LA marathon will be a good race as they seem to be keen to promote this race to rival the other big ones in the states in the coming years.

    You still have your base so just stay injury free and you'll be alright.

    All the best


  2. Thanks for the report Bob. Congrats on 'representing' Japan! A bit of a shame about the details, but I'm sure they'll get those sorted in future years.

    To run 3:08, jet-lagged and with the other problems shows LA can be near the 3:04.

  3. Congratulations, Bob on the age group win! Thanks for the terrific write-up.
    Why can't they get the mile markers right? That seems easy. Too bad.
    So LA is next?