Race: Oakland Marathon
Date & Time: Sunday, March 23, 2014 @ 7:30 a.m.
Where: Oakland, CA
The most glaring thing is that huge hill (small mountain?) from miles 3 to 11. I’m used to seeing elevation profiles like this for trail races, but it’s safe to say this will be the biggest climb I’ve ever faced during a road race. It will definitely be good practice for Big Sur! I think the elevation profile is why, despite Oakland Marathon’s recent accolades (here and Runner’s World), and despite the marathon boom, the race still isn’t sold out. In fact, the marathon field is typically dwarfed by the much flatter and later starting half marathon. For example, in 2013, there were 855 marathon finishers and 3278 half marathon finishers.
The first 2/3 of the course goes through neighborhoods where I’ve never run before, such as Temescal, Rockridge, Montclair, and Fruitvale, so I’m quite excited about that. It will be really cool to crest the hill near the Mormon Temple and have an awesome view of the Bay and SF. Hopefully, I won’t be too tired and cranky from the climb to enjoy it! The last 1/3 of the marathon course hooks up with the half marathon runners through Jack London Square, West Oakland, and then back to my old stomping grounds – Lake Merritt. The last 6 miles will be a real test, since this is the section where I’ve always struggled during both Oakland Half Marathons I’ve run. And this time, I’ll have run 20 miles before getting to West Oakland BART, instead of just 7! One thing that will be interesting and different about this race is the merge with half marathoners, who will start at 9:15. Assuming consistent pacing, this means that the marathoners should be faster than the half marathoners at the merge. Luckily, there’s not a lot of congestion for this race, so what I’m hoping for is a psychological boost from being able to pass people in the last 9 miles.
I’m also hoping for home-field advantage when it comes to spectating. The Gypsy Runner saw me at various spots during the 2012 half marathon, and after having lived in Oakland for 16 months, he’s much more familiar with the area. We’re both hoping for a better experience compared to the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), where we only saw each other once, despite about 4 attempts, and only in passing.
Sunny and hot! Most likely 50 and cloudy at the start, 65-70 and sunny at the finish. I’ll definitely need to keep tabs on hydration and electrolytes. If someone could meet me at mile 20 with a Slurpee, that would be AWESOME.
Because I signed up for this race on relatively short notice, and because the elevation profile is so intense, I don’t have a set time goal. However, I would be *ecstatic* if I could PR on Sunday, even it’s only by a minute. (My current PR is 4:32:39, set at CIM in 2012.)
My main objective on Sunday is to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Specifically, I want to avoid bonking and the mental and psychological breakdown that happened during the last 6 miles of MCM. Even though it was only 5 months ago, I feel like I’ve become a much stronger racer since then. To achieve my goal, I’ll run with my Garmin covered and silenced, so I can concentrate on running by feel. Second, I’ll focus on staying positive and be ready with solutions should things start unraveling. Also, I’m racing with earbuds for the first time ever, so that I can play some music just in case things get really dire.
And I know I always say this, but I really, really want to ENJOY myself on Sunday. I love Oakland, I love running, and I love the community support for this race. I think it’s gonna be hella awesome!
So, this has been a really unconventional and strange marathon training cycle, mostly because I hadn’t planned on running the Oakland Marathon until about 2 months ago, and also because my “A race” was Kaiser. So, while I feel like I’m in pretty decent shape, I’m curious whether my DIY, on-the-fly training “plan” will result in a successful marathon. Even though I’ve had one decent trail 30K and a not-so-great 20-miler this training cycle, I definitely haven’t done as many long runs as I have in the past. I have a feeling that I’ll definitely be tapping into deep mental reserves to get me through the last part of the race to make up for any shortcomings in the endurance department.
Last week, I was listening to a running podcast and one of the hosts was talking about how a bad race could haunt you. It struck me that I’ve been haunted by the ghost of MCM for a while now. I know I shouldn’t let one race define me as a runner, but I was really disappointed at my mental and physical unraveling during MCM. Even as I’ve set new PR’s, I still can’t help but feel the shadow of MCM hanging over me like a cloud. (I know, so dramatic!) Part of me is afraid that history will repeat itself on Sunday, but I’ve decided that there’s no use in worrying about it. Whatever happens, happens. If something bad arises, then I’ll deal with it. It also comforted me to read my “lessons learned from MCM” post, and to see a comment from Amy about how it takes 5-7 marathons to truly get a good grasp of the marathon. It made me realize that I’m still a novice and newbies make tons of mistakes – and it’s ok! That’s how we learn, right?
Anyway, enough rambling. I’ve been told that live splits will be posted on the Oakland Marathon website, so if you want to track me, my bib number is 916. Woot!