Mike and I have just returned home after an amazing getaway weekend! We are so glad that we somewhat last minute decided to get out out of Dodge for the long weekend and head to Ventura to in large part to watch my Dad and Step Mom run the Mountains to Beach Marathon. We honestly didn’t know much about Ventura at all (or even that it was a beach city) but after some research we found that it is a beautiful coastal city sandwiched between LA and Santa Barbara with a very walkable downtown. Nearby Ojai, where the marathon starts, is a smaller town with a country feel nestled at the base of the Sulphur and Topatopa Mountains in the Ventura River Valley.
First let me say the weekend started off even better because on Friday morning I went for a 3.5 mile run with one of my good friends and co-worker Allison and then we headed to a hot yoga class at Yoga Six (we both have a 2 week, 6 class pass right now). The class was my favorite yet and when I arrived at work I was feeling energized and refreshed. Soon after arriving at work we were told that we could take off for the long weekend at 1 p.m. so I was able to scoot out of work and get to the beach for some sun and reading (wearing SPF 50 sunscreen of course… I’ve decided a sure sign that you are getting older is if you were SPF over 30 to the beach).
When I returned from my relaxing afternoon the day got even sweeter when I checked my email and found out I had been voted Coach of the Season for Girls on the Run by my team! I am so incredibly honored and was honestly shocked because I had no idea the girls liked me so much!
Saturday morning Mike and I slept in and then packed up our things, ate breakfast, and got on the road to Ventura. It took us a little over 4 hours to get there including stops (and LA traffic) and we continued on to Ojai which is another 30 or so minutes away from Ventura. I had researched hiking trails and had found there was a great trail head in Ojai that led to several hikes. I picked a 5 mile route and we quickly got on our way, eager to get out of the car we’d been trapped inside for so long.
The hike was pretty easy on an effort scale and the best part was that there were little to no other people on the trail. We did come across a few people on horseback, a couple mountain bikers and a few hikers, but overall we saw less than 10 people over the course of the 1.5 hours we were hiking. It was an absolutely gorgeous day – around 70 degrees and very sunny – and we enjoyed each other’s company and vowed to hike in San Diego more often.
After the hike we checked into our Bed and Breakfast (Bella Maggiore Inn), which we were very happy to see was literally right in the center of downtown. The hotel was super affordable and included free wine and appetizers nightly as well as free breakfast – I highly recommend it! Our only concern was that we were in room 17 which was rumored to be haunted – luckily we never had a run in with the ghost! After cleaning up and quickly taking advantage of the free wine, we met up with my Dad and Step Mom for an early carbo-loading session at a local Italian restaurant. They were excited and a little nervous for the race and told us their race strategy (finish!) and what they’d be wearing so we could look out for them. After dinner we walked around town, ate gelato and then after they went off to bed, Mike and I headed to the only local brewery for one pint of beer before an early bedtime.
We were thankful not be racing that morning since the 5:45 wake up call seemed early enough. We grabbed coffee and walked about 1.5 miles to approximately Mile 6 of the course, which was on the bike path that winds next to Highway 33. As soon as we arrived and got out our sign and cow bells, the runners were paying full attention to us. We quickly realized that they must have had nearly no course support because everyone was SO happy to see us. Runner after runner thanked us for being there, smiled at us, told us what a great sign we had, and expressed their love of the cowbell. It was absolutely amazing and incredibly fun! I actually felt like I couldn’t really even take a break to sip my coffee because I was required to cheer on every single runner that ran by. Because the course was so narrow at this point and there aren’t many runners in the race as a whole, it was almost an intimate feeling. We literally cheered on every single person that ran by.
When we saw my Dad and Denice approaching (faster than expected!) I flipped my sign around to show them the message I wrote just for them (the other side had my favorite mantra, Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever which I picked up from a race sign at the La Jolla Half in 2011). They excitedly high fived us and cheered and it looked like they were having a blast!
As soon as they left we ran about 2 miles ahead to meet them around mile 7. Once we got to our destination (the race looped a bit so we cut off the loop) we held up our sign again and started to cheer. Within minutes, runners started to recognize us from the bike path. “Hey!! Didn’t I just see you!?” “Hey, there you are again!” “Wow you guys are fast!!” “How’d you get here already!” Mike would respond “Didn’t I just see you!?” “There you are again!” parroting them. It was pretty funny and also awesome because people told us that they hoped to see us again at the finish line with our sign. I was surprised at how many people interacted with us!
Once my Dad and Denice came by again, we high fived them and I got a photo and we moved on. This time we went to the finish line which was nearby and decided to make our way back.As we were about 1/4 mile from the finish line I spotted Sarah in her Oiselle singlet. I screamed and cheered for her and later found out she had an awesome PR, right after PRing at Eugene 4 weeks ago!
We ran a bit and ended up about 1/2 mile from the finish line. We busted out the sign and the cowbells and cheered on every single runner that ran by for the next 30 minutes. This time we encouraged them to pick it up, told them they were in the home stretch, said they were almost there, etc. One guy was walking and after he saw our sign, he started to run! Despite it being toward the end of a hard race, we still got a ton of people telling us “third time!” “you are everywhere!” “thank you for being out here!” “love the sign!” and one woman even told us that she thought our about sign for the entire race!
Once I saw my Dad running up without Denice, I gave Mike the sign and jumped in with him. He was looking strong and told me that Denice was cramping back at mile 10.5 or so and they split up. He was running pretty fast ( I didn’t have my Garmin but it was definitely sub 10 by the feel of it) and I ran side by side with him. I told him how great he was doing and kept up the words of encouragement. He said his calves were tired but overall he felt good. Once we got to the finish chute (which is about .15 miles long I’d guess?), I let him go but I ran next to the chute, waving through spectators and cheering loudly for him. Watching him cross the finish line was pretty much as awesome as crossing it myself. I was so proud!
I greeted him at the finish and we chatted for a couple minutes before I ran back and just as I got to the end of the finish chute, I saw Denice coming! I did the same thing for her and ran down the side of the chute cheering for her as she finished. She was only about 4 minutes behind my dad and was looking strong as well! I couldn’t be happier that my Dad and Step Mom were able to not only complete P90X together but also change their lifestyles for the healthier and train together for their first half marathon. What an incredible accomplishment!
After a yummy breakfast with the race finishers and saying goodbye, Mike and I spent the rest of the day enjoying Ventura. We went for a walk, took a short nap, went on an hour-ish hike through the Ventura Bontantical Garden (more steep than our Ojai hike!), drank beers on our sunny hotel patio and then cleaned up and headed for buy 1 get 1 free wine tasting a local wine bar, followed by more wine, and a cheese plate. Of course we couldn’t watch a marathon without talking about our next one, and we ended up making a list of all of the marathons we want to run in our lives and have decided we need to stop running the same ones (ahem, Surf City) and start running our bucket list races! We finished the evening with a delicious vegetarian dinner at a local Indian restaurant.
We wrapped up the weekend on Monday morning with our delicious free breakfast and coffee at the hotel (seriously I recommend this hotel!) and a walk on the beach before heading home. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend! I’m excited for many more races, hikes, and race spectating trips in the future!
Have you ever race spectated with a sign? What did you write on it and how did people react?