I ran a marathon this morning. No, I hadn’t mentioned it on here. I talked about going for long runs, but not a peep about training plans or taper madness. And let me be really honest here, if today had been a barf-a-palooza like Long Beach, there still wouldn’t be any mention of this race on the blog! Lucky me, today was the marathon I’ve been dreaming about! Let’s start at the very beginning… (a very good place to start)
Driving home from Long Beach, I was in a pretty deep funk. Training had gone reasonably well and I really felt like I had my nutrition locked down, but the day still fell apart. Blech! With a local race just seven weeks away, I was hungry for redemption, so I signed up for the California International Marathon the very next day and plunged head-first back into marathon training. Even though it was short and sweet, this training cycle went really, really well. My IT band behaved itself, my stomach behaved itself and my long runs went off without a hitch. I came across an article in Triathlete magazine (link is not to the article – I couldn’t find it online – but to the magazine’s home page) that seemed to describe my GI troubles perfectly. I can train with food and feel great, but come race day, I’m living in Puke City. According to the article, race nerves create a “fight or flight” reaction that causes your (or rather, MY) body to shut down extraneous systems like digestion in preparation to fight or flee. The article suggested taking in nothing but simple sugars on race day because that’s all the body can absorb. In deciding to give this a try, my entire thought process went something like this: “Well, it can’t suck worse.” For a hint how this worked out for me, check the title of this post again.
I worked pretty hard this past week to keep my mind off the race and keep my nerves in check and, for the most part, that strategy worked. By the time I went to the expo yesterday, though, I was starting to feel a little excited and nervous. Sadly, I barely had any time at all to explore the expo and the race schwag was almost non-existent. Oh well, the CIM more than makes up for a so-so expo with a beautiful course and lots of spectator support.
Race day dawned at 3 am, as race days tend to do, and I woke up feeling really good and sort of surprisingly confident. It had rained most of yesterday and all night last night, but the forecast was looking good: 46 degrees at the start, cool and cloudy all day with the rain holding off ‘til this afternoon. I outfitted myself in my new RunningSkirts argyle and my comfiest tank top, Nathan reflective sleeves, Zensah calf sleeves and Injinji socks (no more bloody toes!), filled my fuel belt with Gatorade and I was ready to go. IronHubs dropped me off at the host hotel around 5 o’clock to catch the bus to the start.
By the time we arrived at the start and I braved the port-o-potty lines, it was 6:58 – just two minutes ‘til go time! My one and only goal for the day was to not throw up, so I started at a nice easy pace and really never moved it up a gear. The CIM is a point-to-point race, which I absolutely love because every single step you take gets you closer to the finish line. The first five miles literally flew by. I was just enjoying the atmosphere of the race and all the cowbell-ringing spectators, and before I knew it I was at the first Relay point. While I don’t love the fact that a relay option sort of “waters down” the marathon experience, I am a big fan of the guaranteed energy-boosting crowds of spectators at three points along the course. I knew I was going to see IronHubs around Mile 8, and I really felt like I had barely gotten started and Whoomp, there he was! Now I just had to make it to the halfway point and I would be done with the worst of the hills. They refer to this course as “net downhill” but there are plenty of uphill portions, too, believe me! The first half is full of good-sized rolling hills, followed by another five + miles of small rollers and then the last few miles are blissfully flat.
My mental strategy for the race was to break the course into small, manageable pieces and stay on top of my hydration at the same time. I made sure I was done with an entire flask of Gatorade every six miles. I never looked at the Total Time section on my Garmin. In fact, I didn’t look at my Garmin at all! I reminded myself frequently that I simply didn’t care about my time or pace as long as my stomach was cooperating. I looked forward to each Relay point and seeing IronHubs at Mile 8. I knew that if I could make it to the halfway point with my stomach underneath me, things were looking good. When I made it to Mile 18 and I still felt good, I finally let myself hope for a good day. At Mile 18, I thought about making it to Mile 20. At Mile 20, I promised myself that if I could make it to the bridge (the last cruel uphill section of the race) at Mile 22 that I could coast to the finish. At Mile 22, I was so giddy from my success so far that I started high-fiving the spectators and I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face all the way to the finish. At Mile 23, the streets are numbered, so I started counting down the blocks until the finish – “Just run one more block, P. Oh, look, just one more block. You can do one more block.” At Mile 25, the crowds are so thick you can practically smell the finish line and really, anybody can run a mile.
I won’t lie – I struggled to keep going. Around Mile 10, Creeping Doubt came and visited me and reminded me of all the races that have fallen apart by Mile 13. Even though I never threw up, I spent plenty of miles wondering if it was coming. By Mile 18, when it seemed like everyone around me was walking, it took every ounce of determination I had to keep running. By Mile 24, I think I was actually telling myself out loud to keep running. But I did it – I ran every single step of the way, from the starting mat to the finishing mat. I didn’t walk up the hills or through the water stops. I RAN a marathon today. I didn’t BQ - not even close! I didn’t go sub-4 hours like I was sort of hoping, even though the 4-hour pace group was within spitting distance for a really long time. I did, however, shave 34 minutes off of my PR and honestly, I couldn’t be happier! Official finish time 4:10:07 – w00t!
I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, too. I would stay and chat more, but there’s a celebratory pie calling my name!