Monday, December 5, 2011

CIM–Love Letter, Race Report and Dire Warning all in One!

Consider yourself warned:  This is a tale of triumph, certainly, but I exhibit so much stupidity, stubbornness and downright foolhardiness on the way to said triumph that you are likely to find yourself quite frustrated with this post!

Dear California International Marathon,

I love you.  I’ve run your beautiful tree-lined course three years in a row now and the day registration opens for the 2012 race, you can bet I’ll be on with my credit card in hand.  You’ve done a great job keeping that hometown feel while getting bigger every year (though please, please, PLEASE don’t get too big – nobody likes wave starts!), and this year you really stepped up to the big time with a cute shirt and big honkin’ medal.  Thank you for that.  I’ve now run my three fastest marathons on your spectator-filled streets, and next year I promise to actually train for you.

Love and kisses,


So, about that lack of training.  Remember way back in early September when I was full of bright and shiny dreams about this year’s CIM?  (No?  Me neither, I had to go back and look it up.)  Things sort of fell apart right after that.  I was still running for a while, but my heart wasn’t in it.  Then, after a long run in early October I had a lot of pain in my foot that may have been tendonitis or possibly a stress fracture.  I never had it officially diagnosed (remember, you’ve been warned about the idiocy I demonstrate in this post!) because I couldn’t face a boot on top of everything else.  I was a good girl, though, and I stayed off my feet.  No running!  I became good friends with the elliptical trainer and the Stairmaster at my gym and I did A LOT of core work and strength training.  I wiped all thoughts of the CIM out of my mind and just focused on getting healthy.

After six weeks (let me do the math for you here – injury eight weeks ago minus healing for six weeks equals feeling better two weeks ago), my foot felt great and I was ready to get back to hitting the road.  I went out for very short, very easy-paced runs and felt terrific.  Then last weekend a terrible thing happened:  I thought about the CIM.  I thought about how much I love to run that race.  I thought about how I had already paid for it.  I thought about how long distance runs are more mental than physical and how I knew I could gut it out.  I thought about how it was the only marathon on my calendar this year and how much I would hate to miss out on running at least one.  To be fair, I also thought about how utterly ridiculous it would be to attempt a marathon after a “long run” of seven miles, but since this is, indeed, a race report, you already know how much credence I gave that last thought.  As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon!”

I tried to be realistic about the whole running-an-untrained-marathon thing.  Obviously, I wouldn’t actually be running the whole thing!   I told myself repeatedly that what I would be doing was completing a marathon.  I decided to do a run-walk, starting with five minutes of “running” at a comfortable easy pace to one minute of walking and then making adjustments during the race as I fatigued.  Funny side story about this decision:  months and months ago, I had entered to win a Gymboss from Julie over at Adventure is Out There, but didn’t win.  I didn’t really think about it again, but I was on Amazon looking for a Christmas gift for IronHubs last Monday, when what should appear in my suggestions but a Gymboss?!?  Well, there’s no such thing as coincidence, so I ordered myself a hot pink one on the spot.  Here’s a little spoiler for the race report – that Gymboss is my new favorite thing!!  It was awesome and I love it and I am probably going to marry it!

Let’s get on to the actual race report, shall we?

Christmas Decorating and CIM 008

The expo seemed much better than usual this year, but I think that’s because I went at a very uncrowded time.  Plus I randomly ran into a friend from high school and scored a pair of Zoot compression knickers for ten bucks.  Sweet!

Christmas Decorating and CIM 037Trying to pretend like I wasn’t nervous, but who am I kidding?  I was a wreck, just like always!  You can see the Gymboss peeking out from under my bib.

Lining up at the start, I stayed in the way back.  The way, way, waaaaaaaay back.  I didn’t have a time goal, other than hopefully finishing before the six hour cutoff, so I didn’t want to get suckered into going out fast.  Ha!

So I went out fast.  Thankfully, I had the Gymboss beeping at me, reminding me to take a little break.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a walking break just FIVE MINUTES into a marathon??  But like the Pavlovian dog I am, every time the Gymboss beeped, I did what I was supposed to do and that meant walking breaks.  Side note:  the Gymboss lasted about ten seconds on my waistband, but not because it was uncomfortable.  Have you ever listened to 9,000 people running a marathon?  There is a whole lot of beeping going on!!  Some people had cadence beepers, others were fueling alerts, many were mileage markers and lots of runners had run/walk alarms like me.  I couldn’t tell which one was mine, so I kept the Gymboss in my hand so I could hear it better and look at it occasionally.  Well, not really “occasionally,” more like every 30 seconds.  But whatever.

The CIM bills itself as “net downhill,” which cracks me up.  Yes, technically that’s true:  the finish line is 400 feet of elevation lower than the starting line, but there’s nothing but hill after hill on the way there!

CIM Elevation GraphElevation chart from my Garmin.

With the scheduled walking breaks, I ended up walking a lot of the downhills, which I thought was sort of funny since everyone else around me seemed to be walking the uphills.  I couldn’t believe all the complaining I heard about the hills!  Seriously, didn’t these people look at the course profile at all?

In spite of the hills (which didn’t seem all that hard, thank you Stairmaster!) and the walking breaks, the miles just flew by me.  I felt great!  It was a mere 32 degrees at the start, but when the sun came up it warmed up very nicely without ever getting hot.  I kept my pace easy and enjoyed the scenery and the cheering spectators.  One of my favorite signs said, “You are all AWESOME!  crazy… but AWESOME!”  I also saw a group of people with “Occupy CIM” signs that made me laugh.  There was one family that I saw no fewer than a dozen times with “Go, Mom, GO!” signs.  I never figured out exactly who they were cheering for, but she must have been running just a little bit behind me the whole time.  They were very loud and much appreciated in the later miles!

Around Mile 5, I realized I was gaining on the 4:25 pace group ahead of me.  I couldn’t believe it!  I’ve already admitted to so much lunacy already that I’m not going to tell you how seeing them totally made me competitive and I’m not going to mention that passing them at Mile 6 was one of the high points of the race for me.  Even though it totally was.

Before I knew it, I was nearing the halfway point!  I was expecting to see my cheering squad somewhere around there, but I wasn’t sure where they would be.  IronHubs captured this totally funny sequence of photos as I found them:

CIM Halfway

Seeing my support crew at Mile 13 was a huge morale booster, even though I didn’t actually need it yet.  I was still feeling great until about Mile 16, when my legs started asking me why the heck we were still running.  Or walking.  Or, really, still moving at all.  Couldn’t we sit down for awhile, please?

You know, people talk about hitting the wall at Mile 20 and having to let adrenaline carry them through the final six miles, but personally, I find Miles 17 – 23 to be the hardest of a marathon.  You’ve run a really long way, but still seem to have an awfully long way to go.  By Mile 23, though, there’s an energy in the air.  You can smell the finish line getting closer.

Around Mile 17, the 4:25 pace group passed me up. I kept them in sight until about Mile 19, but there was absolutely no thought in my head of keeping up with them. It was never my intention to run this thing fast, so I focused all my energy on just moving forward at all times.  This is when I truly fell in love with the Gymboss.  All I had to do, all I needed to think about, was running for five minutes.  Then I got to walk for one minute.  Then I only had to run for five minutes - anybody can run for five minutes!  - then I got to walk for another minute.

I got an unexpected and much needed boost at Mile 21 when I heard my mom and my sister clapping and cheering and hollering for me.  I wasn’t expecting to see them there, so thank goodness they called out my name or I probably would have stumbled right past them.  What a lovely thing it is to see a friendly face at Mile 21!  They lied and told me I looked wonderful and reminded me I only had six miles left (they thought they were at Mile 20, it was sort of funny).  Their energy got me through the last of the cruel miles and pushed me toward the finish line.

By Mile 24, I was digging as deep as I had.  I was counting how many more times I would be able to walk and yet dreading both the walking break and the picking-it-back-up-to-a-run.  My muscles wanted nothing to do with changing speeds.  Slowing down was almost as awful as speeding up, but I kept doing it every single time the Gymboss told me to.  I thought a lot about changing the intervals and walking more, but I was so close to the end.  I kept telling myself that I had made it this far, I could go a little farther.

CIM Pace GraphLookit all those perfectly even intervals.  You can see where I stopped to hug my cheering fans at Miles 13 and 21.  I have no recollection of slowing down so much at what must have been Mile 24, but I think I was delirious by then.

My very last walking break should have been at Mile 25.5, but at that point on the course, the spectators are three deep on the sidewalks, screaming their heads off for you and waving signs that say things like “Only 8 blocks left!”  So I ran it all the way in.  I’m using the word “ran” very loosely here, you understand.

Christmas Decorating and CIM 108I was so freakin’ happy to see that Finish Line!!

Christmas Decorating and CIM 126Since I started in the way back, I get to subtract four minutes from the clock.  Official finish time – 4:35:16, my second fastest marathon to date!!

Ahhh, sweet marathon glory! 

Ok, now for the dire warning:  DON’T EVER DO THIS!  Seriously, I’m an idiot.  Nobody should run a marathon without training for it and believe me, my quads and hamstrings have been reminding me of that fact all day long today.  Respect the distance!


Julie Arts said...

You silly girl! What a great race. I hope your legs and feet feel great by tomorrow! I love my gymboss, too. I ust lost the back off of mine , though. Grrrr.

Christi said...

You go girl! I am so happy that you were able to do this marathon but please train more for next year! :)

CautiouslyAudacious said...

That was your finish time with out training!?! That's amazing! Ok so now that you are going to train every time from here on out I know you will kick booty!!

Amber said...

Holy smokes woman! Congratulations. I would have died at mile 15 without training....I also can't knock out a 4:35 marathon even WITH training. Congrats again. Take care of those legs!

misszippy said...

You are amazing! So impressed..that was all mind over matter, girlfriend. I think it was all worth it, even if a bit crazy!

K said...

great job! But I will heed your warning and never do what you did on sunday. congrats on the finish!

MCM Mama said...

Serioulsy? 4:35 with no training? I might just have to hate you. ;o)

Hope you aren't too sore.

ajh said...

I wouldn't be able to run a marathon without training for it. For sure!

Good job! said...

Ok, you definitely did awesome, but I extra love your post because you acknowledge where your training could have been better! And I don't think I could run a 4:35 if I ran the whole thing, so I'm a little jealous of your awesomeness.

Aimee said...

Seriously, that time is awesome for no training! I love the pictures of you, especially at the finish line...awesome!!

Char said...

I can't believe you ran that untrained. You're nuts! But in a good way. Congratulations.

A said...

YOU ARE AWESOME! (I totally suck and forgot you were running CIM too. Sh!t. We should have met uppppp GAHHH.) Great job out there on that perfect morning!

coach dion said...

First up let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with running races without any training, BUT you have to be clever and run it the what you did... In fact a lot of people think they have done enough training, but haven't and should be run walking from the start. I know it's hard to walk so early in a race when feeling good, but it is better then hobbling to the finish.

So next year train and run walk again and you will feel great the whole way. Good Luck

Teamarcia said...

Holy crap girl, you give me hope! You looked amazing and happy and wonderful out there. Congrats again!

Lisa said...

Aren't we all a bit nuts anyway?? Glad you survived and hope the recovery wasn't too painful.

Kara said...

Just running 26.2 miles makes you nuts :) Great job on running it smart!

Lancer!! said...

Good job, P! I like your glasses; they look great.

Alma said...

YOu are such a polite runner! I'm so glad you had a good race & were all smiles. Thanks for the great re-cap.

TX Runner Mom said...

I just found your blog and look forward on reading more! Congrats on your marathon, great job!

The Jesse said...

Way to go, P!!!

Your race report is PROOF that with determination anything is possible and that running a marathon is just as much, if not more, mental than physical!

I dreamed of re-running CIM this year all year long and when my injuries sidelined me at the end of October I was devestated. Thankfully I am able to live vicariously through the several bloggers I know that ran the race as well as my husband, friends, and fellow running buddies that ran it too. I was out on the course at mile 6, 11, 14 and 18 but I didn't see you --- did you see me? I had a tie-dyed sign that said "if it was easy everyone would do it"?

ratherthecouch said...

You're getting pretty good at sneaking these marathons in! Congrats on such an awesome race!

Laurie said...

I was thinking about you last weekend when it was CIM time, wondering if you were running it. You did awesome!! I can't believe you did that off of 2 weeks and a 7 mile long run. Good for you... you are amazing!!

Raina said...

Ah! Congrats P!! Untrained! I love it! I was actually pondering the idea of whether a fit person can run a better marathon trained/overtrained or totally untrained. Truly, you showed a lot of discipline with the intervals. Great strategy!Great race!

Tortuga_Runner said...

Hey stranger, you are missed! Just wanted to give you a heads up I am tagging you in my post Friday. Hope things are going well, Happy New Year!