Monday, December 8, 2014

California International Marathon 2014 - Race Report!

Alternate title:  How to Run a Marathon with Pretty Much Zero Training.  The short answer, of course, is, "Kids, don't try this at home," but the long answer is much more exciting!  Read on...

When last we left our intrepid heroine (me!), she was contemplating race goals and bemoaning the near total lack of training that took place over the summer and fall.  I was pretty impossible to live with on Saturday.  I was terribly nervous because, you know, marathon.  And I was unreasonably pissed off that the weather was going to be perfect.  Of all the stupid years to have 50 degrees and slight overcast!  If I had last year's training and this year's weather... grrr!  Anyway, I went to the expo early in the day, then laid around the house biting everybody's head off and drinking water like it was my job.  I figured the only way I was going to survive was to be as smart as possible about hydrating, fueling, and resting - the only factors I had any control over, since I couldn't rely on that whole "trust your training" thing.

Sunday morning, I woke up at my normal 3 am and had plenty of time to get ready in a pretty relaxed manner.  UltraIronHubs drove me to the shuttle closest to the start, because he was going out for his long trail run while I was running my race.  The location just happened to be at a nice, clean McDonald's, complete with indoor plumbing.  Sweet!  While waiting in the long bathroom line, I started chatting with the other girls, talking about the weather in years past and other marathons we have run.  The very nice girl in front of me was running her first CIM - so exciting!

I kissed UIH goodbye and got on the crowded shuttle bus, which had us at the starting line in just minutes.  The excitement in the air was palpable.  I love that feeling!  We were all here to do something momentous!  I found a spot off the starting area to do my dynamic warm ups.  I was feeling pretty good, but a little stiff and sore from an unintentionally difficult workout on Friday.  Oops!  I chatted with some other runners and went to line up in the way, way back.  No need to jockey for position this morning!

Ready or not (mostly not), here I go!
Somebody sang one of the best versions of the national anthem I have ever heard, and we were off!!  Well, the people at the front were off.  Those of us at the back were kind of standing around.  We meandered a little.

Me and 9000 of my closest friends at the start (pic from UIH).

After the gun went off, I was heading toward the starting arch when I felt a hand on my arm.  It was UIH!!  He found me in that huge crowd of runners!  So we took a selfie, then he kissed me and sent me on my way.
I went out slow.  Like really, really slow, which is maybe the first time in my history as a runner that I truly held myself back at the start of a race.  I have a healthy respect for this distance and I've run the CIM enough times to know that this course makes it too easy to go out way too hard.  The first mile is all downhill, so the urge is there to just take off.  Not so for me yesterday.  I trotted and reminded myself numerous times as other runners were literally streaming past me like I was standing still, that I was here to rulk (run + walk) my own race.  When I hit the first mile marker, I made my way over to the side of the road and took a walking break.  I drank my Gatorade and didn't worry about my pace, but I felt fine so I got back to trotting right away.

I ran at a comfortably easy pace, enjoying the crowd and the terrific spectators.  I didn't care about my speed, I just wanted to focus on staying hydrated and getting through the miles.  By the time I stopped to walk at the Mile Two marker, though, I knew I needed to relax a little.  I had a huge knot in my stomach and that was not going to do.  I put on my headphones and tried to pretend like it was just another run.  The music definitely helped.  I hated to miss out on the cheering crowds and interesting eavesdropping, but I had to keep my head in my own game.

I ran on.  The hills at the start didn't seem bad at all!  I enjoyed reading the spectators' signs and settled into an easy rhythm.  I walked at every mile marker and felt like the day was going as well as I could hope for.  I finally looked at my Garmin somewhere around Mile 6 and was a weird combination of pleasantly surprised that I was going that fast and sort of pissed off that I was going that slow.  Ha!  For not having any expectations, I guess I had some after all.  It was hard not to compare my pace with other years where I had actually done the training, ya know?

Around Mile 8 or 9, something wonderful happened:  I finally relaxed.  The knot in my stomach let go and I felt great!  At other marathons that have fallen apart, I have known by Mile 5 that the days were not going to end well, and I guess I had just been holding myself tight worrying about that.  I was drinking plenty and my effort level was holding steady, so I started to let myself truly enjoy the day.  I was just here for the party and the pretty necklace at the end!

My grammatically incorrect motto is, "Run good when you feel good," so I picked up my pace and found myself smiling.  I saw some friends who were spectating, which raised my spirits even more.  I cruised through the middle miles feeling wonderful.  I knew it wouldn't last all day, but I sure enjoyed it while I could.  My half split was 2:18:11, my slowest half marathon...pretty much ever, but no matter.  I didn't let myself think about the total distance of the day, I was merely running mile marker to mile marker.  They seemed to be awfully close together, because every time I wondered how far to the next mile, there was the sign!

I texted my sister and let her know that I was more or less on schedule for seeing her at Mile 21 when I had told her I would be there.  Around Mile 15, I realized I was starting to feel the effort, but for possibly the first time ever during a race, I recognized that I was low on calories and started eating the food I had brought with me.  I had only gotten a little behind the eight ball on that and never made it all the way to crying and feeling miserable.  So, yay!  I saw my spectating friends again and gave them high fives.  It was getting tough, but I could muscle through this.

At mile 17, I was definitely starting to fade.  I kept eating and drinking, but I was also really, really looking forward to the walking breaks and felt like it would be nice to see a smiling face I knew.  I texted UIH and took a slightly longer walk, but I wanted to keep going.  My pace had been so good through those middle miles that I had kind of set myself a time goal and the only way to meet it was to keep running.  I know from experience that miles 17-22 are just tough for me.  I was prepared to feel this way, so I turned my music up and gutted it out.

By Mile 20, I started to feel the happy anticipation of knowing I would see my mom and sister soon.  I could do this!  I wanted to look good and feel strong when I saw them.  Suddenly, I saw a young guy on the ground.  I turned off my music and stopped to ask him if he was okay.  He was trying to stretch out a cramping quad muscle.  He looked lucid and was answering my questions, so I knew he didn't necessarily need medical right away.  I offered him some of my peanut butter pretzels to get some sodium in him.  He was so sweet.  I held out my bag of pretzels and he only took like two or three (they're small).  I laughed and insisted he take more.  He thanked me and I told him to keep moving if he could, because I wanted him to finish.  He smiled and assured me he wanted to finish, too.  I hustled off on my way, but wondered about him the rest of the day.  I sure hope he made it to the end!

Seeing my mom and sister at Mile 21 was just what I needed!
I got a nice little second (third?  fourth?) wind after seeing my family at Mile 21!  The next mile was 22 and 22 was practically done!  Any fool can run four miles!  That giddy feeling carried me to the bridge that crosses the American River, but fizzled out pretty quickly thereafter.  Holy crap, shit just got real and I still had four long miles to go.  My legs were...  well, I'm not really sure what my legs were because I couldn't exactly feel them anymore.  I was pretty sure we were still running.  Maybe.

The last few miles have the best spectators.  The course runs through a beautiful neighborhood with huge, stately turn-of-the-century (20th, not 21st) homes where the families are out on their lawns with kids ringing cowbells, then crosses under the highway into midtown Sacramento where the 20-somethings are shouting boisterously because they've been drinking since the elites ran by hours ago. The families and friends who have been following their runners down the hill are starting to get punchy from the long day and they've saved their funniest signs for these last difficult miles.  Police keeping the streets closed are giving out high fives and shouting encouragement.  It's awesome.

I wanted to walk, or possibly crawl.  Really, I wanted to sit my ass down and never move again, but I kept running.  I walked through the water stations and at the mile markers but ran everything else.  I dropped F-bombs like confetti every time I picked it back up to a run, but I kept picking it back up.  OMG, nothing has ever hurt this bad, but before I knew it, the blocks were counting down and the spectators were getting louder and more crowded and there were my friends again!  There was the Mile 26 sign!  Turn left, then left again and there were my kids!  There was the finish!!



My unofficial finish time was 4:38:39, my third fastest marathon ever!

If I had to pick, I think the thing that made me happiest about the day was that I felt mentally strong the whole time.  I've been the girl who craps out in a race.  Frequently.  But not yesterday, and I'm definitely proud of that.  Next year (and, yes, I've already signed up for next year - they have an early, early bird special for the 2015 race, just $89!), I will put in the training.  Promise!  {crosses fingers behind back}


coach dion said...

time to put in the training and run a sub 4!!! why not? I like the idea and bet you can, time to move from an average athlete to a super star...

Cynthia said...

Congratulations, Average!! I enjoy reading your blog so much and happened to catch sight of you at CIM at the Greenback intersection, just before you hit that little hill going up to Madison. You looked good! I haven't run CIM for several years but I usually watch the race at FO and Greenback. It was great to see you!