My hardest marathon

It’s First Friday Flashback! And since I only write one or two posts a month these days (that dang work thing), I really need to get some blog posts out.

Well, this post is timely because it is about the California International Marathon (CIM). On Sunday, December 7, 2014, along with remembering Pearl Harbor, I will be running my 5th marathon at CIM. CIM was also my first and third marathon, in 2010 and 2012. In 2011 and 2013, I ran the 2nd and 3rd relay legs, respectively. These are the two long portions of the relay. I am sure I will get the 1st and 4th segments done eventually, but this year, I am running the full. The weather is slated to be pretty good, and I am hoping I don’t succumb to the Dashing Wife’s illness until after the run.

Anyway, I have not managed to finish this race uninjured. In 2010, my IT band starting acting up around mile 10 or so, and just kept getting tighter and tighter. I finished strong despite the pain, under 4:30, about 8 minutes slower than my goal of 10 minute miles. The race is kind of a blur now, though I think I about proposed to the lady at mile 22 with the orange slices. Also, some guy around mile 23 was asking somebody to bring his timing chip to the finish for him.

Yes, CIM you run with actual timing chips zip-tied to your shoe. Not those fancy things you put on your shoe or your bib and then throw away. They will charge you $30 if you don’t bring them back. Anyway, I grabbed his timing chip and held it way up high as I crossed the finish line so he wouldn’t get a finish time. Two years later, I was hoping to redeem myself and run my second marathon in 2012.

I know, I said CIM was my third marathon, but I ended up running a marathon instead of a half marathon plus 7 miles because I ended up pacing a friend on the second half of their marathon, and since the race costs were the same, I got my second marathon done. A couple weeks later, I ran a 20 miler, then cut back on the course for 4 miles and ran/walked another 6 with a different friend for my first unofficial ultra.

For the 2012, it was the 30th anniversary. I am a sucker for anniversary races. You get better medals on those years. I was well trained, and I was running well. My inadvertent marathon was a 4:05 and I had walked 4 or 5 miles with a friend. I was stoked, because I thought I could run a 3:30. The fun started the Saturday before the race when the rain started coming down. The forecast called for heavy rain and gusty winds during the race. They said up to 50 mph gusts.

On race morning, I hopped on the bus, and the hotel where the bus was picking people up at was handing out garbage bags. I was prepared, I had a shopping bag on my head, a garbage bag over my throwaway coat, and even bags on my shoes to keep my feet dry before the start.

A crappy selfie in the crapper.

A crappy selfie in the crapper.

At the race start, it was pouring and raining. I got out of the bus and ran to the port-o-potty. When I was finished, I stepped out and my calf cramped up. Hard. I spent the next hour, huddled under the overhang of a coffee shop stretching and massaging it. The wind and the rain just kept on coming down. I was surprised that none of the tents blew away or that the potties didn’t tip.

Here is the FB post I put up, after the race. “FYI for all the marathoners and relay teams who ran today. There was approximately 0.9 inches of rain from 6:53 am to 10:53 am – with 2/3 of that coming in the first 2 hours. (Hour totals = 0.29″; 0.34″; 0.17″; 0.09″). And 32mph winds with 40mph gusts.”

It was nuts out there.

As the start of the race was approaching, my calf had still not let go. This wasn’t the first time I had one of my calves cramp on me during a race, usually in the last four miles. I knew I could run on it, not well, but I could do it. I figured I would run at a moderate pace for several miles until I could walk to the finish and stay under the 6 hour mark. I limped out to the start line and discarded the trash bags on my feet. I started playing with my mp3 player and new headphones, which I hated. My usual headphones died on me, and I couldn’t find a replacement pair.

Of course this was moot point, because my mp3 player shorted out because of the rain. The volume would go down, but not up. So, I was going to do a marathon with a cramped calf and no music. After the starting gun, which was drowned out by the wind and rain, I started running. I shed my garbage bag pretty quickly, taking care to toss it down wind and out of the main path of runners. Around mile 2, I ditched the running jacket. I was already completely soaked by that point.

I started doing math in my head to stay distracted from the rain and pain. This time it was how far did I have to run at an 8:30 mile to get to the point where I could walk at a 15 min pace to finish under 6 hours. Then, I started doing additional math about how much farther I had to run to be able walk at a 16 min pace. Around this time, we made our first left turn, into the wind. This is where we got the full brunt of 30-40 mph winds. I didn’t really think of anything but moving forward for the next few miles until we turned west again.

First Dashing Dog Memorial Shirt

I had this shirt made through www.my5k262.com to remember my first running dog.

I saw the Dashing (and 39 weeks pregnant) Wife and Dashing (not pregnant at all) Son around mile 9 or 10, which lifted my spirits. Once I turned west, I started doing more math, saying to myself, if I run to mile 13, I can walk at a 17 minute pace, and mile 17 was a 20 minute pace. Eventually, I hit mile 20. I was still running, my calf had gone numb with pain, so I just kept moving forward. But, I also kept running.  I was also thinking of the original Dashing Dog that used to run with me.  She had passed away a month earlier from cancer at only 8.  I had a shirt made just for her to memorialize her.

I figured that I had pushed myself to get that far, what was 6.2 more miles? My pace dropped dramatically in those last 10k. However, at least the weather had improved just as dramatically. The rain had stopped and the sun came out. I was so exhausted and wet and in agony that I hadn’t even noticed the change in weather until I saw the beams of sunlight break through the clouds.

The 3:50 pace group passed me around mile 20, and every time I stopped to walk, I would look back and I could see the 3:55 pacer gaining on me. He eventually passed me at the last aid station. I decided that I was going to beat that group to the finish. I had the same experience two years earlier trying to beat the 4:30 pace group in. I gave it everything I had for that last mile, which at that point in the race resulted in an 8:40 pace. But I beat the 3:55 pace group by more than 30 seconds. I managed a 9 minute PR, and was over 35 minutes faster than the previous CIM.

The 30th anniversary CIM medal

The 30th anniversary CIM medal

Of course, my calf was done. I limped through the food line, saw my wife and kid, limped to my car, drove home, took an ice bath, rested and ate. The next morning, the lower half of my leg was purple and swollen. It hurt to touch it. I figured internal bruising. I emailed my doctor a picture of my leg and told him what happen. My doctor is an ex-Army Ranger and a triathlete, and he said to walk on it, take ibuprofen, and let him know if it isn’t better in 10 days. Then he congratulated me on running that race in such grueling conditions.

This your leg on marathons, well when you run with a cramped calf the entire way.

This your leg on marathons, well when you run with a cramped calf the entire way.

I love my doctor. He gets this running obsession.

Six days later, the Dashing Daughter was born, and six weeks after that, I had my vasectomy. So, I got 10 weeks off from running, and a great story about my third marathon.

DashingDauhter days old

Dashing Daughter very, very soon after she was born

I am hoping that the 2014 CIM goes a lot smoother, with no injuries, and a PR. I am really hoping for a sub 3:30, but considering I haven’t even run a half marathon at that pace so far this year, I don’t think it is going to happen. So, I am hoping for a 3:45, which would be a 44 second PR from Running with the Bears.

One thought on “My hardest marathon

  1. You’re a beast! We only have to deal with rain (and maybe snow/sleet) tonight & it’s just a 5k, thankfully.

    So sorry about Tallulah Belle; it’s so hard to lose them so young.

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