The California International Marathon (CIM) is a special race for me. It was my first marathon that I ran back in 2010, and it was my hardest marathon that I ever ran in 2012, and now, in 2014, it is my fastest marathon that I ever ran. On the odd years, I ran relay legs just to be a part of the experience. It also helps that I live in the Sacramento Area, and at one point, I am only 2 miles from my house. And the start is only about 4 miles from my work.
While the 2014 CIM was only my 5th marathon, I wanted to keep my streak of getting a PR each successive marathon. My PR was a 3:46 that I ran at Running with the Bears back in August (which I am running again, and being a charity runner again). When I ran that race, I was only mildly trained for it, and I wasn’t gunning for a specific time. Despite the August heat (which wasn’t that bad), and the hills, I still managed a good time. I figured that if I increased my training, I could get down to a 3:30 at CIM, especially with the cooler weather and the net downhill course.
I started increasing my weekday morning mileage, eventually getting in a few morning runs between 6 and 7 miles. Considering I usually only run 4 or so this was a decent jump. But as the CIM loomed closer, I wasn’t getting the half marathon times that I wanted. I went out way too fast at Folsom Blues Half Marathon and while I ran smarter at Clarksburg half, I still couldn’t get down to that 8 min/mile pace that I needed for a 3:30 marathon time. So far this year my fastest half marathon was American Parkway Half Marathon, the week after my 50 miler at Ruth Anderson
A little glimmer of hope happened at the Thanksgiving 10k, Run to Feed the Hungry, when I was able to knock out a sub 7 min mile throughout the entire race and feel good afterwards.
The week before CIM, I was hydrating like mad, and really planning my meals at the end of the week. I wanted to run well. I was also obsessing over weather. If you were following my facebook posts, I was posting weather updates every day.
Another thing about CIM was that I wanted to meet some of my fellow running bloggers/Facebook personalities. I knew I would see Tony (aka Endorphin Dude) because he was crashing on my couch the night before the race, but I really wanted to meet Stephanie from I RUN California. She and I started our running pages within weeks of each other, and wanted to finally meet. I also heard that several other folks were coming into town. Fit Sparrow, Live Laugh Love Run, and Rungry Runner.
We made plans to meet at the expo, which we did. I have to admit, I felt like a stud having four lovely ladies giving me hugs and wanting to take pictures with me. We wandered around the expo for a while, talking and laughing, and having a good time. I stopped by the Running with the Bears booth and said hi to Josie (the race director) and a few other folks.
After the expo, I went grocery shopping and then home to start making dinner. I had to make sure that Tony and I were well fueled for the race that morning.
4 am came way, way too early. Luckily the night before was low key and I got to bed at a decent time. I made some tea and peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and I checked weather. It was supposed to be 50 degrees at race start with no rain.
I decided to save my throw away jacket for another day and I grabbed a garbage bag instead. I shoved some GU in my pocket, some salt tabs (thank you Tony for reminding me about those), and the rest of my running crap. I scored a great parking spot near the finish, but still close to the bus pick up. We ran into the ladies in the bus line and continued talking and having fun. Considering Tony and I had run the race at least two times before (I ran the middle 15 miles a third time), we knew the course. I had a distinct advantage of remembering the course because two of my four marathons are at CIM, while only two of Tony’s 97 were here. I knew the course and was giving out advice.
At the start line, we used the port-o-potties. Stephanie and Tony got a really stinky one, mine wasn’t bad, and Kristina and another Stephanie didn’t complain. We hung out for a few more minutes until about ten minutes before race start. We split up to our designated goal times and pace groups. Both Tony and I were running for Pamakids, which is a Bay Area running club, so we were wearing their uniform. It was nice to be part of a team, because I had instant running partners and shouts of encouragement.
I did some warm up laps, tossed my garbage bag, I peed on examined the lovely foliage on some bushes, took my first GU, and lined up with the 3:30 pace group. My plan was to run up to the 3:25 group and hang with them for a while and start dropping back with my walk breaks, hopefully staying ahead of the 3:30 group.
The start was a typical race start. Just trying to get up to speed, dodging people, but trying not to let the adrenalin push me too fast. At one point, because I had no headphones, I listened to the staccato of footsteps running on the pavement. Nobody was talking, nobody had their music too loud, and nobody was huffing (yet). All it was the pounding of pavement, and heavy breathing. I actually took some video of it because it was so cool (more on why that isn’t posted below later).
I ran smart the first part of the race. After going out way too fast at Willow Hills 5k, and the Folsom Blues Half marathon, I knew I had to keep a steady pace. I didn’t push hard up the hills, but I definitely used the downhills to make up time. I chatted with a couple of Pamakids, and some other folks along the course. I had a couple of moments during my walk breaks when the 3:30 pace group would appear right behind me.
I didn’t walk for my usual minute when that happened, I just took off. I managed my fastest half all year with a sub 1:44 for the first half of CIM. I was over a minute ahead of schedule. I saw some interesting things over the next seven miles. I did see the Dashing Daughter and Wife (they weren’t interesting, but I was glad to see them), I did see one of my relay teammates from last year’s relay, and I saw llamas. Big giant furry llamas. And I asked, they were llamas and not alpacas.
Things were getting sore as I approached mile 20. The 3:30 group had passed me around mile 19, and I was hanging onto the back of the group, barely. The pace group was about a minute ahead of schedule, and I was clinging to a 30 second gap. At mile 21 or so was the last hill. A piddley little hill up onto a bridge over the American River. It was a minor hill compared to all the other hills we had climbed already, and it did me in.
I had to walk up this hill. I ran as soon as I got to the flat part, and ran down the hill at the end. I took an abbreviated walk break at the next aid station and kept pushing. I was catching up to some people that passed me earlier, even saw a guy puking. Another guy was on the curb stretching his calves. I just started counting down. Counting down the miles, the kilometers, and the blocks (the last turn to the finish is 8th street). I took some walk breaks that I had to take, but I tried to keep my pace up when I was running. However, I knew 3:30 was gone. It wasn’t much longer before 3:31 was gone too.
Finally, I was a half mile away from the finish. I can run a half mile at the end of anything, as long as there is nothing left after that. I took off as fast as I dared. I made the turn at 8th street, and saw a Pamakid walking the 150 meters to the finish line. I yelled at him and said, “C’mon Pamakid, 150 meters to go, lets run this!” That old guy, took off, and beat me to the finish. Turns out he was a sub 2:30 marathoner in his prime, and still has some wheels left on him.
I came in under 3:32, which resulted in a near 14 minute PR from August, and a near hour improvement since my first marathon at CIM in 2010.
After crossing the finish line, I felt all the energy leave my body. Luckily, a volunteer recognized that look, grabbed the back of my shorts and guided me to water and a space blanket. After some water, I got my composure back and was fine. The Dashing Wife called me, and I tracked her down. I put my phone in my pocket and went through the food line.
I grabbed a banana for Dashing Daughter, an energy-recovery beer (it was non-alcoholic, and interesting), a granola bar, and a bottle of water. I shoved this stuff in my pocket, and grabbed this Indian soup and naan (which was amazing). Then I hobbled over to the race course to cheer people in.
This is when I pulled out my phone and found out that I had managed to perform a factory reset of my phone in my pocket and lost all of my photos on my phone. I had backed up some photos back in November, and I posted some stuff on Facebook, so not all was lost. However, I lost some great Dashing Daughter video, and our pictures from the Santa train the day before.
As I was cheering, I was expecting people to come in at certain times. I was expecting Stephanie to come in around 3:50 to get her PR, and Tony between 4 hours and 4:15, and Kristina around 4:45. I didn’t see either of them until I saw Tony at 4:50-ish. Turns out I missed Stephanie and she came in around 4:30. I also missed Kristina, who rocked in a 20 minute PR.
I was kind of sad about Tony and Stephanie not getting their PRs. I wanted to share the glory with my friends. Luckily, they are awesome people (as most runners are) and their moods lifted from my race.
After Tony finished, and I got him away from the throngs of Endorphin Dude fans – You laugh, but you should see this guy after a race. Every other person was, “OMG! Its Tony, its Endorphin Dude, can I get your picture!” It’s embarrassing, and I am jealous. – we went to eat some lunch. As we hobbled into the restaurant, with our medals and bibs still on, this guy asked if we ran the marathon. I said that we had. He asked how we did. I said I ran in at 3:32 and Tony ran in a 4:55. The guy asked, “Meters?”
Yep, meters. I can barely walk because I ran 332 meters. Poor Tony got lost and ran 455… meters. That was pretty funny.
Anyway, several days later as I write this, I have nearly fully recovered, which is nice considering how long it used to take me to recover from marathons. I managed to run CIM without getting injured. Now all I need is that Boston Qualifying time. So I either need to drop my time 17 minutes by next year (I’ll be able to qualify for the 2017 marathon as a 40 year old), or I need to maintain this pace for the next 17 years.