One of the nice things about living in the Sacramento area is that there are plenty of races in the immediate area. While most people have heard of the California International Marathon, not many have heard of the Clarksburg Country Run. The Clarksburg Country Run, is a 20 mile run, is about 20 miles south of Sacramento, and occurs usually 3 to 4 weeks before CIM. It is a perfect race to do just before a marathon.
Where else are you going to get in a 20 mile run with support and a medal at the end of the race? This year, Clarksburg was celebrating its 50th running. I am a sucker for anniversary races, and how could I pass up a 50th anniversary race?
I have done the 20 mile race twice before, plus I ran the half marathon last year. The course is flat, flat, flat. The only real hill is a road up a levee around mile 5. The course runs through vineyards and other farmland in Yolo County. I didn’t really have a goal this year, but I was really hoping to beat my time from 3 years ago. I figured I could do it as my marathon times have improved.
I arrived early at the race, and got my bib and shirt. I met up with my Buffalo Chips team and we chatted about the weather. Rain was forecasted, but it was sunny at the start. At least directly above the start, there were clouds to the west.
First, I did a nice one mile warm up run, then I hit the port-a-potty. My plan for this race was to run at my goal pace, and see how things were going towards the end. The race started and I got in a nice pace right off the bat. There were less than 500 runners, so it was easy to get into a comfortable rhythm pretty quickly. Unfortunately, my music died in the first mile.
At the first aid station, I spent a little time getting my headphones into my pocket, and kept going. The race was going like any other race. I chatted with some runners, and kept looking to the west. The clouds were getting closer and it definitely seemed that they were rain clouds.
We hit the levee, and ran along the only curvy part of the course, which was only two miles long. It wasn’t long after that point that the rain started. We had been on the course for an hour when the drizzles started. It was about here that I had my first GU. I chatted with a couple other runners, including one guy who was going after his first marathon, another lady who was training for the American River 50 (had a nice chat with her about strategy, at least until I couldn’t keep up any longer.)
It was around the 90 minute mark that we rejoined the half marathoner courses. The 20 mile runners got a 30 minute head start, and rejoined at our mile 11.5, their mile 4.5. We had passed a couple of the walkers where the courses met up, but the half marathoners were getting more and more frequent as we went along.
At about mile 13, there was a water stop coming up, so I decided to take a salt tab. I forgot that I need to have water in hand when I take them. I spent the 100 yards or so before the water station gagging on that damn capsule. I actually coughed it up and out, and caught it mid stride. I carried that slimy thing until I could drink some water with it. I little later I decided to take my pineapple-apple sauce pouch instead of a GU.
I like these pouches for long runs. They about twice the size of a GU, have nearly the same amount of calories, but the sugars and stuff is all natural. The stuff goes down a hell of a lot easier, and you don’t need water. I took one of these every 10 miles during AR50.
Around the second hour, I was about 90 seconds behind schedule, and the rain started getting heavier. We had 3 mile out and back to run between 14 and 17. The crowd was thick. We had a mix of steady runners doing the 20 miler, 20 mile runners that were slowing down, and we were running through the half marathoners going at a 10-12 minute pace.
I decided I was going to do my last walk break at the aid station, and then push towards the finish.
I had been running efficiently, as I was less than 0.5% over distance (i.e. at the mile 14 marker, my Garmin said 14.07 miles), so I knew I was going run an extra 0.1 miles. That means I would have to make up about 50 seconds, or adjust my goal pace by 2-3 seconds. At mile 15, I was about 6 seconds off that goal. So I knew that I had to run about 20 seconds per mile faster for the last 4.5 miles to meet my goal. I turned the corner at 15.5, walked for about 30 seconds, grabbed some water, and set off at a faster pace.
Here is the thing, I have had some amazing finishes in half marathons this year (and my 10 miler). The last three miles of these races have been my fastest miles of the whole race. I was hoping I could duplicate that for this race.
I picked up the pace a little bit until I hit the 17 mile marker. Then I started pushing. I started my overly obsessive count down for distance. I started with counting down every 500 meters (doing the conversions in my head distracts me), and the quarter miles. When I hit mile 18, I pushed a little more. It was also nice that we were on the same course of not only the half marathon, but the 10k as well. So, I got a nice count down to the mile marker.
I started catching up and passing people who had broken away a few miles earlier, including a fellow Buffalo Chip who had been leap frogging with me the entire race. Once I hit about 1.5 miles to go, that is about 2.5 km, and I started counting down by 100 meters. I would tell people that they only had a little bit more to go to be done, helping them dig deep for the finish.
I turned the last big corner, passed the 19 mile marker, and picked up the pace again. I was still a couple seconds off goal pace. I didn’t have my Garmin set to show me my time with seconds, only hours and minutes. I ran on the assumption that I only had a couple seconds until the next minute and tried to figure out the pace I needed to run.
Once my Garmin beeped for 19.5 miles, I knew I had 1000 meters to go (remember the extra distance I mentioned above). I had just over 4 minutes to meet my goal, so I pushed even harder. I think I pushed a little harder when I saw the 6 mile marker for the 10k, only 0.2 miles to go. 300 meters. I was going as fast as I could and as I hit the first timing mat, I saw my goal time on the clock. I wasn’t right at the start line when the gun went off, but it didn’t take long for me to cross it. So I just pushed as hard as I could to cover the last 10 or so meters to the finish line.
I crossed the line, and was out of breath. I got my medal and my small bottle of water (give me a full half liter of water, will ya? I just ran 20 miles.) and hobbled over to the buffalo chips tent to see how everybody else fared. I cheered several of the folks as they came into the finish. I talked with the chips for a few minutes, then grabbed some food. They offer a full lunch after the race of pasta and salad. I actually didn’t want anything, except for some oranges and cookies. I also took a shot of pepsi. That tasted really good, even if it was somewhat flat.
I did the 20 mile strut of awesomeness to my car, which thankfully was only the third car away from the door where I walked out. I moved my son’s booster seat over, dropped the back seat down flat, laid a towel down, and crawled in to get out of my wet clothes.
Side note: I love my car even more now. I have the 2015 Honda Fit, and I was able to sit rear facing on the, now flat, back seat, lean against the front seat, and my soaking wet shoes were in the cargo tray. I took off my shoes, peeled off my compression stuff, took off my shirt, used another towel to dry off my legs, and put on a new shirt. By this time, my car had fogged up like it held a couple of teenagers engaged in “heavy petting”, and I didn’t feel the least bit awkward changing out of my wet shorts. I did leave my running briefs on, but they weren’t all that wet. I put on some thick, warm, compression-esque socks (they are snug in the right places on my foot), put on some comfy shoes, and then rolled out of the back of my car.
I made the joke on my Facebook page to turn off the rear door child locks if you are going to change in the back of your car, but my son is 8.5 and I trust him to not jump out of the car. However, I had a terrifying thought for half a second that they were on. I would not want to have to crawl over the seats to get out of the car after running 20 miles.
By the time I got home, race results were posted and I found that I didn’t meet my goal, I had missed it by 1.86 seconds. However, because I have some obsessive compulsive tendencies, I checked the times the next day and saw that they had made some corrections and decreased (at least my time) by 4.5 seconds. So I had beat my goal!
It was a PR by nearly 30 seconds. Not there are many 20 mile races out there, but it is still a PR. That said I actually ran the first 20 miles of CIM last year about 5 minutes faster than I did during this race, but that doesn’t count. Also, I finished the Clarksburg 20 miler only 0.10 miles over 20 on my Garmin, and that last 3.1 Garmin miles were my fastest 3 fastest miles of the race. I finished with a sub 24 minute 5k at the end of a 20 mile race. That is pretty frickin’ awesome.