The 2007 CIM was my fifth marathon since I started running in 2004. I ran this race last year where I qualified for Boston with a time of 3:39:22. Last year I achieved that goal using Pfitzinger’s 55 miles per week plan and decided to use it again this time. Training went really well – my training times were consistently faster than last time and I ran a PR half marathon in mid-October (1:43:40). Everything was going great until about three weeks before the race. That week I developed pretty sore shins and calves but I pushed through it. Two weeks out from the race, the pain was worse, especially in my left leg. I skipped a 10 miler and iced my leg a ton. I ran a Thanksgiving Day 5k that week which probably didn’t help... but I had a good race and finished in 22:12, only 5 seconds off my PR. Finally, last week, after a lot more ice and skipping another run, my legs were improving. I’d say that on a scale of 1-10 the pain went from like a 7 down to a 2.
Physically, I knew the injury and the extra rest wouldn’t hurt my race- it was during my taper so my training had been 100%, I’d really only missed 2 runs, and the pain never bothered me during a run, only after. Mentally, it sank me. I was somewhat burnt out by the end of my training and did not have the energy to deal with an injury. I was very negative but I tried not to vocalize it because I hoped my spirits would perk back up. I had a lot of anxiety about the whole thing. Honestly, I didn’t want to run the race. The last few days before the race I was mainly motivated by the fact that it was going to be over soon! But finally the day before the race, I rallied. I gave myself a big pep talk and dug up as much confidence as I could. I actually got excited! I packed my bags, did all my little pre-race rituals, and headed up to Sacramento with Zach.
Saturday we hit up the mall to waste some time, and then went to the expo. I got my number and then went to the Clif pace group clinic at 4:00. I knew from the website that the 3:35 pace group would be lead by ultra-marathon superstar Tim Twietmeyer! Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. Last year I used the clinic to meet the 3:40 pace leader and he was very friendly and talked to us for awhile. Oh well. Took all my stuff and went back to the hotel to relax. We ordered Olive Garden to-go and watched Ratatouille (very cute!) in the hotel room. I dozed off early but woke up at about 10:30 and had a bit of a meltdown- kind of that confused feeling you sometimes get when you first wake up, then remembering that my race was only hours away… all my tricks to build confidence were MIA and I kind of freaked out. After a few minutes and some tears Zach made me some tea and I relaxed and finally fell back to sleep. Whew.
Sunday morning I got up a few minutes before 5:00 and got ready. I made myself an English muffin (yes, I brought my toaster) with peanut butter, had part of a packet of oatmeal, and some of a banana. Zach drove me to the busses downtown and dropped me off about 5:30. By 5:50 my bus was driving. I sat next to an older gentleman who was running his 23rd straight CIM! This was the 25th anniversary event so they were making a big deal of all the “streakers” and this guy was right up there! Very cool.
The bus dropped us off at about 6:30 and I immediately got in the long line for the porto potty. It was still dark but the sky was starting to lighten. I talked with a guy from Vancouver for a while in line. After 15 minutes the line had barely moved and I decided I would have to hit up a bathroom later if I really needed to. I made my way to the starting line and checked my sweats bag along the way. I was wearing shorts and a tank top with a long sleeve tech shirt and gloves. I had a garbage bag on until right before the start too. At the starting line I scanned the crowd for the 3:35 pace group and couldn’t find the sign. I saw every other pace sign, but no 3:35. As I was thinking about what I was going to do, I noticed a girl coming out from the bushes and decided to follow her example and used nature’s porto potty. I was a little embarrassed but what the hell. I stood up and walked out of the bushes and, in an amazing coincidence, Tim Twietmeyer and the 3:35 pace group walked right by me! I hopped in line behind him and we all crammed into the starting crowd.
I had such a successful run last year with the 3:40 pace group that I really wanted to do the pace group thing again. Of course, that meant my goal had to be at least 5 minutes faster to run with the next group. I figured I could do it but it seemed ambitious. Realistically, I hoped to hang on to the group as long as possible and finish close to 3:35 as possible. Officially, goals were: A) 3:35 (8:12 pace) B) PR – sub 3:39:22 C) BQ – sub 3:40:59.
A couple cute little kids sang the national anthem, I shed my garbage bag layer, and we were off.
The course starts off in Folsom, a suburb northeast of Sacramento. The first few miles are mostly downhill and the weather was cool. It was pretty rural at first so there were no spectators, but I did see some ponies. :) The course was pretty crowded for a while and the road was in rough shape, so I spent most of my time watching the ground in front of me while keeping an eye on that 3:35 sign. I felt great. I had a lot of energy and so did everyone around me. We were running fast but it felt good. I shed my gloves and long sleeve shirt right away.
Mile 1- 8:02
Mile 2- 8:04
Mile 3 – 8:03
Mile 4 – 8:01
I was hoping the pace leader would settle into a pace closer to the 8:12 goal pace. But the downhills really did justify a faster start, so I just went with it. I was carrying a water bottle in my hand in addition to one in my fuel belt, so I drank on that instead of stopping at aid stations. The course starts to get more rolling around mile 5. Last year I hardly noticed the uphills but this year I did. They are short, while the downhill stretches are long, but I still noticed them. I was pushing up them though and stayed with the pace group. We finally settled into a more conservative pace. I ate 3 Clif Blocks.
Mile 5- 8:13
Mile 6- 8:13
Mile 7- 8:13
Mile 8- 8:11
There started to be more crowds out on the street at this point. I was starting to feel a little tired but not bad. Mentally, I was hanging in there, trying not to think “18 miles left.” Still cruising along, but I noticed the pace group was gaining some distance ahead of me. I didn’t feel like I was slowing down though. I tried to close the gap.
Mile 9- 8:05
Mile 10- 7:59
Once I saw that 7:xx split I started re-evaluating my strategy of running with the pace group. I was not prepared to run 7:anything in this marathon. That might not be too fast for some of the others in the pace group, but it was a stretch for me. I realized finally that they were running ahead of goal pace and it would probably be a mistake to stay with them. I let the group slip away a little, but they were still only 100 feet or so ahead of me. There were a lot of spectators out now. I ate 3 Luna Moons.
Mile 11- 8:04
Mile 12- 8:16
Mile 13- 8:01
(half marathon 1:46:13 – 8:06 average pace)
I saw Zach right past the halfway mark for the first time. He took a few pictures and then hopped in and ran with me for a minute. As I explained to him that the pace group was running a little fast, I solidified my plan to run my own race. I made him confirm the math on my half split “Isn’t that like a 3:32:30 projected finish time?!?” and he confirmed my decision to let them go. He gave me a new water bottle and some more encouragement and let me go.
The pace group was still in sight, but I knew I was slowing now. I no longer had a group to stick with and it felt very “no man’s land”-y. Blah. It was great to be halfway but I was getting tired, and still had a long way to run. Around mile 15 I started talking with a nice British woman named Pauline, who had also been dropped by the 3:35 group. We chatted for a few minutes then just ran side by side in silence for a few miles. I can’t even explain how helpful that was to have someone to hang on to. We shared the significance of passing the 16 mile mark- only 10 to go! -and pointed out the other mile markers to each other, but besides that we just ran. I saw Zach at mile 17 and was feeling rough. He asked how I was feeling and I couldn’t lie. “Meh,” I said. I told him I was tired and kind of had to use the bathroom but not urgently. He encouraged me and said I looked strong, then I continued on with Pauline. I hadn’t walked at all at this point and that was really encouraging. Pauline would stop for water and then catch up. I was tired and wanted to walk but just kept running. There were a lot of crowds including bands, dj’s, and cheerleading groups rooting us along, which helped. I ate 3 more Luna Moons.
Mile 14- 8:18
Mile 15- 8:29
Mile 16- 8:27
Mile 17- 8:14
Mile 18- 8:21
Pauline finally dropped me but I kept her in my sights for several more miles. I was really looking forward to hitting the 20 mile mark. My motto became “just keep running.” I wasn’t even thinking about my pace, in fact it was kind of a surprise every time I hit a mile marker. I did some math somewhere in here and figured if I could run 8:30’s I could finish in 3:37, which was completely acceptable at this point. I still hadn’t walked and it became my goal to never take a walk break. I saw Zach at mile 20 and was actually feeling a lot better than last time I’d seen him. I am sure it showed. I came up with a good mental trick at the 20 mile marker too- I visualized my usual 6 mile route and imagined that’s all I had to do. It really helped! There’s a bridge crossing at mile 21 but it wasn’t bad. There were more people, bands, kids, and some people were playing Christmas music.
Mile 19- 8:23
Mile 20- 8:30
Mile 21- 8:41
Mile 22- 8:41
Mile 23- 8:34
I was getting close and started shifting my strategy from “just keep running” to “finish strong.” I didn’t want to surge (if you can call it that) too early… I was worried I might cramp up or have to walk, and I was passing many examples cramping and walking as I ran in the final miles. I did some math and figured I could make it under 3:37 if I pushed. With three miles to go I focused on running strong, then a bit stronger with two miles to go, and finally just went for it at the 25 mile mark. I was definitely tired, but actually feeling really good! There were tons of people along the course cheering, and I was really soaking it up. I even high-fived Santa!
Mile 24- 8:31
Mile 25- 8:24
Mile 26- 8:06
Last 0.2- 1:40
Unofficial Watch time: 3:36:49
(8:16 average pace)
OFFICIAL finish time 3:36:47
(second half: 1:50:36- 8:27 average pace)
4 minutes 23 seconds positive split
Yay! I was happy with my finish time, but mostly I was so extremely glad to be done! My husband saw me in the final stretch, and my mom and dad were right at the finish to watch me cross the line. I got my medal and then gave bunch of sweaty hugs. :) I did it!
I didn’t quite get my “A” goal but I got a big PR. I am sure that I paid for my fast start but I don’t regret going out with the pace group. I may have ran below goal pace if I’d run alone, but we’ll never know. I saw Tim Tweitmeyer at the finish and thanked him. Zach said they were at least 3 or 4 minutes ahead of me so they definitely came in a bit fast. That is the risk you take when you run with a pace group though! I pulled it off on my own though and I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of my smart thinking when I decided not to stay with the group. Obviously I would have lost them eventually, but I was smart for doing it while I still felt good and not when I was completely toast. I may have been able to run 3:35 or so if I hadn’t started out too fast- I really am more of a negative split runner so this was far from a perfect race. In fact, there were several points in the race where I knew I could be running faster, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s hard to explain, but it was definitely a mental/physical battle and my weak confidence going into the race certainly cost me some time. But, I finished. I would say I am a tiny bit disappointed, mostly satisfied, and a little amazed. I thought it would take me years to achieve such a fast marathon time.
I am also very proud that I ran the entire marathon! I did it last year too, but I never thought it would happen again.
I am looking forward to a break from running. I’m taking a few weeks off and doing a lot of cross training. I did my first triathlon this summer and I’ve got a few more planned this coming year. I am going back to Boston, but I am not going for a PR or anything, just to enjoy it and improve my time from last year (which was a PW so should be easy!). I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself this time around and I need a break from that. I need to get my enthusiasm back before I train hard again.
Thanks everyone for all your support! :) I’ll post some pictures in a bit, and even the short video Zach took if I can figure it out. Happy Holidays! :)