It was a Christmas miracle
This was my third consecutive CIM and my 7th marathon overall since 2005. My 12 week training cycle (Pfitz 12/55 again) was good and took place in my brand new home town of Portland Oregon. This race was unique and special because this time, Zach was running with me.
My training was great. I didn’t have a huge base coming into it because I’d spent the summer playing around town on my bike and in the pool like a little kid, training for and racing my first half-ironman triathlon. But I ramped it up and managed the miles in training allright. We ran a half marathon in October where I ran 1:45, not a PR. Zach ran 1:36. I was worried that he was too much faster than me to comfortably run the race together, but it seemed that actually our goals for the race matched up pretty well- Zach just to finish strong, and me to run a PR (3:36 or better). We did all of our long runs together and he always helped me to run a strong pace. I was really impressed how well he took to running for 15, 18, 20 miles and it made my training feel easier.
The whole weekend was a near-disaster, and I am so grateful that everything turned out just perfect. Zach came home from work Friday night feeling a little off. By midnight, he was throwing up and in really rough shape. Neither of us slept very much that night as he was feeling horrible and I was stressed and worried.
Thankfully, he felt quite a bit better on Saturday morning, so we headed to the airport as planned. When we got the hotel, he just rested in bed as I went to the expo and stuff. He ate chicken noodle soup from room service for lunch and dinner, and I had some gross pasta. He mostly just had a really bad headache by this point but really hadn’t eaten much. It wasn’t looking good. The San Jose Sharks game was on local TV, so as he rested I watched them lose, breaking their 10 game winning streak. I have a tradition of watching hockey on race eve, and though I try not to be superstitious about these things, well, there ya go. I got all of our stuff ready as though we were both running, which was completely in doubt.
Amazingly, and thank God, he got some good sleep and felt better a few hours later. We woke and started getting ready about 3:45 and were out the door by 4:55.
Zach, Aron, and I were some of the very first people outside and got on one of the first couple busses. We chatted as we drove to the start line in Folsom. It was really foggy out and quite chilly (maybe 40?). The bus pulled up about 5:40 to a nearly-empty staging area and about 9,000 porto potties. We hopped off and used it and then got back on our cozy warm bus to wait. Zach and I split a Snickers Marathon bar and I sipped some water. I was amazed and excited that Zach and I made it here and were really going to do this together.
We used the restroom one more time (no line due to the luxurious surplus of porto potties) and then headed to the crowded start line. We spotted the 3:35 pace sign and got as close as we could, planning to catch up as we could. I also had a pace-band for 3:35 (8:12 average pace) and we were prepared to do it on our own. Last year the pacer was a couple minutes fast and this year he went out like an animal again. Didn’t turn out to be a big part of my race after all.
I was wearing my fuel belt with a water bottle and carrying 5 Gus. I had tank top and shorts on with little cotton gloves that I tossed after a couple miles. I was very comfortable in this outfit during the race.
It was mayhem at first, very crowded. We all zoomed down the first hills jammed close together. Zach and I stayed to the left and passed all the slower pace groups until we saw 3:35. We were running way ahead of pace.
The pace group was already getting farther ahead, and we didn’t follow. I ate a Gu at mile 5 and then we saw Maritza and Tara who had made big cool signs and were super loud and awesome. We were zooming along. Still pretty quiet on this part of the course, running through rural and quiet residential neighborhoods. I commented on how good I felt, and Zach, felt surprisingly good too. There were a few large crowds and he loved that part.
Ya, all those 7:55 miles were not supposed to be happening. Even though we’d nearly lost sight of the pace group who were way ahead of us, we were still going too fast. We were just fools, running our little hearts out and giving high-fives to Santa. We were having so much fun! As I looked forward to the halfway mark, I knew we were doing “great” pace-wise and had all kinds of time in the bank. You’ve heard that one before, right? Classic success story, no? No?
13. 8:08 (Half marathon split: 1:46:30, 8:08 average pace)
I took another Gu, sticking with my every-five-miles plan. We passed by Maritza again late in mile 15 and she gave me and Zach new water bottles to carry and drink for a bit. I only drank a few sips and then threw it aside. It felt like it weighed a ton and I didn’t have the extra energy for that. It felt like I was trying to carry a paint can or something. Zach and I shared his, hehe.
Somewhere in here I had a sudden sharp pain in my right big toe that was undoubtedly a blister popping. It friggin hurt. I was having some pain in the ends of my toes too and knew blisters were forming. Eventually blood seeped through my toe box. Zach’s foot had been bleeding since early on and was looking pretty nasty as well. Stay tuned for pictures of that.
Back at about mile 14 I noticed my pace slipping, and that worried me. Around mile 16 I started to feel kind of bad, and I said I was going through a rough patch. I took another Gu at mile 18, hoping it would pep me up. Turns out that was actually just the beginning of a big ol’ fat bonk. But for now, I soldiered on.
At the 20 mile mark, Zach said he might fall back a bit. We had talked about this, and really I was just so glad we had run that much together, so that was fine. I knew he was going to finish. He did finally walk just before mile 21, and I kept running. I was quite tired myself, though, and I was slowing significantly. I checked my pace band at mile 20, after avoiding it for the last 5 miles, and saw that we were now almost 2 minutes behind our goal pace. That meant PR was out of the question too. And when I did the math, the BQ was not looking too good either. I figured out that I’d have to run about 8:40’s for that.
Sure enough, the 3:40 group passed me somewhere in mile 22. I wanted to join them, I really did, but they were just running so darn fast. I didn’t see Aron in the pack, so I let go of any idea of trying to jump in with that group. I was beat. Just plain out of energy. I hadn’t ever walked a step of this marathon course in the two times I’ve run it, but I said F- it and slowed to a walk.
I looked behind me, hoping to see Zach but I didn’t. I ran for a while and then walked again, and checked for him again. This time I saw him, about 100 feet back, and a huge smile came across my face. I started running again, slow “so he could catch up” which was really just a great excuse to rest. I had given up on the BQ and I had a wonderful new goal of finishing together. I could tell immediately that he was suffering, and I was so glad. I wanted to slow down and he wasn’t moving too fast at all. We took a nice little stroll together and I told him I’m so glad we met back up and now we can finish together. We ran about the next mile, then took another walking break, maybe two. One involved an aid station where I drank about 4 cups of water.
I still hadn’t seen Aron pass and was worried, I kept looking back for her. Finally, on one of our walk breaks, here she comes! We started running again with her. I was so grateful for the inspiration and just to see her. She looked strong, and seemed to have accepted missing the BQ but still trying her best, not giving up. We all ran for a bit and then I just had to stop again, I was so drained. I didn’t expect them to stop but they did, and I was so grateful for their company. Anything that happens after mile 24 is a damn emotional experience and this was an amazing one. We were all running together and I realized we were going to pass Maritza again soon, all together!! Sure enough, there they were screaming and ringing their bells, it was awesome.
In the last mile, I just had to walk again. Aron was running strong and I waved her to go! Zach, being the kindest and most wonderful husband and friend in the world, walked with me. He told me “We can do this!” and we started running again. The course splits into separate men’s and women’s finish lines so we high-fived/shook hands and separated. I tried to speed up and run the last little bit faster but my legs locked up. I had fully and completely bonked and my legs felt like they were concrete. If I had hit the wall, now people were throwing the bricks at my head. I moved toward the finish line and saw Aron there. I hit my watch and my finish time said 3:45:01.
26.2 11:40 (9:43 pace)
Official finish time: 3:45:00 (8:35 average pace)
Second half split: 1:58:30 (9:03 average pace)
12 minute positive split, ouch!
I felt real woozy after I stopped running and had to sit down. I was probably grimacing and looking like I was going to pass out. I saw this woman across the way watching me, a spectator, and the look of awe and wonderment and confusion on her face was memorable. It said “What the hell are these people thinking?” An excellent question.
Aron helped me up and we went and got our chips removed and collect our finisher’s medals. I was so happy to have finished and congratulated Aron on her awesome race. We found Zach and got our pictures taken, then went and found our bags and her family.
We stopped by our hotel and then met everyone, including Tara and Maritza, at a restaurant and had a fun meal together. Aron’s family is so nice and friendly! It was nice to meet Tara and of course I loved seeing my dear friend Maritza. All of us marathoners talked marathons and had a great time.
Man, I blew this one. Again. Maybe someday I’ll be able to execute a smart race strategy. I do have a lot of excuses, but when it comes down to it I started off too fast and paid for it in the end. So predictable and so frustrating.
That said, I had a blast. It was awesome to run with Zach and finish an epic race together. I had been dreaming of sharing the experience with him since my first marathon three years ago, so it really was a dream come true. I’m so proud of him. I can’t believe this worked out after he was so sick just hours ago. It was a Christmas miracle.
I’m glad we went balls-out for the first half marathon. We did have fun. And on a good day, this would have worked out. I went for it. Pace-wise, it was a failure but whatever. We had an incredible experience together and will never forget it.
I’m incredibly sore today, and my feet are messed up. I have a couple nasty blood-blisters and some regular blisters too. I also incurred the most horrific chafing of my marathon career to date. It was my thighs- between my legs. So no pictures. Otherwise I’m just feeling general soreness, nothing specific. Zach’s hobbling around pretty good too which is fun to watch.
So turns out I’m free this spring! I was really planning on going to Boston, and I technically could go again based on last year’s CIM time, but I don’t feel right about that. I want to earn my way every time. I’m really ok with it though. I have run it twice and am ready for something different.
For now, I think I am only going to run one marathon next year. I actually registered already, a couple of weeks ago. I’m doing Ironman Arizona in November.