Race Report: California International Marathon 2009

CIM 2009

The drive up to Sacramento was uneventful – The Jeep ran great with no problems. I munched on crackers and jerky on the way, after having a pasta breakfast.

The Vagabond, where I stayed, was about 1 mile from the convention center, and in the perfect location – about 12 blocks away, and $30 cheaper than the “marathon” special rate on the CIM website – I felt pretty good getting the discount by going directly to the Vagabond website.

The first room the heater didn’t work, but since I checked in early, it was easy enough to change to another room. The expo was pretty cool, although not as many “samples” around as the SFO marathon, there were more goodies in the goodie bag that were worth something.

A lot of junk, as always, but a few good coupons and some great samples – I even got some small bottles of oil and vinegar. I didn’t do a darn thing on Saturday, except drive to Sacramento, go to the expo (I did hear part of Bart Yasso’s speech, and now I’m considering doing the Spokane “Bare Bottom Run”, where everyone runs a 5k naked… sounds like fun LOL), and lie in bed. I ate dinner at Denny’s of Tilapia fish, mashed potatoes, and bread. I went to sleep around 7pm, woke up at about 1am, went back to sleep by 1:30am, and woke up at 3:45 am. I did an hour of X-stretch, and then met the bus outside at 0500. The first bus left completely full, but another convoy of school busses stopped by and we all piled on. It took about an hour to get to the starting line, where the temperature was about 35 degrees – and windy. And cold. I’d gone from the extreme heat of Maui to freezing my balls off in the cold of Sacramento. At least, as one volunteer put it, it wasn’t raining. We arrived at the start at 6:15, so we stood shivering in the cold for about 45 minutes. I placed myself at the 4:45 pace group, which was probably a mistake in retrospect. I should have started with the 4:30 group, which was originally my goal – although probably a bit unrealistic to expect to cut 20 minutes from my time in a mere 8 weeks from Maui. In any case, the CIM bases everything on GUN time, which I think is a pure crock. It took me FOUR MINUTES to cross the start line, so all of my times are 4 minutes longer than my real pace. I don’t care about GUN time, I care about my pace! Anyway, my finisher position is about 5 numbers higher than if I had butted my way closer to the start line. But it was good – it did prevent me from starting out TOO fast. Like most Marathoners, though, I did start out too quickly – but not in the first mile. In the first mile I ran a good 11:07 pace, letting my body gradually warm up from the freezing temperatures. By mile two, however, my time had decreased to a 10:30 pace. Mile 3 was a 10:00min/mile pace, and mile 4 was 9:40. I eventually caught up with the 4:30 pace group, and I stayed pretty much at a 10:20 pace and near the 4:30 pace group until about mile 19.At the half way point (13.1 miles) I was at 2:14, on pace for the 4:30 finish. At mile 20 I made the biggest mistake of the race. I didn’t really have to pee, but as I went past some porta potties, I saw for the first time there was no line and I thought, “Why not?” I did have to pee a bit, and, I figured, I wouldn’t have to worry about porta-potties after the finish line (which, oddly enough, I couldn’t find any at the finish). So stopping, from the standpoint, was good, but the rest was a huge mistake. Mile 20 is generally where people hit “the wall”. Everything was fine up to that point, but as I exited the porta pottie and tried to run, I discovered my left leg, from the outside ligament of the knee to the left glute, was in extreme pain. Not only could I not run, I could barely walk! For a period of time, there was doubt whether I could finish. I tried to stretch that leg, and I hobbled in a walk as best I could. Finally, I had to push through the pain – I knew if I could get going the endorphins would kick in and the pain would go away again. That pee stop not only cost me the 30seconds to pee, but also 4 minutes in that mile for walking/stretching, and, for the rest of the race, I never recovered. The best pace I could achieve after that was a 11:20min/mile. Overall, stopping at 20 miles I think cost me 10 minutes. Note to self:

Don’t stop at mile twenty. From mile 20 onward I knew that if I stopped again it would be doubtful if I could start running again. It was painful the first time – the second time, I knew, would be far worse, and maybe that time I wouldn’t be able to start at all. So, from then on, as my mind began to shut down, I kept repeating, “You Stop, You die.” I couldn’t stop. The leg felt fine running, but if I stopped, even for a moment, I felt it would be over. As I repeated “You stop, you die” over and over in my head, I made it to mile 24, where, by marathon tradition, I yelled, “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!”, although I was really thinking “GOD FRAK THE QUEEN!”. For those who don’t know, the distance between Marathon and Athens is actually around 24 miles, but, early in the century, Queen Victoria wanted the race to end in front of her estate – adding 2.2 miles to the race. Hence the tradition. At around mile 23 – 24 I began repeating a line from “Black Hawk Down” – in the voice of the characters from the movie – “It’s nothin’”. That combined with “You stop, You die” was pretty much the only thing my brain comprehended. By mile 24 I had tunnel vision – I couldn’t see to either side of the street, just what was in front of me. At mile 24 I began adding, “30 minutes. It’s nothin’. Four hours down, 20 minutes to go.” I began to hear Tony Horton’s voice saying, “You can do anything for 20 minutes.” His line was “30 seconds” but my brain changed it. By mile 25 I was repeating “15 minutes. It’s nothin’. 15 minutes. You can do it. It’s nothin’. You stop you die. 15 minutes. Don’t stop now.” By mile 23 I was on pure willpower, having hit the wall full force. My body had had it. I had been comfortable (not cold) for 4 hours, having been actually warm for about a total of 10 minutes for the entire race, and my body had had it. At mile 25.5 – 26 the crowd was out. I didn’t give a good damn what time I finished at that point. I just wanted to finish. I couldn’t stop, though – “You stop, you die.” My pace was around 11:30 at that point. At mile 26 I had .2 miles to go, and I wanted to finish strong – that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I had been running behind 3 girls for the last mile or so, and I wanted to finish in front of them. So I made another mistake with .2 miles to go – I pushed a little harder. At first, my body responded, and my pace increased. I passed a few people. But then, at about 26.15 miles, just as I was about to turn the final corner to the finish line where the men split off from the women, my right leg, which had been the stronger of the two, cramped HARD. The hamstring had had enough – It tightened up so hard so fast I almost fell. If you had been there, you would have heard me yell (I couldn’t help it), in my normally eloquent phraseology, “OH NO YOU DON’T!” My brain said, “No, you’re not cramping! NOT NOW, NOT AT THE FINISH!” – I had to hobble for a few steps, my brain screaming at my leg that this was unacceptable. I think I repeated “NOT NOW!” out loud a couple more times. The cramp faded slightly and I was able to finish the last .05 – .1 mile. As I crossed the finish line, I stopped, waiting for the cramp to reappear. I stretched the hamstring, hobbled to the medal girls, and continued to stretch the hamstring. Oddly, it never came back. I guess I had pushed too hard at the end. After the race, I hobbled about for a bit, thought about getting a massage and realized I didn’t have the time. So, I hobbled in the “marathoner’s walk” back to the hotel 1.2 miles away, where I again froze my ass off from the increasing wind. I had about 20 minutes at the hotel before I had to check out and drive home. And the drive home the left knee and glute are complaining bitterly to me about the experience; However, I feel like I finished stronger than I did in Maui. My legs are sore but my feet are not cramping like they did in Maui. Despite the cramping and the issue at 20 miles, I was actually able to run the entire race, and in Maui I had to walk part of the last couple of miles which I did not do here. My pace time was a 4:42 minutes, about a 10 minute improvement over Maui. The majority of the race was run at an almost exact 10:20 pace, but my overall pace ended at 10:46. Jeep ran great on the way home, and now I intend to do absolutely nothing today and tomorrow! The CIM had lots of aid stations, gu, and cytomax. The aid stations were plentiful and often, and the relay added crowds throughout the race. However, the “Downward” nature of the race isn’t exactly truthful – it’s a lot of up and down, although the net is down. The finish has no hills, thank goodness, but this isn’t a “flat” course by any means.I did it. And in marathoner tradition, I thought, “Never again!… Well, till the next one…” However, as I crossed the finish line, I did have one final thought: “You signed up for the Ironman. Are you frakkin’ CRAZY?” I have a lot of training to do in the next six months!