After running marathons since 2008, I am not big on running the same ones multiple times. I want to experience new races, new cities, new environments. But when it comes to our local California International Marathon, I feel like I have to run this one each year for my friends. I also run each year to continue the streak with this being number six. My friends have also made it their tradition to go out to a local pub, Bonn Lair, and buy beers for runners that pass by. It’s about 2.5 miles to the finish, so it’s a good spot to get fatigued runners to have a sip of beer (or entire beer) before finishing. They try to see if they can beat the previous year’s number of beers bought, so it’s become a challenge. I love it! Apparently, Guinness sponsored them and got them a keg for this year’s race.
For me, it’s a great motivator to see them and get a little energy for the last couple miles. This race is in my “backyard” so it’s a fun one to look forward to. It’s also known as one of the fastest races in the US, so a lot of people come to Sacramento to qualify for Boston here. And I was attempting this again this year.
I ran three other marathons this year with this forth one on the radar. This is not a typical year for me. I have been running about two marathons each year with some half marathons or other events in between. But it’s been an interesting year and I won this entry so I figured “why not?”.
Going into this race I had just finished Berlin missing a Boston Qualifying time by 35 seconds (correction: by 1:34). I was super bummed. I then had about two months to train for CIM. I actually took it easy and didn’t train nearly as hard as usual because I had trained so much this year. And I also had been going to my PT for regular maintenance for a slight injury, if you want to call it that, for the last six weeks. My knee was feeling bruised on the kneecap before I left for Berlin, but I didn’t think anything of it. I thought I just hit it on something. I then ran Berlin with no injuries or pain. But about a week and a half after that race, I started running again and felt that little bruised feeling again on my knee. I thought I had Runner’s Knee, which is usually from overuse or over training. So I went to the Iron Thumb again to see what was going on. My left knee had popped out again! It’s not something where your knee buckles or you have any serious pain. I didn’t even know it popped out. So, he popped it back in (which was extremely painful) and then we did regular taping using Rock Tape (or KT Tap) to keep everything tight and strong. We retaped it once a week and I continued to run and train. It was really worth the time and money to make sure everything was in place. I also added in additional inner thigh exercises and more lunges and squats.
As it got closer to the race, the muscles in my leg were getting stronger and everything was looking good. What’s funny is, I never had any pain when I walked or ran, but would have a little soreness on the side of my knee after longer runs. Nothing major though. I just continued to ice religiously and hoped for the best. I actually became a little obsessed with making sure it got better as quickly as possible.
As the CIM got closer, I was getting excited. I had made a special jersey in honor of several people (friends and family) who have cancer, survived cancer, or even passed on from cancer. I wanted to run this race in honor of all of them, including Clint. It just seemed fitting. It was my last race of the year and Clint was finishing his last chemotherapy treatment two days before the race. We’ve been through a lot this year and I wanted to do this for them!
The day before the race, I prepared all my race items, as usual (they were laid out all nicely on the living room floor), and then watched funny movies like Big Top Pee Wee to take my mind off the race. I ordered my pepperoni and mushroom pizza and actually went to bed early. I can’t believe this happened, but I went to bed at 9:30pm! This is a record time. I normally go to bed at like 11pm or so (midnight even) on race nights because I am thinking about everything. So, I got lots of sleep, which was truly amazing.
I woke up at 4:43am and got everything together and my ride was at my house at 5:15am. I got a ride with a friend, Jennifer, who I have never raced with before but have been training with a little the last month or so. She offered and it turned out to be a great offer. This was the first time I was dropped off on the other side of the porta potties at the start area and we got to sit inside a warm car for a long time before heading out the start. Kind of awesome!
This year’s race was the coldest race I have ever run. Everyone was actually freaking out about the weather because it went from Fall (warmish) weather to Winter in like a week and we were not expecting it. We’re talking mid-20′s. Freakin’ cold! We didn’t know what to wear to protect ourselves from the bitter cold during the race. It became a little stressful. But I opted for my normal shorts and shirt with arm warmers and gloves.
As usual, I didn’t really have a solid strategy or plan. I had a basic goal time but I wasn’t stressing about it. I wanted to BQ if at all possible. The gun went off at 7am and it was soooooooooo cold! You could see all the puffs of breath in the air while we ran. It was kind of cool to see. The ground was frozen in many places along the course, so we had to be cautious. We also had to watch out for water freezing in front of the water stations. When runners would grab for water or powerade, the liquid would fall out all over the place and would freeze on the ground almost instantly, so people were slipping on ice as they would run in to grab a cup. It made me a little nervous. It was so cold that sweat was literally freezing on clothing. I could see it sparkling on runner’s backs as I ran by.
I started out slow but gained speed and thought I would catch up with Jennifer. She’s a fast runner and even though she said she was going for a 3:40-3:45, I knew she would run faster. I caught up with her and we ran behind the 3:35 pacer for a while. I lost her for a bit and ended up running by myself for a while ahead of the 3:35 pacer. I just had a lot of energy and thought I could just run it out until I lost momentum. I wanted to pad my time as much as possible. I know this is the total wrong strategy, but I did it anyway. My goal was to get a 3:35-3:38, if at all possible, to have a cushion for the Boston Qualifying time. I ran really well for the majority of the race, but of course, fatigue sets in a little and I started to slow down.
About Mile 11, I saw guys dressed in chicken suits and one had a sign that said “Touch this for Power” so I did! I mean, why not, right? Another guy had a sign that said “I just farted”…that one made me laugh!
I felt my legs getting colder and colder and my gloves were getting wet from grabbing water cups so my hands were getting wetter and colder throughout the race. For several miles I couldn’t feel my bottom half and it felt like I wasn’t wearing anything. I seriously thought my shorts fell off and people could see my butt. I would look down from time to time to make sure my shorts were still there. But I just kept running. My Shot Bloks and chews were frozen as well, so they were incredibly hard to chew when I popped them in my mouth. My friend Kimio met me around mile 20.5 to help pace me to the end. I felt bad because I was starting to get tired and I hoped I wouldn’t let him down. I know that sounds weird, but that’s what I was thinking. By this time, I couldn’t feel my lips and I barely spoke to him because I didn’t even want to open my mouth. He said I was “in the zone” but I just listened to him encourage me and try to get me to pick up my pace.
At this point I was struggling a little because my quads were getting tight and were so cold. I just kept trying to dig in when I could. I knew I had the time but I was trying to get a little more of a cushion if I could. When I saw Clint standing outside Bonn Lair it made me smile and so happy that I was almost to the finish line. I wasn’t sure if he would make it out to watch because he was still recovering from chemo and was tired. I didn’t have time to stop so I just ran by with a big smile and peace sign held high above my head. And all my buds on the patio chanted my name as I ran by!
I was so excited to reach the last few blocks of the race. I saw my time as I finished and knew I had the PR and BQ. I leaned over the railing and cried for a minute. But my calves tightened up a little and I saw a chair next to a table by the finish and just sat down. I needed to get off my feet for a moment. A runner wrapped up in a silver wrap was sitting in the other chair next to me and he looked like he had fallen asleep, so I asked if he was ok. We chatted for a moment. We both tried drinking the Cokes that were given to us as we finished. I was trying to find Clint but I was having trouble using my fingers to text. After I pulled my gloves off, my hands were frozen and swollen. I also wanted to confirm my time and Jenny (another Jennifer in my life) had just text me so I responded and the only thing I could say was “Shit. What does my time say on the tracker?” She replied with “3:38:52!!!!!!” I did it!
I really didn’t think about the food or beer at the finish line. I just wanted out of the cold. And Clint was having trouble finding parking to walk into the finish line area. So I made my way to gear check so I could get my pants on (which was hard to do being so cold) and then walked a few blocks to the car.
Getting in the warm car was like heaven! I was shaking so bad and my teeth were chattering so it took a while to warm up. But off to lunch we went! We met up with some friends and had Mexican food and beers and just enjoyed being warm. I continued to make my rounds with other friends and went to a few other bars to celebrate and didn’t get home til about 9pm. Yeah, I know, I’m crazy. I actually didn’t even go to bed til 1am. I was amped up.
While I was running, I thought of my “friends” frequently. By friends, I mean the 11 people that I was running for. There were a few times when I was getting tired that I had to talk to myself and repeat some of their names to keep me going.
They helped me get to the finish line. I’m sure of it. This was a great way to end 2013.