Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CIM—The really long version

Take a deep breath, this race recap is 26.2 miles long, and you know how long that takes! So here goes....

After our tour at the old Governor's Mansion on Saturday, we went back to the hotel room for lunch. Instead of going out or buying stuff, we enjoyed a free foraged lunch (partly food I brought along and partly things we "saved" from breakfast). Lunch was Special K crackers (brought) with peanut butter (from breakfast), cheese sticks (brought), oranges (from breakfast), and blueberry muffins (also from breakfast). Cheap, easy, perfectly yummy, and not so heavy as to fill us up before our pasta dinner later on!

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and reading (I was finishing up The Secret Life of Bees for my Book Club and I love it! Highly recommended).

Then it was off to Lucca for dinner. We heard about this restaurant from other passengers on our shuttle from the airport and it was only a couple of blocks from our hotel, so it was perfect for us. Our reservation was at 6:15 but I thought we should get there a little early in case they could seat us sooner. We arrived by 6:00 and sure enough, got a table in a few minutes, even though the restaurant was very busy and full already.

And we ate, ate, ate. I seemed to have a bottomless pit of an appetite. Not that I stayed hungry all the way through, but I never got uncomfortably full (which is both good and bad, I guess), and I ate almost everything offered to me. First we were easily tempted into a plate of zucchini chips. Just as it sounds—zucchini sliced paper thin and fried like potato chips. So good! We easily inhaled half the plate or more before I asked for a box to pack up the rest. (Then we forgot the box at the restaurant! No big deal, we certainly did not need it.)

Then I had a starter salad, greens with satsuma oranges and goat cheese and a sherry vinaigrette. I can hardly have a meal without salad! For my entree I wanted pasta, of course. I don't really think a pasta dinner is a pre-race necessity, but it is a nice tradition and I certainly needed all the good karma I could get! Plus it's a great opportunity to eat pasta, which I don't have that often. I chose one of the specials, whole wheat penne with sea scallops, yellow and butternut squash, and spinach. It was pretty good, but I would have made it differently for myself...about half the penne and double or triple the squash (particularly the butternut) and spinach. But that's just me... and I still managed to eat the whole thing!

Finally, dessert. Yes, I still had room for dessert. The table next to us (also runners, very petite but they managed to eat heartily plus have dessert also) had ordered the apple crisp which looked so yummy and sort of wholesome, really. So I did too! I did share it with my mother, even though it is in front of me in the picture.

We returned to the hotel and all that was left was to lay out my clothes and gear for tomorrow. Oh, what to wear, what to wear. I had brought lots of options, but I had pretty much already decided to wear the fuschia half-zip that I wore in the Seattle Half, switching in black running pants* (instead of grey) and a black cap (instead of pink), so I wouldn't look exactly the same in pictures.

But the weather forecast had turned even colder than previously expected, and I seriously considered wearing a running jacket as well (in retrospect I would have done fine if I'd worn the running jacket—I'm used to running in a jacket even when it's not extra cold and windy). But I also thought I would probably be okay with just the half-zip, so I decided to start out (if I needed it) wearing a new Hanes charcoal grey zip-front hoody that was part of my pre-and post-race warm-up outfit. I resigned myself to discarding it mid-race, even though it was brand new, bought at Walmart specifically for this race ($13, a little more than I would have liked to spend on a throwaway!). (But I had also suspected I might somehow lose this jacket in the course of the marathon, and bought a spare, which is waiting for me at home.)

I fastened the chip to my shoe, pinned the bib on my shirt, laid out my running clothes and the extra clothes, my fuel belt with nuun and Gu (plus advil and immodium and various other "emergency" supplies), and my newly charged ipod and Garmin. I also turned the satellites back on (off for the flight) and turned it on to find the satellites, just as a warm-up for tomorrow. I don't really understand how all the satellite stuff works, but since the Garmin had never been to Sacramento before, I thought it would be prudent to introduce it to the local satellites in advance! (That may have been silly, but on Sunday before the race I got the satellites up in just a few seconds, so I feel like the advance work may have helped.)

The hotel was opening the restaurant at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, so I set alarms for 3:45 (my cell phone, my mom's cell phone, and the wake-up call on the room phone—we were not able to figure out how to set the clock radio). Then I went to bed and read for a while until I thought I might feel sleepy, which was close to 10:00. I probably should have tried to go to sleep earlier, but I don't think it would have worked anyway.

I actually woke up around 3:30 on my own, but I waited for the alarms and then jumped out of bed (much easier than it is at 6 a.m., for some reason) and put on the first layer of my outfit for the morning. I went down to the restaurant promptly at 4:00 to get coffee. I didn't plan to have breakfast from the hotel buffet, as I had packed oatmeal and I had a banana already saved from the day before. But I took a hard-boiled egg—they had a wonderful big bowl of them, I wonder how they peel so many eggs?—and I was unable to resist a small cinnamon roll-type pastry. Which I ate. Living dangerously? What can I say...I have a pretty stable stomach, so I wasn't too concerned. I also ate the oatmeal, with banana, raisins, a few sliced almonds, and brown sugar. I had almost three hours before race time so I figured I had plenty of time to digest.

I drank half or more of my large cup of coffee, ate my breakfast, gathered up my gear, and headed down to the lobby to wait for the bus. I also grabbed another coffee for drinking while waiting and while on the bus. Yes, this would mean I consumed at least 24 ounces of coffee Sunday morning before the race.

LOTS of people were waiting for the bus at the hotel. I think most of them were staying there, but by the time the buses arrived at 5:15 there were others coming to catch a bus as well. I surged out quickly and got on one of the two buses that arrived initially. That was a relief as I saw the crowds of people still wating as we drove off.... I would have been very stressed if I had to wait for another round of buses!

We got to Folsom about 6:00 and I head immediately to a porta potty. Not because I needed it desperately but I like to use the potties as many times as possible before a race, to empty my bladder and whatever else needs emptying. I doubted that I could make it through the whole race without going again, but I wanted to do all I could to try to make it possible. Happily, there were lots of porta potties and not very long lines yet. Then I went back to the warm bus to wait for a while before heading back into the cold. (Oh yeah, it was cold out!) I stayed on the bus until 6:30, maybe 6:35. Then I put on the fuel belt and geared up, still keeping all the warm clothes on for the time being.

Then back to the porta potties for another effort. I was still one visit short of my usual three but it was the best I could do. I was a little concerned that I hadn't expelled enough fluids (considering all the coffee) but I did what I could. At most races, even half marathons, I do a warm-up run and that usually makes things move through me and sets me up for that third potty stop. This time, since I was going to run 26.2 miles, I thought I'd skip the warm-up run so as not to use up my energy and legs in advance. I did jog a little from the potties to the starting area.

Finally I peeled off my warm clothes (except the Hanes sweatshirt) and dumped my bag by the sweat drop truck. Once I worked my way out of that crowd (lots of people trying to dump their stuff!), the starting area was much less congested and I was easily able to move over near the 4:00 pace signs. I wasn't officially in their group, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to use their signs to pace myself. I turned on the Garmin and I was ready to go.

I didn't even hear the starting gun (or whatever they used) but suddenly we were moving forward! Unlike many other big races, I didn't feel like the starting crowd held me back (possibly because everyone was trying to arrange themselves according to the pace signs?), but I started somewhat slowly (and at the same pace as the 4:00 pace group). I usually go out much faster—like 8:30 pace in a half marathon—and it always feels hard until I get my groove, but this felt easy from the start. Probably because it was a 9:30 pace....

When the first mile came in at 9:33 I was okay with that but I was concerned that the pace group was going sort of slow, and it would be hard to make up the difference to get below the 9:09 pace needed. So I decided to let myself go ahead of the pace group a bit. I told myself that I had to run my own race. This became a mantra of sorts throughout the run. I had planned to use "I am strong, I am invincible" (yes, I am woman) as my mantra but I didn't think of that during the run, even when I might have needed it.

After I left the 4:00 pacers behind, mile 2 was 9:16 and the next few miles were all under nine minutes. I was happy with this because it brought me back on track and it didn't feel too fast at all. I liked the idea that I was even building a small time cushion, because chances were good that my entire distance would be greater than 26.2 (it always is) and a 9:09 pace would not be fast enough in that case. My goal pace was actually about nine minutes (for an average). I figured that would make up for an overlong total distance and hopefully give me enough time for a bathroom stop if needed.

I had applied a pace chart tattoo on my arm but I didn't need a chart to calculate pace mileage times for the first seven miles or so. It was easy math—9:09, 18:18, 27:27, 36:36, 45:45, 54:54, and about 64 at mile 7. After that, it was too complicated to do in my head! But on the one occasion I tried to check the pace chart to see if I was on pace, I discovered that the print was too small to focus on and read while I was running. I could make it out if I stopped, but that kind of defeated the purpose! The blurriness of this picture is somewhat similar to what I saw when I tried to read the chart on the run.

Miles 3-6—8:54, 8:47, 8:51, 8:58.

Miles 7-9 must have been a little more uphill because I slowed a little, but still kept a good pace—9:04, 9:08, 9:08. The course was a mix of moderate downhills and moderate uphills (with an overall descent from beginning to end). This is an ideal type of terrain for me. I am quite accustomed to running up and down hills in my regular running routes, and as long as the uphill (or downhill) is not excessively steep, I like it. Generally speaking, the "free speed" from the downhills more than makes up for the slight slowing on the uphills.

Around about mile 8 or so I started thinking about needing to use a bathroom. It wasn't urgent or anything, and if I'd been doing a half marathon I would have easily held it for the duration, but I wasn't sure that would work for a full four hours or more. I didn't really want to lose time stopping, of course, and I really didn't want to stand in line. I decided that I would wait to stop until at least past mile 10, and then if I saw a porta potty without a line I would stop and use it.

But as I passed the occasional trio of porta-potties I always saw a few people waiting in line. I just didn't want to do that, although the urge was getting stronger. I made a modified decision that I would wait until after the halfway point to stop, as I didn't want to mess up my half marathon split with a potty stop.

I had been wearing my Hanes sweatshirt very comfortably, although I had unzipped it so my race number would show (for pictures) and to allow a little air circulation. Around mile 11 I decided it was time to get rid of it. While I wasn't excessively warm, I thought it would be easier to run without it flapping around me. I tossed it toward a woman on the side of the street. I shouted to her that it was brand new, hoping that she would take it. She yelled back to me that she would save it for me. (But I wasn't coming back!)

Miles 10, 11, 12, 13—8:53, 8:54, 8:58, 9:00.

The half marathon time was 1:58:xx on my watch (almost exactly the same as in Seattle) and about 2:01 on the clock.

Other than needing to pee, I was feeling really good. As the earlier miles had ticked by, I had thought about past races in my life when they had felt like so much work at much fewer miles. The Bloomsday 12K for example. The race distance is about 7.5 miles and I remember how hard it felt going up Doomsday Hill around mile 5. Here I breezed past five miles (and 7.5 miles) without concern.

Or any of the half marathons I've run...when I've been all out of gas after 13.1 miles. Here I was only halfway at 13.1, and that was okay! I had plenty of gas left in my tank. And the nine-minute-or-so pace I was running was not that much slower than many of my past half marathons, or even my Bloomsday runs.

Just after the halfway point we came to an aid station handing out Gu. I slowed enough to pick out a chocolate outrage (I like the chocolate, chocolate mint, and espresso flavors best), tore it open, and started sucking out small bites (sips?). There may have been a Gu station earlier—there was supposed to be at mile 8—but I didn't see it. I did have four Gu's in my pack, but I didn't want to fumble with getting one out if I could just grab one at the aid station! Up to that point I hadn't felt the need to put anything in my stomach (big breakfast, remember), but I suspected it might be time to refuel at this point.

Before I finished the Gu we passed a relay exchange point. There was also a huge bank of porta potties, and I knew this my best opportunity to get in without waiting. I ran up to them, found one that was open, and hopped in (holding my Gu packet in my teeth). I really, really wanted to be fast in the porta potty (unlike my leisurely bathroom breaks on long runs at home), but I also wanted to make it a worthwhile stop—I wasn't going to be stopping again! So I burned a few extra seconds squeezing out every drop, then ran back out the the course.

The relief was immense, and worth the delay. It made me feel good enough to take off fast and push a little harder to make up the lost time. I was nervous to see the time for mile 14 (the porta potty mile), because I feared it would be over 11 minutes or more, but it turned out to be 10:33, which wasn't all that horrible. Apparently I had spent about 1½-2 minutes on the potty stop.

I made up some of the time in miles 15-17—8:47, 8:54, 8:46. At some point after the porta potties I also saw red pacer signs ahead of me, not too far in the distance. As I gained on them I saw that they were the 4:00 signs (what else could they have been? 3:50 would be way too fast and I hoped it wasn't something like 4:05 or 4:10). Obviously, even though I had stayed ahead of them in the first half, they gained on me and passed me while I was in the porta potty.

Once I caught up I decided to run with the pace group for a while (as it turned out, pretty much the rest of the race). After all, they promised to bring their followers in at four hours!

Mile 17 was my last mile under nine minutes (until the final kick). From then on I was pushing to stay on pace, if I wanted to finish under four hours. I hoped that I had enough cushion in the bank already to compensate for the potty stop and extra mileage, and as long as each mile was under 9:09 or within a couple of seconds, I felt okay with it. Also, as long as I was staying abreast with one of the pace signs, I felt on track.

Miles 18-19—9:01, 9:06.

I can honestly say that the first 18 miles were easy for me. Maybe I wasn't trying as hard as I could have, but my 9-ish minute pace felt as comfortable as my typical easy 9:30 pace at home. Even though that was not the most aggressive tactic, I felt that I had a much better chance of finishing the race satisfactorily if I kept myself at a happy pace for as long as possible. I knew it would get hard eventually, but the sooner I could have put that off, the better!

Harder came after the end of mile 18. As I noted in some post about my long runs (or maybe it was an email to someone), I have a really good base up to 16 miles. I have done so many runs of that length (and many more if you include 13-16 miles), but really only a handful over that. In my long runs, the hard work starts after mile 16. Fate gave me a couple more easy miles after that, but after 18, I could see "the wall" in the distance (even if I wasn't yet hitting it).

I pushed through miles 18-19 pretty well, thinking about my 22 mile run a few weeks back, when I had run 18 miles "easy" then pushed myself through two more to 20, then geared myself up to squeeze out the last two at a sub-nine minute pace. In comparison, most of these 18 miles had been at or under nine minutes, without excessive effort to accomplish that. I knew, though, that I would have to work a lot harder to keep up that pace for the final 10K!

Miles 20-26—9:11, 9:09, 9:11, 9:07, 9:08, 9:14.

Somewhere in the low 20's the pacers drew ahead of me a bit. I tried not to be too concerned. My individual mile splits were pretty close to the 9:09 pace, and, I told myself yet again, "I had to run my own race." I was working pretty hard now. It was taking what I would consider an 8:15 level of effort to run faster than a 9:15 pace.

And my legs had become verrrrry heavvvvy. Keeping them moving fast enough required almost everything I had in me. Although my mile splits were still okay, the moment to moment pace on my Garmin was fluctuating wildly from 9:30 or slower to 8:30 paces. I don't know if that was because of the satellites (which sometimes happens) or if I was really surging so erratically. Of course the variation in terrain played a part as well. I really can't remember if there were any uphills in this section, but I do remember noticing that even on the downhills (which normally go at an 8:30-ish pace) I was barely maintaining a 9-minute pace.

Around mile 20 I dug a Gu Roctane out of my pack. I figured I needed whatever extra kick I could get, even if it wasn't my favorite of the flavors! Since I'd only had one Gu earlier, I certainly wasn't over-nourished. I hoped that the magic of the Roctane would help keep me going.

Let me be clear here. I had no desire, or need, to stop or even to walk. I know that if I had slowed down my pace I could have finished very comfortably without any distress. The only difficulty I was having was keeping my pace up! I just kept telling myself, you haven't come 20-plus miles at a sub-4-hour pace to let it go now (if at all possible).

Somewhere in those last few miles I realized that I probably had not been drinking enough during the race. I had drank part of a bottle of water near the beginning, handed to me by a volunteer and carried by me for several miles. I finally discarded it when I couldn't screw the cap on properly and it started leaking onto my glove. Throughout the run I had taken a few swigs of Nuun, but I hadn't even finished one of my bottles. I didn't take any water at the aid stations because I had my own, and didn't want to slow or stop.

So I pulled out the Nuun and had a few gulps, then just continued to carry it in my hand so I could drink more frequently in the last few miles. I think, but I'm not sure, that I suspected I was feeling a touch woozy, and was concerned that my electrolytes were depleted. That, or I was kind of whipped from running 20-some miles....

I had started trying to do some mental math as the remaining miles decreased. My "dream" was to finish the first 20 miles in three hours, which would give me an easy ride the rest of the way. That didn't happen. My clock time at 20 miles was 3:09:09, on my watch about 3:06 and some. I couldn't really figure anything out until I got past 25 miles, when the remaining distance was small. I thought (wrongly I believe) that I had had a mile and a half left at 3:45. Luckily I did not count on that, and kept my pace up (actually speeding up after mile 26).

In the last couple of miles the course was definitely slightly downhill. This was my (and many others') salvation, as it certainly helped me keep the pace going with a little less exertion. I also drew even with the pacers again, and then a bit ahead of them, where I stayed for the rest of the race.

The last section was down a big street alongside Capitol Park. (I didn't know this until after the end, when I was walking back to the hotel.) But it was clear we were nearing the finish. Because of my potty stop, and the usual other factors, my Garmin was now about a tenth of a mile off of the race markers. So I came to mile 26 quite a ways before the official marker. I'm not sure if I started my final "sprint" at my 26 miles or the official mile marker—probably the official spot. But when I was finally in the final stretch I abandoned all moderation and ran as hard as I could toward the finish line. My time for the last .32 miles was 2:47, which was an 8:38 pace!

As I was barreling toward the finish I saw that the clock had already hit four hours but my watch time was still under. I knew at that point that my chip time would be under four hours, but I would be very close! The time on the clock as I crossed was 4:02:15. My Garmin said 3:59:42 when I stopped it (chip time would turn out to be 3:59:40**). I had finished under four hours! (I assume the four hour pacers were right behind me.) And, incidentally, since I turn 45 next year...I apparently had qualified for Boston 2011. If I wanted.

After I crossed the finish line and stopped I felt quite dizzy and a little disoriented. Most likely it was because of what I had just run, along with my final sprint, but I thought it might be due to my lack of drinking during the run. I gulped some of my Nuun and got a space blanket wrapped around me and felt fine in a moment.

Fine, that is, in the head area. The rest of my body, however, felt like it had been hit by a truck. Maybe a train. I felt a little bit like Lot's wife or as if the White Witch of Narnia had turned me into a stone statue! Seriously, I could only walk very, very slowly.

I turned in my chip, collected a medal, and made my way to the photo line. After that I stopped to call my mom and tell her I was okay (better than okay, I was under four hours!). I emailed Rod and sent a Facebook message to a running friend who had predicted a 3:59 finish (I thought she was just being nice! :) I followed the crowds to the sweat bag pickup, easily found my bag, and slowly pulled my warm clothes on top of my running clothes.

And then walked back to the hotel. Really, running 26.2 miles had been the easy part! I wonder, if I had stopped at all during the last few miles, would my body have shut down the way it did after the race? I couldn't possibly imagine picking up into a run after this, let alone a run at any pace more than glacial.

Glacial pretty much described my walk back to the hotel. Apparently the hotel was just half a mile from the Capitol, but I know my walk took a lot longer than ten minutes (I didn't time it, I was done with timers for the day!). I did get to walk along the final stretch of the marathon route, parallel to Capitol Park, and watch some of the other finishers coming in. It occurred to me later that I should have done a better job of cheering them on! (But my mind was occupied with other things.) Some of them looked in pretty rough shape, but they were very close to the end and I knew they would make it.

I had to cross a few streets and I waited dutifully for the walk signals. There was no way I was going to dart across to beat traffic! Finally (and really, not that long a time) I crossed J street and knew I was only a couple blocks from the hotel. A moment later I could see its ivy-clad façade! I called my mom to tell her I was almost there.

Back in the hotel room (blessedly already made up by housekeeping), I flopped onto my bed for a moment, told my mother some things about the race, ate something I can't recall, and finally headed for a long, hot shower. I think my mom was very relieved that I had not only survived the race and done well by my standards, but that I appeared happy (I was!) and not traumatized, and not suffering much, except for the achiness. I believe this made her accept, if she hadn't quite already, that I was able to run marathons without running myself into the ground, and that maybe I could run another one someday. (That is when I told her about Boston 2011! She took it quite well. In fact, she said, "I think you should do it if you want to." More than baby steps, that was a giant step for motherkind!)

After I was cleaned up and dressed (in my CIM shirt, of course), we headed out for lunch at Lucca. They had promised free zucchini chips for runners and I wanted to collect! Rather unfortunately, apparently they expected you to have acquired some kind of a coupon at the race (possibly in the post-race food area, which I bypassed). However, our waiter was kind and took pity, and brought us free chips anyway. This time, we ate the whole plate. I had a salmon salad for lunch and some flatbread with hummus that my mother had ordered.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and hanging out in our hotel room (both of us are highly skilled in the "lounging at hotel" arena). We went down to dinner in the hotel restaurant around 7:30, and got steaks that were big enough to make lunch sandwiches for the next day (using bread we snagged at breakfast on Monday), and still take home a piece that I ate for dinner last night. (We probably ate about 4 ounces each at dinner and had at least 8 ounces leftover. Thank goodness for in-room refrigerators.)

Despite a dose of advil, I was still achy on Sunday night, but as I said at the beginning, felt much better on Monday and pretty much fine on Tuesday. Oh, and the cold that I had been fighting on Friday and Saturday? It completely disappeared on Sunday, and I didn't experience a single symptom before, during, or after the marathon. The cold was not done with me yet, though, and on Monday it re-emerged in head cold form. Meaning, primarily, runny nose, sneezing, and some coughing. That has continued today. I am treating it with honey and lemon, and just feeling thankful that it went into hiatus for the race! I will gladly suffer the remaining effects. Although, hopefully, I won't suffer too much.

My only great complaint about the race was a fiasco over accessing the race results online Sunday night and Monday. I don't quite understand how this all came about, but the results link was put up in such a way that it was incompatible with Windows Explorer. Meaning, I think, that 90% of the world (wild guess) could not open it! I was crazed with frustration. Mainly because I'd been trumpeting my Garmin time, and potential BQ, to the world without being able to verify it. Finally, today they seem to have changed/fixed it and I was able to confirm my time.

So here are all my stats.

  • Place overall - 2962

  • Age group place (40-44, I turn 45 next year) - 158

  • Gun time - 4:02:15 (9:14 pace)

  • Chip time - 3:59:40 (9:08.8 pace for 26.2 miles) (9:06 pace for 26.32 miles)

All other splits are gun time, not chip time:

  • 10K split - 55:53

  • Half split - 2:01:18

  • 20-mile - 3:09:09

One final curious note. When I was finally able to search by name, I found another woman with my identical last name (first name Gina). (And we were the only people in the race with that name.) The crazy thing? She is in my age group. Her gun time was 4:00:56 and chip time 3:59:32. We were finishing at almost the exactly the same time!

So that is my marathon story. Thanks for sticking with it—and me—to the end!

*And these are my favorite running pants, which I've worn in most of the races I've done, so it felt lucky to be wearing them.

**Regrettably, four seconds slower than Sarah Palin's marathon time...if I had realized it would be so close, surely I could have found an extra five seconds somewhere! :)


runningcommentaries said...

Great report. I actually don't think we were near each other during the race now that I read where you were, but we certainly were at the finish.

Great great job. And Lucca is awesome. LOVE that place.

Lisa said...

Congratulations again!!! BQ! That is awesome. I turn 45 in 2012, so I am hoping for a sub-4 BQ next fall as well.

You did GREAT. It sounds like you had a perfect race... running at a comfortable pace in the beginning and then pushing through the harder miles with determination.


Tina at Gotta Run Now said...

Congrats on a great race! Sub 4 hours and a BQ! That's great!

Interesting on the race tattoo. I don't think I'd be able to read the fine print either.

Any plans for going to Boston?

aron said...

CONGRATS!!!! so awesome on the sub 4 AND boston!!! you should definitely go in 2011 :) glad you had such a great race out there and enjoyed CIM!