After having a great time with my family but not running a great time (3:03) at the Steamtown Marathon this past October, I had to decide whether I wanted to try another marathon this fall. While the first few days post-Steamtown were super painful, I felt like I had a score to settle with this distance. I went into all of this marathon business hoping that I could get close to the sub-2:43 required to go to the Olympic Trials. I thought—and still think—I am fitness-wise at about a 2:48-2:50, so I thought I had an outside chance of making this. I knew it would not be easy to bounce back and run another marathon in 8 weeks at California International, but I knew at the very least I could get that annoying sub-3:00, and hopefully go a good bit faster. Semi-lengthy backstory/aside: The sub-3:00 just evaded me during my second lifetime marathon at Kiawah in Dec. 2014 where I ran a 3:00:20—that time occurred, as the cyclists say, having “bonked” super hard at mile 20 where my boyfriend forgot to meet me with a GU. (Don’t worry—he has since super-redeemed himself, haha.) That miss at mile 20 left me a little cracked, because I assumed he was out there with a flat-tire on his bike somewhere—rather than having just forgotten—and that he probably wouldn’t be there to meet me at mile 23 either! Luckily he was at mile 23, and after killing a GU there, I subsequently picked my pace up by at least 40 sec./mile. With proper nutrition a little earlier, I’m sure that day would’ve been a 2:59, but alas, those sorts of hiccups are things that seem to happen a lot in the marathon. All crazy past marathon experiences considered, I think I’m getting a lot smarter with every marathon I run. When you get to that 10 miler marker, you just have to remember you’ve got 16 miles to go. That really sounds kind of crazy—I mean. 16 is one legit long run right there—but that’s all the more reason to just totally zone out and find a pace that’s very calm and chill for the first 10.
Above, click to enlarge: 1) yoga pre-race in Sacramento, 2) race day apparel all laid out, 3) with Phillip aka best crowd support ever post-race, 4) yoga post-race in San Francisco (Lombard Street in background)
Since Steamtown was probably in my top 5 most painful lifetime races, I approached CIM with some caution. My plan was to go out conservatively in the 6:30s for 3-5 miles, and then start dropping a little bit from there to just hang steady. As I’ve always been very much a distance girl, I do sometimes get “stuck” at whatever particular pace I begin with. Once in the swing of CIM, I didn’t really drop my mile pace down as planned—instead I even-split the entire first 20 miles with all miles in the 6:25-6:40 range. I was mostly in the 6:30s, which was fine with me since 6:30 pace is a 2:50 marathon. I actually felt very good for most of this race—that helped motivate me to just keep the pace exactly right where it was. I felt awesome heading into miles 17-20, and thought I could maybe drop it down a bit in the last 10k. At around mile 20, the outside of my knee started to get super tight. That made me nervous, because I had until that point been feeling so much better than I had in October, and I REALLY didn’t want to implode and end up having a rough race in the last couple miles. I thought I could probably push more to keep it in the 6:30s but it just wasn’t worth the risk of getting injured or having my pace really drastically slow down. For the last 6, I kept my pace in the 7:00-7:14 zone and could sense that my knee tightness would be ok with that. This was also the only rough patch of the race. I was extremely glad to see Phillip on his bike at different points over these last couple miles, and it was only at mile 24 that I was really thinking “Where on God’s green earth is the finish line?!?!”. I was a little bummed that my final time wasn’t closer to 2:50, but I was probably more relieved than anything that I came out of this with a positive experience with this distance. I think marathon experience is very helpful generally speaking, though perhaps even more so for me since I’m such a low mileage runner (weekly mileage: 25-35, maybe hitting 40 twice in 2015). I just don’t run long that much! At the end of the day, hammering out a very difficult 3:03 and following that up with a very comfortable 2:57 eight weeks later is really pretty good.
This is a fabulous race. I will definitely be back—excellently manned water stations with both Nuun and water. The well-positioned GU stops meant that I was far less nervous about missing a GU from Phillip since I knew I’d have a convenient backup. Great course support. No crazy hills. (The only one I noticed was around possibly near mile 12 or so.)
On December Marathons:
I’ve only run 4 marathons, but 3 of these have been in December. This is such an ideal though not touted time of year for this distance. I didn’t really like the October marathon for the fact that this made me miss some of my favorite yearly races (in particular, the Tufts 10k, which is always around my birthday). In December and January, you might as well run a marathon and be out of racing commission for a while because of the lack of other road races during this time anyways! Even without a marathon, most runners use the ensuing winter months for base-building. Christmas feels like a good time of year to rest. I’ll probably wait until next December or late November for my next marathon.
For now, I’m looking forward to training for some shorter-than-marathon distance. I’d like to break 1:20 for the half finally, and break 36 in a road 10k. The good news is that after a marathon, everything else really does feel shorter than previously!
Above (click to enlarge): marathon-related adventures in both Sacramento and San Francisco!