Monday, December 04, 2006

California International Marathon - 3:04:56

Wow, what a great weekend and a great race. I'm sitting now, the day after, extremely sore and hardly able to walk, and I couldn't be happier. The results have been released and I have officially qualified for the Boston Marathon by running the CIM in 3 hours 4 minutes and 56 seconds.

I'd like to thank all of those who helped me to get to this point and to achieve my goal that I've been working so hard towards.
Thanks first to Jennifer for watching Claire and supporting my running for so many weekend mornings and evenings; I've run 1,060 miles in specific training for this race since July 11. Thanks to my parents, Judy and Ron, and my sister Molly, for spending the time and money to fly to Sacramento for the race and for a family get-together. My parents have been to each of my three marathons! Thank you to my brother Bill, Jessica Elizabeth, Owen, and Rylan for journeying to Sacramento for the get-together and especially for surprising me at mile 20 during the race. That was awesome! Thank you to my sister Jessica for seeing us on Saturday. And thank you to our friend Elise for hosting us and getting me a couple of last-minute items and driving me to the bus pick-up and for being there with us. And thank you to Casey for hosting the fun after-marathon party.

My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon and this was my third attempt. The Boston Marathon has fairly strict requirements for entering it and I had to run a qualifying marathon in 3 hours 15 minutes or less. My goal was to shoot for 3 hours 10 minutes and to run conservatively, being careful not to start out too fast and to consume enough calories and sports drink and to get enough salt (to avoid cramps). My plan of action:
  • Eat a breakfast of about 600 calories, 3 hours before the marathon. In the previous marathons, I ate less (like 350 calories) and with less time before the start. I didn't want to run out of energy like I did in Los Angeles.
  • Pace myself, using the mile markers and my Polar Watch, which tells me my pace at any given moment. I didn't want a repeat of the Los Angeles Marathon where the pace group that I was running with ran many miles too fast.
  • Try to run the first half in 1 hr 35 minutes and then speed up in the second half if I felt that I could. This is a pace of 7 minutes 15 seconds a mile.
  • Take along salt capsules, one per hour, for the last two hours, to avoid cramps like in Honolulu and Los Angeles.
  • Take along energy gel, consuming one packet 15 minutes before the race and then one every 45 minutes after the start of the race, for a total of 6 for the day. I would pick up two at the 13 mile mark and one more at the 20 mile mark.
It was a beautiful day with clear skies, no wind, and cool air. The organizers did an excellent job and there was plenty of positive energy from the crowds and music and pretty scenery. The race course started at Folsom Dam at 7am and headed over rolling hills down to the state capitol building.

I actually had fun with this race -- I thanked volunteers, waved to people, smiled a lot, gave thumbs-ups to people, encouraged faltering runners and felt relaxed and comfortable up to about mile 16. I kept up with my energy gel consumption (6 packets for the whole race) and salt capsules (2) and was constantly checking my pace, trying to keep a steady output, slowing down on the uphills and speeding up slightly on the downhills. The 3:10 pace group was there, with a guy holding a sign the entire time with a big "3:10" on it so that those who wanted to finish the race in 3 hours 10 minutes could stick with him. However, he ran too fast early on and was 45 seconds ahead of schedule by mile 2! I let them cruise on past me and I stuck to my own safer pace and as you can see by my split times below, I was mostly consistently running at the right pace (7:15).

So at some point, between mile 15 and 17, I looked around and noticed that the people around me were breathing hard and sweating profusely. I don't think I had a drop of sweat on me and my breathing was light and easy and I felt great so I figured it was worth the risk of picking up the pace slightly. And so I did and I pretty much steadily increased my speed from there on out. From mile 19 onward, every mile was faster than 7 minutes. I ran mile 25 in 6:40 and mile 26 in about 6:30 and had a big sprint at the end.

Mentally, I was happy and on a natural high and just enjoying myself and taking in the sights and sounds and breaking down the race into little pieces. Only miles 22 through 26 started feeling more difficult where I really was wanting to get the race over with. I was really wishing to see more of my family and friends, but I knew they were likely right at the finish line.

Physically, things went pretty well. At just over two hours, I felt the hint of a cramp in my left calf and a similar twinge in my right calf. It didn't slow me down or make me change my stride, but it was a warning. I immediately wanted to get more salt in my body! So I took my 2nd salt capsule ahead of schedule and dry-swallowed it and I ate another energy gel (which has lots of salt) and ate that ahead of schedule, too. I need to give a big thanks to George Miller for teaching me about the SUCCEED salt capsules and a big thanks to Julie Mell for donating her supply to me. Although I still felt twinges now and then, I never had any real cramps in my legs.

At the mile 18 marker I thought about the Honolulu Marathon and how I had broken down with bad cramps at this point. At the mile 20 marker, I thought of the Los Angeles Marathon and how I "hit the wall" and became seriously fatigued and reduce to a slow shuffle. At the mile 20 marker, I looked for Gu energy gel like they said they would have, but I didn't see any. Maybe I just overlooked it, but there was definitely no table stacked high with them, with volunteers passing them out, like there was at mile 13. So I ate a slice of orange which tasted great but then I got a side cramp for about a mile and then it went away. Along mile 20, I heard my name being called out and my brother and two nephews were there -- I was so shocked. They live an hour away but I wasn't expecting them to meet me along the race. That was quite uplifting.

Looking back, I probably could have shaved off a few more minutes from my final time, but our bodies don't come with an accurate fuel gauge and I wanted to be especially careful not to "bonk" or "hit the wall".

Other random notes:
  • I met Michelle Smith's nephew, Jesse, at the start line. He had run in The Relay on our team last April. I recognized him but couldn't place him -- he's really grown out his hair!
  • Right next to Jesse, a guy said to me, "Hey, we ran the Point Reyes Half Marathon together" and then I remembered him as the soccer player who would run races and throw in a hard sprint occasionally in the middle of the race (which I still think is a very bad idea!).
  • There was a strange protest group of 4 or 5 men at around mile 9. Some of them were wearing cardboard boxes around their torsos and one especially overweight man with a tight shirt was hollering to the runners to stop and have a cigarette. Their signs said, "Don't block Fair Oaks Blvd." Apparently they didn't like the road closure. I've never seen anything quite like that.
  • The marathon running book that I used for training guidance and race strategy is excellent and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to do well in a marathon, as opposed to "just" covering the distance (which is plenty enough of a challenge). The book is Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger. I followed the "70 miles per week or Less, 18 week schedule".
I have the splits from my watch.
Mile 1 7:17 Taking it easy and trying not to run too fast.
Mile 2 7:12
Mile 3 7:03
Mile 4 7:16
Mile 5 7:07
Mile 6 7:15
Mile 7 7:17
Mile 8 7:14
Mile 9 7:12
Mile 10 7:03
Mile 11 7:07
Mile 12 7:14
Mile 13 7:11
Mile 14 7:14
Mile 15 7:17
Mile 16 6:58 I caught up to the 3:10 pace group around here.
Mile 17 7:05 I decided to pass the 3:10 pace group and push harder.
Mile 18 7:04
Mile 19 7:00
Mile 20 6:57 My brother and two nephews surprise me! Awesome!
Mile 21 6:58
Mile 22 6:54 Starting to feel sore and tired and wanting to finish this thing soon.
Mile 23 6:48
Mile 24 6:55
Mile 25 6:40
Mile 26 6:30 estimated; got combined with next 0.2 miles.
Mile 26.2 1:07 This is a 5:35 pace. I got competitive with this guy who passed me but I stuck to him and sprinted by him before the finish line.

Total: 3:04:56