Today I ran the California International Marathon, in Sacramento, for the third time. This was my 15th road marathon and ended up being my 2nd fastest!
Entering this marathon was a good excuse for a family reunion and I made the decision about 5 weeks ago to sign-up for it. I have fond memories of this race from 2006 and 2007 -- it's fast, well-organized, and on a pretty course. The 2011 race didn't disappoint! The weather was perfect, the race was well-organized, and there were plenty of great volunteers.
My plan wasn't very complicated. I wanted to start off slow and gradually speed up and try to "keep it together" until the end. I knew from a recent performance test that my ideal heart rate for a marathon distance was about 165 bpm. I wanted to stay below that for about the first half and then increase my speed. Surprisingly, it worked out!
My plan was helped out by a fortuitous encounter with a friend and marathon goddess, Jen Devine Pfeifer, who recently won the Half Moon Bay International Marathon and has been a past Olympic marathon trials entrant. We ran a few miles together early on (she was running 18 miles of the race as a training run) and she told me that she keeps her heart rate at or below 151 for the first 5 miles. (We happen to have the same max heart rate.) I felt good, was taking it easy, and with renewed confidence, I took it easy and didn't worry about the 3hr 5min pace group pulling away from me in the first mile. I ran the first mile in about 7:02 and that was my slowest mile of the race.
I was feeling good, enjoying the scenery, and the spectators. I gradually caught up to and passed the 3 hour 5 minute pace group. Around mile 10, my calves started feeling tight and sore -- as if they weren't far from cramping. Oh no! There wasn't much I could do, so I continued to try to play it safe and mentally save my biggest effort for after mile 20.
Around the halfway point, I passed the 3 hour pace group. My time was 1:29:16. This was a large group of runners and I really did not want them to pass me again. I tried to mentally keep it together. About 25 minutes later, I felt like cramps were going to come on again, and I decided to eat my next energy gel ahead of schedule, at around 1:55 instead of waiting until 2:15. (My original plan was to eat one every 45 minutes.)
Mentally, I kept on telling myself to just get to mile 20 feeling OK and then I could pick up the pace. "The race begins at mile 20", I read somewhere. I tried to take it easy and feel relaxed. Sometime after mile 22, I started really focusing and tuning out everything around me. I interacted less with the crowds (fewer smiles, fewer thumbs-up, fewer hoots and hollers) and stayed very focused on staying strong and not deteriorating. It got difficult. I was counting down the miles. With 3 miles to go, I thought I had a chance of setting a personal record (2:55:52 last year in New York City), but I was just too close to getting cramps or falling apart, so I couldn't quite do it.
Finally, I saw Claire! And then Jennifer! Claire high-fived me and I heard my dad and I was very happy to see them and to be so close to finishing. I rounded the corner, got in a good sprint, and was happy to be done. Whew! 2:56:40 is my unofficial time. I'm very pleased with how the race went.
A short while later, I saw fellow running club members David and Justin. They also had very good times, but David's race wasn't nearly so smooth and he says he struggled the last 6 miles.
Here's the data for each mile marker, from my Garmin watch. I missed some of the mile markers. The #s are lap #, time, distance, and average pace.
I weighed 167 lbs three days before the race. I had been trying to lose a bit of weight, but ultimately, I failed. :-(
My Garmin data:
As usual, I need to thank Jennifer for taking care of Claire while I ran the race. They did the 2.61 mile fun run and Claire ran it in around 26 minutes 40 seconds, which is a lot faster than I was running when I was 9! Good job, Claire!