Wednesday, December 09, 2015

California International Marathon -- 2:58:55

Finishing strong in front of the capitol building in Sacramento. (Photo credit: my friend Boone)
Wow, what a race! This was my fifth time running the California International Marathon which runs 26.2 miles from Folsom to Sacramento, finishing in front of the capitol building. This was my 25th road marathon and ended up being my third fastest. I was expecting to finish in a little over three hours, but I took a risk and gradually increased my speed, coming in at 2:58:55.

I had been training for and running longer races this year -- three 50 milers, a 50K, and 76 miles of a hundred mile race. So, I wasn't at all sure of how I could do in this race. I also had not wanted to sign up for CIM too early, until I could be sure that I didn't hurt myself in Javelina Jundred at the end of October. I had a bunch of friends entering CIM, plus other friends there as support, plus I wanted to stay qualified for the Boston Marathon.

This race is convenient since it's only about a two hour drive from home. I carpooled with several good friends and we met up with others from my running club. I ran into my friend Jen Pfeiffer (accomplished local runner who was once in the Olympic marathon trials) who was going to lead the 3:30 pace group. She introduced me to her friend Julie Fingar, the race director of the American River 50 Mile and Dick Collins 50 mile races. Cool!

Club member Rachael and I got our obligatory bib photo. She's holding her coffee mug which was a gift from the race for running this race 5 times. If I had bothered to count beforehand, I would have realized that I had earned a 5 year coffee cup, too! Bummer!

That night, nine of us had an excellent dinner at Rio City Cafe in the Sacramento Old Town, although I wish they had offered some kind of pasta with marinara sauce. I ended up going with a bread bowl of New England (white sauce) clam chowder which was delicious and did the job.

Afterwards we went to the Theater of Lights in Old Sacramento. It was fun and cute, with good sound and lighting effects.

It was fun walking around. Boone and Amanda shared a cookie. :-)

I tossed and turned a fair amount that night and was pretty sleepy when the alarm went off at 3:50am. Ouch. We met the buses before 5am and we arrived at the starting area in Folsom around 6am as I recall.
Eric, Mor, Ron, and Boone (left to right)
Boone was aiming for a 2 hour 35 minute finish time (wow!) and so he parted ways to do his own warm-up exercises about 40 minutes before the start. Mor, Eric, and I walked around a bit and then Mor led us on some warm-up exercises. I don't normally run at all immediately before a race, figuring that I'll start off slower and spend those calories warming up during the race itself! But we took it easy and I even did a few seconds of "butt kickers" and "knee raises" which get the heart rate up pretty quickly. I felt good and loose. 15 minutes before the race start, I ate an energy gel.

Thankfully the predicted rain left us alone most of the time with one brief downpour shortly before the race began. I got myself situated right around the 3:10 pace group. 7am rolled around finally and we were off! Woo hoo!

The weather was basically perfect for running. The temperature was around 50F and even the brief bits of rain were fine. The first half mile or so was rather crowded and I had to weave around a lot of people who were nowhere near as fast as they were supposed to be. (We're supposed to line up near the signs that indicate how fast we think we can finish the race.)

Soon there was more room to run and the first mile ticked by. 7:25. I would have preferred hitting a 7:05 or so, but considering the congestion, it was fine.

The miles flowed by easily. At the three mile mark, we had our first aid station but it was rather crowded and I didn't want to slow down. I thought it was safe to skip and get water at around mile 5.

Having recently attempted a hundred miler, where 11 minutes per mile is blazingly fast, the road marathon felt like a sprint! The 5 mile mark came up and I thought, "Wow, I'm almost 20% done with the race already! Just 21 miles to go!" I normally don't count down the miles in a race, especially a marathon or longer, because it can feel daunting. But in this case, having 20 miles or 18 miles or 16 miles to go felt like a short distance! Weird!

I enjoyed the scenery of the residential areas and the towns. I thanked the volunteers. I responded to some of the cheering spectators. I allowed myself to put in an extra effort on the uphills and I relaxed on the downhills. I played games with increasing my speed slightly to catch up to the next group. I steadily passed people.

Maybe because I was tired, but for some reason I forgot to eat my first energy gel until the 40 minute mark. I normally eat one every 35 minutes for a road marathon.

Around mile 8 I was unpleasantly surprised to feel my right calf tighten up, as if it were going to cramp. I thought it was unlikely to actually cramp so I kept right on moving.

A while later my other calf felt similarly tight. I didn't slow down.

I was hoping to finish right around 3 hours so I knew to target a 6:51 per mile pace, but it can be difficult to know if I'm pushing too hard early on. If I had worn my heart rate monitor, I would have targeted a 150 beats per minute for the early part of the race, but the heart monitor strap is so annoying that I've given up using it. My friend Boone sees the latest running gear and he reports that the Garmin watch with a heart rate monitor in the wrist strap is very accurate.

I hit the half-marathon point in 1:30:39. I did a self-assessment and I felt like I had had a good workout but had a lot of gas left in the tank. I increased my effort slightly.

Around mile 15, I heard my name being shouted. Sweet! It was Bob, Becky, and Amanda! Go, CRC! (That's the Coastside Running Club.)

At a couple of points I felt low on energy and I ate my next energy gel ahead of schedule. I tried to drink plenty of sports drink at the aid stations but sometimes I ended up with water by mistake.

I continued to count down the miles. Just 10 miles to go! That's easy! 9 miles to go! That's like a normal Saturday run! I was feeling the effort though and was gradually getting more desperate to finish. In my imagination, I translated the remaining distance onto trails near my home that I know so well.

I was passed briefly by a poor guy who had defecated in his running shorts, and who had what appeared to be diarrhea running down both legs. It was a terrible smell. I tried not to run directly behind him. Eventually I passed him again. I don't think I could be as dedicated to a goal finish time as he is.

I started looking out for the 3 hour pace group. I wanted to catch up to them and pass them! Finally around mile 25 I saw a guy with a 3:00 pinned to the back of his shirt. Woo hoo! I recognized him as the same pacer who helped me break three hours for the first time, back in 2007. Only one mile to go! I imagined just four loops around a track. No problem! I increased my effort again. I needed to finish this thing soon. Mile 26 passed by in 6:19, my fastest mile yet in this race. Where is that left turn to the capitol building? It seemed to take forever. Finally, there it was! The finish line is almost here!

I turned the corner, raced down the short block. "Ron!" I heard. It was Boone! Cool! He took the photo that I put at the top of this post.

I crossed the finish line, hands raised. Whew! I stopped my watch and was very pleased to have beaten 3 hours. A guy finished after me and said he had used me to pull him along because I was running fast and was wearing a bright orange shirt. Cool! I thanked the 3 hour pacer guy for being so helpful.

I hobbled over to get my drop bag. I was sore! I enjoyed seeing other friends finish.

Congratulations, Mor, on your new marathon PR!

Bob, Rachael, Ron, Mor, and Amanda, with four-legged Gossamar up front
What went well
I ran my third fastest marathon ever! Here are my top 15 now:
  1. New York City Marathon 2010 -- 2:55:52
  2. California International Marathon 2011 -- 2:56:40
  3. California International Marathon 2015 -- 2:58:55
  4. Oakland Marathon 2010 -- 2:59:03
  5. Las Vegas Marathon 2010 -- 2:59:04
  6. California International Marathon 2007 -- 2:59:36
  7. Napa Valley Marathon 2011 -- 3:00:06
  8. Chicago Marathon 2014 -- 3:00:52
  9. California International Marathon 2012 -- 3:01:32
  10. Oakland Marathon 2013 -- 3:02:07
  11. Boston Marathon 2009 -- 3:03:33
  12. Santa Rosa Marathon 2014 -- 3:04:16
  13. California International Marathon 2006 -- 3:04:56
  14. Avenue of the Giants Marathon 2012 -- 3:05:05
  15. Boston Marathon 2007 -- 3:05:31
  • I think I paced myself well.
  • My clothes and gear worked well.
  • No blisters.
  • No chafing.
  • No cramps.

Things to improve
  • Looks like I'm going to lose another toenail. I'm down to just six reasonably good toenails. I'm not sure how to prevent this. I used plenty of Body Glide on the tops of my toes.

Random data
  • I weighed 165 lbs the day before the race.
  • My Garmin data