I wanted to explain why I ran CIM since I had a few people ask me why I'd want to come all the way to California to do a race (probably not realizing I grew up here). When I was going to school at Sacramento State University I took a class called Exercise for Fitness- a couple times. The professor was this short, bouncy and amazingly energetic woman who belonged to the Buffalo Chips, a local running club. To the dismay of many students in the class we did a LOT of running. I loved it. I had no idea how fast, or how far I was going (probably only a couple miles, looking back), all I knew was this professor was giving me extra workouts to do, convinced me to buy real running shoes and sign up for the Run to Feed the Hungry 10k on Thanksgiving, and I embraced the challenge. At the end of the semester, she talked to me about the California International Marathon and told me that I should start racing and in a couple years try for a marathon. She planted the seed, and though I didn't run my first marathon until 5 years later, ever since that first marathon in 2010 I have wanted to go back to California to run CIM, where I first learned to love running.
Kelly and I worked together in Big Sky, Montana for the 2007-2008 ski season, which was one of the best seasonal experiences of my life (coincidentally, also one of the worst haha). Back then neither of us was much into our sports yet (she is doing her first Ironman in New Zealand next year!!), but through good ol' Facebook we've kept track of each other's athletic shenanigans and immediately decided to share a hotel when we found out we'd both be at CIM.
When Kelly had flown into Sacramento, she met Sandy and James who were also doing CIM and two prime examples of why I like most runners so much! They were warm, friendly, encouraging, and by the end of the weekend it felt like I'd known them forever. I am confident that I'll be seeing them again in the future.
Kelly and I were in bed before 9, and I actually slept amazingly well for the night before a race. The alarm scared me awake at 4:30am. I immediately ate a banana, which was a little risky seeing as I had never done that before in a training run.
My training. Sigh. Dailymilers and some of my poor friends who had to put up with me know that I have had one heck of a year dealing with side stitches not just in races, but on training runs. It's not a new thing for me, but it was new to have as much trouble with them as I did. Race after race, run after run, I was slowed to a walk, bent over holding my side. In early November, guiding my part-time training partner Dan, I finally had a race without side stitches. I was BEYOND excited, that whole race experience was one of my running highlights this year. One thing Dan and I had done was stop and walk through all the aid stations to get a drink (we got tangled up in the tether at one station, whoops), so I decided then and there that I would do that at CIM.
While Californians lamented about the cold weather, my Colorado friends and I were just glad it wasn't the 0 degrees F we left behind. Not that I had been running in the freezing Colorado temperatures, but the projected 25 degree start ("feels like 18") didn't sound all that bad to me. Like most runners, I was just glad we weren't expecting a monsoon! Shorts it would be.
The time before the gun went off was a little stressful- our bus got lost and we didn't arrive to the start until 6:10 (7am start). I needed to find a new drop bag because they one they gave me had a giant rip down the middle, and it took awhile for volunteers to point me in the right direction (but they did! Thanks guys!). By that time it was getting late and when I was finally ready to start, the gun had gone off and I found myself starting the race with the 3:55 pace group.
That might have been a bigger mistake than I realized it'd be- I spent the ENTIRE race weaving and passing people. I caught up to the 3:40 pacer, and for the several miles I was near them, the crowds would go nuts trying to encourage people to get their 3:40 goal time. The spectators were incredible!
I did exactly what I had planned and ran the first 2 miles slow. I did not stop at the first aid station though- downed runners littered the area after slipping on the ice that had formed from people dropping water. It was sketch ball city, and I slowed down to make sure people were okay, but volunteers had it under control.
Mile 1: 8:30
Mile 2: 8:23
Mile 3: 8:01
Mile 4: 8:06
Mile 5: 8:05
The first part was mostly downhill, which made it really hard to go out slow. Body and mind alike want so badly for you to bank some time during this section, but I knew I needed to make sure I didn't blow up- plus, downhill makes my side stitches rear their ugly head.
Then at mile 6, Kelly's parents and I spotted each other and waved furiously at each other. Shortly after I saw Chris! The runners had finally started to dissipate, making it easy for he and I to spot each other. He said hello, took some pictures, and said I'd see him next at mile 13.7.
Mile 7: 8:03
Mile 8: 8:19
Mile 9: 8:06
Mile 10: 7:59
Sometime during this stretch, I realized there were a lot more rolling hills than I expected- I trained on as flat terrain as I could, understanding that the course was downhill! I think I was expecting a course like the Colorado Marathon, but it wasn't even close. Each uphill I slowed to a 8:30-9:00 pace and was barely able to make up for it on the downhills since I was worried about my stomach. Mile 8 must have had more uphill and an aid station, all of which I had walked through after the first one.
It was during this time that I saw a guy wearing a Horsetooth Half shirt- the course profile on the back was unmistakable. Out of 9,000 marathoners, I happen to find someone else from Fort Collins, what a trip!
Then mile 11.5. Enter side stitches. The weird thing was, they were on the left side this time, when they're usually on the right. I slowed down, started getting a gel ready, and concentrated ridiculously hard on breathing. It stuck around the entire rest of the race, but never got worse!
Mile 12: 8:26
Mile 13: 8:03 (gel)
Mile 14: 7:58
I was happy to see Chris again at mile 14 when he checked up on me and ran beside me for a little bit. He asked how I was doing time-wise and I said that I was ahead by my watch, but I was running too far- all the weaving had my miles checking off well before the mile markers. I tried to go off what my watch said when I passed the mile markers, not when it lapped a mile. Going by that time, I was only about 5 seconds ahead.
Mile 16: 7:59
Mile 17: 8:08
Mile 18: 8:15 (gel)
Mile 19: 8:08
Mile 20: 8:06
As I ran past some spectators, a guy shouted out "7854, relax your shoulders!" My number was 7554, but I figured he was talking to me and dropped my shoulders and arms. He said "thank you!" haha No, no sir, thank YOU.
I also saw my most favorite sign ever out there- I laughed out loud while I was running. It was the hand drawn picture of Heisenberg from Breaking Bad and read "Jesse says 'Run, Bitch.'"
At mile 21 Chris jumped in to run with me. I was tired and concentrating hard. Holding my long sleeved shirt, I asked if he would take it for me and he graciously accepted it. I had wanted so badly to NOT be in this position- cutting it so close to my goal time that I had to stress about hanging on, but that's exactly how it went down for the last 10k. My lack of training at a time when I should have been ramping up my mileage was starting to show. Eric told me later he was completely stressing out watching my updates online. Chris kept talking to me, asking me questions, and all I could do was shake my head- can't talk.
Mile 21: 8:14
I started thinking about Eric, actually, and all my friends at home that I knew were watching my updates and rooting for me. Now was the time to suffer, and there would be celebrating later. I also thought about my parents. When I left their house on Saturday afternoon, my Dad told me that he didn't want to hear any lame ass excuses, that he wanted a Boston Qualifier in the family and not to come back unless I did it. Ha!
Mile 22: 8:19 (gel)
The headwinds were kicking in right at the wrong time. They beat me down, and I tried ducking behind Chris as there weren't many other runners around, but I'm too tall, it didn't help. I knew I needed to speed up!
Mile 23: 8:11
Mile 24: 8:14
I remember at this point trying to convince myself that I could run fast for just 2 more miles. I think I spent these last miles speeeeeeding up, then slowing down, speeeeding up, slowing down, rather than keeping up a consistent pace. Chris was trying to get me going, but my calves were threatening mutiny. Every 10 steps or so they'd start to twinge, and I knew I was on the verge of cramping. I started doing an epic heel strike just to stretch them out. At some point I tripped, but caught myself as a guy behind me went "whooooa!"
Mile 25: 8:21 (1/2 gel)
Enter: panic. I groaned when I saw my split, and Chris told me to just keep going. I told him I didn't know if I could do it... He told me to run after this girl that was in front of me, and I did my best to chase her down. Just one. more. mile!! Hold on calves! Hold on side stitch! I skipped the last aid station, unsure I had time.
Mile 26: 8:12
Last .33: 7:35 pace
I knew I was SO CLOSE, I gave it everything I had in the last sprint. After crossing the finish line I had zero emotions, I was too tired. A volunteer wrapped me in the space blanket and guided me away from the finish, asking if I was okay. I don't even know if I responded to her. I was the walking dead. I looked down at my watch and saw:
Again, no emotion. I had no idea if I had qualified for Boston or not, and I just laid down on the grass for what felt like an eternity, thinking, man. That was so much harder than I expected.
When I finally got up and out of the finishers area, I just happened to look up and see my friend Melanie. Mel and I played rugby together at Sac State, and I hadn't seen her since about 2006. We just yelled, hugged, excitedly exclaimed that we PR'd- it was so good to see her! GO MEL!
After seeing Kelly finish and get her PR and hobbling back to the car with everybody to get to the hotel to shower, I got to hang out with some great friends, eat some sushi, and relish being in California. My first race of the year was wonderful, and so was the last and I am so grateful. Congrats to everybody who PR'd, BQ'd, finished... you all did great! Bring on 2014!