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California International Marathon - RunMarathon

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Sacramento, California
United States
Total Time = 4h 10m 27s
Overall Rank = 3037/5198
Age Group = 30-34
Age Group Rank = 192/355
Pre-race routine:

I drove up to Sacramento on Saturday with Michael, Annie and Shizu. We checked into our hotel and hit the expo four blocks away. It was super easy checking in (we all marveled that my bib number was 203 and our hotel room number was 202), so I had time to head to the pace group meeting. Only one of the 4-hour pace leaders was there and she had laryngitis and could barely speak, but she was super friendly and answered some questions of mine. Her strategy was to run a very even pace the whole way.

I'd been fighting a cold all week and by Saturday I wasn't feeling too bad but I was still pretty congested. Oh well, what are you gonna do. Still, a combination of stress and the cold left me feeling pretty subdued most of the day. At around 5 we left the expo and walked over to the capitol, then to a mall and finally to Old Sacramento, where we found a place for dinner (I had a pretty basic pasta with meatballs and a beer). Jim (LJR) and his gang met up with us there. It was so great to see Jim! He was still not sure how his race would turn out, given his injury, but he seemed to be in high spirits and his energy was catching.

We took a cab back to the hotel and stayed up a couple more hours watching TV (except for Shizu, who was making signs for me in the corner, hee). We were all feeling pretty sluggish so we went to bed around 11. I tossed and turned for a while but eventually got a few hours sleep. It was still shocking when the alarm went off at 4:45.

Since my support team wanted to see me off at the start line they all drove me up there (vs. me taking the bus). It was surreal at the start -- dark and foggy, thousands of runners milling about. I ate a Clif Bar and drank some water and visited the bathrooms twice. At about 6:45 I headed toward the start line to look for the 4-hour pace group I was planning to run with. When I found them I stripped off my pants and sweatshirt, handed my gear to Shizu, and they moved off to the sides. When I turned back to them a few minutes later they were all three waving pompoms. Hee!
Event warmup:

Nothing! There were tons of people packed around me at the start line, so I didn't ever feel too cold. I chatted with a couple other people who were planning to run 4 hours -- both of them had much faster half mary times than me. Good luck to me! I didn't let it bother me too much -- either I could run a sub-4 or I couldn't.
  • 4h 10m 27s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 09m 34s  min/mile

I didn't even hear the start. All of a sudden everyone was shuffling forward. It didn't take long to reach the start line, but I managed to totally lose the 4-hour group before I got there. Ha. Fortunately the first mile is downhill so I just picked it up a little bit and caught up to the group no problem.

I felt great the first 10 miles at least -- they flew by. The pace group felt like it was moving so slow, but I had my sleeves pulled down over my hands and wasn't bothering to look at my Garmin, and the pace leaders kept reassuring us that we were right on pace (moving a tiny bit fast, actually, and now that I've looked at my Garmin I see what they meant). The first five or six miles were super crowded and people were constantly stripping off clothes and tossing them to the side. Every now and then a shirt or gloves would hit someone in the face, but everyone seemed to be pretty good-natured about it. Overall spirits seemed very high all around and I was having a great time.

I started popping my Honey Stingers at about two or three miles in. I missed the first (and I think the second) water stop, partly because it was so crowded and I didn't have time to move over to the right. It wasn't a big deal since I wasn't planning on using the first one or two aid stations, but it was a good lesson to learn for the rest of the race.

I saw my support team for the first time at about mile 10 (Old Fair Oaks?). It was so fun there -- huge crowds, people yelling and cheering, plus a downhill section through this cute town. Just great vibes all around.

At some point around mile 10 I noticed that one 4-hour pace leader was pulling ahead of the other, by maybe 20 seconds, and I tried to keep closer to the one in front. I think until about mile 13 I stayed pretty consistently between the two pace leaders. I was definitely feeling tired at the halfway point, but not too bad. But at some point I noticed that the second pace leader was creeping up behind me; I could hear him talking to people and his voice was getting louder. I also noticed that the hills, which until then had given me no problem at all, were starting to take a bit out of me. I was determined to keep ahead of the second pace leader but I think he pulled ahead of me at a water stop, I'm guessing around mile 15.

Also somewhere around the halfway point my nutrition started to go wrong. It's typical in long runs for me to lose interest in food -- to the point of really, really not wanting to eat -- toward the very end, like around mile 17/18, but that feeling kicked in early, like before the halfway point, I think, and I was having to force myself to eat three Honey Stingers every 15 minutes or so. I did manage to stick to that pretty well, but gauging by how much I had left at the end, I think I only ate about 200 calories *total* for the entire race (and I only ever drank water, since Cytomax doesn't seem to sit well with me).

Starting pretty early, probably at mile 4 or 5, I was walking all of the aid stations -- partly as a recovery strategy, and partly because they were handing out water in plastic cups, making it nearly impossible to drink on the go. The volunteers were wonderful, though. Very good with yelling out instructions and very fast too.

I had some moments relatively early in the race -- before the half mary, I think -- where I was just not feeling it and wanted to be done. But I think that's typical? And the feeling never lasted all that long. There was plenty to keep me entertained along the way, and I thought a lot about BTers I knew, and how great they are.

Somewhere around the middle of the race I noticed a cyclist was pacing a woman, which was annoying. The CHP came up to the cyclist and pulled him off the course. It was so dumb -- who would have the nerve to be paced by a cyclist? And it wasn't just a friend of hers who'd biked up to say hi -- they were clearly talking about the pace and he stuck with her for at least a mile. There were also some people breaking the no-MP3-player rule, but they kept their music pretty quiet so I wasn't bothered (iPods only really bother me in a race if I can hear the music).

I think it was around mile 16 that the 4-hour group really started pulling ahead, but I hadn't given up on them yet. I would get a little closer, then fall back on a hill or a water stop. Right before mile 17 I nearly caught up to the second pace leader at a water stop, but somehow by the time I finished walking the aid station they were long gone and I realized I was never going to catch them again. It happened so fast! The weird thing was I didn't feel bad at all.

Here's where I should say that I had two goals for this race, it being my first marathon: run a sub-4 race, or just finish the whole thing having run the whole way and feeling good. As soon as I gave up the 4-hour race it was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoudlers. I didn't even have a moment of disappointment. I just found a pace that felt comfortable -- I still had nine miles to go! -- and plugged along. From there I ran the next three or so miles feeling pretty good. My legs, especially my quads, were definitely tightening up, but otherwise I felt all right. Not great physically -- there really was no way I could've kept up with that 4-hour group -- but pretty good mentally.

Things started to feel pretty bad a little after mile 20. I knew I'd be seeing my friends again soon, and I knew they'd have realized I wasn't going to hit my 4-hour goal and I was afraid they'd feel bad for me. (Ha! I should have known better than that.) I also was really, really ready to be done with the race. At some point between miles 20 and 21 we hit a relay station and a guy running next to me made some comment about how he'd wanted to quit at the half mary -- I asked him if it was too late to sign up for the relay. We both laughed and moved on.

I saw my friends again and they were awesome. I sort of slowed down to chat with them but they wouldn't have it, just waved me on and told me I looked great. I love them!

I noticed in the last five or six miles that I was in a rough group of runners. I wasn't getting passed much and most people around me looked pretty awful. I'm guessing most of them were in the same place as me -- they'd attempted the sub-4 and had now hit the wall (or something like it). I was super tempted to just walk long sections here but I told myself that my mental game, now, was to keep running, no matter what. I started glancing at my Garmin and noticed I was hitting 10-plus-minute-miles, which sucked, but what are you gonna do? I was really pushing about as hard as I could. Every now and then I'd get a short burst of energy and pick up the pace for maybe half a mile, but it was always short-lived.

The crowd support for the last four or five miles was fantastic -- except for the TONS of people who kept yelling "almost there." Seriously, there is *never* a good time to yell that in a race, because the only time I'm "almost there" is when I can see the finish line, and I don't need you yelling it at me then. There was also someone yelling to "pick up the pace" at around mile 22, which, seriously? You think we're lollygagging here? A lot of people were yelling "you look great" and "looking strong" and stuff like that, and all of us shufflers were smiling and laughing to ourselves, like, yeah, sure (although my friends later told me that I did still look strong, even at the very end -- and these are friends who have no problem telling me how much I suck). I certainly wasn't feeling strong at this point.

When I hit mile 23 I had a brief thought of "yay! only three miles!" until I realized that three miles at my pace meant another 30 minutes, which, ugh. The guy running next to me actually said out loud, "A fucking 5k left," which made me laugh. Around here was where I started fantasizing about the end, and I was actually getting close to tears from both joy and total frustration -- I wanted to be done SO BADLY, and I also was SO HAPPY I was going to do this. Yeah, my emotions were kind of all over the place. But whenever I'd start to cry I'd feel myself hyperventilating a little bit, so I'd back off and think about something else. Crazy what a marathon will do to your head.

I hit mile 25 and there must have been three different corners in a row with people yelling "exactly one more mile from here!" which was totally annoying. Then there was a woman standing on a corner making a point of calling out every single number she saw and yelling encouragement. I loved her so much. (Yes, I got teary *again*.)

Finally I hit the last long stretch past the capitol! I saw Annie and Michael, ran a block and saw Shizu and her husband, Paul, who'd driven up that morning. Yay! Then I turned a corner and there was the women's chute! It was all over so fast, there at the very end! I'm sure I picked up my pace a little, but suddenly I was at the finish line and damn, I'd never been happier in my life.
What would you do differently?:

I have no regrets about this race. Sure, I was probably overly aggressive starting out with the 4-hour pace group, but I felt like I had a shot at that time and I don't regret attempting it, even if it burned me out earlier than I expected. I also clearly need to work on my nutrition, but I did put a lot of thought into that before the racen and honestly believed I had a plan that would work. Lesson learned!

But all that said, I ran this race as well as I could, given it was my first. I am totally pleased with the result!
Post race
Warm down:

I stumbled to a stop and got my space blanket and medal and water, and immediately found Michael and Annie at the side of the finisher's shoot. We hugged and then they told me to move on. A few seconds later I found Paul and we chatted for a second. Then right at the end of the chute I found Shizu, who was actually crying a little bit. I love her! I was crying too at this point. I finally got out of the finisher's chute and joined my friends and immediately told them all that if I ever so much as talked about doing another marathon again they should shoot me. (I was already planning my next one about 30 minutes later.) They kept asking how I was feeling and I kept saying, Great, now that I'm not running anymore.

We walked on a little until we hit the stairs of the capitol, where I tried to lift my legs so I could take my shoes off. Shizu just pushed my hands aside and took them off for me. Brave lady, that one. I put on my pants and sweatshirt because I was getting really cold. I never felt at all cold on the course, but I was crazy shivering at the end. Shizu asked if I wanted to sign up for a massage, but I just wanted a really long, really hot shower (which, yes, is not the best thing to do but it sounded sooooo good). First I called Jim to see how he did: He BQ'd!!! Dude is awesome. He was hanging out at a restaurant nearby and invited all of us over, but my shower was calling.

We hit In N Out in Davis on the drive back. It was packed with marathoners, all of us wearing our medals and shuffling around in pain. Hee.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Primarily the fact that I'm still a new runner. I've only been running consistently for about a year and a half, and my regular weekly mileage only crept over 20 miles in about April or May of this year. I feel like I trained as hard as I could for this race, given my newness. If I want to go sub-4 I'm going to have to up the mileage.

My nutrition was also probably a factor. I'm going to need to come up with a much better plan to get more calories.

Event comments:

Great race! It was incredibly well organized. Even with 6,000 runners and no corrals the start didn't feel chaotic at all. The course itself is awesome -- a great mix of rolling hills on nice, wide roads, with lots of great crowd support. Everyone from volunteers and supporters to the runnners themselves was nice and friendly. I can't say much about the post-race activities, since I didn't really partake much (I'm never hungry right after the race and I'd brought my own Gatorade to drink), but all of the other activities around the event were fun. I'd highly recommend this race.

Last updated: 2008-08-05 12:00 AM
04:10:27 | 26.2 miles | 09m 34s  min/mile
Age Group: 192/355
Overall: 3037/5198
Performance: Average
Laps: 8:55, 9:14, 8:40, 9:04, 8:59, 9:24, 9:06, 9:12, 9:03, 8:46, 8:53, 9:05, 9:00, 9:06, 9:24, 9:29, 9:35, 9:53, 10:00, 10:01, 10:05, 10:20, 10:26, 10:36, 10:18, 10:21, (9:52)
Course: First half is rolling hills, next 10 miles are small rollers, final three are super flat.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2008-12-08 10:46 PM

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Berkeley, Calif.
Subject: California International Marathon

2008-12-08 11:20 PM
in reply to: #1845006

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Subject: RE: California International Marathon
Awesome, just awesome! You've made incredible strides in your running this year. If you go back and look at your logs from the spring you'll be amazed at how far you've come. Next year is sub-4!!

I look forward to running with you in 2009. WooHoo!!

2008-12-09 7:31 AM
in reply to: #1845006

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Modesto, California
Subject: RE: California International Marathon
Great race ! Your report was very informative and well written, I hope to do this race next year and would be astonished if I could do this well, this is a huge commitment and you did awesome. Never tried Honey stingers, I always thought they were some kind of novelty.
2008-12-09 8:22 AM
in reply to: #1845006

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.
2008-12-09 9:44 AM
in reply to: #1845006

Olney, MD
Subject: RE: California International Marathon
Yay!! Great race report   Nice job out there!
2008-12-09 11:35 AM
in reply to: #1845006

Subject: RE: California International Marathon
Very nice race! I hate those last three miles. So close yet so far

2008-12-09 12:41 PM
in reply to: #1845006

Extreme Veteran
Omaha, NE
Subject: RE: California International Marathon

ERIN - WOOOOHOOOO girl!  Amazing job - I am sooooooooo incredibly proud of you!!!  I was in tears reading your report . . . partly because I could feel your emotions jumping thru the screen and partly because of how proud I am of you!  You are a tremendous athlete & I can't wait to see how next season unfolds!!  I love that you were planning your next marathon 30 minutes later, LOL! 


2008-12-09 6:01 PM
in reply to: #1845006

Melon Presser
Subject: RE: California International Marathon


There's nothing like the first one and you deserve every bit of praise and joy and celebration you can get. You really worked on your running this year and it absolutely paid off. Marathons are always a crapshoot anyway--maybe if not the cold, or slightly different nutrition, but who knows? That's part of the wonder ... which you experienced for yourself. 26.2 is just a whole different ballgame and it is in turn terrible and beautiful and awful and the best thing in the world.

You did a FANTASTIC job and I'm glad you had such a great time. I hope you're hooked .

2008-12-09 7:53 PM
in reply to: #1845006

West Chester, Ohio
Subject: RE: California International Marathon

w00t w00t!! You had an amazing race!  That is one blazing pace for a first full mary and coming from a low volume training to full mary training this year!

Kudos on a job very well done!

2008-12-09 11:36 PM
in reply to: #1845006

Subject: RE: California International Marathon

WTG Mary!  I mean Erin!  I mean Mary!  Smile

Congrats!  I'll chase you down one of these days...

2008-12-09 11:53 PM
in reply to: #1845006

Durham, CA
Subject: RE: California International Marathon


Awesome, Awesome Race and race report.   I felt like I was there with you as I read your  report. 

Great job, you ROCK!!!


2008-12-12 6:47 PM
in reply to: #1845006

Pacific Northwest
Subject: RE: California International Marathon
I got tears in my eyes reading this.  What a great run -- that pace is insane!  I am so proud of you!!!!!!!!!
2009-01-20 4:13 PM
in reply to: #1845006

Alturas, California
Subject: RE: California International Marathon
Grats on finishing your first mary like me.  Man those last 2 miles are soooo long.  Way to hang in there.  I averaged 100 miles per month all year with 150s the 2 months prior to the mary.  I went through the same deal great to 18 miles, pace dropping and mental effort increasing at 20, 22, 23, 24, 24.5... arg...... Great job and I think the mileage and just years of running will help us on our next one.  My race had 171 ... 5k people wow.  My biggest race yet was only like 900.  Maybe I will come down for that one next time, although the Redding Marathon was soo pretty.  
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