This will no doubt be just another of the hundreds of blogposts that will be filed about this day, but I need to get this down since:
- CIM 2012 was my first-ever marathon.
- 2012 will be remembered as the year of the epic rainstorm.
Warning. This is waaay too long for to be of interest to anyone except myself, really, but - for what it's worth…
On Friday, though I was still checking the weather every couple of hours, hoping beyond hope for some change, I was pretty much resigned. Yes folks, all indicators pointed to a deluge of not-insignificant proportions in the beginning, middle and most likely by the end of the marathon.
So that was that. My goal – of finishing anywhere from 4-4:15 -- did not change drastically because of it. I figured that I’d start running, and adjust goals from there. Having never run a marathon before, and certainly, having never run long in pouring rain before, left lots of things up in the air. I kept telling myself that ultimately, the true goal was to finish, and finish strong. A good time would be icing on the cake. Also, beating Oprah would be icing on the cake.
The Week Leading up to the Marathon
I managed to get lots of rest. I don’t know if my body was subconsciously doing its thing, but around Weds. and Thursday, I was beginning to feel sleepy around 9pm, and getting to bed btw 9:30 and 10. All in all, I’d say that I was pretty successful in pre-emptively offsetting the lack of sleep the night before race day.
I tried to fuel as well as I could. This New York Times Well article indicates that carbo-loading is most effective the day before, not so much in the day(s) before, or even the morning of the marathon. So, on Saturday I had:
- A bowl of oatmeal w/ brown sugar and walnuts in the morning
- A bowl of ramen with lots of veggies and a minimum amount of protein for lunch
- Risotto and linguine for dinner, from Palermo’s Ristorante in Elk Grove (more on that in another post.)
After dinner at Palermo's, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get to bed.
For CIM, a point-to-point course, you have the option of staying near the start, in Folsom, and heading back north after finishing in Sacramento; or staying near the finish line and taking buses to the start.
We were staying in Sacramento, at the Hyatt Regency - a hotel recommended by not only a coworker of mine, a veteran of 3 CIMs, but also by Aron, and a couple of other runner friends. It’s 3 blocks from the finish line, and doesn’t include a late checkout fee. (Review of the Hyatt in another post.) That meant that we needed to catch buses at 5am to head up to Folsom to the start line. For me, that meant waking up at 3am to give myself time to get ready.
DD and I had gotten into bed by 7:30 or 8, but, as predicted, I don’t think I was able to rest very well. After midnight, I began waking up every hour until the first alarm we had set finally went off at 3:05am.
Pre-race regimen: morning ministrations, lube up (TriSlide is awesome -- thank you, Carlos! -- as you’ll see below), get dressed, make ½ PB&J sandwich and coffee. Had a mild panic attack as the coffee maker did not look standard – DD woke to help me with it, thank goodness for husbands!
I had debated with myself as to wearing shorts or capris; I opted for capris. Peeking out our hotel window at 3am I noted that rain was coming down steadily.
I was ready by 4:30, and headed down to the lobby with 2 trash bags – my chosen rain-protectant for the day. I was also hoping that they would provide some measure of warmth as we stood waiting for the race to start, glad that we would be able to stay on the buses until the race began.
My elevator filled with race participants, decked in their rainy-day attire. I marveled at the woman who had gotten on with me, wearing only a light long-sleeved top, t-shirt and shorts and clutching some clear trash bags, in comparison to the gentleman who seemed wrapped in plastic from head-to-toe, including a shower cap on his head and plastic bags around his feet.
Once in the lobby I stepped outside feel the atmosphere. While the rain had slowed down a tad, the wind was whipping about something fierce. I quickly scurried back inside, bumping into my co-worker, who had run 3 CIMs prior. He looked jaunty, wished me luck and headed off to consume his breakfast of 2 bananas. I looked for Pete and Erin to no avail.
Finally it was time to board the buses. I must have skipped around 4-5 buses before deciding to get in line for one. Once on the road, the gentleman next to me started to make pleasant conversation - he looked older, fit and fast - this was his 20th or 21st marathon, and he had already qualified for Boston 2013. At some point the person across the aisle turned to me and we realized that we had known each other in High School - we'd been on student government together!
Our bus driver was too cheerful for the hour and young, regaling us with exceptionally comforting comments like “Oh my gosh, I’m *so* glad I’m not running this year,” or “Oh my gosh, it’s really coming down! Can you see it?! It’s going sideways!” or “Oh, my, it’s so windy!”
Though the ride was only supposed to take a half-hour, the bus our driver was following made some wrong turn, and after making a few more turns, we finally reached the start at around 6am. I donned my trash bag and popped out to use the famous mile-long row of CIM porta-potties and to take a feel of the conditions.
It. was. wet. Lots of rain was coming down and there was a strong wind blowing all that water sideways. I had poked armholes into my trashbag, and within moments, the sleeves of my running jacket were soaked. My feet started to feel quite damp. The wind seemed to laugh at the plastic tunic and lifted it up Marilyn Monroe style, enabling a dousing of my capris. I stood in the porta line for about 5 minutes (though it felt like an eternity in the rain!) and headed back to the buses only to realise that (1) all the buses were the same orange schoolbuses; and (2) I had forgotten to look at our bus number; and (3) it was so dark, I couldn’t really discern our surroundings very well to recall accurately where I disembarked. So I spent a few moments trotting up and down the lines of buses trying to find our chipper bus driver, stepping into a puddle and completely soaking my right foot. I finally found the bus filled with only a handful of other runners. But only after a few minutes of making additional small chatter with our driver, it was time to head out again to the start line. I realized that I had managed to warm up some looking for the bus and that the cold, thank goodness, was not that bad.
The start was chaotic. It was still dark so the only light appeared to be coming from some street lights and the gas station/ mini mart next to the beginning of the porta-pottie lines. The wind was still whipping the wet around, people were dashing to and fro, and I needed to ask someone where the start line was.
I managed to find the 4:10 pace leaders and decided that I’d try to stick with them. I asked whether they’d be stopping at the Aid Stations and received a negative - “No, we’re running through.” I saw some folks with full-on-rain gear, others bearing umbrellas. Still others had nothing more on than their singlet and shorts, hardy souls. I was grateful for the small bottles of water some awesome volunteers were handing out near the porta potties.
And then, just like that, we were off. My memories of when and where are fuzzy from this point onwards, but I’ll try to get down what I can.
9:32 , 9:13, 8:59, 9:07, 9:13, 9:11
I didn’t have a problem holding back - in fact, I soon lost the 4:10 pace group leaders ahead of me before I hit the 1st mile marker. I was busy trying to take it all in - running in the wet and the wind, trying to avoid all the plastic and throwaway garb discarded on the ground, tuning in to my legs and body to see how I was feeling. Lately on my runs it seems that the first few miles are the hardest - this morning it felt like the body was trying to warm up and shake off the cobwebs from my prior 3 days off not running. My legs felt stiff up until mile 3. I saw Mr. NotThatLucas around then with his awesome ball of sunshine and perhaps because of that, I managed to catch up with the 4:10 pace team and ran with them for a bit. I was starting to feel good and, against my better judgement, decided to run ahead.
Around mile 4 I felt twinges of something I thought were hunger pangs -- a first for me. On my long runs the earliest I had taken Gu was around mile 5; when I’m not hungry I force down a Gu around 6. I feared eating too early that morning might have been the case, and I finally tore into a Gu Pineapple Roctane at 4.5. Around mile 5 I came up to an Aid Station, and, just as I was veering to the left to avoid the runners slowing for water, I heard someone call my name. It turned out to be Jason - the guy I had run with at Clarksburg during the first 5 miles of the 20-mile course. He was stopping at the Aid Station, and just like in Clarksburg, I waved goodbye and ran on. Gu and electrolyte drink powered me to mile 6 and change, where I saw DD for the first time. I was feeling good by then and gave him a kiss, skip, and a victory sign.
9:12, 9:13, 9:16, 9:15, 9:12, 9:12
Honestly, I can’t remember much except for:
- the sleeting rain, continuous, seemingly neverending.
- the headwinds, which were not so terrible after all
- the puddles and attempting to dodge them; ultimately my waterlogged shoes and socks were not an issue, did not cause me any pain or discomfort and actually amused me as I felt them go squish, squish, squish” mile after mile. I attribute the lack of blisters or pain to TriSlide!
- the (also seemingly neverending) ups and downs of the gently rolling course
- the cute village of Fair Oaks with lots of specators and where DD once again saw me at mile 10, asking me if I needed anything
- the awesome spectators and volunteers braving the rain with great signs and encouragement. Puppies, too!
- DD met me again at mile 13 where there was a relay exchange bearing extra drink and Gu, since I had forgotten to remind him that I needed these at 20, not 13.
- I was fueling more frequently and had taken Gu at 4.5, 9, 13ish. I still felt pretty good and was running happy for the most part.
9:09, 9:26, 9:12, 9:05, 9:41, 9:19
A little after I saw DD at 13, my music suddenly dropped. Uh oh, I thought. I suspected that the rain and dampness must have gotten to my little ipod shuffle, and now I had to deal with the prospect of going music-less for the other half of the race. Nothing I could do except keep on keeping on. I made small talk with a nice gent named Ed, a trail runner from Sacramento. “It’s a crazy day out. My fast buddy just dropped out. He was hoping to BQ this year.” After about 3 miles with no music, my headphone jack popped out of my running jacket. This gave me hope that my little shuffle was not dead after all, and it wasn’t! I pulled over to the side to plug back in, and then I was back in business. Shortly after that I saw Mr. NotThatLucas again around mile 18, giving me another boost (I paused for a photo) and eagerly ran to 20, where DD was waiting for me with additional reinforcements of electrolyte drink and Gu.
I was beginning to get tired, though I still felt fairly comfortable, but my legs were starting to burn a little and my right hip began to grumble a bit.
9:20, 9:31, 9:36, 10:08, 9:56, 10, 9:42
These last miles after 20 were definitely the hardest, but, as DD later observed, it was more of mental block rather than physical. I hadn’t gone more than 20 in my training runs and I knew that the test really started after 20. You’ll see that my pace slows considerably. There was this last small hill leading up to the H Street Bridge around mile 21, and it was annoying. But, as we crossed the bridge we began to see hints of blue sky amidst the grey as we ran into Sacramento. The skies begain to clear and the rain stopped. At mile 22, after my last Gu,I began taking mini walk breaks of 5-10 seconds (I don’t recall how many of these I took - perhaps around 3 or 4?). Somewhere between miles 23-24 I slowed and stopped to take off my jacket. Gu helped a lot - I was forcing myself to keep upbeat - 2 piddly little miles more. Trying to distract myself I looked around at the great trees lining the course, decked in their fall colours. I noticed the nice homes, smiled at the volunteers. I watched a runner veer off course to claim a beer being offered by a cheering, raucous crowd hanging out of an Irish bar. The spectators were SO encouraging - “Not much more to go! You’re almost there!”
And suddenly, I was on J street, seeing the park and white tents. And there was DD, and Oh! To the right there were Carlos and Sofia in bright orange and green, cheering loudly with clanging cowbells! I grinned and hugged Carlos and picked up my feet, thinking, “Holy crap, I just might make it under 4:10!”
And, just like that, just like we had started, I had finished my first marathon. Final time and stats: 4:07:06 (chip time); 9:32/M pace; 2616 of 6496; 171 of 534 in F35-39.
To my wonderful husband, DD, who was with me, ever-so-supportive, every step of the way, every day of my training. He accompanied me to my tune-up races, helped make me ice baths and brought me tea, pushed me to stretch and foam roll, and met me on the course on a crazy-windy, wet day five different times to take photos, replenish my liquids and Gu, and make sure I was ok. He is my second half; my breath, my life; I don’t know that I could have done this without him. It was flooding throughout parts of the course that it took him a long time to drive from meeting point to meeting point - it must have been SO tedious - but he made it every time, and I was lucky enough to catch him every time.
To Mr. NotThatLucas (talented raconteur) and Pete Beck, photographers extraordinaire. Mr NTL was literally, a ball of sunshine, and made me so happy every time I saw him. Pete not only took awesome photos and video, but ran the course, and finished with a PR after being injured a good part of last year! Thanks to DD, Allen and Pete, who graciously loaned me photos to use, this overlylong blogpost is somewhat slightly less boring than it would have been without any illustrations to break up the monotony.
To Carlos and Sofia, cheerleaders and great friends, driving up on a stormy Sunday early so they could help cheer me to the finish line! (Congrats, Carlos for being voted in President of SF Tri!)
To all my wonderful friends and family who offered words of support and encouragement throughout the
ordeal process. You know who you are!
And that’s that. What marathon should I sign up for next?