Monday, December 28, 2009

Race Report: California International Marathon

Hello? Hello? Is anyone still out there?

OK, I know I have been a bad blogger. This might actually be my longest gap between posts. Well, let me catch you up. I ran a marathon!

A Little Background

A year ago, I listed my 2009 race targets and I specifically stated that I would try to hit my sub-5:00 marathon goal (a PR of 25 minutes) at the California International Marathon. So easy to make such goals when they're a year away, right?

And what a year it was... I spent most of 2009 purely doing races for FUN. No time goals at all and wow, did it show. I got muddy a couple of times and then spent the summer and fall doing a bunch of half marathons where I repeatedly hit new personal worsts. But again, most of them were for fun so I wasn't surprised by the outcomes. At the same time, I realized PRs of any kind were not very likely.

The "Training"

I basically was in denial about CIM and anything related to training for a full marathon (which I had not done for almost two years). I spent the summer training for the Nike Women's Half Marathon which was held in mid-October. After that, I knew I couldn't ignore it any longer - I had only 7 weeks to train for CIM!

I whipped together a Runners World-based training plan and I tried to follow it... OK, who am I kidding? I totally blew it off. I averaged about two runs a week. I literally walked almost half of my 16 miler. My 20 miler turned into a 14 miler. My paces were not my best. I was definitely doing the bare minimum. And thus, I had such low expectations for CIM, assuming I would once again hit a new personal worst.

In my last week of training, things surprisingly started to turn around because yay, it got cold! And maybe those long runs were finally starting to kick in, too. The week before the marathon, I was home for Thanksgiving and did the 5 mile Turkey Trot. And surprisingly, I did better than I did in 2007 when I was fresh off from training for the Chicago and Nike marathons! It had been awhile since I ran with a sub-10:00 pace so I was happy. And then my last long run was a 7 miler (also at home) where I took it easy and had my usual walking breaks. But I was surprised to see my overall pace was still pretty decent (for me, anyway). I guess my running pace was faster than it normally was.

Because of this, I decided to go for it and try to hit sub-5:00 for CIM.

Race Day Eve

I was starting to get a little bit more excited about the marathon once I made the 2 hour drive up to Sacramento. Upon my arrival, I immediately hit the expo. Thanks to Twitter and texting, I was able to meet up with Danica, Maritza, Nicole, and Tara. It was really nice to see some familiar faces, especially since it was the first time I got to meet Nicole :) Awesome group of girls!

Afterward, I checked into my luxurious hotel and relaxed. I totally wanted to nap but I fought it off and instead worked on my marathon playlist while I watched Harry Potter. I also got all my race day gear ready to go. That evening, I loaded on carbs with RoadBunner and her BF. FYI - Pizza is always my carb of choice before race day.

After dinner, I immediately got ready for bed and was finally able to pass out just after 10PM. This never happens as I'm typically a late owl. I guess fighting off that nap worked out well for me!

Race Day

Race morning started at 4AM (I'm still shocked I've never overslept on race day - knock on wood!). Got myself ready to go and met RoadBunner by the lobby a little before 5AM. We had to board a shuttle bus to take us to the start in Folsom and lucky for us, our bus stop was just across the street. We squeezed onto the first bus and were on our way!

As a lot of other runners had mentioned, it was a loooooong bus ride. I'm guessing it took us about 40 minutes on the highway. We arrived at the race start a little before 6AM. RoadBunner and I were not in a rush at all to deal with the freezing weather (literally freezing - I think it was 32 out there) so we just hung out on the bus and figured out our clothing strategy. I think we finally ventured out there at 6:30AM - we hit the potties, checked our bags and then separated to find our pace groups.

I quickly found the 5:00 pace group and met the leader, Barb. I asked her about her pacing style (even splits) and her plans regarding aid stations (on our own because she doesn't stop). I am quite fascinated by Barb - I only ran alongside her for half the race, but I'm pretty sure she did not eat or drink anything during the entire race. She's like a freakish camel of some sort! Apparently, she's also the female recordholder for most ultramarathons under her belt so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

Off We Go!

I don't know what happened at the race start but I seemed to have missed the whole thing. One second we were standing there getting ready to go, next second it was all "Oh look, they're already running!". Was there a national anthem? A gun? I have no idea. Regardless, off we went!

The first 10 miles or so were pretty uneventful. I was doing OK with staying with my pace group and we were running at a pretty consistent pace. I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up though because I'm one of those runners that likes to take short walk breaks every now and then, especially if I'm going to be out there for a long time. I also managed to skip most of the aid stations and just drank from my fuel belt as we ran. As Barb had advised me, I actually didn't need too much water but I did make sure to take my Gu's every 4 miles or so.

I think it was around mile 11 when I was surprised to hear someone say my name. Sure enough, there was Maritza! It was nice to see her and chat with her for a little bit.

Not too much later, I decided to split from the pace group and go back to Audrey style running. I basically would run at a slightly faster pace than the pace group (which was more comfortable for me) and then take a short walk break at the mile markers. I usually would walk until I could see my pace group and then pick it up again. It worked really well for keeping me on track while still allowing for those walk breaks, which were helpful during the fueling and stuff.

Yeah, I always look out for the race photographers! Here's me "flashing" the photographer to show my bib number.


Too bad I wasn't still smiling when I was right in their focal spot. Oops!


I was very amused that the halfway marker was sponsored by TNT who was promoting their new show, "Men of a Certain Age". I think the banner read "You've Reached the Mid-point" or something like that. Get it??? I was excited because when I crossed the halfway marker, the clock read 2:29 which was a better time than my last three half marathons! And considering I started at least three minutes after the gun start, I was feeling somewhat good about meeting my goal time.

So I did my run/walk thing and it was working pretty well for the next several miles. I was curious how long I could keep it up. I checked my pace from time to time and so far I was OK. Until... I glanced down and my watch was off!!! Grrrr... I had been having problems with my Garmin spontaneously turning off during my training but it had been working OK in my last few long runs so I thought I was OK. Apparently not. I found someone in my pace group that I started with and asked what his watch said and used that to figure out how long my watch had been off. Not an exact science but it would have to do.

Unfortunately, my Garmin was in full flaky mode and turned off at least 5 times during the marathon. Luckily, they had timers at each mile marker that would announce the clock time and the related average pace. I only had that and my position with the 5:00 pace group to check my pace.

Once I got to mile 18, I could tell my legs were losing some steam. I wasn't able to run much faster than the pace group, thus my walk breaks were getting shorter and shorter. I never ran more than 23 miles in a week during training so I knew I would be feeling it in the latter part of the marathon. I tried to hang on but then it all fell apart at what I like to call the...

Debacle at Mile 21

It was freezing cold for most of the marathon but at mile 21, the sun finally started to appear and I felt it was time to shed my long sleeve shirt. I decided to do this at my next walk break. I was wearing a half zip shirt which was my first mistake (always full zip! always!) I'm not sure why I didn't just stop to take it off but for some reason I thought I could easily slip it off over my hat, over my ear buds, over my fat Garmin while walking with no problems at all. WRONG! First it got stuck on the rim of my hat. So my hat came off as did my ponytail. And even though my ear buds were under the long sleeve shirt, they still somehow got tangled up and got unplugged from my iPod which was tucked deep into the built in pocket of my running capris. When I finally managed to get the shirt off, I realized my Garmin had turned off. AGAIN. I, basically, was a mess. So I eventually pulled over to the side to put myself back together again :P Meanwhile, guess who passed me by? Yep, the 5:00 pace group. Drats!

I finally got going again but it was a huge bummer to be trailing the group that I had been staying ahead of for most of the race. I kept trying to catch them but it was just too hard at that stage of the game. I still had them in sight for a little bit, which was somewhat comforting.

Post costume change:


Eventually, I lost sight of my pace group and with that, I had assumed my chance of hitting sub-5:00 was gone. My legs were getting more and more tired so I took a few extra walking breaks. Even though I was bummed about not hitting my goal, I was still pretty happy that I would be getting a PR anyway. It's been awhile since I've had that feeling!

Around mile 25, I once again heard someone say my name. Sure enough, there was Roadbunner and her BF on the sidelines! It was so nice to see them (although I was slightly jealous that she was already done, haha!) and I really think it helped me push through the last 1.2 miles. Here are the pics they took:





Once I made that last turn, the finish line was right in sight and I was completely shocked that the clock still started with a 4!!! I seriously was all, "What the what???" As I "sprinted" to cross that finish line, I saw good ole Barb standing to the side slapping hands with us runners. I don't know if she remembered me, but I was so excited to see her, yelling "Hey Barb! I did it!!!"

(I knew she had been banking time, I just didn't realize how much! I am dying to know when she actually did hit that finish line. I'm guessing around 4:50.)

Crossing the finish line! So happy that even my clock time is sub-5:00 :)


Ta-daaaaaa!


Official chip time: 4:54:49
(Just as a reminder, that would be, ahem, a 30 minute PR!!!)

While I was stretching, I started checking out Twitter to see how everyone else had done. And I don't know if it was because I was already so exhausted, but I practically started tearing up at seeing tweets like this:


I've never been so touched to be "stalked" before. Thank you girls!!!

Right before I left, I made sure to get a pic with the capitol. Happy Holidays!


On the way out, I ran into Maritza, Nicole, and Tara again. It was nice to see them and chat about the race for a bit before I headed back to my hotel. The manager was so nice to allow me a late late checkout so that I could shower before my 2 hour drive home.

Overall, I liked CIM and would definitely recommend to a fellow runner. You're pretty much guaranteed perfect running temps which is very important to me. The scenery isn't awesome but I kind of liked the small-ish, hometown feel of the race. And don't let the website fool you, this did not feel like a fast, downhill course. There are lots and lots of hills. Maybe not Nike hills, but they are there.

Final Thoughts

I am thrilled to finally hit my sub-5:00 goal. I really couldn't care less how I do in future marathons. But I'll admit that I hit my goal mostly by luck. Who knows how well I could have done if I actually followed a real training plan? (Something also brought to my attention by Roadbunner, heehee) And sure, I probably am capable of something much faster than 4:55 BUT if I'm being honest with myself, I am not a fan of training. (I just like the thrill of the actual race day!) So with that, I'm happy with what I have accomplished.

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday and thank you so much to those that actually read my entire blog post :D Hopefully, it won't be three months until the next one!

10 comments:

RoadBunner said...

First off, our hotel was the SCHNIZZLE! If I ever run CIM again (highly likely) I am 100% staying there again!!

LOL at your Barb the freakish camel comment. It is my understanding that most of the CIM pacers are accomplished ultra runners so 26.2 miles is like a walk in the park for them. At the expo one pacer (I think he was the 3:50 pacer) even said that since 26 miles is so "short" to him he hardly needs any fuel. Freaks.

I am so glad we saw you run by! I actually also hate it when runners who have already finish stand around cheering (jerks) but I'm glad we got to see you!!! I saw the 5:00 pacer and was sad you weren't with her, but you were all just kicking so much ass :) I actually kind of love how you didn't even know you were going to sub-5 until you were right at the finish.

Congrats on a HUGE PR!!! Yes, I think you could run way, way faster but it isn't all about times. Sub-5 is definitely an awesome place to finish your marathon PR quest if that is what you want :)

Jeri said...

Totally was not aware on how MAJOR of a PR that was for you. Holy crapolly! Niiiiiiiiiiice. :D And I'm with you on the training, I wish I could just race 2-3 times a week (and not have my legs fall apart) instead of training. It's for the birds. Ha. congrats again.

joyRuN said...

Dang - you TOTALLY blew that PR away!!

Congratulations :D

PS - I just fried up frozen lumpia. No way am I making that from scratch - too much work!

Grace said...

Congrats Aud! You are awesome :)

kirby said...

agreed that marathon training is not so much fun. i'm going to shoot for a few halves next year.

still.... CONGRATULATIONS!!!! nice work.

The Laminator said...

Congrats on your PR! Great race! I think sometimes we tend to overthink and overtrain so it's refreshing to hear a total different approach to race day! Loved your report!

Alisa said...

Awesome job on that HUGE PR! You give me hope that someday I might be able to hit sub 5 too.

If you guys do CIM again next year, I'll probably come down and then everyone can stay at Casa Houghton (aka my parents house).

Barb is freakishly camel-like---nothing for 26.2 miles, she is crazy!

I've never run with a pace group but it seems like many people had good success with the pacers at CIM.

So glad I helped make your day with my stalking! I love stalking it's so fun.

aron said...

sooo awesome girl :) CONGRATS on your sub 5!

Chic Runner said...

I am so happy for you! I think you are the cutest runner EVER! :) You look so great in all the pictures and always look so happy.

It was great to get to see you again, and yes, pretty much... coldest day of my life! :) Nice work! <3

scarlet said...

Nice report! you really had a good post!

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