I ran a marathon this morning. No, I hadn’t mentioned it on here. I talked about going for long runs, but not a peep about training plans or taper madness. And let me be really honest here, if today had been a barf-a-palooza like Long Beach, there still wouldn’t be any mention of this race on the blog! Lucky me, today was the marathon I’ve been dreaming about! Let’s start at the very beginning… (a very good place to start)
Driving home from Long Beach, I was in a pretty deep funk. Training had gone reasonably well and I really felt like I had my nutrition locked down, but the day still fell apart. Blech! With a local race just seven weeks away, I was hungry for redemption, so I signed up for the California International Marathon the very next day and plunged head-first back into marathon training. Even though it was short and sweet, this training cycle went really, really well. My IT band behaved itself, my stomach behaved itself and my long runs went off without a hitch. I came across an article in Triathlete magazine (link is not to the article – I couldn’t find it online – but to the magazine’s home page) that seemed to describe my GI troubles perfectly. I can train with food and feel great, but come race day, I’m living in Puke City. According to the article, race nerves create a “fight or flight” reaction that causes your (or rather, MY) body to shut down extraneous systems like digestion in preparation to fight or flee. The article suggested taking in nothing but simple sugars on race day because that’s all the body can absorb. In deciding to give this a try, my entire thought process went something like this: “Well, it can’t suck worse.” For a hint how this worked out for me, check the title of this post again.
I worked pretty hard this past week to keep my mind off the race and keep my nerves in check and, for the most part, that strategy worked. By the time I went to the expo yesterday, though, I was starting to feel a little excited and nervous. Sadly, I barely had any time at all to explore the expo and the race schwag was almost non-existent. Oh well, the CIM more than makes up for a so-so expo with a beautiful course and lots of spectator support.
The race bag had a boring shirt, a mini Clif Bar, Corn Thins, sample bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a bunch of informational flyers. L A M E.
Race day dawned at 3 am, as race days tend to do, and I woke up feeling really good and sort of surprisingly confident. It had rained most of yesterday and all night last night, but the forecast was looking good: 46 degrees at the start, cool and cloudy all day with the rain holding off ‘til this afternoon. I outfitted myself in my new RunningSkirts argyle and my comfiest tank top, Nathan reflective sleeves, Zensah calf sleeves and Injinji socks (no more bloody toes!), filled my fuel belt with Gatorade and I was ready to go. IronHubs dropped me off at the host hotel around 5 o’clock to catch the bus to the start.
Race Strategy #1: You gotta look cute to have a good race!
By the time we arrived at the start and I braved the port-o-potty lines, it was 6:58 – just two minutes ‘til go time! My one and only goal for the day was to not throw up, so I started at a nice easy pace and really never moved it up a gear. The CIM is a point-to-point race, which I absolutely love because every single step you take gets you closer to the finish line. The first five miles literally flew by. I was just enjoying the atmosphere of the race and all the cowbell-ringing spectators, and before I knew it I was at the first Relay point. While I don’t love the fact that a relay option sort of “waters down” the marathon experience, I am a big fan of the guaranteed energy-boosting crowds of spectators at three points along the course. I knew I was going to see IronHubs around Mile 8, and I really felt like I had barely gotten started and Whoomp, there he was! Now I just had to make it to the halfway point and I would be done with the worst of the hills. They refer to this course as “net downhill” but there are plenty of uphill portions, too, believe me! The first half is full of good-sized rolling hills, followed by another five + miles of small rollers and then the last few miles are blissfully flat.
My mental strategy for the race was to break the course into small, manageable pieces and stay on top of my hydration at the same time. I made sure I was done with an entire flask of Gatorade every six miles. I never looked at the Total Time section on my Garmin. In fact, I didn’t look at my Garmin at all! I reminded myself frequently that I simply didn’t care about my time or pace as long as my stomach was cooperating. I looked forward to each Relay point and seeing IronHubs at Mile 8. I knew that if I could make it to the halfway point with my stomach underneath me, things were looking good. When I made it to Mile 18 and I still felt good, I finally let myself hope for a good day. At Mile 18, I thought about making it to Mile 20. At Mile 20, I promised myself that if I could make it to the bridge (the last cruel uphill section of the race) at Mile 22 that I could coast to the finish. At Mile 22, I was so giddy from my success so far that I started high-fiving the spectators and I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face all the way to the finish. At Mile 23, the streets are numbered, so I started counting down the blocks until the finish – “Just run one more block, P. Oh, look, just one more block. You can do one more block.” At Mile 25, the crowds are so thick you can practically smell the finish line and really, anybody can run a mile.
I won’t lie – I struggled to keep going. Around Mile 10, Creeping Doubt came and visited me and reminded me of all the races that have fallen apart by Mile 13. Even though I never threw up, I spent plenty of miles wondering if it was coming. By Mile 18, when it seemed like everyone around me was walking, it took every ounce of determination I had to keep running. By Mile 24, I think I was actually telling myself out loud to keep running. But I did it – I ran every single step of the way, from the starting mat to the finishing mat. I didn’t walk up the hills or through the water stops. I RAN a marathon today. I didn’t BQ – not even close! I didn’t go sub-4 hours like I was sort of hoping, even though the 4-hour pace group was within spitting distance for a really long time. I did, however, shave 34 minutes off of my PR and honestly, I couldn’t be happier! Official finish time 4:10:07 – w00t!
Sprinting (not really) to the Finish Line. I hope the Newton people don’t revoke my shoes for that heel strike.
Checking my watch at the finish – I think that smile says it all.
Post-race with my awesome support crew. I smell a Christmas card picture!
I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, too. I would stay and chat more, but there’s a celebratory pie calling my name!
THERE YOU GO! Way to rebound and rock it! So happy for you. Congrats!
Yeay! I’m so happy for your and your stomach! I did see one cool thing in that race bag though…a runDisney advertisement! Goofy Challenge 2011 is in just 30 days!
Congratulations!!! What a great surprise – YAY for figuring out how to beat your belly!
WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Congrats on your well deserved pie! Sounds like you had an awesome race.
Awesome job on your marathon! Conrats to you!
Oh I am so happy to be reading this right now, woo hoo! 34 minutes? That’s brilliant! I considered CIM this year, but decided against it. I got an email two days ago from my Tri Club list serve about a person needing relay partners, hers had dropped out last minute, but again decided no. If I am doing CIM for the first time I am doing the full. I love your break down, spectators at the relay points and counting down streets sounds so manageable. Maybe next year?
Congrats and devour that pie skinny mini with the iron belly.
That’s just awesome!I hope the pie tasted as good as finishing that race with a PR felt.
Diana Tries-A-Tri! says
Your skirt is sooooo cute! And you have such a great smile and good looking family and you had an awesome race! Sounds like a great weekend!
MCM Mama says
Woohoo! Congrats! And you look absolutely awesome in that outfit.
I smiled a ton as I was reading this! Yeah! So many things went well and what an awesome PR! So glad you had such a good race! Sounds like you did so many things right!
Congratulations P! I’m so glad you found a way to tame that gut and have a great race. That is an incredible PR and even better that you felt good too. Very inspiring!!! I can’t wait until my debut…definitely will call for some cute skirt shopping. Frustrating that I have to wait so long 🙁
OMG! What a great comeback! You did amazing…wooohooo!!! I am so excited for you 🙂
34 minute PR?!?!??!!? WOW!!! Way to go!!!
Yay! Congrats on the huge PR and, even better, the great race experience!
Rad Runner says
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh amazing!!!! I filled with holiday smiles when i read this, and yes, you gotta look cute to have a good race i totally agree, and you my dear look cuter then the cutest! Ugh you did so good!!!!!!!!!!!
How could you keep this a secret from us?! oh well, you deserve a huge congrats! That is a HUGE new PR! You’re amazing!
That’s a really impressive cut in time! Outstanding!!! Time to update the PR list =D . I wanted to run CIM this year, but it didn’t look like the timing would be good. I have heard the race is great, though.
The schwag was pretty weak, huh? Oh well, trade the schwag for an AWESOME PR!!!
BTW- you are so darn cute in that race outfit. 🙂
Wow, that was quite the secret you kept! I’m soooo happy for you! You looked great and sounds like you had a great race!! 34 minute PR?!! That rocks!!
Also, your family is so adorable.
The Green Girl says
I can’t believe you kept this from us! Congratulations on a freakin’ awesome, awesome PR, girl! You rock.
And you did it lookin’ super cute, too! ::high fives::
That is fantastic, well done! You did great, 34mins PR…awesome. 04:10…awesome. You rock!
Congrats! So exciting. Bask in the glow of that wonderful time for as long as you can:)
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Jogging with Fiction says
Fantastic. Way to keep a surprise too!
Congratulations! My coach has had great success with her athletes at this race. I am hoping to do it someday and I must be honest I am tempted to sign up for it in 2011 after reading your race report!
Awesome job! Congratulations!
Way to go! Congrats on having a great race
That was a great story line. Congrats !! I likes your approach to the race and getting through it too.
tri like mary says
Nice job! And, quite frankly, how could you NOT rock in that outfit?
So I read the title of you post and was like, “WHAT?!?!?! How did I not know you were running marathon?!?!” And then I read the first couple sentences. Ha! Why would you keep it a secret? Nobody here is judging you. But I guess I can understand if nerves are part of the issue…
Anyway, WAY TO GO!! You did so awesome! I can’t believe not worrying about time turns into a 4:10 finish in your world! AWESOME!!!
Woohoo! Congrats on an awesome race and a new PR! You totally got redemption!! Yay for you!
Oh, and I loved your race outfit! 🙂
Big Daddy Diesel says
Congrats on the race and the PR
Kevin @ Half TRI-ing says
i wish i would have known you were going to be there!!! you did GREAT, congrats on the new PR!!!
Kerrie T. says
Yaaaaaay! What a great recap!
I have been behind on reading your blog and I can’t believe you ran a marathon!! So proud of you! You did amazing, and I loved reading your recap. Loved your attitude throughout the entire race. Way to go!
Sounds like an awesome race! Love the outfit and congrats on a strong finish!