Tuesday, December 10, 2013

California International Marathon-- Race Report 2013

I'm long winded and this post is a very good indication of that.  :) Read only when you have a few spare minutes and a good cup of coffee to keep you awake. Ha!

On May 30, 2003 my parents, a couple friends, and I checked into a cute little condo on Coronado, near San Diego, to celebrate my 21st birthday.  Months prior, these plans had been made because I had registered for San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon which was the day after my big birthday and was going to be my first marathon.  In the time between registration day and race day I became injured and unable to run, and while I spent my milestone birthday in San Diego I never ran a step, a mile, let alone a marathon.

Several years later I made the same attempt with a similar outcome.

No matter how much I wanted to be a marathoner it didn't seem to agree with my body.

Finally, last year I successfully trained for a marathon, but life had other plans and when race day came I was moving and nursing a sad, heavy heart.

Life happens.

The marathon and I still weren't the BFF's I knew we could be.

On July 18th I decided that while 2013 was not my year for Ironman, or half-Ironmans, maybe it was finally my year for the marathon, and so I registered for CIM.

CIM starts just a couple miles from my previous home in Folsom and runs along some of my favorite streets of the Sacramento area, past my alma mater Sacramento State, and down to the lawn in front of the State Capitol.  I know these streets and neighborhoods - they feel like home.

The CIM expo went off without a hitch.  Bibs and shirts were picked up, booths were perused, and a few goodies were purchased.  My friend, Wendy, and I went to lunch after and then drove the course.  After a quick stop at the grocery store we were ready to relax at the hotel until dinner and were able to do just that.  Wendy and I kept the conversation mostly light, joking about work and school stuff, without talking too much about the race.  I don't think I could have picked a better roommate for the eve of my first marathon, and for that I am forever grateful to call Wendy a friend.  We went to dinner with a few other friends who were also running/racing where my nerves and anxiety really started.  In the group of 5 of us running, 3 of us were first-timers and while it was partly helpful hearing everyone else's concerns for what lay ahead of us, it also got me thinking about my own concerns and fears.

New favorite tee from the expo
Have I mentioned we've been having a bit of a cold snap?

My mind was not focused on whether the marathon and I would finally be BFF's.... it was whether or not I had brought enough things, or the right things, to wear for the mid-20s start that would only warm to the mid-30s at the finish.  WHAT DOES THIS CALIFORNIA GIRL WEAR??  I hate to get hot and so I didn't want to overdress, but I didn't want to freeze into a runner shaped statue in the starting miles either.  There has been few times in my life I have stressed so much over the clothes I was going to put on my back.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel, showers were taken and then it was lights out.  I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and slept until my alarm went off at 4am.  While it wasn't a ton of sleep I felt fairly rested and it was easy to get moving... hot tea, food, dress, shoes on, and down to the shuttle.

There was icicles on the bus that awaited to take us to the start-line.  ICICLES.  All-aboard.

Trying to stay warm before the start....
Luckily for all of us on the buses we were allowed to stay on the bus until the last minute.  I literally went from bus to porta-potty to being swept up into the river of bodies running to and across the start-line.  Here we go!

My friends and I split up right away, they all retreated into the music in the headphones and I started to tune into the conversations around me.  Most of the talk involved complaining or exclaiming how cold it was.  One guy was cracking jokes and talking about how all he wanted to for Christmas was a finisher medal.  I thought of him later as my own finishers medal was hung around my neck.

Around mile 3 I smiled to myself at how incredibly lucky I was to be exactly where I was, being swept along with all the happy chatter going on around me.  How thankful I was to not have music blasting in my ears, but to hear the runners around me talk to their friends or neighbor runner, to hear the sound of hundreds of footsteps on the cold asphalt, and to watch everyone's breath billow into the air as if we were a group of chain smokers running to the nearest convenient store for the next carton of smokes.  As we approached the first aid station everyone started yelling about the ice - "watch out for ice!"  Around aid stations the ground is typically wet, and today was no different, only instead of wet, the spilled water and Powerade was freezing on the pavement making the first 3 water stops ice-skate rinks and none of us brought our skates. Wheeeeeee!

Not long after the first water stop I also realized that eventually the chatter around me would stop.  People would stop chatting among themselves and start to go within their own minds, for better or worse, and I was curious to see when that would happen... Mile 5?  Mile 10? Mile 15?  Beyond?  Turns out the conversations died around Mile 8 and the course remained mostly quiet until Mile 22.  At Mile 22 the conversation was different.  If a runner slowed to a walk between aid stations another runner would encourage them to push on.  Get running again.  We were close to the end.  I still get emotional thinking about the support out there on Sunday.  Not just the other runners but the spectators and visitors freezing their asses off to cheer on and aid us crazy few who wanted to take on twenty-size point two.  I thanked every volunteer I could and took advantage of many "Free High Fives" on the course.

Aside from having to wait in a line for another porta-potty stop (well hydrated FTW!) for more than 5 minutes, the first 10 miles really, honestly, flew by.  Then, only a couple blocks from my favorite local, greasy, fast-food Mexican spot I crossed the 1/2 way mark.  We ran down Fair Oaks Blvd through Arden Arcade where the trees of Sacramento show off their best fall color, and while we were weeks late and a couple windy days short, the fallen leaves still lined the street reminding me that Fall has always been my favorite season in Sacramento - The City of Trees.  Just before getting to the intersection where one of my old favorite coffee shops used to be - the coffee shop where I discovered my love of the tuxedo mocha, but that I equally love good cup of hot tea - I crossed Mile 20.  Though later I'd see an update when I crossed the 1/2 way mark with the comment - It's time to do work. Truth is, the real work started after Mile 20.  I had been consistent with my nutrition and hydration from the first step.... but simply put, fatigue happens and stomachs decide when they've had enough, even if you're not yet to the finish line.  I stopped taking calories right around Mile 20 - I wasn't having intense stomach issues, but my stomach was doing its best to warn me that there were no promises if I were to try to put more in it.   Just before Mile 22 the H St bridge dropped us down in front of Sacramento State, it was as painful up, and down, and had been promised by friends who have run the course before - here comes Midtown!

The trip through Midtown is flat.  If we were only running a 10K, and not just the last 10K of a marathon, it would be a fast 10K.  Instead it was a slow, painful 10K that was far more mental than physical.  A few times I began to go down the rabbit hole - this was so painful and how would I endure all this pain after a big swim and bike in Ironman, and what could I have done to not hurt so badly now, and.....  Tears began to well up in my eyes and it started to get hard to breathe.  Prior to this race I've never had a panic attack, but I'm pretty sure I wound myself up into not one, but two, in the final few miles of CIM.  Both times I managed to get my thoughts under control and talk myself off the ledge and continue to do work.  I was counting down blocks... 39th St, 38th St...20th St, 15th St.......  Soon the Capitol Building was on my left and I knew it wasn't far...

I turned left and followed the runners down the finishing shoot and boom...

I was a marathoner.

Picture with 1,000 words
I took a space blanket, let the medal be hung around my neck, and used up every last bit of my concentration keeping my balance as another volunteer took the timing chip off my shoe.  With a coke in one hand and gripping the space blanket around me as tightly as possible to stay somewhat warm with the other I waited to have my picture taken.  Once my picture was taken I walked through the crowd and the tears began to come again, this time I let them fall.  My quads were trashed, I was utterly terrified of Ironman, I was at the finish line of my very first marathon by myself... and that moment was more than 10.5 year in the making.  I let the emotion come and sat with it for a moment.  Afraid if I sat I wouldn't be able to get up again I stood out of the way and let tears roll down my face for a minute before walking back over the the course, just past the Mile 26 marker and cheered on fellow racers while I waited for my friends.

I watched a mother/grandmother come down the street to discover many family members as her son (my guess) ran along side her filming her great finish.  Her "whoop" and smile of joy.  The pride on her son's face.

I watched a group of women with matching running outfits run alongside their friend toward the finish, with words of encouragement, who was in tears and hobbling.

I watched a man come walking down the road, stiff legged from obvious cramping to stop just 20 feet in front of me.  The crowd shouted words of encouragement and finally another spectator and I walked out onto the course to have a chat with this poor man who's legs were failing him when his heart clearly wanted to go on - it was written all over his face.  I took my space blanket off and offered it to him, he didn't want it.  A volunteer walked up to us and said that medical was on their way over to us.  I looked the man in the eye and said, "You've already passed the 26 Mile marker, lets walk."

"I'm that close?  I have to finish."

We began to walk down the block, a volunteer yelled that only participants could be on the course, the other spectator who had come out with me gave me the "I've got to go, are you staying?" look, and I took my space blanket back off so that my race bib was clearly visible and we continued to walk.  As we made the turn from L Street onto 8th Street I turned to the man and said "High Five!  See where the race officials are right down there, they are directing racers to the finish line, you're there."  He gave me a high five, "That's the finish line?"

"Yep, just around the corner.  Congratulations."

And I watched him walk his way to the finish.  And let the tears come again.

I got out my cell phone.  My parents had been tracking my during their drive back from Ventura and my dad had sent a single text, "Congrats.  Great marathon!  We love you."

"I love you guys too.  Thank you"

I sent a text to my coach, "I'm done.  Its overwhelming.  And my legs are trashed."

And I updated a FB group "I'm done.  It was incredibly overwhelming and there were tears after the finish.  So much more to say but I'm freezing my ass off and typing is difficult <3 p="">
I shivered my way though all 4 of my friends finishing.  There were smiles around.  If I had thought about it earlier I would have checked extra clothing for the finish-line but that lesson is added to the long list of lessons learned from December 8th.

Marathoner.  4:32

Now for some good recovery before 2014 gets started.

The year of finish lines has already begun.


Barb said...

1. I love that shirt from the expo.
2. I love that you ran without music so you could really soak in your surroundings and the amazing atmosphere that comes with a group of people all striving for a goal.
3. You never know what the marathon has in store. What an awesome moment for you. What an accomplishment.


Bari said...

I have tears reading this post. I'm so stinking proud of you, Ash. I love the experience you had and just when I thought I was done tearing up, you helped get that struggling runner to the finish line.

Congratulations, Marathoner

erin sweetsweatlife said...

Awesome accomplishment, girl! Congrats! And, so cool you walked with that guy to the finish… so much heart :)

Brooke said...

you rawk!!