I don’t even know where to start. What an amazing race.
I guess, let me start before the event. I have family that lives extremely close to the starting line in Folsom, Northern California. The area where they live is amazingly beautiful, and I love running around there. You can choose to run through the nearby neighbourhoods, or head down to the American River trail.
I arrived a few weeks before the start of the race, I was with family for Thanksgiving and that allowed me time to get used to the (cold!) weather and the hills. Oh my gosh. The hills. No matter which way I leave their house I encounter hills.
I didn’t do too much leading up to the race in the week prior. I went down to Disneyland with my family for a couple of days at the start of the week. The first day I woke early to run a few fartlek style miles on the treadmill. It was a great work out and I also walked around Disneyland all day. The next few days when I got back up to Northern California I got in a few more easy run, a four miler and a couple of two milers.
I started checking the weather (well, I started like a month a go, but two days before the race I got serious), and it looked perfect, albeit a little on the chilly side. I had only brought shorts and a singlet to run in (hey! I live in Hawaii!!). I looked at getting warmer gear and went to a running store and tried on arm warmers. This is the moment in my life I have realized my arms are skinny and I need to bulk up. The XS/S size was waaaay too big, I mean, hanging off me big. Now, thanks to this, I have a serious arm complex and will probably be walking around lifting dumbbells for the rest of my life!! (In all seriousness though, my arms are not ‘that’ tiny! I need to try other brands) I decided to go without. My small arms could deal with the cold and I found some cheap gloves at Target to wear at the starting line. My husband gave me an old jumper (sweatshirt for non-Aussies out there) and he also made a deal with me that if I wore my old tracksuit pants and threw them away he would buy me new Lululemon pants. What a win!! (Plus, I’m heading back to Australia soon where I can pick up more of my favorite pants!! But, shhh!!)
Two days before the race I went to the expo to pick up all of my gear, I looked around but didn’t see anything that I needed to have. (I kept well away from the arm warmers as not to get embarrassed yet again).
To get to the expo we decided to drive the course. This was either going to be a good thing or the worst idea in history. It turned out to be the best idea ever. I saw the course had lots of rolling hills, and for every (short) uphill right after there was a cruisey flat section or a nice downhill.
The day before the race my husband and I picked up a good friend that had been convinced by us to run her first ever marathon a few months prior. She had flown in from LA, so it was exciting to show her the area. We went out and carb loaded at the Old Spaghetti Factory! Perfect! I think I got to bed around 9:30pm-10:00pm.
Now, on to race day. It was perfect!! I woke up at around 5am, with my alarm
set for 5:15am. I had a good breakfast of coffee and porridge. I was dressed and ready to go. Well, I looked like a hoodlum, but my friend looked like a runner!
The start of the race was 7am, and we left our house at 6:15am (that was so nice, not having to leave super early like a lot of races), the start line is only about 15 minutes from the house, but wii all the road closures we wanted to make sure we had enough time to get to the start in case we needed to walk a little. It was lucky we did, as we did have to change our route a little. My husband dropped us off and we were preparing to walk about half a mile to the start, in cold weather (about 40F) Somehow, we ended up in a bus line and got straight on to a warm bus that delivered us to the start!
The start was extremely well laid out. They had all the different pace teams lined up, in order, that were very easy to spot. I dropped off my friend at the 5:00 hour group, and I walked up trying to figure out where I wanted to fit in. I really wanted a 4:15 pace group, however the CIM is big for Boston Qualifers, and they do a lot of their pace groups for people to qualify. I had to choose between 4:08 and 4:23. I was about to head into the 4:23 pace group but decided to go with my heart and dream big. 4:08 it was.
The day before I had been texting my BRF (Best Running Friend) about what I should do, and she told me that I can do 4:08, and to go out strong and run a good first half and then hold on for the second half. That you are going to get tired anyway. I decided to listen to her, and I am so glad I did. Thank you so much, Katie!!!
I ditched my tracksuit pants 5 minutes before the start, and as I ran up to cross the start I also got rid of my sweater. I do love it when races donate all the clothes at the start to charities! I decided to keep hold of the gloves and wear them until my hands got warm.
The 4:08 pacer was just in front of me and the plan was to keep them in sight. It was extremely difficult because of the amount of people, but I managed. The first mile we clocked at around 9:30, so right on target, the second a little faster, I think about 9:18. The pacer seemed to slow down in the third mile, probably to ease up for the second mile but I decided to keep running at my pace. I had my Garmin on, but I was just watching the elapsed time. I decided not to keep looking at the paces, and just try to go by feel – nice and easy uphill and cruise downhill (nice and easy, don’t push it!). I really expected to see the 4:08 pacer pass me, and I really wanted to look back and see if they were right on my heels, but I didn’t dare! I was too scared that I would freak out and slow down. I remember looking at my watch at around mile 4 and seeing it say 9:07min/mile. What!?! I said to myself, you are doing good, you are breathing good, your legs are good, just keep cruising and don’t push it.
My husband and his family decided to go to the town of Fair Oaks, which is at the 10 mile marker to cheer me on, so I kept pushing knowing that I would see them and it would be great motivation to carry me on. I love having a cheer squad!! It was great to see them and it broke up the race a little. (Below I’m trying to make my way over to them.)
My next goal was to get to mile 11. I had my first gel at mile 5.5, and decided then to break up the race in my head. I had my family to look forward to at mile 10, then between mile 11 and 12 I could have another gel. Then it was looking forward to the halfway mark.
I crossed the 13.1 mat at 2:00:17. What!?!?! I couldn’t believe it. A 2 hour half marathon and I was feeling great! How is that even possible!? I honestly knew that it would be extremely hard for me to run a negative split, but I decided to keep pushing and try my best, you never know how you are going to feel later. Mile 16 to 17 was my next mark, and I had another gel somewhere between those mile markers. The next on my list was 21, and by the time I hit mile 20, it felt soooo far away.
By mile 20 I was starting to hurt. I saw that my mile times were getting slower. I felt like I was getting slower. The rolling hills had stopped. The slight downhills didn’t feel like downhill at all. Somewhere around mile 23 I had to stop and walk a little, and again at mile 24. I looked at my watch, and thought to myself, you can do this. You have it in you to get a 4:05 if you don’t walk, just keep running, so, I did. I ran it in from around mile 24 or so to the finish.
That’s my time. That’s a time that I did not think I was capable of. I was hoping that I could get 4:15. My training has been all over the place. I’ve missed multiple long runs and tempos (let’s not even mention speedwork). I didn’t think I could hold a 9:30 pace, and really wanted to run sub 10 minute miles.
I think the net downhill course really helped. I am in shock with how well I ran the first 20 miles. It has also given me some hope again. Before this race I was almost done with marathons. I was upset that I hadn’t got any faster over the last few years. Now I see that it is possible. I can finally understand that I can run faster. What is holding me back is my belief in myself (or lack of).
Now to imagine what I am capable of if I consistently follow a training plan and do all my long runs!
I’ll be back at the CIM, and I’m going to say it now. I’ll be back to get that Boston Qualifying time. I need to knock 25 minutes off my time, but I just knocked off 18 minutes off my last PB from a marathon I completed 7 weeks ago.
So yes, I’ll definitely see you again, CIM, and I’ll be ready for those last 6 miles!