Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The California International Marathon

When I decided to add and attempt to cross a marathon off of my bucket list, I was certain I would only be running one for the sake of saying that I did. But both training for and running a marathon can change a person. And, over the past year of training for 26.2 (twice!), I can't believe the ways I've grown as a runner and person. 

The California International Marathon was my last event for the Fall 2016 race season. Training brought a lot of challenges, from injuries to busy schedules to personal trials. I knew, before even toe-ing the start line, that this would be a race that would require a lot of heart to get through. Drawing from the excitement that filled the Sacramento Convention Center during the Expo & Packet Pick-Up, I was ready for whatever race day was going to bring me. 

The morning of the marathon, I met up with my teammate and dear friend, Lindsay, in our hotel lobby. We chatted awhile before heading across the street in 35-degree chill to the long line of buses waiting to transport runners to the start line. Boarding and travel all went smoothly, and we were allowed to enjoy the warmth of the bus as long as we needed to before go-time. With about 35 minutes before the race start, I checked my bag, grabbed Lindsay off the bus, and met up with the rest of our teammates for a quick photo. 

We hugged, shared well-wishes, and jumped in line for the portable restrooms (There were nearly 300 available for runners... Well-played, CIM!). Despite the large number of restrooms available, Lindsay and I jogged to the start line to find our place in the pack and crossed the start line shortly thereafter.

I made a pace band through Races2Remember with a 4:15 finish time and promised myself I'd try to stick as closely to my mile splits as possible. With inconsistent training for most of the season, 4:15 felt like an ambitious goal, but I was up for challenging myself. I had a three-mile warm-up that I knew would feel painfully slow, but my coach encouraged me to start easy and avoid heading out too fast. I averaged around :15/mile ahead of my goal paces, but I stayed with it as I was feeling comfortable. CIM is notorious for its continuous "rollers," another reason I knew I was going to need to reserve some energy. Over the first half of the race, I'd find myself catching up to (and, sometimes, pulling ahead of) the 4:08 pacer - a warning sign that I was running too fast. I'd pull back at the sight of the pacer, but always managed to end back up with the pace group.

I hit my half-marathon mark just under 2:05, which meant I had five minutes of wiggle room to pull back in the second half if I needed to (and I was pretty sure I'd need to) while still meeting my goal time. I continued to obey my mile splits on my pace band but, around mile 18, caught myself slipping. I began run/walk intervals, which only increased the aching and cramping in my quads. I took advantage of every water station, and even tried Nuun for electrolytes (So good and easy on my tummy! How have I not tried it before!?). With every walk break I took, I could feel my goal time slipping further and further away. I reassessed, did some calculating (my favorite mid-marathon time-passer), and decided that a 4:30 goal time would be more feasible. I continued recalculating my splits and pulled my running pace back in lieu of taking interval walking breaks.

I saw my dear friend and marathon-running-extraordinaire, Stephanie, as I was heading into Midtown and with only a few miles left to go. Her energy and encouragement was such a relief and perfectly timed. She caught me just as my IT band started screaming at me (a recurring injury I see every season and, almost, every race), my pace was dropping way back, and I began doubting my ability to make up any of the time I'd lost. Stephanie was chatty and a welcome distraction from the negative self-talk, and she even stopped on a curb with me so I could stretch out my aching muscles. Just as I'd finished stretching, she saw one of our teammates, Kathi, run by. She told me, "Caitlin, you can catch her. Go catch her and finish strong." As Stephanie headed back out to find Lindsay on the course, I took a deep breath, started moving, and caught up to Kathi. We chatted a bit through the discomfort and, as we geared up for our last straight stretch of the route, Kathi told me, "I'm going to PR. I think I might cry." I was so incredibly proud of my friend and we sprinted through the last turn and across the finish line together. While I was nowhere near meeting my own goal for the day, I was so happy to be able to watch my teammate crush hers.

I crossed the finish line at 4:31:33. I stopped moving for a few minutes to take a finisher's photo and rehydrate. Moving again was incredibly painful, but Kathi and I limped our way through the finisher's village until we found the our teammates who had finished ahead of us. Everyone had a great race, and one of our teammates even raced his way to being a Boston Qualifier! (WooHoo, Oliver!)

During a season of my life where I'm often feeling discouraged and plagued with self-doubt, this race was a perfect pick-me-up and rekindled my newfound love for the marathon. Even in missing my goal, I still get to carry the great pride of finishing another-freaking-marathon! With another training season behind me, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to the off-season and partaking in a little R&R during the holidays. I'm already looking ahead and planning for my 2017 race schedule and what challenges I'll be tackling after the start of the new year.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked your photos. You have shown very good results in this marathon. Noticeably that you a lot of exercise.