Tuesday, December 8, 2009

California International Marathon

27th California International Marathon
Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Time: 2:38:25, 6:02 minutes/mile pace
Place: Overall: 46th, 45th male, 9th in age group 35-39
12th marathon/ 10th finish

I figured I would give you the bulk of my story before making you read through a long story of yet another challenging marathon. Aren't they all!

For the few of you out there that have followed my path to this race you would have noticed that I managed to accomplish one of the most important and yet challenging parts of training for a marathon. I showed up in Cali healthy, and uninjured. Check, advantage me. This is where I should give a shout out to the person responsible for drawing up my marathon schedule, Greg McMillan. Thanks Greg. Anyone can recruit this wonderful coach. Just follow my link on the right column of my front page and click on McMillan running and follow the links to his coaching page. He did a wonderful job.
As I was monitoring the weather forecast for Sunday morning it was looking great. Clear skies, no precipitation, and temperatures that should be great for marathon running. Check, my advantage yet again. Things were looking great. Could this really happen? Did I play my cards right? I passed on training for Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and that gamble was wrong. (they had perfect weather, no wind, clear, temps in the 40's-50's) I guess all I had to do was show up and hit my splits and the rest would be history. Not quite. After all this was a marathon I was preparing for. I somehow forgot to think of the wind. Some courses aren't bothered by wind factors so much. When you have a point to point course, like CIM is, there is potential for trouble. Trouble is what I found. Advantage, NOT me. Damn!

I woke up, hit a hot shower, and made my way to the lobby for a bite to eat. When I asked the front desk person what the local temperature was he didn't know, so I made my way to a computer and quickly looked up Sacramento and Folsom California temperatures on weather channel. 29F! NO WAY! Wow, this was about ten degrees cooler than I planned, and I planned hitting the 40's by mid race. (that never happened) Oh well, no rain or snow, so I didn't worry. I am from northern Minnesota after all.

The bus was to be at our motel at 5:00 am to get us to the start. That went off without a hitch except while waiting in line, I dropped my bottle of water/gatorade mix I was going to carry for the first mile or so and cracking the top off in process. "Don't Panic!", I told myself. I knew there would be water at the start and with temps at 29F I guess I didn't have to worry about getting dehydrated. After a pretty quiet ride to Folsom I exited the bus and made my way to one of several, (ratio 1:26) porta potties to relieve all the drink I had consumed in the previous two hours. Making my way to the starting line was easy as I was on one of the first buses to make the drive. Things were looking great. I had tons of energy and the legs were feeling limber. Once they pumped up the 90's dance club music I was ready to cut some rug. Exhilarating, crazy energy was pumping through me. Almost to the point of screaming. I was ready. After a quick jog and stripping the clothes I was ready to line up. Crazy, the guy just announced, "two minutes to go". It was time to toe the line.

Once the gun went off I had an immediate sigh of relief. Whew! Finally, on my way to Sacramento. I got out of a small pack and managed to stay clear of any heels in front of me and got comfortable. As we hit the one mile I hit my watch. 6:02 mile. Perfect. I wanted to take two easy miles before getting too excited about splits. Mile two was a near match at 5:59. It was after the second mile when I knew I had to get out of that pace and make it just a bit quicker to get closer to goal pace. Perfect. Even with the slight ups and downs the first half of this course offers my splits were coming to me like going for a job on the local boardwalk. I managed to keep this effort until I heard the voice of one, middle-aged man just after the ten mile mark. He said in such an easy, gentle voice, " you're going hit a little wind around the corner." I was thinking, "we have had gust on and off for ten miles, what's the big deal." Wind direction was the big deal. With the turn it faced us right into a blustery 15 mph wind. Wow! That sucks. I need to find a group to run the next stretch with. I finally made my was up to a group that was running the same pace as I wanted and was ready to do some pace sharing and then the urge to urinate became too strong to ignore. Zoom, into a porta pot just prior to the half-way split. Thirty seconds later I was out and making my way to the half-way mat to see 1:1806 on my watch. Hmmm. The wind was stronger than I anticipated. I was still optimistic that I would be able to make up some time in the closing miles if I was smart. Trouble was, the wind didn't really improve much until a turn took us out of some point after twenty miles. Too late. My legs were calling my name. I wasn't going to negative split. I was going to be lucky just to get to the finish without any full-on hamstring spasms. Both hamstrings, and my left, lower calf was calling my name outloud with each step. It's kind of funny. I was telling my wife afterwards that if people watching the runners could hear what the runners were thinking it sure would be entertaining. I was telling myself not to slow. Just maintain. You can salvage a decent race. Just don't stop. It hurts. Hell ya it hurts, it's a fu***** marathon, it's supposed to hurt. Relax your hips. Focus on the runners in front of you. Keep lifting your legs and drive to the next block. Kari said, "getting tired is no excuse to stop, just keep pushing on." She is so wise. I know she has uttered many of those similar thoughts along to her 2:47 PR years ago. We see eye to eye. I love her so.

Once I got down to the last two miles I put myself in Duluth, Minnesota. I know the last two miles of the Grandma's marathon course better than the homeless people that walk it every day. I knew comfort. Just picturing myself one block at a time allowed me to get up the course. Passing 25 miles was great! I knew I was going to make it now. All I had to do was press just a bit more. Then I started looking for Kari. We agreed before the race that she would stand at 10th street. I started looking for her at 14th, 12th, 11th, and then I saw her on the side of the street. What a sight. It's amazing the lift you get from loved ones along the way. Such a wonderful lift! After rounding the first corner, I ran a block and rounded the last corner and a push for the finish line. I over the speakers my name and someone else with the name Lucas (my son's name is Lucas) and that someone was right on my heels. The announcer said, "they are neck and neck and heading to the finish" This part of "they" isn't going to let that happen. I pushed just enough to hold of the next guy by a mere one second. There is was. Complete. In the books. It's all over but the crying. I was happy and sad at the same time. I had a new PR and yet it took so much out of me to get it. My legs were screaming. After a bottle of water and a warming blanket I made my way to my wife for a much needed hug. Such a relief. Thank you honey. You don't know how much I needed you and will need you for races to come.

So there it is. I will rest and take at least two weeks off completely. Nothing. Eating and resting will be my goal. This will feel great. I have a plan for 2010, but too soon to set in stone. It should be yet another big year. New age group coming up.

For the stat people out there, here are my splits.
6:02,5:59,5:49,5:43,5:51,5:53,6:00,6:02,5:57,5:53,5:52,5:58,12:19* (piss break),6:07,5:54,5:55,6:05,6:02,6:03,6:02,6:10,6:16,6:15,6:18,6:24,1:27

Totals: 26.2 miles

Weeks Totals: 54.4 miles
Years Totals:2709.5 miles


K Hutchins said...

Thanks for sharing Gregg! Great recap...coming from someone who had a similar experience.

It's refreshing to read another runner's assessment, and to gain insight into what goes through someone elses head during such an event. Everything you said is on the money!

Yes, it would be very interesting to be able to listen to what runners are thinking while racing a marathon.

Congrats on running a fine race, and I'm happy to have had the opportunity to run with you and then spend some time with you and Kari post-race.

As the saying goes "pain is temporary, pride is forever."

Stay strong.

SteveQ said...

Congrats on the PR (I called it)! You worked really hard for it and the race sounds like it went almost perfectly (those splits are great, minus the break). Now I'll have to see how you deal with the sudden cold snap.

gwyncoseph said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Grellan said...

Well done on a great race Gregg. Loved your report.

Check out this guy's blog (http://championseverywhere.blogspot.com/2009/12/after.html). His training buddy Lucas would appear to be the guy chasing you at the finish line. Small world eh!

Grellan said...

I see you've made the connection already.