It's been a while since my last post but seeing as I am now a 5 time marathoner and I have a lot to say about marathon number 5 (and state number 7 in my quest for a half or more in all 50), it seems like a great time to post!
On December 3rd I finished the California International Marathon. While I was shy of my goal (sub-3:40), finishing in 3:55 due to issues outside of my control -- which I will discuss later -- I learned a lot about my mental and physical toughness in this race, my current fitness level and how to run a smart race. On top of that I had an amazing trip, meeting runner friends from all over the country, pro-runners, and my Nuun Hydration team and fellow ambassadors, plus taking in all that Sacramento and the surrounding areas had to offer! It was definitely one of my favorite running trips.
The trip started out the Wednesday before the race bright and early with a 5:30am flight to Sacramento. When I arrived in CA, my parents grabbed me from the airport and we took a quick tour of a few wineries before heading to my parents resort at Angel's Camp. My goal on this trip was to stay off of my feet and not sight see too much like I did in Oklahoma which led to dead-legs on race morning. When we arrived in Angel's Camp I went for a quick, easy 3 mile run. Angel's Camp is elevated and hilly so I was careful to find the flatest route possible. The next day we drove back into Sacramento, checked me into my hotel and toured Old Town and then headed to Folsom to see the city where the marathon would start, shop, and have dinner. Then it was back to Sacramento for me until after the race.
On Saturday I tried to stay off of my feet as much as possible. I went back to Pushkins for another breakfast and then headed to the expo for a Nuun Ambassador event. Beforehand I checked out the elite bib reveal and snagged some pics of some of my favorite elite runners! I also spied Neely Gracey at the expo. The Nuun event was great because I was able to actually meet Nuun Ambassadors from all over the country, be featured in a live Nuun webinar, and got some Nuun swag! Afterwards I pretty much lounged in my hotel the rest of the day and got everything ready for the race.
Race morning started very early with a 5am bus ride to Folsom. I noticed it was pretty warm out (about 45) so I knew we were going to have good race weather. The bus ride passed quickly as I made friends with my seat mate. When we arrived in Folsom we headed to the portapotties and were in and out quickly. I got back on the bus to stay comfortable and got every last detail organized. With about 30 minutes left I headed back to the bathrooms, dumped by gear check bag, and then met up for one last photo with Instagram friends. With about 12 minutes left I got into the corral and seeded myself between the 3:37 and 3:42 pacers. The wheelchair athletes took off with 5 minutes to go. Then before I knew it we were off too.
The first mile rolled downhill. I told myself to hold back but stay comfortable. I tried not to get sucked into going to fast with everyone else and let the 3:37 pacer go ahead (a good choice because I never saw her again--not sure what pace she was running). The course rolled pretty seriously in the beginning. There was a lot of down but there was also a lot of up too. But I still felt fantastic. I went through the 5k at about a 7:55/mile so I made myself back off a little and by the time I hit the 10k I was at an 8:02/mile. I could not believe how little effort I was using to run these paces. The uphills started to get more significant but I still felt great. I also felt so free because Nuun was on the course so I didn't have to carry a handheld for once! I was taking in the sights, the great crowd support, and the perfect weather. The only complaint I had was that the water stops were somewhat difficult to get to with all of the runners and the stops being on one side of the street.
The miles were flying by and I couldn't believe it when I saw mile 10. "I'm already in double digits?! I'm going to break 3:40!" Despite some bigger hills in between, I saw mile 13 show up shortly after and then I was crossing the timing mat at 13.1. "Did I really just run across the half marathon in 1:46 at a minimal effort?! Maybe I can negative split and finish in 3:35!" I pushed on feeling great until I hit 13.8.
Then I felt it. The side stitch. The stupid, annoying, nagging, incredibly painful side stitch that had reared its ugly head during my first 18 miler in my training. The one that literally brought me to tears in my training. I tried to breathe deeply and work it out but it wasn't happening. By the time I crossed 14 it was stabbing pain and I couldn't catch my breath. That caused me to hyperventilate and freak out, making breathing more difficult. At that point I called Mike (my running partner/training coach) and talked to him. I needed someone to calm me down. He and Joanna (his wife) talked to me and calmed me down to the point I could get running again.
Around 16 I called my mom because I was still wheezing and hurting. I ran the next three miles (slowly) with her on the phone just listening to me run. Something about that calmed me down enough to keep moving. I hung up with her around 19.5 (after a lot of tears and anger--why does this always happen to me? I was having a great race!) and put on my music and kept moving.
Mile 20-24 were a mix of ok and hurting. I was at the point that I could go a mile before I had to slow and work out the cramp/stitch. At mile 21 I noticed a girl on the left side of the road sort of limping and she took off running again. Something told me to go check on her. I jogged over to her and asked if she was ok. Her name was Sara and she was having a similar race where an injury showed up and messed with what was shaping up to be a great race for her. I shared my experience with her and we ran together for a little while. She had to back off and told me to have a great race. I told her I knew she'd catch me at some point because I was hurting pretty bad. Afterward I kept pushing through and before I knew it we had crested the last hill and we were back in the city at 24 with 2.2 miles to go.
I cramped pretty bad but I could tell from my watch that even with a lot of walking, I was going to break 4 hours. I worked out the cramp and called Mike again. He reassured me that I would break 4 and I was doing just fine. I ran with him on the phone until 24.5 and then hung up and pushed myself to finish strong. One more big cramp at 24.8 and I had to slow again to work it out. I told myself at 25 I would take off and finish the race even if I thought my side was going to tear. Right as I was about to start running I heard "huh-uh, no! Let's go!". It was Sara. I took off with her and we cranked up the pace. We were passing runners right and left. She was directing me, and firmly ordering me to stay with her. I gave it everything I had and just hung on to her. My side was aching but I just focused on staying with Sara. 25.5, 25.7, 26. We were in the home stretch. Sara jestured that we would turn left, make another left shortly after, and then it was a short sprint to the finish.
We made the first left turn at 26 and I could see that we only had about .1 before we turned again. We rounded the second left and I could see the finish. Not even .2 away. Sara kicked it up and I went with her. We sprinted in and I saw the clock as we crossed. 3:55. We were in 5 minutes under 4 hours. Sara and I both turned and hugged each other after we crossed, thanking each other for making the last mile great. There was no way my last mile would have been that great without her there. We were meant to finish that race together from when we met at mile 21.
The official time was 3:55:28. I was a little disappointed given how the first half of the race went, but given how I felt throughout the last 12.2 miles, I'm pretty darn proud of finishing that race and breaking 4 is always a win in my book. The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized how great of a race this was for me even with the issue. This was my 3rd fastest marathon (just 11 seconds off of my Detroit time) and it was a post-IT band injury PR. I went from the DNF in Utah, to a 4:05 in Oklahoma City, to a 3:55 at this race. And speaking of the IT band, it never hurt or bothered me in this race! Even with all of the hills! Finally, I finished this race strong and made a new friend in the process. Last time I ran a 3:55 I turned around for a huge PR in Cleveland. Cleveland is already scheduled, so it looks like I'm ready for a repeat!
Update since the race:
I enjoyed the rest of my trip in Sacramento/the surrrounding area by eating great food, touring the Sequoia Forest, and tasting a lot of wine. Since returning home I've made it to Healthsource of Avon where they checkout out my side/back/hips and determined that I am all out of alignment which causes the side stitch and breathing issue! It likely is due from overcompensating for that bad IT band while it healed. So I have a diagnosis, which they are going to help me fix. They are also going to teach me how to breath better while running and help me strengthen my IT bands in the process!