Fun Fact: This website is considered "adult content" at my work. I used to post on the Loop semi-regularly but then IT blocked the site, and well excuses...and here we are.
Quick background: This was my second marathon. My first was Arizona RnR Jan 2018 and I death-marched to a huge 28 min positive split, finishing in 4:38 (temp was 70’s and while I trained well, I did not fuel well).
I’ve been working with Coach K for about 3 years now, since I returned to running after having my son. She’s a friend and coworker so I’m spoiled a bit by talking to her about running almost daily and she’s able to tweak my plan accordingly. She’s had 9:40 as MP for all my workouts since Sept. My goal for the race was first and foremost to have fun and not die like I did at Arizona. Secondly, I thought I might be able to run somewhere in the 9:50-10:00 range but this was never really my focus. CIM had pacers at 4:05 (9:21 pace) and 4:20 (9:55 pace); 4:05 would be too quick so I planned to start with 4:20 and go from there. I will say training went great. No sickness, no injuries, no missed runs, workouts or long runs. And I had a RB for almost all the LRs which was awesome. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was the slightly excessive amount of weight I magically gained over Thanksgiving week…
Friday: We flew to Sacramento as soon as my son’s school let out. He started Kindergarten in August and it’s still an adjustment to plan travel around a school schedule. Flight went well and we arrived at our hotel around 8pm. I had booked the hotel months ago so didn’t really remember much about it except it was close to everything. Well, it was a freaking awesome location. Our room faced the park and Capitol building which is where the race would finish. Runners would go right by the front of the hotel (around the 25.8ish point) and my husband could enjoy seeing the elites from the comfort of our room. Saturday’s 5K started right in front of the hotel as well. Walking out the back door of the hotel put you 10 steps from the Expo. Just perfect. Not perfect? The hotel wouldn’t respond to my late checkout requests until we got there. The stars aligned though and they said 1pm would be fine and no charge. OK then. Now I can de-stress (I’m someone who gets very anxious about logistics…). $70 (!!!) for a burger and 2 appetizers at the hotel restaurant and we headed to bed. DS was up 2 hours past his bedtime but was able to keep his shit together ok.
Saturday: I head outside for a 3 mile shakeout around 7am and sweet Jesus it’s freezing! And wet with more rain on the way. Run is beautiful as it’s basically the peak of Fall in Northern CA, all the trees are yellow, red and orange and still have most of their leaves. Coming from dry, brown San Diego, this is just gorgeous. I take it all in and try not to run too fast. Many roads are closed in preparation for the 5K (not starting until 11am) and there are tons of runners out doing a shakeout before the marathon. A runner’s paradise really. I return to the hotel to pick up my family, then we get the most delicious breakfast around the corner (and thankfully, not $70) then head to the Expo right after it opens. Super easy to get the bib and shirt. I buy 2 items of CIM swag, a jacket and t-shirt. This is an amusing/annoying story: it’s pretty busy at the clothes tables so I try the jacket on quickly (over my sweaty running clothes and a thick fleece); there’s a sale tag that says it’s women’s M. Great, this should work. Later, when I get to the hotel, I’ll realize the tag was wrong and it’s a men’s jacket so doesn’t fit awesome. Grrr. I also wanted a T-shirt and in the normal world, I solidly wear a medium but in the running world, I am huge so I ask the girl for a Large. She returns with a medium and XL but they don’t have L. I hold up what she said was the medium and it looks good so I take that. When I return to San Diego, I try on the shirt and think “wow, this is a nice roomy medium for once” Oh no, it’s the XL. So it’ll work but crazy that I need an XL to not have a skin tight belly shirt. Ok sorry, I’m getting lost in the details here.
We spend the afternoon walking around Old Sacramento, then come across an outdoor skating rink near the Sacramento King’s arena on the way back to the hotel. I’m not interested in hurting myself the day before the race but DH and DS have a blast. Pizza for dinner rounds out a nice day in a new city. The guys are in bed before 8pm but I stay up a little making sure everything is good to go.
Sunday: I sleep just ok, alarm goes off at 4:30 and I’m out the door at 4:40. It’s a 2 min walk to the buses which don’t start loading until 5am. I am near the front so get on one of the first buses, score! We don’t arrive at the Start until 6am. We can stay on the buses which is great to stay warm. It’s probably in the 30’s but I dressed appropriately. I get off the bus to find a POP around 6:10 and am thrilled at what I see: POPs as far as the eye can see! I’ve never seen so many. The first 50 have lines but you just have to go a little farther and there’s no lines. Awesome! I get back on the bus and relax for awhile. Around 6:40, I start getting ready (race starts at 7am) when I realize I should hit the POP once more time. When I hop off the bus there are lots of people everywhere and I freak out that I’ve waited too long! I head to gear check, keeping just my gloves and a throwaway long sleeve, then jog past 100 POPs with lines until I finally get to where there aren’t any. I’m in there while I can hear the national anthem and again freak out a little. I jog back to the start line (there were 2 corrals: one for sub 4 h and one for >4 h) which gives me plenty of time to work my way up to the 4:20 pacers and still have about 10 min to spare. I wore tank, shorts and arm sleeves plus gloves which is perfect. Coach gave me a rundown of the course a few days earlier but I basically forget it all and just remember: hill right after the start, rolling hills, biggest hill at Mile 11, no hills last 8 miles.
I run with the 4:20 group for the first 5K but it’s super annoying. Too many peoplee and I don’t feel like it’s really helping me because I keep slowing myself down. But I don’t want to get cocky and die, then watch them go past me. Screw it, I get in front of the group and then never think about them again. I aim for 9:40-9:50 pace but at the same time, I just keep things relaxed. I only check the watch here or there to make sure I stay out of the 9:20s (mostly). I’m not thinking about how many miles to go, just looking around at the beautiful fall scenery, reading signs, enjoying the atmosphere. Is it bad that I was hungry at Mile 2? I never once hit a hill where I thought “Oh crap, a hill”; just slight inclines that didn’t affect my pace really. To be fair, if this was a 5k, I would be telling a different story probably, but at my MP? I had trained on enough hills that I was barely noticing any of these. Not tons of people along the course but that was ok. It took until Mile 3 before I could feel my fingers and toes from the cold but otherwise, I felt great. I took off my gloves and carried them for maybe 2 miles before tossing them, thinking I was good to go. Oh, was I wrong! For a few miles (maybe around Mile 6?), just my right hand was cold but then both were numb. I put them in my arm pits at one point to warm up…which is how I first realized I was chafing there and it burned. Oops! My hands were getting colder and colder and it was bothering me more and more. Finally, around Mile 10 (maybe?) I picked up a pair of gloves off the street, ignored the fact they were slightly damp and probably covered in snot and wore them. Super gross but it did the trick and my hands weren’t cold again, haha I would end up keeping the gloves for probably an hour before tossing them.
I kept waiting for the biggest hill around Mile 11 but either Coach had mis-remembered (she’s run CIM twice though) or hitting the incline at my MP vs hers makes a big difference because I never found the hill. I wasn’t doing any math about time goals, just clicking off the miles and trying not to be too fast in the first half. I hit the 13.1 mat just as my watch showed 2:06:00 and this was the only time I thought about where I might be for a finish time. “Woah, that’s better than I expected” is all I thought.
Lots of interesting sights along the course including a golden retriever rescue group with a dozen of their cutest members, lots of kids to high five, and plenty of fruit, donuts, beer and tissues (tissues! I haven’t been a cold weather runner in ages and this was a godsend!)
It was around Mile 18 that I was still feeling great except starting to notice my quads being sore. I kept thinking “tomorrow will suck but not today”. I ran through The Wall at Mile 20 feeling strong and in control, but also ready to be done soon. My nutrition was great and I really felt strong for the entire race. I was drinking some water at most of the water stops and taking a Clif Blok energy chew with caffeine at all the odd miles. My only split that didn’t start with a 9 (mile 24) was because I grabbed an orange slice and walked a few steps to eat it. Really for the final 10K, I felt good endurance-wise, but my legs were protesting, feeling pretty stiff and sore.
Right at the Mile 25 marker, my watch display showed “low battery”, OH NO! I never let my watch get that low so I had no idea if that meant it would turn off in 1 minute or 30 minutes. The warning blocked the other numbers on my watch and I was afraid that if I tried to scroll past it, that would use too much battery and it would die even quicker. I know, I’m such a dork. But I didn’t touch any buttons and actually ran a bit faster, hoping I could finish before it died! I only saw my family when I passed our hotel so about 0.3 miles before the finish which was great. I told DH it wasn’t worth the hassle to Uber to earlier spots on the course, I’m used to running alone anyways.
4:13:00 !!! A 25 minute-freaking PR! When I visualized a best case scenario in my head, it was running 4:15 so this was awesome. If I didn’t have “low battery” staring back at me from the watch and realized I needed to run one second faster, I could have but oh well. Super happy with training and execution of this race. For perspective, when I first started working with my coach, I ran a 10K where my goal pace was 9:55 pace and here I am, about 2.5 years later running 26 miles at 9:40 pace. Crazy.