Sunday, January 28, 2018

California International Marathon

Marathon #44:

After Big Sur I took 4 weeks off from running.  I wasn't going to take such an extended break but Meb tweeted about how he took 4 weeks off from Boston and I figured if Meb could rest for 4 weeks, I could (and should), too.  I needed that time to really settle the funk out of my left ankle and that bowl-dropping incident on top of my left foot appreciated the extra down time as well.

I went on a 2 mile run after those 4 weeks off and thought I was going to pass out. I was running easy and practically seeing stars at the end of the run. I lose fitness so quickly. But my ankle was behaving and I was excited to be able to get back to training and to be able to increase more sensibly this time around.

I targeted CIM at the end of the year as my next race.  My main goal was to get through a training cycle and not get injured.  I had been training really hard and was running really well last fall for Modesto when the peroneal tendinitis sidelined me and I was determined that wouldn't happen again. I decided it would be nice to target a finish time which was challenging in the sense that I had to do some speed work and really train but not so challenging that I was running at my limit in training.

When I was training for Modesto my long run pace with Hansons was 8:58.  Hansons long runs are supposed to be done at the faster end of your easy.  That pace ended up being one I had to monitor and push a little, but it wasn't excruciating.  When I was training that pace felt like one I was fairly certain I could hold over a marathon distance and not feel like it was terribly difficult.  So I decided I would target sub-9:00 as my goal pace for CIM. For reference, the Modesto cycle which had 8:58 as a long run pace my goal marathon pace work had been done at 8:16.

There was a bit of a problem with this thinking, though.  When I started training for Modesto I was in pretty good shape coming off of my Humboldt Half training cycle where I was routinely running 6 miles in the low 8:00s.  So while sliding goal pace from 8:16 to 8:58 sounded like taking it easier, coming off of a 4 week lay-off after months of sub-par running meant 8:58 did not feel as easy as it did the year before.  Duh, RoadBunner.

I also decided to step it down from the Advanced Hansons plan I had followed last year to the Beginner Hansons plan.  Mainly there is less weekly mileage in the Beginner plan but there is also a few less weeks of speed work in the early weeks.  The Beginner Hansons plan is certainly not a beginner marathon training program, however, and I knew it would be plenty challenging.

The first few weeks on the program were pretty tough.  I bumped to 6 days a week of runs and started throwing in specific pace work twice a week.  The first few weeks of training I felt like I got hit by a train. My legs were so heavy on easy days, it was really hard to hit goal paces and I was extremely tired all the time.  But after a few weeks my body got with the program and things started clicking.

I'll do a post on Hansons later so won't get into the gritty details of that in this post.

I had a solid training cycle. I hit all my goal paces for every workout. I missed one 8 mile easy run but otherwise got every single run on the plan done. There were some terrible fires north of San Francisco during this training cycle and I moved a few runs onto the treadmill.  I usually never run on the treadmill but I even did one of my 16 milers on the 'mill.  Early on I had targeted 8:55 as my goal pace and as the weeks went by I started to naturally run 8:44s for those runs.  By the end I was doing 8:38s give or take for goal pace runs.

I realized that a sub-9 goal pace for the pace was highly doable and I started to readjust my goal.  I enjoyed Hansons a lot and another goal for CIM was to assess how I liked their training plan. I was thinking of hiring a Hansons coach for 2018 if the plan worked well for me.  I waffled a bit between wanting to have a strong and more conservative result (the original goal) versus running to what I thought was my current ability. I thought about it, and if I didn't run CIM to the best of my ability how would I know Hansons worked?

So after some thinking I pegged 8:44 as my goal pace for the race.  I plugged this into my pace calculator.  The last time I ran this race my Garmin registered 26.33 miles so I put 8:44 pace for 26.33 miles and realized that it was cutting it really close to a sub 3:50, especially if I ran something longer than 26.33 (I ran that year with a pace group whose leaders were aware of turns and set us up well for running the tangents). These arbitrary time goals are such fun. Wouldn't everyone prefer running a 3:4X vs a 3:5X? So like a sucker for the $X.99 pricing I decided 8:43 pace on my Garmin with the goal of a sub 3:50 finish was the goal of the day.

Calculations I made the night before the race. 8:44 pace JUST barely gets it, shoot for 8:43 to be safe.

I had decided to make this a solo trip, telling the husband months ago I wasn't going for a PR or anything so it wasn't a big deal. At the time I didn't think I was even going to be truly racing it, just running a little harder than easy but not hard.  When I switched gears to racing it I sort of wished I had my support crew coming to Sacramento with me, but it was too late for my husband to take off work the day before the race.

I got up to Sacramento, was able to check into my hotel early, and went to the expo to get my stuff.  My hotel was a relatively short walk to the expo which was really convenient.  I bought a severely overpriced race-branded Headsweats hat I had been coveting during training.

I figured the pasta joints would all be hammered so I had the brilliant idea of ordering take-out.  I called Paesanos and ordered a spaghetti with meatballs for pick-up.  They said 10-15 minutes.  I hopped in the car and lucked into an amazingly close parking spot.  The entire sidewalk was jammed with people waiting but I bypassed that noise and was told to go to the bar.  This is going just swimmingly! I was brilliant for thinking of this option. Got to the bar and told the bartender my order, he rang me up then said, "I'll bring you your order out when it's ready."  When he said this, my heart sank and I just knew it was going downhill.  In his defense he was really swamped and didn't stop working for a second the next 30 minutes I stood there annoyed that I was standing when I should be lounging in my hotel room.

There were eventually two take out orders on the back counter and he was even pouring drinks right over them every now and then.  Some tall men had gotten in front of me at the bar so I wasn't able to get anyone's attention. I finally got another bartender's eye and told him the situation.  He went to check and lo and behold my order was right there in one of the bags that had been sitting there for at least 20 minutes. Bah!  The food ended up being good, though, and I'd eat there again.

I had a nice night watching TV and lounging in bed.  The days leading up until the race I started to get a little nervous.  It had been a long time since I ran a marathon for a time goal.  I hadn't raced a marathon since the end of 2012. It had been a long time since I made a marathon hurt.  I was excited but I was also scared.  There's a fair bit of suffering usually when you're pushing for a time goal and I was trying to mentally wrap my brain around that type of effort.  Devon Yanko posted a blog for Oiselle entitled, "Do Not Open Until Race Day - CIM." It is the perfect read before a hard-effort race.  My favorite part: "We know there will be pain. We know it will be hard. But what I want you to also remember is that there is huge capacity for joy, for bravery."

All of that rung true for what I wanted out of this race.  I wanted to push myself to run the best I could but I also wanted to celebrate that I had made it to this starting line injury free.

The night before I set my alarm for 4:30 thinking the busses left at 5:30 am.  When I woke up at 4:30 I looked at Instagram and noticed one of my IG friends had posted an IG story from the shuttle bus pick-up.  Why in the world was he there an hour early?  Then the slow realization that I had it all wrong and the busses left at 5 am, not 5:30.  Gah.  I knew it would take a long time to load all the runners so not a huge deal, but didn't have as leisurely a morning getting ready as I had planned.

Usually when you stay at a hotel within walking distance of the shuttle pick-up there are loads of runners leaving the hotel when you head out.  When I got downstairs there was not one other runner in the lobby.  I started walking to the shuttle bus stop and not one other runner was out on the streets. I started to get a little nervous. Finally two other runners emerged from the darkness and as we got closer I saw the massive line of busses and runners and knew it was okay.

A comment here on the weather. I had a hard time deciding what to wear. I used to default to a singlet when racing but I had done all my goal pace runs in long sleeve shirts and it was shaping up to be colder at CIM than SF during training. In the end I went with the singlet for speedy vibes.  I had debated about arm warmers but had decided not to wear them. It was 100% the right call. It was supposed to be in the high 40s and it felt like it was in the mid 50s when I hopped on the bus.  It was colder up in Folsom, but even then it was chilly, not cold.

I got on a bus after about a 10-15 minute wait. The bus driver was very awake and peppy and gave us a safety talk about the bus.  First the exits, then the safety glass we could kick out, then the deal about the emergency brake up front which we could pull and bus would come to a gentle stop.  Uh.... Not sure I want to be in a situation where she wasn't the one pulling the emergency brake.  It was a little disconcerting. I think the race required it because she had someone outside the bus sign off that she had given us the talk.

We drove up to the start and while it wasn't a short drive, it was a much faster drive on the freeway vs. the windy road you take to get to the Big Sur start.  There was a beautiful full moon out. When we got to the start area another volunteer got on the bus and gave us the lay of the land. Portapotties that way, bag check this way, the start over there.  It was very helpful.  She also said we were welcome to stay on the busses as long as possible.  I think this is the only race that has this awesome perk.

I ate two honey stingers pre-race while on the bus. I did a little something different with my fueling this race. Typically I'll consume 4 gels on-course (5, 10, 15, 20 miles roughly).  For this race I had one gel pre-race right before the gun fired and then again at 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21. I'm not sure if the extra fuel had any positive effect, but I don't think it had any negative effect (at least while running, my tummy was sort of grumbly the rest of the afternoon after lunch).

After a while I figured I should head out of the bus to hit the portapotties.  The lines weren't bad at all.  Then I decided since it was chilly but not COLD I'd check my throwaways so I could use them again.  I figured I could muster shivering for 10 minutes.

This race doesn't have any controlled corrals but I lined up in-between the 3:52 pacer and the 3:42 pacer.  When the race started I realized that people had been released from both sides of the road. I was completely oblivious to the fact that there had been two sides of the road open.  The start felt congested and I had a hard time getting to my goal pace. I was passed very early on by the 3:52 pace group but I let them go.

A man running by me remarked to his friend that the "biggest hill was at mile 2."  There was a right turn and an immediate uphill grade. I'd say it was probably the steepest grade hill of the course but I'm not sure I'd consider it the biggest hill as it was fairly short and so early in the race it feels like a blip.

My average pace was above goal early on and I started putting my head down to work to get it where it should be.  I tended to run in the middle of the road and was very cognizant of the reflectors so as not to twist an ankle or trip.

I could see the 3:52 pace group up ahead.  Sometimes they opened up quite a bit of distance on me.  Like at Big Sur it was frustrating because as I settled into goal pace I didn't understand why I wasn't gaining on them.  I know pace groups are human and who knows what pace they are actually holding. But it plays with your mind a bit when you see a finish time slower than your goal up ahead in the distance (and I also knew I started in front of them).

Eventually I did come up behind the 3:52 but the pace I was moving at wasn't taking me in front of them.  A few people running by me were commenting that the pace group seemed to be going too fast which made me feel a little better.  "Well, the people who lead the groups are capable of going much faster so it's hard for them to run the slower time," a woman by me said to her friends.  Then they shouldn't be leading a pace group, I thought!

 I disliked feeling so boxed in and on a downhill portion I stepped on the gas and passed the pace group. I never saw them again.  I really dislike running in tight spaces with people and once the group was behind me, I felt like the road opened up and I felt so good. I think I passed them around mile 10.

On my Garmin I had current lap pace as the largest shown field on top, and then average pace and last lap pace on the bottom. I don't bother showing distance during time-goal races because the distances never match up and it just makes me angry.  The mile markers are all I need to know where I am on course.  I don't think this has ever happened to me before, but it was wonderful:  I thought I was coming up to mile 10 and SURPRISE! it turned out to be mile 11.  Best feeling ever. And it also shows how focused I get during time-goal races on the actual in the moment effort vs. the overall race.

One thing I changed up for race day was the water bottle I used.  I wear an Orange Mud HydraQuiver single barrel on every single one of my runs unless I am stroller running. In an attempt to decrease plastic exposure I've been running with a stainless steel water bottle the last few years.  I actually really like it because it is a bit taller than most plastic bottles and has a ring on the lid that makes it easier to grab out of the Orange Mud pack.  I always lament the fact that I am packing so much extra weight between the bottle and the water on race day.  My water strategy for race efforts is always to carry my own liquids. I don't slow or stop at aid stations unless I need to refill the bottle or supplement the water I am carrying.  I'm not sure if the extra weight or slowing to drink at aid stations costs me more time over the long run.  But I train carrying water and so am used to the luxury of drinking on demand so I continue to race this way.

My usual bottle on the left, bottle I used for the race on the right.  And I did actually weigh the two before deciding if the change-up was worth the hassle. Spoiler: Stainless steel weighs a lot more than plastic.

If I'm not pushing the pace I'll often run with a smaller bottle but for race efforts I carry a big bottle to minimize the number of times I need to refill.  The stainless steel bottle is heavier than a plastic one so I decided to use a plastic one on race day to cut down on weight.  I did not do a practice run with the plastic bottle and the first time I reached back for some water had a brief moment of panic when I thought I couldn't reach the shorter bottle.  The plastic bottle was also wider and did not have a ring I could grab on the lid like my stainless steel bottle.  So I had to both reach around a little more and grasp much more firmly with my hand to get the thing out.  But after the first few grabs I had it figured out.

I want to take a moment to comment on how I felt during the race.  Hansons has you doing weekly runs of extended marathon pace effort.  It was always a challenge to hold that pace for the distance. I was working every single week during those marathon pace runs.  As I previously mentioned, the long run for Hansons is done at the faster end of easy.  This was a pace I had to concentrate on working a little, but it was very comfortable and a fun level of exertion.  On race day my goal pace felt like my long run pace had during training.  I remember when I hit mile 11 I thought about all those horribly challenging 10 mile runs of marathon pace and I marveled at how I had just completed one of those and then some and still felt so fresh.  Taper and training magic.

Best sign I saw at the race:  "At least you aren't at work"  And yes, I thought about it and the discomfort and decided that yes, at least I wasn't at work. Ha ha.

I knew about it going in because I have told people myself that CIM has constant, unrelenting rollers for the majority of the race.  But man, they still made me angry. Up and down and up and down. I found this made it sort of hard for me to judge my pace.  Should I ease-up on the ups and allow myself to speed up on the downs?  But then my lap pace for that downhill segment seemed way too fast so should I slow down there? My average pace was pretty dead-on the entire race but I am so used to honing in on current lap pace and making that "right" and it was difficult with the ups and downs.  My Garmin clocked a 666 foot elevation gain (though there is a 994 foot elevation loss) which is close to the elevation gain seen in two loops of Golden Gate Park.  I do not consider Golden Gate Park flat.

I'll note this for myself but there was an especially long gradual uphill grade which made me irrationally angry around 14-15.  My water bottle was close to empty after the half and I pulled over at a water stop to get a refill.  Luckily a volunteer with a pitcher saw me running up to the table with my water bottle sans top in my hand and she very quickly topped me off.  I so appreciate not losing time refilling my bottle. Those steps to and away from her were the only walking steps I took the whole race.

I hit 16 miles and thought about how I hadn't run farther than this in training.  I still felt decent and just kept plugging away.  Overall I'd say the pace started to feel like work at about 18 miles and got HARD at 23.  At one point I thought for sure I had missed the mile 24 mile marker. I thought maybe like at mile 10/11 I would magically hit the mile 25 marker and it would all make sense.  But no, that mile just felt like it was 1.5 miles long.

Those last three miles were pretty rough.  My average pace which I had hoped to keep at 8:43 crept up to 8:44 on my Garmin. I started to feel like my lack of 20 milers was catching up to my poor legs. My internal monologue the last three miles was pretty much, "Oh my god, where's the finish?  Oh my god, where's the finish? Oh my god, where's the mile marker?  Oh my god, this is the longest mile ever!" When my average pace crept up a second I thought about how I have big time goals in the future and how quickly those slip away in the final miles. I also thought about how in those moments you don't even care about the finish time and just want to finish.  Finally, we took the last turns to the finish and I kicked it up as much as I could down the straightaway and crossed with a time of 3:49:58.  I squeaked under my goal time by 2 seconds!

The night before the race I reread the race reports for my last three or four marathon PRs and a common theme was that I almost hurled coming down to or after the finish.  Not to disappoint, I walked over to get my medal and was not bothered by the fact I was handed it by the volunteer as I was mildy nauseated for a minute.  A major race pet peeve of mine is when people hand you your medal instead of placing it around your neck.  I think this stems from me being from Hawaii where someone would never ever not put a lei directly on your neck themselves.

We were given water, gummies, chips, a banana and a painter jacket thing to keep us warm.  Getting my checked bag back was super quick. I didn't have anyone at the finish and didn't run with my phone.  I would have loved a photo in front of the Christmas tree and capitol but I guess that will have to wait for another year.

Some general notes about the race:  CIM is touted as being a fast course and lots of people post PRs and really great times here.  It isn't a slow course, but it also isn't slam-dunk downhill ride that pony home to the finish, either.  Personally I think people do so well at CIM not because of the actual course, but because the weather is generally very good for marathoning.  I would have liked it to be maybe 5 degrees cooler, but overall it was really perfect running weather.  Even when the sun came out it wasn't hot. I recall being worried when the sun came out that it would warm up, but I was aware my uncovered hands were still slightly chilled which means it was still fairly cool.

The up and down rolling terrain actually really ticked me off during the race and immediately after I was thinking I didn't want to run this one again for time.  But after a day of thought I decided I would rather run a rolling course in 40 degree weather vs. a flat course in 60 degree weather and I'm all signed up again for 2018.  I'll just have to train on hills and mentally prepare for the ups and downs.

Elevation per my Garmin. Up and down and up and down. Yes, mainly down but look at all those ups!

When I was pregnant we went to a birthing class and the woman said, "If a friend tells you that labor is like bad menstrual cramps, she is not your friend." (I actually would describe labor as bad menstrual cramps, but I digress)  I sort of feel the same way about CIM. I have heard people describe it as "not that hilly," and I think they are doing you a huge disservice to describe it that way. If you're a trail runner, it isn't hilly.  If you're a road runner I'd describe it as rolling. Though no Big Sur in height of hills, I actually thought to myself while running CIM, "I dub thee F*&@er, Little Big Sur," (Sorry, I get a potty brain when racing) because it just went up and down and up and down as Big Sur does in a much smaller scale.  There's never really an incline you come up to and think, "Wow, that is going to suck!" but the inclines are just enough that goal paces feels rougher.  Since most people run CIM for fast times I think the rolling terrain does make a big impact and I would not describe it as mainly downhill to anyone. If you live in a place you cannot train on hills, I would actually not recommend this one as a time-goal course.

The day of and after the race I felt like an 18-wheeler had hit me. I was so incredibly beat up.  The last time I ran CIM in 2009 I recall I was extraordinarily sore then as well.  I remember I wanted to bend down to get something out of a lower kitchen cabinet and I had to actually pause and contemplate how I was going to lower myself into kneeling.  I've run faster marathons and been less sore so I think there's something about the downhills that just gets you. So don't neglect the uphill training but also don't neglect the downhill training!

In the future I think I would try to memorize the turns on the course so I could set myself up to run the tangents.  I'm debating if I would utilize a pace group here in the future. I had a great experience with a CIM pace group in 2009 but I also really disliked when I was stuck in the pace group crowd.

I thought for a race that likes to toot its horn as being a great BQ and Olympic qualifying time course it had a strange lack of on-course clocks.  There were clocks up at only mile 13 and 20.  I'd think they'd put them up at every single mile marker.  I also really dislike that they have a relay.  If you want to say you're great for marathoning, please just concentrate on the marathon.  There's something about people jumping in who are not running the pace you are doing (whether faster or slower) that just throws me off later in the race.  Also, maybe I am just spoiled by Disney but I didn't feel as if there were tons of aid stations.  They felt pretty spaced out. I run with my own fluids so this wasn't an issue, but it was something that struck me.

The swag this year was a half-zip shirt.  Apparently this was a step up for the anniversary year.  The shirt fits really well so it is a huge bummer that the zipper is super cheap and scratchy.  It doesn't have a zipper garage so it constantly scratches my neck.  I may try to see if I can file down the pointy bits otherwise I won't be wearing it much.

We also got socks I won't be wearing and some sort of stretchy headband/wannabe-Buff thing .

My showing at CIM was my third fastest marathon. When I finished I actually thought it was my second fastest marathon, but go me, I ran another sub-3:50 that I had forgotten about.  While not a PR this race honestly felt like a PR to me.  After 5 years off from serious marathon training and racing I feel so accomplished to get through a training cycle and to execute a goal time. I have big dreams for the future and I needed to crack into the sub-4 range to prove to myself they aren't just pipe dreams.


Jen said...

Wow, 2 seconds under 3:50 - brilliant! Great job holding on to the end. I totally agree with you about the rolling hills. When I ran CIM the first time, I was better prepared, having done a lot of trail running that year. I had completely forgotten about that when I ran it in 2016. I was running flat roads all year and the hills killed my legs. Btw, I got one of those buffs from the 2012 race and it’s still one of my favorite things to wear on chilly runs.

Angela Knotts said...

I agree about the relay -- I hate it. The relayers jumping in & out & weaving across the road to get to their in/out lane really messes with my flow. I assume it's mostly to pay the bills & keep the fee low, so I try to tell myself to just tolerate them for that.

Also, I've had that same conversation with the pacers with so many people recently. You know of course that I love love love this race but the pacers in the past couple of years have apparently been horrid. (When I ran my 3:31, I only passed both the 3:38 & 3:33 pacers in the very last miles & THE last mile, which in my book is NOT good pacing.)

Rabbits' Guy said...

I'm worn out and all I did is read the report! Great going.

نور الهدى said...

شركة نقل عفش من الرياض الى الامارات
من اهم الشركات التى تقوم باعمال النقل على اعلى مستوى من خلال توفير عدد من الخدمات الاساسية المميزه التى تساعد فى الوصول الى افضل النتائج فى الحفاظ على الاثاث ضد اى تغيرات يتعرض اليها الاثاث فاذا اراد ان تقوم باعمال شركة شحن عفش من الرياض الى الاردن الى اى مكان
شركة نقل عفش بالرياض عمالة فلبينية

Cara Membuat Pupuk Organik Cair said...

you've worked hard, nice