What an amazing experience yesterday was! You've probably already seen my posts on facebook, so you know I finished. I'll give a little more detailed account of how it went for those who are interested.
I was up at 3:30AM as Sunny picked up Kim and me to take us to the shuttle bus that was to leave at 5AM. Surprisingly, I slept fairly well. I didn't even think about the race when I went to bed the night before--I guess I'd obsessed so much about it in the weeks previous I'd gotten it out of my system. I was wide awake the second the alarm went off and very excited about the day. The bus took us right to the start line, and we were able to sit there for a while before getting in line for the port-a-potties and then get in the mass of 10,000 or so people at the start line. We'd gotten warm-up clothes at the thrift store, and I took them off right before the gun went off. I was glad I did, because I warm up really fast and the temperature felt perfect by the end of our first run interval.
We had set up a pace schedule that had us gradually fading every 5-6 miles. I felt awesome and kept to that schedule for probably the first 8 or 9 miles (Kim used his Garmin watch for the pacing and interval timing so I can only guess. then we hit some hills in Fair Oaks and although they weren't as hard as they would have been a few months ago, they did slow me down and by the halfway mark I was already behind the pace. I decided to not obsess about it and just do the best I could.
I didn't have any real problems on the course, My right calf wanted to cramp for a while so I had to stop and stretch a couple times, but it worked itself out. I felt a little nauseous a couple times, but I talked myself out of it. In fact, whenever Kim and I weren't talking, I had a near-constant internal dialogue going. "This is f*ing hard" "It's fine. you trained for this. You can do it." "Maybe this is too hard for me. Maybe this was too much to take on." "Nope. You're strong. Just keep going."
When we hit the 20 mile mark, traditionally called The Wall because that's where a lot of people completely run out of energy due to the body's inability to store fuel for much longer than that (or something like that), I still felt really good. I was really happy to still be as strong as I was at that point, especially after my disheartening performance in the Clarksburg 20. My average pace at that point was about 45 seconds faster than Clarksburg and I hit that point 15 minutes earlier. That was a good confidence booster, and I only had 6.2 miles to go.
I did end up starting to get really tired around the 22 or 23 mile mark, and the last two miles were really hard. I had blisters and they hurt and my legs were just tired and didn't want to go anymore. However, one thing I'm really proud of (of many) is that the whole day we only skipped one run interval and didn't cut any short other than to walk for fuel/hydration, and that doesn't count because it's important to do that. At both Clarksburg and Urban Cow, I had to walk a lot the last few miles. So that was a huge improvement on a much longer run. This was one of my goals for this race so I was really happy to accomplish that.
There were spectators all along the way, holding signs, cheering, ringing cowbells. Two of our relay team members, Paul and Grace, were able to wait after their leg to cheer us on as we passed, two of my students met us near Sac State with a coconut water for Kim and a sign saying "Go Jennifer go!" and lots of other people shouted encouragement, and that was really cool. There's a lot of camaraderie on a race...people tell each other "good job! keep going!" etc. I love it. One guy even recognized us from running on the American River Parkway, so that was kind of funny. And being met at the end by Dana, Cathy, and Grace with hugs and congratulations was a sweet, sweet ending.
Some people report this course as being pretty flat. That is a lie. However, the hills are not too bad. Most of them are rolling. The steepest one is not long and it's right at the beginning. The longest one, near San Juan on Fair Oaks, is pretty long but not overly steep. Once you hit the halfway mark, the inclines are very gentle and there's a lot of downhill. The last hill is the H street bridge, and it's not even that bad.
There were plenty of aid stations that had water, nuun electrolyte replacement, and about every third one had Gu energy gel (which I used in training a lot) and oranges and bananas. Some had brownie bites, which Kim was all over, but I stuck to gel and fruit. I drank and ate at every opportunity to do so. I carried my water belt but only needed it a couple times.
We ended with an official official pace of 14:30, 45 seconds slower than what we'd hoped for, but we got in before they reopened the course so we didn't get pushed onto the sidewalk and I got my medal. It took 6:20:04...which is a long time to be on your feet and running!
I totally bawled at the end...a combination of exhaustion, relief it was over, immense pride in my accomplishment, and the outpouring of love and support from my teammates. That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and having that support system made a HUGE difference. Kim sacrificed his own training and goals to hang with me through the long runs and stay with me every step of the way on the big event. Having a group of people, or even one, to whom you've made a commitment to be at a certain place at a certain time to run is great motivation to get out there and do it.
I have to say, too, that another thing I'm proud of is this was not just about my efforts yesterday. It was a six month commitment of running three days a week and cross-training 1-3 additional days. I didn't miss a single run because I "didn't feel like" it, although I missed some due to illness or injury. Again, having that accountability of the group helped a lot. Knowing I'd told the whole world I was doing this marathon and not wanting to tell everyone I'd failed helped make sure I followed through, too (shame works well on me). Being self employed helped a lot, too, because I have a flexible schedule. However, I did get behind in my work because of it and that was not good.
Looking back at my first post on this blog, here are the reasons I gave for embarking on this journey:
1. Because I didn't think I could, and that pisses me off so I need to go do it.
2. To do something that supposedly less than 1% of people have done. How cool is that?
3. So the next time some slimeball looks me up and down and suggests I need his personal training in his home gym, I can say, "Screw you. I ran a marathon."
4. To improve my cardiovascular fitness, especially for dancing.
5. To lose some weight.
6. To get myself on a regular exercise regimen
I did all those things, although I didn't really lose any weight. Maybe a pound or two, and I definitely feel leaner and my clothes fit a little better. Guess I'll have to start watching what I eat if I want to do that.
So, that's it. This particular journey is at an end. Will I keep running? Yes. Will I run more races? Heck yes. I don't know for sure yet if I'll do CIM again next year, but right now I'm really leaning toward it because I want to improve my performance. If I did this well with only 6 months of training from practically ground zero, how will I do when I start at a higher level? The time commitment is huge, so that's a mitigating factor. We'll see.
Regardless, I don't know if I'll continue this blog unless I use it to review races. I've disconnected Daily Mile from facebook so it won't keep posting my updates, but I'll still log workouts there. I'm still in my facebook running group, the current challenge for which is "135 miles til Christmas." I'm at 245...BOOM.
Thank you for following my journey. You've all been amazing!