Thoughts the morning of…

(Note: I wrote the following the morning of the race (before running it). I thought you might find it interesting to hear what my mindset was going into the race, followed up with the race report, which I provide further below.)

It’s 320am PST on 12/4 and CIM is only 3hrs and 40mins away.  I think I got about 4 hours of sleep – more than usual (need to fix this, some friends here have recommended Tylenol pm to assist in getting some rest the night before) – went to bed at around 730pm, slept until midnight, then have been tossing and turning until around 3am. I just got out of a hot bath, soaked my legs and warmed up a little. I’ve already gone to the bathroom once (sorry, tmi, I know), and I’m drinking my first cup of coffee now with the hopes that will trigger #2 for me (again, my apologies).

This journey has been so rewarding thus far. And I’m finally nearing the big race and I’m relaxed. I think I am as relaxed as I’ve ever been the morning of/before a marathon. I’ve put a lot of time, hard work, sacrifice, and effort going into this race.  I know a lot of people complain about the training, but I truly enjoyed it. And I will be very sad once it’s all over.

Ok, but first things first – back to pre-race routine and outstandings (my official itinerary can be viewed here).  I will eat breakfast at 4am (3hrs before the race) and it’ll consist of: 1 banana, 1 clif bar, 1 apple juice, and a bagel with honey on it.  That should top me off with my carbs (about 150g)…really hoping to fix the one, biggest problem that I had from my last marathon (foot traffic, flats in Portland), which was glycogen depletion (at mile 23). I think I’ve carbo-loaded properly for the first time, (starting 3 days out of CIM – specific carbo load plan can be viewed here) and this breakfast is a nice summation of that effort. Now, all I need to do is stick to the script and take my hammer gel every 30mins during the race (5 times in total) to avoid a mammoth bonk.  I know the 4th and 5th time will be tough for me, but I need to force myself to take in the energy.

The weather forecast has been (is) great. Winds were quite intense yesterday but all forecasts say that has died down.  All signs a go on this front – 37 degrees, sunny, 5 mile northeast winds, nothing strong at all.

My body feels great. My cardiovascular system is the most fit that it’s ever been (thanks to CIM Pfitz 18/70+ Schedule). And my legs have never been stronger. I’ve gained some much needed race experience during this training cycle via 4 tune up races, I’ve cut the alcohol consumption way down, and have eaten well/smarter (for the most part…can always improve on this front).

So, what am I expecting out of this race today?  First off, I want to enjoy it – a lot.  I want it to be an overwhelming positive experience; I didn’t fly all the way out here to bonk badly at the end. I want to look back on this trip and smile about these times.  Secondly, I want to get that sub-3.  Not only for myself, but also for all my supporters, who’ve stuck by me during the good and the bad.  Personally, it’s also a nod to all of my hard work this year, and a confirmation of how wonderful of a running year I’ve had. I know I will be extremely lucky if I can accomplish this sub-3 goal now…so soon with only 4 to 5 months of reaching for it.

Thirdly, a boston qualifier, at the end of the day, is what I’ve had my eyes set on for a couple years now.  It feels like only a while ago that the idea of running 3:05 to 3:10 seems so remarkably unattainable and impossible for me (first marathon just under 4 hrs). But it goes to show how hard work and will power can change realities (and/or the perception there of). I think I’m competent and disciplined in this department and now it’s time to prove that to everyone…and more importantly to myself.

Am I nervous? Of course. I have a lot vested in this race.  That pit in my stomach is very much there and I can feel is as I write these words.  But there is a calm over me right now, which is very nice (and unusual). It’s almost like I know what I’m capable of, now I just need to go out and do it. It’s not like I’m stretching for an impossible goal and preparing last min for it. It’s attainable; soon I’m going to find out how badly I want it. It’s not going to be easy. And I shouldn’t be discouraged if I don’t get it this time. Because I will, I know I will.  Dig deep, show them what you’re made of…

And, now for the post race report (which I write in my seat on my flight back to Honolulu) to continue on from where I left (above).

A couple of runner’s world online forum friends (AlohaStateRunner, Rachellera, Tigers84) and I hopped on the bus from the hotel (Sheraton grand) to folsom (start line) at around 520am.  It was quite cold outside so it was really nice to be in a warm school bus heading out to the start. We were all shocked how long it took to get out to folsom – about 40 mins. If I could do it over again, I would’ve lined up for the bus right at 5am, because by the time the bus got to the start and parked it was around 620am (40 mins prior to start).  This didn’t give me enough time to use the restroom, warm up, check in my bag and toe the line.

me, joel, rachel waiting in line for the bus

Quick note on my gear (full packing list can be viewed here – good for oversea marathons) – after much debate and discussion I went with: race singlet, shorts, arm warmers, throwaway gloves. On top of this outfit, to stay warm I had on: throwaway sweat pants, throwaway sweater, and a windbreaker jacket that I checked in.  I also carried an 8oz water bottle in one hand and my gel flask (with approx. 5 gels within) in the other hand.  The water bottle was a wonderful idea because of the massive congestion on the first several water stations.  I was able to avoid all of that, get my gels in when I needed to.  I was so comfortable with the bottle that I ended up holding on to it right up until around the half way mark.  many thanks to ljshore for the help here – I was warm, comfortable, and felt appropriately dressed and prepared. I chucked the sweatpants moments before the gun went off, and I ran the first 2 miles or so with the throwaway sweater before pealing it off and leaving it with a spectator.

I can’t rave enough about greg maclin’s custom cim pace band and how accurate and helpful it was in my race. Based off of an even effort strategy, it took all of the guess work out of the equation for me (who has never run/trained on the course before). It really was my compass through the entire race and I felt it was even more accurate than the 3:00 clif pace leader/team, who I kept in my sights through the first 20m.

After getting off the bus I went right for the restrooms (mile long porter potties were much appreciated…didn’t have to wait longer than 60 secs for one), then popped 2 imodium tablets to take care of my GI woes (works like a charm for me now). At that point it was around 640am, so I got about 5 mins or so of warm up – right around the start time – got a few stretches in, pee one last time (in a bush), then the national anthem started blaring and the gun went off right at 7am (very smooth, well organized start).

with fellow hawaii runner and friend, weslie, before the start

freezing my ace off pre-race!

My goal time/pace: 2:59:00 (6:50/mile). Race strategy = even effort.  Conservative first half to combat the slow rollers up and down, shoot to hit the half at/around 1:29:00, which gives me 1 min positive split to the end.  Keep mpr from 13.1 through 20.0, then the last 10k either: hold on for dear life, or drop the hammer, stop looking at the garmin, and just race.

...and we're off!

Mile 1 – 3:

1 – 6:53

2 – 6:50

3 – 6:38

Made a very conscious effort not to go out too fast on mile 1, would’ve been really easy to since it’s majority down hill for the first.  The air was cool, I was cold (wimp coming in from Hawaii) and I remember already being concerned about my legs cramping.  I chuck my throw away sweater between mile 1 and 2; adjust my arm warmers, and start the up and down, up and down…

Mile 4 – 6:

4 – 6:42

5 – 6:43

6 – 6:46

1st swig (24g carbs per) of my hammer gel after mile 4.  Hamstrings are tightening up and I am starting to freak out a bit.  Note on race outfit: I would’ve been more comfortable in short compression tights under the race shorts (Tigers84 was smart enough to do this), think it would’ve helped keep my thighs warm and less exposed to the cool air than just running shorts.  No sun out yet, legs/body feels cold.  But I’m breathing easy and relaxed.  There’s a sea of runners pooled around the 3:00 pace leader. Massive CF at the water stations, god send of a water bottle in my left hand.  I offer my water to a couple other runners who miss fluids completely (and are pissed).  They accept and thank me profusely.

Mile 7 – 9:

7 – 6:56

8 – 6:49

9 – 6:59

Mile 7 was harder than maclin forecasted (6:45), don’t remember why. I’m making a very concerted effort to slow on the uphill and increase speed a bit on the downhill – particularly given my legs feeling tight.  Didn’t know if I was going to lock up at any moment, uphill felt like most likely time when it would happen. Tried to focus on the positives (mpr felt easy still) and hope for the best. 2nd swig of hammer gel somewhere between mile 8 and 9 (around 1 hr mark). Mile 9 is the toughest mile because majority of the time is spent uphill.  Maclin had me running 7:03, I ran it 4 secs faster.

Mile 10 – 12:

10 – 6:45

11 – 6:40

12 – 6:42

Somewhere within this stretch the sun starts to creep out and it’s now starting to hit my body and it feels good.  Definitely contributes to my legs warming up a little more, less straining feeling that bothered me to this point. The splits I think reflect a stronger rhythm I gain because of this. No stomach issues thus far, which I’m thankful for.  Taking in water every 2 miles or so.  During mile 12 I ditch my water bottle that took me very comfortably through the majority of the first half of the race.

Half 13.1 – Mile 15:

Half – 1:29:17

13 – 6:49

14 – 6:46

15 – 6:56

Pass the half mark just seconds behind the clif pace leader and the sea of marathoners shooting for sub-3.  17 secs behind goal half time.  I miss all fluids around the half water station, curse my luck and take 3rd swing of gel without any water.  Gross, and stomach turns a bit.  Anxious for next water station; meanwhile, missing my water bottle and thinking whether or not I made a tragic mistake (bottle still had ¼ of water left in it).

Mile 16 – 18:

16 – 6:47

17 – 6:47

18 – 6:51

I get a small water bottle at mile 16 and take a deep sip, thank the water gods, and take a 4th, shorter swig of gel.  Legs no longer feel tight, I’m breathing easy, and I’m feeling fresh.  Several other runners start straining at this point, breathing heavy, and at/around mile 18 they slowly (quietly) start to drop off.  Terrain is net downhill at this point and it feels good and easy (relative to rollers in first half) on my body.  Trying to stay focused and looking forward to mile 20 marker.

Mile 19 – 20:

19 – 6:49

20 – 6:53

sub-3 clif bar pace group

Mile 19 was tough, took more effort to keep pace.  Just when I get a taste for the first time that sub-3 might actually be possible things become more difficult.  I start freaking out, looking at my pace band continuously but I’m having difficulty reading the paces and elapsed time because things are getting blurry. As I pass the mile 19 marker a volunteer screams out, “2:58 finish time pace, let’s go!” Holly crap.

Take a 5th swig of gel at the beginning of mile 20.  Legs feel like they’re filling up with lead.  Much more grunting, heavy breathing, and cursing going on around the group. I remind myself to stay calm, run my race and stick to my strategy. Guy next to me is really hurting, his hammy is tightening up real fast and he’s cursing every 15 or so secs.  Not to bask off of someone else is pain/misfortune, but I think observing this runner’s difficulty allowed me to gain perspective at this point in the race and be thankful for my current conditions.  With that things just started quickly feeling lighter, better and more effortless.

I knew right went I crossed the infamous mile 20 marker I would experience no wall. In fact, I felt very fresh suddenly (relatively speaking of course) and knew I would be able to turn it up a few dials for the last 10k. I remember thinking my fueling strategy might have paid off for me finally.  I was also feeling very confident that sub-3 was in my midst at this point.  I am beyond excited, 10k left!! So much so that I say adios to the 3:00 clif pace team right at the beginning of mile 21 and venture out on my own for the first time in the race.

Last 10k (6.2):

21 – 6:41

22 – 6:39

I think that confident translating into this pace. Clearly I got carried away a bit during 21 and 22. Still feeling great, appreciating the sun hitting my legs/body, and I remember thinking, “I got this, don’t you f-in’ mess this up now!”  I chuck my throwaway gloves with excitement.  There’s a small bridge overpass somewhere here and I remember reading it was the last “hill” until the end.  I blast right through it without flinching.

23 – 6:49

24 – 6:48

Tucked back into mpr for 23 and 24, think I felt those 2 faster miles in my stomach, which started “burping” a little here. I was uncomfortable, but not a show stopper, thankfully.  I was really starting to pass slowing runners regularly at this point. I respectfully passed them and thought my stomach discomfort was nothing compared to what they were dealing with.

25 – 6:35

26 – 6:36

.2 – 5:57

This last stretch was really special for me.  At this point I knew I would achieve my goal and therefore I just dropped the hammer and really started digging hard. Between 25 and 26 I got a little emotional, thinking about all of those long Sunday morning runs, those hard tempos, and the countless other sacrifices I made to put myself in this very situation that I had been dreaming about for some time now. I really pushed it here – maybe a little too hard, lucky I didn’t do something stupid like blow a hammy – but I didn’t want any regrets or “what if’s”.  I needed to know I pushed hard and gave it my all until the finish.

enjoying myself the last 10k!

Funny moment b/ 25 and 26 – guy dressed like Jesus was holding up a sign: “The end is near”.  It got me laughing so hard I started choking a bit.  Definitely best (most timely) sign of the marathon for me.

I lined up next to a very nice man through the last stretch, and he was hurting bad, so we paced together until the very last bend (two sharp left turns), then I blasted home through the finish line.

one of the greatest moments of my life

Final Time:

2:58:15 (6:46 pace)

  • 14+ min PR
  • 1st ever BQ (2013 here I come!); 6th marathon complete
  • Negative split (first time ever) by 15 seconds (first = 1:29:17; second = 1:29:02).  I think I left a little time on the course (there is always a next time, but possibly never as good weather as this year!)

mission accomplished!!

Through the help of all of you on RWOL, CIM vets as well as my running group back home (Sunny Doom, what what!) I really felt I planned then executed a sound CIM race strategy.  I remember someone here on RWOL comparing running your successful marathon to baking a perfect cake – it takes the right ingredients, time, preparation, etc.  One of my first thoughts after crossing the finish line was exactly that – the stars really aligned for me on this one, and I was (am) extremely grateful.

After getting my medal I walked over to a quiet, grassy lawn on the side, and with the sun hitting my face I wept like a little baby for a couple minutes.  I reflected on the race, the tough 18 weeks prior, and the years before during which I would marvel about what it must feel like to be/say you’re a sub-3 marathoner.  I’m honored and humbled to now be able to join this circle of runners.

2011 cim finisher!

Several of us RWOL runners (ASR, Rachellera, Tigers84, BarbBQ, GoalChaser, etc) celebrated afterwards at Pyramid Alehouse…drinking beer and eating red meat (then drinking more beer)!  Great times, thanks for your support – I sincerely appreciate it.  Thanks for reading, and happy running!

here is my garmin read as well: