Race Report: 2009 California International Marathon

I don’t really know how I feel about this race. On the one hand, I PRd by an hour (2 years later but still), on the other, I fell quite short of my goal. On the one hand, I ran a far slower race than I’m capable but on the other I toughed out an entire marathon without walking in what I felt were bad conditions when I wanted to quit at mile 9. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I picked up my packet on Friday with no drama. The expo was next door to my office so I was in and out in roughly 20 minutes (and that includes chatting up some booths and walking around. I came home, ate carbs and went to sleep really early– maybe 9:30? I had a great sleep and woke up on Saturday ready to relax and hang out. I actually ended up back at the expo on Friday and had lunch with JackAlberto and his wife. I visited Aron and then we saw Tara, Martiza, Danica and Nicole and just took it easy. It was great– I felt relaxed, rested and ready to go. Maybe a little emotional but ready to go. I fell asleep by 8:30 and slept really well.

I woke up around 3:30 because I was just so excited that the race was finally here! I forced myself to stay in bed until 4:10 but then quickly went about eating, getting dressed and driving to the buses. The ride to the start was great– my roommate and I chatted with 2 really nice guys who work for Nike in Portland (and um, see Kara Goucher all the time which I took as a great omen) and the ride flew by. I knew it was cold but I felt ok at this point. All my systems were firing and I was excited.

I lined up, found Aron at the start (like we do) and was ready to go. I got a little emotional when they sent us on our way but I quickly reminded myself to save my energy and run hard. I fell into marathon pace really easily and felt awesome. Miles 1-5 flew by and I actually had some time in the bank. I was feeling great and then we made the turn from Oak Ave onto Fair Oaks and well… I lost my will to live. Or at least run fast.

Suddenly I was facing a headwind and I was absolutely freezing. Normally I’m a hot runner (not you know, like Julia Roberts would be a hot runner, temperature hot. As in I sweat like a linebacker) but I was absolutely freezing and the wind made me feel like I was running naked. I figured I’d ditch my arm warmers and gloves by mile 3 but I was so cold that when I saw other people’s throw away clothes on the side of the road, I wanted to put them on!  I got so cold that I tensed up and just couldn’t turn my legs over. I don’t know how to explain it other than my legs felt heavy and I couldn’t move– it was like there were bricks on my shoes. My marathon nightmare come true.

First the 3:45 pace group passed me which was depressing but not a disaster but then around mile 10 the 3:50 group passed me. I was not pleased. Mile 10 is usually my favorite (it’s so cute and the crowds are awesome) but this year I was just dying. My lungs were burning from the cold air and I felt absolutely crappy. Just awful. My friend Liz passed me and was trying to chat but I just sort of nodded and felt sad and then my roommate passed me and I just kind of glared at her. I wasn’t mad she was faster, I was just in my own world and so, so cold and miserable.

Around mile 9 I started thinking about quitting. Nothing was clicking, I felt terrible and my time goal was long gone. I’ve always kind of made fun of people who run races for the medal (I mean, everyone gets one, it’s not like you WIN) but I knew I had to finish the race and get that stupid thing. Plus, I figured I’d be warmer running than waiting for medical to take me (as it turns out I was right, more on this later). Also, I am not a quitter. Athletes in my family do not quit. We don’t. We just don’t.

I kept motoring and telling myself, “these splits are not that tragic, you’re doing fine, don’t worry. These splits aren’t that tragic, you’re ok.” It was a lie and I knew it, but it kept me going. Around mile 14 I ran into the guy I puked in front of two years ago. I was basically on the verge of tears and really, really wanted to stop running. He grabbed my hand and ran with me for a few hundred yards and told me to keep my shoulders relaxed, arms low and turnover quick. He told me I looked great and would have a great race. All lies, but it was exactly what I needed to harden up and keep running.

At this point I told myself that I was to keep running and then at mile 21 I’d have a conversation with myself about maybe walking or slowing down or quitting. Miles 14-21 were actually my favorite in the race. I don’t know what exactly about them I liked, and calling it fun would be a stretch at best, but I was being a tough runner. Just keeping the legs going. I think I remembered how tragic these miles were last time and I was grateful that although I was having a terrible day, I still felt better than I did 2 years ago! The whole time I was running I kept repeating to myself, “oh marathon, you are a cruel mistress. Tempting and beautiful but so cruel.” Which is kind of funny because that is so not how I talk! I saw a bunch of the elite athletes at the medical station at mile 18 which lead me to believe I was not the only one having a bad day (and the reason I think running to the finish really was faster). I knew once I got to the bridge at J street I’d be ok– I run those streets all the time and feel a kind of ownership over East Sac (I do my quality workouts over there so feeling pain on those streets is not new).

I finally broke through miles 20 and 21 and knew I was going to make it. I was doing math in my head and figured that as long as I ran 10 minute miles I’d come in under 4 hours (side note: a marathon is 26.2 miles and if your garmin is .2 short a sister should keep that in mind!) and be happy-ish. At this point I kept repeating what my friend Andre said to me, “some will break and walk, but it won’t be you.” I just kept repeating to myself, “it won’t be you.” And it wasn’t. Although I was running a much slower pace than I wanted I was still running, still putting one foot in front of the other and still had most of my wits (other than the inability to do math).

When I got to the grid (the streets descend from 59th to 7th streets) I kept telling myself, “get to 23.5 and we’ll talk about maybe taking a break” or, “I wonder what would happen if you ran to 40th?” When I got to 40th, “I wonder what would happen if I ran to 30th?” I think you get the point. I finally got to mile 25 and was just relieved. I wasn’t happy or pleased with myself, just ready to be done.

I tried to soak in the last mile and enjoy the awesome crowds but I was so tired and so sad that it was hard. I did encourage one guy to start running again by shaming his Livestrong T-shirt wearing self by saying, “would Lance walk?” so that was a victory. I figured if I was going to be slow I may as well help others not be!

I finally crossed the finish line in what, according to my watch was 3:59:58 so I’m going with it, and just started bawling. I was a little dehydrated so there weren’t any tears, but I was crying! I bent over and had myself a little cry and tried to regain composure. When I saw my mom I walked over and said, “I just want my mommy” and hugged her. I’m really, really close to my mom (think Gilmore Girls) but I’m not mushy like that but in that moment all I wanted was my mommy and to cry. So I did. Then I saw Katie and got a big hug which I loved and needed. I don’t know why I was crying– I’m bummed about my time but I’m not devastated. I actually thought, “child hunger, war in Afghanistan and military widows. These are things worth crying about. A sub-4 hour marathon is not.” Which is dramatic, but in that moment the perspective I needed. And it has the added bonus of being true.

The thing that is the worst and most frustrating is that I feel pretty good. My shins are a little sore and I’m tired but overall I am not sore. My quads, calves, IT bands, toes, etc are all fine. I just feel like I went on a long run. A really long, cold and miserable long run but a long run. I don’t think I’m going to be very sore and that’s sad. I think I just never recovered from the wind and the cold and I’m going to bed tonight knowing that I was the best runner I could be today. I don’t think I went mental or sandbagged or wimped out– it simply wasn’t my day to hit that 3:40. And that’s ok. There will be other marathons (I love that I said I was going to retire when I finished but 3 hours later I’m trying to see if I can be in shape for the LA Marathon) and I will run 3:40 sooner rather than later. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll focus on speed and enter some grown up track meets and run the 800 or do a triathlon or trail run or take up adventure races.

I just know that right now I’m sitting in my bed drinking a lovely glass of Oregon Pinot made by my brother and that my friends and family love me just as much now as they did this morning. Maybe more. My mom and my brother were adorable and said the exact perfect things and my girl Aron, who understands my pain more than anyone (PS. go read her race report. I honestly could not be more proud and get teary just thinking about it) also helped soothe my wounds. I am still a runner.

I don’t know what’s next. Jack (who also missed his goal which makes me feel better although I am so very proud of him for being the best coach and best runner I know plus a very good friend) has mandated 10 days of no exercise and 2 weeks of no running. I’m going to regroup, enjoy Christmas and remember that running is only one piece of what makes me, me. Today’s race was one race in a lifetime of races and I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I also took SIXTY minutes off of my time from two years ago. SIXTY. ONE HOUR.

So thanks again to everyone for your love and support. I really did think of all of you pulling for me, encouraging me and thinking about me while I was out there and it made a huge difference. And who knows what kind of trouble I’ll get myself into next… http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=42029bd47c&view=att&th=125672dacde18cdd&attid=0.2&disp=inline&zw


Jack and I being sad about our times

At the finish. Not crying anymore.


17 responses to “Race Report: 2009 California International Marathon

  1. This race was like your dissertation. It’s a big accomplishment, but not the best thing you’ll ever do, and the process is more important for preparing you to do even better in the future. Ok, it’s not really like a dissertation because it involved getting off your ass and taking care of your body instead of making it age 4 times as fast, but hopefully you see my point.

  2. Also, all that time off from running and even exercising?! That sounds like it’s gonna be harder for you than Jack Daniels.

  3. A sub-4 marathon is still something to be proud of. Like you said, you could’ve quit, you could’ve walked, you could’ve slipped into the medical tent…but you didn’t! You were tough when things got hairy at mile 10.

    I know you are disappointed because you didn’t meet your time goal, but I think your experience will help you a lot in the future.

    Happy recovery to you. You’ll be back, and the 3:40 will be yours one day, I just know it!

  4. trust Lam he knows what he is talking about 🙂

    wow do I know exactly what you are going through, this totally made my cry because I know these exact emotions. Those days when your legs just will NOT move any faster no matter hard you want them to… they are the toughest. I know fighting through and finishing a marathon you really want to quit in (especially early, I have been there) is SO hard and such an accomplishment in itself. You are a fighter girl, you don’t quit, you push hard and you made it through that finish line in under 4 hours. I know it will be hard to see right now, but you will look back on that race someday and be proud of it (not that you aren’t now, just a different proud). SIXTY minutes is so freaking huge. CONGRATS again girl. You most definitely are a runner and an AMAZING one at that!

    Love you girl, recover, rest, enjoy the holidays and can’t wait to see what is next for you. Let me know if you need a course support person at LA 🙂

  5. There are good races and there are bad races. No matter what, you tried as hard as you could even though it was hurting. Your day will come! Congrats on your awesome improvement!

  6. A sub 4 marathon is a HUGE accomplishment! Taking AN HOUR off your previous time is HUGE!!! Do you know what I would give to do both of those running a marathon! My fastest marathon was 5:20!! I’ll take your sub 4!

    I know you’re upset about not getting your BQ! You will reach that 3:40 time! Yes you will! Yesterday the weather sucked for you! there is absolutely nothing you can do about it! Some of the BEST athletes, Paula Radcliffe, have shitty crappy races-and they’ve dropped out! YOU didn’t do that! You stuck with it and pushed yourself and still got a sub-4. Did I say that I’d kill for your sub 4!!

    Be proud! Be VERY proud! You will look back on this race -it might even be one of your favorites because of what you had to overcome!!!


  7. You did so great yesterday Amy! 🙂 I’m so proud of you and how far you’ve come and I KNOW you will get that 3:40 sooner rather than later. 🙂

    Keep up the great work! You are such an inspiration to me and make me want to work harder and harder to reach my goals. I couldn’t have done my first one without you. You are the BEST!


  8. I am really proud of you, don’t forget that you did awesome! Those conditions were brutal and you slugged through and didn’t walk! Your BQ is in your near future! I think LA would be awesome!

  9. Great job! You should be proud of PRing by an HOUR!

  10. Liked your report. Congrats on a sub 4 hour marathon. That’s an accomplishment!

  11. WOW, for some reason I did not realize this was only your SECOND marathon! I can’t believe it! That’s amazing that you PRed by so much and especially in those temperatures. Running in the cold is the WORST.

    You’ll get your BQ! I think that this report is awesome btw, you have a great attitude about everything!

  12. I firmly believe that the hard races are what make us better runners….the races where everything goes wrong, the ones that hurt, the ones that are cold and sucky, that make us grit our teeth for next time and make the revenge sweet. You know you are a great runner, who put in some incredible training and PRed by a longshot. You have so much to be proud of.

    And as you said yourself, there is so much more ahead of you. You, my dear, are awesome. ❤

  13. I’m sorry that the race didn’t go as planned for you but I’m glad you’re doing okay with it! Ironically, we probably finished around the same time…my chip time was 3:59:40, although you were probably ahead of me in gun time. I obviously had different objectives than you (and I’m more than a few years older), so I was thrilled with my time! It was cold, though, wasn’t it!

  14. I also wanted to add that although this might not have been the race report you wanted to write, it was very moving and enjoyable to read. You have a great way of expressing yourself.

  15. girl, congrats on another marathon! be proud of yourself and your accomplishment. running the whole way without walking and *hello* a one-hour improvement!!

    i walked in my first marathon so my goal in my 2nd was to not-walk. well i ran the whole thing and only beat my 1st-marathon by like a minute! ONE MINUTE! and here you go with an hour 🙂 also, it took me like 5 tries to get that elusive 3:40 so keep your head up, your day will come. continue to grow and better yourself as a person and a runner – it will come and it will be glorious!

    enjoy some rest time!!

  16. Congrats on the sub-4 hour PR!!

    I would love to be able to run 26.2 in under 4-hours and, trust me, that’s one of my goals for 2010.

    CIM is not this “super easy downhill” marathon and the rolling hills are killer. Everyone did a great job out there on Sunday and you should be very proud of running a sub-4 (not too many people can say they’ve run a sub-4).

    All the best,


  17. What a great RR – I found myself running right there beside you and felt your frustration for sure! You are an incredible athlete and you gotta be proud of yourself for sticking it out! That’s no time to sneeze at and I KNOW you’ll crank out that 3:40 in no time at all! Congrats, girl!!!!!! You deserved that medal for sure!

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