I always had a romanticized view of running multiple marathons per season. It’s easy to do so when you have friends like Laura, who finished her 100th marathon this Fall and is just 28 years young, or friends like Gia who ran Chicago and then a few weeks later NYC. I had signed up for Marine Corps Marathon in March to run by myself and when my sister told me she wanted to run California International Marathon, I told her I would maybe run with her. Somehow that maybe turned into me convincing her–aggressively!–that we should both run it!
Now, after having completed both the Marine Corps Marathon and the California International Marathon in a matter of six weeks (and BQing at both), I know what was different than when I ran three in one year and finished the third one hating life: training. It seems simple but without having built the strength and speed I did between August and October, I would not have finished MCM as strong and consequently at CIM.
On to marathon weekend! This should be a rather lengthy post, so get comfy!
I came off of Marine Corps on such a high. I had just BQ’d for the first time, it was glorious weather, and all of my hard work paid off! Because I did perform so well, I was very excited to get to run CIM with my sister to see her BQ as well so we could run Boston ’15 together. The only problem was the fact that I did just BQ and I didn’t really feel like diving back into training. I did for a split second, and then the rest of the weeks I basically only did my long run (with lots of miles at MGP) and one speed workout a week. Approaching the CIM weekend, I wasn’t really sure what to expect only because I did slack a bit on maintaining training–I was banking on the fact that my MCM training was going to carry over into CIM’s race day.
My sister and I flew out Friday morning… One note, DO NOT PACK PEANUT BUTTER. It will get confiscated at the security and they will throw it away dramatically, connoting that you are some drug-transporting-bandit that needs to be monitored. Landed in Sacramento just around lunch time and then we headed to expo to beat the rush on Saturday (which there wasn’t really much of) and got to meet Laura finally!
—travel tip! book a Super Shuttle in advance or by the luggage carousel at the Sac airport. Fare will be $13-15 pp versus cabs charging close to $40! (Thanks to Laura for giving us heads up!—
We grabbed dinner then at Pizza Rock in downtown Sacramento because it was near the hotel we were staying at (Sheraton Grand, which conveniently was a host hotel). We were totally ready to get our carb load on and we were faced with an extra enticing challenge..our waiter doubted we’d be able to finish the pizza (made for 2-4 people) and said if we did finish it, dessert would be on the house. PSA: DON’T present a challenge to a marathoner, ESPECIALLY in eating. We WILL win. And we did. Got a few miles shake out run in and then crashed for the night for multiple reasons (early flight, lots of pizza, time difference etc).
Expo was fan•tas•tic!!! Props to SRA for putting on a well organized expo with tons of great speaking panels. My sister and I attended two, which we found to be really helpful. First one was on injury prevention and the second was tips on running CIM (two panel members had run CIM 30 times each!). At the expo, we also attended the Tweet-Up that Chris Malenab had planned! We got to meet both him and Brian Kelley (aka Pavement Runner) and won some sweet swag from nuun and Trailheads!
We were pretty much at the expo all day, there was something to do/watch almost every hour! Our hotel (Sheraton Grand) had organized a pasta dinner at the hotel which made things super easy the night before the race. We got to bed around 8 but both of us didn’t fall asleep until about 10:30 probably (nerves, room was hot, needing to pee #marathonproblems).
Again, HUGE PROPS to SRA for organizing this so well. We had a 4am wakeup call to be on the buses at 5am. We had purchased the bus ticket when we registered (only $10) which was great! They were heated and they shuttled us right to the start line. We were then allowed to stay on the buses until 15 minutes before run time–super helpful especially because it was around 22 degrees at the start. Another AMAZING highlight, they had SO many porta-potties. They even boasted at the expo having 1 porta-potty per 26 runners whereas most races have 1 for every 76! That’s HUGE. Needs no further explanation. THIRDLY, they had “angels” that literally wore angel wings and walked around with tissues, water, and vaseline before the race started!! Bag check was simple, we just handed our bags to the corresponding trucks and then walked to the start!
We started out pretty cold (22 degrees) and with the 3:30 pace group led by Jen Pfeiffer. We let her get ahead of us a little because everyone had warned us to take out the first half conservatively. Our plan was to catch up to her in the second half, maybe close to mile 20, so that we could finish strong and feeling amazing! The first 10 miles flew by. I mean they could not have felt more than 30 minutes (let me assure you they were haha). We clocked in at the half right around 1:44 which was perfect (right around 8:01 pace, perfect for getting 3:30 (Nicole’s goal).
The first half was filled with rolling hills, none that were unbearable or extremely steep, but it kept things pretty interesting. It’s rural and also goes through suburban Sacramento–not a lot of spectators but we were fine since it was new to us so it was interesting regardless. What was scary was that because it was so cold, spilled water at water stations had frozen and was really slippery! Thankfully there were people pointing out bad spots.
Funny story: around mile 4, someone approaches me from behind and says to me “MCM! You’re so inspirational!” I looked at him and said “how do you know that I ran MCM?!” then he said he reads my blog and was so inspired that I was running these two marathons so close to each other! I was in such shock that A) he picked me out in the crowd with no name on my shirt (maybe it’s the height? ) and B) that he actually reads my blog and he’s from Sacramento! Hi friend, if you’re reading! Hope you got that 3:30! You made my day!
I got a cramp in my side around mile 14 and it luckily went away. However, my stomach was just feeling gross and wasn’t very fond of taking fuel much past the half. We caught the 3:30 pace group at mile 16 and were feeling great! We cruised past and our miles 16-20 were perfectly and evenly paced – each one clocking in at 7:45. Once we got to 21 I started feeling pretty fatigued. I was only a step or two behind Nicole and took a gel reluctantly. I couldn’t really get enough energy to be able to stay with her so we ended up separating and I was so ready to be done.
Only thing that kept me going was just getting to the next mile marker. I got to 23 and said I only have 3 and a little bit left. I started thinking about a 3 mile course I’ve run in NYC to help minimize the fear of how far that was. Mile 24 was back to 8:00, 25 was 8:06, and 26 was 7:50 (somehow). I also put my gloves back on (so glad I hadn’t thrown them away) at mile 23 because I started freezing up and my legs were not moving anywhere. The finish line was amazing, loved all of the colorful flags leading to the capitol building!
I finished in 3:27:09, just about 50 seconds behind Nicole! We both were tearing up and so happy to be finished and to be running Boston 2015 together!! We both negative split the course and ran it to perfection for how we trained! So happy!
All in all, a fantastic weekend! Some funny thoughts I had that I remember now:
-Where are the palm trees..? (it was my first time in California)
-These bibs should be prettier.
-Omg hi dog!
-Whoa, the road signs here are purple! Or at least the one I saw.
-Being given a coke at the finish is probably the greatest idea ever.
-I don’t want beer at the finish, AT ALL.
-Redeye flights after marathons are not ideal in any stretch of the imagination
-Omg where is the capitol building?
-NYC spectators at bars are so much better (seriously, it was mile 26, people were lined on the sides of the course at bars and they were not cheering or doing anything! LAME)
Now, for something I haven’t done before, a little guest post from the BQer herself, my sister Nicole! Here are her thoughts on the race, on marathon running/training, and BQing!
For background, this was my 7th marathon and my fastest - 3:26. My prior PR was 3:42. For comparison, I ran my first marathon in 2005 with a time of 4:11. As someone who has been trying to BQ for a very long time it feels so crazy to have finally run a qualifying time that is so much faster than I thought possible.
On the race:
The race was extremely well organized. From the expo, to the transportation to the start, and the finish area, this race was the perfect smaller race. We were allowed to stay on the heated buses right up until start time which was a huge benefit given temps were in the 20s. Also major props to the race for having a zillion bathrooms.
The course is very fast – if executed properly. Yes, there is a net negative elevation gain, but the first half is a lot of rolling hills. Much to my surprise I preferred this to flat straightaways because it kept things interesting. While there weren’t a ton of spectators compared to some of the big east coast races, there were enough people scattered throughout at points where it felt like there was support.
Marathon running can actually be fun! What a concept! The race went by so fast and I felt really good for the majority of the race. Yes it was hard work and tiring, but I never felt awful like in previous marathons. Now I understand why some people do them more often…
It’s actually possible to not hit the wall – probably a combination of proper training, fueling and not going out too fast. Mile 26 was actually my fastest - 7:39. While I love having data and constant feedback on my pace, there is something to be said for running by feel. I had my watch set on auto splits and showing the average pace the whole time, and only looked at my watch every so often to check on my pace as opposed to analyzing each mile. This really helped take the focus off each mile and getting wrapped up in the exact pace and the number of miles left in the race.
It’s imperative to have a marathon goal pace that correlates to your training. If you go out at a pace that is faster than you can handle, you will crash and burn. Or feel like you hate running and question your reason for running marathons. This never really clicked for me in the past, but now I am a believer. We ran the first half in 1:44 and the second in 1:42 - first marathon that I have negative split.
Mental strength is hugely important and something you need to work on throughout training. Visualize your race, stay positive and believe in yourself. Pick a mantra that you can use during training and use it during the race to stay focused when things get tough.
It’s possible to have an injury free training cycle, something I did not believe until this year. I was a crazy person about injury prevention and successfully kept my runners knee and other related pains away.
I feel so lucky to have Michelle as a sister, friend and training partner. We had a great weekend together in California, despite the lack of sunshine and Palm trees (much to her dismay). Couldn’t have done this without her!! She really motivated and pushed me to have a great race. Can’t wait to run NYCM 2014 and Boston 2015 together!
Thank you SRA, fans, family and everyone who wished us goodluck and said congrats! You are all amazing and help motivate us on the daily! Much love!