I signed up for the California International Marathon because I wanted something to train for this fall, but I also wanted a break from triathlon. Let me say that again:  I signed up for a marathon because I wanted a break. I think there is something wrong with me. 😉 I have definitely enjoyed focusing on running for the last few months. And it has been a nice break from triathlon training (“just” running takes so much less time!)

Before yesterday, the only marathon I had ever run in my life was at the end of an Ironman. I was interested to see how “just a marathon” compared to a marathon after 7 hours of swimming and biking. Everyone I’ve talked to who has done both says that the stand-alone marathon is harder. That didn’t seem to make sense, but after yesterday I am going to agree with them. (So, all you marathon runners out there, you have no excuse not to do an Ironman!)

The day before the race, I drove to Sacramento with my fiance and some friends. One of the main topics of conversation during the trip was race day weather. The air temperature was predicted to be in the mid- to high-20s at the start, and only warm up to the 30s by the time we were done. That is COLD for us Coastal Californians. So, after hitting the expo to check in (and buy some last minute necessities – like a new pair of tights for me), we went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day debating the specifics of our race day wardrobes. OK, so that’s not all we talked about, but it was definitely a dominant topic of conversation. (The air temp never got above freezing the entire race. About halfway through the marathon, I saw a guy running with no shirt. When another runner commented that he was brave, he replied with, “no, just stupid”)

CIM is a point-to-point marathon. Our hotel was near the finish, so on race morning we took a bus to the start line. It seemed like that bus ride took forever… but at least we didn’t have to run the whole way back… oh, wait… 🙂 I won’t bore you with many details from race morning, but I am thankful for the following:  300 port-a-potties, a school bus with a heater, and warm sweats.

Jason, Kevin, Paul, Greg and I… trying to keep warm before the start!

My race plan for the marathon was to go out slightly slower than my goal pace, and gradually speed up the rest of the race. At the start, I found the 3:15 pace group, and decided to hang with them for a little bit. They were running faster than I had planned, but it felt SO easy!

For the first half, I enjoyed everything. The 3:15 pace group leader was awesome (he even pointed out patches of ice for us), the energy of the spectators was awesome, and the other runners were encouraging.

I went through the half marathon in 1:37:40. I knew it was too fast, but I still felt good. In the next few miles, that feeling started fading. By mile 18-20, I had fallen off my goal pace. The last 10k was incredibly hard:  it reminded me very much of my marathon at Ironman CdA. The big difference was that in my Ironman, I allowed myself to stop and walk quite a bit during the second half. This time was going to be different: no walking. At times, it was a mental challenge just to keep going. Walking was very tempting, but I knew that walking would only make it take even longer to reach the finish. So I kept running… one mile at a time… one step at a time…

I crossed the finish line in 3:24:24, and I was honestly somewhat disappointed. I had missed my goal time by quite a bit, and the race had been much harder than I was counting on. I stumbled around for a while on tired legs, collecting calories, warm clothes, and friends. Then it was back to the hotel for a warm shower and some hot chocolate Fluid Recovery (which totally hit the spot).

Happy to be done!

I always seem to learn a lot from these longer races, and CIM was no different. Here are a few lessons I learned this time around:

  • Stick to your race plan, no matter how good you feel at the beginning. The first half marathon is almost always going to feel easy, but you will pay for it later if you go out too fast. (This is the second time I’ve “learned” this lesson… one of these days it’ll stick!)
  • No matter how hard it is to run at the end of a marathon, it will be just as hard if you start walking. You might as well just run!
  • Carrying your own nutrition for a marathon is not very hard, and can make a big difference. (I loved having a bottle of Fluid with me for CIM. It was a million times better than relying on the watered-down sports drink at the aid stations).
  • Your mind is capable of incredible things. Keep the positive self-talk going, and it will make a big difference.

Congrats to my fiance and my friends who finished CIM in personal best times: Greg Scott, Jason Blank, Paul Kronser, and Kevin McGinn (paced by Dusty Davis).

Huge thanks to Champion System apparel, Scott running shoes, Tri Running, Fluid Sports Nutrition, Garmin, and Tifosi Optics for the support this year. Also, thanks to Alisa Benson for coaching me. I’m looking forward to 2014!!