Saturday, December 12, 2009

California International Marathon - Race Report

Exciting, chilling, painful, hilarious, and most of all - fun!

I left work friday, picked up the rest of Team Galvan and went straight to the expo. Exciting stuff to me : I got my bib, shirt, etc. Maybe exciting to you, I met Bart Yasso and discussed his past mullet (Power Mullet actually, don't believe me? Check out the current issue of Runner's World)

Saturday CIM Expo again Fleet Feet Sacto and of course - Spaghetti Factory,  I met a few twitter-ers. That sounded lame! I met both Greg and Kyndra, follow them in the twitterverse by clicking those links. I saw Yasso speak - he was hilarious ! And did one final 'sweep' of the expo to see if there was anything worth buying.  The night before I had read a few chapters of "My life on the Run " and after his presentation I asked him if he was still a vegetarian. "Oh definitely!" he replied.
I told him that I'd see him tomorrow and that he'd like my shirt.
I was mostly being a smart ass since there are only like, thousands of people in town for that race but, well hold that thought!
On the way out my conversations with famous people continued, I asked a local running journalist, let's call her "DeeDee Kirkpatrick", about the etiquette to have someone run me in. Amy and I had thrown around the idea of having her run the last mile or so with me and DeeDee told me that as long as it wasn't in the chutes, it was ok. After that, they pulled people off the road if they didn't have bibs on. I thanked her for her advice and headed off to Spaghetti Factory to fuel off with the family. 

Sunday at 3:45 I woke up, ate oatmeal with some rice milk and  got dressed, not in that order.My friend and training partner Steve picked me up at 4:30, I kissed Amy goodbye and we drove downtown. Runners converged on the Sacramento Sheraton seeking shelter from the  freezing night. Inside we were surrounded by runners pinning on bib #s , discussing race strategy, eating bananas, and sleeping. When the buses finally arrived, a mad throng pushed through the doors and onto the buses. First WTF moment of the day, somewhere on the way to the starting line, our convoy of buses somehow got lost.
Embarrassing! Since a lot of the runners were from out of town, many didn't notice.

We finally arrived and went inside the Chevron to meet Holly and Jenn.  It  was fun to see everyone's race get ups from reindeer antlers to Mizuno jackets.  I opted for wind pants over my running outfit and a big puffy jacket that I intended to donate at around the 3 or 4 mile mark.
With about 10 minutes to the start, I took a warm up run, prayed my IT band would hold, felt it working great and said goodbye to Jenn. Then Steve, Holly and I headed down to the start.

The bag check fiasco was WTF moment #2.
The plan on paper: Two semi trucks would take our plastic bags filled with sweats jackets etc to the capitol for post race pick up.
The plan in reality: A scene out of a disaster relief effort, in reverse!
Instead of bottles of water and food being lobbed down to disaster victims, bags of sweatpants, hoodies, etc. were hurled at unsuspecting volunteers in a frantic last minute ditch to get them on the semis before the race began.
With thousands of runners, and only a handful of volunteers manning two semis, chaos ensued.
I heard later many  gave up on throwing stuff towards the trucks and simply dumped everything on the ground.

The wheelchair participants took off and then we heard the horn, it's on!
Mile 1-3 was a non-stop "holy crap I'm finally running in a marathon" adrenaline rush.
In fact the first half of the race was awesome!
I tried to slow down Steve and Holly, but the excitement of the event and the rolling hills made it tough. "We are going downhill, it's ok to go fast! Well - we were sorta fast on that split, but we'll slow down on the next one!" etc. Holly attempted to get us on walk breaks but looking back I know we were going way too fast. Live and learn right?
Along the way I saw expensive running gear thrown to the side along of the road. Wicking hats, expensive gloves, water bottles, even a water belt !
Cheering crowds greeted us alongside the first part of the race till about Fair Oaks Blvd, we were still going fast, my IT band was still holding strong, I was filling up my water bottle but not drinking any electrolytes.
I threw my puffy jacket away and felt cold but good around mile 3, Somewhere around Greenback we saw Steve's folks, they took this photo.

 I saw my support team around mile 7 and was so stoked to see Amy and Elsa!
This was the ONLY time in the race that my IT band acted up and that's because this stretch of road was really slanted so I had to just grin and bear it for a few.
Old Fair Oaks was fun, we were still pushing the pace and staying somewhat on target, still too fast but manageable. It's not till the halfway point that things started to fall apart.

Steve took an extended portapotty break, I stretched a bit and threw down a Nuun, and Holly kept onward. I felt like I hadn't eaten enough so polished off more hammer gels. Around mile 14 this proved to be a bad move. In a bid to 'catch up' we took off at a pretty crazy clip, and the wind coming up Fair Oaks as we headed south was awful. There were very few spectators out so the energy we were feeding off of, dissipated along with whatever warmth we had left.
The combination of pushing it, the overdose of gel and the water proved to be a barftastic combination. I coughed once, slowed down, told Steve and Holly to keep going and not look back, and hurled. Gross. That barfing episode took a lot out of me so we began to take more walk breaks from here till Mile 20 or so.
Something to note, along the way I made sure to high five everyone I could, to say hi to everyone that was cheering, to say thank you to as many volunteers as I could.

These people were freezing their butts off and weren't moving like us, so really they were feeling the cold much more than we were!
 I  really began to hunger for something substantive and wolfed down some cookies at an unofficial aid station. Along the route, sometimes businesses would hand out stuff - so at the 99 cents store they gave out water, others gave out fruit, etc.
Steve was in bad shape around this time for some reason the Ultima drink didn't sit well with him so he had to stop running and take walk breaks often. I was craving more cookies and around mile 22 got some from Holly's Sac Fit group who had an aid table.
It was around this time that Holly told us she had to keep going as her knee was hurting more when she slowed than when she ran so we bid her goodbye and trudged along.
We were in single digits and all the walk breaks had me back up to speed but the fast start had taken it's toll. During the running portions we were now averaging 12-13 instead of our usual 10-10:30 pace.
Amy texted me to have me check the corner of L and Alhambra, and I saw this and almost burst into tears, since I am a tough guy though - I didn't.

Before I knew it , we had only 2 miles to go! I texted/tweeted and let everyone know and pushed on.
The crowd had really thinned out at this point and when I looked back I saw that the trucks were picking up the mile markers. I knew that the time limit was 6 hours and while my goal was to simply finish under my own propulsion (and with minimal IT band pain) my 2nd goal was to finish within the time frame!
My friends Larry and Jenn met us near mile 25 and Amy trotted out as well !
She ran with us for a few blocks, and out of the corner of my eye I spotted Bart Yasso walking by on the sidewalk. I called out to him and told him "see? I told you I'd see you, how do you like my shirt? " He laughed, gave me a thumbs up and we then sprinted off to the corner where we saw our friends Pat and Jenny, my sister, my parents, all waving and cheering. Pat cracked up at my X's and they yelled at us to run faster. This was just what I needed - I couldn't stop smiling, we ran a bit, then took one last walk break. I'm not going to lie, I needed them too it's not all because of Steve, I told him "dude this is it let's at least run to look good for the photos!" and sprinted the last bit.
I was so stoked to hear my name as I hit that first mat!
I looked to my left and saw my family there, hugged and kissed Amy and my awesome mom in law Nona hugged my family and ran to get my medal and foil.
It was done, it was official. Not as pretty as I had hoped but it was done. I was standing in front of the capitol in my hometown filled with excitement at having achieved a goal I had set out to do 6 months earlier.
I milled about afterward for a bit with Holly and Greg Chance, got a bunch of free produce and eventually left.

Now a week later, it's all a blur - I'm still resting, I did get one blister, but my post race damage was minimal. I cannot be thankful enough that my IT band held up and held strong.I know that there's more that I'm forgetting but I had to type this up before the year ended, so here's my wrap up.

Cool people I saw along the way
- the Christmas twins, (see the photo at Mile 20) they were handing out candy, too cool!
- the pacers - I loved how the encouraged their crew, kudos! Next year I shall keep up with you.
- camo girl - this girl had on a camo headband that matched my shorts. We leapfrogged and she finally caught up with me after an hour.
- mom and daughter runners
- marathon maniacs jerseys - just because, 3 in 3 months isn't maniacal - it's just scary.
- marines doing traffic/crowd control. A woman was running, carrying an American flag and every time she ran by one of them no matter what they were doing they stopped and gave a crisp salute.
America - eff yeah!

Things I learned at this race:

- The race is NOT a time to experiment with new drinks. Poor Steve got waylaid by that nasty Ultima drink and paid dearly.
I felt so bad for him, he trained hard and although the event was a total net positive, I hate to see my friends in pain.

- I can ingest gels, but just not more than 4. After that I become a barfing mess.

- I'm ok with just one Nuun and a serving of Clif Blok electrolyte chews.

- I will run the first half slowly and get negative splits,  I will run the first half slowly and get negative splits,  I will run the first half slowly and get negative splits...
I did this SAME thing at the American River Parkway Half Marathon I went out WAY too fast and paid the price afterwards with involuntary walk breaks.
It's just hard to counter the excitement of that starting horn and the energy of the crowd, but now I know.

- It's not AS fun to finish near the back of the pack. I mean I was still TOTALLY stoked on finishing but I was perilously close to not finishing within the official time limit.
The CIM has an official time limit of 6 hours (They have permits to close the streets for a set time limit, medical staff are there for only a certain time, safety of the runners, etc). Obviously anyone that runs the majority of the 26.2 deserves respect in my book, but personally I do not want to finish that far back in the field anymore.There's somethin disconcerting about seeing the race crew picking up the mile markers behind you! Plus there is the safety issue, I'd hate to see myself or a fellow runner get hurt and then not get assistance because the course limit is up.

- After 20 miles, I turn into the cookie monster (yes friends, this is a blatant suggestion, for the record I love the un-cookie, and the alternative baking company vegan cookies. Delicious!)

- 26.2 miles is a long distance, you must respect the distance and not be so cocky as to think that it's attainable without the right training. Training hard is one thing,training smart is quite another thing. It's also not the same beast as a 13.1 the whole fuel/running/pace thing is different. It's not like a cake recipe, you can't just double the ingredients and serve more. It's it's own beast and as such stands on it's own. In that same vein, I still have just as much respect for the person strapping on a bib for their first 5k as the nutjobs at the Western States 100, all got off the couch and said "I'm going for it", and that's what it's all about.

- Rest, recovery and the taper are total mindfu**s but they totally WORK. I can't believe that I didn't run more than 3 miles in about 3 weeks after my injury yet still managed to run the marathon with minimal  damage,  the proof is there! My legs feel awesome - I can't convey to you all (except for maybe my wife !) how friggin worried I was about going in and running through total pain.
In fact, I was prepared to have to go through the pain. Why? Why NOT? If I suffered through the majority of a 23 mile training run in agony, why not do it when it came right down to the real thing?

- I love runners. I'm sure there are jerk runners out there, but I've been lucky to run into only cool people so far. I love runners and how obsessive they are, I love runners and how they have OCD on stuff like shoes, lacing, food, training, hell everything! I love that I can walk up to anyone wearing a bib and have a good conversation or that runners are always excited to share their tips/experiences/war stories.

- Thanks go out to :
The staff at Fleet Feet Davis and Fleet Feet Sacramento, especially Heather in Davis and Heather in Sacramento for  IT band recovery tips and for giving me advice straight from their running experience without glossing things over.
Thanks to Jenny and Pat and Dresden for showing up, Jenny is committed to doing the SF marathon and we will be there when she crosses that finish line
Thanks you Steve for training with me,
Thanks Holly for running with us, and you for reading.
Thanks to Chuck and Ivy Chastain for their encouragement. Read Ivy's blog here, she's awesome!
My sister Irene, who two years ago told me "when is your first race?" when she saw me running one day with no aim or direction. She pushed me towards my first 5k and now I hope to return the favor. Right ?

-  Even though running is a solo sport, it's also a team sport. My wife and family are the best race support ever. From pancake + tofu scramble breakfasts at my mom in laws after long runs to putting up with months of me disappearing every weekend for hours to run, putting up with me obsessing over every little thing, encouraging me when I was injured, congratulating me when I did well, surprising me with an awesome No Meat Athlete T shirt, researching things for me, and so many other things that I know I'm forgetting. Thank you! I love you, and good night!


  1. Great race report, Jose, and I must say, for a guy who threw up all the gels he took in along the way, you looked pretty darn chipper at the end. I also need to add that I remember seeing that sign, and was wondering what a HEART PIG was. Great memories, indeed.

  2. Great report! I so wanted to talk to Bart but I have not finished his book. Hopefully next time.

    So sorry you got sick - that does not sound fun at all but glad it didn't stop you.

    I never thought about having family and friend support as a "team" aspect of running but it totally is. We need their encouragement, support and help in accomplishing our running goals - great analogy.

    I thought the runners in the race were especially friendly - the bond that runners can have instantly makes the sport so special.

    Congrats on a great marathon!

  3. Jose thank you man, it would have been very hard training for it on my own. Here's to a stronger finish in 2010! Hey don't forget that woman running with the flag was running in boots!

  4. awesome race report! I really wished we were there to cheer you on. I was all set to make signs for you (one was going to say "Run To The Hills Jose" :) but mother nature decided to dump snow our way.

  5. Enjoyed reading the report. So glad Fleet Feet Davis could give a little assistance. Well done.