I still don't believe it. I mean - I'm going to Boston? It's been 4 days since CIM, and I'm still so happy, words can't even begin to express how I feel. This race was my last shot for 2015 to make it to Boston. I'm so grateful my hard work has finally paid off.
I have to say my planning skills were not very good for race weekend. First, I was unprepared for cold weather. We've had such nice weather this fall, and while I did a few morning runs in cold weather gear, I never did a long run in it. I kept checking the weather the week before the race, and Sunday kept changing between cloudy and rain. I've never run in rain (well - I have now). A few days before the race, it was in the 40's in Long Beach. I used the cold weather to practice running in what I thought would work for me (shorts, a tank, compression sleeves, and gloves. It was a lot. My hands were over the gloves after the first mile, but the compression sleeves worked great and didn't make me overheat. I was still nervous with the possibility of rain, but I knew it was better to race in what I knew than what might be best for keeping me warm. It was too late to change my choice of clothing.
Ricky and I packed up and headed out to Sacramento at 5 am on Saturday morning. Yes. I spent the day before my marathon in a car for 6 hours. Not ideal at all. We made great time though and got to our hotel, right next to the marathon finish line and the Capital Building, before noon. We were also conveniently located across the street from the Sacramento Convention Center where the expo was held. Our hotel was a host hotel and they gave all of the runners late checkout (1pm) and a goodie bag that had Nuun, a banana and a water bottle. Such a nice touch. We walked straight over to the expo after we dropped our things in the room.
The expo was great, with tons of vendors, and I was able to find some cheap, throw away gloves. I also had a nice couple try to sell me on the Napa Marathon! Sadly, it's too close to the LA Marathon for me to run it.
After the expo, Ricky and I explored the finish line area so we could coordinate our post-race meeting spot. They had two different finish shoots - one for the men and one for the women - which was pretty unique. After walking around for a bit, I needed to do a shakeout run. I really just jogged around a bit while Ricky took photos of some of the scenery (and me, of course). I was able to confirm that I was ok with the compression sleeves and that they wouldn't bother me the entire race. We headed back to the hotel again and got ready to go to dinner. Our hotel was also nice enough to offer (not complimentary) a pasta buffet dinner. I really wanted to explore Sacramento and all of the good food offerings I'd heard about, but I wanted to play it safe. Plus, I was pooped after such a long day so I was happy to stay in the hotel.
I prepped all of my things I needed for the race after dinner. Ricky helped me wrap my iPod in clear plastic wrap in the hopes it wouldn't die during the race from the rain. I made sure my Garmin was charged and everything would be easy for me to grab in the morning, and we were fast asleep by 8pm. I probably got the best sleep before a race that night. I didn't have trouble falling asleep, and I only woke up once. A full 8 hours were had by the time 4 am rolled around. The bus stop was also conveniently located right across from our hotel, so I was able to stay in my room until 4:50 before heading out into the cold to wait in line. I was lucky my good friend Peter gave me a huge old sweatshirt he didn't want anymore as a throw away and I bought a $3 emergency blanket at Walmart to cover my legs until the race. It was windy waiting for the buses and I was hoping it wouldn't follow us to the start.
The race is point to point. So the buses were taking us up to the start in Folsom. We were able to stay on the bus until 15 minutes before start time. Our bus got a little lost, so we didn't get up to the start until 6:15. By that time, everyone got off to wait in line at the porto potties. I waited about 10 more minutes on the bus before making my own way to the bathroom line. I got into the porto potty 15 minutes later. They had tons of them, but there were also tons of runners! It was perfect timing though - I made my way to the start right after and found my way to the 3:30 pace group. It started to rain just before the gun went off.
Now, I'll let you know my strategy here and how it differed from Portland and Big Sur. My #2 goal was to finish in 3:30 so I could qualify for Boston - an 8 minute average pace. My ultimate #1 goal was to beat that. I know there are lots of different views on pace groups, but I'd never run with one before. I thought it would help me with my issues of going out to fast like I did in Portland. My intent was to stay with them through mile 13, which was the point where the rolling hills ended and the remainder of the course was mostly flat or downhill. I was then going to pick up the pace to 7:45 if I felt good. Ironically, this was one of the pacers intentions as well! Boston 2016 didn't accept any qualifiers who didn't come in 2 and half minuted below their required time. The pacer (I think her name was Jen) wanted to offer people who were trying to qualify for Boston in the 3:30 time more of a guarantee of getting in. Just an FYI, my qualifying time for my age group is 3:35.
The start of this race doesn't go in waves. You line up where you think you want to finish based on the finish time signs. It was a little tight at the start, and I was wondering if it was ever going to thin out. I tried to stay in the pace group, but people get all up on the pacers, so I kept just in front of them, watching my pace and checking back every few minutes to make sure I wasn't to far ahead.
Around mile 6, I realized I had to pee. I kept telling myself with each mile that I could hold it, but by mile 11, after we had just passed a porto potty, I realized I couldn't sabotage my race and I had to go. The next porto potty didn't show up until mile 13. I had already picked up my pace to give me some advance on the pace group. There was someone waiting outside of them! OMG so many thoughts going through my head. I can't stop anymore. I just have to suck it up for 13 more miles. F THIS! The guy walked away right then because he was tired of waiting. Right as he walked away, another guy stepped out of one and I knew the stars aligned for me. I ran in, and there was POOP all over the seat. Shit. Literally. Well. I was already wet from the rain that dropped on us on and off over the course, so I squated as best I could without touching the seat and peed. It went all over me. Yeah. I was covered in pee. Oh well.
I literally spent 15 seconds in there. I jumped out and saw someone I had passed up the last hill, so I figured my pace group was still behind me. I ran a few steps and saw the 3:30 sign bobbing above the crowd in front of me. And just in front of that was another 3:30 sign. Jen was breaking off. I sprinted to catch up. I must've been doing 6 minute pace to catch up. All I kept thinking was, "I'm going to blow out my legs right now because I couldn't hold my pee." Once I got to Jen, I fell right in stride and hoped I hadn't ruined myself with that sprint.
I was feeling really good at this point and was surprised. I was taking in water gradually and was able to take my gels at the appropriate time (mile 6, 12 and 18). I stayed with Jen, but at mile 19, I started to break away. I was so happy that I hadn't hit a wall yet, but I knew the last 10K was the most crucial part of any marathon. I was still doing 7:40's and even logged mile 25 at 7:39. Mile 24 was where Jen caught me. Most of the spectators would yell "Yah 3:30, go 3:30!") and Jen would correct them with our finish time (3:27), but around mile 24, my song ended on my iPod and I heard her say, "We're doing 3:26!" OMG. I was so stoked. Just after mile 25, Jen started to pass me. I could tell I was slowing, but was so excited to still feel good and it was almost over!
We finally got into recognizable territory and I could see my hotel. Just 2 more turns and I was done. I turned the final corner, looking for Ricky, but he wasn't there. I was about to go into the women's finish shoot, Jen a few steps ahead of me, and I saw the clock. 3:26:42. I knew I wanted that 3:26, and I found something in my tired legs that made me sprint. It was almost like they weren't part of my body anymore. I was sprinting past Jen and the final time I saw was 3:26:58. I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
And then I started crying. The sweetest little lady walked up to me with my medal and, after putting it on my neck, asked if I was ok. I said, "Yes. I just qualified for Boston!" and she hugged me and told me how happy she was for me. I wanted to find Ricky and my heart was pounding. Jen walked up to me and told me that I ran a great race. She is a 2:46 marathoner. Such a compliment! I finally saw Ricky coming and he was able to catch this picture of me crying because I was so FREAKING HAPPY!!!!!
I spent some time in the medical tent after I talked to Ricky because my heart and chest had a little bit of pain and I wanted to make sure I got my heart rate down and my body temperature up. That's when the texts started coming in from everyone who was tracking me and I actually found out I got a 3:25:51 finish time! I was surprised and felt so loved that there were so many people interested in seeing me meet my goal. Once I left the medical tent, we couldn't really spend a lot of time enjoying the finish or celebrating what I had just accomplished because we had to get on the road for our 6 hour ride home.
I have to give props to this race for a few reasons. First, it was so well organized from start to finish. Everything went as planned (aside from the weather). Second, it really is a fast course. I knew it was rolling hills, but they are so gradual and every uphill comes right after a downhill, so you are able to keep a steady pace and not deteriorate your muscles because you are using different ones throughout the race (versus if you were doing a total downhill course, you'd blow your quads, or uphill course would ruin your calves). I would definitely run this race again.
I took the last 3 days off - except for a yoga class. I'm feeling better than I have after any of my other marathons. I did end up with some pretty bad blisters on my right foot because my socks were wet from the rain, but I'm ready to run tonight with GRVL Runners and get into training for the LA Marathon in February. I'm doing a new and different training plan for LA, so I'll keep you in the loop during my training cycle on how that's going.
Thank you all for your support. I am truly grateful and cannot express how happy I am!