Monday, December 04, 2006

The best, most painful day ever...

It all started a few months ago (I think it was August), when my friend Amanda, a fellow member of the San Francisco Road Runner Club (SFRRC), mentioned something about the California International Marathon. We had both just completed the super hilly San Francisco Marathon, and thought that the (mostly) downhill CIM would be a good choice. We talked each other into signing up for it, and then because of work and life commitments, didn’t see each other again until December 2nd when we drove up to Sacramento for the race.

We spent the majority of the ride up there talking race strategy and making plans for a possible Boston qualifying race this time next year. When we got to Sacramento, we picked up our race packets, and checked into the hotel. Shortly after that, we headed to a nice Italian restaurant to have dinner with the rest of the SFRRC members. We had some pretty decent ravioli (although not nearly as good as anything in SF...I’m turning into such a food snob!), and we chatted with Matt and John, who we had planned to run with since we were all going for a sub-4 marathon. Matt informed us that he had recruited Leslie to pace us from mile 15 on, which made us feel much more at ease.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. Much easier said than done. First of all, it was only 8:30, and second of all, I was incredibly nervous. I haven’t been nervous about any of the other races I’ve done this year, but I knew that I would REALLY have to push myself to make my goal on this particular race. I finally managed to fall asleep somewhere around 11:00, but I got woken up about ten times thanks to the car alarms that kept going off in the parking garage just across the way. I spent most of the night sleeping with a pillow on top of my head to drown them out!

Race morning:
I woke up at about 4:20am, feeling slightly rested, but mostly just wanting to go back to sleep. I quickly realized that more sleep was not an option, and started getting ready. I’ve mostly got the race-day clothing thing down to a science, but what I’m not used to is making oatmeal in a hotel room coffee maker. I made an absolute mess, but I managed to make some decent oatmeal, and was down in the lobby to meet everyone at 5am.

Matt, John, Julie, Amanda and I loaded the bus that would take us to the race start, and we tried to relax on the 45 minute ride there. It was only about 30 degrees when we got there, so Amanda and I stayed on the bus for a little longer to stay warm.

Amanda and me waiting on the bus

We finally lined up for the Port-A-Potties at about 6:25. We met Matt and John, lined up near the 4 hour pace leader, and before we knew it, we were off and running!

Me, Matt, John and Amanda just before the race start

The first 20 miles of the race went by really fast. Honestly, I remember VERY little, but here’s what I do remember:

Mile 3: There were a lot of people cheering in front of their houses, but one stuck out in particular. They had a dummy dressed in a sombrero and sarape sitting in a chair, and a huge, fake Afghan hound, complete with mechanical wagging tail, standing in front of the house. It was only three miles into the race, and we thought we were already delirious!

Mile 11: Matt still held the last of the disposable layers...we’d all worn cheap gloves and extra t-shirts that we could toss once we got warmed up, and most of them had been thrown to the side in the first 5 miles or so. Matt’s final layer was a pair of baggy running shorts worn over what he calls his “anatomical shorts” for modesty’s sake. By mile 11, they were getting to be annoying, but rather than stop and take them off quickly, he started ripping them off! Unfortunately, they didn’t come off as easily as he’d planned, and for awhile he looked like he was wearing a running skirt instead of shorts. We were all dying laughing by the time he managed to get them off all the way!

Mile 12: Amanda and I had to make a quick pit stop. It's hard to gauge how much to drink on a cold morning. The cold air dries out your throat, but you're not sweating as much, so it can work against you. I hate having to go to the bathroom during races, especially when there are lines, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go! Fortunately, the lines were fast, and we were back with Matt and John before we knew it.

Somewhere near mile 15: We got a huge kick out of the marching band at this water stop...just as we passed, they started playing the theme from “Rocky.” SOOO cheesy, but it totally pumped us up!

Mile 15: We could see Leslie standing by the mile marker, and we started waving and yelling her name. As soon as she saw us, she started jumping up and down and ran to meet us. Talk about a great boost! Nothing like some fresh legs and a fresh brain to bring some life back into our step with 11 miles to go!

Mile 17: Amanda and I pushed ahead a little bit, but Leslie and Matt caught up within a mile or so. At the same time, John fell back, and I was starting to feel tired. We stuck together a little bit longer, but then Amanda pulled ahead again, and I did my best to stick with Matt and Leslie.

Mile 20: This is the last really concrete thing that I can remember. When I saw the mile marker I said, “I see a big 2-0!” Leslie told us a hilarious story from her Boston qualifying race earlier in the year (which I unfortunately can’t tell, because what’s said on the course stays on the course!).

Miles 21-26.2: Leslie encouraged us, told jokes, made sure we kept good form, got us water, and told us we looked great, even though I’m sure we looked terrible. I sure felt terrible! I do vaguely remember pretty, tree-lined streets, although they all started looking the same after awhile. That was pretty much the entire course. Rolling hills, with lots of nice downhills, followed by a long, flat stretch. Matt and Leslie had pulled away, and I was on my own for the last mile and a half. This was absolute torture because I was feeling totally delirious, and we had come upon the numbered streets in Sacramento. I knew that the Capitol building was somewhere around 10th street, and we were at 30th Street. Ouch. I was dying to stop for a walk break, but I knew that I only had about 35 seconds in the bank, and that if I stopped to walk, I wouldn’t make my sub-4 goal. Somehow I managed to keep myself together, and as I turned the corner toward the finish line, I ran as hard as I could. When I saw 3:59:55 on the clock I knew it was in the bag. I crossed at 4:00:14, but thanks to my late start, I knew that I had made my goal.

Final time: 3:59:18!!!

I’m not the only one who has something to be proud of – SFRRC had an amazing showing at CIM – Lots of Boston Qualifiers (BQ) and even more Personal Records (PR)!

Joe Carboni – 3:06 BQ (PR)
Joe Henwood – 3:07 BQ (PR)
Chris Furgiule – 3:09 BQ (PR)
Kirk Hamlin – 3:14 BQ (PR)
Donna Lanasa – 3:24 BQ (PR)
Julie Hornung – 3:37 BQ (PR)
Gregory Alexander – 3:44
Joannie Loh – 3:50
Amanda Steindorf – 3:55(PR)
Matt Patchell – 3:58 (PR)
Emily Toy – 3:58 BQ (5th in age group)
Jenni Kirk – 3:59 (PR)
Ray Monahan – 4:07
John Kamola – 4:11 (PR)
Colette Weil – 5:00

I could barely walk after I crossed the finish line, but I managed to pull myself together to get some food, water and a post-race picture. Amanda and I stumbled back to the hotel to get cleaned up, and we headed back to San Francisco to rest. Can you believe that we’re already planning our next one??? Some serious training and some good club support, and we’ll be fast on our way to a Boston Qualifier. Watch out!