I started my marathon recovery with some off days and then some easy running later in the first week after NYC. The first Sunday after I did a hilly, trail, long run with the group I train with that went 1 hr. 45 minutes. This is probably a bit much 1 week after 26.2 but I wanted to keep some distance on the legs in between NYC and CIM. The following Tuesday I hit an amazing workout just 9 days after NYC- 1 mile 5:26, 4x400m 79.3 avg., 1 mile 5:23, 4x400m 79.9 avg., 1 mile 5:16. It was all done on a bark loop in town which is a slower running surface than, say, a track or the road. This got me excited but little did I know I was just digging myself into a deeper hole not letting my body recover and trying to get ready for another marathon. One of my running buddies that did this workout with me said to me after I passed him in the last mile of the workout, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." He was right. I did another small workout on Thursday and then 'raced' a 10k cross country race on Saturday. The race went poorly, for obvious reasons that I can see now. If I wanted to run well at that 10k I would not have run it two weeks after a marathon and not after a high quality workout a few days before it. This is something I'm going to keep an eye on for future racing- my goal races (versus what I'm training through) & how close I'm timing workouts before those key races. I ran 17 miles the day after the 10k, probably a bit too fast and then my feet started bugging me. I ended up with plantar on both feet and crammed in some PT appointments. I also left on vacation to Hawaii 1.5 weeks before CIM. This was a blessing in disguise for running. I relaxed, drank, hiked a ton, tried to surf. In the warm and humid Hawaii weather I was forced to run slow and cut my mileage, mimicking a taper from a full build up. I realized I had dug myself into a hole after that 10k so did not workout in the final two weeks before CIM except for a light taper workout on the Tuesday before the race. The foot pain was still there up until race day. I was contemplating not running but I kept working on my feet furiously and put KT tape on them on Saturday and I felt pretty okay running easy the day before the race. I had no idea what to expect at CIM. I knew I was fit but was still recovering from NYC. I decided to go out with the women's 2:45 pace group which was set up to help them go for Olympic Trials Qualifying Standard. Any woman that runs a marathon under 2:45:00 earns a spot at the US Olympic Marathon Trials for 2020. The top-3 from that race then go on to represent the US in the Olympic Marathon. It is no joke to qualify for the Trials.
Race Day: Logistically very easy compared to NYC. I caught a bus from downtown Sacramento and in 30 minutes I was standing by the start line. At NYC I took a bus that took more than 2 hours before I had to go through further security. This was much easier. There was plenty of space to warm up + do drills which I was unable to do in New York. Gear check was seamless. Corrals in NYC closed 1 hour before the race started. Here, I was able to give my bag to a volunteer 30 minutes before the race went off. CIM doesn't have corrals, which is maybe my only complaint. I was a little farther off the start line than I would have liked but moved up a lot. It took me about 10 seconds to cross over the start line. I could see a sign for the 2:45 Trials group right on the start line. I clicked off a conservative 6:15 on the first downhill mile of the race. Over the next two miles I worked my way up to that group, which I could see a little further ahead. I split 6:13 on a uphill mile 2 and then used a downhill mile 3 to catch up to the pack by hitting a 6:03. These two miles were probably a little quick but it would be ridiculous to run 10-15 seconds behind the group the whole race. I had such a unique racing experience. There was a pacer keeping the group right at 6:15/mile and there was a pack of maybe 20-25 women mixed with a similar number of guys. Everyone was super encouraging to one another. The pacer kept things light by telling stories and joking with all of us. He was also great in calling out the aid stations and where hills/turns were on the course. It was inspiring running with these women shooting for an Olympic Trials Qualifier. There was a communal attitude and buzz in the air in this pack. The energy was great. Everyone was motivated on the same time goal. Some of the women who had elite fluid bottles on the course offered to share with me which helped me make sure I was taking in liquids. That was awesome.
|(you can just see me coming into the picture on the right side)|
The race: After the first 3 miles I settled into the pace group and we ticked off 6:15s. Every mile for me from 3 to 20 was between 6:10 and 6:20. We were metronomes. Virtually every mile was 6:14, 6:15, or 6:16. I haven't run such an even marathon or maybe even race in forever. We went through halfway in 1:22:00 (I was 1:21:49) and were right on pace for 2:44:00 which would be a minute under the standard. I think it was good to have a little bit of a cushion. We maintained that pace through 20 miles and things began to spread out a bit at that point. Some fell back, some maintained (hoping not to lose that minute over the final 10k), and some sped up. After a 6:12 mile 21 for me, I was now running much more spread out and a little ahead of the group. I had definitely never felt this good running fast after 20 miles in a marathon before. I was almost a minute slower at CIM at 20 miles versus NYC 4 weeks ago but I was much more in control. My left hamstring had been cramping as early as mile 10 but it had held up to this point. Both calves were starting to cramp but I never got the sharp/stabbing pain that came on in New York that forced me to stop and start a couple times in the last 2 miles. Mile 22 was a 6:14 and 23 was a 6:17. Where was the wall? Just 5k to go? I can do that. I run 5k all the time. Much more than 5k. This is what I was telling myself. I was tiring. It was becoming harder to maintain pace but I know I could get to the line in one piece. 24 and 25 were a mental test. My calves were threatening to spasm with each step. I forced a gel down at 23.5. I split 6:25 and 6:28 here. Still under 6:30 and holding on. One more mile. You got this. The pep talk helped. The crowd started to pick up in the last mile. I could run one more mile. I shortened my stride a ton trying to balance out the leg cramps and finding where it felt better for my foot to land. I know at mile 25 I needed to average 6:0x to try to get under 2:44. I knew I would be well under 2:45 barring a total breakdown but I wanted to give 2:43 a chance. I dug deep and ran 6:15 for mile 26. 6:15 for the last mile of the race! 6:15 in the last mile of a marathon which is also what I ran mile 1 in! Whoa. I tried to kick in the last .22. As I came around a left turn to face the Capitol, I saw the finish line I saw 2:43:50 on the clock. I must have been just over 100m or so away. I knew I started 10 seconds after the gun so would get some time back. I officially ended up at 2:44:01- two seconds faster and I could be a 2:43 marathoner. Next time!
Reflection: This is the best paced marathon I've run in a while. It was nice to sit in a pack, zone out, and just click off the miles. To be honest, I never felt great in this one. My legs cramped early and often but they never completely let me down. I never felt that fresh feeling you can have early on in a marathon after executing a proper taper. This is definitely due to running the back to back marathons. I credit everything to running with the 2:45 group. The energy was there from the opening miles and did not go anywhere. It was smart coming in with tapered expectations. I set a goal of breaking 2:45:00 and I ran 2:44:00. Mission accomplished. My half splits- 1:21:49/1:22:12. 20 miles in 2:04:58- 2:43:49 projected finish. My last 10k- 39:03- only lost 12 seconds. I'm very happy with this race! A year after I had to defer it because I got a blood clot I executed my race plan to a t. I ran steady and within myself. It is nice to run a marathon so consistently. I haven't come this close to a negative split since one of my first marathons where I ran 3:24 in 2011...6 years later and now I'm 40 minutes faster. It's interesting to look back on that as well. In high school, I couldn't run 5k in under 20:00. I broke 20:00 for the first time in the summer 2011 (that 3:24 came that fall) when I was a year out of high school. Now I average 19:26 per 5k for almost 9 of them in a row. That's pretty cool.
You define your own path.
Regret: Not running this race in top shape. I wish I had my day of NYC fitness at CIM or any fast marathon course for that matter. I would have felt much better on a perfect weather day and could have taken a shot at something closer to 2:40. My opening half at NYC had to have been worth something like 1:19 here. Mix in the cooler weather, the lower humidity, and I might have been able to sustain that and run something really fast. I'm super happy with this race but I'm nowhere near finished with the marathon. I'm running Boston in the spring and really want to put my newly minted 2:44:01 on blast.
Let's be smart: After two marathons in the last month I'm going to take all of December to recover and slowly build back some mileage. In January, I can launch into full training mode but I want to enter into my spring cycle feeling fresh. CIM was exactly what I needed to keep me hungry for the spring. #Boston2018...