My First Marathon

When I woke up at 4 am I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t time yet and to relax and just go back to sleep. Any runner knows though that this never works. No matter how much you try to convince yourself to sleep, you can’t. That’s why ambien is awesome. Instead of sitting up and looking at the clock for 8 hours and thinking about how much I wished it was 5:45 AM already so that I could just get up and get the start of this thing over with, I only did this for about an hour. Michelle did it ALL night.

We finally got up far earlier than our alarms were set for and began to get ready. Originally we were planning on just walking to the start but instead, we drove a few blocks and then got out with the boys to make the rest of the journey on foot. Turns out they were actually busing people in a mere few blocks from our hotel and we had no idea. It calmed our nerves a bit to finally be on the bus and on our way.

Also amazing: if you stayed in a Folsom hotel, which not many folks did, you were provided entrance to a really amazing really cozy heated tent with private port-a-potties. Priceless in a freezing cold crowd of 9,000 runners. If you ever run the California International Marathon, stay in Folsom!!

While Michelle and I stood about having nervous conversations with other runners, Buddy and Michel were having a leisurely breakfast and pots of coffee. Once it was almost 7 AM though, I was excited. I was going to do this! Well, I was going to try this! Three marathon registrations later, I was finally making it to the start line. I may not be ready, I may not be able to run more than 14 miles comfortably, but damn, I was here, wasn’t I?

When I say that I didn’t train appropriately for this event, I am not exaggerating. Most runners follow an 18 week training plan after building up a solid base. While I had every intention of training like I should, sometimes life fun gets in the way. My weeks looked less like this like I wanted them to and more like this:

Week 1: 3 runs = 5 mi interval, 6.5 mi tempo, 10 mi long. 21.5 mi total.
Week 2: 3 runs = 5.6 mi, 5 mi, 11 mi. 21.6 mi total.
Week 3: 1 run = 4.5 mi total.
Week 4: 2 runs = 5 mi, 5k race, 12 mi. 20.1 mi total.
Week 5: no running
Week 6: 1 run = 5 mi total.
Week 7: 2 runs = 5 mi, 4.2 mi. 9.2 mi total.
Week 8: 3 runs = 5 mi, 5 mi, 13 mi. 23 mi total.
Week 9: 2 runs = 5 mi, 5 mi. 10 mi total.
Week 10: 2 runs = 5 mi, 13 mi. 18 mi total.
Week 11: 2 runs = 4.5 mi, 14.3 mi. 18.8 mi total.
Week 12: 2 runs = 5 mi, 10 mi. 15 mi total.
Week 13: 2 runs = 5 mi, 13 mi. 18 mi total.
Week 14: 3 runs = 5 mi, 7 mi, 7 mi. 19 mi total.
Week 15: 4 runs = 13.8 mi, 3 mi, 3 mi, 13.1 mi race. 32.9 mi total.
Week 16: 4 runs = 3 mi, 5 mi, 6 mi, 7.3 mi. 21.3 mi total.
Week 17: 2 runs = 3 mi, 5 mi. 8 mi total.
Week 18: 2 runs = 3 mi, Marathon. 29.2 mi total.

Having run five half marathons in six weeks, I was feeling overly confident at that distance for the first time in my running life. Also, it’s not as if I’m a stranger to royally screwing myself at running events. The first time I ran a half marathon, I hadn’t run more than 8 miles. My plan was this: eat a TON of carbs in the four days prior to make sure my glycogen stores were properly filled, follow my nutrition plan for the event, which included two clif shot blocks every two miles starting at mile 8, substituting GU gels at three points, and taking it EASY. My normal half marathon race pace is about 8:33/mile, which meant that properly trained, I should be able to run a marathon in 3 hours and 53 minutes. This was not going to happen today. I decided that if I conserved my energy properly by running 10 minute miles, I would be able to extend the point when the pain set in.

It was really exciting to be standing in a crowd of 9,000 as the sun came up, all prepared to do something momentous. When Marion told me later that night that only 1 in every 1000 people would complete a marathon in their lifetime, I didn’t believe her. I feel like I know a ton of people who can tick the goal of marathon off their life checklist. Turns out, she’s correct.

Michelle and I split up as the starting gun went off. I started out running with the 4:25 pace group but felt like they were a bit off and eventually spread out and just started to follow my own pace. I talked to a TON of people, like this guy, who ran the entire marathon in his turnouts:

San Rafeal Fire Chief Kyle Hamilton

When I spoke to him at mile 5 he said he wasn’t having much fun and that he anticipated a really difficult morning. He did finish though, with a smile on his face, just before the five hour mark.

I, on the other hand, was having a BLAST. My legs felt fresh and strong. It was really difficult to keep myself at a ten minute mile. All those half marathons had prepared me – prepared me to run 15 miles comfortably. The first 15 miles absolutely FLEW by. The miles seemed to take only three minutes. I met a really awesome girl named Jessica from San Diego who was running the same pace as me. She was a marathon veteran if you will: a surgeon who had already run six marathons this year alone. She was easy to talk to, fun to keep pace with and supportive. Every time we saw a mile marker we were exclaiming, “Seriously! There’s no way!” It was an encouraging feeling.

By mile 15 both she and I were starting to feel the miles drag a bit. I could feel my foot starting to tweak a bit in pain and I could feel the ache starting to build in my quads. Miles 15-18 were no longer super easy, super fun. They were a little bit more drab, a little less sparky and the miles, instead of feeling as if they were only taking three minutes to fly by, instead were reminding us of every step of both their distance and their time. Ten minutes was ten minutes and we were no longer escaping it.

By mile 18 my foot was in a significant amount of pain and my quads fully hurt. The miles felt longer than they were, but not by much. In my head, they were taking fifteen minutes. In my head, I tried to decide what hurt more, my quads or my feet. In my head, I thought to myself, “this might get worse.” Jessica told me that mile 20 is about where she starts cursing so be prepared. She also said, “You’re doing great. Now, don’t forget to tell me that in a mile.” Cardiovascularly I felt awesome. Invincible even. This was such an easy pace that I knew that my heart was trained and strong enough to run it forever. My legs and muscles, however, were another story.

The next four miles would be brutal. Each mile began to seem longer and longer. Each step more and more painful. In fact, by this point, my legs and feet both hurt so much they had turned into this nice numbness that was almost ignorable. At mile 20, Jessica said we only had a 10k left and I only felt slightly better. A little bit after mile 20, Jessica had a sudden burst of energy and strength and moved ahead of me when I stopped for GU at one of the aid stations. I no longer had the spark in my legs to follow. I spent 40 minutes thinking about how annoying this event was. I ran each mile slower and slower and slower. I was afraid to stop because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to start again. I through about how completely and totally OVER running this event I was. How I couldn’t fathom how anyone could think that these were fun enough to do repeatedly. How stupid it was to run 26.2 miles. How at ANY moment I would see Meghan Kelly show up to run with me and I could say, “Meghan, I am SO happy to see you. I am so f-ing over this shit.” For four miles, Meghan would be this pinnacle of hope that I was running to. Little did I know her husband had convinced her not to run with me and I wouldn’t see them until mile 25.

It’s funny because I never did hit “the wall.” From what I can tell, hitting the wall seems extremely similar to bonking, which is what cyclists do when they don’t fuel themselves properly. I have bonked before and I know what it feels like: you can no longer think rationally, you get really emotional, you just want to stop and not do anything. You would rather lay down on the ground and stay there forever and die than physically move yourself somewhere.

The entire event, even through those four miles that were so awful, I never had an irrational thought. Once I hit mile 20 and only then started to feel really bad, I knew that I would finish. I knew that I could do anything for 6 miles and I knew even more that I could do anything for three. It didn’t matter if my foot was broken, I could run on it for three miles.

So after mile 24 took the hour of time that it felt like, I was so furious and so angry and so annoyed at the whole thing that I started running FASTER. And it actually felt BETTER. After reading some articles post race, I actually learned that it’s one of the tools you should use to deal with fatigue in a marathon. Because you spend most of a marathon at a slow endurance pace, you use up all the glycogen in your slow-twitch muscles. By speeding up to a faster pace, I was actually using fast-twitch muscles whose glycogen stores hadn’t yet been tapped.

The last mile flew by. There were more crowds, more bands and frankly, every single step got me closer to the finish line. I wanted to be done. I wanted to stop running more than anything but I sure as hell wasn’t going to stop early. One of my running mantras when I really need to dig down deep is, “The faster you run, the faster you’re done.” I dug down and I ran.

I ran past Meghan and PK who were yelling on the side of the road. I ran past Michel, who was on the long straightaway in the last half mile taking pictures. I ran past throngs of people. I ran faster as I got closer. I ran faster as my IT Band started to quaver and give out. I ran faster as my pinky toe callus started to blister under my foot and scream in protest. I ran faster as my right foot started to cramp. I knew I would just have to do it. And that it would hurt. And it did.

I finished in 4 hours 23 minutes and 8 seconds. Not incredibly fast (just above the average time for a female of my age) but I did it. Untrained. Without too many horrifying miles. On average, I would say that the marathon was 50% super fun, 25% kinda fun and 25% annoying. I would have rather been actually prepared for it so that it would be 75% fun and 15% kinda fun and 10% annoying but I wasn’t. I would recommend that if you run a marathon you should actually train so that you do not spend four miles in agony.

CA International Marathon: 4 hours 23 minutes 8 seconds.

I am really proud of Michelle who not only was the catalyst for fulfillment of this momentous goal of mine, but actually put in the work for the event. Training for a marathon is work: it’s hard, it takes a lot of time and it shows you what you’re made of. She did awesome and I’m super proud of her.

Michelle crosses the finish line

Thanks so much to Monica, Megs and PK who came down to cheer me on. That was super awesome of them and I feel really special to have such amazing friends!

Meghan and PK

Special thanks to my new marathon friend, Jessica, who was a pure inspiration to me during the run. What an awesome lady!

In summary, my quads now feel like someone has taken razor blades to the front of them and the outside of my right foot hurts pretty bad if I put any amount of weight on it. While the marathon wasn’t anywhere near as bad mentally as I had prepared myself for, it was every bit of bad physically. I would probably run one again one day, but actually train for it. The not-training marathon training plan is not advised.

I’ll put my mile splits below. I’m pretty happy with how well I kept to my pace. You can see all the event photos from the weekend here.

What did we do post marathon? Head back to Tuli Bistro of course for some amazing carnitas and egg action and coffee. I had just finished running for four and half hours thinking about nothing but eggs and coffee. I earned it.

Tuli Bistro Breakfast Sandwich

CA International Marathon Split Times:

Mile 1: 10:08
Mile 2: 9:44
Mile 3: 9:55
Mile 4: 9:56
Mile 5: 9:48
Mile 6: 9:55
Mile 7: 9:57
Mile 8: 10:00
Mile 9: 10:06
Mile 10: 9:46
Mile 11: 9:55
Mile 12: 9:53
Mile 13: 9:42
Mile 14: 9:51
Mile 15: 9:57
Mile 16: 10:00
Mile 17: 9:59
Mile 18: 9:54
Mile 19: 9:55
Mile 20: 10:01
Mile 21: 10:06
Mile 22: 11:16
Mile 23: 10:28
Mile 24: 11:02
Mile 25: 10:13
Mile 26: 09:35
Mile 0.02: 01.55

3 thoughts on “My First Marathon

  1. Thanks! I’m no stranger to not training properly for running events. That being said, I’m really athletic and I also swim and cycle so even when I don’t put in the mileage on my feet I’m usually doing other things which keeps my athletic base strong and carries me through a lot of things. And I live at altitude so I’m not going to lie, when I go to sea level it’s kind of like cheating.

  2. Pingback: Type II Fun « Only crazy people live in CA

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