Ok, so the Mrs. and I ran our first marathon this last December, the California International Marathon. We had trained throughout the summer and run several pikermis leading up to the big race. After finally achieving “marathoner” status, we had to set another goal to strive for. I know a lot of runners just go out there and do their thing for the simple immediate gratification of it, but we’re both the type that need something in the distance to really drive the training. The individual runs are awesome, but having a race on the calendar puts them in a context!
So the decision was made to maintain about 30-40 miles a week, doing a lot of long runs on hilly terrain and incorporating some speedwork during the week. Joining a local running club really helped push us in our training. Just being around all these amazing runners who throw down 2:30 marathons and 100 mile ultras makes me feel like anything’s possible if you put in the work. The goal was to focus on speed for a while and do a pikermi in March, since the Shamrock’n Half Marathon is one of the biggest races here in Sacramento. After that, we planned to steadily build mileage all summer and run the Rockin’ River 50 Mile race in October up in Auburn, CA.
We trained and trained and finally the weekend came! I even got off work early on Friday to mow the lawns, change the oil in the car, and do other chores so Saturday could be as restful as possible before Sunday’s race. Saturday went as planned except for the following surprises: Laura came down with a massive head/chest cold and I caught a stomach bug! It was difficult to fuel up for the following morning, but I ate what I could and hoped for the best as I headed to bed.
5:00 came and I popped up, race morning brain buzz overcoming my angry guts. I couldn’t believe DW was still determined to run, but a collection of technical garments, a pair of racing flats, and a load of Sudafed and she was ready to go! We drove over the river to the AAA baseball stadium where the race started and ended. Even at 6am there was a line of cars backed up onto the freeway! Pop Tarts were eaten on the way with the sincere hope that they’d stay down. When we got there I… uh… un-ate them and we met up with our parents who’d come to cheer! After a bit of nervous fidgeting and spotting some familiar faces from the running club, we lined up for our start in the first wave, not really sure how this whole thing was going to shake out. One thing was for sure, we had trained for three months for this race and nothing, certainly not gunky lungs or rebellious innards, was going to stop us from giving it all we had and leaving it all on the road! (I want to be clear, by “it all” I mean effort and energy, not breakfast. I’m trying to stay at least a little classy about this)
We are runners, and therefore accustomed to discomfort. The race must go on!
DW and I lined up a little behind the 1:50 pace group. The plan was to stick with that for a while to keep from going out too strong and fizzling out before the end, then turning up the octane steadily until the final stretch, where we’d simply empty the tank. GO!!!
As everyone raced forward, I couldn’t help but notice there was no pace group sign! What’s more, it never showed up! Having pacers does no good if they don’t hold up their sign to follow! Oh well, we’ve got Garmins, we can pace ourselves. Wait, what’s that up ahead?
A policewoman jumps out into the road with hands held up, saying “I have to let the train through!”
What?! Huh? A race this big and no one coordinated with local transit? I put aside my frustration when I realize that this poor woman is standing directly in the path of a stampede of adrenaline-high runners with time aspirations severely shortening their patience for delays in their forward progress. This is the first and fastest wave of runners, so everyone had a time agenda. Her eyes are wide and she looks very afraid. We bunch up, some yelling at the train which has stopped right in our path, goodness knows why. Finally she just says “Run around it!” We take off toward the back of the train and around it, catching the course again and fighting the urge to make up for the lost minute by pushing harder!
Stay steady, stay steady, stay Steady. Push later, push later.
We wind through downtown Sac, weaving around the Capitol Building and heading north, where the course hops onto the bike trail which runs through Sacramento end to end. The thing about this section is that it runs through what basically amount to hobo camps. It’s harmless enough, but apparently some spectators got weirded out by the homeless presence. I dubbed this section “Donation Row”, because every article of clothing discarded by a heated runner was sure to be immediately found by the needy! No middleman necessary!
Mile 8 found us reaching Discovery Park, where our support crew was stationed to capture us on immortal film. It’s also where we caught the trail along the Sacramento River for about 3 miles. You know, it doesn’t matter how often family comes out to races; it always gives me a big boost in spirit to see familiar faces rooting along the course!
Things got a little hairy around mile 9, where the course runs through “Old Sac”, the historical western style downtown complete with wooden walkways and steamboats. DW quietly comments, “I’m not feeling well.” This is her phrase for when she’s feeling especially prone to her epileptic tendencies. Sometimes she can wait it out and sometimes not.
So what do you do? You keep going. Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running.
So after a loop around a semi-industrial part of town we reach the 12 mile mark and have actually kept a reasonable pace the entire time. Laura is feeling better and after crossing Tower Bridge, it’s a ½ mile streak to the finish inside the stadium! We agreed that when the time came, we’d each push the pace as much as we could manage and meet up at the end, so after the bridge spit us out it was go time! I honestly gave it every scrap of gumption in my being. I pumped my legs, arms and heart to their limit that last stretch. Around the stadium, through the gate, out onto the red dirt, and down the final straightaway to the finish!
Man, I felt rough at the finish! I barely held steady for someone to put a medal around my neck, then leaned against a railing to wait for my better half. She came in right behind me, amid a sudden mob of runners, and we met and headed up into the stands together. We had both PR’d by a few minutes and were ecstatic! At least we would be once we felt human again!
As the pain of the race subsided the joy of the accomplishment set in and the elusive “PR High” took hold. As we bade farewell to family, we headed home for showers, food, PJ’s, movies and a healthy dose of pride.
Mile 1- 8:27
Mile 2- 7:54
Mile 3- 8:02
Mile 4- 8:17
Mile 5- 8:19
Mile 6- 8:15
Mile 7- 8:07
Mile 8- 8:21
Mile 9- 8:21
Mile 10- 8:17
Mile 11- 7:58
Mile 12- 8:15
Mile 13- 7:35
Last .1- 0:37 (6:28 pace)
Time- 1:46:03 ALRIGHT!!!
DW’s time- Well, I believe she has a bloop on the way….
Here’s the photo record of the day:
Quite a grandiose finish arena!
It was COLD that morning!
Laura’s new shirt, making sure those behind her are well-informed.
Nerves starting to take hold. The shirt I’m wearing is the PR I’m aiming to beat. I’m thinking of making this a tradition.
This is the 5-hour energy shot as a last ditch effort to have some fuel to run on maneuver.
There we are behind giant blue shirt guy, among 5,500 runners!
The thing is called the Shamrock’n Half Marathon. I was totally the only one remotely” rockin'” at this moment.
I have NO idea how we missed this guy! I guess Leprechauns are delegated to the third wave.
Plaid shorts girl must’ve passed us and dropped back at least eight times in 2 miles.
Spot the double Bangle Pump!
It’s weird, the BP is a kneejerk reaction to a camera!
Here’s Laura apparently breaking the sound barrier, much too fast for ordinary film to capture.
I’m usually not a look-at-this-picture-of-me guy, but this is a rare decent race photo!
This zombie is me, deperately trying to suck in oxygen post race! Any laughs at how awful this picture is are warranted and forgiven.
In contrast, this is my wife immediately post race, smiling and joking.
Dazed and confused runners search for timing printouts. Either that or DW has spotted a werewolf and I am attempting to solve a calculus equation.
Letting the PR’s sink in before hobbling away!
Support crew! Left to right, Laura’s mom, my mom, my dad.
All in all, a wonderful day. Happy running, everyone!