Race Report: California International Marathon

Ok guys, this was my first and probably only marathon, so this write up is going to be loooooong. With pictures. And videos.

You’ve been warned!!

I arose at the painful hour of 3:30 am on Sunday morning. I’d gotten about 5 hours of sleep, but I think it was decent enough sleep. I got up, put on my trash bag and tube sock arm warmers, and drove over to meet my garbage bag twinsie:

That’s my friend Jenn, who did her first marathon on Sunday too. She had arranged for us to have two friends drive us to the start and bring our stuff to the finish. We headed out at about 5 am, worried about crowds and traffic at the start like last year, when I ran the relay and we almost missed the start. Funny thing was, this time, we got there so ridiculously early that the start line wasn’t set up! Hahahahaha. We got a banana and some Gu from a booth, and headed inside the nearby Chevron for some warmth. We found a couple of other early birds inside the Chevron… and a totally comfy couch!

We hung out there for a good long time. Over an hour! I got in line for the Chevron bathroom about halfway through but never made it in after over 30 minutes of waiting. By that time, Jose and Steve (two running buddies that are my pace) has already shown up, and Jenn and I headed out with them to the start. We managed to hit up a porta potti before the gun went off, which I was glad for! TMI alert – I’d taken Imodium and right then did a little #2 so I knew I was good to go in that department. We waited for the gun to go off, I hugged Jenn excitedly, and then… we started moving forward. I was dancing and smiling and just felt good.

Jose, Steve, and I settled into our pace. Jose was the “pacemaster”, keeping us around 11:00 or 11:30 and yelling at us when we sped up to under 11, unless we were going downhill. I kept an eye on the total time and threw in some walk breaks every 10 minutes or so. Steve just kept running and obeyed orders from Jose and me. HAHAHAH.

I don’t even remember what we chatted about. Probably about the cold. Cuz, for Sacramento, it was COLD. I hear it was 28* at the start line! We were all layered up and weren’t about to start shedding layers at all! We talked about some of our training runs and some of our hurdles training this season. I hadn’t run a long run with either of them before, but we knew that we were all about the same pace. In fact, at the Cowtown half marathon, I went ahead of them for most of the race, and they caught me at the end and we all finished within seconds of each other! So I knew we’d be good running partners.

Jose twittered along the way, letting the outside world know how we were doing. Before the half, we saw my friends, Amanda and Nikki around mile 6! Then Jose’s wife Amy was somewhere around 7. Also Steve’s family was in there somewhere and got an awesome photo of us in action:

Steve in the middle, Jose in the camo shorts, me in the trash bag

When we crossed the halfway line, I thought it was funny I was still wearing my trash bag, and Facebooked this fact. It was cold, and OH GOD THE WIND! Coming up the hills with the wind beating you down was quite the challenge.

At the half mark, we were on a REALLY good pace. Possibly too good. Our half time was 2:35, only about 17 minutes slower than our half times. Coincidentally (?), this was about where we started walking a lot more. We actually walked the whole mile until the 14 marker, because of our varying needs. Steve stopped at the porta potti with possibly the longest line known to man. Jose waited for him. I went ahead and got a Gu and my water refilled and started walking. And walking. I was afraid I’d lost them! Luckily, by mile 14 we’d reconvened together and resumed our run/walk plan. Jose kept us on pace, I threw in walk breaks, plus we walked up all hills at this point. We weren’t making it 10 minutes without walk breaks anymore, and we were all starting to get some aches and pains, too. But then we saw my friends somewhere after 15 but before 20 and they took video!

HAHAHAHA. I love it. In fact, “I’m still wearing a trash bag!” should pretty much be my quote of the day. Evidence…. the video I took of us at mile 17:

Hahaha oh my goodness. We were all starting to struggle at this point. I thought silly pictures would help.

But sadly, there was still a struggle. We tried to stay positive. Steve’s ankle started hurting. Jose’s stomach got pissed and he needed real food, not Gu or ShotBloks. My knee started hurting. Uh oh. Not even to Mile 20 yet, either. I promised them that when we got to 20, we’d stop for the photo op:

I also took a picture of them with these two girls decked out in Christmas gear that we kept leapfrogging on the course. Good times.

But we couldn’t stop for TOO long, we had a marathon to finish! Up and over the last hill we went, the bridge between suburbia and downtown. We walked it, dragging each other along. We found a special SacFit aid station (that’s the group my friend Jenn belongs to) and they gave Jose a ginger cookie that saved the day for his stomach. I also found a med station and got some Tylenol for my knee (they wrote my number down and everything! Very official.) It was not long after this that we hit a crossroads.

As you can tell, I was VERY much into sticking together with these guys. I didn’t care about my speed or my final time, I wanted to get across the finish line, smiling, and not in pain. The problem? My left knee was really starting to bitch at me, and I was realizing that it was ok if I kept jogging slowly, but stopping to walk and then starting again was causing me to limp. I couldn’t keep starting and stopping again. Meanwhile, the guys needed the walk break. Feeling horrible, I explained that I simply had to keep going or else my knee was going to rebel. They were supportive of course, and I headed on towards the finish line with about 4 miles to go. I figured I could handle those last miles alone.

I kept it to a slow jog, and the sun finally started to come out. It wasn’t warm or anything but the sun being out and the wind calming down made me FINALLY start to sweat a little under the trash bag! 23 miles in a trash bag, and I’d just now started to sweat under there? Hilarious! Not long after I’d ditched the bag, I actually popped in to a porti potti, just for a quick pee. There was no line and I figured it’d be better than at the finish. I kept reminding myself that my end time didn’t matter. I was in and out of there really fast anyways.

For the last 3 miles, I just kept trudging along. I jogged most of it, but thanks to the earlier Tylenol, if I did take a short walk break, the pain was less when I started going again. This was the part of the course that I’d run before, in the relay, but possibly because I was finishing later than my relay did, there was a bit less crowd support. I amused myself by laughing at cars that were stuck waiting for me to run through intersections. I passed a few people, heading through downtown, so that felt good. I was decently strong, though the bottoms of my feet were on fire and my legs were throbbing.

With less than a mile to go, I saw Jose’s wife Amy cheering for me! I yelled back at her and that pumped me up. As I rounded the final corner, I saw my friend Sabrina’s husband and I said hi to him. And then I saw the finish line. I picked it up, not into a sprint (ha), but into a steady jog. I heard them announce the two women’s names in front of me, and then my name. I passed the second woman and came in strong. I didn’t cry, I just smiled this huge grin and thought about what an accomplishment this was. And Amanda captured it on video:

That is just so priceless. I am thrilled to have that moment on tape. Also, the local newspaper got an EXCELLENT photo of me finishing:

See? Big smile. Because this is the year I graduated with a second bachelor’s degree, studied for and passed a board exam to become a registered dietitian, landed an amazing job, got divorced, and RAN A MARATHON. I’ve got the medal to prove it:

My time was around 5:42, on the website it says 5:44, so something like that. Of course, I didn’t hug the curves, so my Garmin says I did an extra .24 miles for good measure:

After the finish, I ran into some girls from my Jill B. Nimble triathlon team! They’d run a relay together and I was so excited to randomly run in to them! We took a photo:

After I let them go, I tried to look at the food booths but I really couldn’t stomach anything. I found a spot to sit down and couldn’t move for a bit. I finally was able to put on my warm clothes over my running clothes – flannel PJ pants, a fleece sweater, and I put a beanie on over my running hat. I must have looked ridiculous. Oh, and huge snow gloves. I was FREEZING. And feeling kind of sick. I did manage to drink a chocolate milk because i knew it would help my recovery, but nothing else. Bummer, huh? All that post-race food and I couldn’t eat it! I gave some to Amanda for being awesome and helping me after the race.

Jose and Steve came over after their finish (not even 5 minutes after my own) and we gave congratulatory hugs. Marathoners all around! We then waited for Jenn to have her finish. Her coach got the officials to keep the finish line up and we saved her medals and a Mylar blanket. She came in crying and it was an amazing moment. Marathon success, all around.

I am typing this two days later, and I have to say, I am almost embarrassed that I am not that sore. Seriously. My hamstrings are a little tight, maybe my calves, but that’s IT. I am not having problems getting in and out of chairs. I was more sore after my first HALF marathon!

What this proves is what I was after: nice and easy. I went much slower than I could have. I could have kept trucking along at the pace I did the first half in, finished under 5:30 for sure, but I’d be in a lot more pain. Of course there’s always the part of me that wonders what I could have done if I’d pushed myself harder, but in general, I am proud of myself for not wrecking my body, for holding back, and for enjoying the moment.

Even two days later, not sore and ready to run again, I do not see any more marathons in my future. Never say never, they say, so I won’t make any definitive statements like that. But I WILL say that there will be no full marathons for me in 2010. I want to work on speed and fitness. Maybe, just maybe, if my speed and fitness get to where I want them to be, someday I’ll challenge the marathon again. But I really might just be satisfied with a “been there, done that, got the sticker” type of experience.

Here’s to getting faster in 2010!!


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. krista
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 06:38:32

    haha! You and your trashbag. =) The photo of you captured by the newspaper is GREAT…did they print it in the paper?!?

    I know what you mean about not being ready for another marathon (but you’re right, “never say never”). When I ran my first and only marathon in 2003, I enjoyed crossing it off the list, but I’ve never had a strong urge to do it again…but who knows. For me, the training was the hardest part…so if I did one again, I probably wouldn’t train for it–just go do it spontaneously. ha! Looks like you had a good running group too so that helps, rather than running alone and getting bored.


    • Holly
      Dec 09, 2009 @ 08:15:03

      No, the newspaper put a bunch of photos on their website. I wasn’t a featured runner or anything. I don’t think!

      The training was hard. And long. It took SO much time. Which was awful in the middle of my move and my divorce. Worst timing ever. I think if I ever did one again, I’d actually want to train BETTER than I did this time. With a group from start to finish, actually doing all of the runs in the middle of the week like scheduled, all of it. And if I never feel like I have that amount of effort to put in, well, I’ll never do a marathon again. Which is a possibility!


  2. Lisa
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 07:09:03

    Why did you wear the trashbag? Good job!!


    • Holly
      Dec 09, 2009 @ 08:12:32

      Well the idea is that the trash bag keeps you warm(er) at the start line and then you throw it away and the volunteers pick it up and put it in the trash. That way you don’t have to tie anything around your waist while running. So I planned on ripping it off an throwing it away in the first mile or so. I didn’t know it would be so cold that I could have worn long sleeves the whole race!


  3. thebalancebroad
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 08:50:24

    CONGRATS on your marathon, Holly! That is so exciting – you have to be incredibly proud of yourself!!!


  4. Erin
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 09:12:51

    You rocked that trash bag! 🙂

    Seriously, think of how much you overcame to do this thing. Both prior to and during. Even if you’re numb about it now, you’ll look back on this in a few years and be amazed at how strong and stubborn you were 🙂


  5. Carrie
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 11:04:51

    I love it! Nice job! I love you in your trash bag, too! I’m so proud of you dear. Congratulations!!


  6. Erica
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 11:24:59

    Congrats on your 1st marathon!!! Sounds like 2009 was a big year for you, wishing you only amazingly wonderful things in 2010, you rock!!! I am going to include you race report in my next Sunday’s weekend report. 🙂


  7. Sabrina
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 21:19:28

    You are so amazing! And my hubby loved that he got a shout out! LOL!!

    I will have to work on my speed and talk you into doing this with me in 2010! 😉

    Oh and I agree, you ROCK the trash bag!!!


  8. Selina
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 00:18:33

    Holly- Thank you for sharing this awesome race recap. I love the videos, and you look so happy before/during/after the race. I know what you mean about the training and future marathons, but I also love how you are not the word “never”. I am so proud of you…this is so much more than a race, it shows how strong you are mentally and physically, even during the hard times! 🙂


  9. kilax
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 05:22:01

    Great job! I am happy the knee that was bothering you is not bothering you know and that you feel great! That is just amazing!


  10. Jose
    Dec 13, 2009 @ 07:54:23

    This race recap ruled Holly!
    It was an exciting day and no matter what negativity we encountered, at the end of the day you, me Steve and Jenn all finished 26.2 – no one can take that from us!
    I finally put up my race report, and I know I’m going to forget SOMETHING but hey, it’s there.
    Congrats again!



  11. CG the Foodie
    Dec 13, 2009 @ 19:35:11

    You are amazing and that is an inspiring post! I ran the Las Vegas half the same day and also was surprised at how I wasn’t sore (I could barely walk the whole week after the San Jose half!).

    Actually I hurt so little that I committed to the San Diego Marathon and am hoping to do CIM next December. I just need to knock my time down some more.

    Love that you wore the trash bag for most of the race!!!


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