Saturday, August 17, 2013

Marathon Stalking

Don't worry -- I promise I'm not about to do anything stupid. How far am I from being able to run a marathon with any reasonable amount of speed? Like, soooooo far.

Which is totally fine right now. I do enjoy the occasional marathon, but I doubt I'll ever really think of myself as a marathoner in the sense of that being the main distance I'm focused on. My true love has always been that middle 10K-to-half distance because a) I really enjoy that "comfortably hard" pace, b) it's where I feel like I have the most skill / genetic predisposition, and c) I can race those distances flat-out fairly often without taking too much of a physical or psychological hit.

Don't get me wrong, marathon training has its draws; there's something a bit sacred and ritualistic about it, and also something oddly satisfying about the amount of sustained focus that a full-on papa-bear marathon cycle demands. But like I've said before, marathon training is itself a marathon, and inevitably 8-10 weeks in the whole thing starts to feel like a bit of a slog. It's also tough to really "race"-race anything shorter during that time because of the mileage you lose to taper and recovery. By the time I ran Mountains 2 Beach at the end of May, I had been marathon training for basically nine months straight, so as I'm recovering and getting close to actually being able to train again, I'm feeling the urge to spend a few months, y'know, not marathon training and getting back to the type of workouts and races that I enjoy the most.

I can't say I'm not tempted to jump back in. CIM registration is drawing to a close, and as always, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who will be running. Aside from the fact that it's such a hands-down awesome, well-run, runner-centered race, this is my favorite thing about CIM -- it ends up feeling like one big end-of-the-year runner bash. "To running! To marathoning! To pre-race pizza! To post-race pancakes!"

CIM 2012 - pre-race pizza at Pizza Rock

CIM 2011 - World's Best Spectators

CIM 2012 - gearing up for the monsoon

CIM 2011 - post-race pancakes

So I will admit that it has been really, *REALLY* hard for me to keep my finger off that registration button. (In fact....the more I look at old pictures, the more I'm tempted.) But in addition to the fact that I don't think it's a great idea physically for me to start marathon training any time soon, I also know that although I like the idea of running CIM, the training is just not what I want to do right now.

BUT. By the start of 2014, odds are good I'll be craving eighteen- and twenty-milers and 1200m intervals again rather than tempo runs and snappy little 400m's, so I'm scoping out candidates. The main limiting factors are 1) I'll likely be in New Orleans the weekend of 4/12 - 4/13, 2) we'll be in England / Italy from 4/20 - 5/9, and 3) I refuse to run anything organized by Competitor Group (which is is a whole other blog post that I will maybe get around to sometime).

Options so far:

Napa Valley Marathon (Calistoga, CA) -- March 2.

  • Pros: Close to home, & I know enough people who have run it to know all the good & bad things about the course & that it is not utterly horrible.
  • Cons: I'd prefer something a little later in March, or early April. It also has a reputation for terrible weather (ie, pouring rain, super hot, etc.), and kind of strikes me as a froo-froo rich people / ladies-who-lunch / overly precious kind of race. And also not cheap ($125 by 9/30 & up from there).

LA Marathon (Los Angeles, CA) -- March 9.

  • Pros: Mostly a known quantity in that it's a big enough race that if it was terrible, I would have heard about it. Also looks like a pretty decent course.
  • Cons: Kind of on the early side, air travel / lodging required, kind of a big race, etc.

River City Marathon (Folsom, CA) -- March 9.

  • Pros: Reasonably close to home (though I'd still have to find somewhere to stay), small event, flat course, reasonably priced ($95).
  • Cons: Kind of on the early side, & a totally unknown quantity in terms of organization, logistics, etc.

Oakland Marathon (Oakland, CA) -- March 23.

  • Pros: Close to home, familiar course, well-run event, small field, reasonably priced ($95 by 11/1).
  • Cons: This is one of my favorite local half marathons, so I'd be missing out on that. Also it's still a *little* earlier than I'd really like. And....I'm not absolutely bonkers about the course. The awesome crowd support & variation in scenery is sort of off set by the twisty-turny-kinda-hilly nature of the course.

Modesto Marathon (Modesto, CA) -- March 23.

  • Pros: Sorta close to home (would still need lodging), flat fast course, decently well-run from what I've heard, and CHEAP ($80 September early-bird special).
  • Cons: Like Oakland it's a touch earlier in the year than I'd really like, but that is where the similarities end -- Oakland and Modesto could not possibly be more different. Where as the Oakland course is windy & somewhat hilly & urban & packed with spectators, the Modesto course would be utterly flat & exposed, with many long straight stretches, & very few spectators. This *could* make it awesome if all you care about is a fast time, but if it's sunny, hot, windy, rainy, etc., it could also really suck.

Irving Marathon (Irving, TX) -- April 5.

  • Pros: My family is close to Dallas, so I'd get to visit them and would also have a place to stay. Also the course looks good, and the date is a little more in the range of what I'm looking for.
  • Cons: Plane tickets from SF to Texas are expensive. Also I have never run a distance race in Texas, and I have no idea how the different climate, altitude, allergens, etc. would affect me.

Big D Texas Marathon (Dallas, TX) -- April 6.

  • Pros: Same as above. (Irving is basically Dallas, so I have to say I'm kind of surprised there are full marathons there on back-to-back days. Seems weird.) Also, CHEAP ($75 until 11/1).
  • Cons: Same as above. Also, they refer to Dallas as "Big D," based on which I can only assume that whoever is running this race is not from Texas, because no Texan would ever refer to Dallas that way. (Kind of like no one from San Francisco would ever call it "Frisco." *Shudder*)

I think that's kind of it. Unfortunately our vacation dates knock out a bunch of races in late April / May that I'd otherwise be really excited about (SLO, Flying Pig, Avenue of the Giants, Surfer's Path, M2B) but such is the way of traveling with reward miles. (It took us two hours on the phone with Alaska to find workable dates. I shit you not.)

Any other March / April marathons I should consider?

Do you have tips to share with me about any of these races?


  1. I don't have the inside scoop on any of these races so I can't be helpful in any way, but I think a Texas marathon sounds like torture any time of year! I'd go for a California race. Napa DOES seem a bit frou-frou, but it would probably be my pick, mostly because I like the idea of a more picturesque/less crowded race.

    1. The TX races would certainly have the possibility of majorly sucking. It would all depend on the weather, but definitely right -- the worst possible day in Dallas in terms of heat / humidity beats the worst possible day in California hands down, I think.

  2. I would totally go for Oakland, but I am super biased. I am doing Oakland in 2014 as my first full. It is SUPER hilly, but (as you probably know since you ran the half) it visits nearly every neighborhood in Oakland. I live about half a block from the 9 mile marker and can't wait.

    That all being said, it might be nice for you to get your marathon feet wet again doing one in Texas. Perhaps your family members can come out and cheer you on. Knowing there is someone waiting for you on the route or at the finish is always nice.

  3. I've heard fantastic things about the L.A. Marathon. Oakland could be fun, but hilly.

  4. Flying Pig is fabulous, I did it this year finally and loved it!

    I ran CIM in 2011, maybe I saw you, lol.

    Of your above choices, I personally would do LA. I've heard great things about it.

    1. I really want to run Flying Pig sometime! I've heard such great things about it. LA is tempting...

  5. I can't believe CIM is almost sold out! IF I ran another marathon, it would probably be CIM. Wouldn't the Texas races even in the spring be warm? I would go with Napa or Oakland if it was up to me to decide.

    1. Ugh, you're probably right. At this point think I'm about ready to eliminate the TX races because of the travel cost & potential for yucky climate.

      God I love CIM!!! Why can't it be in the spring???

  6. I'm guessing you flipping want to BQ on this one. Which is the most BQ friendly? Pick that one!!

    1. Good question! Probably not Oakland but otherwise I'm not really sure. I need someone to figure this out for me!

  7. Isn't there a website that does this? I'll see if I can find it.

  8. Sorry for the comment overload. Ok, according to marathon guide, your best bets for a Spring marathon are:

    Napa - 17th highest number of BQ-ers
    Wait for Ojai again if you can bear it.

    So TeamRamsden votes Napa. And we can come and cheer and drink wine.

    1. I would totally wait for Ojai again if we weren't going to be out of town for most of May (when I know for a fact I will *not* run). Hmm...Now a plan is taking shape. Maybe it's Napa, with Modesto as a backup (since it might not sell out, or at least not until fairly close to the race)? Decisions, decisions...