Wednesday, December 14, 2016

(Repost:) Please Stop with the Fitness Tips for the Holidays

(It is that time of year again, so reposting this seemed appropriate. Enjoy. :) )

* * *

It looks like a smile, but it's really a scream for help. PUT THE FREE WEIGHTS DOWN, CINDY.
Seriously. You are making the rest of us so, so sad for you.

I don't know how to tell you this, but every time you start listing practical tips for staying fit & healthy during the holidays, everyone is laughing at you and definitely not taking notes.

Here is a list of real-ass "helpful holiday fitness tips" I have actually heard or read over the past week or so that have made me throw up a bit in my mouth with embarrassment for those doling them out:


In addition to maintaining your normal exercise schedule, squeeze in an extra workout or two whenever you can. You know, in all that extra free time you have around the holidays. Bring your free weights to office meetings. Do laps around the cell phone lot as you wait for loved ones at the airport. The possibilities are endless. (I prefer wine aerobics and cookie yoga, myself.)

After a midday holiday meal, convince your friends & family to go for a fun, festive post meal jog or walk. GODDDDD please don't be this person. Please. You want to go for a fun, festive calorie-burning walk/run? By all means go for it. But please don't attempt to browbeat the rest of us who kind of just want to sit on our asses and shoot the shit with a glass of whiskey with people we only ever get to see once a year. Don't be that guy/gal.

Before you go to a party, decide ahead of time to limit yourself to three bites, three cookies, your three favorite foods, etc. and stick to it. Yes, limit yourself. To three bites, or three cookies, your three favorite foods, three foods of each color, three plates of food, three foods that remind you of each person at the party, three vats of artificially colored cookie frosting, etc. Again, the possibilities are endless. You do you.

Buy a low-fat, low-sugar eggnog and skip the alcohol to save calories per cup. Or, you could skip directly to stabbing yourself in the throat. :D

Enlist a fitness-minded friend or family member to be your holiday exercise buddy! Look. Those of us who want any kind of exercise buddy probably already have one. Those of us who don't want you to stop talking about this because you're making it weird for everyone.

Instead of baking cookies or playing board games, pass the time with an active pursuit like snowshoeing, hiking, or building snowmen or igloos. Recent studies show that holiday board games are definitely, DEFINITELY a leading cause of the Obesifying Of AmericaTM. Probably also terrorism. GET OUT THOSE SNOWSHOES, PEOPLE.

Instead of mulled red wine, make mulled cider. You save the calories not only from the alcohol in the wine, but also from the added sugar, since cider is naturally sweet. You know what makes cider 'naturally sweet'? FUCKING SUGAR. See also: Stabbing oneself in the throat.

Instead of dark meat slathered in gravy, choose lower-fat white meat without the skin and enjoy it with just a drizzle of gravy made with defatted pan juices, dry white wine, and low-sodium chicken broth. If you come to my holiday dinner and start talking about 'defatted pan juices,' we are so over. SO. OVER.

Bring your own healthy snacks to the holiday party. Yes, please totally be that sad person sitting in the corner eating celery sticks and homemade GMO-free hummus out of your sad little tupperware while you gaze longingly at your Three Favorite Foods. It won't be weird or awkward for ANYONE, TRUST ME.

Skip the baking; you probably eat more cookies while baking. Fuck that noise. You wanna bake? Fucking bake. YOU BAKE THE SHIT OUT OF THOSE FESTIVE HOLIDAY COOKIES AND EAT AS MANY AS YOU WANT. You baddass motherfucker, you.

Invite holiday vacation visitors to join you at the gym or a favorite exercise class. No. NO. NOOOOOO. Trust me; they do not not NOT want you to do this. HOLIDAY. VACATION. Look it up.

Do some yard work. What?

Lace up your sneakers and powerwalk between holiday errands at the mall. This is definitely not the saddest, most depressing thing related to exercise I've ever heard. Definitely, definitely not. (See also: stabbing in the throat.)

When traveling for the holidays, bring along a favorite fitness DVD and yoga mat. ARE. YOU. JOKING.

Eat and chew slowly. Take a second to savor each bite of baked brie or scoop of spiced nuts! Oh, so it's not enough that I'm packing my own fitness DVD and drinking sad teetotaler eggnog and powerwalking the mall between murdering children errands, now I have to monitor my chew-rate? IS THERE SOME KIND OF APP FOR THAT???!?!?

Turn away from temptation by facing away from the dessert spread. Don't worry, your chew-monitoring app probably also comes with DessertCompassTM.

Choose a tall, skinny glass instead of a short, squat one; you'll drink less. Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahaha wanna bet? (Or, maybe your chew-monitoring app also comes with CupChooserTM.)

Sneak puréed veggies into baked goods in place of butter or oil. Bitch, I will straight-up cut you.

When baking [IF YOU MUST], try subbing half the flour with whole-wheat flour to increase the fiber, which fills you up faster & makes you feel fuller longer. You guys, sorry to be the killer of dreams, but I have spent way too much time sitting in a sports nutritionist's office and the whole wheat flour thing is 90% bullshit.

Stand up to "food pushers" -- Just say no, over and over and over again! Is this, like, the grown-up equivalent of the war on drugs? You would actually think it's that serious, based what WebMD has to say about the matter: "Despite your best laid plans, your holiday food goals can still go awry thanks to 'food pushers' – friends, family members, and co-workers who refuse to take 'no' for an answer when they're offering fattening treats. These are the people who, for whatever reason, seem to believe that their holiday celebration just isn't complete until they get you to give in to their food weaknesses.' YOU GUYS, DON'T GIVE IN TO THEIR FOOD WEAKNESSES, NOOOOOOO! J/K, you eat WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT, you baddass motherfucker.

(RealTalk: OK, sure, I agree that this is SUPER weird behavior that some people definitely engage in, but it's not limited to the holidays, and part of being a grown-ass adult is learning how to politely say 'No thank you' with a lovely smile plastered on your face when a thing is not your jam. So, like, stop making it weird, WebMD. This is not about Teh Holidayzzz or getting fat.)

Instead of trying to squeeze exercise into your schedule, take other things out. Like parties. And alcohol. And baking. And free-form chewing. Basically, anything that might bring you joy for half a second.

Skip the savory finger foods, creamy dips, and fried canapés, help yourself to a small handful of nuts, reduced-fat cheese and fresh fruit, or chilled shrimp. I have an idea, what if you helped yourself to whatever the fuck you felt like eating and didn't make a big deal out of it?

Honestly, you want my tips for staying fit & healthy during the holiday (AND I THINK YOU DO)?

  • Eat like a normal person most of the time & have a tasty holiday treat or two when you goddamn feel like it.
  • Do your normal exercise when you can but do not feel bad & flagellate yourself if you are sometimes too busy kissing under the mistletoe or slapping under the slappy spider or just feel like today you're more interested in wine/pie/polishing off that whiskey advent calendar.
  • Stop talking about it like it's a thing. Everyone is laughing at you.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Race Report: California International Marathon 2016 (Logistical Info)

(This post is about the all the logistical stuff you might be interested in if you're thinking of running CIM. If you want to read about how my race went, check out this post.)

Location: Folsom to Sacramento, CA

Date: Early December (Dec 4, 2016 this year)

Why run it? CIM is my favorite marathon to date, but the reason I was running it this year in particular is because when I had to skip the Santa Rosa Marathon in August 2015 due to a stress fracture, I'd signed up for CIM that December, thinking I'd let my leg heal, then keep building on my summer 2015 training, & be ready for a strong marathon in Sacramento. Alas, the healing took longer than I expected, and I lost a lot more fitness than I thought I would. I probably could have run CIM that year and finished just fine, but I didn't want to just finish, I wanted to run my best marathon ever. So instead I deferred my entry to 2016. (Pure luck that that was the first year they offered deferrals!)

Field Size: 6174 Finishers. The cap is 7,500 plus the guaranteed entries (see below) and CIM always sells out, so this number of finishers seems awfully low to me. I wonder if that is partly due to the new deferral option.

Pricing & Deadlines/sellout factor:

The pricing & deadline structure works a little differently than most other races I've run.

  • “Re-Run” Registration Special: $89. Available to finishers only, immediately after the race. Limited to 500 registrants.
  • “Re-Run” 2: $99. New for 2017, I think? Apparently the $89 "Re-Run" entries sold out super fast so they offered a second round at $10 more. Also limited to 500 registrants.
  • Early Registration: $125 (1,001st registrant through May 18)
  • Standard Registration: $139 (May 19 through July 13)
  • Late Registration: $150 (July 14 to race sell-out)
  • Guaranteed Entries: $175 (October 1 to October 16). Basically, if you've met the guaranteed entry standard in the last year (10 minutes slower than BQ times), you have this window to sign up even if the race is officially sold out.
  • 200 Charity entries available $275 (Until sold out)

The Expo:

At ~7000 runners, CIM is a reasonably big race (though obviously nothing like NYCM or Chicago), and the expo is fairly sprawling as well. It usually runs for two or three days, I think, usually closing at 5pm the day before the race. It's held at the Sacramento Convention Center & involves many of the usual suspects--running shoe/clothing purveyors, fueling companies, booths for a variety of California races, car raffles, etc. Picking up my bib & shirt has always been super easy & straightforward, as has finding last-minute accouterments (like sunglasses).

It's big enough, anyway, to have a giant 'CIM' you can take pictures with.


Incidentally, quite close to the Johnny Cash Bridge, where Folsom Blues Breakout Half started. I totally did not realize at the time that when I hit .2 miles or so into FBB Half, I was running right across the CIM starting line! Basically the shuttle buses park on the bridge, & the start is staged on Folsom-Auburn Road--starting line to the south, potties to the north, & gear check right across the road.

Starting line. (It was actually a lot darker than it looks. My phone is over-enthusiastic in low light.)

There have always been massive numbers of port-a-potties at this race, but for whatever reason this year those lines were LONG and SLOW. In the past I've stood in them for max 5 minutes, and this year it was over 20. So if I ever do the shuttle bus again, I will definitely get my butt out there before 6:30am.

The finish is at the State Capitol Building, which makes for a pretty background what with the architecture & giant Christmas tree. They also do separate finish lines for men & women so that the female winner can break the tape, which I've always thought was nice.

Bask in my mad photography skillz. Just kidding, I stole this picture from the SRA website..

This was the first year I used the bag check, and it was quite easy to go up to the "bag yard," have a volunteer take my bib number, & then go grab my bag for me. The only reason we weren't out of the finish area immediately was because I was bound & determined to ring that damned BQ bell, for which there was a very long line by the time I got in it. (Seriously. People were doing full-on photo shoots up there. TAKE YOUR DAMN PICTURE & MOVE ALONG!) Yes I know boo hoo hoo poor me.

Literally any excuse to post this picture from now until forever.

I assume there was food or something but I had absolutely zero interest whatsoever.


Given that it's a point-to-point course, you have two options: 1) Stay in Folsom near the finish, sleep in a little later, but find yourself showerless at the finish, or 2) stay in Sac within walking distance of the finish (super easy as there are many many hotels near the finish) & do a late checkout, but be sad because you're catching a 5am bus (or your friend/loved one's car) to the start. Super creative options include #3) get a buddy or a group together so you can justify a reservation at each end, or #4) be lucky enough to have friends or family who live at one end or the other. Given the choice between #1 & 2, I prefer 2, because I HATE not being able to quickly & easily clean up after.

There are many perfectly fine hotels in Sac within walking distance of the finish line at the Capitol building, but this year we stayed at the Holiday Inn by the freeway, about 6 blocks from the finish, for $159 + $16 parking, which was nice but not super fancy or anything. It was also less than 2 blocks from one of the shuttle bus pickups, key since it was ~40F outside & I was not trying to walk a long way in the cold 2 hours before a marathon. There was a bit of road noise from the freeway that I was worried about but ended up not bothering me at all. Solid recommendation, though there are plenty of others. As always, I recommend making a hotel reservation as soon as you think you *MIGHT* want to run since they fill up fast & you can always cancel it.

Our hotel lobby at 4:40am.

Waiting for buses on L street.

The Course:

If you've been hanging around here for any length of time, you know my feelings about this course. It is gently rolling for the first 20 miles, basically flat for the last 10K, with a net down hill of ~300' or so. There are a grand total of like six turns. That combined with the location & time of year, at least in my book, means your chances of fast, favorable race conditions are significantly better than in the vast majority of places. (I mean yes there was that one year there was a monsoon, but it was only one year. And yes there was the year it was like 15F at the start, but let's just remember that everyone & their grandmother ran, like, 20:00 PRs that year & not get too worried about it.)

Now, let us talk about the hills. To be honest, I talk about the hills in this race differently depending on who I'm talking to. When I'm talking to people who train in relatively flat places I say, "There are near-constant, gentle rolling hills in the first 20 miles. None of them are long or super steep but you should know they are there and you should train for them, especially the downhills. Don't go crazy on the uphills & prepare your quads for the descents so that you can enjoy that last flat 10K, less the freeway overpass at mile 21-22 (I forget exactly). Just be sure to do some hill training & you will be fine." When I'm talking to people who train in places like San Francisco where significant hills, up and down, are more or less an unavoidable part of your daily training, I say, "There are no hills in this race. You will be completely fine." Personally I like the variation in terrain because it lets me alternate muscle groups without totally wearing anything out too early, but I'm also used to it. (Also I kind of suspect I might not run as well on a pancake-flat course because of that.)

Aid stations are maybe every 2-2.5 miles or so for the first 20 miles, then more frequent after that (so basically, the perfect distribution). Now, this brings me to my one complaint about this year's CIM, which is the sports drink issue. In the past it's always been something with actual calories in it, like Gatorade or Ultima or something. LIKE YOU SHOULD BE DRINKING WHEN YOU'RE RUNNING A GODDAMN MARATHON. This year, as with Berkeley Half, there was goddamn fucking Nuun. God, I hate that stuff. I know it's super trendy or whatever but it is a) utterly disgusting and b) NOT appropriate for long distance fueling. You want to stay hydrated & have a few electrolytes during your yoga class? Fine. Bring a bottle of Nuun. If you're running 26+ miles, you need something with some goddamn calories in it. [end rant]

Let's finish on a positive note. I love the spectators at this race. Love love love. They're not constant, but there are pretty solid corridors at several points throughout the race, and they are among *the* most earnest, sincere spectators I have encountered at any race and they are absolutely screaming and cowbelling their hearts out for you, whether they know you or not.


Long sleeve logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks (I assume?).

I know some other marathons give you like fancy backpacks or duffel bags or furry ponchos or whatever, but this is how they keep the costs down and the focus on running a fast, competitive race rather than tourism.

If you decide to run:

  • Reserve your hotel early. You can always cancel it.
  • Make your dinner reservations early. There are lots of good restaurants but they WILL fill up with large groups on Saturday night. (We quite enjoyed Hook & Ladder & it was about a mile from the expo.)
  • Train for the hills, if you're not used to them.
  • Don't wear too many clothes. Yes, it's cold at the start (except when it's cold & wet) but people are always shedding clothes like maniacs 4-5 miles in.

Overall Assessment:

Guys. You know my feelings on this. CIM is basically God's gift to marathons and if I had to run only one marathon for the rest of my life and forsake all others, it would hands down be this one, no question. Some people will tell you it is hilly and cold and boring and not as fast as everyone says but those people are lying liars. There are reasons people come from all over the country to run BQs and OTQs here. Ask the BAA. CIM is hands down the best marathon there is, the end.

(Even if they did pour f---ing Nuun this year.)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

dotting i's, crossing t's, etc.

Race report here, ICYMI.

In case you're dying to know what went on BEHIND THE SCENES of Sunday's gift of a race, I figured I might as well tie all this up with a nice neat bow. Without further ado, I present to you Week 18.

* * *

Grand Total: 37.75 miles

    * 9.3 easy
    * 2.25 speed
    * 26.2 RACE

Monday 11/28: Fly home from Spokane.

    My quads felt absolutely TRASHED after Sunday's 12 hilly miles, and with only six days to go I will totally admit to being a little bit freaked out about that.

Tuesday 11/29: 2 warm up, 1 @ 7:20, 1:30 jog, 2 x 800m @ 7:05 pace/2:00 jog, 1 @ 7:20, 2 cool down = 7.5 Fly to LA

    No time for the scheduled speed workout due to travel schedules & a late-night work session.

Wednesday 11/30: Work work work / fly home; 2 warm up, 1 fastish, 1:30 jog, 1 fastish, 2.1 cool down = 2.15 speed/6.26 total

    I'd been thinking that I'd try to get my skipped Tuesday speed session in on Wednesday evening when I got home. Alas, as usual, nothing was as on time as it was supposed to be. Considering how late it was when I finally got home (I think I walked in the door around 8), I'd almost given up on it completely. Driving to the track was out due to the time, it was dark, my legs were still throbbing from 1000' of up-and-down on Sunday, and I was beat from work. Not to mention the race was in four days and it's not like anything I did this week was actually going to make me fitter. Which is to say, I pretty much had my pick of fairly valid reasons to throw this run out the window.

    In the end, though, I managed to convince myself that it was in the plan for a reason and I might as well try to follow the *spirit* of the workout even if there was no way I was running 7:05 pace on pedestrian-heavy sidewalks in the dark. So I kind of just compromised on doing the workout as written minus the 800ms.

    BONUS: I could not run a 7:20 mile to save my life. I mean it was a bit uphill but still. 7:39 was all I could do. I hit the 7:20 coming back down, which was mildly reassuring, but still. 4 DAYS TIL RACE DAY. #notready

Thursday 12/1: 3 easy

    In addition to my quads still feeling slightly trashed, I'd started having a tight, pinching pain in my right hip over the last few days. (Note this is the right hip that is chonically effed and that completely betrayed me in my 2013 marathon and has not ever been completely right since.)

    The truth is I had been kind of REALLY lazy about rolling and stretching that hip out (which I KNOW I have to do near-constantly), and suddenly I was having flashbacks to M2B '13 & panicking a bit about whether I'd already blown Sunday's race by not taking care of my hip.

    Obviously I couldn't go back in time & diligently Lacrosse ball the shit out of it every night, so I did the next best thing & booked a massage with the pretty decent place near me where I can almost always get a last minute appointment. The therapist was a woman I had not seen before, so I explained my situation & basically told her, "My pain tolerance is exceptional, so just get in there & go for it."

    After she'd ground the crap out of my hip, realigned it with the other one, & detached my quads from my IT bands, I went out for my penultimate run, just an easy 3 around the neighborhood. Oof. I felt like I was keeping up a pretty decent clip, but at 10:44 average pace, my watch begged to differ. :P #notready

Friday 12/2: Rest / pack / Steak Club

    The good part: Tasty steak with friends I hadn't seen in way too long. The not-so-good part: Getting carried away sharing tastes of some new acquisitions from our liquor cabinet. D: D: D: #oops

Saturday 12/3: 2 easy

    I woke up on Saturday with the worst hangover I've had since New Year's. SO STUPID!

    I did the run around 11 feeling tired, shaky, & a bit nauseous, showered, threw everything in the car, & headed off to Sac.

    Of course I am not hungover & feeling like ass, I am trying to run a PR/BQ marathon tomorrow, who would be that stupid????

    Only a half glass of wine at dinner. LOOK I CAN LEARN THINGS!!

Sunday 12/4: .3 warm up / 26.2 race

    (I'll just leave this here again in case you missed it.)

    Post-race, we had a lovely brunch on the Delta King riverboat with the crew. Love these ladies & gents.

* * *

Friends, HERE ENDETH the saga of CIM 2016. Thanks for playing along at home. I have a quick post on race logistics/nuts & bolts that I'll get up soon, & after that it is time to put 26.2 behind us for a while & look to the future.

* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18 - It's On

CIM 2016 Week 2 of 18 - Escape From NY (Barely)

CIM 2016 Week 3 of 18 - A Discount Code to Share (+ back on Strava!)

CIM 2016 Week 4 of 18 - 18/day, 47.5/week, 205.5/month.

CIM 2016 Week 5 of 18 - That cutback feeling

CIM 2016 Week 6 of 18 - french toast, trail shoes, & a little race fatigue

CIM 2016 Week 7 of 18 - Big week & feelin' fine!

CIM 2016 Week 8 of 18 - Knee Troubles :(

CIM 2016 Week 9 of 18 - Improvement on the knee front!

CIM 2016 Week 10 of 18 - Train kept a-rollin' (+ free shoes!)

CIM 2016 Week 11 of 18 - Texas Half Marathon #1 (+ my sister's wedding!)

CIM 2016 Week 12 of 18 - Race Week Cutback, blah dee blah dee blah...

CIM 2016 Week 13 of 18 - One More Block....

CIM 2016 Week 14 of 18 - Fun mileage facts & some HR wonkiness.

CIM 2016 Week 15 of 18 - Hang in there.

CIM 2016 Week 16 of 18 - Opioids, speed work, & a soggy weekend

CIM 2016 Week 17 of 18 - Deep Breaths

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Race Report: California International Marathon 2016 (My Race)

Sooooo it turns out that if you get your act together and actually, like, train hard for stuff, pretty amazing things can happen.

WHO KNEW besides everyone?

On the plus side (at least as far as CIM was concerned), my talk in Monterey on Saturday was cancelled, which meant I was actually able to get some good sleep Friday night and get to Sacramento before dinner time. Don & I got to the expo on Saturday around 4pm, a little later than intended due to bad traffic, but still in plenty of time for me to grab my bib & shirt & hunt around for a pair of sunglasses (having left mine in Palm Springs a few weeks back).

After that we checked into the hotel & then headed to dinner at Hook & Ladder. It was great to catch up with everyone pre-race, talk goals, hopes, & worries, & make very important arrangements to get spectated by Cat around mile 12-13.

Clockwise from bottom: The Dude, Mr. Cat (aka #ironballz), K (who I met at Berkeley Half a couple weeks back), Jen, me, Don, & Cat

PRO TIP: If you're spectating & want to be sure your runners see you, procure a distinctive balloon.

I know I've been very anti-time goals, but I did admit during our dinner conversations when pressed by Cat that if I ran about 3:35 and beat my 3:36:27 PR, I'd be satisfied that I'd had a solid race, and that if I somehow magically managed a 3:30 I'd probably run around screaming like a crazy person. (For the record, I didn't think there was any real chance of that, but a gal can dream.)

Post dinner, Don & I headed back to the hotel where Bib Lady was assembled, runner tracker put into place, and post-race meetup plans finalized.

Ick, terrible yellow hotel light.

I spent a few minutes flipping through the CIM program booklet (something I've never seen before but was actually kind of cool), then set my alarm for 4am & put myself to bed. (Alas, I woke up with a full bladder around 3:15 & never really slept again after that. :P )

Around 4:40 I headed out to catch the 5:00 shuttle. It was a bit surreal when the elevator doors opened on a lobby full of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed runners. I'd been a little concerned about finding my way to the shuttle stop (having never taken it before); for some reason it never occurred to me that, duh, my hotel would be packed with fellow runners and all I really had to do was follow the herd.

Clearly still asleep. Or terrified. (Look, I tried.)

Waiting for the buses

Thanks to a bit of good luck I was one of the first people on one of the first buses, and we actually pulled out a few minutes before 5. I spent the trip choking down a bottle of Osmo pre-load mixed with a gel, & when we rolled up on the starting line forty-five minutes later, a SRA rep jumped on the bus to welcome everyone and give us the spiel. (Congrats on making it to the start, potties to the right, starting line to the left, bag check straight ahead, feel free to stay on the bus or come and go until 6:45.) I decided that I would stay on until 6:30 sipping my water & nibbling on bagel #2, then go hit the potties, check my bag, & get in a bit of easy jogging to warm up.

Something that's been different about this training cycle is how completely exhausted I've been these last few weeks, even after I started tapering. Sometimes people start asking you a few weeks out if you're ready, and sometimes in the past I've been like, "Yeah, I think so" or "As ready as I'm going to be!" but this time, every time someone asked me if I felt ready I'd be like, "No. Oh god, no. That's not for, like, two more weeks." One week out I felt completely exhausted. Even this last week, my legs have felt achy and heavy. My two-mile shakeout on Saturday felt woefully shaky, and even sitting on the bus at 5:30am I was thinking, "Wow, I really really do NOT want to run a marathon in an hour & a half. What I would really like to do, actually, is take a shuttle right back to the hotel & climb back into bed, plzthnx."

But then, suddenly, at 6:20am, I was ready ready ready. I was awake & alert & twitchy & sweating already and HELL YES bring me that starting line right now because I am ready to DESTROY this thing.

As predicted, it was 40F when I got off the bus, and I went back and forth several times on whether to wear arm sleeves and/or gloves or just go without. If I got too warm I could always give them to Cat at the half; on the other hand, I have never once in my life been cold in a race & wished I was wearing more clothes. Once I was off the bus & in the potty line, I was surprised that I really didn't feel that cold, so I decided to go with my gut & go bare.

Unfortunately, said potty line ended up being the slowest I have ever been in in my life, very unlike my first two CIM experiences. Although there were toilets as far as the eye could see, the lines were LONG, and I swear people were spending like 5 minutes each in there. I finally got my turn 20 minutes later with only 10 minutes til the start, and of course by then the bag check was a mob scene and the corrals were packed. Trying to drop my bag was like negotiating a mosh pit and I made it up to the general vicinity of the 3:38 pace group with literally seconds to spare. This was definitely the most stressful part of the day, but all's well that ends well, I suppose.

Nothing like watching the sun rise over the port-a-lets. #classic

Starting line

I know I just said in another post that I had a kind-of sort-of pacing plan & running by feel was out because I don't really know what I'm doing in marathons, but for some reason as they counted down to the gun & I sucked down my pre-race gel I kind of went, "Ehhhhh screw it, we're doing this by feel," & just went for it. My revised, completely-on-the-fly plan went something like "Run pretty easy for at least the first half & then gradually speed up." I knew that by the first 10K, I should have a reasonably good idea of what pace "pretty easy" would translate into today.

Honestly, I'm glad I threw out the "just run 8:12s through the half" pace-based plan because I had completely forgotten how downhill that first mile is! I felt like I was jogging super easy but my pace was consistently in the 8:0xs, which I took as an encouraging sign. Determined not to wreck my plan to negative split, I went out of my way not to try to juke around people in front of me or catch up with the 3:38 pace group (which was already a good ways in front of me in spite of the fact that I was running a good bit faster than that pace). I did remember that mile 2 has a decent uphill, so when my pace started to creep up toward the mid-8:00s, I told myself, "Excellent! As it should be going uphill in mile 2! A nice little boost for my negative split!" (Guys, this is serious progress. Not so long ago I would have totally panicked & done something stupid.)

    Mile 1: 8:07
    Mile 2: 8:20
    Mile 3: 8:00

The first half proceeded more or less like that. I forced myself to stay super easy and relaxed, back off & take the uphills nice & easy ("That negative split!"), & use the downhills to cruise down as effortlessly as possible & gain some free time. I had the estimated finish time screen up on my watch, which shows that, distance remaining, and average pace; during this time my average pace hovered mostly around 8:15, with my estimated finish time oscillating wildly between 3:28 & 3:40. I can't say I didn't feel a little twinge of panic any time I saw a split slower than 8:15-8:20, but I really tried hard to be honest with myself about my effort level, keep it SUPER super easy, & think about that negative split. I was doing gels every three miles, which really helped mentally break up the distance & keep me from getting too overwhelmed by the number of miles left to go.

NBD, just out having fun. :)
    Mile 4: 8:18
    Mile 5: 8:15
    Mile 6: 8:29
    Mile 7: 8:23
    Mile 8: 8:11
    Mile 9: 8:09
    Mile 10: 8:05
    Mile 11: 8:02

At mile 12 I started looking for Cat & her penguin balloons. She'd asked me when I thought I might hit the half and I'd said, "If things are going well, around 1:47-1:48," and I kid you not I cruised past the 13.1 timing mat at 1:48:xx. (According to my chip, I hit the half at 1:47:43. Am I good or am I good?) I finally saw the penguins and Cat around 13.5 and we both screamed our heads off at each other.

At this point I was still playing it very safe. I felt great & my average time was hovering right around 8:13, but I was terrified of pushing too hard too soon & jeopardizing my ~3:35 (which at this point I felt very confident I could get) & my negative split. Finally I made a deal with myself that if I still felt this good with 10 miles left, I'd start tapping the accelerator ever so slightly.

    Mile 12: 8:15
    Mile 13: 8:13
    Mile 14: 8:06
    Mile 15: 8:19
    Mile 16: 8:05

Well, mile 16 arrived & I still felt pretty darn good. I didn't let myself go crazy, but I did stop easing up so much on the uphills & let my stride open up just a bit on the flats. Honesty I pretty much stopped looking at my splits at this point, but I did see my average pace drop from 8:13 to 8:12 to 8:11, & my estimated finish time had began to hone in right around 3:35, then 3:34, then 3:33. (Sidenote: At this point I was still behind the 3:38 pace group and had been for the entire race, so part of me started to wonder if they were really that far ahead or if maybe my GPS was just way off.) My screen held steady at 3:33 / 8:11 for a while, which was when I started to feel like I was actually working for it a bit. I could run faster, but it took real effort and again, I didn't want to jeopardize the things I really cared about with a 10K still to go.

    Mile 17: 7:57
    Mile 18: 7:57
    Mile 19: 8:00
    Mile 20: 8:01

I think something changed for me mentally when I passed mile marker 21 & had my second-to-last gel. For some reason 6.2 left felt significant but 5.2 felt like almost nothing. At that point I found myself checking in with my body & going, "We can totally run this pace for 5 more miles, yeah?" And without hesitation the answer was, "Oh hell yeah." (Also, Vince Lombardi: No one is ever hurt. Hurt is in your mind. Demonstrably false, but still useful in the heat of battle.) I'd done much longer race pace runs during training when I felt much worse and was working much harder; this seemed completely manageable. So, the next question, of course was, "Can we run faster?" Answer: "Let's find out!"

(Another amusing side note: My mantra whenever training has gotten really tough and I felt awful has been, "Better figure out how to deal with it now, cuz ain't no one gonna feel fresh and peppy at mile 22." Guys, I kind of felt fresh and peppy. Well; maybe not fresh, exactly, but quite strong and like I had plenty left in the tank. So, put that in the win column. Or potentially the "needs improvement" column if you look at it as evidence that I took it way too easy for too long & could have pushed a little harder a little sooner.)

I had no idea what my pace was for the last 10K. All I knew was my estimated finish time and cumulative average pace, and it became a little game of "How much can we notch those numbers down?" I got it down to 3:32, then low 3:32, then watched it rise again a bit. Something in me saw that, went "Oh HELL no," and found a little bit more to give. Back to low 3:32, then ever so gradually I started to see 3:31:5x.

This was the real work. I was getting to the point where I couldn't feel my legs and wasn't 100% sure for how much longer I could maintain that effort level. Any time the numbers started to creep back up into the 3:32s, though, I thought "FUCK NO!" and doubled down. Somewhere in those last few miles, I passed the 3:38 pacer (???), then eventually the 3:33 group as well.

    Mile 21: 8:01
    Mile 22: 8:03
    Mile 23: 7:55

I had no thought for how much was left or what my pace was; the only thought in my head was Goddamn I want this so fucking bad and I am going to fight to the goddamn death for it! By then it was obvious I was going to get my PR and BQ and negative split, no question, so the 'it' I was fighting for at that point was I think just honestly running as hard as I possibly could and finishing knowing I'd given it every last drop I had in those last miles. I also kept thinking about how I was going to ring the SHIT out of that BQ bell, and the faster I got across that finish mat, the sooner I'd get to do that.

In that last mile I was a freaking berserker. "Can I pass you? Yep! You? G'bye! How about you? See ya! 400 FEET TO GO HOLY SHITBALLS TURN ON THE AFTERBURNERS!!!!!"

    Mile 24: 7:46
    Mile 25: 7:32
    Mile 26: 7:20
    Last .2(6): 1:53 (7:07 pace)

I stopped my watch as I crossed the line & almost couldn't believe what I saw there. I grabbed my medal, got a picture, found Don, & promptly collapsed onto him & started sobbing, not even joking.

And then I went to find that damn bell.

So satisfying.
    Official: 26.2 miles/3:31:45/8:05 pace
    Garmin: 26.26 miles/3:31:44.7/8:04 pace

    Overall: 1367/6174
    Women: 314/2838
    A/G: 58/505

I knew I'd run a wicked negative split thanks to that last 5-10K (and also taking it so easy on those early hills), but it was super gratifying to actually see it so clearly in my official results. In terms of halves, I ran the first half in 1:47:43 & the second half in 1:44:02 which is good but not insane. On the other hand, I ran the first 23 miles at 8:09/mile and the last 3.2 at 7:40/mile which IS a bit insane (for me). Honestly, I have no idea how that was even physiologically possible.

I have no words to sum up what this race meant to me. It's been 3.5 years since I ran a PR of any kind and thanks to being injured so much part of me had kind of wondered if it would ever happen again, so that obviously means a lot. And if you've been coming here for any amount of time, you know the BQ thing has been a bit of a monkey on my back for a while, as shallow as it feels to admit it. And finally being able to run a smart marathon & make good decisions & finish strong makes me feel like maybe I'm not so terrible at this after all!

Of course, I put a lot of work into training for this race and I don't want to sell myself short on it, but when we talk about having a really good marathon, there's always so many things you can't control and this element of needing the stars to align just right. I think all that happened for me on Sunday (near perfect weather, no illness or injuries to deal with, travel logistics all working out, etc.) and I am incredibly thankful for that. Yes, I did my share of the work, but I also had some good luck in my side (if only in the form of lack of *bad* luck).

I'm also thankful for everyone who has supported me and encouraged me and rallied around me over these last few years and months and weeks--to my incredible friends & family, both runners (picking up bibs, keeping me company through long runs, encouraging & inspiring me with your own amazing accomplishments & stories) and non-runners (understanding when I am late to everything or have to leave early or miss things altogether & not making me feel terrible about it); to my employer and work colleagues for their incredible flexibility; to my coaches Tom & Ashley at RunCoach for pushing me to do the hardest workouts of my life, even when they scared the pants off of me, and realize "Wow, I really CAN do that!"; and of course Don for never complaining when I am gone for hours at a time on the weekend or missing football games to drive to a race the night before and giving up the occasional weekend to come support me.

Oh, and also SRA for putting on the most perfect marathon experience in existence. It's still my firm opinion that CIM is the only marathon anyone in the western US really needs. :)

This day has been a long time coming, & I could not have done it without all of you!

Friday, December 2, 2016

HERE WE GO.........

Well, here we are.

As I said previously, it's been quite a ride, and no matter what happens on Sunday, I couldn't be happier with how this training cycle has gone. (I mean. I could have done without the knee drama in weeks 8 & 9. But still.) I feel like I've trained well & am prepared for a solid race, and the time will be whatever it will be.

However. I *do* have to make some decisions about pacing ahead of time, and I have to base that on *something*. (I'm not experienced enough at marathons to run them by feel.) My original thought was that as long as I was healthy and feeling reasonably good and the weather isn't doing anything ridiculous, it wasn't TOO audacious for me to go out with the 3:35 pace group (8:12/mile) and see how it feels. But, that was before I learned that apparently there is no longer a 3:35 pace group, only a 3:38 group & a 3:33 group, presumably to give people a shot at actually *getting in* to Boston should they qualify. SO NOW WHAT???

Eh, whatever. I'll probably start with the 3:38 group & then see how I feel & maybe work my way up (er, hopefully that's how it will work). My recent 10K and half marathon times back up a time somewhere in there, and my training has been simply head and shoulders stronger than the year I ran 3:36. There is definitely something kind of freeing about being able to look back on this training cycle and say, In this training cycle, I ran 35% more miles than ever before. I hit 50 miles or more in twice as many weeks. I did twice times as many runs of 16 miles or more. I did three times as many runs of 12 miles or more. I did longer and harder speed and tempo workouts than I've ever done before in my life. I did multiple workouts that scared the pants off of me.

Still, since I have never run faster than 3:36, I think it's probably smart to be a little conservative and plan to run no faster than 3:35 pace for at least the first half. If I'm feeling absolutely amazing, then maybe I can think about pushing just a tiny bit harder after that, and around 20-22 basically run as fast as I think I can manage.

But, I'm also completely prepared for 8:12 to feel just barely manageable start to finish. And also for it to feel too hard. I know I should be feeling pretty happy & comfortable for the first 13-18 miles, & if that's not what 3:35 pace brings on Sunday, I'm more than willing to back off a bit in the interest of running a negative split.

So, we'll see. At this point I've done all there is to do, training wise; all that's left is to remember to pack everything & not oversleep. D:


See you on the flip side of this thing!