Domingo, 2 de Diciembre, 2018 – Sparknotes: California International Marathon – DNF. Ran through 15km w/ the lead pack ~47’20 (3’09/km, 2h13-low pace) and quads/IT/hipflexors (especially left side) completely locked up. Walked twice and ran/jogged to 22km.
07:00: Well, this is all we get. Woke up naturally around 03:30 PST and got ready to go, had a NV bar and a black coffee. Down in the lobby by 04:45 and got to the start around 05:40. Relaxed and used the bathroom before warming up around 07:15 w/ a group of NE guys.
Ran 2km+ out/back in about 10’ and then came back, put on flats, used the bathroom again, and got my sweats off. Did drills w/ one longsleeve on over my singlet and had time for only 2 short strides before getting ushered into the starting corral.
Took a ¼ caffeine pill (about 50mg) about 30’ before the start and a gel about 10 min before the start. Legs felt good. Got into the corral about 06:55, found a place in row 2 right behind Ben Bruce.
Got out well and surprised to find myself very relaxed in the top 5 or so along w/ Matt Llano (pushing from the start), Raj, and a few others. The start is very fast as it’s mostly downhill to the first turn just before 1M. Didn’t look at my split but checked my watch at 1M and we were only like 5’08 so I figured I was in fine position.
At this point, Llano started to pull away and I settled in well near the front of the chase pack right behind an Atlanta guy and someone else who were leading our little group. I was surprised to look back after a couple miles and see neither Ben Bruce or Raj (who I’d thought I’d try to key off of) in my pack and a pretty good amount of real estate back to the next group. We were running relatively quickly, but nothing crazy given that the first 6km is quite a bit downhill. I felt great and was just tucked in and zoning out.
I missed my first bottle at 5K but wasn’t worried. I saw the clock around 15’45 which was not alarming at all. I felt very comfortable and was in a great spot.
In this second 5K, I started to notice that the hills were really starting to work my legs. Aerobically I felt okay, but each time we’d go up a hill I’d really have to focus to stay w/ the pack and each time we went down, I felt good but my legs were starting to tighten up.
Still I felt good all the way past the turn just before 6M. At this point, Sergio Reyes had already broken away to go chase down Matt (who was well ahead already) and the Atlanta guy seemed to make a bid as well (it seemed like he’d been waiting for that turn). Our pack started to string out a bit and I found myself closer to the back than the front all of a sudden. Still, I was well in it and knew that this part of the course was the hardest and just wanted to get to 10 miles where the course topped out.
All was going well until the long downhill just after 15K (~47’20). At this point, my left side hipflexor/quad/ITB really started to hurt w/ every stride. I could feel it tightening and I tried punching it a bit to try to loosen it up but this only seemed to make it worse. As we ran downhill, I could feel it getting tighter w/ every stride until suddenly it crossed some critical threshold and it completely locked up and I was forced to a walk.
So, there I was, less than 50’ into the race and stopped on the side of the road in excruciating pain. Damnit. I tried to stretch/massage it for what seemed like a while and was ready to pack it in until Raj and Ben came running by and said something encouraging and I hopped back in behind them.
I actually felt good and the pace felt extremely relaxed, but within a few minutes, I could tell it was coming back. Another long downhill at some point around 18-19km and it locked up again and I again found myself on the side of the road.
At this point, I knew the race was over. I was in the middle of nowhere or else I would have just dropped out then, so hopped in w/ what I think was the trials B-standard group and ran until just past the HM point until I saw the next medical post at 22km. There, I stopped, and the race and season were finished.
I waited around for my folks – who were supportive and kind enough to make the trip all the way to Sacramento just to watch me drop out for the second year in a row – who picked me up and drove me to the finish line. I was lucky to be able to catch the women’s finish and then get into the post-race event to get my stuff and check in with the dozens of friends and acquaintances who had run.
After some fruit and potatoes and eggs and bacon, I finally hobbled my way back to the hotel where I got a good ice bath and relaxed.
What a way to end the season.
I guess perspective is everything. If you’d told me in August/early September that I’d drop out of CIM after 10 miles, I’d be extremely disappointed. But if you told me even a month ago that I’d run 10 miles at 2h13 marathon pace, running w/ the lead pack and feeling great, I’d be psyched.
The truth is that I’d known that I really needed a miracle for this race to go well. The marathon is an unforgiving event that exposes any weaknesses, flaws, imbalances, and I was full of all three. I simply hadn’t done enough actual running – despite cross training like a monster during my injury – to be ready for 26 miles of hard running over rolling hills.
And so, I really have no regrets and no disappointment. Could I have gone out at 2h18 pace or even 2h15 pace and hung on? Maybe I would have hung on a bit longer, but I still think that I would have eventually had the same issue since my legs were just not muscularly prepared for the specific demand of fast running on pavement.
I’m so glad to have had the experience of running in a US Championship lead pack. That’s not something to take for granted and even only making it 40% of the way is something that I’m grateful for.
But mostly, I’m thankful to be healthy. My achilles – which caused so many problems over the last 3 months – felt 100%. I never noticed it before, during, or after the race. So while I’m disappointed that my legs didn’t hold up, I’m excited to know that my body is ready to start pushing hard again in everyday training and I’ve got a tremendous hunger to start that process.
Fall of 2018 has been challenging in more ways than I care to articulate now, but I’m glad it’s over and I’m excited to be thinking about Spring 2019.
Thank you for being a part of this journey and stick around to see what happens next. Big things are coming.