California International Marathon Race Report

After dozens of these race reports, this one is truly special. This wasn’t about my training, my nutrition, my pace, my experience. This was different.

On Dec 5, 2009, I ran the California International Marathon with my Mom, who chose to celebrate turning 60 with taking the marathon challenge!

My Mom has run several half marathons: it’s actually been a bit of a tradition for us to attend races together. Vegas, the Flying Pig and the ING Edmonton marathons were all events where I ran the marathon, and she ran the half. But last year she decided that for her 60th birthday, she’d train for and complete a marathon.

Her birthday was in October, and initially we’d tossed around the idea of her running Denver. I ended up having to be out of town, and I think the altitude concerned her a bit, so we selected CIM: known to be a fast course.

As Mom looked to move beyond the 13.1 mile distance (or 21.1 km distance, as she lives and trains in Canada), we found a low-mileage plan to get her to the finish line. She followed it to a T, wanting to be sure she was prepared for race day.

A few weeks before we toed the line, however, her goal seemed to shift subtly from “I just want to finish” to “I just want to finish in less than 5 hours”. A pacing challenge!

This was a big deal: my Mom’s first marathon! So the week before the race, I suggested we get matching shirts to wear while running.

shirtfront

shirtback

I met my folks in the Sacramento airport Friday night, and we headed to our hotel. We stayed at a really neat boutique hotel called The Citizen, three blocks away from the Convention center where the expo was being held. On Saturday we headed down there, and listened to Bart Yasso present an entertaining presentation on some of his adventures in running. We picked up our kits, and wandered the Expo for a bit. At this point, the predicted start time of 35 degrees, with fog and wind, was starting to concern me. I’d been considering them anyway, so I purchased some leg sleeves for support as well as warmth. The pace table had temporary tattoos with splits, so I grabbed the 5 hr tattoo. Mom asked if she could pick up the 4:45 one as well, but I was firm and denied her. We’d go out at the 5 hr pace, and if at mile 22 she still felt good, we’d pick it up.

I’ll admit, I was likely as nervous about this race as any I’ve run recently. I didn’t want to let her down. Also, the idea of running a pace that’s not my own, and having not really trained well for this race, was a bit daunting. But I did my best to put it behind me.

We rose early on Sunday morning. Our hotel had set up a breakfast room for marathoners downstairs with coffee, clif bars, oranges and bananas. Our bus was scheduled to pick us up at the hotel between 5-5:15 and there had been a firm warning that if you missed the bus, you were on your own for transportation. As a result, there were probably 30-40 of us in the hotel lobby, anxiously awaiting said bus. We waited… and waited.. and waited. Finally at perhaps 5:20, the crowd headed outside (where it was something like 10 degrees fahrenheit). But we weren’t getting on a bus.. we were walking down to the Convention center! When we got there, several buses were waiting and we boarded to shuttle to Folsom. I scored the very back row, where for the first 10 minutes, a heater was blasting heat. I actually had to strip down out of my warmup pants so as not to get too hot.

After driving and driving and driving, we made it to Folsom. All the buses were parked there, so we were told we could get off the buses, use the portapotty or whatever, and just get back on any bus we liked to keep warm before the race. It was already 6:20 and the race started at 7, so we clamored down and headed towards the portapotties. After that, it was almost time to line up. I’d brought a long a gear check back, so I stripped off my warmup pants and long-sleeved shirt, put on my arm sleeves and a garbage bag (I was also wearing my lululemon shorts I wore at my last marathon, smartwool socks and som new leg compression sleeves I’d bought at the expo the day before). Mom was more bundled up with a jacket under her tshirt, pants, and another jacket to throw off later. We headed back to our established target pace area and soon we were off!

While I had a pace band, it occurred to me within the first few miles that I had a dilemma: Mom takes walk breaks. All of a sudden, an 11:26 overall pace needs to be run at faster than that to accommodate walk breaks. There were 18 scheduled aid stations, so we decided to walk those rather than going by timed breaks.

The run went pretty well, although reasonably quickly I felt some pain in my left side, below my hip. I recently started with chiropractic care, and we’d identified an imbalance in my hips. I’ve been actually targeting my left hip in my daily exercises. So while there was discomfort while running, I attributed this to a the exercises working (and see it as a sign that I may have to change up my stride, as I’ve apparently been overcompensating all this time!).

M1: 10:57
M2: 10:52
M3: 11:09
M4: 11:32
M5: 9:23 – I had to take a bathroom break, then sprinted up to catch up with Mom!
M6: 11:27
M7: 10:32
M8: 11:07
M9: 11:25
M10: 10:34
M11: 11:39
M12: 10:59
M13: 10:39
M14: 15:59 – After a few miles passing portapotty lineups, we finally decided we needed to stop to use one. As luck would have it, the next three portapotties we saw had no line whatsoever 🙁 Fortunately, we were still on pace after this stop
M15: 11:38
M16: 11:47
M17: 11:26
M18: 11:26 At around this time, Mom said that she was planning on running to the next traffic light, then walking. I said no, we could jog slower, but I didn’t want to slow to a walk apart from water stops.
M19: 11:03
M20: 11:38
M21: 12:41 – Mom stops at another portapotty. I stretch my left side.
M22: 11:42 I tried to be encouraging. Only 4 more miles! I know Mom is tired, but she’s determined.
M23: 11:55
M24: 11:51
M25: 12:14 Although our pace is slowing, we’re still passing many folks who have resigned to a walk. I know we’re in the homestretch.
M26: 11:40 We see my Dad just before the final turn. He snaps a few pictures and we’re almost done! I spy a woman ahead of us, and ask Mom if she’s going to let that woman finish ahead of us. She startles me with a quick sprint! I just meant to try to catch her in the last few minutes!
.2: ~11:07 pace

As we come up to the finish line, I grab my Mom’s hand and we raise our arms in triumph. My Mom is a marathoner! (Chip time: 5:03:39)

We went through the chute, got our space blankets and headed to the food tent. They had pancakes (and soup) – a nice treat! I grabbed my gear bag and we went to meet my Dad. I realized another “trick” I’ve learned through my experience: the gear bag isn’t just for before the race. Mom started to get cold so we headed (slowly) back to the hotel. She was pretty sore afterwards, but she did it, and she did it strong!

I was glad we wore our shirts: we had several people chat with us during the race, mostly frequently first time marathoners who wanted to chat with her. Having our names on the front of our shirts (as well as “Mom” and “Daughter” meant we had a fair amount of crowd support, although the course really didn’t have that many spectators).

I chatted with Mom today, and she’s quite sore, tired and hungry. But I hope she’s also proud! As of yesterday afternoon, she was of the mindset that she wasn’t going to do another marathon. But she IS my Mom, so I only give her a day or two before she decides to give it another try!