Marathoning is awesome. And unless you’ve experienced the grand feeling of accomplishment and personal triumph yourself, it’s hard to convey in words what a life-changing and moving experience it is — and what a difference it makes to have people there to share the experience with you and believe in you.
I’m officially the rare breed who willingly puts himself through 3+ hours of pain not once, but more than once — a multiple marathoner. And, as of last Sunday’s California International Marathon (CIM), I’m incredibly proud to say that I’m now a 3:19 marathoner — a 3:19:34 marathoner, to be precise — who smashed his first marathon time by 20 minutes and 31 seconds, and beat his goal by 26 seconds. Then I enjoyed a beer and a bloody mary on the lawn of the California State Capitol.
Aside from the rush and personal challenge of pushing myself to the limit to maintain an average pace of 7:37/mile for 26.2 miles, the best parts about Sunday’s race from the dark hills of Folsom to the State Capitol in my hometown was running it with my bro (albeit at different paces) and seeing my incredibly supportive wife, my dad, and so many good friends at the finish — Shannon, Mike, Enoch, Sierra, Megan, and Megan. Having so much support and encouragement makes a marathon worth all the pain and suffering.
Our ladies — Jen and Sierra — were awesome and couldn’t have been more supportive — waking up with us at 4am; dropping us off in the dark for our lonely mile-long walk to the start (yeah, so technically, if you count that, we ran an ultramarathon!); cheering us on at miles 6 and 14; greeting us at the finish line with the rest of our pit crew; bringing us a mobile bar from which to partake at the finish.
It was a day I’ll never forget, and I got choked up and shed a few tears while hanging out in the finish area while looking into Jen’s eyes and waiting for my bro to cross the finish line — next time let’s cross that finish line together, Pete!
As for the race itself, what a difference training makes. This time around I ran nearly 900 training miles (vs. 500 leading up to the San Diego marathon), logged three 20-milers (vs. one 20-miler last time), and read, read, and read some more about running. So I actually knew what I was doing and was well prepared for it.
The best word to describe the race experience and the distance this time around was manageable — I didn’t slow down until the 24th mile (vs. about mile 18 in my first marathon), maintaining right around a 7:30 pace for 23 miles, until I slowed to 7:43, 7:55, and 8:16 in the final 3 miles with a 7:30 effort in the final 0.2 mile (see detailed splits below). I even passed a number of people approaching the finish line, which is always a good feeling.
Gone this time around were feelings of deliriousness (though the utter exhaustion was, of course, there), near blackout moments (running with my eyes shut for some stretches in San Diego), desperation that the finish would appear at any moment (fighting that nagging feeling in San Diego that all I wanted to do was stop running), and near heat exhaustion. The cool 39-degree start and mid-40s finish of CIM were much more to my liking; in San Diego, I think it was 60-something at the start and 80-something at the finish.
Running with the 3:20 pace group for most of the second half of the race — after working to catch the group from a really crowded start (more in my full race report below) — was a big help, too.
Based on clock time, I placed 792 overall out of 5,198 runners. My official chip time, which is more accurate since it reflects the fact that I didn’t cross the start line until more than a minute after the race started, puts me around 750 overall. I was 140 out of 400 in my division.
Pete has a couple race reports here and here. Big congrats to Pete for finishing the race with a knee injury and basically no training in the weeks leading up to the marathon! There aren’t many people who can just pick up and run a marathon without proper training, and my little bro is enough of a machine to dominate it with a respectable time, given the circumstances.
A giant, heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to everyone — especially my wife who’s sick of hearing me talk about running all the time — who helped make CIM 2008 a day I’ll never forget! I love you all and couldn’t do it without you!
Oh yeah, and about that mustache-growing competition… the ‘staches didn’t quite make it to the starting line. There was something about a job interview and scaring off a potential employer with the sketch factor, but Pete did greet me at the airport in ‘stache solidarity (even if it was a mascara-stache, courtesy of Sierra):
And he did get a sweet pre-shave ‘stache photo of me (I’m kinda regretting not sporting that look at the marathon):
Finally, for those of you interested in my race report, here’s the full report I wrote in the Runner’s World forums the night of the marathon:
The race didn’t start as planned: The start was really congested, and my brother and I got stuck in the bag toss line trying to get our warm-up gear into the trucks. After that, we charged ahead to try to join the 3:20 pace group, but couldn’t get through the crowd. The race also began 2 minutes early, and we were on a hill on the side of the course on top of a rock when the clock started!
I crossed the start line after about 1:08 and spent the first couple miles navigating through the crowd and stressing out about trying to catch the 3:20 group; I was determined to run with the 3:20 pace group, but knew that I was more than a minute behind.
I caught myself running too fast iniitally, and kept reminding myself to hold back. I found that I was running a really comfortable pace close to 7:30/mile average over the the first 5 or so miles, which went by really fast, so after some quick calculations, realized that if I kept it up, I’d catch the 3:20 pace group around mile 10 or 11.
I kept a close eye on the Garmin current pace reading and tried to keep it close to 7:30, hydrating often and hitting my first GU around mile 6. Right around there was also the first spot where I saw my cheering wife and brother’s girlfriend, so that was a nice motivator. I pressed on with a really consistent pace and was excited to see if my math would prove right and if I’d catch the 3:20 group when I thought I would.
I had rationalized that, given my 1:08 delayed start, if I could catch the 3:20 group and finish with them, that I’d nail a 3:19. I realized that a faster first half was a risk for slowing down later, but with the 1-minute padding, I decided to go for it.
I was excited as I approached mile 11 to see if my calculations about cactching the 3:20 group were accurate. Sure enough, on a hill up ahead was the tell-tale red sign with white numbers: 3:20. I got a rush. I fought the urge to sprint ahead, but just kept the group in sight. By the halfway point, I was right behind the 3:20 group and still feeling strong (mile 13 was my fastest: 7:23).
Shortly after that (~14) was one of the largest spectator spots (short of the finish line), with hundreds of people lining the streets and cheering us on (another wife spotting!). I got a great boost and the chills.
By now, I was focusing on one mile at a time, trying not to get ahead of myself or focusing on how many miles were left. And I stuck right with the 3:20 pace group. I got delayed at a few aid station traffic jams and had to pick up the pace a few times to catch up, but managed to stay right with the group all the way through mile 23 (7:28).
And that’s when things got rough and the red 3:20 sign began to fade into the distance ahead of me. Good thing I had that extra minute on my side.
My calves were really sore — with the madness at the start, I didn’t do any proper warm-up runs and didn’t stretch enough — and things were starting to feel bleak But I only had another couple miles to go and was determmined to get a sub-3:20 time.
I felt myself slowing in the final couple miles (7:55 in 25 and 8:16 in 26, my two slowest), but gained on the runners ahead of me and managed to pass a number of other runners in the final 0.2 as I gave it everything I had left.
Clock time: 3:20:40. I knew I’d done it and couldn’t have been happier as I crossed the finish line and saw my wife, friends, and dad cheering me on!
Official chip time: 3:19:34. It’s good to be an exception to predicted time.
My mile splits (from my Garmin, so slightly off; 26.31 and 3:19:38 on the Garmin just after I crossed the finish and stopped it):
Next marathon I will kick even more ass. And I know I’ll have the support of the greatest pit crew in the history of marathoning to cheer me on.