Sunday, December 30, 2018

Training log - Week ending 12/30/18

This week was 49 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming.  Training log is here.

I'm now 4 weeks post-marathon, which means I'm starting to ramp back into training.  Nothing crazy - there's no rush, and pushing things too hard now will just backfire come late spring.    

At the same time (as I noted last week, my personal opinion is that it's important that I do something faster a few times a week - as a "moderately aged" runner ("older" just doesn't feel quite right) I know that it can be very easy to slip into a comfortable cycle of endless weeks of slow easy running, and very hard to come back from that.  Good running mechanics, range of motion, and power are easy to lose, and challenging to restore.  For that reason, going 4-5 weeks without workouts is NOT a good idea for me.  

So it's a balance right now - do workouts, but don't hammer or do anything excessive.  To that point, this week I eased into stuff with 3xmile on Christmas morning with 2:00 recovery - I planned to run these at about 10 mile effort but found myself upping the effort a bit for each repeat.  I had planned to do 4xmile, but shut myself down after the 3rd, since I felt I had pushed harder than I wanted, and was starting to strain.

On Friday, I showed up for my first team workout, Iwo Jima hill repeats.  We usually do 6-8 repeats, but my coach held me to 4, based on concerns about the concrete surface.  I reluctantly complied.  In retrospect, the fact that I was annoyed about only being allowed to do 4 hill repeats on a cold rainy morning in the dark was a very good thing - an indication that I'm recovered from CIM and ready to move forward.

My plan was to skip my long run this weekend.  I really don't need to do long runs right now - I've done plenty in the past 6 months, and there are no long races on my schedule for the next 2 months.  Plus, I was holding open the option of racing on Monday - New Year's Eve. 

However, I ended up doubling to a spontaneous 14.5 miles on Saturday - I had run to yoga with the plan of taking public transportation home (bus to metro), but realized after the class that due to weekend track work, it was going to be much easier/quicker for me to get home if I jogged 4 miles to a bus stop and avoided metro altogether. Thus a double of 10.5 and 4 miles.  

Not ideal, but I don't think 14 miles split over two easy runs is the worst thing in the world.  And I'd already pretty much decided to skip the Monday race due to the rainy forecast - I'd be doing the race just for fun, and running in cold rain isn't very fun.

Next week will be something tempo-ish, and then another hill workout.  As for racing?  I want to get back out there, so I'll probably hit a park run sometime in mid-January.   I'm still mapping out my race plan for this spring/summer, but it will likely consist of shorter stuff, and then targeting Cherry Blossom, Broad Street, and a half-marathon (which half is still TBD) as spring goal races.  Plus hopping in some fast 5Ks with hopes of getting my PR closer to 18:30, if not below that.  (My half and full times equate to a low 18s 5K, and my PR of 18:51 was run on a warm day, so this should be a realistic goal if I train for and target that distance).


Monday: Yoga and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including three mile repeats in 6:30, 6:23, 6:14, with 2:00 jogged recovery between each.  Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 7 miles very easy (9:34), yoga, and then another 5 miles very easy (8:55), followed by drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Upper body weights/core and 9 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 11.5 miles, including four Iwo Jima hill repeats (2:00 uphill, 1:30 jog, 30 second downhill stride, 1:00 jog) and four short uphill reps (70 seconds uphill, 2:30 jog).  

Saturday: 10.5 miles very easy (8:52), drills+strides, yoga, and then another 4 very easy (8:50).  Foam rolling at night.

SundayUpper body weights/core and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Training log - Week ending 12/23/18

This week was 56 miles of running, 17 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming.  Training log is here.

Week 3 of recovery.  I started feeling better this week - fresher and more perky.  I'm sure a lot of it resulted from upping my mileage back to "my usual."  Having work slow down to a crawl by the end of the week didn't hurt either.

I also started to reintroduce some intensity - adding in strides after each easy run (I usually do strides post-run, but avoid them for the first few runs post-break).  

On Friday I headed to Georgetown for my traditional post-break mini-workout - repetitions up a short hill (takes me about 60-70 seconds to get to the top, followed by a relaxed and lengthy jog (about two and a half minutes) looping back to the bottom.

I like this workout as a "bridge" between easy running and returning to workouts.  It's reminiscent of the hill workouts my coach has us do (2 minutes up, 60 second recovery, 30 second downhill stride, 60 second recovery), but is less demanding.  I'm only running uphill for half as long, and the recovery is much longer, and lacks the downhill stride.  And the uphill nature reminds me of what good running form should feel like - very helpful, since I've done nothing except shuffle since CIM.

Friday's half-a-workout went well, with no soreness after, which let me know that I was fine to start working out again. So this coming week, I'm going to rejoin my team's hill workouts, though I'll skip the track for another week or two in favor of some relaxed faster running on the roads.   

At this point in my season (which is really between seasons) I want to make sure not to avoid fast running - my humble opinion is that the older we get, the more important it is to regularly incorporate faster running on a regular basis - a use-it-or-lose-it thing. 5-6 weeks of just easy running would be a very bad idea.

 At the same time, I feel like there's no need for the intensity of track workouts right now.  Sticking to hills and aerobic running on the roads (nothing faster than 10K pace) should work well through the end of the year.. I may hop into a race on New Years eve for the heck of it - I won't decide until much closer to the race, when I have a better idea what the forecast will be. 


Monday: yoga and 8.5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 6.5 miles very easy (9:18) followed by upper body weights/core; later another 3.5 miles (8:47).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 6 miles very easy (9:36), yoga, and then another 5 miles very easy (9:00).  Sports massage in the evening.

Thursday: Upper body weights/core and 8.5 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Friday: 12 miles, including 8 short hill reps (run uphill for 60-70 seconds, with 2:30 jogging recovery back to the bottom).  Followed with leg strengthwork and 1000 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 10 miles easy (8:55) and upper body weights/core, plus some DIY yoga.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 12.5 miles progressive, split as the first 5 averaging 9:00 pace, the next 4 averaging 7:48, and then last 3.5 averaging 7:07 pace.  Followed up with leg strengthwork/injury prevention work and 1000 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Training Log - Week ending 12/16/2018

This week was 39 miles of running, 7 "miles" of pool-running, and 4000 yards of swimming.  Training log is here.

Second week of marathon recovery.  It's funny - I never enjoy marathon recovery as much as I should.  Post-race blues are a very real thing for me, and they hit hard this time - making me moody, a bit irritable, and prone to getting upset over relatively minor things.

Yes, I know it makes no sense to be emotionally down right now - I just had a fantastic race and hit my goal.  But...emotions don't always make sense.  

I'm pretty sure a lot of it is just feeling lousy from over-indulgence in junk food, combined with loss of my normal routine (and emotional stimulant) from not training.  Dealing with a whole bunch of work stuff that I had postponed until post- marathon didn't help either.

Of course, all of this makes it hard to stay the post-marathon recovery course - there's a real temptation to self-medicate by jumping back into training.  I'm just reminding myself that taking sufficient downtime now, even if it's hard in its own way, is an essential investment in peaking at the right time and running my fastest when it most matters in 2019.


As part of my marathon recovery, I did another round of prolotherapy on Wednesday - this time getting injections near both my ischial tuberosities (one's sit bones, and where the hamstrings and adductor magnus attach).

I did a previous round of prolotherapy just after the Richmond half to address my floppy right SI joint and a resulting bit of adductor tendonitis in my right hip.  The adductor magnus attaches to both the base of the pelvis and the ischial tuberosity.  After the injections, everything felt much better and vastly improved by the time I ran CIM, but I still had some achiness that re-emerged and worsened over the course of the race, shifting slightly to my sit bones.

Post CIM, a lot of things really hurt, but what worried me most was that familiar ache in both sit bones (right worse than left).  I keenly remember that ache as the early-to-middle stages of my previous bout with high hamstring tendonitis, which eventually became a tear necessitating multiple rounds of PRP) 

The achiness had been improving during the post-marathon recovery with some rehab exercises and careful exercise, but not as fast as I'd like.  I wanted it healed and gone for good, so I didn't have to mess around with it this spring.  

So I got both hamstrings injected with prolotherapy Wednesday morning after my run.   Normally after prolo I can return to running the next day (have to avoid the pool for 48 hours), but this time my doctor asked me to skip a day altogether - he had injected a lot into the right hamstring tendon, and was worried about the tissue being temporarily softened.

As it conveniently turned out, there was no way I was going to be able to exercise at all the day after anyway - I had a day trip to NYC for work on tap (left my house at 4:30 am, got home around 8:15 pm).  So that was good timing.  (though it would have been nice to spend a little less time sitting on the injection sites).

Friday, I ran again, and then ramped stuff up (I'm encouraged to run post-prolo and to let discomfort be my guide - activity ensures the tissue heals correctly).  Each day felt a little better, and as of Sunday night I can just barely feel an ache if I twist my right hip and stretch my hamstring in just the right way.  Prolo doesn't work for everyone, but I'm really grateful it works so well for me.


Monday: yoga and 7 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 6 miles very easy (9:42) and light upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5 miles very easy (9:40), yoga, and then another 3 miles very easy (9:02).  

Thursday: Off.  Work trip to NYC.

Friday: 6 miles easy (9:04) and 1650 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 9 miles very easy (9:29) and upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday: 10 miles aerobic (started at 9:30 and progressed down to 7:30), leg strengthwork/injury prevention work, and 2350 yards of swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Training log - Week ending 12/9/2018

This week was 30 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

[edit - yes, I'm having all sorts of formatting issues with Blogger, especially font size.  I'm starting to get very irritated.]

First recovery week post-marathon.   It's very unusual for me not to want to do anything, but I didn't on Tuesday, so I didn't.  Part of that whole "listening to one's body" thing.

I always envision that conversation with my body, post marathon, as going something like the following.  

Immediately after the marathon, my body is furious with me, and spouting profanity.  That's when I give my body some space - I offer it junk food and lazy mornings in bed, and maybe a massage.

After some time has passed, I gently reach out: hey...just wanted to see how you're do you feel...  I do that with yoga, and also some gentle pool-running.

Then I listen, and let my body take the lead on the conversation.  Since running is what strained our relationship, I'm cautious in raising that topic - I won't run until I really miss it.

As of the date of this entry, I'm starting to miss running, but I don't miss it that much yet, so I'm going to wait a few more days.


At the beginning of this cycle, I decided to experiment with running all my marathon pace workouts entirely off of feel.  (Watch-face was set to time of day - I took splits but never knew what they were until after the run.)  Instead of targeting a goal pace for the marathon from the start, and hoping that pace would get easier as the cycle progressed, I targeted marathon pace effort, and hoped that would equal 6:50 or faster by race day.

I have to admit, it was a bit challenging to my ego at the very beginning to see that I was running my marathon pace workouts at 7:10 pace (at least 20 seconds slower than my goal pace for CIM).  But it seems to have worked well - by the end of the cycle, 6:45 felt like a realistic marathon pace, and I averaged 6:47 pace on race day.

I think there are two reasons this worked for me - 1) I fry very easily, so it's very important that I avoid overreaching in my training; 2) since I race off of feel, I'm not emotionally dependent on the validation of training pace splits.  

I can see how someone else would need a history of seeing "x" pace during workouts to instill confidence that they would see that same pace on race day.  My race day confidence is grounded in running what feels "right" on that day, so I'm at ease training that way.

It's interesting to note that I never hit the prescribed target paces for a sub-3 marathon in any of my track workouts.  My interval workouts were always significantly slower, by as much as 10 seconds a mile, and my tempos, though not quite as off, were controlled as well.  

For both types of workouts (and honestly, this applied to all my runs), I ignored the splits I was "supposed" to run.  Instead I a) confirmed the purpose of the workout (improving leg turnover, raising lactate threshold) and then b) made a point of only working as hard as was required to achieve the purpose of the workout, not one heart beat more.   I referred to it as "half-assing" stuff.

[my coach was present for nearly all my workouts, BTW, and was totally fine with my flagrant disregard of pace targets.]

My half-assed track workouts were far from impressive, but they accomplished what I needed to do without incurring any more fatigue than was absolutely necessary - again, this was very important because I am so slow to recover.  

It's so very easy to get wrapped up in the importance of a) fitting every single workout in and b) hitting the prescribed splits for each workout.  While paying very little attention to how one is recovering, or to the spacing of one's workouts within a week, which I think is far more important than absolute mileage or pace.

You only benefit from workouts to the extent you absorb them - and so it's crucial to ensure that you do absorb the benefits of each workout and race.  Otherwise, your hard work is just wasted effort.  

For myself, if I'm struggling to squeeze all the workouts and long runs into my week, then the answer is to drop one, to make sure I've got adequate space after each hard effort.  Again, recovering from and absorbing each hard workout is the priority, not fitting every single one in. 

And if I'm fighting to hit specific splits, then I need to pull back and re-evaluate - fitness doesn't come when you force it, but only when you give it space and time.  When you let it lead.

It's taken me a very long time to figure out that this works for me (others can tell you it, but we still each need to learn for ourselves).  And the above might not apply to all equally - we are all individuals.  Not everyone might benefit, as I do, from ignoring the watch completely or from half-assing the track.
But I do think the general concept applies to most runners - focus less on the numbers and the charts and the metrics, and more on the organic process of "poking" your body with a workout, and then giving your body the needed space and time to respond.  Repeat until your season is concluded.


Monday: Nothing but travel back to DC.

Tuesday: Full rest.

Wednesday: Yoga in the morning; sports massage in afternoon.

7 "miles" of pool-running and some injury prevention work in the morning; foam rolling at night.

Friday: 7 "miles" of pool-running, 500 yards swimming, and some injury prevention work in the morning; yoga at noon and foam rolling at night.

Saturday: 12 "miles" of pool-running (yes....this was too long, but I got caught up in conversation) and upper body weights/core.  Also foam rolling.

Sunday:  2500 yards of swimming and yoga.  Later did 4 "miles" of social pool-running and some injury prevention work.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Training Log - Week ending 12/2/2018

This week was 45 miles of running, 9 "miles" of pool-running, and 500 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Just a placeholder for my final week of taper - this is a pretty boring entry.


Monday: DIY yoga and 6 "miles" pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 7 miles, including a track workout of 4x800 in 3:03, 3:00, 3:01, 2:59.  Also 500 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 5 miles very easy (8:38) plus drills, strides, and DIY yoga.  Travelled to Sacramento.

Thursday: Very light upper body weights/core, DIY yoga, and 3 "miles" pool-running, plus foam rolling/.

Friday 4 miles very easy (8:48) plus drills, strides, DIY yoga.  Later did some self-massage with tennis ball and the Stick in a hotel room.

Saturday: 2 miles very very easy (9:25) and DIY yoga, plus some self-massage with tennis ball and the Stick in a hotel room.

Sunday:  1200m jogged warm-up, and then California International Marathon in 2:57:42.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Race Report: California International Marathon, December 2, 2018

I ran the California International Marathon yesterday, finishing in a time of 2:57:42.  I'm not sure quite where I placed, honestly.  This race was about breaking 3 hours.


When a race matters to you, as this one did to me, I believe in controlling as many variables as possible (while acknowledging that you can't control everything).  That's why I flew out to Sacramento on Wednesday.  It's a long flight, and I've found in the past that it takes a lot out of me.  Flying out on Wednesday for a Sunday race gave me plenty of time to recover.  

Additionally, if I had left anything essential at home that I couldn't find in downtown Sacramento, it gave me enough time to buy a replacement on Amazon or have Brian ship an extra from home. Fortunately, I remembered everything and my luggage safely made it through to Sacramento so that was win.

[I usually UPS my stuff out ahead of time, and then travel with just a backpack that holds computers and racing outfit/shoes.  But because of the lingering air quality issues in Sacramento, I wasn't positive I was coming out until last weekend, and by that point it would have been over $200 to ship my stuff from DC in Sacramento by Wednesday.  Plus, with lingering weather issues in the Midwest, it was possible UPS shipments would be delayed.  So I crossed my fingers and checked a suitcase.]

I flew out on Wednesday afternoon east coast time, getting to my hotel around 5:30 that evening local time.  I stayed at the Inn off Capitol Park, which had a great location (close to the expo and finish) and a decent price, but was also a bit cramped, given that my plan was to lounge around until Sunday.   Next time, I think I'll stay in the same place, but probably upgrade to a suite.


The race was Sunday morning, which gave me plenty of time to kill.  It actually passed faster than I expected.  I had planned a Game of Thrones marathon, but never got around to it; instead I worked for a few hours on Thursday and did some (way too much) reading of race reports and commentary on CIM.  

I also "decorated" my bathroom mirror with a race time.  It's a little motivational thing that I like to do before races when I travel - I pick a random race time that seems like something that's right on the edge of my abilities. Something that would be believable if I ran it, but just barely.  I write that time on the hotel notepad and stick it on the mirror, so that I glance at it all the time.  It's a motivational trick - the more I see a time, the more reasonable and less scary it seems.  I'm not sure why it helps, since I don't look at my watch during races.  But it doesn't hurt. 

Thursday morning, I also trekked to the Sacramento YMCA for some light lifting and 30 minutes of pool-running, plus some foam rolling that felt really good post-plane ride.  Followed by my second day of Chipotle (had it in the airport on Wednesday pre-flight - another reason to fly out of BWI).

[Yes, I lifted upper body weights 3 days before my marathon.  The taper that works best for me is where I keep the rhythm of my workouts and the intensity, but reduce the volume.  This holds for both running and the rest of my fitness routine. So I went to the YMCA and lifted my normal weights, but sharply limited both the number of sets and the number of reps within a set.]

Friday, I ran a bit around Sacramento, hit the expo, and watched a lot of junk TV.  And more Chipotle.  Saturday was similar, with less running and the substitution of cheering at the CIM 5K for an expo visit (my teammate won the 5K - a good omen for the weekend).  And even more Chipotle (my final tally was 9 rice bowls consumed over 4 days....)

After finalizing my race plan on Saturday night, I settled down with a good book.  My race plan, as always, was effort based - I wouldn't check splits or paces until after the race.  The plan was a simple one - Careful from 1-5, then conservative.  Careful again from 8-13, and then conservative until 16, when I'd start racing.  If I had anything left in the last 2 miles, that was the time to empty the tank.  

As for the book?  I ordered cyclist Jens Voigt's auto-biography Shut Up Legs! onto my Kindle.  It was a great read, and the title seemed awfully appropriate for eve-of-marathon reading.


I had stayed on east coast time the entire trip, which made going to bed at 6:15 pm on Saturday night fairly easy.  I woke just before 3 am local time, which gave me plenty of time to eat breakfast, stretch, get dressed, and listen to my focus music (Orbital's "Halcyon On and On" and Underworld's "Dirty Epic" if you care - both tracks have the measured patient rhythm I lock into for a marathon).  And paint my nails black, as I always do pre-race.

 At 4:35 am, I met my teammate David in the lobby, and we walked to the start buses, getting there around 4:45.  This was perfect, as the buses started boarding at 5.  We were there early enough to get a good place in line, but not so early that we expended energy standing out in the cold.

The bus ride took about an hour, depositing us in Folsom around 6 am.  They keep the buses open and running (and thus warm) until 15 minutes before race start, which is one of the perks of this race.  I took advantage by stepping off to use the bathroom and refill my water bottle before climbing back in for a few moments to gather my thoughts.  Then I stepped back out, handed my gear bag off to bag check, and started to jog my warm-up. 

Similar to what I did at Grandma's, I jogged for about 3/4s of a mile, including one short pick-up (about 40 seconds) near the end to marathon effort.  Followed by eating some sports beans to top off the miniscule bit of glycogen I might have burned.  Then I lined up in the corral with David and another teammate, Aurelia.


I have two quirky things I like to do in marathons - things that go against current "runner common wisdom" but work for me.  One is racing off of effort, with my watch screen blanked. (I do still wear a Garmin, so that I have a record of the race later and also can prove that I ran the race if there's a chip issue or course cutting allegation.)  

It's been at least 5 years since I've checked my pace or splits during a race.  I'm told that this is crazy, especially in a marathon where I "need" to use my Garmin to keep my pace in check the first few miles.  Funny thing is, I don't seem to have any issues starting a marathon slowly, and I think not seeing my pace makes it easier, not harder, to stay chill early on.  It's easier to start slow if you don't know how slow you're starting.

The other quirky thing is lining myself up far behind the time I plan to run.  If gun time matters, then I'll suck it up and line up at the front.  But otherwise, I'd prefer to start the race with people who will be starting at the same pace as me, even if my plan is to finish at a completely different pace.  I hate being run over from behind or getting in others' way, and I also really like passing people.

In this case, that meant lining up well behind the 3:10 pace group, even though I planned to run sub-3.  This is a fairly small race, so I knew I'd have little issue picking up the pace when I wanted to.  And I liked the idea of having the 3:10, 3:05, and 3:00 pace groups to slowly reel in over the course of the race.  


The National Anthem was performed this time by a trumpet - I believe the trumpeter was a member of the band Cake, which is from Sacramento.  It was a really good version of the anthem - I think I prefer it to a singer.  

The only downside was that it was 6:56 am, and I wanted to shed my throw-away clothes before the 7 am race start, but I didn't want to do it until the conclusion of the anthem.  And it was a very slow version of the anthem.  Finally, with less than two minutes to race start, the anthem was done, and I quickly stripped.

I had pre-torn all of my gels before the race (I tear them about 1/3rd, so it's easier to open them while running) but had torn one too much, and it exploded over my right hip.   My entire right side was covered in lemonade roctane, and my shorts were stiff and stick - a sure set up for chafing. Who knew so much gel was contained in one tiny packet?   But the only way to clean it up was to use water from my handheld bottle, and that water was needed for more important things.  So I just sucked it up.  If that was the worst thing that happened during the race, I'd be doing well indeed.


Then the gun went off.  And we just stood there.   And stood there.  The start area this year was very narrow - half the size it was the last time I did this race.  Which meant that it took a long time to funnel to the start.  It didn't bother me too much - I cared about chip time, not gun time, and I liked the idea of giving the pace groups a big lead over me.

Finally we walked up to the line and were off.  I like to start my marathons very slowly.  My coach has us do our long runs as progressions - 1/3rd very slow (near 9:00 pace), 1/3rd moderate (usually around 7:30 ish), and then 1/3rd at marathon effort.  I actually run my marathons as a warped variant on this theme - same efforts, just different proportions.  So...about 10-20 seconds very slow, a mile or so at moderate effort and then ease into marathon effort for the next 25 miles.

Running it this way meant that the 3:10 pace group pulled further ahead, but I was fine with that. They'd come back.  If they didn't, then it'd mean I was having an awful day, and surging early was the worst thing I could do.

During these first miles, I also got a chance to chat with one of my Running Ahead forum friends - Robin (who ran a great race for a 7 minute PR).  

It's funny when I reflect, a day later.  I basically flew to the other side of the country, but between all my teammates and DC friends who came out for this race and my online friends who live and run in California, it almost felt like a local race.  Familiar faces and names the whole way.   The only difference was that I had no freakin' clue where I was. 

(and I've also never run a race where people hand out tissues on the race course.  Why do they do that?  What am I missing?)


Chatting with Robin also helped me forget about the fact that my right hip/groin/back was still slightly achy from the prolotherapy injections a few weeks ago.   Nothing that I couldn't run through; and I had been told specifically that it was fine to run through it.  But still, nobody likes to feel achy at the start of their goal race, and it bothered me that my right groin was slightly tight this early.

I got a bit more concerned about 5 miles in when my left hip started to be ever-so-slightly stiff and achy.  This was awfully early - was my left leg compensating for the right?  Or was this just an extremely late stage episode of taper-paranoia?  

Nothing was physically affecting my running at the moment, and so I decided not to let anything mentally affect me until it did start to alter my gait.  I forged on, filing my worries off to the side.


CIM is a rolling course.  I knew from running it before that the elevation map was NOT representative of the way the course actually ran.  And yet, I was still a bit surprised by the hills.  As many have said before, none are especially challenging but they keep coming and coming and coming.   And coming.  They just never end.

I'm not a great uphill runner, but I am a fairly good downhill runner, and so my pacing of this race tended to be problematic any time I caught up with a group.  I'd be running with them, and then we'd hit an uphill and I'd be dropped, only to catch up and then surge past on the downhill.  I think if you take a group of runners, and have them all run rolling hills at "even effort," you'll have a lot of variation in how each person paces, due to differing gaits, etc.

Thus, every time I caught up with large pack, I'd end up pushing the pace a bit on the next downhill to get out in front of them, so that I didn't have to deal with the annoying tidal flow.


The 3:10 group came back to me shockingly quickly, and then the 3:05.  By mile 10, I could see a large group just a bit ahead of me, and recognized my teammate Jenn's stride in the distance.  That was almost certainly the 3 hour pace group.  Cool.  A bit ahead of schedule (I had hoped to catch them somewhere after the half), but not terribly so.  And my hips were actually feeling better, though my hamstrings were starting to tighten slightly.  Not great, but still under control.  Energy and breathing-wise, I felt fantastic.

It was about this time that I heard "Cristina?" with a Russian accent, and realized that I was in the presence of the one and only CalBears (AKA Oleg) - another Running Ahead forumite.  Pretty darn cool.  We chatted a bit, and he confirmed that it was the 3:00 pace group ahead.  I noted that my plan was to start from behind and chase down the 3:00 pace group over the course of the race, and we reflected on how nice it would be if we could just write down our race plans and then be sure they would happen.  Then I wished him well and eased ahead.  He was going to hang with or just behind the 3:00 group as long as he could.

My plan, once I caught up to the 3:00 group, was to run with them for a while and then move ahead after a few miles.   Since I started so far back, sticking with them would give me a time well under 3 hours.    I didn't see Jenn in the group, but I did sync up with another woman in a GRC-Pacers singlet (another DC team), and we ran together for a bit. 

She was good company, but it didn't take long for me to start feeling claustrophobic.  There were just too many runners too close to me, and I started to tense up.  My discomfort was amplified by the fact that (like before) my uphill/downhill pacing was slightly different from the pack's.  

So I used the next downhilll to pull ahead and get free of them.  I think it was about this time that I saw my teammate Mollie and forum friend Jim cheering for me.  More friendly faces.


As I noted, my hamstrings had started aching around mile 10 (early) and by 15 or so, they were taut and my left quad was also starting to hurt.  This was a bit disappointing - my quads had been fine at both Boston and Grandma's, and I had done a fair bit of downhill marathon effort running this cycle specifically to prep them.  So why was one squawking now?  

In all likelihood, it was my flowing just a bit too much on the downhills during this first half.  I hadn't been careful enough.  D'oh!  Oh well.  It was still manageable.  

I had planned to start racing at this point, but I revised that plan to "hold it here and bring it in safe."  I had been making an effort to drink a lot of water during this race (refilling my water bottle several times) even though it was a cold morning in hopes that it would help limit the muscular issues.  Now I redoubled those efforts.  

The next miles were about staying in the moment, eating and drinking as much as I could, and engaging my core.  My energy levels and breathing were great, and I didn't need to do anything spectacular - I just needed to keep my rhythm.  Somewhere around here, I caught up with Jenn.  We chatted briefly, but we were both hurting.  I wanted to urge her to stick with me, but I didn't have enough in me to get the full sentence out AND keep my form and hold my pace.

The bridge at mile 22 into Sacramento seemed much harder than I remembered last time.  Possible because my legs were so stiff.  Thankfully, nothing was cramping and energy levels were still solid, but everything was super tight, and my gait felt awful.  Like I had swapped the round tires of a bike for square ones.

But I knew I was ahead of the 3 hour group, which meant I was going to break 3, and all I needed to do was to keep doing what I was doing.  I didn't have that much further.  And if there's one thing I can do, it's lock into a rhythm and hold it.


At mile 24 we made a left and then right - the next turns would be into the finish chute.   I was no longer focusing on the mile I was in; rather I was running one block at a time.  23rd st....22nd....21st....  

The streets were lined with people smiling and cheering, and I wanted to be one of them so much it hurt.  I told myself I could stand there 20 minutes from now.  Right now, I had to keep the rhythm.

For the first time in the race, people started to pass me.  Not many, but some  It was frustrating, but I knew the worst thing I could do was to tense up and try to force things.  So instead, I relaxed and flowed forward, trying to un-stiff as much as I could.  I know that L street is pancake flat and the winds were calm on Sunday, but damned if it didn't feel like I was running up the Capital Crescent trail towards Bethesda into a brisk headwind.

I had mapped the course out, and so I knew that 15th street was the 1200m mark, and 12th street was the 800m mark.  I tried to go, but emptying the tank really just meant continuing to run at this point.   My legs were locked.

Finally, blissfully, I saw "400m to go," followed by the mile 26 marker.  I tried to kick as I came around the first turn, but it didn't happen for two reasons - 1) I just couldn't.  2) the corners had some wet leaves strewn on them - remnants of yesterday's rain.  It took a massive effort, but I swung a bit wide on the turn to give the storm debris clearance, to avoid slipping and falling.  

Then I saw the "200m to go" sign, and started counting seconds.  I pumped my arms and increased my cadence to get to that finish line as quickly as possible.

As I approached the finish, I saw the clock flip over to 2:59:00, and I knew I was going to go safely under 3 hours.  I didn't know by how much, but I was fairly sure it had taken me at least 20-30 seconds to cross the start mat after the gun.  So maybe 2:58 high?  Fantastic!

I got myself over the finish mats and stooped, hands on knees.  After a few seconds, I looked at my watch, realized I hadn't stopped it, and stopped it.  And my time popped up on the screen.

2:57:48 - which meant I was likely a few seconds faster.

I saw the number, but couldn't process it.  I knew I was physically capable of running that on a perfect day, but it was incomprehensible that I actually had just done so.  Especially when so much of the race felt like it just wasn't quite my day.

Splits were:

Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:06
Mile 3: 6:48
Mile 4: 6:35
Mile 5: 6:42
Mile 6: 6:35
Mile 7: 6:37
Mile 8: 6:41
Mile 9: 6:49 (hit late, I think)
Mile 10: 6:33
Mile 11: 6:44
Mile 12-13: 13:32 (6:46)
Mile 14: 6:46
Mile 15: 6:41
Mile 16: 6:44
Mile 17: 6:33
Mile 18: 6:43
Mile 19: 6:41
Mile 20: 6:49
Mile 21: 6:49
Mile 22: 6:47
Mile 23: 6:51
Mile 24: 6:48
Mile 25: 6:53
Mile 26: 6:59
last bit: .21 in 1:29 (7:03)

I split it as 1:28:48/1:28:56.  A very slightly positive split, and so I'm very slightly annoyed.  But a very small thing in the larger context of the race as a whole.


It's funny.  From time to time during this cycle or even post-race, I heard people repeatedly referring to "deserving" a good race or a BQ or a trials qualifier.  

Every time I hear or read that expression, I remember one of my favorite scenes from Neil Gaiman's early Sandman work.  The incarnation of Death, in the form of a well balanced, cheerful goth girl, is helping someone upon their passing.  The person looks at her, describes his life, and says "pretty good, huh?"  

She responds: "you lived what anybody got a lifetime."

Similarly, at the end of the day, anyone who makes it to the starting line gets the same thing as payment for their hard work.  An opportunity to race.  That's it.  Nothing more. 

So many people have worked so hard for so long, but it didn't quite happen on race day.  And that's not a matter of deserving it or not - you can do everything right both before and during, and it still doesn't happen.  That's racing (and life).   If your race didn't go well, it doesn't mean that you didn't work hard, or that you weren't deserving.  

But every once in a while, you work hard, and try to do everything right, and control all the variables, and the running gods smile in addition to that.  

And if those running gods are really in a good mood, you end up beating that pie-in-the-sky time you scribbled and taped to the hotel bathroom mirror 4 days prior.  

Other notes:
  • Conditions were 40 degrees at the start, 48 at the finish.  Good air quality, overcast skies, mild humidity, no wind.  Really really good weather.  Like it is most years at this race.
  • Amazingly, I did NOT chafe at all despite the pre-race shellacking of my right side with lemonade rocktane.
  • I wore my Vaporfly 4%s for this race, as I did for Boston and Grandma's, plus the Houston, Love Run, and Richmond halves and Army 10 Miler.  This pair now has nearly 200 miles on them.  And the higher the mileage on them, the more I like them.  They're much less bouncy now, and feel much more stable.  It's funny that the very characteristic that so many others love about the shoe (the bounce) is my least favorite aspect.   And...since I'm wearing the original version (light blue) while everyone else seems to have the red flyknit, I don't think anyone realizes I'm wearing Vaporflies…
  • Final gel consumption during this race - nine gels (I carried twelve, and finished with one.  I also dropped one on course and had another one explode at the start).  I also had four gels as part of my pre-race breakfast.   After the race, I was chatting with several of my male teammates (all much taller than myself, and thus heavier) and came to the awkward realization that my caloric requirements before and during a marathon are much higher than anyone else's.  I've always thought of myself as a diesel, but maybe I'm actually one of those awful toy scooters that gets 3 miles to a gallon of gas.
  • There were plenty of fast times at CIM again this year, leading to plenty of statements about how CIM is a ski-slope course, and times here aren't legitimate.  I don't think the fast times at CIM are due to the course.  As so many others have said, the course elevation diagram is not at all representative of how the course runs.  There is a fair amount of climbing on this course, and it beats your legs up.  I am much more sore now than I was after either Grandma's or Boston this year.  Considering just the course profile itself, I would consider Chicago, Shamrock, and Grandma's to all be slightly faster courses than CIM.

    So, why is CIM so fast?  Because every other element that contributes to fast times is here.  The weather is perfect for racing a marathon here almost every year, and everything about the race facilitates fast times.  Tons of water stops, tons of toilets at the start, heated buses until 15 minutes before, few turns on course.  Just the right number of runners to give you company but not to block your way.

    Additionally, people come here to run fast times, to hit time goals, and it gives this race a unique vibe.  Most races are a mix of competition and completion, while Boston seems to be about celebration (which is probably the biggest reason I didn't enjoy Boston, even after controlling for the weather - it just felt a bit narcissistic).

    CIM is a mass time trial as much as a race; at times I felt like every single person on the course was my teammate for that day, encouraging me along.  It's collaborative, not competitive (at least at the sub-3 level), and I've never experienced that in any other race.  It is an amazing experience, and a must-do if hitting a certain time goal is really important to you.
  • Another note to east coasters considering this race - it's really not that expensive.  I've done three marathons this year - Boston, Grandma's, and CIM.  Of the three, CIM was the cheapest in terms of combined air fares, hotels, and food expenses while there, even though I stayed in Sacramento several more days than I did in Duluth or Boston.  Don't rule this race out as too expensive until you do the math.
  • Got to meet my (formerly on-line only) friend Audra in person, finally.  She and I have known each other across at least four different forms of social media (Live Journal, RunnersWorld Online, Facebook, and blogging) for nearly 10 years.  We're the same age, with the same humor, and we're both runners who are crazy about cats.  But we'd never actually met until now.  That was really special, and made the trip worth it on its own.
  • CIM was 26.2 miles, which I covered in 2:57:42.  BWI airport is 30 miles from my house as the crow flies, and it took me 3 hours to get home after my flight landed - longer than my marathon.  Why?  Because I had the unfortunate luck to arrive back in the DC area at the same time as the casket of President George HW Bush, meaning that instead of driving through DC to get home, I had to go around the city on the beltway.  In evening rush hour.  If this happens again I may just hang out at BWI for a few hours.  Though I may have to find something to eat besides Chipotle.
  • I still can't fucking believe I ran that fast.