Race Report: California International Marathon

Yesterday, I ran the first half of the race in 1:33 and the second half of the race in 1:57. I don’t think I’ve ever blown up that much and finished. Actually, I’m positive I’ve never had such a terrible, painful race and not dropped out, because if it’s going that badly it’s usually for a reason.

The race started ok. I barely made the start, which wasn’t really my fault. I mean, I suppose it was my fault since I could have left earlier, but at 6:45 a.m. the shuttle bus from the drop-off point hadn’t reached the start yet, which was happening at 7 a.m. I made it though. I ran up the side of the corrals and jumped in at my spot and they said “3, 2, 1. The start of the California International Marathon!”

The first half went by. I ran 7:05s more or less. A couple 6:57 miles, a few 7:10 miles, but mostly right on pace. It was cold. So cold that my legs froze and I couldn’t feel my shorts, so I kept becoming convinced that I wasn’t wearing shorts and having to look down to check. At each aid station, the water that spilled on the ground had re-frozen into ice and everyone was slipping all over. Other than that, it was good. I felt good.

Around 12 or 13 miles, it wasn’t exactly easy anymore, but the pace was still there. I figured that’s ok; it’s not going to be easy forever.

Then, rather abruptly, around 14.5, it became excruciatingly painful. You know how after a marathon or a hard race, you can’t bend your legs or move or walk? That was how I suddenly felt with 12 more miles to run. My IT band felt like it was ripping out of the side of my left knee, my calves were knotted up, but mostly my quads were quivering with pain. It felt like my thigh bone was jamming into my hip and grinding on the top of my knee. It felt like everything was tearing every time I bent my knee or at my hip. What I’m saying is: it hurt, a lot.

Just keep going one mile at a time, right? Make it to 15 miles and then 16, etc. I was running 7:20s and then 7:30s at that point and fighting for it. There may have been hills there; I honestly have no idea. I kept going, but every step pain was shooting up my left leg. How was I possibly going to run 10 more miles? Around 18 or 19, I decided to stop to go to the bathroom. I’d had to go for like 10 miles — which is part of my whole stomach problems I need to figure out — but while I was running well I wasn’t going to stop. Now, though, as the 3:10 pace group was about to catch me, I thought maybe it could be a re-group. I’d go to the bathroom, stretch a second, and then start again, just 8 more miles.

It didn’t exactly work. TMI, etc, but when I sat down in the port-a-potty, my legs started shaking like crazy and wouldn’t stop. I never really got moving again after that. By the time I saw Steve a bit before 20 miles, I was 100% sure there was no way I could finish. I could barely walk and was shuffling 8:30s, how could I run six more miles? Why would I want to? The only reason I didn’t stop was because it was still like 30 degrees out. That is way too cold to wait for a bus after you DNF and Steve was on his bike, so I couldn’t get a ride. If he had the car, I would have definitely dropped out.

I don’t know exactly how I made it to the finish. It was one unbelievably painful step at a time. I went from 8:30s to 9:30s to 10:30s, I don’t even know. I don’t think I made it a single mile without stopping, thinking each time that maybe this time I could stretch my leg out and it’d stop hurting. It was so painful, pounding pain and every tendon, muscle, bone in my legs had already given up on me. I stopped trying to run and just tried to move forward. With 2 or 3 miles left, you hit the main area of Sacramento and are crossing these streets that are numbered. The race ends at 8th St. We were at 57th. At that point, it was one block at a time, one step at a time. I’m pretty sure the last two miles took me 25 minutes.

I don’t know exactly what happened. It was complete muscle-skeletal, body failure. Aerobically, I was fine, which made the whole thing particularly infuriating and put me on the edge of tears that whole time. I knew that my foot has been injured and I knew that because of that I hadn’t necessarily been able to train as much as I needed, so I knew there was a possibility I wasn’t going to be able to run the 3:07 I wanted and that I’d blow up. But, I made my bet. I ran on pace and thought I’d hold onto it as best as possible and maybe I’d slow down some and end up running a 3:10 or 3:11 or something. And, it turned out, I didn’t have the muscular endurance for that. I’ve only been able to run over 15 miles twice this block and my body just didn’t have it I guess. I’m pretty sure if it had been a half-marathon, I’d have been able to PR. But, it wasn’t a half.

On the plus side, I did finish. Even slowing down that much, I still ran a 3:30? Which is ok I guess. (Yes, I get that would be great for some people. But, the 3:07 I was aiming for would also have been terrible for some people. So, other people’s expectations are kind of irrelevant.) And, I know now that I can finish. The last few miles, when I knew I’d make it eventually, I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to hurt at the end of Ironman, so if you can’t do this, how are you going to do that?’ So, there’s that.

And, now, I’m really fucked up. Not so shockingly, way way more screwed up than any other race I’ve ever done. Picking up my foot to get into the car requires actually grabbing my leg with my hands and picking it up. I don’t intend to do anything for a week or two. And, then, it’s time to figure out how to get some of these problems fixed.

15 thoughts on “Race Report: California International Marathon

  1. Personally I wouldn’t look too much into this race. If you could have stayed healthy, and got your miles in leading up to the race it would have gone much better. Shake it off, eat some cookies, and get back after it is what I’d say… and I guess I am saying that here.

    p.s. Sorry about my creepybess following of your marathon. I thought it would send me a text message or something, not post your results to whoever the heck follows me on Twitter. 🙂 HA HA. That was pretty funny though.

    take care. 🙂

  2. Kelly I was really disappointed reading this report. I was rooting for you and to hear you in so much distress is terrible. I suffered from a dodgy stomach for 48 years until I took myself off dairy. My stomach is still dodgy, I have other triggers obviously – probably gluten – which I’m investigating with my doctor. In a month after stopping dairy I lost 5 kgs as inflammation in my body went down. Intolerances to dairy and gluten are massive under-diagnosed problems in this modern world. They also lead to other hormonal imbalances and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, all of which could have created the problems you suffered in this marathon. Feel free to ignore me as an old fart on a soap box but if I was you the first place I would look is to test for food allergies. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you get rid of foods that your body doesn’t like. Again tell me to pull my head in but I would love to not have had to know where every public toilet in the city is when I was younger.

    1. Thanks, yeah, I’m planning on doing some tracking to figure out why sometimes foods bother me and some don’t. It’s certainly not a sustainable way of life. But, my stomach was really mostly fine during this race. The massive muscular failure was the bigger problem!

      1. I suppose my point was that you could run over half the race without an issue, it probably isn’t so much a question of fitness but of the fuel not sustaining you. Maybe the muscles failed not because they weren’t strong but because what they need to keep going wasn’t there for them. Again feel free to tell me to pull my head in but I have loved your blog since I started following it because you have a no bullshit attitude and you’re almost painfully honest and open about yourself. I’m still rooting for you.

  3. So sorry this happened to you. I went through a very similar thing last year at CIM because of a foot injury (and also generally feeling crappy)–run a mile at any pace possible, stop, stretch, run another mile, repeat for 14 miles. It. Sucked.

    Hoping you’ve been able to rest & take care of yourself this week & recover & figure out the leg situation. 😦

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