Thursday, December 7, 2017

California International Marathon: "God, please make us brave & strong"

I fully intend to write an excessive amount of detail about this race (follow up note:  I did; refer to links at end of post), but here is a short-ish overview!

When I chose CIM, I selected it with the express purpose of trying for a 2:45:00 or faster marathon.  God placed the dream of achieving an Olympic Trials Qualifying time on my heart, and after an almost painful amount of marathon research I decided that CIM would be my best chance after the qualifying window for the 2020 Trials opened this fall.  As race day grew closer, I felt like I was ready for a PR, but not for a 2:45.  2:46-2:47 felt more realistic, and I lamented on this quite a bit during my taper.  I ended up deciding to target 2:46:55, 6:22 pace.

As marathons always do, once the race began, it took on a personality of it's own.  Miles 1-10 were at an average of 6:22 pace - right where I wanted to be.  Then something clicked in my head, and for the first time I felt confident that I could run a 2:45:00 after all.  I typically hit a stride like this in the marathon, where I feel like I can conquer the world.  I start thinking with endorphins, and thoughts like "6:15 is way too fast for that many miles" are replaced with "6:15 seems doable for the rest of the race".  Around mile 10, I could hear my husband's advice in my head:  "You should try for the 2:45; if you lose it at the end, you lose it at the end...but you'll never get it without trying."  I could hear my coach saying, "6:22 is a good starting pace, but don't be afraid to drop the pace as the race progresses."  I prayed, "God, please make us strong and brave" ("us" being my friends Jamie, Kris, and I -- full story about the miles I spent with each of them during this race to come).  I suddenly believed that I could run the remaining 16 miles of the race at 6:15 pace, which I knew would get me in at just under 2:45.

From miles 10-22.5ish I did just that.  Each mile that passed I was hitting right around 6:15 pace, with some variation for elevation, and each time I passed a mile marker I just knew I could run the remaining distance at 6:15 pace.  A similar thing happened to me at BMO Mesa-Phoenix, when I just knew I had the rest of the race in me at 6:30 pace or better (on the other hand, at Dallas I knew I was going to come up a few miles short).  Mile 18 - yep, I've got 8 more miles of 6:15s in me.  Mile 19 - yes, I can do 7 more miles of this.  Doubt crept in here and there, and I would question if I had enough left, but I just kept running the mile I was in and praying to be brave. When I hit mile 20 in 2:06:10, I believed I could run the final 10K in 38:50, or 6:15 pace.  For the first time in this entire training cycle, I fully believed I was ready for a 2:45.  I thought of all of the fast finish runs I'd done; I was ready to close with a solid 10K.

Then around mile 22.5, my neck started spasming.  My legs were still intact, so initially I didn't worry, but tried to tilt it forward and to the sides for some relief.  It quickly worsened, and I also became dizzy.  I knew it was the benign paroxsymal positional vertigo (BPPV) I'd experienced during my taper, and I knew it was trying to steal my 2:45!  I wasn't going to let it take my dream without a fight, but I quickly felt like I was losing the battle.  I felt like a puppet, my head pulled back on a string.  I couldn't keep my head forward and I couldn't see the road.  My peripheral vision was off and I almost felt like I was running into the unknown. I tried to focus on a girl's head in front of me, and kept telling myself "just follow her in, just get in".  I didn't see my final 3 mile splits because I couldn't look at my watch, but they weren't nearly good enough for the 2:45 (6:40, 6:46, 7:01 -- I did see mile 23 which was 6:26 for the start of my slow-down).  I wasn't sure I was going to make it in at all, so my disappointment with slowing down was replaced with thankfulness to finish.  Something is going to give at the end of a marathon, and this was just it for me in this one. 

I crossed the finish line in 2:47:14, a PR by over 2 minutes on a course that was more difficult than where I ran my 2:49 (you can't earn an OTQ at Phoenix due to the amount of net downhill).  I was overcome by so many sensations at once:  excruciating pain as I fell to the ground in the finish chute, joy for the PR and to have made it to the finish, and disappointment that after finally feeling like I could run a 2:45 for about 12.5 miles, I was unable to even come close.  I finished 65th female in the USATF National Marathon Championships, after not being seeded in the top 100 going in.

Could I have run faster had I stayed at 6:20-6:22 pace instead of dropping to 6:15?  Most likely; pretty much anytime you slow down at the end of a marathon you're well-trained for it's because you didn't pace within your capacity earlier on, and it's always better to negative split.  I may have gotten in at 2:46:30ish, but I still wouldn't have gotten the standard.  As much as I hate not having a strong finish, I am glad I took the risk.  A marathon PR is always a risk, and this Big Time Goal was a Big Gamble for me.

One thing that's changed in addition to my bright shiny new PR is that, for the first time, I feel confident I can run a 2:45.  It's going to take everything going right (no BPPV!), but now I know I have it in me. Phoenix was a turning point because I knew I had to try (who is going to run a 2:49 and not try?); CIM was the point that I knew I could do it (who is going to be content with a 2:47 when that 2:45 is right there?!).  Just like after my 2:49 at Phoenix, even if I never run a faster marathon, I am really proud that I ran a 2:47.  I am thankful God gave me the strength to run it and put people in my life to help me get there.  It wasn't that long ago that 6:22.7 pace was my 10K pace, and it flummoxes me to think that I ran 19:49 5Ks for 26.2 miles straight.

I have over 2 years to find 134 more seconds.  Trying is always going to be intimidating, because it's freakin' 6:17 pace for 26.2 miles!  But as at CIM, God will make me brave enough to try.

Official results are here.  This link also has a few race videos and links to several super ridiculous-looking race photos (the crazy posture I ran the final few miles in is illustrated well, and I now can't look at them without laughing!).

More from CIM:


  1. This was obviously not a "late miles slow down running out of gas from starting too fast" event. If I dare say it, 2:45 is a certainty in the near future.

    1. Thanks, Dave! It was certainly different than anything I'd ever experienced before, but we all just have to run within what we have on race day. I'm going to try again in Houston, and if it doesn't happen there I will try again and again -- and that's okay because the joy is in the journey after all. 😊

  2. I’ve been stalking your blog to read more about your race and awesome PR! This post made me tear up. I know you have that 2:45 in you and if it hadn’t been for the vertigo, you would’ve gotten it at CIM. I hate that this happened to you but it does make me excited to see how Houston goes! I love Jon’s advice. It’s what I’d have said too but we wouldn’t have been the ones struggling in the marathon if it didn’t go well!

    1. Jon has good ideas sometimes, haha! I wasn't nearly as scared of struggling as I was of the time I would lose, because as I exhibited well, a tough last few miles can really add up -- especially when you don't have much wiggle room. It's so hard to have everything align on race day, and really everything else about CIM was ideal (weather, course, competition, etc.), so I'll count my blessings and keep chasing my dream. I am hoping for a really cold winter (for the first time ever) so it will be cold in Houston -- the average race day low there is 41*, but last year it was around 70* and humid!