Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Or why is a PR Never Enough?)

I set out to run the California International Marathon over six months ago, initially setting my sites on a “BQ” (Boston Qualifying time). Soon realizing this would mean cutting over 20 minutes off my previous best at the Paris Marathon earlier this year I scaled back just a tad. Aiming and training for the 3:45 mark I felt was a respectable advance on my Paris time and would be a full 40 plus minutes better than my first marathon.

Race morning dawned crisp and cold, around 35F. The busses to the start were unusually chaotic for C.I.M and the sweat check was like a scene from a third world country with people yelling, bags flying and a general sense of disarray quite uncommon for this event. I have run C.I.M as a relay team previously and the organizers usually have this event down to a science. Ultimately my sweat check bag would go missing and someone somewhere now has a really nice Brooks NiteLife jacket and a pair of ASICS warm up pants. But as any race participant knows, and is informed, this can and does happen in the best of events. I really couldn’t bitch. The rest of the event went off flawlessly, the volunteers, literally in the hundreds were friendly, helpful and with only one exception, a credit to the event and get my heartfelt thanks.

But we digress! Lined up at the start after a brief warm up but couldn’t find the 3:45 Pacer, Grant Carboni. C.I.M has a cadre of really amazing pacers and while I have never run with a pace group before, talking to Grant and Rae Clark at the Expo I was sold. The gun sounded and I headed off figuring I would be on my own pace wise. Shortly after crossing the timing mat I spied Grant and the pace group about a half mile ahead and spent the next couple of miles slowly reeling them in and right after that caught up with my running partner Bill E. and we settled into our group, our pace and started clicking off the miles. Grant is an amazing pace leader and knows the course like the back of his hand so I could just settle in and run.

C.I.M starts in Folsom CA at the base of the Folsom Lake dam and winds its way into downtown Sacramento to end just shy of the steps of the state capitol. It is a net downhill and advertised as a fast course and top Boston Qualifier but don’t let that fool you. It is still 26.2 miles and at times the “rollers” are still a challenge! Throw in a nice headwind that we turned right into at mile 10 and again just past the half way point and it tests you just like any other marathon.

Bill and I stayed with Grant and the pace group, sometimes even slightly out ahead, clear through to mile 17 or so. I had a couple of minutes in the bank from starting behind and reeling them in so I was feeling ok to drift back a bit and try and draft behind the group to stay out of the breeze but that was the start of my wrestle with “The Beast” as I have come to call him. The Beast, that insidious in creeping of aches, pains and second thoughts daring to become doubt and misgiving that we distance runners know all too well. The Beast gnawed at my hip, pushed a sock down to crumple and threaten a blister and called upon the cold to assist in never giving me a chance to take off my gloves and beanie.

The Beast stayed with me through to the end of the race, threatening to turn into the full fledged “Wall” and daring me to stop and walk right up to mile 22. At that point that old ally Determination finally lent a hand and from 22 to 26 I was able to call up the reserves and claw my way back to my pace. Those where the toughest miles of the race and my wife would remark later when she took this picture just 200 yards short of the finish she could only yell out “almost there” instead of her traditional “Looking good”.. that would have been such a vast overstatement!

I finished just over three minutes off my goal, and for a

time it looked as though the official time was actually further off than that. Later I would confirm that was the gun time and despite that even that time was a personal record, I had on what has been described by my lovely bride as my Cranky Pants. Later I would confirm my official chip time as 3:48:14, more than ten minutes better than Paris and a new personal record. The Cranky Pants have come off, my training saw me through to the end of arguably the toughest race I have participated in. I am uninjured and setting my sites on next year. So, why does it bug me that this guy beat me by 13 seconds? Maybe its the name thing? Or that we look so much alike? Maybe next year. ;-)


BrennanAnnie said...

I am so glad you posted a race report. I felt like I was missing out on the event. You did incredibly well. I am so impressed. I have only met one person who was honestly completely happy with their marathon time. Most of the time we all want better, and only see what we should have done. I am glad you are back to being happy about your time. BQ will come. Just keep doing what you are doing.

TinaGirl said...

That darn Edward Norton! You both are at the top of my favorites list though *wink wink*. So proud of you! Paris wansn't very long ago and what great strides (he he he) you have made since then. You inspire me to keep gettting faster as a friend, fellow runner and coach.

Greg said...

Great account of your race, Ed - thanks! I'm glad you wrestled The Beast back into his cave. Sorry about the Ed Norton business.

-- Greg

Michael B said...

nicely done, sir. while you were grappling with your demons in sac i was battling mine (mr. doodoo head) in santa barbara. my battle was much the same as yours! and we both beat them down again. cheers. looking forward to seeing what you do next.

Anonymous said...

Ed, Ed, Ed. You did fantastic and ran a great race. It was a tough one and you still did it well. Be proud.

It was an absolute pleasure meeting you that day. Thanks for the inspiration!

Vicki said...

Thanks for the race report! You are awesome. I can't believe how well you have done, and how much you have improved in the past 2 years! It's a true testement to your determination and your love for the sport. You will blow that BQ out of the water this year! Screw Ed Norton. He probably had a personal trainer, not to mention lots of downtime when not acting. He's hot though. I can see the resemblance :)