Race Report: California International Marathon 2022

Running a marathon in December isn't generally something that most Midwesterners do, and it certainly isn't something that I have done before!

To just briefly (or not) touch on training for a late marathon, I will just say it was a little complicated but worked out the absolute best it could have. 

On the downside, I hit the treadmill or drove into town for any major long run or workout during the busier harvest times and especially beet season (that starts October 1st) to avoid getting in the way of the big trucks on our country roads. After harvest cooled down, deer season followed and I still stuck to the town running or treadmill while that was in full swing. Then an early season blizzard and the snow hasn't left since, which isn't a deal breaker. I biffed it once on our trail in the snow and caused some issues in my left knee but, praise the Lord, it eventually resolved with time, rolling and a visit to the chiro.

As for what went well, this was my first training cycle working with Coach Pooley and the Dakota Distance Project, which I really enjoyed! Training felt well-balanced and always interesting. Running 6 days a week was perfect and there was one week of running 7 days a week - which I have NEVER done before. It turns out that survived and didn't even hate it ;) I did keep up the strength program and pilates that G Personal Training taught me this spring and that helped my body to handle the training days and gradual increase in mileage. Sessions were never super long, which I like, but they were effective and I didn't struggle with any hamstring tightness or hip weakness like I have had in previous years.

Our family also didn't get a major sickness of any sort this training cycle. WHAT?! I had been thinking that before the race and only now dare to say it, now that the race is done. Maybe our immune systems took notes after the terrible bout of the C-virus a year ago and the worst stomach flu I have ever had that happened in the spring. Gosh, what a gift it is to feel healthy!

The 12-week training block looked like this, not including the months of base prior to it: 
01 - 37.10 recovery (Dick Beardsley Half Marathon, prior week)
02 - 50.07
03 - 53.72
04 - 47.31, Blue Ox 26k
05 - 37.10, recovery
06 - 50.07
08 - 60.35
09 - 63.15 *New highest mileage ever PR!
10 - 52.04
11 - 40.36
12 - RACE WEEK: 52.3
This training cycle involved way more races than any of my previous build ups, two of which were races I wrote about for BibRave. As a mostly solo runner, having races and other runners to push me more often was extremely helpful. Even races that were more of a "training run" than race, I still pushed harder with other people than I ever would on my own. That isn't an easy thing to do for spring marathons because we don't have many early races here but, for a fall race, this was perfect. 

The weeks prior to this 12-week mileage chunk involved base-building and then fitness from earlier races. All helpful when it came to racing CIM! Training for Fargo Marathon in the spring averaged 45.3 mpw and this training cycle averaged 49.8, for any of you mileage nerds out there like me. 

Enough of the training, now onto the race!

My friend Amanda and I were so glad to get out of the blowing snow and wind of the Midwest! After our plane finally was able to de-ice and take off from the Twin Cities, we landed in Sacramento on Friday night. 

Ready for our warm California runcation, we walked out of the SAC airport and straight into a surprisingly chilly, wet weekend. 

After a long day of travel, we got to the hotel and said goodnight to this very active city: 

Mission for Saturday: Shake out run (very rainy and SO stinkin' cold!), the race expo + number pick-up and a wonderful Italian supper at II Fornaio. Butternut squash filled ravioli was beyond words... delicous.

Fast forward to race morning - we were feeling some nerves because of the absolute downpour that Saturday was. We were chilled to the bone after that quick Saturday shakeout run, so a marathon in that weather could easily end up in hypothermia. So we prayed that the weather would hold off for the run and went from there.

Early wake up, then we joined our friend Danielle and headed to the bus line to take us to the start line. We wore "throw away" layers to keep our race clothes dry. In hindsight, I really should buy a pack of cheap rain ponchos for races like this! That would have been very helpful this morning. After standing in quite the waiting line that wrapped around the block's sidewalk, we boarded the buses, wet shoes and all.

The bus was mostly cozy and warm until either someone up front cracked a window or the driver turned the a/c on? Brr. I felt pretty damp already and mostly looked out the window. I was nervous to trudge through the streets if the rain kept on like this. When my throw away clothes soaked, I could take off and throw away, but if my bottom layer got drenched, I would just have to hang in there and not stop running + freeze.

We were allowed to stay on the buses until 15 minutes to race start. But then there were the porta potties, too... Stay on the warm bus or start waiting in the porta potty lines? We were in a porta potty line with 7 runners in front of us and only 3 MINUTES until race start. 

I will spare you all potty-related details and just jump to the race itself :)

The elites were in front and then the rest of the groups were separated by self-seeded pacing groups. My fast friends headed up to 2:50 and I tucked myself in behind 3:00.

Goal for at least the first 10-12 miles: Keep it reeled in, stick to my "no faster than" pace, mine being being around 6:45-6:50. Thanks to Coach and Amy F for the wise pacing advice on this course - it was very needed! The continual rolling hills of the first half made pacing a little hard to read but I made a conscious effort to slow down if I peeked and saw a 6:3-something. Too soon for that. 

At the start, the actual 3-hour pacer sign was a ways ahead, just in the way the group was lined up. I thought about trying to catch up with them but stuck to the pace plan because they were FLYING. The group was big and, the closer I got to the group, the more boxed in I was. Aid stations were only on the right side (news to me) so after accidentally being on the far left side of the pack and needing to cut through the group to grab fuel once, I learned my lesson and stayed hooked to the ride side of the road. Some runners were super grumpy and serious - I'm not used to seeing that! Most are such fun, happy people.

So I sat by the back of that 3-hour group and waited, and waited. I wasn't sure when I was going to make a move but I knew moving too early would cause another blow up like Fargo Marathon this year (never again - that hurts!!!). I fueled much more than usual before/and in this race and this made me feel strong the entire time. Even when I didn't feel like taking in fuel, I took it anyways. That was also a little annoying because I could not leave that right side of the road! Not ideal for the hips, but a necessary evil, just for the time being.

A quick snapshot of fueling for this race:
  • super early breakfast of 1/2 bagel + PB + Banana, Nuun tab from Amanda with breakfast and graham crackers to snack on for the bus.
  • 1 UCAN Pineapple Edge Gel about an hour prior to the race while on bus, 1 UCAN Pineapple Edge Gel about :40 min prior... still on bus, and then a last minute Clif Mocha with caffeine + water sips while in porta potty line right before race.
  • Then gels at approximately mile 6 (vanilla/no caff), mile 10 (vanilla/no caff), mile 14 (vanilla/no caff), mile 18(mocha/ caff), mile 22 (vanilla/no caff)
  • at stations where I WASN'T taking a gel (need water with those gels), I drank the lemon-lime Nuun. I'm not sure I skipped a single aid station, at least that I can remember, until the very end of the race! Took 6 Clif gels in all, 2 UCAN.

The time came around the half marathon mark. My eyes saw us cross the half clock at 1:31... oye... trust the process, don't freak out (turns out it was 1:29:21 per the stats). I was feeling spunky and just naturally my legs decided it was the time to leave the 3-hour pack. They must have slowed a hair and I was ready to pick it up a hair.

Feeling strong and smooth, with just a slight twinge here and there from the lop-sided running on the aid station side. I tried to sit patiently and wait for the rolling hills to settle down. Surprisingly I didn't feel like any of the hills were difficult, there were just a lot of them and they kept on coming.

It's funny how you can make a "fast friend" in the short length of a race. I met Miriam from Toronto while in the 3-hour pace group. She is a mom of two, husband was racing as well and she had already broken 3-hours before. A happy, pleasant runner to be by! We had some short conversation and headed down the race course, past the 3-hour pace group and the mob of runners gradually spread out from there. This was a great time in the race because I was able to run on either side of the street now :)

Miriam was having a little knee issue but we traded off passing each other here and there. I told her what Amy F had told me about this final push, the gist of it was: don't underestimate how fast you can run after the 18-20 mile point.    

The miles kept flying by and I was feeling good; still holding some back. The dreaded mile 16 came, where Fargo started feeling terrible and I crashed. Then mile 18 (time for caffeine) and then a hill/bridge around mile 20. Okay, I guess negative splits work? I'm feeling tired but still fine.

Negative split strategy for the final 6.2 miles was two-by-two. Look at the miles in groupings of two. I like even numbers.

Around mile 23, my already black toenail felt like it starting to lift off. Good thing I KT-taped it to my foot. Runners do the weirdest thing. The toe was throbbing and quads were feeling the fire but I didn't feel like I needed to slowdown. Keep the legs firing.

At the 2:30 point of the race, I looked at my watch and thought "Amanda and Danielle are almostt done!". If I can really hit this sub-3 thing, I only have to run for less than 30 minutes. If I can hold this pace for a 30-minute-or-less tempo run, I can be DONE! That must be the glory of running 2-hour-something marathons. You get done sooner.

I ran by two situations where guys were dry heaving and puking on the side of the road. Don't look at them. It seems like dry heaving is contagious and once you start, you can't stop.

People dropping, walking, injuries. Don't look! Just run.

HOME STRETCH!!! As we ran down the final shoot, I think I was actually saying out loud to people, "we made it, we made! we did it!". Arms may have been pumping a little. I can't remember what is real or what was just in my mind at this point.

The final turn is in sight - huge smile, maybe crying a little or mumbling or who knows what. I see 2:59 on the clock and didn't bother to compare with my watch.

Just SPRINT (that's when the tongue comes out)

The legs felt tired but fast. 5:57 for the final third of a mile and then...


I felt great, for having just run a marathon, and was so happy with how the run itself went. I was pretty sure I finished sub-3 but didn't want to celebrate that part yet. Negative splitting and redemption for my terrible pacing debacle at Fargo earlier this year was already a huge win for me. Thank You, Lord, for carrying me through.

The watch said 2:57 - still a little skeptical. Better find Amanda.

She was exactly where we planned to meet up and was visiting with Heather (from @heatherrunz) who had just ran her 15th sub-3 marathon. WOW! It's awesome to finally meet the runners that we stay in touch with on IG!

Amanda ran her 2:49 PR, I ended up with a 2:57:17 PR and Danielle ran a 2:47 PR. What a day! One that could have been so cold, wet and rainy but God gave us this perfect day to run hard and get the job done.

I am so blessed to have great friends like this, an amazing family that held down the fort with our four munchkins, countless people who have blessed me & prayed for me during the marathon itself/training process and our coach & supportive team.

Very thankful. To God be the glory.   

Running sub-3 is awesome and I want to keep picking at that. Pacing smart is key and it's way more fun to run faster for a lesser amount of time. This was the perfect way to end the very long 2022 racing season! 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:30

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