Well that was a blast.
After a really hard, intense training cycle, race week sort’ve just popped out of nowhere. The 2021 California International Marathon was my fourth try at the distance, but my first real “classic” marathon, and I was so excited to experience it. Waking up Saturday in Sacramento across from the capital, I couldn’t wait to shakeout - the mile loop around the capitol was filling with runners and the energy was building. A few miles with Ian Dobson before running into Kate and Dan felt great and I knew the rest of the day was going to go by really, really slow.
The CIM Expo was open and I picked up my packet and perused. Lots of time killing throughout the day before ultimately landing at The Cheesecake Factory (I thought it was a weird choice for dinner until I learned they have more than just cheesecake).
Then it was race morning.
I started it off with my typical hype music combo of Taylor Swift, Lil Wayneand U2.
After taking a little while to find a bus, the group was en route to Folsom. It was a long drive that felt even longer than it was.
The gun went off and those of us in the 3:10 group started about 100m back of the 3:10 pacer. For as many people run this race, the start is very smooth and it was easy to lock into 7:15 immediately. The downhill first mile felt great and effortless, but that quickly changed as the downhill turned into up. And down. And up.
Finding a rhythm at the California International Marathon is difficult. It might be easier for a faster runner who is spending less seconds going up and down the hills or for someone who has raced it multiple times, but for a first timer I found it challenging. Even though the hills weren’t steep or long, they were hills that required more effort in bursts. I wanted to maintain the same pace up and down and not try and have to chase seconds back on the downhills. Through 5K, we were all feeling and running great minus some light cramps that might’ve been due to the humidity or fueling or nerves or maybe they weren’t even there and I completely made them up I don’t know.
The first quarter of the race just seemed to fly by. The miles went by so quickly and knowing the cheerleaders and coaches group were going to be around 5 miles was super motivating. Looking for those bright blue beanies and finding the crew was something to look forward to.
Miles five through ten were a lot like the first five - smooth. They continued to tick by quickly and on pace and even though I still had a really light stitch in my side it wasn’t affecting my running (spoiler alert: yet). Old townFair Oaks had really great energy and it was awesome to see the crew there again. Made it up the biggest hill of the course still feeling good and just a few miles from the half.
The halfway point of a marathon is a really interesting place. You want to be excited because you’re half way but then you remember you literally just ran a half marathon and you have to do it again. And you have to do it again right now and you can’t even stop for 1 second to catch your breath.
Still felt okay and on pace for a few miles after that until the stitch navigated itself to both sides of my stomach and grew. I made sure to hit every aid station for nuun when that started and over the next few miles it would come and go. I started to slow a bit but only a few seconds per mile. But mentally I thought it was going to be really hard to keep up that pace for another 10 miles even though I told myself 10 miles is only like 3 warm ups at the Cal Young Track with an extra mile at the end.
I didn’t know when I’d see the coaches and crew again and was starting to hurt more and more when I thought I saw a blue beanie, was I hallucinating? My life has been filled with thousands and thousands of beanies lately so surely I could’ve been. But then I heard, in a voice so loud that it shook the fair oakson Fair Oaks Drive:
“LET’S GO JON!
LET’S GO JON, TODAY IS YOUR DAY!”
And even though at that point I was feeling pretty crappy and realizing I probably wasn’t going to hit 3:10, I thought oh hell yeah, it is my day. Plus I heard Jenny cheering for at least another 100 yards or so after I passed by her which was awesome.
I figured the rest of the group was close and saw Lonn, and then Jenn, who ran with me for a few meters and reminded me of what I consider my most personal running mantra.
“One step at a time Jon.”
One step at a time will take you from Folsom to Sacramento.
“I’m so proud of you!”
I started hurting really bad and slowing not long after that but kept it as hard as I could. No walking. No stopping. Drink nuun. Look ahead. One step at atime. I don’t remember a ton from those miles except hurting and trying to runfaster but not being able to. But even then, when I was doing math in my head and trying to figure out how past my goal time I would be, I was just so happy.
Coming into downtown Sacramento, the leg cramps had gotten pretty bad and Ijust wanted to keep going and hopefully not fall. It changed my stride quite a bit but I still kept around an 8 min pace. One step at a time. Coming down the capitol to all the cheering was incredible. I tried to surge but couldn’t. It hurt so bad. I knew I was just meters away from a huge PR but couldn’t go faster but I was okay with it.
I hung a left, ran a bit more, and finished the 2021 California International Marathon in 3:16:07.
Ian turned his phone around and I saw my family on FaceTime and let the tears fly since they were the only thing I could think about mile 24 on.
I am so happy with that run. I know I’m in faster shape but so happy with how it went. How could I not be?
Post race beers were extra dank and delicious and some say that Ashley is still waiting for his pizza to this day.
I enjoyed every step at CIM and I can’t wait to do it again with this crew.