The Chances

How a 250+ Pound Couch Potato Got Healthy

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

California International Marathon (CIM) 12-6-09

After three days of thought, business, and rest, I've finally found the time to write my race report for the 2009 California International Marathon. About time, don't you think?

Good Morning
The alarm woke me up at 2am, and as expected, I didn't get up until 2:30. I'm sorry, that's just too early a time to get up, no matter what Mister Fonzie says.

I brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, took my Mega Men vitamins, then got my stats: 172.8 pounds, resting heart rate 45 beats per minute, body fat 17.2%... 172.8 pounds? I knew I was going to gain weight in the week before the marathon, but almost 4 pounds? I had no time to worry about that now, I had business to take care off. I posted it to Twitter on my phone.

The next step in my ritual was into the living room, where I had laid out my clothes ahead of time. I was a good little marathon runner the night before, with everything just so, and afer applying an ample amount of Body Glide to my nipples, I strapped my Garmin heart rate monitor securely around my floppy chest, went back into the bathroom, and put on my altogether too-inexpensive kit with my running bib already pinned on.

Finally, on top of my running clothes, I put on the $5 jacket I bought at the Goodwill the night before, and a pair of gigantic sweat pants I'd never worn from my heavier days.

Breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal, but no banana. No banana? That was one thing I forgot to check the night before, but I suppose if I had, I wouldn't have wanted to go back to the store for one anyway.

The Drive
After getting settled into the car and the heater nicely running, I checked the temperature on my Pre: 29 degrees. We were going to be in for a fun day!

The day before, I was reading a blog entry about the ultra runners who were doing the marathon, twice. They were going to meet at the finish line at 2:30am, run to the Folsom Dam start, then run back with everyone else. During the drive, I posted a few Twitter entries.

# 03:37:05: It's getting down to the wire, the ultra folks are out there :) #cim
# 04:35:13: 29 degrees! Woohoo! #cim
# 04:53:34: It's nuts being up this early. #cim

Upon my arrival, I had to announce it of course. Call me the RoboRunner.

# 05:23:03: I'm at Best Western Sutter House (1100 H Street, Sacramento).
# 05:24:51: Parked next to an SUV that sports a Tri sticker. This must be the place. #cim

The Sutter House was where the bus would be picking me up for a ride to the starting line in Folsom. I picked the Sutter House, because that's where Gina Harris was staying, so I'd have someone to talk to on the bus.

The bus was actually a rented school bus, and freezing inside. It wasn't so much that the bus itself was freezing, but the seats themselves were like ice cubes! As we were sitting down, they asked us if we wanted to board another one, because they still had a few stops to make and the other one was almost loaded. We'd get to the starting line sooner, so off we went.

# 06:34:58: Hop on the bus, God's on the move, there's a seat for me, there's a seat for youuuuu...

It was like going from one extreme to the other. We sat in the very back of the bus, where the heater vent was, and by the time the long bus ride was over, we felt like Christmas hams.

As we started to drive by the Folsom Dam, I was hearing the call of nature pretty fierce, so I decided that once we stopped, I'd make a stop. Gina opted to stay in the warmth of the bus as long as possible. I looked out the back window of the bus to see hundreds of other school buses, each unloading its runner cargo. I bid my farewell to Gina, and off I went in search of a porta potty.

# 07:39:21: Gotta pee gotta pee gotta pee

Lines, Lines, Lines
As I walked to the end of the buses, I came along about 50 portable toilets, each of which had 10 or so people waiting.

I found the shortest line I could and got in. Shortly thereafter, two guys stood behind me, and of course we got into a conversation.

The first was an older gentleman who quickly told us he'd done over a hundred marathons during his life. Done was his word, which he purposely used because he mostly walks the marathons he runs. The second was a younger guy who looked in his late 20s but was in his 40s, and today would be his 5th marathon. He was shooting for an under four hour PR, but told the older guy that a hundred marathons sounded like a good goal to have. The older gentleman told him, "If I could give some unsolicited advice, if you want to run over a hundred marathons, you should slow down. No need to ruin your body along the way." I told them I was in the minority here, this being only my second marathon.

After standing a while, and noting that the faster lines were all men, we noticed that closer to the starting line, there were no lines for the restrooms. None! The younger guy sprinted off, and I told the older guy, that doesn't seem like such a bad idea, so I followed. I used the facilities quickly, putting my gloves in the pocket of the Goodwill jacket, and took off the extra sweats once I was out the door. Off towards the starting line, I heard the cheers of runners, so I figured I'd better get over there.

It's a good thing I did, because as I got over there, the countdown started! I tossed off my jacket, frantically made my way somewhere around the 4:00 pacer.

A little bit about my Twitter activity during the race: there's a service called Twitterfone that allows you to call a number, leave a message, which then gets transcoded into text and sent to Twitter. Once I made one call, I was able to redial by holding the phone button on my bluetooth headset. That's how I Tweeted during the course of the race. It also made for some hilarious messages, which I'll share here and attempt to decode. Twitterfone is also supposed to save the recordings, but for some reason, none of them work now.

# 08:06:40: We're on our way.

I started my Garmin, and was a little worried I wouldn't have a signal before reaching the starting line when I noticed my hands were extremely cold. Looking down, I realized: my gloves are still in the Goodwill jacket I threw on the ground!

I had dropped the jacket against the curb so as to not block runners, and it's a good thing I did! I ran back to where it was, got my gloves, put them on, and made my way back into the pack just as the 4:05 pacer passed. The commotion of running back gave me the time I needed to start the Garmin, alleviating that worry. I was off, in the middle of the pack, running my second marathon!

Miles 1 to 5
Things started off slow, of course. I saw runners around me passing each other, but that wasn't my goal at all. I ran at a pace that was comfortable to me, speeding up and slowing down as the runners in front of me did the same. My thought was, I had 26.2 miles to run, there really was no need to rush this first mile, especially since that's what got me in trouble in Humboldt!

A few people noticed me running with the camera and started laughing, as they tend to do in races. In fact one woman was so giddy, she could barely breathe, laughing so hard. She still ran though, so kudos to her.

# 08:17:04: Mile and a quarter. Go team.
# 08:24:57: Mile 2 was the 956 (?).
# 08:32:04: The 4.50 (?) just passed me.

I have no idea what Mile 2 was, but shortly thereafter, the 4:15 pacer passed me.

Arriving at the first water stop, I found that I was in the middle of the road and there were too many runners to allow me to make my way over in time! This early in the race that was fine, so I planned to get some water at the next one. When it arrived, I did what I had planned: I walked through.

I hadn't planned to use a run/walk method, but I wanted to walk all the water stops to at least give myself some sort of rest as I went along. This turned out to be a smart idea, because with the weather being as cold as it was, the water was freezing to the ground!

# 08:35:15: Mile 3. Good for me.

As I recorded this, an old guy next to me who looked to be in his 70s started laughing, and said to me, "That's right! Good for us!" I had heard him behind me a little bit before, he was making a very distinct clomp-clomp sound as if he was wearing wooden shoes. I asked him if he was wearing orthotics, but he appeared to not be able to hear anything except my earlier proclamation! I'm not sure if he had a hearing problem or just wasn't in the mood to talk, but I took it as a hint.

# 08:39:48: Water at the aid station appears to have frozen on the ground.
# 08:48:53: Over the river through the woods tomorrow 4 we get off. to mile 4's house we go
# 08:55:36: Mile 5. We're now in fit to tights.

Miles 5 to 10
As I came to the Mile 5 construction, the flashing sign that usually directs traffic had been changed to read "RUNNERS" with arrows telling us which way to run. There was a guy standing in the middle, wearing a hard hat, so I made some wise crack for him to watch out for falling boulders. He just smiled.

As I passed through, I heard a guy tell a woman that his wife and two daughters were running the relay, and they timed it as such so he'd get a chance to run with his wife later. I congratulated him, and told him good job for keeping it in the family, to which he responded that it was the first opportunity they'd had to be able to do it, after a few failed attempts prior. He was also smiling ear to ear.

Just before Mile 6, I passed a street with a familiar name: Melva Street!

# 09:00:38: It's too bad mu Aunt Melba isn't still alive. She didn't even know they named a street after her.
# 09:07:21: Miles 6. Just crossed the map. Should be on way now. I have no clue what I said here.

Reaching Mile 7, not only was it a fierce headwind, but it was uphill. Not the best combination to keep the mood up! Lots of smiling faces though.

# 09:15:48: Miles Steadman. Half of the hill no less. Mile 7, uphill no less.
# 09:27:33: The (?) don't constipate mile 8. Oh this one's better. Let's celebrate. The sign says, "Don't constipate Mile 8!" Oh this one's better: Let's Celebrate

At Mile 9, I saw a guy run behind a large tree to use the restroom, and I figured that I'd better do the same, so I followed. When I got behind it, there were about 10 guys doing the same! Big tree, I guess. I made a comment that there wasn't much room left, and one guy said, "That's okay, nobody will care. And if they do, then hey, you found a date."

09:35:15: Stop. She use the restaurant. Got cash by the 430 pacer. "Stopped to use the restroom, got passed by the 4:30 pacer."

Before I knew it, I'd hit Mile 10.

Miles 10 to 15
# 09:50:07: Mile 10. (?) foks. Old time folks.
# 09:56:01: Still (?) in sunrise. Didn't see Kathy but she needed be up ahead for (?). Fair Oaks & Sunrise. Didn't see Kathy, but she may be up ahead further.
# 10:03:14: Mile (11?). John pretty good. Mile 11, feeling pretty good.
# 10:04:15: Just stopped (?) Road. How cool is that. Just passed Bannister Road! How cool is that?
# 10:14:20: (?) Avenue. My amp (blow?).
# 10:27:49: Mile 13. Almost halfway.


# 10:33:21: Mile 14.
# 10:51:32: With this phone. Just hang up on me. Twitterfone just hung up on me!

Apparently Twitterfone wasn't able to understand what I said, because after one message, it responded with, "What a good Twitterer you are! Goodbye." At Mile 16, an old man who was speedwalking passed me, almost just like at the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. At the next aid station, I refilled my Cytomax.

# 10:57:35: Mile 16 Ladis and gentleman. Sara's a new old speedwalker dude. There's a new old speedwalker dude.
# 10:57:56: Mile 16.
# 11:09:28: Miles 17.
# 11:13:49: 8 station. (Phytomax?) refill. Aid station. Cytomax refill.
# 11:27:03: Mile 18. Pretzels.
# 11:40:27: Mile 19. Getting there (?). Getting it done.
# 11:44:00: After Mile 20 I'm going to treat myself to some rest. RUSH. Treating myself to some Rush.

Miles 20 to the 26.2 Finish
Mile 20 is a bit of a party at the California International Marathon. Hundreds of people come out to cheer the runners as they hit "the wall", represented literally by an arch made up to look like a brick wall. This is also where people start telling you that you're almost done. These are the people who have never run a marathon.

Actually that may not be true. They may be people who have run marathons, but love screwing with those who are running one for the first time.

The Wall

As I promised myself, I pulled out the phone, turned on the Music app, and put Rush's Chronicles on shuffle. They didn't fail me, as the first notes of The Trees started to play.

# 11:56:30: Mile 20.
# 12:08:46: Mile 21.

At Mile 22 came the H Street Bridge. I forget his name, but at the expo on Saturday, one of the speakers said if you want to walk, walk before and after, but do NOT walk over the H Street Bridge. So I made it a point to run.

12:20:16: Mile 22. Do not walk over the bridge. Thank you very much.

As I came over the bridge, proud of myself for having not walked over it, and with Rush blaring in my ears, I heard, "Greg! GREG!!!" I looked to my left to see two bundled up cousins, Kathy & Christopher, who'd come out to cheer me on! She had taken my picture as I approached.

I can't tell you how much it meant to have people there for my support! I think I gave Kathy the bear hug of her life, and her son Christopher was a recipient as well. I told him his hat was really cool, and could I have it, but he wouldn't go for it. I said bye with renewed energy, and made my way towards the finish. I did have to stop at one point, because half my bib came undone and I had to fix it.

One thing I had forgotten about during the Avenue of the Giants Marathon was that while the Accel Gel worked great, it gave me serious gas. Using it again this race, again I had gas. Maybe it propelled me faster, who knows.

# 12:33:50: Had to stop for a moment to fix my (?). It ripped.
my bib
# 12:44:35: This marathon has a new nickname: parking around.
FARTING around. Get it right, Twitterfone!
# 12:49:17: Mile 24. 4 hours 44 minutes.
# 13:03:32: Mile 25.

Getting down to the wire now! I found myself walking more and more. I shook hands with a National Guardsman who was directing traffic. I started thinking about Shelly Centis (@smellycents on Twitter) and her beer boots after races.

I called Twitterfone and said, "Forget beer boots, get me a hamburger!"

# 13:10:43: (?) won't do it for me. Then they had a hamburger.

One of the volunteers overheard me speaking, and I think she thought I was delusional because she started walking with me, telling me, "Walk it out... walk it out..." I told her, "I'm on the phone!" but she didn't seem to buy it. I had to get away from her, so I ran off. I tried to relay this to Twitter, but I'm sure I sounded as delusional to those on Twitter as I did to that lady!

# 13:11:55: Got hamburger comment in one of the bottle peers. Think that I was crazy. She was telling me walk it out. Walk...

I ran by Taco Bell, around the corner, then walked again. I walked for a little over a block, but started running as I got to the downtown construction. A few minutes later, it happened: I saw the "best building in the world", as described by the speaker the previous day, and the curvature of the course around the corner which led to the finish!

# 13:18:57: Miles 26. Here we go.

I started to speed up. I wanted to finish strong, and not to look completely wasted, like I did at Avenue of the Giants. As I rounded the corner, I had no idea that the Sacramento Bee was shooting pictures of the runners.

As I passed the announcer bandstand, he said, "Bib #1131, Greg Chance!" I waved at him, but had a job to finish.

I consciously raised my arms to give the most cliche pose known to runners. But I didn't care: I'd run 26.2 in the California International Marathon. I not only ran two marathons in the same year, but ran them within a 7 month period!

The Aftermath
Immediately following my finish, it was overwhelming. What should I do next? A girl approached and gave me a water, so I took it. I left one last Twitterfone message.

13:24:15: It's over. (?) for me but it's probably an hour at least. Details to follow. PR for me

That's right, I got a PR, ran about an hour and 3 minutes faster than I did the last time. Someone gave me a space blanket, which didn't help worth jack. I went and had my picture taken with my medal, showing off what looks like my tremendous gut.

At the food tent, I got a pancake, banana, apple, and a cookie. I got my belongings bag, and sitting on the capitol steps, I used my netbook to try an upload of my Garmin data, but it was just too cold and too bright to do anything. At least I was able to use the netbook to charge my phone. After listening to Rush for an hour, my battery life was down to 18%.

I took the opportunity to send some messages to Twitter that weren't from Twitterfone.

# 14:13:15: Hi there! :)
# 14:18:00: Dude just turned off the gas heater.
# 14:23:16: - A beaming @jose_galvan
# 14:57:25: - The spoils of victory
# 15:18:01: Just read my marathon tweets. Comedy gold. #cim
# 15:19:19: I'm also proudly proclaiming that my DWD is now 0.
# 15:23:13: BTW, my son insists I was on KCRA. #cim I did pass a camera guy

Sadly, in the end I wasn't on KCRA.

I thought I had heard earlier in the day that there would be a heated area for runners, and sure enough, I found a gas heater with some chairs around it. There was only one girl sitting there! I sat down and got warm while we talked. She didn't run CIM, but she had run the New York City Marathon not too long ago, so we talked about it.

I got a pat on the back, turned around, and it was Jose Galvan, asking how it went. I talked to him for a little while, but he had some other people to greet, so we parted ways. I called Gina to see how she did, and thank her for meeting and spending time with me. She was back at the hotel, sitting in an ice bath!

I wanted to try and find some other people I knew from Twitter, but by that time a cloud had covered the sun and it was getting cold very quickly. I walked the six blocks back to the car, and took one more picture before heading home.

How Did I Do?
In the end, my time was 5:18:24, 559th in my age group, 5355 overall, and burned 2900 calories. According to the posted results, I was beaten by at least one 78-year-old man. That said, I got a 1-hour PR, had a great time, and finished as strong as could have been expected, especially considering my prior injury and reduced 8-week training.

07:03:48 1.00mi 00:09:46 6.16mph 10.4mph 144bpm 152bpm
07:13:35 1.00mi 00:09:56 6.03mph 7.1mph 152bpm 157bpm
07:23:31 1.00mi 00:09:42 6.16mph 7.1mph 149bpm 156bpm
07:33:14 1.00mi 00:10:02 5.96mph 7.0mph 146bpm 153bpm
07:43:17 1.00mi 00:10:16 5.82mph 6.4mph 147bpm 152bpm
07:53:33 1.00mi 00:10:22 5.77mph 6.8mph 146bpm 151bpm
08:03:56 1.00mi 00:10:24 5.77mph 7.3mph 147bpm 153bpm
08:14:21 1.00mi 00:10:39 5.64mph 6.7mph 147bpm 153bpm
08:25:01 1.00mi 00:11:34 5.20mph 7.0mph 141bpm 151bpm
08:36:35 1.00mi 00:10:26 5.74mph 6.8mph 143bpm 149bpm
08:47:02 1.00mi 00:10:36 5.65mph 7.6mph 142bpm 150bpm
08:57:38 1.00mi 00:10:40 5.62mph 7.1mph 144bpm 150bpm
09:08:18 1.00mi 00:11:02 5.43mph 7.2mph 142bpm 148bpm
09:19:21 1.00mi 00:11:51 5.06mph 6.7mph 143bpm 152bpm
09:31:12 1.00mi 00:11:58 5.01mph 6.9mph 138bpm 146bpm
09:43:12 1.00mi 00:12:17 4.88mph 8.9mph 136bpm 145bpm
09:55:29 1.00mi 00:12:37 4.77mph 6.6mph 135bpm 145bpm
10:08:06 1.00mi 00:16:11 3.71mph 6.2mph 124bpm 144bpm
10:24:17 1.00mi 00:13:19 4.50mph 6.4mph 133bpm 144bpm
10:37:36 1.00mi 00:15:05 3.98mph 5.8mph 127bpm 142bpm
10:52:41 1.01mi 00:13:21 4.53mph 6.9mph 135bpm 155bpm
11:06:03 1.00mi 00:12:39 4.75mph 7.8mph 142bpm 158bpm
11:18:43 1.00mi 00:11:33 5.21mph 7.4mph 149bpm 157bpm
11:30:16 1.00mi 00:14:47 4.06mph 7.7mph 136bpm 153bpm
11:45:03 1.02mi 00:13:47 4.44mph 6.6mph 134bpm 148bpm
11:58:50 1.01mi 00:14:36 4.17mph 7.4mph 128bpm 142bpm
12:13:27 0.60mi 00:06:53 5.25mph 7.4mph 147bpm 156bpm

For some reason the Garmin shows 26.62 miles instead of 26.2. I took two restroom breaks, drank two bottles of Cytomax, and 4 ounces of water at each water stop. Two handfuls of pretzels at aid stations, along with about 20 M&M's.

I successfully learned from the last marathon and didn't go out too fast in the first half. I was tired, but not totally and was able to use Rush in the last 6 miles to keep my mind off the drudgery, feeling great at the finish. Best of all, I had fun. I'm not sure if I'll run the California International Marathon again next year, but this will not be my last marathon.

Besides, I still need to break 4 hours.


butcept said...

Great race are too funny! And what a PR! one hour! Pretty incredible and it sounds like you had a very good race day, despite the cold.

Jose said...

Greg, great report!
Thanks again for the youtube video of the course and the post race photo.
You did great and you know what? My garmin also marked the course as more than 26.2 - I'm glad it's just not me!
Which model do you have?

Cyberpenguin said...

Congrats, Greg, on finishing CIM & for PRing. That's excellent!

Loved your race report!