I had pretty high expectations for myself heading into the California International Marathon (CIM). Having missed my sub-2:40 goal at Boston by a lot, Scott Wolfe suggested I go for it in December at CIM. So after many months of training and racing, I decided to take his advice. And after surprising myself with a 2:42:30 p.r. at the Spokane Marathon in October, I decided to up the ante for myself a bit at CIM. Sub-2:40 was the primary goal, with 2:37 being the ultimate goal. Twenty six point two consecutive 6-minute miles sounded daunting, but I knew I was fit and ready for it.
I travelled down to Sacramento with three buddies also hoping to run fast: Darin, in his sub-3/p.r. quest; Glenn, in his sub-3 quest; and Jeff, in his 2:35/p.r. quest. It was a fun boys road trip with these guys.
On race morning, Darin and I opted for the early bus, while Jeff and Glenn decided to sleep in a bit and take a later bus. We got to the start just after 6 a.m., which was perfect for me with the 7 a.m. start. I like to take my time and not be rushed on race morning, especially when going for a p.r. I jogged a nice 3 mile warm-up, mostly in the dark, and saw a few of the local ultrarunners also warming up (Mark Lantz, Erik Skaden, etc).
I finally took off my sweats, put on my racing shirt, decided against the sleeves but to keep my gloves, hat, and bottle, and made my way to the starting line with about 7 minutes to go. Well, at least I tried to. I weaseled my way up as far as I could when I ran into a wall right next to Tim Tweitmeyer and his 3:35 pace group sign. Sigh...what could I do but just stand there and wait. So I did.
The gun shot and we just stood there. Then we moved very, very slowly and I eventually walked across the starting line 49 seconds after the start. I then jogged slowly for a half mile until I could kinda pseudo-run, weave, and make my way through the masses. I missed the first mile, but passed mile 2 in 13:15, and 3 in barely sub-20. Hm, not to good to average almost 6:40/mile for the first 3 miles when I'm trying to average 6 for the whole race. I continued to not panic and weave through more than a thousand people (probably closer to 2,000) before I was able to get in my groove and really run somewhere around mile 5. I had definitely been running 6-minute effort, but the clock showed 32:something.
I didn't feel great, like I was flying, nor did I feel bad, like I was struggling. I just felt normal...like I was out for a good run. And I continued to fly by the masses. I saw friends Mark, Devon, Casey, David, John, and others. Some asked what I was doing back there (as they knew my goals), while others just told me I looked strong. I felt super comfortable and was glad I had carried my bottle. I noticed the aid stations were handing out fluids in plastic cups...huh!? That's horrible! If you try to squeeze the cups, they break, then when you drop them, the broken parts are very pokey and the cups themselves are super slippery. Not good thinking on your part, CIM aid station organizer person.
I kept running along at a good clip, pretty much right at 6s now. I passed 10 in 1:02 and 13.1 in 1:20:31. Although I knew my chip time was 49 seconds faster than those times, I really wanted to see the time when I finished as 2:3something and I knew I would be close. Going through 20 in 2:02 made me happy, as my last 10 were right at 6-minute pace.
I still felt good as I continued flying by every runner in site (although, admittedly, there weren't nearly as many in site as in the first 1/2). Around 23, I finally decided to take one last gu, ditch my bottle (I had refilled once between 14-15), and then I came up on Tyson Sacco, one of the Fluffy Bunnies I met during TransRockies. I think this was his first marathon, and although he was going to finish in a great time, he wasn't having too much fun at this point. I tried to get him to join me, but there was no answer. So I just kept picking off a few more people.
A little after passing Tyson, I noticed that I was now in the grid of Sacramento. I was at 30th street and I knew I needed to get to 8th. Dang, that sucked (but at least I didn't start noticing at 50th). Each block seemed super long to me and although I tried to wait as long as I could before looking at the street number, it seems I wasn't very patient as I was looking every block or two. Crap.
Of course, this is where I was starting to hurt, too. My solid 5:55s - 6:05s were getting into the 6:15s now. I passed 25 in 2:32...I needed to run sub-8 for the last 1.2. I knew I could do it and although I wasn't running really fast anymore, I was laying it all out there. A half mile to go, I heard one of the Sisters XC mom's, Cindy Glick, cheering for me. That really helped. She was there cheering for her son Casey, who rocked to a 2:51 p.r.!
Finally I turned the last corner and saw 2:39:40...I knew I could get there in less than 20 seconds and I was happy. I even smiled and gave a little fist-in-the-air just before I finished with a gun time of 2:39:55. Chip time 2:39:06. Cool. Very cool.
As I wobbled to get my chip clipped off, I saw Jeff waiting for me and smiling. He was happy because he had run a 2:36 p.r. and he was happy for me. He then gave me the best compliment of the day, saying "After running 2:39, you're fast - you're not an ultrarunner anymore...you're a marathoner". He claimed he was even looking over his shoulder the last few miles, expecting me to catch him. Maybe in Eugene, buddy.
Then the highlight of the day came. Seriously, it got better. I was standing at the finish, shivering under my space blanket, chatting with Jeff, Mark, and Rob when I heard a "great job" from across the baracades. I didn't recognize the voice at all but looked over anyway just in time to see a marathoner dude get a kiss from Deena. Obviously it was Deena's husband, Andrew, and he had just run a great 2:51. I had to, had to, meet her. So I walked up, said "Hi, I'm Sean Meissner, I'm a huge fan, and I'd love to meet you" and I stuck out my snotty glove to shake her hand. Deena very graciously shook my hand, asked how my race was, and gave me a sincere congratulations. Thanks, Deena - that was awesome!
As in Spokane, I once again wore my END Footwear YMMV shoes (it stands for Your Mileage May Vary). And once again, they completely rocked! I just love how light, cushy, and responsive they are. Many cushy shoes aren't responsive, but these are very responsive. The soft upper is so nice and accomodating, too. Watch out for these puppies soon - I think they're a Spring '09 shoe.
So, yes, I'm very happy with my race. Was it perfect? Nope. The next time I want to run fast at CIM, I'll definitely make sure I get to the starting line early enough so I'm actually on the line. I figure that between all of the walking, jogging, and weaving, I easily lost 2 minutes, which was my 2:37. That's the way it goes and it makes my next marathon goal of 2:37 at Eugene seem a bit more manageable.
Thanks again to Jeff, Darin, and Glenn. The road trip was quick, fast, and fun!
Pretty pictures of me (bib 3747).