The 2014 California International Marathon was by far one of the worst races I've ever had. The difference is that unlike all of my other bad races, this time I had no physical issues causing my demise. This time my biggest problem was my mind.
Race weekend started with the race expo on Saturday. I showed up at 10: 30 AM to meet-up with a friend and proceeded to stay for a total of 5 hours getting my social butterfly on. Bad idea! I had such a great time meeting and catching-up with fellow runners but being on my legs for so long was not smart. No regrets though. It was worth it seeing everyone!
Charles Wickersham, runner extraordinaire
John Saleem, Newton rep & The Treadmill friend
The speedy guys
The Monterey crew
Kim & Jon
I Run 4 crew
After the expo I met up with my friends Kelly and Najoo and despite trying our best to find a restaurant to accommodate us for an early-ish dinner, we ended up hitting up the local Whole Foods and brought food back to eat in the hotel room. Dinner in bed was the best decision ever! Then I took some melatonin to help pass out early and was in deep sleep in no time.
In what seemed like no time my alarm was going off at 4:30 AM on race day. After a quick change into race gear and grabbing some free breakfast from the hotel lobby (woohoo!) Kelly and I hopped on the shuttle to take us to the race start. Thankfully the ride was a short one but they did allow you to stay on the buses as long as you wanted which was really nice. We had plenty of time to hit up the huge row of porta potties. Thank you CIM for having more than enough bathroom facilities for your runners. I even got to use a pristine, unused one. Score!
After my little bathroom break, I went out in search of my friends Kandace, Nichole and Peyton who were running their very first full marathon. I knew my legs were fatigued from all of the standing and walking around I had done the day before so I was hoping I could run with them for the entire race. I found them keeping warm at the 7-11 near the start and we eventually meandered over to find our spots at the start line.
We ended up chatting with the awesome 4:40 pace leader and quickly decided to try to stick with her for as long as possible. We even ran into Kristina from Live Laugh Love Run who was also going to be running with the 4:40 group. Can I just tell you that this lady is AMAZING and ended up running a 20 minute PR. Congrats again Kristina! You are a rockstar!
Anyhoo, in no time at all the race started and off we went right on pace with the 4:40 pace crew. CIM is a net downhill course that is comprised of gentle rolling hills throughout the duration of 26.2 miles (for those on the east coast I would compare them to the hills you'd experience during the early miles of the Marine Corps Marathon). For me especially this means a course that's chock full of potential for a PR since I'm a solid uphill runner and the gravity on the downhills helped with banking time.
Although fatigued, my legs felt pretty good and I kept fighting to keep myself from speeding up. At around mile 6ish I had to hit a porta potty but luckily I was able to catch back up with my friends Kandace, Nichole and Peyton. We lost the 4:40 pace group but it was ok. We were still on pace for a 4:50/4:55 finish time.
At mile 8 we found our phenomenal friend Chantel who had driven out to cheer us on. How awesome is that?! Then at mile 10 we ran into Peyton's family who were cheering their heads off and proceeded to give all of us high fives and hugs. There may or may not have been a little twerking action happening (from us, not the spectators). HA!
Unfortunately, it wasn't too long afterwards when the wheels fell off. At around mile 12.5 I got a horrible side stitch. Despite my very best attempts I could not get rid of it and at 12.75 I told the girls to keep going while I tried to walk it off and I'd try to catch back up if I could. That never happened. Even while I was walking the stupid cramp would not go away and it wasn't until around mile 14.5ish that I got it to disappear. By that point, I was mentally over it. Going into CIM I knew that I was experiencing burnout. I had lost my motivation and desire to train and skipped quite a few runs leading up to race day. What I didn't know was just how burnt out I was!
From then on I literally walked. Person after person and pace group after pace group passed me and I walked. None of my usual tricks, games, or mental bribes could get me to start running again. Even when I'd see running friends run up and pass me, I couldn't and didn't want to run. That never happens! I'm a chaser...I love to chase! And if someone I know is in the vicinity during a race I usually do everything in my power to run with them. But not this time.
As I walked I chatted to people near me and did a bit of introspection. I slogged (that's slow jogged just FYI) maybe a total of 2.5 miles during the second half of the race. I couldn't even get myself to run the last mile of the race! I only started running when I was maybe a quarter of a mile from the finish line. Sad. Really sad.
When I saw the timer at the finish line I couldn't help but laugh. Apparently walking for 10+ miles adds an hour to your marathon time. Who knew?!
Official finish time: 5:37:03
My mind quit on me that day in a way I've never experienced before. I was completely over the race. I had thrown in the towel and I didn't even care. I knew I had done a lot of things wrong which impacted my race performance but I had no physical pains or injuries that were compromising my ability to run. I was just mentally exhausted but hadn't known to what extent until it hit me halfway through the race. See, although I "cut back" on the number of races I ran this year due to the physical burnout I had last year (running a minimum of one race a month, sometimes even a race every weekend, tends to do that to you), I actually ran more this year thanks to all of the ultra races and training. I didn't take into account that the races that I ran were considerably further in distance and much more draining physically and mentally. So much so, that I had hit complete and total mental burnout. The truth is my head gave up. I have no excuses.
Would I ever run CIM again? Absolutely. Despite my dismal performance, the course itself was fantastic. There's magic there as evidenced by all the PR's my friends were posting. I'll be back to conquer those hills again except next time I'll be bringing my A-game.