Friday, December 9, 2016

California International Marathon 2016

California International Marathon (CIM)
December 4, 2016

The California International Marathon (CIM) is one of my favorite races.  This year was my 5th official year running it (6th time I've run the course).  Every year I've run it, I've had a different experience.  But each CIM has been memorable in its own way.

Past CIMs

2011 CIM is remembered as the perfect CIM not under my own name.  Someone who looked a lot like me ran on a perfect day and finished with a crushing PR of 3:50.  That wonderful 3:50 time shows under someone not named Helen.

2012 CIM (my first official CIM) is remembered as the CIM of the torrential storm.  I was determined to get a sub-4 hour CIM finish under my own name. I even had hopes to break 3:45.  However, mother nature had different plans in store for me with 20+ mph wind gusts and heavy rain.  The race was almost like a trail race with fallen tree branches I had to hurdle and water crossings (from water flooding through Fair Oaks).  I rolled my ankle on a stupid pine cone early on which led to issues about halfway through.  I continued on but struggled through the terrible teens, sobbed at mile 20, but made it to the finish in 4:05 (a decent time but I was disappointed then).

2013 CIM is remembered as the CIM I helped a young girl fulfill a dream.  For this race, I ran with a young 18 year old girl I had helped mentor through the Up and Running Again Program.  She had a dream of running her first marathon so after training her to run a couple half marathons, I trained her for CIM.  We had a long day together and she went through some hard moments but we finished in 5:56.  It was a wonderful experience to be part of a young girl's dream.  I hope the experience inspired her to know no bounds to what she could do.  

2014 CIM is remembered as the CIM I was pregnant and out of shape.  I was around 4 months pregnant during the race.  While barely showing, I had a really rough first trimester of morning sickness and exhaustion.  I hardly ran and certainly did not train at all for CIM.  This was the least prepared I had ever been for a marathon.  During the race, I ran a relatively decent first half and then ran, walked, dragged my way through the second half to the finish.  Despite it being slow, I had a fun time running with Veronica and a few other friends who were not in shape for a marathon either.  We didn't care about our time.  Just that we finished.  My finish time was 5:48.  Not bad considering I didn't do much training.  

2015 CIM is remembered my postpartum comeback to the marathon.  I ran six months postpartum (and one month after completing RDL 100).  I had reasonable expectations that I would not be able to run at my pre-pregnancy marathon speed so just wanted to get it done feeling good.  I ran the whole race with my friend Cathy.  At mile 26, I saw my 6 month old daughter and carried her the last 0.2 miles into the finish line making it a very special finish.  I finished happily with a time of 4:48.  (Funny how one year I can feel so disappointed with a 4:05 finish time but another year, I can feel overjoyed with a 4:48 finish time).

2016 CIM Recap 
(sorry that it's long but it was a LONG race for me):

pre-race me with my 29 week baby bump
This year, when I initially signed up, I had plans to get back to my pre-pregnancy speed and try to get a marathon PR at CIM (at least a CIM PR).  After running Canyons 100k in May, I started working on getting my pre-baby speed back.  I even ran a sub-2 hour half marathon in June (my first sub-2 hour half marathon in three years!).  I felt ready to get back to serious marathon training and really go for that PR.  But shortly after that, I found out I was pregnant and would be 29 weeks pregnant for CIM this year.  So, my plans for a marathon PR went out the window.  Instead, I made a goal of trying for a pregnant marathon PR.

I did okay training for this CIM, definitely better than my last pregnancy.  My long runs went relatively well.  As my pregnancy progressed, I gained more weight, I got bigger, and I slowed down.  This was not always easy to accept or adjust to.  But, I knew this going in.  I knew I would be slower.  I knew this race wasn't going to be a "fast" one.  But, I knew it could be done.  The average pace on my long runs were consistent with what my goal pace was.  However, as my pregnancy progressed and I gained nearly 30 pounds, running became harder and harder on my legs.

As the race neared, I set out to run CIM with an A goal of running under 5:30, a B goal of getting a pregnant marathon PR (under 5:48), and of course, the C goal is to just finish.

The Race

In the early hours of morning on Sunday morning, I arrive in Folsom (after a little bit of excitement from my friend Johanna forgetting her running shoes and rushing back home to get them).  It is slightly cold but it looks like it's going to be the perfect day, weather wise, for the marathon.  

There's a lot of excitement in the air.  Before the start, I see many friends and a few strangers come up to me (having seen the KCRA news story on me) and say some encouraging comments to me.

I eventually find my friend Cathy (who I've shared all my CIM experiences with) and we head to the start line with.

MILE 1-6

Cathy and I at the start line ready to run another CIM together

The race begins.  Cathy and I start running along Auburn-Folsom.  We are able to find some friends but unable to find other friends.  We run and say hello to a few friends but it's mostly just us two running together.

We turn onto Oak Avenue and run along at a comfortable pace for me.  I take a few short walk breaks on the uphills but I am feeling pretty good running a nice 11-12ish minute mile pace (my target pace).

As we pass by the shopping center on Oak Avenue, we see many friends cheering us on.

The 5:23 pace group is led by my friends Randy and Rodney.  We run off and on together with this pace group.  I enjoy hearing Randy's voice leading his pace group -- telling them how far the aid station is, pointing out the porta-potties coming up, describing the course in detail, etc. . . He's quite the CIM tour guide!

As we pass by the porta-potties, Cathy keeps asking me if I want to stop.  Each time, I keep seeing a rather long line of runners so suggest we continue on.

The miles go by relatively quickly and next thing we know, we are making the right turn onto Fair Oaks Blvd. and hit the 10k mark.

just past the 10k mark
MILE 6-10

After the 10k mark, we are a bit confused as to where the relay exchange is since it's normally at the turn.  There's normally a big crowd of people cheering there but this time, there were not as big of crowds and no relay exchange.

We go another mile before we see the new relay exchange spot.  Again, the porta-potty lines look too long so we keep going.

I'm feeling pretty good as we head down Fair Oaks.  The 5:23 pace group is still close to use.

I see many friends along this stretch.  Part of why I love this race is that I see friends all along the course (whether they are spectating, volunteering, or racing).  In addition to seeing my friends, a number of random runners have noticed my preggo belly and have come up to me to say some nice things to me.  Occasionally, when someone is shouting my name, Cathy asks me if I know that person.  Sometimes I say yes.  Sometimes I say no which makes Cathy laugh.

When we pass the Singletrack Running Aid station (mile 8.5), I stop to hug my friend Paulo and wave at a number of other friends volunteering here.

the 5:23 pace group passing the mile 8.5 aid station

As we curve towards Old Fair Oaks, I notice a porta-potty that does not have too long of a line and decide to stop there.  I don't really need to go that bad but figure I should just go now and hopefully not have to go again later.  I think Cathy really wants to go to the bathroom since she keeps asking "should we stop?" every time we pass one.  I also want to stop for a bit to take off my extra layer as I am starting to get warm now.

We wait and wait and wait what seems like FOREVER!  I should NOT have stopped at this one.  First, there is only one porta-potty rather than a cluster of them so what seems like a short line is moving rather slowly.  At first, I see a blind runner go in.  I am understandably patient for him.  (I think it's awesome there are blind runners out running marathons). After the blind runner are two volunteers who take FOREVER.  Runners are really good about getting in and out quickly but non-runners are NOT! I get very inpatient and get anxious about the precious time I am losing just standing in this line.  I think about peeing on the grass next to the port-potty (I'm such a trail runner) but I don't since there's a bit too many people around.  I want to just continue on running but I feel we've been waiting this long, we might as well a little longer.  And, I think Cathy really wants the bathroom stop.  The least I could do is allow her a pit stop since she's being so awesome in running with me (well slower than her usual marathon pace).

We finally have our chance to use the potty and we then continue on.

MILE 10-13

I regret having stopped at that porta potty.  I think it just threw my running groove off.  I think we lost over 5 minutes there.  I am a little bummed the 5:23 pace group is so far ahead of us, completely out of sight.  I was hoping to stick with them to the end and really crush my A goal.

I continue through Old Fair Oaks, cross Sunrise Blvd., grab some oranges and walk up the hill.  Then, I start running.  I look at my watch and think I am only a little behind from the goal pace.  I think I can probably make it up.  I try to run a little faster but I can feel my legs are getting tired.

The miles seem to be going by slower now (even though I'm still running at 12ish pace).  The road just seems long.  There are less runners around me now so I feel the energy is not the same as earlier.

We eventually make it to the halfway point and the beginning of the terrible teens.


I have never liked the teenage miles in a marathon.  I like to call them the terrible teens.  And, boy are they are particularly terrible now.

My legs are starting to twinge a bit and tighten up.  I feel them wanting to cramp a bit.  I try to eat more gels and drink more water and Tailwind.  I start running and walking intervals now.  I start trying to just run 5 minutes and only walk a minute.  But, my legs continue to tighten up, on the brink of cramping so I start lessening the running intervals to 4 minutes.  Then a little while later, to 3 minutes.  Then a little while later, to 2 minutes.  I try to only allow myself 1 minute to walk as I don't want to spend the whole second half just walking a bunch.

At one point, Cathy asks me how I am feeling. I tell her I am tired.  She jokes that she can call Cheri to come pick us up.  I tell her as nice as that sounds (not that I really want to quit), it's even harder to quit as all these people saw that KCRA story on me and expecting me to finish.  I talk to her about how nice the story was but it also added a little bit of pressure on me to do well.

I pass some spectators with amusing signs.  One sign says "What the hell is wrong with you?"   Seeing this sign, I did think to myself yeah, what the hell is wrong with me.  why did I decide to do this stupid thing. 

I stare intensely at my watch now and watch each minute pass.  During the running intervals, I run as best as I can.  I can feel my legs wanting to cramp but push myself to keep running a 20 more seconds, or 10 more seconds, etc. . . .

I get so focused on just moving forward and running as best as I can, I run past the Trail Mix aid station.  They had set up an aid station trail runner style with a ton of real food.  I run past it and hear someone shout my name.  I look back and see the table of food.  I wave to my friends but keep moving forward as I don't want to go backwards.  I regret a little later that I didn't stop to get some real food in me.

I am determined to get to mile 16.4 where many of my FTR friends will be there cheer me up.

A few years ago, my friend Clint and Matt decided to hang out at around mile 16.4 to cheer on runners while drinking some beer.  With each year, this cheering spot has grown and grown.  It started with them just wearing silly hats and now, a big group of my FTR friends like to go hang out there, dress up in silly costumes and cheer on runners.  This has become one of my favorite spots to come to at CIM every year, especially since it's smack dab in the middle of the terrible teens, a perfect spot to get a nice pick me up from my fabulous friends.

I frequently check my watch to see just how much farther I need to go to get to my friends.  Just get there is what I tell myself.

As I get closer, I can see from a distance my friend Matt in his silly bacon outfit.  That bacon outfit is like a beacon of light to me.  Just get there and all will be better!

I run up to Matt and see the rest of my friends, all with big smiles and many with ridiculous costumes.  Krista sees me and gives me a HUGE smile that I just have to go hug her.  I then hug many other friends.  I finally have the comfort of my friends.

I believe they are offering runners shots because I keep hearing them say "no shots for you Helen!"  Instead of a shot, my friend Clint gives me a nice cold can of Coke and someone else gives me some red vines.  The perfect mid-race pick me up!

Form a distance, I could see bacon Matt

Krista giving out wonderful hugs

David and I

After leaving my friends at mile 16.4, I continue running along feeling a little better.  Though, my legs do not.  I continue running as much as I can but taking more and more walking breaks to avoid cramping.  My left calf and my right quad cramp a little bit but I am still able to move forward.

Cathy and I see some of our other friends (Suzi, Carina, Janice, and Hassan) and join them for a bit.  We chit chat a little bit.  My friend Hassan is bouncing all over the place checking on different friends running, taking pictures and so forth.  His positive energy is nice to be around now.

My legs are hurting but I am trying to not let on how bad it is but getting through these miles are getting harder and harder.  I do my best to stick with my friends.  Cathy is good about sticking with me but I try to stay with Suzi and Carina but at some point, they drift off into the distance ahead of me.

some friends I ran with during the terrible teens (pic from Hassan)

I count down every mile now.  I have less than 10 miles to go.  Single digits now.  I start mentally breaking up the race.  Just a few more miles to mile 20.  Then, it's just a 10k to go.  I will see the MRTT aid station at mile 21.  I then will cross the H Street bridge (which will suck).  Then, we will head down J Street which will seem very long.  But, then we will make our way downtown.  Then, I'll see Ellie.  Then, I'll be done.

Okay, that's not so bad.  Just keep moving on forward.  Ignore the pains in my legs.  Ignore the fact that both my legs want to cramp right now.  Just keep moving forward.

MILE 20-23

After what seems like eons, we finally get past the terrible teens and into mile 20!  I feel relief to have survived the terrible teens but 10k just seems so far away still.

just got to mile 20, happy to be done with the terrible teens!
Just as I pass Loehmann's Plaza, I see my friend Giovanna standing there with her kids.  I didn't expect to see any friends here so seeing her big smiling face just warms my heart up.  I feel emotional and almost want to cry.  I go up to her and we share a big hug.

Giovanna and her kids walk along with me for a bit as she asks me how things are going.  I tell her it's been a bit rough and she gives me a bit of a pep talk.  She reminds me the MRTT aid station isn't too far ahead so that helps motivate me to keep going on forward.

And sure enough, a little while later, I get to the MRTT aid station where I receive an AMAZING reception.  Countless volunteers are cheering my name as I walk through.  I wave to everyone almost ready to break down and cry.  Instead, I do my best to smile at them as I am so happy to see them.  So grateful to be getting all this love and support.  I know these are my sole sisters.  They are there for me through the ups and downs.  These are the women that really believe in me, really support me, really love me no matter what.  They are here to make me feel better and they so do that for me now.  They help refill my bottles and give me some real food.  The potato chips and pretzels I eat are the best tasting things all day long!  I also get some red vines.  I don't know what it is about red vines during CIM but they are the best!  Everything at this aid station is the best.  The last hour or so has been really rough so getting all these love and support is just what I needed.

My friend Leigh walks with me out of the aid station and talks to me for a bit.  She is so comforting to me now as she asks me how I am and gives me some encouragement.

Arriving at the MRTT aid station, Erin asks me how I'm doing and I give her two thumbs down. =P
My friend Leigh walks with me out of the aid station and gives me a comforting talk before I continue on to the finish. 
After leaving the aid station, Cathy and I continue on.  Mentally and emotionally, I am feeling better even though physically, I am not.  I continue running and walking along headed for the dreaded H Street Bridge.

I hear someone shout my name and turn around to see my friends Jacqui and Melissa running towards us.  I thought they were way ahead of me so taken by surprise.

We run and walk together over the H Street Bridge.  On the bridge, a spectator is cheering on runners but also advising them to stretch out and shake out their arms.  Oh yeah, I should do that.  I stretch my arms out and then shake them out.  This feels great to loosen up the upper body.  Thanks for the tip stranger!

some awesome spectators with signs on the climb over the bridge

As I get onto J Street, my legs are tight and I can feel them wanting to cramp.  So, I start just running a minute and walking a minute.  I think if I keep this interval up, I may still be able to get my preggo marathon PR.  Just keep moving on forward.

I am moving along okay when I see my brother standing there with a big sign for me.  What a pleasant surprise (he typically doesn't come out to my races).  We chat a bit and I tell him Ellie is near the finish with my sister-in-law Valerie.  He rides his bike down to the Capitol to watch my finish.

My brother Jimmy cheering me on along J Street
MILE 23-26

I continue along J Street, somewhat glad to be on the home stretch.  I see a few friends cheering along the way.

Right before mile 24, both my hamstrings seize up into a cramp.  This stops me dead in my tracks and I scream in pain.  I SCREAM in utter pain.  And, I cannot move my legs at all.

Volunteers and medical people immediately come rushing to me.  I think because of the way I am standing and that I am screaming, I think they think I might be in labor or something wrong with the belly.  I tell them my hamstrings are cramping (and nothing is wrong with the belly or baby).  I think they're a little relieved that it's not something with my pregnancy and just my hamstrings.

I ride out the cramp then slowly attempt to walk forward.  The volunteers get me some electrolytes and a banana to eat.  They stay right near me as I take my first few gingerly steps.  I eventually feel the hamstrings loosen up a little and able to start walking at a normal pace again.  Cathy suggests that we don't run anymore.  We can just walk to the finish.  I concede that is probably best.

We walk along J Street.  I try to keep a brisk, power walking pace since I am not going to try to run anymore.  I can still feel little twinges in my legs as though they are ready to cramp again.  I eat gels, bananas, and drink my electrolytes and water and ignore the twinges and keep powering forward.

I check my phone to see the countless supportive messages from my friends.  This helps motivate me to keep powering forward.  A couple runners I don't know come up to me and tell me they saw my story and give me some words of encouragement.  It is really nice getting support from these kind strangers.

As I pass by De Vere's, I see a group of runner friends I know cheering me on.  I wave at them and keep powering forward.  I know my daughter is near the finish and I just want to get to her.  Just keep moving forward. You're almost done.

MILE 26-26.2

Around mile 26, I see Valerie with Ellie.  I pick Ellie up out of the stroller and start carrying her to the finish. She's excited to see me and says "Hi Mommy."  Her smiling face just warms my heart up and makes the long journey here all worth it.

As we near the last turn, Deirdre Fitzpatrick pops out (seemingly out of nowhere) catching me by surprise.  She gives me a hug and congratulates me on finishing.  I am touched.  I then put down Ellie and grab her hand as we head into the finish chute.
Deirdre Fitzpatrick giving me a hug just before I finish
Deirdre Fitzpatrick at the finish as Ellie and I head into the final turn

And, holding my little Ellie's hand, we run across the finish line together.



I ended up finishing in 6:02:28, my slowest and perhaps the hardest marathon I have ever run.  My friend Cathy had stuck with me from start to finish.  The MANY friends along the course helped immensely.  I was a little disappointed I didn't meet my A or B goals but happy enough that I got my C goal of just finishing.  And very happy I shared my finish with my daughter Ellie.

I think the 2016 CIM will not be remembered as my slowest marathon.  Instead, it will be remembered as the year I ran CIM while 7 months pregnant as so many people watched and cheered me on!

Cathy and I after we finished
me, Johanna and Jacqui after we finished
Ellie hugging my legs after we finished

26.2 Things and Lessons about CIM 2016

Things That Went Well 

1.  The weather was perfect.  No rain.  Not freezing cold (so no ice on the ground at aid stations).  And not too hot.  Perfect day for a marathon.  

2.  While my legs had issues during the second half of the race, my hips held up really well during the marathon.  Sometimes when I'm running long while pregnant, my hips start aching.  But, they held up pretty well.  For November, some friends and I did a 30 day squat challenge where we did squats every day and I think that helped strengthen my hips for race day.   They held up during the race and felt surprisingly okay after the race too.  

3.    Buffs are the best!  I like using my buff in many ways.  For CIM, I used one as a belly band around my preggo belly since I couldn't find my maternity support belt.  It provided good support for the preggo belly.  Also, I wore another buff around my neck which was nice in keeping me warm at the start and then during the race, used it to wipe my nose and/or sweat off my face.  Buffs are great in many ways.  

4.  Getting so MUCH support from friends along the course.  Part of why I love running CIM is that I see friends all along the course.  Some are racing too.  Some are volunteering.  And, some are just out cheering.  I don't think I went a single mile without seeing a familiar face.  This is one of the big reasons I love going back to CIM.  

5.  This year, I think in part because of the KCRA story about me that aired on the Friday before the race, I got a lot of support from random strangers.  A number of runners noticed my belly (and shirt that that says "future runner" on the belly).  I occasionally heard an "OMG, she's pregnant!" or "that's the woman I saw on the news."  Some people actually came up and said some nice and encouraging things to me.  In the latter part of the race, when I started having a hard time and was walking more, there were many runners who came up and asked me how I was doing and that I was doing great.  Near the end of the race, a couple runners came up to me and told me they had seen my story and told me how inspired they were by me.  These ones towards the end were particularly memorable (maybe because it was near the end and/or maybe because I was really struggling then).  While I enjoyed seeing many friends along the course, it was nice getting some support from strangers too.  And in a race, strangers aren't really strangers.  The running community is a special thing.  Fellow runners are your friends, even if you might not know them yet. 

Around mile 8, the woman in blue notices my preggo belly and chats with me for a bit

6.  Getting my usual Coke from Clint at the mile 16.4 cheering spot.  I find getting some Coke during the marathon (and definitely in ultras) helps out.  The past few years, my friend Clint always has a Coke ready for me when I pass through and it was just the right refreshing beverage I needed mid-race.  

7.  Taking the time to refuel and pep up at the MRTT aid station.  I walked through the aid station but stopped at their food tent.  Had many MRTT gals cheering me then but I didn't just pass through waving.  I took the time to stop to have them help refill my bottle and allow me time to grab some food to eat as well as get some supportive words from the gals working there.  I think taking this extra time helped recharge me both mentally and physically.

8.  Having Ellie with me for the last 0.2 of the race.  During my pre-baby race days, I used to always do a strong sprinting kick to the finish line.  Since having Ellie, I don't do that so often.  I don't mind taking the extra time to carrying her to the finish and now that she's old enough to run, I don't mind holding her hand while we run at toddler pace across the finish.  I am glad she isn't fussy around loud, cheering crowds and happily smiles as she runs with me into the finish line.  I look forward to the days I can hold the hands of both my children as I cross finish lines of races together.  

Things that Could Have Been Better 

9.  I could have been better about getting more regular/consistent week day training runs.  Work got a bit hectic and stressful during the weeks leading up to the race so I started slacking on my week day running.  I still got in my long miles during the weekends.  And marathons can be done with just a few runs per week but for me, it helps to be more regular in my running throughout the week, not just the long weekend run.

10.  I should have eaten more frequently during the race.  A lot of calories are burned just running in general and as you can guess, even more so when you're carrying a baby.  I was eating gels every 3 miles and drinking Tailwind but I don't think that was quite enough.  I should have eaten them even more frequently and taken more opportunities to eat more real food.  I did eat some food food along the way (oranges, red vines, potato chips, pretzels, banana) but they were in the late phases of the race when I was already struggling.  I regret I missed the Trail Mix's aid station at mile. 

11.  I could have been better at picking my bathroom stop.  I lost a lot of time at that one porta-potty.  I was even told there were 5 more porta-potties a little ways ahead.  I didn't want to go and see another line and so I wasted a lot of time at the spot with only one porta-potty.  

12.  Leg cramps.  Not sure exactly what I could have done to improve this.  I don't think I was that bad with my fueling.  I should have eaten a bit more but I don't think if I ate more calories, the cramps would not have happened.  Maybe I should have started my walking intervals earlier on.  Though I don't think I was running that hard for the first half.  I know the added preggo weight is a big factor to the extra strain on my legs.  So maybe I should have done more strength exercises to get my body a little more ready for that extra weight.

13.  I could have been better about not being so competitive or hard on myself about my race times.  Even though I'm never really a front of the pack of runner and I certainly didn't expect to be on this day, I can't help have a little competitiveness.  I think we all strive to push ourselves.  I knew this race would have no PRs but I still had goals and expectations for myself.  I fell a little short of some of my time goals.  I am happy I finished but during the race, as certain time goals were slipping away, or as some friends were disappearing ahead of me in the distance, I got very dismayed by that.  While things were getting tough physically, things were also getting tough mentally.  I know I could have been better about not being so hard on myself during the race.

14.  I did not do so great in refilling my hydration pack with water.  I normally don't wear a hydration pack running a road race but I did because I knew I'd be out on the course awhile and wanted to carry a few extra things on me.  At some point, I needed to refill the hydration bladder and whatever aid station I was at was not good in helping me do this (definitely not one where there are trail runners there).  A volunteer pours the water from a pitcher in it and it only goes about 1/4 way and says that's all the water she has for me.  Then, I struggle to try to get more water in myself and the bladder falls out of the pack and I have to wrestle the bladder back into the pack.  And because of that hassle, I didn't feel like refilling it again later on.  Sometimes, if I am using the pack, I prefer using the bottles instead of the hydration bladder as they're a lot easier to refill.  I need to keep that in mind for the future.  I luckily did have one bottle on me for electrolytes so was able to refill that one.  

15.  Could have been better with my foot care before the marathon.  A few days before the marathon, I was walking around downtown with my heels, more than I should have in my heels.  It resulted in me getting a blister on the bottom of my left foot.  I did my best to remedy the blister before the race including putting extra sports shield on my foot (which helped).  Later into the marathon, the blister reformed.  I don't think I would have gotten a blister that but for the fact I had a blister there just days before the race.

Things I learned

16.  Don't forget your running shoes when you leave the house for your race.  And, double check when you get in your car.  My friend Johanna and I carpooled together to the shuttle bus that would take us to the start.  She forgot her running shoes.  She accidentally left them on the driveway when she was getting into her car.   Luckily, I was able to get the bus to wait while she made a mad dash back to her house to get them.  It caused a pretty stressful start to the morning, before the race even started.  But, this was a good lesson for both of us.  Remember your shoes!  

Johanna and I on the bus to the start!  Happy she has shoes now!
17.  30ish pounds of extra weight can make it harder to run.  Obviously, the farther along in my pregnancy I got, the heavier I got.  The extra weight definitely causes extra strain on my legs, especially my calves.  When I run while pregnant, I definitely have more of an understanding of how challenging running can be for heavier people.  

18.  Apparently, a lot of people watch KCRA news.  I knew a lot of my friends would watch the news story about me but I have found a lot of random strangers saw the story.  I have been approached by many (both in and out of the running world) who said they saw the story on me.  I hope it inspires some to believe they can get out there too.

19.  Someone always has red vines along the course of CIM.  And, red vines taste amazing when you're in the middle of a marathon.  I think at every CIM, I have eaten red vines.  Someone always has them.  I get them at different spots each year but I can always rely on someone on the course handing them out.  And this year, I got them in two spots and they tasted amazing.  Makes me think maybe I should carry some red vines with me in my ultras.

20.  Doing a little bit of yoga stretching after the race is really helpful in recovery, especially pigeon pose.  I did a bit of yoga when I got home after the race and the next day, I was walking around mostly like normal.  I could sit down and get up from a chair not like an old lady.  I was pleasantly surprised.

21.  All marathons will always have ups and downs.  And, as often is the case when I'm running CIM, when you're in a down moment, there will be someone (a friend, a spectator, a volunteer, a fellow racer) who will say or do something to help make it better.      

Things about I observed about CIM itself

22.  Lots of blind runners run CIM.  I kind of knew this already because I know Richard Hunter really works hard to help and support blind runners in the race.  But, it's nice to see them all along the course running various paces.  I saw one young blind runner ran a smoking 2:31.  Okay, I didn't see him in person but I did see his story before and after the race.  That's amazing!  I think running a marathon blind is more impressive than me running while pregnant.

23.   The medical support on the course is amazing.  Not only are there are the many aid stations, they are ready to take of troubled runners very quickly.  I saw a young lady feeling faint-ish being tending to by medical people.  I saw a woman who had fallen and her head bleeding surrounded by paramedics and an ambulance tending to her.  And, then there were those who immediately came to my aid when I had my cramps.  I normally don't notice the medical support but this time, I did and nice to know they were all along the course ready to take care of any runner.

24.  Maybe because I was at the very back of the pack but I noticed there were not as many bands and/or people blasting music as usual.  I like hearing good tunes on the course as it peps me up a bit.  I think this was the first time I've run CIM and did not hear "Don't Stop Believin'" or "Eye of the Tiger."  I remember the year prior while running with Cathy how we made a list of certain things at CIM you always see and/or hear.  When we did hear those songs last year, I remember us saying "check!"  I also have a fond memory of dancing with my friends Veronica, Diane, and David to some peppy song as we headed down J Street during the 2014 CIM.  But this year, not as much music on the course for this back of the pack runner.

25.  The pace groups seemed to have odd times this year instead of the usual times such as 3:45, 4:00, 4:30, 5:00, 5:25.  My friend who ran as a pace leader for the race and he told me that all the pace group times were moved up 2 minutes to help folks trying to get into the Boston Marathon.  So, you saw pace groups such as 3:43, 3:58, 4:28, 4:58, 5:23 and so forth.  While I am sure there are those that are trying to break 4 or 5 hours or whatever that are not trying to get into the Boston marathon, there are those that are trying to get a BQ.  Apparently, just getting a BQ may not get you into the Boston Marathon.  Sounds like you need to run an additional 2 minutes faster to have a better chance of getting into the Boston Marathon.

26.  The CIM registration free is quite reasonable for a marathon.  And, they offer a super great deal for those that want to run it again the next year. The day after the race, they offer a discounted "RERUN" registration.  $89 for the first 500 and $99 for the next 500. Apparently, a lot of people were eager to run CIM again as they said the $89 rate sold out faster than the winner of CIM's finish time.

26.2.  And yes, I'm signed up for CIM 2017! ;-)  

26.2 Thank You's
(another 26.2 since there were two of us running CIM this year - me and baby)

1.  Thank you to all the organizers of the California International Marathon for putting on a wonderful event each year.  It's very well organized and the support along the course is wonderful.

2.  Thank you to all the volunteers who helped out along the course.  Great events don't happen without great volunteers!

3.  Thank you Cathy for sharing yet another memorable CIM.  I am utterly grateful you stuck with me from the start all the way to the finish even as I made us do our slowest marathon ever.  I love that we have just as fun running 4 hours marathons as we do 5 hours marathons and now a 6 hour marathon.  You have always been a part of memorable CIM's for me and especially grateful I got to share this particular CIM experience with you!  Thank you!!!

Cathy and I running together at mile 2 (pic from Alisa)

4.  Thank you to Johanna for giving me a ride to the shuttle bus and waiting for me to finish.  Also, thank you for capturing a priceless picture of my finish with Ellie.  I am so grateful that you've become such an amazing friend to me in the past year and for all our adventures together!

Johanna and me enjoying our post-race burgers together
5.  Thank you to my many friends who were out along Oak Street cheering us on.  Especially thanks to Alisa, Blaine, Cathleen, Barbara, and Sunny!

some friends cheering us on around mile 2 (pic from Barbara)
6.  Thank you Randy and Rodney for leading the 5:23 pace group.  I wish I could have stuck with you longer but running with you guys made the start of the race a lot of fun.

7.  Thank you Erica and Craig D. for volunteering out around mile 8 and taking some pictures of me.  It was great seeing you guys!

8.  Thank you Paulo and everyone who worked the Singletrack Running Aid Station at around mile 8.5.  It was wonderful to see all your smiling faces and get a couple hugs as I went through!

9.  Thank you Corey and Michelle for being out on the course to cheer us Java Joggers on!  Cathy and I were bummed we didn't see you near the start as you usually are but it was a wonderful surprise to see you two later on the in the course.  :)

10.  Thank you to all the random runners who came up to me to say some nice things about my pregnancy or me running while pregnant and/or just providing me some encouraging words.  It was really greatly appreciated, especially to those who came up to me during the tough miles.

11.  Thank you for the folks who always come out to Sunrise and Fair Oaks to hand out oranges!

12.  Thank you Mindy for arranging the MRTT shuttle bus to the start and for holding the bus for Johanna!  It was a nice, convenient way to get to the start!  Thank you!

13.  Thank you to the Java Joggers for doing some of the CIM training with me, especially a few of the long runs.  I'm thankful Java Joggers are always part of my CIM experiences.  I'm glad I got to run with some of you during the race and congratulations to all you Java Joggers who finished!  Also, extra thanks to David for being our wonderful leader and I'm glad we got to train somewhat together for this CIM.  And, I'm very happy you finally got your good marathon finish you've always wanted.

14.  Thank you to the Trail Mix group for putting on the trail aid station.  I am bummed I didn't get to enjoy the food there but grateful you were out there and it was nice seeing your smiling faces even though briefly.

The Trail Mix aid station at around mile 14.  Aid station trail runner style (pic from Johanna)
15.  Thank you to Hassan, Carina, Suzi and Janice for your company through some of the terrible teenage miles.  I think having you guys around definitely helped.  Congratulations to you all on awesome finishes!

16.  BIG BIG THANKS to everyone at the mile 16.4 cheering spot!  This spot was AWESOME as usual!  I loved all the ridiculous costumes and the funny signs.  Matt, I love that you wear that bacon outfit as it made it so easy to spot from a distance!  Krista, your hug was utter comfort to me when I really needed it.  Clint, I am ever so grateful you started doing this cheering station four  years ago and thank you for having the coke ready for me and for always making my races better!  Everyone that was here, I love you SOO much and thank you for being out there!  Thank you

17.  Thank you to all the friends who sent me encouraging messages or texts during the race! All the support I get, even the virtual ones, mean so much to me and they really help me through those tough moments.  Thank you!

18.  Thank you to all the spectators out along the course cheering runners on, especially those of you who wait until the back of the pack come through!  I also want to thank those that take the time to put together creative and/or amusing signs for the runners to read.

(pic from Johanna)

19.  Thank you Valerie (and Steve) for babysitting Ellie on Sunday and bringing her to the finish for me!  Also, thank you for sending me a pic of Ellie during the race to help motivate me to get to the finish!

20.  BIG Thank you to Giovanna and your kids for coming out to "the Wall" to cheer some of us on.  Getting that hug from you then was something I really needed.  Seeing your smiling face just warmed my heart up.  I am SO grateful you were out there when you were as it really pepped me up.

21.  BIG BIG THANK YOU to the MRTT Aid Station (as well as all of MRTT).  The welcome I got at this aid station was FABULOUS!  The love and support I got was immeasurable.  You all took such good care of me at this aid station and just gave me such a HUGE emotional boost.  I cannot thank you all enough.

And, to everyone in MRTT, I am so grateful to this group and all the support and love I receive in everything.  Thank you all!  (and Congrats to all the MRTT gals who ran CIM this year!)

the volunteers at the MRTT aid station (LOVE LOVE LOVE)

22.  Thank you to my own local chapter of MRTT, the Auburn MRTT group.  Thank you for all your support through everything from running, motherhood, life, etc. . .  And of course thanks for all the love and support during the race.  Also, thank you to the ones that ran with me in training.  And special thanks to my co-chapter leader Roxana for having not only created the group, allowed me to lead this wonderful group with you, for saying such sweet things about me during the KCRA interview, and for being a wonderful friend.  

with some fellow Auburn MRTT gals before the start
I'm especially grateful to my home chapter! 
23.  Thank you Jimmy for coming out to cheer me on and making a sign just for me!  It really made my day seeing you out there for me!

24.  Thank you to all the medical support people out along the course.  I saw you tending to a number of runners at various points.  And, I am extra grateful to those of you who immediately came to my aid when I started cramping badly.  It was nice to know myself as well as the thousands of other runners on the course would be well taken care of if needed.

25. THANK YOU Deirdre Fitzpatrick and KCRA for doing the story on me running the marathon while pregnant.  It was an honor that you chose me to be interviewed and I got such amazing support from people as a result.  I also appreciated all the people who saw the story and came up to me to say nice things to me about it, especially those who came up to me during the race to say encouraging and supportive words.  Also, special thanks to Johanna and Roxana for being in the interview with me and saying such wonderful things about me.  And, thank you Deirdre for also being there when I finished!

26.  HUGE thank you to Craig for being a wonderful, supportive husband through all my training and through the race.  I am grateful the text messages during the race helping me along and reminding me to just get to Ellie at the finish.  I love you so much and so grateful for all the support you give me in all my craziness!

26.2  Thank you to Ellie for being such a sweet wonderful daughter who just brightens my day and motivates me to get to the finish!  You make my finishes extra special!  :)

Ellie with my finisher's medal

Total miles for preggo week 29: 27.49 miles
Total miles for this pregnancy: 650.53

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