So the morning of December 7, 2014 came around with an early wake up call to get myself to the finish line area where I would meet my teammates from the Buffalo Chips Running Club where we would take a charted team bus to the start line area.
With my alarm going off at 3:30AM I made sure I had enough time to eat breakfast gather myself and thoughts before heading out the door to meet the team at 4:45AM on the corner of N and 10th Street where our bus was awaiting us.
With a 30 minute ride up to city of Folsom where the start of the 32nd Annual California International Marathon staged, the members of the team shared their individual goals and in fact a group of members all were running a 3:20:00 time in hopes to get some to Boston in 2016.
For me I had sub 3 on my mind, but with waking up and doing a systems check a realistic figure for me that morning was anywhere between 3:03 and 3:07. So as we exited the bus and gave our final good lucks with our fellow teammates and head to the start line with a quick stop by the gear bag check in readily awaiting runners to toss their gear into the trucks near the start line.
As I headed to the start line I found the 3:05 pace sign and lined myself up in that area. My race strategy / plan for this race wasn’t to run mile for mile with the pace sign but rather to run my own race but having the pacer and group as a reference point at any given time during the race. I know that when I train, I have some miles that are faster than others, while other miles are shorter than other. As long as I could keep the sign in front of me I knew I was in good shape, when the sign fell behind me all I did was listened for the crowds yell and cheer, “GO 3:05 group”. At any given time if I could hear this cheer from the supporters lining the route from Folsom to Downtown Sacramento, I was in good shape.
With the National Anthem finishing up, runners took their place and I gave my watch on last look to make sure it was on. This CIM being my 8th of my 25 marathons, I knew this course very well and as a result, I knew a mile by mile goal or assessment wouldn’t help me, so I kept in mind my goals of chunking the race into pieces.
THE FIRST 10k
The first chunk of the race would be the first 10k. This portion of the course would have me running on Oak Avenue which is a straight roadway taking runners from Folsom to Orangevale. The route would have a steady downhill with some mixed in rolling parts in the road. I was feeling pretty good at the start and ready to get through the 5k marker, but then had to take a quick stop around mile 3 or so where a row of port-o-potties were lined for runners near the fueling stations with Nuun and water. I was in and out of the port and back running. Before hitting the potty, I had the pace group behind me and as I excited the potty I saw the 3:05 sign moving in front of me now. Rather than jumping right into catching the sign right away, I stuck to my plan of keeping the sign within view, which wasn’t too far ahead of me.
Shortly after the turn from Oak Avenue onto Fair Oaks Blvd. I quickly caught up to the pace group and was feeling good as we reached the 10k marker. I crossed the 10k mark with a time of 43:40, right around the time I wanted to be at for the marker.
GETTING TO 13.1
Now the second part of the race was making sure I stayed consistent and felt good getting to the half marathon point. Though this wasn’t a concern to getting to that point, I knew in past marathons I had seen drastic drops from the first half splits to the finishing line time.
This portion of the course would take runners through the cities of Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks and Carmichael. There would be plenty of rolling roads on this portion as Fair Oaks Blvd, would provide us the longest single stretch of road on the marathon course. With previous knowledge of this course, I knew there would be some challenging short climbs but I would be able to make it up on the very giving downs the route offered during this stretch. The biggest challenge of the course would come just after mile 10, known as the “San Juan Hills”, as it is located near San Juan Road, the hill could cost you some decent time if you took to them too slow, or even went to them too aggressively. For me, the idea was to keep even effort up the hill knowing that I would be able to close up the course moving into the half marathon mark. At this point I was just ahead of the 3:05 group, as I could hear the large crowds gathered near the 13.1 marker cheering them on.
I would cross the 13.1 mark with a time of 1:31:26, keeping myself under the 1:32:30 time would have me on pace to go sub 3:05, but most importantly for me I was feel very fresh at this point in the race. Where during other races, I might have started to hope I could keep things moving for another 13.1 miles.
NEXT STOP 20 MILES
For my race day plan, I wanted to get out of Carmichael and in Sacramento feeling good. As we continued on Fair Oaks Blvd, I kept myself in front of the pace group but knew that they were not too far away as I could keep hearing crowds cheering “GO 3:05”.
As I passed through the Watt & Fair Oaks intersection on the course around mile 19, I knew I was in good shape, keeping in mind that mile 20 was just steps away. Before hitting the mile 20 mark, this is where I started to feel a little bit of fatigue but nothing to serious. It was just hey I’m 20 miles into a race running a decent pace type of thing. I knew if I could get to 20, I could do a systems check and reevaluate my finishing goal.
I crossed the 20 mile timing mat with a time of 2:19:34. I was happy keeping my time under my 2:20 goal at mile 20.
THE FINAL 10k
With 10k left, I was feeling pretty good outside of a little fatigue but nothing to hold me back from dropping the hammer. As I ran in Sacramento at this point, I knew there would be one part of the course that had cost me some time in the previous years, including making me walk with my fatigue that kicked in. So here it was the “H Street Bridge”, a bridge that I decided to incorporate on many of my marathon pace and interval runs to break that mental barrier which it had caused me the previous 7 times at CIM. At mile 22 the bridge came and left, not even realizing I had conquered it because it was gone after a few steps.
I was feeling really positive with my running with just over 5k left in the race, I saw some familiar 9RUN6 faces at this point. Tara was giving some positive encouragement. While Derrick shouted out to me “Chris you look like shit, you better drop the hammer”. With those words I did drop the hammer.
Now the route would go onto L Street counting down the numbers all the way to 8th Street. Once I got to 24th Street, the roads would play out perfect for me. Over the last 2 weeks, I would run this portion of the course several times with my 9RUN6 friends visualizing the finish on marathon Sunday.
Around mile 25, the 3:05 pacer was just behind me so we started to chat, I asked him what his ETA to the finish was and he said about 30 seconds under. Along with about 4 other runners who were with and round the 3:05 pacer decided to kick with one another to the finish line. With a final couple left hand turns onto 8th and then onto Capitol Mall the finish line would be ours to cross. During this final few miles I had one song playing in my head … this one …
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:04:06 … I was able to quickly find Bethany and D waiting for me at the finish line. I also saw other 9RUN6 friends Alexia and Ethan cheering me on at the finish line.
FINALLY I BROKE 3:05, running a new personal best which I had set just 5 weeks prior with a time of 3:09:01 at the TCS NYC Marathon. Along with a new personal best I knew that a BQ -6 would be good enough for me to get to Boston in 2016! After crossing that finish line with this time, I knew it I finally got to chase and catch the unicorn. I now officially have a race on my 2016 calendar.
After the race, I gathered with friends and we chatted about our race day experience.
Everything just clicked that day and my 25th marathon will one of those races that I just will remember.