As I sit here the day after finishing CIM, I still find myself struggling to figure out exactly how I feel about the 26.2 miles I ran. Without a doubt, it was the perfectly conflicted ending to a perfectly conflicted season.
My 2017 summer running season came to a screeching halt in early August when I pulled my right calf. For the following two months I basically shifted the bulk of my physical activity to cycling and swimming and attempted to run here and there until my calf would threaten re-injury. I accomplished some pretty exciting things in that time including a 3 1/2 hour swim around the perimeter of Donner Lake, which I’m still pretty ecstatic about. Then in mid-September, my back decided to join the party pooping which eliminated my cycling option and made pretty much everything painful. Emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement.
I finally threw in the towel the first week of October and resolved to let my body heal rather than try to train through the pain. Knowing full well that there would be little to no chance of achieving my time goals for CIM this year, I informed my coach that I was going to abandon training rather than try to force my body into adhering to a schedule. I stopped running altogether and started going to yoga again on a regular basis. Luckily, a few of my favorite local yoga instructors opened Truckee Yoga Collective this same week.
Two weeks of taking it easy, lots of yoga, swimming and a few easy “test runs” and my back and calf issues were fully resolved – by mid October I was able to pick up running again without fear of injury. From there I was able to gradually increase my mileage culminating with a couple of 45-mile weeks. Having come back from injury I found myself really looking forward to race day!
Then on Monday, November 27th, FIVE days before CIM, I felt the itch. You know – the itch in the ears and throat that foretells the onset of a cold. Commence denial – I AM NOT GETTING SICK! By Wednesday, I was laid out on my couch surrounded by the carnage of a cold – so many tissues. I was doing everything I could to get through this cold in time to run CIM. I drank tea and electrolytes. I took Zicam. I used Flonase. I went to our local “hippie dippie” grocery store and loaded up on herbal stuff to reduce congestion and increase immunity. For the record, I usually don’t buy into holistic stuff but at this point I was willing to try anything – even just for the placebo effect. By Friday I had lost my voice from coughing as a result of post-nasal drip (sorry TMI). By Saturday afternoon, I was in my car driving to Sacramento to pick up my bib at the CIM Expo – I still felt like crap, but I’m stubborn.
Sunday morning at 3:30am I woke up feeling pretty good – still a bit congested but my energy levels were decent and I felt up for running. Fast forward a few hours to the race start at 7:00am – OK yeah – I feel pretty good! Caffeine – check, poop – check (again sorry TMI, but this is SO important!), still coughing but not much – check. Let’s do this! Go time!
The race starts out on a gradual downhill and it’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline and excitement. I started out in the 9 min mile pace range which proved to be really comfortable, but I resolved to stay there and not push too hard given my health status. I actually felt really really good and started thinking that I may be able to hold on to maintain a finish time consistent with the prior year of (3:58). This feeling lasted all the way through the half marathon point of the race.
At that point, my knees and hip-flexors started to get a bit cranky almost as if to remind me that I was indeed undertrained for this event. I’ve always encountered discomfort during races and it typically takes the form of migrating pain that never lasts in one area for very long, so I figured that’s what this was. “Run through it, it won’t last” is what I kept telling myself. At mile 15 it became clear that the pain was not going away and not migrating. It was staying put and now my right shin was starting to hurt as well. “WTF? I’ve never had shin splits! Run through it, embrace the pain cave.”
I watched as the 3:57 pace group passed me and realized I couldn’t hold on to them which was more emotionally and mentally painful than any physical pain I was experiencing at the time. It was becoming abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to be able to pull some miracle out of my ass and hold on to my time from 2016. By mile 17 my legs were screaming at me and I began contemplating dropping at the next aid station. I started to walk if for no other reason than to stretch out my stride and hopefully loosen up the tension creating the pain throughout my lower extremities. To top things off, my cough was back and every once in a while, I’d be racked with a hacking fit. I watched, completely discouraged, as the 4:00 pace group passed by.
At this point, my pace had dropped to roughly an 11 min mile alternating between walking and jogging. As I continued to contemplate dropping out of the race, a text message came through on my watch from my friend, Jenelle. “Yeah Mone’!!! Keep it up you’re running strong!!!!” She had looked at the live tracking which showed my results up until the halfway point when I was still feeling good. I actually started to tear up – I felt completely emotionally and physically drained and discouraged, but I kept going. I knew how much she had endured during her last TRT 100 miler and I figured what I was going through was nothing in comparison.
I’m not going to lie – every single step for the next nine miles hurt. Every single aid station was a temptation to quit. Every ounce of my body wanted to stop. I have no idea how I kept moving. The 4:17 pace group passed me, but I was so close to being finished. “Let’s just get this over with” kept repeating in my brain. The last two miles seemed to take FOREVER, but I finally crossed the finish line at 4:23:19, or an average pace of 9:58/mi. For the record, the course has an extra .2 miles tacked on at the end, at least according to my Garmin. Regardless, this was over 25 minutes slower than my CIM 2016 time.
There was no rush of excitement, or surge of a runner’s high. I gathered my drop bag, made my way to the post-race brunch, found a bathroom and hid in a stall to cry. I don’t cry. I’m not a crier, but for some reason this was a very emotional finish and it ended accordingly. With snot streaming out of my nose and tears running down my cheeks, I changed out of my wet clothes and into dry garb that I had packed in my drop bag. A few minutes later, I emerged out of the stall with tears wiped away and a finisher’s medal around my neck.
The race organizers for CIM have a brilliant tactic to lock runners in year after year. It goes like this… You run the race and then you get an email a day later offering the “Re-Run Special”. It is perfectly timed because the pain and discomfort from having just finished a marathon has largely started to dissipate and already begun to fade from memory with nostalgia taking its place. The special is a significantly discounted rate that is only available to 500 returning runners (over 8,000 runners participated this year) and only available for a very limited time after the race you’ve just run. This tactic has sucked me in every year since I started running this race in 2014 – the thought being “well, it’s so inexpensive to sign up now that I may as well and if I don’t end up running it, no biggie”. I just got that email and I just registered for CIM 2018.
**Thank you to Jenelle Potvin for sending the perfect text at the perfect time. I don’t think I would have finished otherwise.