The California International Marathon starts in Folsom, California and runs down to Sacramento. This year it hosted the USATF Marathon Championships alongside the rest of the field.
I’ve averaged 120mpw for the calendar year so far. I’ve hit 150 twice in one week and had a few more over 130. I run twice a day and my general structure is easy running on Monday, Thursday, ans Saturday with workouts on the other days. I don’t like to run with a watch all the time, especially this block. I had some good tune up races like the Columbus Half Marathon in October where I ran 67:28 in less than ideal conditions. For this marathon block I did a lot of fartlek running for speed, and tried to run at least a 20 miler each week. I got up to 24 for my longest run and I had a few extended runs at marathon pace as well.
3:15am wakeup. 1 mile shakeout through the neighborhood feeling okay. Legs were a little sore. Got back to Air BNB and had 1 cup of coffee and two pieces of toast with PB and honey plus half a banana. Took an Uber (can Uber be a verb now?) down to the hotel where the buses were going out of. Sat around until 5:00am when they left. Rode up to the start which took around 45 minutes. Got out and went to the restroom immediately then took a chair and sat for a while. Got up and did some drills outside but no jogging or strides. Bathroom again before changing shoes and heading to the start at about 6:45am. Did one very light short stride and legs felt very average. National anthem, then started race.
Going into this the dream was to go for an OTQ at 2:19. I thought it might be possible, but I wasn’t totally sure. I had several periods of self doubt and going conservative in the days leading up. Once we started I decided to see how I felt through each 5k and make calls there. I was in probably 60th place after the first half mile which was a steep downhill straight into a steep uphill. The sub 2:19 group formed at about 1.5 and I found myself at the back of it. We had fluids at 5, 10, 15, 20, 26, 31, 36k and I had Maurten 320 in small water bottles.
Miles  to 
5:24.8 2. 5:15.3 3. 5:10.7
The course starts off with a big downhill into a big uphill. I was patient and tried to run as relaxed as possible down this. Once we hit 1.5 a pack started to form of likely contenders who were targeting the Sub 2:19 mark. I slid into that pack and we started getting to work. I got my first bottle with no problem at the 5k mark.
Miles  to 
5:08.6 5. 5:15.2 6. 5:16.2
When I heard people talk about CIM I heard that there were some rolling hills the first half of the race. When we got into it they were much more rolling than I had expected. The downhills weren’t enough to give you an advantage because you came right back up some uphills just after. I think this helps with keeping your legs using different muscles, but it was somewhat tiring. The main thing was to not think about anything else except for that current moment. Become one with the pack of men and move down the road as efficiently as possible. I came up to the second bottle station and mine was nowhere to be seen. Oh well. Someone else in the pack was using the same fuel as me and offered some to me. That helped. Everyone was in it together. Not racing to break each other. Racing for a time and hoping to pull as many people with them as possible.
Miles  to 
5:11.7 8. 5:17.4 9. 5:17.2
This stretch was relatively uneventful. We relaxed the pace a little bit and conserved energy. I got my bottle just fine. I do remember tossing my gloves at this point since it was starting to get sunny.
Miles  to 
5:10.2 11. 5:09.6 12. 5:13.2
The pace picked up during this stretch. We approached halfway and had some very sharp downhills. The steepness was that kind where you can’t really run that fast since you have to watch your footing. My legs still felt good and I knew we could bank a few seconds here at the same effort.
Miles  to 
5:10.6 (68:30 through HM) 14. 5:09.9 15. 5:16.4 (led this one I think)
We rolled through the half marathon in 68:30 as a large pack of ~25 guys. I remember thinking “Oh, a year and a half ago this was 10 seconds faster than my PR. Cool.” I took my turn leading the group as we moved into the last of the major uphills. There were some people coming back to us and I keyed off them to help pull us along.
Miles  to 
5:12.9 17. 5:14.0 18. 5:14.4
Our pack started to shrink as we approached the flat section of the course. Each split we passed I started to think more and more “You can do this, you are doing this.” I wondered when it would start to feel hard. When the cumulative stress and impacts would be felt. The second I started thinking that I changed my mindset to positive thoughts. The marathon, and especially the closing stages, can make you play awful tricks on yourself. You don’t need to do that. You need to build yourself up. It helped that our pack still had around 20 runners into it. To convince myself I was in a good place I turned to some of the other runners who seemed to be tensing up and struggling and I told them “Hey. You’re good. You got this.” If you can tell someone they’re good then you can take the burden off of yourself.
Miles  to 
5:09.4 20. 5:19.5 21. 5:14.1
Everyone dreams about the wall. That feeling where you just can’t push it. Everyone says that the second half of the marathon starts at mile 20. Luckily for me it didn’t I felt easy and relaxed. I hung on to the pack and kept my composure.
Miles  to 
5:19.7 23. 5:26.5 24. 5:25.8
Because the real wall for me started at mile 22. It hit without warning and all of a sudden I saw 15 guys running away from me. We crossed a small bridge and I was off the back of the pack. In front of my eyes I witnessed a cohesive group that had run together for the past 20 miles explode as glycogen stores depleted and muscular trauma took its toll. I was a victim of this fate and I tried to maintain my own rhythm and form. We were running on a flat stretch of road towards downtown that was familiar since it was where my air bnb was located. I felt comforted knowing this course since I had run this stretch over the past few days.
Miles  to [Finish]
5:29.9 26. 5:33.31 finish. 1:11.4
This was an all out grind. I was proud of not slowing any more, but I could tell I was inefficient. I was doing the mental math to see how absolutely slow I would have to run to still run under 2:19. The second I started doing that I also told myself, it doesn’t matter. Just run hard. Only 3.2 left. Only 2.2 left. 2k left, that’s 5 laps of a track. You got this. Just do it. You’ve put in too much work to not give it your all right here. There was a single file line of guys that I was a member of. Whether you were passing or getting passed you fed off that energy that your other race members were vibing. I remember the last mile felt like an eternity. I wanted to be done. I looked at my watch and saw 2:14. Okay. Only 5 possible minutes of hard running. Just go for it. I hit mile 26 and knew I only had less than 90s left of possible running to do. I rounded the corner and saw the clock tick over 2:18. Yes. I did it. I am doing it. I did what I thought I couldn’t possibly do. I crossed the line with every emotion possible relishing in the 26.2 miles I had just covered.
2:18:17. 34rd overall. 2nd in 20-24 Age Group. USA Olympic Trials “B” Qualifier.
After the race I congratulated and thanked everyone who ran in our pack. Then I hobbled over to where our gear check bags were and found my phone. I called my girlfriend, coach, and father and tried not to cry bc my emotions were a little haywire. I got something small to eat and met up with people I was sharing the Air BNB with. A long day of celebrating and recovering had me sleeping well and reflecting on accomplishing my dream.