Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
— King Lear III.ii
I was up at three. The temperature was in the high fifties, the wind was said to be 10mph, and when I went out to the bus there was just a light drizzle. Conditions seemed nigh perfect. As we drove to Folsom the driver even switched off the windshield wipers, which encouraged me even more.
But then he switched them back on and when we got to Folsom the rain was sheeting down and the wind had picked up to a nasty level (the prediction was for 25mph winds with gusts to 40). The bus had Christmas music on its PA system with carolers extolling the benefits of a white Christmas and wishing for snow. I looked at the pouring rain and fervently hoped it wouldn’t snow. We were allowed to stay in the nice warm dry buses until 6:45 and then they kicked us out.
It was still pitch black and the wind was blowing hard and the rain driving down. There was a nearby filling station (closed) and many of us went over and hid under its awning. I did a short warmup run and came back to the filling station.
To tell the truth, I was a bit relieved about the weather. The predictions I had seen said there would be a low of 43 on Sunday, but it appeared that meant the low would be Sunday evening rather than AM. I wasn’t sure I could deal with a run in 40° rain, but a run in 58° rain didn’t sound so bad. (I was trying to ignore the wind).
Then we were told to line up. I figured this would be one of the worst parts of the day. We’d have to stand unmoving in the rain while the wind whipped us. Oh well, had to be done. My plan was to start slowly and then pick it up to 6:50s. I wasn’t sure I could hold 6:50s in these conditions (Heck, I’ve never held 6:50s) but I wanted to try. I thought starting with the 3:10 pacer might be about right — if he were going to do even splits, but I listened to him and he was explaining that he wanted to start slowly too. I thought that would be too slowly for me, so I moved up to the 3:05 group.
Eventually we heard the gun. And then slowly we began to move. By the time we reached the chip mat we were moving reasonably, but it was still very crowded. The 3:05 pacer was moving faster than I was, so I picked up the pace a bit. In the dim light and the rain it was hard to see my watch. He had a very large group (which was why it was so crowded) and I realized 3:05 is the BQ time for men 18-35, one of the two largest age groups. No wonder there were so many. I allowed myself to drop back a little to get out of the crowd.
I missed the first mile marker, and then we turned a corner and were (sort of) out of the wind. It was blowing from our left now, not directly ahead, and everything was much easier. At the two mile mark I realized that the 3:05 pacer had not gone out easily but seemed to be doing 7:00 miles (a little fast for 3:05)… And then he picked it up on mile 3 so I figured I’d just stay with him; it seemed like a good pace. I continued to run 6:55 behind him until we reached mile 6.
At that point the route took another right angle turn (through a very deep puddle) and we were heading into the wind again.
And what a wind. I bent over to avoid the worst of it. Maybe we were more exposed here, or maybe it had just picked up. I don’t know. My pace went from 6:55 to 7:30. The 3:05 pace group disappeared. I wasn’t the only one having trouble, but plenty of others seemed to be passing me. Oh well, I wasn’t expecting a good race.
Earlier I had tried to convince myself that I liked running in high winds. I remember running home from school once in the middle of a tornado watch. Now that was fun, the wind gusted and played with me coming from one direction, then another — and — I wasn’t racing. Here the wind was just pushing me backward. It wasn’t fun.
I tried drafting behind people, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.
I was amused to find that climbing hills was actually easier for me than going down them. The hill itself provided some shelter from the wind. Really weird.
This stretch seemed to go on forever, and I never seemed to get above a 7:20 mile, and mostly 7:30s.
It seemed even darker now (at 8 or so) than it had when we started at 7.
Finally somewhere after mile 10 we made another right angle turn and the wind blew from the left. But somehow I couldn’t pick up my pace. I was doing 7:15s. The headwind must have tired me more than I knew. I managed to pick it up a bit on the next mile (7:03) but I had to think about it.
This brought me to the halfway point, after which we turned another corner into the wind again — only — the wind had dropped. It was no longer the terrible struggle it had been earlier. I did slow a bit (to 7:15, and then to 7:20) but no more 7:30s. For a while.
I should mention there were a lot of spectators on the course, cheering us on in spite of the wet. I should have been appreciative of this, but when one woman asked me if I were having a good race I had to admit that I was not.
At mile 20 they have a fake wall around the chip mat to indicate that now is the time to hit the wall (so I ran over to it, and hit it). But I did hit the wall. I slowed from my 7:20s to 7:40s. Not nearly as bad as I’ve done on other races, but not a sign that I can do even pacing. (or maybe I hit the wall at mile 6? or mile 11?) And I had hoped that this new carbo-loading regime would work magic. I guess it didn’t.
And, yeah, I got dehydrated too. Odd to be dehydrated in the middle of a downpour, but I was. Not as badly as when running hard in the dry but noticeable.
Randomly the wind would pick up for half a mile or so, and then calm back down. I was annoyed with it.
My hands started to go numb. I was a little surprised they’d lasted this long, but it was annoying.
The 3:10 pacer and his group passed me. This was actually rather consoling as I figured him to be far ahead by then.
We ran up a bridge and over the American River. It’s big and muddy. And then down the other side and into Sacramento.
Around mile 23 I see 44th St., I think the capital (the finish) is about 14th St. Only 30 more streets to go. Streets go by more quickly than miles, at this point I need something to cheer me up. Last time I ran this race I got slower and slower as I neared the finish. This time I’m just bobbling around between 7:40 and 7:50. This is the first marathon I’ve raced without going slower than an 8 minute mile. (But it’s also the slowest marathon I’ve raced. A strange juxtaposition).
I’m passing more people than are passing me.
It’s actually hard to keep track.
Here is 14th St. But we aren’t done. Yeah, we’ve got to swing round to the back of the capital. I knew that, I just ignored it.
But we don’t turn on 13, or 12, or 11 (damn it, where is the finish) or 10. But we do on 9. And then another turn and the capital looms over us and I cross the line. ~3:13:50 (Gun time, a little faster with the chip). Um that’s my slowest road marathon. (except for running Boston as a bandit when I didn’t know anything about racing). The weather is certainly an excuse, but… I had hoped for better.
All I want is to find my bag and go back to my hotel and take a warm bath. I’m not freezing, but the wet has got to me, and my hands are numb. They seem to have placed bag pickup far away and the route to it isn’t marked. I wander. Getting more annoyed. Finally I find an enormous tent with bags.
Except … the tent only has room for the first 9000 bags, and mine (11047) is outside the tent in the rain. And there is no one there to help me find it. Grump. But I do find it eventually and head back to my hotel (of course I had to walk away from the hotel to get my bag).
When I get to my room I find that 3 hours sitting in the rain has rendered my key card inoperative. Or maybe it’s just the water on the card, but everything I own is soaked and I can’t dry it. Anyway it doesn’t work. I have to go back down to the front desk to ask for a new one (and of course I have no id.) but they give me one anyway after asking my address.
When I get into my room I find weak sunlight shining through the window. When I check out the sky is blue and the sun is bright. Arrg.
The capital building, Sacramento, taken the day before the race