Last Sunday, the Husband (aka Ironballz) ran CIM – the California International Marathon – up in Sacramento. So FINALLY I got to go and watch it. CIM is one of the biggest marathons for my Bay Area running friends but because I am retired from marathoning, I’ve never been part of it. I was really glad I finally got to see the CIM magic in action.
Ironballz’s training was…interesting. He asked me to do him a training plan in the summer. I was very touched and humbled to be asked, so I pulled together a splendid 16-week training plan. He nailed his first few weeks. He nailed the first week of speedwork when I had him running on the track. He loved track…until he pulled his hamstring on the second track session. And that was more or less the end of his adherence to my beautiful spreadsheet. Ironballz has a very different view of training plans than I do. I draw them up and basically stick to them (with a few minor amendments, like switching round the days of different workouts). The Husband looks at his plan, decides what he wants to do and does that. This caused some marital disharmony, so I quietly withdrew from coaching duties about 2 months ago. Unfortunately, my client didn’t notice.
Last week, Taper Week, the Husband gamely said ‘So coach, what’s on the plan this week?’ I gently informed him that, with great respect, I hadn’t been his coach for several weeks. He was surprised. He enquired as to why. ‘Because’, I told him, ‘You’re uncoachable’. A little smile hovered at his mouth. He was clearly delighted. He asked for an example of his uncoachability. I pointed out that, for several weeks now, I’d been advising him to do a long run of at least 17 or 18 miles at a steady, slow pace. For each of those weeks, he’d thought about it and then done about 13 miles with a couple at a faster pace. There was (honestly) much hilarity about him being #uncoachable. He sees it as being a great character strength. I just smiled and kissed him.
We drove up to Sacramento on the Saturday for the expo. I kind of got race envy. It was so much fun, there was so much energy. Everyone looked like an awesome runner. I wished I had a proper heart so I could run marathons. The Husband picked up his number and the Dude spun wheels at the stands and won cheap crap I’ll throw away next week.
We then drove around Sac to find a store where the Husband could buy some new running shorts as he’d noticed (the day before) that his running shorts all had giant holes in them (#uncoachable). We bought some shorts. We checked into the wonderful Sacramento Youth Hostel, the Dude ran circles around our giant bedroom and then we went to meet our running friends for dinner at Hook & Ladder. Jen and Angela were both running CIM, along with Jen’s friend K who became a new friend for us. Dinner was awesome. Hook & Ladder was a hipster dream but the food was excellent, the wine (for spectators) was good and there was much laughter.
The Husband headed off to get the shuttle bus to the start in Folsom at 4.45am on Sunday morning. The Dude and I slept a little later, had breakfast, played pool in the Games Room and then headed off to see our runners at roughly Mile 13. It was a cold but beautiful morning. The day before, we’d purchased a massive helium balloon of three penguins and had sent a photo round all our running friends so they could look out for us. It worked an absolute treat! Everyone found us due to the penguins!
We got there as the incredible sub-three-ers were flying past. We saw several blind runners with their guides (which made me weepy at their courage). One of the guides looked suspiciously like Scott Jurek and actually turned out to BE Scott Jurek! That was exciting. Then we saw Caitlin amble past at some incredible pace to her 3.13 finish. I’d written down the times when we expected to see our friends pass, and Angela was the first to come, pretty much on schedule! She looked super-comfy at that point. K was next – she spotted us with our penguins and handed me a scarf to look after. Jen was a little later. She handed me a truly revolting sweaty buff to keep for her. Then L, a friend from church ran up, hugged me and handed me a long-sleeved top to keep. And THEN a total stranger ran up, took of his long-sleeved top and introduced himself as a colleague of the Husband’s. Ironballz had told him to look out for the penguins. We shook his hand, took his top and off he ran. Then finally, Ironballz ran up looked very comfy. He handed me his arm-sleeves and ran off, leaving me, the Dude and the Penguins to carry our sweaty pile of new clothes back to the car. Everyone at M13 was looking awesome. My Marathon Envy was worse than ever.
Our next stop was about M20. We just missed K and never saw L but sooner or later, Jen ran past. She’d looked so comfy at M13 but now she was well off her goal pace and clearly in the pain cave. We screamed, cheered and cowbell, she gamely waved at us. I then cried for a bit for her. I was so gutted she wasn’t having the race she’d worked for. Ironballz ran up eventually. He was starting to struggle (due maybe to the lack of 17 or 18 milers his coach had suggested?) but still very positive and smiley. I know I’m biased but that guy has such incredible mental strength. If he sets an endurance goal, he will just hit it every time because of that mental fortitude. Tell you what though, from the faces of the runners at M20, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to run a marathon after all.
We then drove as quickly as we could to the finish line. Road closures thwarted our plans but we managed to park about 8 blocks away and we walked down to the finish line at the Capitol building. I got texts from friends that Angela had literally crushed her race – finally getting a marathon time that reflects her abilities. (See her recap HERE.) I cried again. (I was very weepy).I got Jen’s final time and I cried again. (See her recap HERE). So proud of her for gutting it out and continuing to fight to the end. Now it was just Ironballz on the course. We positioned ourselves near the finish line. This was both wonderful (watching people so delighted to finish) and heart-breaking (the despair in the faces of those runners who have clearly not had the race they trained hard for). We used Find My iPhone to track him. Our Penguins got a bit blown about in the breeze so, when we found the Husband was a mile away, I warned the lady next to me that my penguins might be a bit uncontrolled for a few minutes. She offered to take them, so I handed my penguins to her and we screamed our heads off as Mr Uncoachable ran up the finishing straight, kissed us and crossed the line. We were so proud.
He finished in about 5.08 which is 7 minutes faster than his last marathon (London, 13 years ago). We bumped into his work colleague, who was thrilled with himself. It was all rather gorgeous.
We assumed that we were too late to go to the brunch that Angela (or Jen?) had reserved for us on the Delta King, a paddle boat on the river in Old Sacramento. But after we walked slowly back to the car, we decided to drive over there so I could return some of the various sweaty clothes I’d been given at M13. It turns out that we weren’t that late, so we ended up all having brunch together, along with Sesa and her gentleman. The food was good, it was lovely to catch up with everyone and to give out some well-earned hugs.
It was a really good day. It’s a cliché I know but there’s something very moving and humbling about watching people run a marathon. I was very inspired and humbled the whole day. I don’t want to do another marathon any more though, it looks brutal.
From a spectator’s point of view, here are a few learnings we made.
- The race manual, which is given out at the expo, has great advice about where to spectate. We spectated at M13 (the relay exchange) and at ‘The Wall’ and both places worked really well. There were shops nearby for hot drinks and snacks.
- Do get a helium balloon in a notable shape so that your runners can spot you. Our penguins worked incredibly well and they’re also an excellent reward for little people who gave up their day to cheer on grown-ups.
- People who drive Hummers should be more careful not to nearly crush Honda Fit drivers.
- Use Find My iPhone (or similar) to track your friends.
- Get a cowbell that doesn’t cause your knuckles to bleed.
- Don’t coach your husband.
- Take tissues and wear waterproof mascara.
Well done to Angela, Jen, Ironballz, K, L, Sesa and Ironballz’ Colleague…and all the other brave wonderful runners who made our day on Sunday!