Tag Archive | California International Marathon

California Marathon Road Trip: Jon’s First Marathon

The day had finally arrived – the reason for our trip – Jon’s marathon.  The 31st Annual California International Marathon.  December 8, 2013.  Jon was ready for this.  He had been training for months.  He had run some 25 mile runs.  He was cross training with swimming, weights and the stationary bike.  All that was left was to get out on the course.

The start time was 7 am, and despite choosing a marathon in California in December so the weather would be warmer, he was greeted with an unseasonably low Sacramento temperature of 27 degrees.  Jon was dressed in shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, running hat and gloves and his socks and shoes.

As we watched all the bundled up runners pile out of the cars, he got worried that he had under-dressed.  “Look, they are all wearing pants and sweatshirts…” he said to me.  I reassured him that these California runners weren’t used to running in below freezing temps, but he ran when it was far colder.  If he put more layers on, he would just be too hot.  I wasn’t completely convinced that he wouldn’t get hypothermia, but I must have sounded confident.  He got out of the car to go up to the start line.  Fortunately, it took so long to get to the front of the line of cars in order to drop him off, that he really didn’t have much time to wait before the start of the race.

Unfortunately, the California International Marathon isn’t all that spectator friendly.  I dropped him at the start, but there is no place to park there to see the runners start.  I didn’t feel like parking more than a mile away and trying to find my way back to the start, in the dark, alone, and in subfreezing temps.  Jon was on his own…

I headed back to the hotel for a leisurely breakfast and shower, then made my way to downtown Sacramento to find the finish line.  Jon told me he expected to finish at about 3 hours, 30 minutes, but I wasn’t too sure about his estimate.  He always estimates that he will be much slower than he is.  So I left lots of time.

An early runner – in front of the California State Capitol

An early runner – in front of the California State Capitol

I got downtown at about 9:10 am, and made my way over to the finish line.  There were some bands playing, some people cheering, and a Santa riding a reindeer – sorry, the reindeer was not real, just a costume, and sadly, I didn’t get a photo.  It was still cold – only in the 30s, but I found a spot right by the finish line and settled in for the wait.

Inspiration for the last half-mile!

Inspiration for the last half-mile!

Jon was wearing black shorts and a gray shirt, along with approximately 2,000 other runners.  I might be exaggerating here, but I’m not.  There were several false starts, as I spotted men coming toward the finish and did a double take before realizing it wasn’t Jon.

Jon made good in his estimate, finishing in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds.  Amazing!  That is a race pace of 8 minutes per mile!  For 26.2 of them!  I can’t even do that pace for one mile!  I was very proud of him, but he was so cold after he stopped running that we didn’t hang around long at the finish celebration.  It was a long limp back to the car with a stop for a hot tea on the way.

Jon (at left) about to cross the finish line

Jon (at left) about to cross the finish line

Jon’s attempt at a smile – he was tired, cold and in pain!

Jon’s attempt at a smile – he was tired, cold and in pain!

Back at the hotel, Jon took off his shoe to reveal a bloody right foot.  I accused him of not trimming his nails.  It wasn’t until a couple days later that we discovered the culprit.  A large (about the size of a penny, but thicker, and much sharper) PIECE OF GLASS that was sticking up through the sole of his shoe.  He said that he had felt something about a half mile into the race, but kicked at it and just kept running.  At one point he thought that the pain was just his foot cramping.  Apparently my husband either has an EXTREMELY high tolerance for pain, or he has no nerve endings in his foot.  He says the piece of glass, “just adds to the legend.”

So who knows how well Jon would have run if he had not had a large piece of glass puncturing his foot for 25.5 miles of the race.  But I do know, he ran well, and I couldn’t be more proud!

And Jon, remember we aren’t going to make marathons in California a new tradition.  I love you, but our next vacation won’t be in California!

(And in case you are worried – the foot didn’t get infected…)

California Marathon Road Trip: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

In an attempt to get me to California again after I told Jon that our next trip would not be in Cali, he signed up to run his first ever full marathon on December 8th.  The California International Marathon.  In California.  But with those sweet puppy dog eyes and his desire to do the run where the weather was warmer, and where he lived for a few years, how could I say no?  Yes, I’m a sucker…

So off we went.  As is usual on our road trips, we headed out directly after work the first evening to get a jump on the drive.  The first night’s drive was to Eugene, and there was a risk of snow.  Luckily, it held off, and we spent the night in Eugene under cloudy, 17 degree skies.  We got up early – before 6!, after arriving just before midnight and getting only about 5 hours sleep.  Next up, the drive from Eugene to Sacramento.  We got on the road just after 7 – after scraping all the windows and spending several minutes warming up the car.  The Siskyous awaited.  Of mountain passes, the Siskyous can be treacherous in snow, with the highest elevation at 4610 feet!  Fortunately, we passed through bare and mostly dry roads, with only a light dusting of snow on the ground at the edge of the road.  We heard that Eugene got 7 inches of snow later that day – so we certainly lucked out…

Not much snow on Mount Shasta, December 5, 2013

Not much snow on Mount Shasta, December 5, 2013

The rest of the drive was uneventful, with us enjoying a few of the vantage points along the way, and a quick stop for a lunch at Subway.  Then we made our way to just outside of Willows, California.  Willows is home to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I had read about it on the internet, and saw that December and January are the peak season for the refuge, when it has the highest numbers of migrating birds for the winter.  Jon wasn’t as excited about the refuge, mostly because it is about 75 miles north of Sacramento, and he was envisioning driving all the way back to the refuge after we had already arrived in Sacramento.  When I told him we could stop on the way down (assuming the drive didn’t take too long), he checked out their website and got a bit more intrigued.

For a little history, the area where the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge sits was once known as the Colusa Plains, a windswept plain with short grasses and shrubs.  However, much of the area in Sacramento and immediately surrounding it was a wetland delta.  It would flood in the winter, and dry out in the summer.  That makes for extremely fertile soil, with all the nutrients which are deposited there during the seasonal floods.   Before the turn of the last century, settlers began damming the creeks and rivers to prevent the delta from flooding.  By the 1930s, the landscape had been dramatically altered.

154 (2)

Red Tailed Hawk Checking Us Out

The Emergency Conservation Fund Act of 1933 was tasked with providing habitat and breeding areas for migratory birds, because so much of the original wetland areas had been lost to agriculture.  Bring in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, who set to work creating this area of now federally protected land, using bulldozers and shovels to artificially create a delta.  The flooding is mechanically induced each season, with a series of pipes and valves releasing water from the river into the delta.

Out for an afternoon stroll

Ring Necked Pheasant – Out for an afternoon stroll

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is part of a complex of five different refuges, and three Wildlife Management Areas that are administered together by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Admission is $6 to the refuge for the day, or an annual pass is a steal at $12 – the other refuges in the complex have no admission fees.

Butts Up Everybody!

Butts Up Everybody!

The birds don’t care whether the flooding is natural or man-made.  They have flocked back to the area over the years, with MILLIONS of ducks and geese, songbirds and hawks overwintering here.  There is a 2 mile walking tour, where the birds were not hanging out the day of our visit; but we did see muskrats (or otters, not sure which), some mallards, deer, and Jon saw a jackrabbit.    There is also a 6 mile driving tour, which you can do at your own pace.  The day we were there, there were only three other cars, so we mostly felt that we were entirely alone.  They will even loan you binoculars at the visitor’s center (we brought our own).

Red Winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

In a word, we were awestruck – the sheer numbers of birds on the marsh, feeding, sleeping, preening and occasionally taking flight, was spectacular.  We saw hawks watching birds, and even saw a hawk with a kill (he was a bit too far away to see what he had though).  We saw great egrets hunting, deer wading in the water for better feeding grounds, and we even saw two ring necked pheasants.  This is easily a few of the best hours I have spent in my life.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Getting in a Scratch While Crossing the Delta

Getting in a Scratch While Crossing the Delta

We watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, and then continued on our way to Sacramento.   And almost a month later, Jon is still saying this is one of the best experiences he has ever had, so if you can, GO.

The Sunset at the Refuge was Fantastic

The Sunset at the Refuge was Fantastic

Farewell from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Farewell from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge