Monday, December 9, 2013

CIM 2013 Race Report (aka My Four Second Fail)

Yesterday I ran the California International Marathon. This was my second marathon and my biggest event. To say that yesterday was cold would be an understatement. Check out what my Garmin recorded...

27 feels like -21!
Now, to those of you from cooler climates this might not be a big deal. However, to a fair weather Californian like myself, these kind of temps are borderline intolerable. My first marathon was also in December up in Sacramento. It rained most of the time, but it was 52 degrees. That is HUGE! I would have given anything to run in 50 degree temps.

The Gear

After days of fretting what to wear, I decided on the following gear:
  • CW-X Stabilyx tights (excellent choice)
  • Nike top with a tank underneath
  • Moving Comfort bra (even though it has been known to wear holes in my back)
  • On Cloudsurfer shoes (they run warmer than other shoes and are more comfy on longer runs)
  • Pearl Izumi wool trail socks (last minute swap the morning of the race)
  • Fleet Feet knit gloves
  • Fleet Feet running hat
  • Fleet Feet race belt 
  • Tifosi glasses

Since my daughter and son-in-law live in Folsom (the starting location of the race), HS and I decided to save money on a hotel and stay at Casa Larkin. Lindsey and Max were very kind and gave up their nice comfy king size bed so I wouldn't have to sleep on the aero-bed. For dinner, we went to Chicago Fire and had pizza and salad. Hot Stuff and I split a pizza with sausage, jalepenos and habanero sauce...probably not the smartest choice before a marathon, but I had eaten it before without incident and I really wanted to have it again.

I got to bed about 8:30 and only woke up once for a couple of hours. My alarm was set for 4:30am...which is actually sleeping in for me. I had read that you need to get up 2-1/2 hours before a race so your body has time to fully awaken. I rolled out of bed when I heard Eminen's "Lose Yourself" start to play and got dressed. 

I had brought my standard pre-race meal of chia fresca and a banana. I also ate half a bagel and got a few sips of coffee down. When HS saw my socks slipping below the back of my shoe he said "You can't race in those", so I swapped them for my Pearl Izumi socks. I am so glad I did.

One is the Loneliest Number

Since we were coming from the Folsom area, the plan was to take me to the drop off location so I could take a shuttle to the start. The shuttles started at 5:30, but I didn't want to get there too early and have to stand in the freezing cold for any minute longer than I needed to. We left Casa Larkin a little before 6. As we turned on to Folsom Blvd, we merged into a flow of drivers taking their runner to the start. 

There is no messing around at the drop off point. There is also no time for long goodbyes or sitting in the car a bit longer to stay warm. Once your vehicle made the u-turn and pulled to the curb, you needed to get out.

I gave HS a kiss, said good-bye, and hopped out. I got a little teary eyed as I watched my family drive off. Once again (as I have done before many, many races) I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I followed the stream of runners heading up to the school bus shuttles and waited for my turn.

Unfortunately, it is a very short ride, maybe two miles and once again I was out in the cold. It was still dark out and I desperately looked for a familiar face. Unfortunately, all of my teammates had opted to buy a bus ticket and ride to the race from Sacramento. This meant that they also got to stay warm and cozy on their school bus until right before the race start. To kill time, I did what I said I wouldn't do and used an outhouse.

The number of outhouses is amazing and it is quite a walk from one end to another. Since everyone else seemed content to stand in lines that were 20-30 people deep, I decided to walk to the other end. At the farside of the outhouses, the lines consisted of 1 or 2 people. Once I got inside I found it to be not that unpleasant and on top of that, it was warm. I was tempted to hang out a bit.

Auburn-Folsom Blvd the day before the start
After doing my business, I wandered back towards the start. Some runners were huddled up under the flood lights of shops lining the street...I really don't think you get much heat that way. I eyed the rows of buses that seemed to extend forever and wished to be on one of them. I kept walking towards the first bus a heard the rumble of the engines. At that point it dawned on me that the exhaust would be warm. 

I walked to the back of the bus and turned my back to the exhaust felt soooo nice! Another runner walked by me and goes "Is that warm? Smart!". I wasn't sure if he was being a smart ass or not, but then I noticed that he had walked to the next bus and was warming himself, so I guess he really did think it was a good idea. I was so cold I didn't care if I was poisoning myself with noxious bus least I was warm.


Before I knew it, it was time to start. I stripped off my extra clothes and put them in my gear bag to be transported to the finish line. When the starting gun when off, I expected a stampede of 6000-7000 people all trying to get to the front. However, since everyone is wearing a chip, there is no need to freak out and run over people. Once the race started, everyone just sort of took their time and sauntered up to the start. Once you crossed the blue mat however, it was time to move.

I had programmed my Garmin with a range of paces that I had practiced over and over without problem. The lower end of the range was my aggressive time and the upper end was my planned time that would get me to a 3:52 finish. It was difficult to run at my slower, starting pace as the first mile is pretty much down hill. I told myself it was OK to exceed my pace because I was still working at the same effort level.

Some runners started stripping off extra clothes in the first mile or two, but I could not imagine running with less than I was currently was COLD! It was so cold that the first few aid stations were getting iced over. As runners ran by grabbed a drink and then tossed the cup and remaining fluid on the ground, a sheet of ice started expanding across the roadway. A couple of times I debated on whether or not it was worth risking getting a drink.

The first half of the race is fairly hilly but nothing that made me want to stop and walk (which is saying something). I stayed within my desired pace range and kept on going. It was quite the site when I would get to the top of a hill and gaze down on the number of runners that were in front of me. I was never alone at this race.

My spirits were lifted at mile 10 when I saw Hot Stuff amid the spectators lining the street. I then spotted Lindsey and Max and hammed it up a bit so I would have a good pic.

I spy..."Hot Stuff" (Can you find him?)
Back to business
Things went as well as expected and I learned a couple of things along the way. For example, if someone offers you "beer or water" they are not part of an "official" aid station. This particular gentleman was standing close enough to the aid station that I thought he was one of the volunteers. When he gave me a choice, I thought that he was just a smart ass volunteer. Since I could not seem to find my voice, I just pointed at the cup and took a swig when he handed it to me. I immediately spit it out and the lady next to me goes "It was really beer, wasn't it?" Yuck!

I guess I sort of hit the wall at mile 20. My pace slowed and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get below a 9 minute per mile pace. I had hoped that I banked enough seconds early on that this unfortunate slow down wouldn't keep me from reaching my goal but I had no idea.

I brought three GU's along with me for the race and had eaten a fourth a while back. After mile 20 I decided that maybe if I got a few more calories I would be able to get my pace back. An official volunteer stood at the side of the road with a box of GU in her hand. I ran past her and she handed me a packet. A quick glance revealed "Vanilla Bean." Ugh!!! Mind you, I have never had "Vanilla Bean" but I really didn't think I wanted to start now. I ran to the table up ahead and swapped it for a flavor that seemed a little more appealing.


The run to the finish is a lesson in math. The streets along the finish are numbered and the course merges on to L or J somewhere around 55th St. The turn to the finish is at 8th street. As I would pass each block, I would try and calculate how many more blocks I had to go. Oddly, at the end of a marathon this was much more difficult than it should have been. LOL Until I got to the teens, I struggled with my calculations.

Fist pump!
One thing you learn doing triathlons is that the time at the finish is not necessarily your time. Same goes for chip timed marathons. Your own personal clock starts when you cross the starting line, so even though the clock says 3:56:23 as I finish, this is not my true time. My official race time was 3:55:04. Hot Stuff proudly showed me my "unofficial" time on his phone (he had been tracking my race online).  While HS didn't understand the horror he was showing me, my BFF did. She knew that Boston Qualifying for my age group is 3:55:00. Four freaking seconds!!! OMG!

Last December I ran my first marathon in 4:08:47. In freezing cold temps, I managed to shave off almost 14 minutes. Next year I will only have to take off four seconds to reach my goal.

It's always worth it when it's over