Posted by: pointlenana | December 8, 2011

CIM 2011 – Race Report

On Sunday I ran the California International Marathon down in Sacramento.  It was the first marathon that I’ve run in 18 months where I wasn’t running injured and/or with someone who was running slower than me.  In other words, it was the first one in a while that I had a realistic chance to run fast in.  That was the whole purpose of going down there – I’ve seen that part of Sacramento and nothing about the scenery made me think “that’s one I HAVE to run”.   On the other hand, the course has a net elevation loss of about 300 feet and it’s known as a place where people set personal records.  So it was a two day trip to spend 3 1/2 hours trying to run fast on suburban streets. 

Training-wise, I thought I was mostly prepared.  I had recovered from my hamstring injury this summer, seemed to come out of the Chicago marathon in October in good shape, and have been doing a couple speed workouts each week since then.  Weather-wise, we got incredibly lucky.  The winds that were so destructive in California over the past week died down the night before the marathon and it was a still, cold, clear morning – perfect for running fast. 

Although I ended up running a little slower than I had hoped and/or trained for, by most measures it went really well.  I set a new personal record at 3:28:20 – by 3 seconds (after running for approximately 13000 seconds).  I qualified for Boston in 2013.  I mostly had fun.  And I walked away without any apparent injuries.  One thing that caught me off guard was that the course did not feel downhill or even flat.  The first half is rolling hills and even the latter part that people say is flat, felt like I was always going a little bit up or a little down.  I had hoped to run about 5 minutes faster than I ran, and I think the constant hills may be the reason for the difference.  Or more accurately, not training enough for the constant hills.  There’s something in my training that’s not right or not perfect since I’ve trained hard for the past 3 years, and during that time I’ve run 3 marathons (every 18 months) in times that are all within 42 seconds of each other.  In theory I ought to be improving.  On the other hand, in reality I am definitely getting older and at an age where getting older means getting slower.  So maybe I am getting better but only enough to offset getting more ancient. 


The course turned out to be pretty nice to run on.  I can’t say that Boston is really any nicer, and there were only a few miles of running through strip malls.  The rest was rural or nice tree-lined streets.  It wasn’t Big Sur – drop-dead gorgeous, but it wasn’t Chicago either.  Chicago had some great moments but it had a lot more sections that I don’t ever need to run again.  I’d happily run CIM again. 

The keynote speaker at the expo was Greg McMillan who coaches Olympic athletes in person and mere mortals online.  He has an awesome website with a ton of information for us self-coached runners.  After listening to him and talking briefly with him afterwards, I’ve put him on my list of personal heroes.  Smart, fantastic at what he does, gracious, and very approachable. 

Chocolate milk at the finish line, warm tomato soup in the post-race food area, and free sports massage.  The chocolate milk was perfect for instant recovery.  I got a free 10 minute massage after that and it made a huge difference in being able to walk around normally later that day.  By then though I was getting cold and it took a few minutes to stagger over and pick up my bag of start line clothes.  Finding warm tomato soup in the food area was perfect – it stopped my incipient hypothermia instantly. 

Overall convenience.  For a race that required a flight, a hotel, and a bus to the start line, it was incredibly easy.  The flight is only about 90 minutes.  It takes 15 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel.  The bus to the start picked us up at the door of the hotel.  And the walk back to the hotel after the run was only two blocks.  For a race with 7000+ runners, this was amazingly easy. 

Not a lot of lowlights – our bus (along with several others) to the start got a little lost which caused some tension for a few minutes.  A few of the water stops were so short that I’d see three volunteers holding cups ahead of me, just before I arrived 3 other runners grabbed the cups, the volunteers would turn away as I ran by, and I was gone before they turned back with more cups.  It was depressing the first couple times and then I became a little more ruthless about getting multiple cups when I could. 

I’m back home now, and it’s time to finish up fundraising for Boston.  I’ll give myself a week or two to recover from CIM, and then get back on the schedule. 

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