Race: CIM 2009

Here we were again standing in the road in Folsom, waiting for the California International Marathon to start. I had in fact already done some running that morning. There were more than a busload of runners staying at my hotel, but just the one bus. We could see some other buses nearby, so 50 people ran across a 6-lane road. Fortunately traffic was light at 5 am. “But there’s no crosswalk here.” “No, but we’re runners!” “Bit early for a warm-up, though, isn’t it?”

I was dithering over what to wear. It was cold, but windless, just getting light. Once I had dropped off my sweats, I was in a short-sleeve shirt, arm-warmers, and an old sweater over all. Shorts and hat completed the ensemble. Then I realized that the sweater presented a problem. If I waited till I was warmed up before getting rid of it, I’d be pulling it over my head while running, trying not to lose my hat and hand-held water bottle. So off it came and got added to the growing pile. My arms were now stinging, despite the arm-warmers. Oh well.
When I asked him at the expo, the 3:15 pace leader said that he was planning to bank some time during the early downhills. I was not too thrilled to hear that, so deliberately lined up well behind him just in front of 3:20. The guy in front of me had two handhelds, and he fumbled one as he triggered his watch at the line. He scooped it up without breaking his stride, much to my relief. Due to the “toothpaste effect” at the start, the 3:15 leader was far enough away by the time I crossed the line that I could not read his number anymore. He was indeed going at a good clip. More about that later.

Mile 1 – 7:44. Very sensible, but a little slower than intended, give it a touch more, Jim!
This resulted in 2 through 5 – 7:22, 7:19, 7:14. Yes, it’s downhill, but whoa, boy!
Then I got into a groove. 7:23, 7;23, 7:23. Still a touch fast, but this was working, just ticking off the miles now. The spectators in Citrus Heights included a yodelling great dane. His interpreter said “He’s telling you to go faster”. “Will he chase us? That’ll make us go faster!” Or maybe not. Those dogs are such softies. I was running right past the aid stations thanks to my throwaway handheld, which was lasting much better than I had expected. It had acquired a name by now. Mr Sloshy. I got used to the noise, although other runners would look around as I came alongside them.
CIM is not all downhill, we got to some rollers here. In retrospect, I might have attacked them a little too hard. 7:31, 7:35, 7:27 to mile 10, where things trended downhill again. 7:26, 7:29, 7:20
Coming out of Fair Oaks, here was someone I’ve seen before. “Hi, you ran the San Jose Half, didn’t you? I remember you!” “Yes” he smiled. “I think it’s the outfit!” I continued. Pink running skirts look a little incongruous on skinny male posteriors, but people will remember you. I passed him at about the halfway point in that race too.
I reached the half in 1:37:23. There was a gun-time clock alongside the arch: 1:37:59. I figured that the live tracker would be showing gun times, so imagined the reaction amongst tracker-watchers over at the RW forum 3:20 thread. I had predicted a 1:38 first half. Only off by a second! (Gun time, anyway)

Up till now the course had been quite sheltered by trees, but those trees were moving now, and flurries of fallen leaves were blowing about. A few gusts were hitting us, but it was no big problem yet. 7:25 for mile 14. Then the route turned southwest and we commenced a long uphill in an open area. We were completely exposed to the headwind now, which was bitterly cold. At this point I was running alongside a young woman with a 50 yard gap in front of us. “Ugh” she exclaimed “Yeah, this is evil, and no one to draft behind!”  “Always happens to me” she responded. We both worked on catching the group in front to get a little relief. It wasn’t much. 7:47 for the slowest mile of the race. The mile 15 marker at the top of the hill had been blown over.
Things got a little better after that, but I was getting quite cold. My ears and nose were completely numb, as were certain other soft extremities. I really should have worn another layer. There seemed to be quite a few people stretching by the roadside, or shivering under blankets at the aid stations. I wondered about hypothermia. How would I tell if I had it? Oh yeah, it makes you stupid. I was still making sense of my splits, so plainly core temperature must be OK. My pace was back in the ballpark, but things were getting more stressful now. Miles 16 to 20 – 7:33, 7:34, 7:35, 7:35. Running 7:35s at this point was not part of the plan, but it couldn’t be helped. I was fading and so were plenty of others. I was passing quite a number of people now, and wondered how many of these were drop-offs from the 3:15 group, done in by that early pacing.

I reckon that it’s OK to push after mile 20. If anything’s going to go wrong it would have happened by now. The going was level apart from the bridge at mile 22. I was pushing quite hard but slowing. Miles 21 to 23 – 7:35, 7:45, 7:40. I needed to fix this before it got any worse. Mr Sloshy, empty at last, spiraled through the air at an aid station. I focused on good form and followed the fastest runner I could see. A small woman wearing all black was tearing past the other runners on Sacramento’s J Street. I was hurting quite a bit, but stayed close. At one point she faltered and I passed her, but she clawed back. This little race stopped the rot. Miles 24 to 26 – 7:41, 7:41, 7:43. She gapped me in that final mile, then we turned towards the finish. A tiny kick in the last fifth of a mile: 7:35 pace. Total: 3:17:33 watch time (later confirmed by chip).

I have never felt quite so destroyed after a race. I was walking with tiny steps for a while, feeling a little disconsolate about missing my 3:15 target. I later discovered that being two minutes or more off your goal was a common theme of the day. The wind and cold had slowed us that much. So at last my PR is out of the 3:20s where it has been for the past year. Perhaps I’ll have another crack at 3:15 at Boston.


7 Responses to “Race: CIM 2009”

  1. 1 Flo December 7, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Jim, what an entertaining report, and again, HUGE congratulations for kicking 3:20 to the curb. Too funny about the bus running and yay on the handheld working so well. Pooh on the lost 3:15, if it hadn’t been cold and windy, it would have been yours on a platter. You get that and less at Boston. Here’s to yet another marathon cycle for you and more speedy stories for 2010. Cheers!

  2. 2 Clay Brieger December 7, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Congratulations on breaking 3:20! Here’s hoping we get ideal weather for a change at Boston. I have my work cut out for me in Houston chasing your time.

  3. 3 Loraine McVey December 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Jim, we were tracking you at home and there was much woo-hooing. Congratulations!! Sounds like tough conditions. I’m sure an even faster race is in you too in a future cycle. Recover well.

  4. 4 Christi December 8, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Congratulations on a great race Jim! I heard the conditions were quite rough but you managed to conquer them!

  5. 5 jime2 December 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Thanks everyone. I’m recovering, and can almost walk downstairs without making faces now. I think I’ll give it two weeks before I start on the Boston training cycle and start thinking about a goal. Good luck at Houston, Clay! I think I’ve set you a reasonable goal.

  6. 6 Joe Abeyta February 16, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Great job, Jim!!!

  7. 7 jime2 February 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Hey Joe! Great to hear from you. What have your been up to?

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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


December 2009
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