Race: California International Marathon 2010

“Go three fifteen! Men’s thirty-five to thirty-nine Boston qualifiers! Yeeahhh!”

This information-laden cry of encouragement was shouted from the side of the road about mile after the start, and prompted a train of thought.

That’s a mouthful. No wonder he’s getting a little hoarse… Yes I’m running with all these younger guys… My BQ time is 3:45, what the **** am I doing here?

What I was doing was taking another crack at sub-3:15. This was the culmination of an 18 week training cycle during which I had felt pretty strong, although the mileage volume was not any larger that I had been doing in previous marathons. Perhaps this was a case of repeating the same actions and hoping for different results, but I was hopeful for a PR, and perhaps sub-3:15 finish. Unlike last year the weather was almost perfect. The threatened rain was holding off, and it was (just) warm enough to wear a singlet. I added some arm-warmers made from long socks with the toes cut off (warmer than expensive ones from running stores) and gloves. The idea was not to try and over-think the pacing over the terrain, but just to run flat splits. And so I decided to run with the 3:15 pace group.

We got across the line a few seconds after the gun or horn or whatever it was, and had to weave past some slowcoaches who had positioned themselves near the front. These folks often seem to have buddies with them, and run two or three abreast. Oh well. I connected with the 3:15 pacer who at this point was only a few yards behind the 3:10 guy. The combined group made for quite a crowd, so I held back a little and got some elbow room. The first mile was mostly downhill.

OK. This feels fine. Not super-easy but OK. It’ll be easier when I’m warmed up.

The 3:10 pacer seemed to be taking it easy for the first couple of miles. This is a reasonable approach, but seemed to be cramping 3:15’s style a bit. We stayed right on their tail until the mile 2 marker when they abruptly accelerated. Our average pace should be 7:26. First two miles 7:38, 7:36.

We were now clawing back that time and more: 7:08, 7:03, 7:09. This was not comfortable. After an aid station I found myself next to the leader. “Um, we did a fast couple of miles there.” “Yes, sorry about that. I get a little carried away on the downhills. I’ll pay it back.”

So much for flat pacing. Running three consecutive miles at close to my half-marathon pace may just have dropped my 3:15 goal into the Cuisinart, and we haven’t even reached 10K yet!

I was carrying a small disposable water bottle which was a boon at the early aid stations. I simply ran down the middle while everyone else ducked in and slowed for their cups. It lasted until the first relay handover at mile 6. I would usually come out in front of the group and let the leader gradually come by me. The arm-warmers? A spectator ducked as they flew past his head. I was getting over-warm, if anything. The pace settled down: 7:22, 7:19, 7:25, 7:25. I thanked the leader for these last two, and we promptly ran a 7:19 before dialing it back: 7:26, 7:34, 7:25.

The big experiment of the day were the road flats on my feet. Brooks T6 Racers are only recommended for up to half-marathon distance, but I find running in them so pleasurable that I took the chance. Apart from being lightweight they give tactile feedback of how my feet are landing which helps me to run efficiently. That’s the theory, anyway.

I reached the half in 1:36:41, about 49 seconds ahead of flat pace, so things were not looking too bad in aggregate, The goal was now simple: Stay with the group as long as I could, and to the end if possible. My legs and feet felt fine for now.

A fellow Brooks-ID member in the group, Tony, asked me how I was feeling. “OK, not terrific. You?” “Not too good”. He did seem to be working hard, and I wondered how long he would stay with the now-shrinking pace group. I suppose the faster Boston Qualifying pace groups attract more than their fair share of optimists. Miles 14 through 20: 7:29, 7:23, 7:19, 7:32, 7:21, 7:34. I fell a little behind the group in mile 18, but reeled them back in during the next mile. Tony was gone and we were now down to a half-dozen or so. Next two miles: 7:32, 7:33. He was paying back some time, but this provided little relief. At around mile 22 I fell behind again, my fade was starting in earnest.  The group was now small enough that they were weaving through the slower runners as a unit There were plenty of slower runners to pass. mostly young guys. I kept my attention on the group and tried to ignore the other runners, in order to keep my own speed up. 7:43, 7:50 – losing sight of them now. This really hurts. I’ll give up marathoning, or at least give it a rest for a while (I always say that) – 7:58, 8:03. Ah, the blessed 26 mile marker and turn to the finish. I managed a slight kick, covering the last .2 at 7:39 pace.  Chip time 3:16:35

50 yards to go

50 yards to go

So I missed my 3:15 goal, but I’m not upset about it. Most of the shortfall was due to the pacing which was less than ideal for me.  I’ll run solo in future, and I need to work on that fade. I’ll up the miles in the next training cycle. The shoes? The firmness was not too welcome in the final miles, so I’d say that the advantage of light shoes is diminished at the marathon distance. My calves are still sore days later, which might well be the shoes. I’ll try going up a notch, to the Brooks Green Silence next time.

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9 Responses to “Race: California International Marathon 2010”


  1. 1 Carrie Peterson-Kirby December 11, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Hey Jim,
    Nice to hear your perspective. Yeah that beginning was super cramped and just recently saw (after finally plugging in the Garmin) my guy had us run 3 sub 7 miles after the slow start. DOH! I love your arm warmers. Genius.

    Napa? Pacerless? C’mon Jim!!!

  2. 2 Flo December 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Excellent report! And I know it’s different when it’s your race, but to me, 3:16 sounds every bit as good as 3:15. It really sucks about the pacer. I don’t think swearing them off forever is necessary – hell, you yourself are a great pacer so there have to be more out there, but it sounds like that guy did a bad job, fair and square. (or unfair, as the case may be)

    It’s wonderful to see how much progress you’ve made since I’ve known you. You keep knocking them out and defying your age. I’m super proud of you, Jim. Can’t wait to see what 2011 holds.

  3. 3 jime2 December 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Hi Carrie.
    I figured you 3:10 speedsters must be running sub-7 the way you gapped us. I have not made plans for the spring yet. I should get on it!

  4. 4 Amy December 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Jim, you amaze me. You’re just picking off young guys left and right who were hoping and failed miserably to qualify at their 3:10 pace. At any rate, I’m with Flo…3:16 is pretty darn impressive. SO CLOSE to that 3:15, which I think may have had something to do with the less-than-stellar pacing you experienced (not that I could pace any better). Well done!

  5. 5 jime2 December 11, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Flo and Amy,
    I wouldn’t blame the pacer too much. He had a policy that was different from mine. And yes, I’ll take the 3:16. It’s an odd thing. This time last year I was wondering if 3:17 would be a lifetime PR. Now I’m pretty sure 3:16 is not.

  6. 6 Barb McQuinn December 12, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Hey, Jim,

    Great report, Jim!

    I was trying to stay between the 4:05 and 4:15 pacers, and with everyone slowing down sorting themselves out at the beginning, I found myself up with the 4:05 guy for the first 3/4 of the course.

    I wonder if they train those guys at CIM to use a faster-first-half strategy because of the terrain, because the 4:05 guy did exactly the same thing as yours! Sometimes he was going more than 1 1/2 minute-miles faster than goal pace, according to my Garmin. I was using a walk-jog plan of my own, so it didn’t really matter, except I noticed I had to jog for much more extended periods (vs my training) just to keep from getting way ahead of pace.

    Then by mile 18 I was having to lose the jog breaks to keep up with the 4:05’s on the flats. The trouble seemed to just be orthopedic discomfort rather than muscular/cardio fatigue. I decided to play it safe and keep the jogs in, so as not to blow up at the end!

    Bottom line is, next time I do CIM I will specifically do some downhill running training — that’s probably how the veteran pacers can take advantage of the early downhills without facing an orthopedic bonk later.

    • 7 jime2 December 13, 2010 at 7:59 am

      Hi Barb, and congrats on your BQ!
      The pacers don’t have to worry about blowing up because they’re going quite a bit slower than their race pace. The slow-fast-fade plan does seem to be common at CIM. Didn’t suit me.

  7. 8 Ewen December 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Well done Jim. Enjoyed reading your report. That’s a great PR, even if the pacers were a little erratic. Glad you’re keen to take some more time off, but I agree with Flo – 3:16 sounds just as good as 3:15. 3:13 or 14 though, now that would be nice 😉


  1. 1 Cuisinart mcquinn | Imagetree Trackback on September 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm

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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
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)

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