Posts Tagged 'CIM'

California Internationa Marathon 2013

This was my 5th CIM, and my first trial of the Hansons training program. I was curious about it having seen so many good reports, and decided the best way to learn about something is to do it. I added some miles to the Advanced plan in Luke Humphrey’s book, peaking at around 75, but the “Something Of Substance” workouts were performed as written.

I was feeling pretty good going into the race, and set a goal of 3:15 or better. I made up a ‘flat’ pace band of 7:25 minute miles and left the Garmin at home. The temperature was in the 20s at the start, but the road was mostly dry and ice free. Mostly. I did slip on a small patch of ice in the start corral but took the warning to heart, and only slipped one other time. I carried a “throwaway” water bottle which in fact lasted the whole race, allowing me to avoid most of the ice at the early aid stations.

I lined up at the back of the 3:15 pace group intending to use them as a rough pacing aid. I had my own geeky scheme for the first mile, where my pace band included target splits for six intersections, the first of which was just 107 meters from the start. Thanks Google Earth.

The first half mile was a little slow, but I got into gear on the downhill and reached the first mile marker just 2 seconds behind the pace band. The 3:15 pacer had zipped off ahead, then gradually come back to me. I think that without the reassurance of my mini-splits I would have wasted energy staying close to him. The group ran mile 2 about 5 seconds fast, then the next mile 16 seconds fast! While I was cogitating this, the pace leader slowed at an aid station and I found myself out ahead of the group. Hmm. If you think the group is going too fast, is it really wise to quit it frontwards?

Things felt good at first, and I was entertaining thoughts of going for a big PR, but by mile 6 I decided this was a little optimistic, and allowed myself to give up some time on the uphills. Note to self: More hill training next cycle! While in this cruise mode, 2 to 7 seconds slower than goal pace, I reached the half in 1:37:06 and got all the way to mile 14 before the group came level again. By this time they were hitting their splits with some accuracy, so I stuck around.

At mile 20 I oozed ahead again to see how much under 3:15 I could get. Not much it would seem. The pacer’s encouraging exhortations were still audible behind me. After the bridge around mile 22 a headwind got up, which pierced both my shirts with little needles. I found a young guy to draft behind and worked hard as the cross streets counted down. He gapped me at mile 25 but that was OK.

I was still ahead of the group, which seemed to have gone quiet. They were no further away, but were now so few in number that the pacer had no need to raise his voice! The surge was not happening, I was actually losing 1 to 3 seconds per mile at this point, but much of that was extra distance, snaking through the slower runners. The 3:10 pacer had also slowed slightly to get back on schedule, or he would have passed me. He is in the background of my finish photo, about 20 yards back. Chip time 3:14:50, somewhat slower than my PR(3:13:14) of two years ago, but I cheered myself up by plugging the times and ages into an age-grading calculator. At 77.1% this was an age-graded PR, so there’s that.

Could I have beaten that PR with better pacing? It’s a stretch. If the wind had been friendlier at the end, then probably. Hansons worked for me, although there’s nothing magical about it. I will continue to use a version of it because it’s pattern suits me. For instance, not everyone can do a lengthy MP run on a weekday, but I just about can. The dialed-back intensity of the workouts was also helpful in keeping injuries at bay.

Trying to put some space between me and the 3:15 pacer!

Trying to put some space between me and the 3:15 pacer!


California International Marathon 2011


This has been my fourth year in a row running CIM. The previous three have all produced PRs, so I was definitely returning to the trough for more. I had seemed to be slowing down in the spring, having run a 1:36 half marathon, and the Napa Marathon in 3:24.
So a I took a two week break, then worked up to lots of volume, 70-80 mile weeks, while also doing weekly track workouts. Another half would have been a good pointer to how things were going, but I never got around to it.
The arrows started to point up. I got a small PR in a tricky 10K at Lake Merritt. The two cross country races where I ran the same courses as last year were also course PRs.
So what would be a good goal, assuming conditions were suitable? Well Duh. I had been aiming for 3:15 last year and missed, so it was time to knock that down before it became an insuperable barrier in my mind. What else?

The New York Marathon is changing it’s rules for guaranteed entry times. They used to be just a little harder than Boston qualifications, but too many people were qualifying so they are toughening it up for 2013.  So for instance a man under 40 would need to run under 2:45, and I would need to get under 3:14. I have sometimes felt envious of those who have struggle to qualify for Boston. Not for the struggle part, but for the huge sense of achievement when they get it. My BQ time is 3:40, which um, lacks excitement. But 3:14 could be my reachable Holy Grail.

Last year I followed the 3:15 pace group, but eventually fell off it after some non-ideal pacing. The CIM course is easy to foul up on. The early downhills tempt a runner into going too fast, while the rolling hills are short enough to invite attacking at constant pace. This approach, while satisfying, burns precious fuel that needs to be conserved for the fast final miles.

My training was extemporized around a weekly framework. A track workout on Tuesday and something else challenging at the weekend, either a race, long run, or combination run with faster miles. Weekly mileage was in the 70s with the biggest week at 83.


Early in the program a suggestion had cropped up in the Runner’s World Online forum that I frequent, which I described to Cathi:
“CIM is on the morning of the 4th, the Las Vegas marathon is in the evening of the same day, and there’s a flight…”
“Hahahahaha!, I’ll go straight to Vegas and scrape up what’s left of you, then.”
“I’m not going to do it.”
But others would, and we had a get-together at the Spaghetti Factory on the Saturday evening. Some familiar faces were there, including James, who has run three or four marathons with me. “With” in this case means “Some considerable distance on front of”, but we seem to have a knack for bumping into one another at expos. He was doing the double, and was planning to run CIM at about 3:20 to leave something in the tank for Las Vegas. 3:20 was considered the cutoff for making the plane. At the dinner he was talked into trying for a PR (sub-2:58), then risking total flameout in the evening. Excellent advice as it turned out. Steve, who was doing his own version of the double, arrived to applause. He had run the North Face 50-miler in Marin that morning, cutting nearly two hours off his previous year’s time, and would be running Las Vegas the next day. In the company of these people, the prospect of attempting to PR at 26.2 the next day lost all it’s gravitas. It was as if I were about to run a 10K turkey trot. There were some new faces present, including Joel, about whom more later.

The Race

It was clear, chilly and windless in Folsom that morning. Predictably I ran into James at the bag drop. He showed me his well-stuffed CIM drop bag. “Everything is in there, street clothes, phone, everything.” Wow, talk about traveling light. He headed forward while I lined up near the 3:15 pace group. I asked the leader if he was the same guy that had led this group last year. No. I considered this excellent news.
I hung back a little as we surged to the line, wanting to take care of my own pacing until the pace leader proved himself. Even at a runners race like CIM there are a few rubes who start too close to the front, and once I’d weaved though them I was about 30yards back from the pace leader’s stick. Perfect. Nothing to do but relax, think about good form on the downgrade, and keep an eye on that stick. I was not wearing my Garmin, having reverted to the old-school method of stopwatch and pace-band (7:25 per mile, 3:14:27 finish). Nothing to obsess over until that first mile marker came into view. This pace felt more like casual group run than a race. What a lovely morning!
The leader was scoring points with me. There was an abrupt little rise just before the first mile marker, and he slowed quite a bit. First mile 7:35, so far so good. now for the real test. I missed the mile 2 marker, but mile 3 (22:30) revealed he had given up a little bit more and was in no big hurry to claw back those seconds. Excellent! I moved up level with him, complimented him on a good job, and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. Ther was Joel. He was a very fast runner at shorter distances who had yet to run a satifactory marathon. On top of that he had had a dose of strep throat that week. “Hi. How are you feeling?” “”Pretty good at the moment, but I always hit the wall at 23 miles.” “Don’t say always, say up till now.” I advised. The only other runner whose name I knew was because she had felt-tipped it down the sides of her legs. “Go Brittany!” “Ha! Apparently they don’t do that here.” She was from Detroit.

We ticked off the miles over the rolling terrain, 7:16, 7:28, 7:24, 7:25, gradually homing in on the 7:26 average required for 3:15. The leader knew the course well, and would loudly announce upcoming hills and aid stations. After the first relay handover point I found myself ahead of the group and went on autopilot for a little while, then I discovered I could not see the stick behind. Oops, this was too early to be leaving the group, no matter how comfortable I felt. I wanted to make solid sure of beating 3:15 before trying for anything faster. I tried to relax and pretended I was driving a car on empty. Just enough gas pedal to get up this hill, don’t pass that guy, coast down the other side. Relax, relax… After about two miles of this the group caught me again, and I stayed with them for quite a while. 7:33, 7:27, 7:14, 7:23 to mile 11.

I missed mile 12, but mile 13 was 14:49 (7:25 average), and we reached the half in 1:37:16. Still able to do basic math at this point, I thought Hey, we’re now ahead of 3:15 pace, how’d he do that?  Gradually. We were right on my 3:14-and-a-half pace band.

Things got more purposeful now. While the pace was still comfortable, there would be no inadvertent drifting ahead anymore. My disposable water bottle finally ran out at mile 15. One unexpected problem had come up. My gels were in a small 4 oz. flask so that I could avoid the whole rip, squish, sticky fingers dance. Usually I diluted them a little bit but this time I had wanted to get the maximum gooey goodness into the flask. Big mistake. I had to squeeze really hard to get any out, and ended up only consuming about half of the contents. Oh well.  Joel was running a little ahead of the group, and I joined him. “I seem to have got ahead of the plan” He said. Without really discussing it we dropped the pace slightly and started passing people.

7:19, 7:17, 7:19 to mile 16, speeding up a little now than most of the rollers were behind us. My friend Karen, out to support several LMJS runners in the race, intercepted my headband and gloves as I dropped them in front of her. She later commented “They skidded right past me. I was amazed at how fast you were going”

7:17, 7:17, 7:18, 7:20 (some uphill there) to mile 20. Joel was quite entertained by the ‘wall’ archway that we ran through at mile 20, with the grim reaper capering beside the course.

7:17, 7:17, 7:15 to mile 23. The hill to the bridge was the last uphill of any significance, So we just punched over it. This late phase of a race where you are passing people has been described as “assassin mode”. You pick out a runner, reel them in, pick out the next one, etc. This was not so much assassination as massacre, we were passing dozens and dozens of runners. It was good to have someone to run with to help keep a steady pace amongst all these slower runners. Joel was overjoyed not to have experienced the wall this time. “It’s a modern miracle” he exclaimed, and dropped the pace quite a bit. This was faster than I wanted to go, so he waved goodbye and tore off at sub-7 pace.

On my own now, it was time to do some serious work in the last three-plus miles. The pace band put me in sub 3-14 territory but my brain was now in innumerate mode and I wanted to make sure. At one point I had had to remind myself “Er, number on watch lower than number on band, that’s good, right?” The course did a quick left-right onto Sacramento’s L street. Brittany brushed elbows as she took the inside on the second turn. Assassinated! She must have been chasing us hard for several miles. Having passed me she faded a little and I was soon in front again. I saw from the results she finished a few seconds back, so must have witnessed what happened next.

Back at mile 18 or so Joel had remarked “These bottles are a life saver.” My response: “Er yeah. Wait, what? Bottles?”. Since my hand-held ran out I had been drinking from the little cups held out by the volunteers and had failed to notice a table at each station stacked with 12oz water bottles. Thus alerted, I guzzled two of them in the next five miles which turned out to be too much. After the 24 mile marker the queasiness set in. Uh oh. Please go away, I have a race to finish here. I fought for control but it got worse. That mile was unsurprisingly a bit slower at 7:24. By the 25 mile marker it was obvious I was going to be sick. I thought about Meb Keflezighi, who stopped to spew at mile 18 before running a PR at New York this year. Do I have to stop? let’s find out… After a some preliminary sputters, about half a pint of water/gel mix came out in a neat stream and hit the roadway. None on my shirt, Whoohoo! I was going though the final aid station at the time. My sincere apologies to the volunteers and to Brittany for that grossness. The effort of doing it made my head swim, but I felt better after slowing for a few seconds and started running hard again. That was one of my fastest miles at 7:15.

The remaining .2 was disposed of in 1:35 (7:12 pace). I saw Cathi yelling at me in the last 100 yards. She was startled at my slightly early arrival and failed to get a picture. I saw 3:13:low on the finish clock and felt very much better coming up to the line. Someone was handing out cartons of chocolate milk, and I chugged one right down.


So: 3:13:14 chip time with a 1:12 negative split. Mission accomplished. Joel must have really hauled ass after leaving me, since he managed a 3:10. I found him with his friend Rachel (3:05) from Australia, gleefully reading splits from their Garmins. I had failed to notice training buddy Bob quietly tailing the 3:15 group. He got a 3:14 PR.
And the Vegas-bound crew? Gone when I got there. James ran a 2:55, Matt a 3:01, Kevin 3:02, all PRs. Paul, whose crazy idea that had been. missed the flight to Sacramento and only ran Vegas. That was a terrible race, so it it was just as well that they slow-jogged it.

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.

CIM is near.

I’ve noticed that some marathoners seem to shed items as they go, like rockets on the way to orbit. Gloves, arm-warmers, drink bottles, food wrappers, and so forth.
After some thought, I’m going to join them. My policy on drinking up to now has been to tank up immediately before the start, so I can skip the first aid station. I would use a disposable water bottle, and get rid of it when entering the start area.  Now I’m going to take that bottle with me for the first few miles. I’m unused to handhelds, So I’ve been practicing this week, putting on gloves while running without dropping it My bottle has a duct-tape handle, which makes life a lot easier.

So I have a pacing plan that involves starting out at 7:35/mile and accelerating. I’ll reach the half in 1:38.xx and blow past the 7:15 pace group at about mile 22. If I fall behind the plan, catching them by the finish will be the challenge du jour.
This would get me there in 3:14:xx, but it’s a rather large 2:3x negative split. I probably wont stick to it exactly, It’s more of a reminder to take it easy and not weave through the runners in the first few miles. That part will hopefully come at the end.

Or I could just run with the 3:15 pace group. 😉

CIM has tracking for the first time, And they seem to have been testing it today. Imagine my surprise to discover that I’ve already run it, and finished in 2:59:46! That data is gone now. If you’re interested, there’s a prominent link on the home page at Last name: Eckford.


When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in the USA, pig out on turkey and all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, Whoohoo!
I’m thankful I discovered running, and the friends that come with it, and also thankful that I’ve made it to taper time in fairly good shape.

What have I been up to? Our club, the LMJS, is organizing a training program for the Oakland Marathon and Half. The marathon program started last week, so now there are about 75 people following three training programs drawn up by little old me (with some input from others). Eek! I hope they’re doing OK. The weekly supervised runs will be plenty hilly, since the course has a major hill in it.  I’ve run various bits of this course at different times. The uphill’s not too bad, but that descent down Lincoln is not be trifled with. It’s on concrete too. They don’t put asphalt on gradients that steep. The half-marathoners are starting their training soon, and I’m still working on those plans…

Today I’m taking a day off as part of my taper. CIM is the weekend after next, and I’m still thinking about a pacing plans For the first time I’m planning a negative split instead of doing it by muddle. I’m tinkering with a spreadsheet to get the splits out. I’m not sure if I’ll use a pace band, or try and memorize it all. The memorization trick would involve a set off offsets from 7:30 pace, hitting zero around halfway, then going negative. After mile 18-20 or so, it stops being a pacing plan, and becomes a schedule. “Hitting mile 20 in X equates to a finish time of Y” type of thing. Nice to know if you’re pushing to hit a particular goal.

Speaking of pace bands, I volunteered at the LMJS 4th Sunday Runs last weekend, and at the start Loraine showed me a small post-it note with three mile splits on it. Yup, a 5K “pace band”. It worked, and she got another PR, on her own this time. Good job, Loraine! Her husband, Dan, has been coming back from a knee injury that the docs seemed to think is degenerative, but maybe isn’t. He’s been running in a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes, with good results. It looks like there’s something to this barefoot/minimal-shoe trend.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

And Now For Hudson

So far I’ve done four marathons, and the training programs have been: Runners World SmartCoach, Jack Daniels Marathon Plan ‘A’ (twice), and Pfitzinger 12/70 (12 weeks/70 miles per week). For the next one, it’s Hudson level III. What a faithless fellow I am! But variety is good, and it is necessary to ramp up the training to keep pace with improved speed and endurance. Hudson calls his philosophy “Adaptive Training” because he expects the runner to adapt the plan on the fly according to feedback. In practice this is mostly pace adjustments, but might also involve changing workouts around completely. It helps to have a bit of experience, of course. I recall being nervous during my first marathon cycle. Any substantial departure from the magical plan would lead to certain doom on race day.

In the last cycle there were only 13 weeks between races, so I had just one week of recovery before commencing the 12/70, which started with a bang. That first week called for 55 miles, and was kinda tough. I felt that I was struggling to keep up during some of that cycle. 12 weeks is too short.

This time, with a luxurious 20 weeks between marathons, I had planned to do two weeks of resting and recovery runs before starting Hudson at week 3. After just one week I was getting fretful. On the Saturday I ran some miles at a fast-easy pace with the group, and that was fine. The early weeks of the plan looked fairly easy, so I started in om Monday. So far so good, and things got more comfortable (and faster) as the week progressed. I’m back on the horse! Next marathon: CIM on 7th December. Next half: San Jose R&R on 4th October. Both of these are on fast courses, so I’ll get dome good feedback on the training.

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)


July 2018
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