Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CIM 2011 Race recap

What a whirlwind of a weekend! The 29th annual race from Folsom to the State Capitol did not disappoint. Running in near-perfect marathon conditions that included temps in the upper 30s and 40s, clear blue skies and virtually no wind, CIM featured 6,000 starters with 5,750 eventual finishers. An additional 3,600 runners took part in the four-person relay, with 2,000 more participating in the 2.62-mile "maraFUNrun".  It was a well-run race—kudos to the wonderful volunteers and race organizers.  Long touted as the fastest course in the West, this was not an easy course. The course is deceptively difficult even with the “net” drop in elevation. Without further ado, here’s my race recap for marathon #23, CIM 2011.

Heidi and I drove up to the Expo on Saturday. The walk from the parking lot to the convention center was windy.  That worried me. The forecast said the winds would die down by Saturday, but there we were.  I thought of having to adjust the pacing and I just filed that in the back of my mind. At the Expo, we picked up our bibs, safety pins, tech-shirts, timing chip, and sweat bag full of useless coupons and advertisements.  It was a no-hassle pick-up, everything was organized according to last name alphabetically. Lines were minimal. Signs were easy to spot.
I was next

No lines on Saturday

On and off the announcement came which gave updates about the weather for race day: 37 degrees at the start and sunny skies.  They assured that winds were not going to be a factor. I got a little relief upon hearing that.  We walked around for a bit and said hello to my morning running buddy, Aron of Running Divas.com. (Aron ran the 8K Masters exhibition this June in Hayward Field in Oregon at the USA Track and Field Championships).    She looked great and their booth looked awesome.

The marathon shirts are wonderful. We got to pick long sleeve or short sleeves.  I love long sleeves and it was from Greenlight Apparel. The tech tee is a little more substantial than say the normal tech tees I’ve gotten recently from NY or Napa.  This shirt is perfect to run in cooler temps. And best yet, the small fits perfect! It is a true to size. I can’t tell you how dissapointed I get when the marathon shirt fits too big or too small.  They get an A+ for the marathon shirt.

Thank you for the great marathon shirt CIM!

There's more of a greenish tinge in real life.

After we’ve looked around we were out of the Expo in an hour. I am happy to report that I didn’t buy anything new. No shirt, no socks, jacket, or even gels. I must be getting better.

Heidi did get away with a running headband!
For a split second, I thought of buying a running tutu. You might think it is silly. But it would be perfect way for your loved ones to identify you on the course from a mile away. I can’t tell you how many times, hubby almost missed spotting me on the course.  One such day, long before the age of digital cameras, hubby had one shot left on the film in our camera. He took the shot, but as the subject came closer to him, and he realized, “Oops, that’s not my wife.” He kept it to himself until the picture was developed. It was a wonderful surprised when I finally saw it, “This isn’t me!”  He knew it at the time too and didn’t tell me. Anyway, back to the running tutu. It’s cute and girly and it looks awfully silly, but unique.  If he can’t pick me from the crowd, I don’t know what.
All done, time to get the timing chip.  Sorry for the unsteady hands, must be my excitement

We drove back to Elk Grove, about 15 minutes outside of Sacramento, to meet my friends, Leon and Vicky who hosted our stay overnight. (Vicky and I have been friends since Jr. High). We had dinner take out at Macaroni Grill and the pasta feed was on. My friends insisted on a dress rehearsal so we did.

Took a few photos and called it a night, after Heidi set up our breakfast on the counter: Oatmeal, banana and bagels. Leon set up his espresso machine.  I had a good night sleep all week and the night before was no exception. I had my phone alarm set to go off at 3:30.  I woke up three times in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  This time I didn’t bother looking at the clock, because that would stress me out counting down how much more time I could sleep.  Ignorance was bliss. Before I knew it, it went off.  Heidi likes to sleep as much as she can, so I let her be. I ate my breakfast and put on my running gear and throw away sweats.  The plan was to leave the house at 4:50 to be at the Sheraton Grand Hotel by 5:20 am.  Leon dropped us off and the buses and the lines formed were already blocks long.
The yellow school buses which would take us to Folsom.

Yeah, we're moving.
Keeping warm with my throw-away sweats from Goodwill.

It was cold at 37 degrees.  We got on the yellow school buses and left for the start at Folsom about 5:35 am, on time.

Upon relaxing on the bus, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my banana and bagel in my sweat bag. Rats! I felt like my breakfast was already wearing out. My plan was to eat the rest of my breakfast on the bus.  All I had to eat at 3:35 am was oatmeal, ½ of a roll of bread and a shot of expresso. The only thing I had in my bag was a my apple pie Larabar for after the race. So I ate that to top off my reserves. Mistake #1. There  was nothing I could do about it, it was not enough.

The bus ride took less than an hour. We were entertained to rocking disco music the whole way. We got to Folsom at 6:25am and the first order of business was porta potties!  When I saw the long lines of porta potties it was as if angelic voices sung “Hallejuhah”.
Gazillion porta-potties. This brings tears of joy to my eyes.
Taking care of business.  Sun is starting to come up.

We warmed up and did some static stretching and 10 minutes before the race started we hunted down our bag trucks for our sweat bags, then we took off for the starting lines. We looked for the 4:00 pacers and as soon as we found them the National Anthem was being sung.  The singer sounded like Leann Rimes.  But it probably wasn’t.  I guessed we were about 2 and a half minutes away from the start.  And just like that we were off!

Little blurry, but that's the start with the two blue arches.

It has been 3 years since I last ran CIM.  The first time was 2004, and then I waited until 2008 to return. Each time I came back with a small PR of 4:19 and 4:17, respectively.  Although I love earning those PR, it is a very difficult course. That’s probably why I gave it a few years before doing it again. The first 20 miles is pretty much rollers and if you’ve pace yourself correctly, you will have something for the final assault in the last 6 miles of gradual downhill.   If you didn’t—well it can feel like a death march.

Miles 1 – 5:
9:32/9:10/8:42/8:51 (Gu) /8:56

Mile 1 was downhill and Mile 2 was a slight up.  We were feeling pretty good, staying well on pace.  Heidi was running evenly behind me. We tried to hang to our pacing group as close as we could. It was crowded and jockeying for position sometimes can easily throw you out of whack. I was darting in and out of people that I had to be careful.  Since I am so short, I could get an elbow right on my face if I wasn’t paying attention.  Oh the perils of being short! In the early miles, we were surprised to see the 4:15 pacer on top of the 4:00 pacer, Heidi noticed it and I reassured her that we were fine. We didn’t need to increase our speed. Clearly the 4:15 pacer was going way too fast. She figured it out and finally pulled back a bit after she realized that her pacing group was ahh…behind her—duh!  Pacing is truly an art form!
I might have pulled away from the 4:00 pacers just a bit after the third mile. I wanted a little bit of cushion just in case for pit-stop—story of my life. Then I can catch back up. That was my rationale anyway.

Miles 6  – 13.1:
8:45/8:56/9:03/9:09 (Gu) /8:52/9:03/9:08/9:19

I was ahead of the pacers by a minute and a half or two.  Miles 6 to 9.55 had a bunch of rollers and I was trying my best not to fall off pace. If you’re going to mess up this is the place to do it. I met up with a fellow Marathon Maniac with that familiar goldenrod singlet. I ran with him for a few miles and felt great and in the groove up until crossing the 13th mile.  Then all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks, I was slowing down to look for places to go to the bathroom.  I thought of one area at first and then decided it was not good enough cover.

Miles 14 – 19:

At Mile 14, I was already feeling the distance. The rollers from Miles 6-9 took its toll on me. In hindsight, maybe I should have dropped back 15 seconds rather than keeping the 9:09 pace.  I thought “uh-oh” this was not good. I pulled out my salt packet. My hands were stiff from the cold and trying to get it out of the zip-lock baggies was a nightmare. Seconds were ticking away as I fumbled through the plastic bag. I accidentally dropped it near a wet spot at an aide station and thankfully it didn’t get wet.  I also took 2 Advils for the leg pains that was about to come on.  The salt/Advil mile took 10:17 from me. Yikes! I was a bit cutting it too close. I pressed on. I caught back up with the 4:00 group and catching back up with them threw my pacing a little. I hitched a ride with them for as long as I could.  I kept looking at the ground and the feet that were marching effortlessly in front of me.  “Stay with them. You’re not tired” I convinced myself. Then the devil won.  I let them go.  By Mile 15, I felt the urge to really go. I kept my eyes peeled for the green porta pots.  Found then and lined up.  Realizing that there was no progress after a few seconds, I decided to run again. At Mile 15.5, I found my spot behind a bush and a car, well- hidden. Perfect. After that it was a relief, I managed to pick up the pace and kept it in the 9:30s. By this time, even the 9:30s felt like a bigger effort to keep up. It was downhill from then on. At mile 17, a felt a friendly tap on the shoulder. Ah sight for sore eyes, it was Heidi! She looked strong and steady.  I told her I felt like “$&*t”. She said “No, we’re looking good.” I think she misunderstood the gravity of my statement. I tucked in behind her for a few more miles.  Then I told her to go ahead and stay strong, I was cramping. She told me to hydrate well on the next aide station.  That was good advice but it may have been a little too late. I had already tossed my water bottle with the GU Brew.  On this section and from here on out, I had to rely on the nasty Ultima drink they served.  It tasted like Grandpa’s cough medicine. It had vitamins, but who needs vitamins during a race? What I needed was electrolytes! I was so glad I had brought my own salt packets. Otherwise I would have been in worse shape.  In addition to that drink, the cups were dental Dixie cups that held 3 oz. of fluids.  One or two of those cups sure wasn’t enough.

Miles 20 – 26.2:
10:08 Gu /10:19 Gu /1039 Gu /1032/10:48/10:35/10:42/2:47

I kept behind Heidi for 3 miles but it was time to let her go. As soon as we crossed the dreaded “Wall” arch, I slowed my pace and there she went. I said “Good-bye Heidi and see you at the finish.” She couldn’t hear me. I trudge on, one foot in front of the other.   At Miles 20 to 22 I felt an incredible hunger. I squeezed in a Gu gel at every mile for 3 straight miles to keep the hunger at bay. This wasn’t a good sign. I knew I was running on empty and the Gu was not even making a dent.   Then the oddest thing happened on Mile 22 or it might have been on 21—I can’t remember for sure.  I needed it to chase down my Gu. I reached for a cup not paying attention to who was handing it out.  I noticed the bubbles and I thought great, finally an apple juice. I took a swig and spit it out. Beer! Argh! Not what I was expecting, it left a bad taste in my mouth. A older couple laughed at my expense as they saw me cringed.  I was glad I can make somebody smile.

I pushed the pace but my calves started to cramp. My legs would not let me do under 10:30 minute pace. It was a matter of survival. Gone were my dreams of subbing a 4:00 hour marathon.  That went away from the halfway mark. This was not my day, I’ve come to grips with that. I lowered my expectations and thought I would be very happy if I could do under 4:15 or even 4:12 and match my 2010 NY time.  On the other hand, it could have been much worse. There were runners on the sides who were stretching and obviously nursing some bad leg cramps. That could have easily been me.  I was just glad I was still moving, however glacial pace it may be.

At this point, I stopped looking at my Garmin. What was going in my head in this last 10K? Three months from this day, I would be running 2012 Napa Valley Marathon. I was sorry I mailed in my Napa registration. I wonder how receptive they would be if I lied and called them up and said I have no money in the bank, and not to cash my check?”  I hit a rough patch that, I even swore I will never run another marathon again. It was like a death march. Runners were now passing me left and right. At Mile 24 the 4:10 pacing group passed me running as strong as ever.  I wished I had done the walk breaks, that would have delayed the fatigue maybe?  All the “what ifs”, the “shouldas” and “couldas” were swimming in my head.

As we neared downtown Sacto, the fall colors of the trees lifted my spirits up. What a beautiful sight. The autumn colors of the trees reminded me of the East Coast.  For a split second, it erased my hurt. I just wished the finish would have been closer—a lot closer. I kept watching for the mile markers. Each time I saw that familiar blue flag which bore the mile markers, it signified that I was getting closer to the finish.  I knew two sharp left turns would be just up ahead.  There were two finish chutes: one for the men and one for the women. Finally I saw runners up ahead making that first left—“Thank you Jesus”. We’re here.  Then came my last left turn, I picked it up and the cramps gripped even stronger. No final kick for me today, “Just hold it steady and you’ll cross it.” I saw the clock barely turned over to 4:14.  Really? That meant I was right at my 2010 NY time—if I hurried. My Garmin read 4:11 and since it took me 2 ½ to cross the start, I knew it could be close. This might be my second best time! How sweet would that be! Then it happened. I finally crossed and official time was 4:12:06 and my Garmin time, identical at 4:12:06.
Surprisingly vertical after 26.2 miles

I got my handsome medal, my space blanket, took my after-photo shot, got my drink and chocolate milk.  I hobbled around for a bit trying to see if I could spot my red-headed friend! I got my sweat bag and headed into the changing tent.  Heidi and I agreed to find each other by the changing tent. This was a good plan. She found me and tears of joy were exchanged.  She PR’ed at 4:07:39 and beat her 2010 NY best of 4:08:08!
All done!
My good friend Vicky and I

One nice thing about CIM that I haven’t seen other marathons do is have a changing tent right there at the finish.  It gets cold with the running gear and it just feels 100% more comfortable if we could change into dry clothes as soon as it is over. Thank you CIM for having this!

My 2011 marathon season ended with CIM.  I couldn’t have been anymore happier than what I’ve been able to accomplish this past year with 5 marathons in 10 months. It wasn’t easy. Struggling with injuries in the beginning of the year and finally capping the year off with my second best time ever, can a girl ask for anything more?  I am forever thankful for someone above who keeps me safe and lets me keep doing what I love to do.

May you run long and happy!


  1. Great race report. You're my hero. Not sure, BUT, might see you in Napa!!! Don't whip me too badly!!!

  2. I hope to see you there Rich. Hoping for a great weather in Napa this time. haha! You beat me in Napa last year. I distinctly remember you passing me in the 24 th mile.