California International Marathon 2018

In Race, Running, Travel

For some races, I’ll write two race reports: a summary of first impressions that I write and post immediately after the race, and another (and usually longer) report after spending some time thinking about the experience with greater hindsight. CIM 2018 was one of these races.

The Summary

Marathon #11! Marathon #6 of 2018! Second ever negative split!!! And the third marathon that I can really call a resounding success in terms of execution.

This was not a PR (though it’s now my second fastest marathon) nor a BQ (though it would’ve beaten last year’s 3:05 standard). But I was SHOCKED that I had no problem cranking this one out. No cramps, no bonking, no GI issues (cue last year’s CIM story), I was still able to talk in full sentences at Mile 25, I was clear-headed all the way through. I was actually, literally able to stick with a pace group from start to finish — an all-time first!!! All after coming back from 4 weeks of non-running, 2 weeks of smoke, lots of recent non-running-related stress, and a non-trivial amount of weight gain.

I’ll (hopefully) write up more details later tonight. But at this point, I think my first impressions of what worked this time:

  1. I chose 3:05 (instead of gunning for a 3:00 BQ) this time, because I felt reasonably un-miserable running a 39:59 10K last Sunday. That translates to roughly a 3:04:30ish marathon. Also, given PTSD from getting injured during a marathon 3 months ago, and lingering reminders of that injury from almost every run, I knew that I wanted to play it safe. So while I think my 10K race pace could’ve been better, I think using that “comfortable” time was ultimately a good decision, that led me to avoid going out too fast.
  2. Using the 3:05 pace group was instrumental to my success today. Having a pace group is always beneficial. But I thought my pace group’s leaders today were a cut above. While they did start a little fast, they were literally exactly on pace for the vast majority of the race. And beyond that, they definitely helped the mental game when my motivation started to falter around Mile 23 (I literally started thinking to myself “oh, 3:06 won’t be too bad”).
  3. I ate a lot more Gu and Clif gels than I have ever eaten during a race. I ate Gu’s at Miles 4, 8, 12, 16.5, and 21ish. I ate two Clif gels that I picked up during the race, but forget exactly where. I think the extra fuel helped.
  4. On the note of fueling, I’m pretty sure I over-carboloaded. I gained about 10 pounds over the past week, though I kept my body fat % stable. That’s more weight gain in the course of carboloading than I’ve ever experienced, even before 50K’s (and the canceled TNFEC 50 Miler). Actually, I still need to lose about 4 of those pounds soon…
  5. I did do a shakeout run yesterday. But I don’t know whether that helped, hurt, or did nothing. I’m leaning toward slightly helped, though I probably shouldn’t have gone 6 miles at 8 min/miles. That said, I did get a lot of sleep this past week, which was good.

Finally, I think I was definitely more amped than usual for this race because there were so many people I knew! It’s so awesome to run, even solo, knowing that there’re others (that you know) running out there too! Even better, I had friends who came out to cheer! Thanks guys. πŸ™‚

OK, time to roll. Maybe more later.

Bib: 12098
Chip Time: 3:04:41 (7:03 min/mile)
Chip Start Time: 7:01:18AM PST
Gun Time: 3:05:43
Overall: 1079/7844 finishers. Male: 777/4189. M25-29: 138/439
Weather: 55F
Official Splits:
5K: 21:36 (+21:36, 6:57 min/mile)
10K: 43:19 (+21:43, 6:59)
15K: 1:05:41 (+22:22, 7:03)
20K: 1:27:48 (+22:07, 7:04)
Half: 1:32:26 (+4:38, 7:04)
25K: 1:49:26 (+17:00, 7:03)
30K: 2:11:19 (+21:53, 7:03)
35K: 2:33:22 (+22:03, 7:04)
40K: 2:55:17 (+21:55, 7:04)
Finish: 3:04:41 (+9:24, 7:03)

The Report

The day after I ran the Ottawa Marathon this past May, I took a bike tour around the city.

The guide was an avid cyclist. He asked me: “Do you remember what you see when you run? Most of my friends only look at the asphalt ahead of them!”

After I ran CIM last week, I wrote a quick summary (as I usually do) of my first impressions. I was elated; it’s unusual for me to finish a marathon without incident. In my write-up, I noted everything that seemed to work. What I didn’t include was a more traditional race report breakdown of how each segment of the race went (like I did for last year’s relatively lengthy CIM report).

“I’d write it up later!” Or so I thought. πŸ˜›

My problem now is maybe I was paying too much attention to the asphalt (and pace group leaders) in front of me! For the most part, I don’t remember too much of exactly what happened, other than some notable observations (after which I’ll include my original writeup). Here they are!

The Weather

This year’s didn’t seem that much colder than last year’s CIM. I remember just freezing in the Chevron parking lot just off the starting corrals, last year. Apparently it was colder this year (which lead to even more BQ’s and Olympic Trials qualifiers this year than even last year)!

The Circuit

CIM is the National Marathon Championship. It’s also a PA USATF race. That meant I could represent my PA USATF team. The thing is, the USATF only considers gun times when scoring teams. This works for smaller races. But for big races like CIM, this means lots of congestion at the starting line. (That said, they do do a great job of having an unusually wide start line and enough space between the start and the first turn for runners to settle into position.)

For me, I had decided at the last minute (as I had gotten off the bus from Sacramento to the Folsom starting line) that I was going to go out with the 3:05 (7:03 min/mile) pace group. In many marathons, this would put me maybe 20 seconds away from the start line. At this race, I was over a minute away! That said, it was a pleasant surprise to say hi to (and pass) teammates who did start closer to the start line, during the race!

The Start

My 3:02 group last year started slow (due to some of the rolling hills at the beginning of the course). I expected my 3:05 group this year to do the same. Last year, I made the mistake of ditching that group and going ahead, only for them to catch up to me late into the marathon. I was determined not to repeat that mistake this year.

But to my surprise, my 3:05 group went out clocking some 6:54-6:57 min/mile average (or a 3:01 marathon time) for the first 10K! Ultimately, we slowed down. But, because of the fast start, one of the pacers ended up looking at his watch every so often and say, “Oh, we’re over half a minute ahead” or “Oh, we’ve still got 14 seconds in the bank.”

The pacers talked about having a competition with other pacers: whoever was closest to their target time (though under that time, of course), would win a prize. I think they came in pretty close to 3:05 (I sprinted ahead with 200 meters to go to be 19 seconds under my group’s time). Overall, I thought my pacers this year were excellent!

The Support

I only saw one supporter I knew, during the race. Thanks Allegra! The SF Runs crew also showed up, but apparently they missed me by a second at 20 mile mark (they even made a sign for me! Yay for Victorios!) Having SF Runs at this event was really special icing on the cake.

Oh, I thought there’d be a non-zero chance I’d see people from the hostel during the race. I didn’t mention it in my initial impressions write-up, but staying at the hostel this year was pretty awesome. Last year, the hostel seemed to be a bit surprised by all the marathoners. This year, they were prepared: there were streamers along the ceilings, they prepared a special pasta dinner the night before the race for everyone (almost the entire hostel was booked by marathoners), they had breakfast at 4AM for us.

Anyways, one of the runners I met was a Stanford PhD student. After quietly introducing herself, she spent most of her time reading research papers she had printed out. I found out the next day that she almost qualified for the Olympic Trials with a 2:46:34 (6:22 min/mile) (the “B” standard for women is 2:45:00).

The Race

As for the race itself, I really thought I was going to have trouble after passing the Wall, just before Mile 20. The pacers had been declaring Mile 20 to be the “half way” mark (and I agree!). But, even though my legs felt heavier, the bonk never came.

Incidentally, I started have more trouble keeping it together after Mile 22 (after passing the “Welcome to the Final Four” banner). For most of the race, I had been surprised that my heart rate had stabilized at a pretty sustainable 85%-ish effort. But after Mile 23, I noticed that my HR had crested some 92-93%, with all signs pointing up. But, I still had my life raft (the pace group), and suddenly it occurred to me that if I could run sub-3:05, then my terrible performance last year would be avenged; I would achieve last year’s goal to BQ (under last year’s BQ standard)…

The Finish

After every race (and really, after any interview or other test in life), I always wonder if I could’ve done better. I’ve been asked several times yesterday and today about this race, and to be honest, I’ve really started second-guessing. Could I have done better? Certainly, my Garmin did (it told me right after the race that it thought I could run a sub-2:50 marathon), and certainly I did the day after the race (after not really feeling that sore).

But this race is over. It’s in the books. And really, I much prefer this feeling (“could I have done even better?”) than the sinking, demoralizing one I had last year (“what went wrong?”).

And, What Next

  1. Christmas Relays next week! Other than Ragnar, I don’t think I’ve run relay since high school. The distance (~4.5 miles) is kinda strange, and it’s a route I’ve literally never seen. It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to be in good fun.
  2. Hot Chocolate 15K next January? I skipped last year’s Hot Chocolate because I was getting trained as a running coach. Still, some other students went and did it anyway (with instructor permission). Much regret. Anyway, I love the sweatshirt I got from running this event two years ago (i.e. “the flooded one”); I’m looking forward running next year’s, especially with other SF Runs runners.
  3. FOURmidable 50K. Yup, it’s confirmed. Really looking forward to this one in Auburn, the “endurance capital of the world”. πŸ™‚ February 16th, 2019.
  4. Napa Valley Marathon. I’ll be missing wet socks from Way Too Cool 50K next year, to run Napa. This’ll be my spring marathon next year (in lieu of not getting London, Tokyo, OR Boston). March 3rd, 2019.

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