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 CIM Race Report - Boston or Bust
Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

CIM Race Report - Boston or Bust Posted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 10:17 am 

Yet another race report... I promise I'll try to keep this one short!

This past Sunday I ran the California International Marathon, between Folsom and Sacramento CA. It was my fifth marathon, and my second attempt at a Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3:10:59 or better. Only seven weeks earlier I'd run 3:15:55 at the Des Moines marathon, so going into CIM I was not as well rested as I would have liked. Still, I felt pretty good. My training prior to Des Moines had peaked at 75 mpw with plenty of long runs. In the gap between Des Moines and CIM, I rebuilt to 56 mpw before tapering down in preparation for race day.

CIM is a point-to-point race. It begins in Folsom and goes mostly due west to Sacramento, ending on the steps of the California state capitol building. Most runners stay in a Sacramento hotel and then ride a chartered bus to the starting line before the race, but I stayed with a friend in Folsom instead. That actually made getting to the start a bit of a challenge, since the road closures prevented private cars from getting closer than about a mile to the start. Fortunately a bit of crazy back-road driving at 6AM enabled me to sneak into some residential neighborhoods and find a parking spot on the street just a few hundred yards from the start.

Weather forecasts from the day before had looked dismal: rain, wind, and cold. Foretunately the sky gods took some pity on us, and the predicted rain and winds never materialized. The cold was in full effect though, as the temperature at the start hovered around the freezing mark. I noticed frost condensing on the shoulders and hats of everyone around me.

I was undecided about running with the pace group versus going it alone. My general feeling about pace groups is that they're more trouble than they're worth, and I can do just fine on my own. But in the minutes before the start, I eavesdropped on the 3:10 pace group leader's advice, and it filled me with confidence. It was his third or fourth time as a CIM pacer, and he promised dead-even splits that would get the job done "99 times out of 100". I decided to cast my lot with the pace group.

The first few miles of the course were rolling hills, with an overall elevation drop of a few hundred feet. Moving with the 3:10 runners felt okay, although the pace group was so large that it did get cramped at times. Passing through aid stations was especially challenging, as the large pack of runners coming through in a short space of time often overwhelmed the volunteers' ability to hand out water and sports drink. The pace felt pretty good, maybe just a hair too fast. As the sun rose higher and the world began to warm up, our group clicked through the miles. The pace leader was close to dead-on accurate, never varying our mile splits by more than a few seconds even as we ran up and down a variety of hills.

We cruised through the half-marathon mark on pace in 1:34:44, a new half-marathon PR for me. I was a bit tired but still feeling pretty good, and I began to get excited. It was looking increasingly likely that I'd reach my 3:10 goal. I even thought about pushing ahead a little faster, but decided against it. Miles continued to click by, and I stuck tight with the 3:10 group. Through mile 17, everything was looking good.

Somewhere around mile 18 I think the group leader realized we'd fallen a bit behind, and we picked up the pace ever so slightly. My perceived effort level went up sharply. I began to feel the dreaded late race exhaustion. By mile 19, I was working really hard to stay with the group. Just short of mile 20, laboring and exhausted, I finally gave up and let them go. I came through mile 20 in 2:25:33, which is about a 7:17/mi average pace. I later did some math and determined that that was my best-ever running performance at any distance.

Just after the mile 20 marker, there was a huge brick wall prop erected across the road, with a door for the marathoners to run through. I appreciated the joke, but it suddenly didn't seem so funny. I hit the wall of my physical limits, and hit hard. At first I thought I might just slow a little, and finish in 3:11 or 3:12, but that quickly became out of the question. The last 6 miles descended into a zombie survival shuffle, fighting cramps, pain, and misery with every step. My mile splits slowed to 7:56, 8:17, 8:58, 9:13, 11:45... so much pain. For the last couple of miles, it was all I could do to alternate walking and jogging every few hundred yards. With about a mile to go, I promised myself I would run the rest of the way without stopping. I barely managed to keep that promise, painfully shuffling across the finish in 3:24.

Did I learn any lessons from this race? In retrospect it seems I went out too fast, and paid the price at the end. I don't think I would change it, though. I didn't come with a goal to run a PR, I came with the specific goal to run 3:10, and that's what I paced myself to do. I feel pretty good about having stuck tight with the pace group for most of the race, nearly all the way to the 20th mile. Setting a new half-marathon PR helps too, and 3:24 is still a very respectable time especially considering I took almost an hour to cover the final 10K. With some rest followed by a few more months of solid training, I'm pretty confident I'll reach that 3:10 goal soon.


OldManRunner
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Rochester, NY
Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 262

Re: CIM Race Report - Boston or Bust Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:58 am 

Way to go Steve, and congratulations on a solid effort and a new 1/2 marathon PR. Having the pace group leader pick up the pace after 18 or more miles is a real heart breaker...I know from my own experience. Were you able to hydrate sufficiently? It sounds like things were pretty crazy at the water stations.

ginger

Cambridge, MA
Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 46

Re: CIM Race Report - Boston or Bust Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 10:29 am 

Great job Steve! Sounds like you could definitely break 3:10 if you were fully recovered.

I've never run with a pace group so it was good to hear that you enjoyed the experience. It's a mixed bag, I think. You get encouragement and hopefully really even splits, without having to think about it yourself, but you also have to deal with the crowd, particularly at the beginning. By mile 20 how many people were in the 3:10 group?


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: CIM Race Report - Boston or Bust Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 11:19 am 

Even at mile 20, the pace group was pretty big... probably a few dozen people. It was like night vs. day when I dropped off the back of the group. After running in a tight crowd nearly elbow to elbow for 2.5 hours, suddenly there was NO ONE around. It was kind of spooky.

I looked up the 3:10 pace group leader's finishing time, and it was 3:14, so he was definitely fading. In retrospect, I'm glad I fell apart, because if I'd stuck with the group leader the whole way and then missed 3:10, I would have been pissed.

I wonder if hydration might have been a problem. On several occasions I did think that I wished there were more aid stations. They seems kind of spread out during the first half of the race, and the cups were pretty small too. Did anyone else who ran CIM have that reaction?


ginger

Cambridge, MA
Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 46

Re: CIM Race Report - Boston or Bust Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 11:41 am 

Rickshaw wrote:
I wonder if hydration might have been a problem. On several occasions I did think that I wished there were more aid stations. They seems kind of spread out during the first half of the race, and the cups were pretty small too. Did anyone else who ran CIM have that reaction?


If it had been warm I would've wanted aid stations more frequently. As it was cold I was ok with the frequency, but I ran between pace groups so was pretty much alone and able to get two cups per aid station (one water at the beginning of the station, on gu2o later in the station.)


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