The weather was cool with some light rain from miles 3 to 5 and then again during mile 20. This being my 7th time running the California International Marathon, I did the best compared to expectations, although it was still the slowest that I've run this race. My goal was around 3:15:00 and I finished in 3:09:43 with my fastest miles at the end. This should qualify me for the Boston Marathon in 2021.
I had wanted to run the Boston Marathon again and so I needed to get my "BQ" or Boston Qualifier. After coming back from an injury in 2018, I never quite regained my speed. Some of the problem was motivation -- running 70 miles a week takes a lot of time and my family and I had moved to Belmont, and I didn't have a strong local running community any more. The other problem was probably my training for Sinister 7, a tough hundred miler in the Canadian Rockies; I just wasn't doing enough speedwork. So, my attempt to qualify at the Santa Rosa Marathon in August failed. (Race report.)
So, for CIM, I did some key things differently:
1. I learned about the Belmont Runners, a local running club, and I started attending the track workouts every Thursday night.
2. I got in maybe 8 long runs of 20 miles, and those were getting better and faster.
3. I paid the most I have ever paid for running shoes -- $275, including tax and delivery -- for the Nike Vaporfly Next%.
On the day before the race, I traveled with my friends Rachael and Bob and their big old dog to Sacramento. Rachael was also running the race and she also wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but without having done any speedwork or long runs for a couple of months, her chances of qualifying were quite low.
The expo was in a new location, a stadium, and it worked well. We enjoyed listening to a panel of interesting speakers talk about their various accomplishments and challenges. I met up with an Excelsior running club member (my newest running club), to pick up a shirt that I would wear during the race.
|Rachael and I at the Expo|
4:10am -- woke up. Ate 1.5 bagels with peanut butter and drank a Starbucks Mocha. I felt full and didn't want to eat any more.
~5am -- was picked up by Bob and Rachael.
~5:10am -- dropped off at nearest bus pick-up spot. The bus departure time was listed as 5am, but that would just be the first bus. With so many runners and such a long line of buses, we had plenty of time and there were a lot of people behind us.
|Catching the one-way bus|
The weather at the start area was fine -- cool (but not freezing) and without rain. After standing in line for the porta-potties, it was time to drop off our drop-bags and then get positioned for the start! We didn't have time to do a proper jog or any strides to warm up.
|Excitement is in the air!|
Soon, the race began! I hadn't experienced this two-lane start before, but it worked really well. Each large group of runners was instructed to walk up to the start line, and volunteers with ropes controlled our pace. This led to a very smooth start where we could run as soon as we crossed the start line.
The first two miles felt easy and I stayed just in front of the 3:15 pace group. I recognized a bright neon-yellow shirt of another Excelsior club member and I said "hi" to her. She had started near the front, in order to have a "gun time" even though her goal pace was substantially slower than my goal pace. We wished each other luck and I pulled ahead.
I started pulling ahead of the 3:15 pace group and I wouldn't see them again for the remainder of the race. I felt good and at ease, running about 7 minutes 20 seconds a mile.
A light rain occurred for around miles 3 to 5. It was pleasant.
The miles ticked by pleasantly. I ate an energy gel at the 40 minute mark and then the 80 minute mark.
Around mile 11, I felt a twinge of a cramp in my right foot, which felt like a tug on my foot, bending it inwards. Oh oh. I hoped that eating a caffeinated energy gel would help relax my muscles somehow, so I ate that early, at around the 13 mile mark. Otherwise, my breathing was easy and I felt good.
The volunteers were great and the aid stations were well organized, and the volunteers shouted clear instructions about who had water and who had sports drink. I always went for the sports drink, figuring I could use the salt and calories.
The race has multiple categories of wheelchair divisions, but I came across a kind that I had never seen before. It was a three-wheel racing-type wheel-chair, but he had working legs and feet and was pedaling, with gears, and steering with his hands! I was very confused. He was older and heavy-set and all of the runners were passing him on an uphill. Then on the downhill he flew by us, going at least 20 miles per hour, and I never saw him again. How can a running race have pedaled racing tricycles? Maybe the guy was unable to walk but could still use his legs?
My cramps seemed on the edge but under control. Another problem was developing, though. I started feeling both the need to pee and poop! Doh! I kept telling myself to go just one more mile. Argh, stupid body.
I seemed to be passing people more often, and I wasn't being passed by others. Somewhere around mile 17, I noticed another runner keeping pace with me and we were slowly passing people together. At mile 20, I commented out loud, to myself as much to her, "Just a slow 10K left. We do this all the time." I was starting to feel desperate. We reached this awesome cheering section on a bridge, that had a bunch of stationary bicycles with hard-pedaling people and a cheer section and pumping music. It was the best cheer section of the race. We chatted a bit over the next few miles. I was pushing harder and harder. My breathing and heart rate felt under control, but I was "red lining" my legs and energy levels. Around mile 22, she said she needed to slow down to a 7:15 per mile pace and I think we had been running at 7:05 pace. I wished her luck. Onward.
|Staying focused while making a left turn in mile 25|
I wandered over to the women's finish area and waited for a while for my "friend", but we somehow missed each other. I started feeling cold, so it was time to get my drop bag.
In the exit area, the food and drinks were really nice. It was the first time that I've seen them hand out reusable water bottles with optional Nuun tablets.
The drop bag pickup area had moved from previous years (it used to be on part of the lawn on the capitol grounds) but was now on a street. It was worrisome that there was quite a crowd around each sign that listed the bib number range for that area. I was four rows back. I'll try not to exaggerate -- it seems like a drop bag was delivered over the fence about every 45 seconds to one minute, and it took from 15 to 20 minutes for me to get mine. We runners were all holding our bibs above our heads, so that the volunteers could see our numbers. As one arm got tired, I switched arms, back and forth. The volunteers were earnestly scanning the crowd of runners, and occasionally searching the bags on the tables in front of them. Other volunteers had bags in their hands and were occasionally calling out the numbers of runners who weren't there. Some bags seemed to be passed up from far back and were piling in a heap near us. We runners cheered every time a bag was delivered to us. The race organizers later acknowledged that this new process had problems. I've never seen anything like this in prior years or in any other race!
I found Bob and then Rachael finished and on the drive home we stopped at Ikeda's in Davis for some fresh-from-the-oven pies. Mmmm. What a wonderful day!
The day after, Monday, I didn't really feel any muscle soreness. I sensed a deeper kind of soreness, like in my joints and bones, but otherwise, I felt quite good. I commuted to San Francisco as usual. To catch a train, I was even able to run down a flight of stairs. I went right back to running with the Belmont Runners on Tuesday and Thursday.
What went well
- I was 10 minutes 12 seconds faster than my recent Santa Rosa Marathon and I will almost certainly get in to the Boston Marathon for 2021.
- The Nike Vaporfly Next%, according to a careful analysis by NY Time's Upshot, probably gave me between 4% (7 minutes 37 seconds) and 5% (9 minutes 25 seconds) of the improvement.
- My training was better, too, and gave me, statistically speaking, the additional minute or two of improvement. It was helpful running with the Belmont Runners, as I was more consistently doing speedwork.
- Moleskin (from a new roll) on my nipples stayed on well and prevented chafing that had crept in from recent training runs.
- Before the race, maybe I should have drank more water closer to when I woke up rather one hour before the start.