The Wood-Fired Blog

CIM 2012 Race Report

Race reports are a part of the running community, and I’m not sure whether you want to read them here — but I thought I would share. We try to be a little funny and irreverent, while capturing the feeling for the day and the race. So if you are interested, here is my RR from CIM 2012.

Wind and Rain

A little bit of background. I have raced CIM twice before — 2:55 last year, and 3:04 in 2010. Two years ago there wasn’t a 3:05 pace group, because at the time the 35 and under Boston qualifying time was 3:10. So I made a last minute decision to run with the 3:00 group even though I wasn’t ready to run sub 3. But it worked out, and I ran 1:29:30/1:34:30 to hang on to grind out a 5 minute PR (with a +5 split). Last year, CIM was the first leg of the CIM2LasVegas double, and I was scheduled to run 3:20 with Paul. Just fast enough to catch the flight to Las Vegas, but slow enough to reserve some energy. But at the last minute, Paul missed his flight, so I thought what the heck, and ran full speed. I did 1:26:30/1:28:30 for a 2:55 — which is my current PR. And then caught a flight to Las Vegas where a few of us ran the marathon there. It was a memorable day.

My training this year since the Headlands 50 has been designed to help me build the speed and endurance to break my PR and perhaps even get down to 2:51:59 — less than two hours plus my age. I knew that it was a stretch, and I could feel that my easy speed improvements as a beginner were coming to an end. Comparing my training cycles from  2011 to 2012, this year I ran more miles at a slightly faster pace. The 50 miler was positive, though a different running event, I ran a poor 5K in October, and two pretty good 12 miles tempo training runs in November. Which basically meant that nothing was in the bag, but lots of things were possible — I guess that’s what makes it fun.

When I went to bed Saturday evening the weather was pretty calm, and despite having watched the local weather on TV (who correctly predicted that the worst of the storm would come through between 4AM and 9AM Sunday morning), I fell asleep thinking that they might be wrong and that we might have some real racing weather. Classic denial. Or maybe misguided optimism. All of which shattered by reality when the alarm went off at 4:30 and I looked out the window and the rain was pouring down sideways in sheets and the wind was cracking through the trees. The weatherman is almost always wrong — but today they nailed it. Great.

I drove to the start with another runner from my hotel, and we were just laughing as the car danced along the freeway in the wind. There was a tree down in the road near the start, with emergency crews cleaning up, and after she parked we just sat there looking at each other and saying “I’m not going out there”. Finally, I put on my garbage bag and stood in line to take the shuttle to the start. Some people were laughing, and a few had a look of complete shock. Like “what the heck am I doing here”? You know me, I think marathons are great and getting the crowd going was a lot of fun.

One of my more memorable moments was when I was sitting there in the porta-potty and the walls were rocking back and forth and shaking, and I thought to myself — “I am really glad I’m here. What a blast”. We had gusts into the high 20s (low 30s?), directly into our faces at the start.

Miles 1-6 40:41

As usual, I had no idea what my race plan was. A PR attempt was gone, but I wanted a BQ for 2014. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to settle in with the 3:20 group, or try to go faster. After a while Ron came up beside me and said hello — which was a big stroke of luck. He’s been running for years, we’re the same speed, he’s a Silicon Valley guy, he went to the same college where my daughter goes to school, and best of all, he actually knows what he’s doing.

We’re talking and running. My shoe laces come undone (I’m so not committed to the race that I didn’t even double knot my shoes), and I lose 20 seconds.

Early on, my watch gets wet and fritz’s out, so I’m gonna have to rely on other runners.

At some point Ron says that we are going to be taking a left turn into the wind soon and that we’d better find a group. Of course he’s right. So we speed up and get into the 3:05 group. My new home. We turn south and it’s like woof. The wind actually knocks you upright.

Miles 7-13.1 51:04

Water is pouring down the street — sometime over the top of our shoes making little puddles in the inner sole. We pass a dead raccoon who is making a dam and a little lake. Nice. Not much to say, really. The hardest part is trying to not trip anybody or get tripped, but staying tight really helps. Nobody is talking, and there is definitely not enough laughing. Tough crowd.

There are ankle high puddles everywhere and little streams and rivers in the road.

At some point after the longest due south stretch, Ron gets bored and says he’s off to catch the 3:00 group. He waves at me to come along, but I can’t do it.

I’ve never run with a pacing group before, and you get hammered at every aid station. Everybody slows down, we run into each other getting drinks, and then we have to get started back up again. Somewhere along the line I decide that I’m not perspiring anyway, so I stop drinking.

We hit the half, and I call out — what’s our time? And nobody responds. It’s survival mode.

Looking back, we hit the half at about 1:31:45 — on track for 3:03:30, so the pacer is a little ahead of schedule; though I didn’t know it at the time. And it took way to much energy to hit that time. A lot to much.

Miles 14-20 48:02

After the half, we grind on for a while (and I don’t know that we are faster than 3:05) and I’m thinking, OK, I’m going to fade so let’s try to beat 3:10 so that I don’t feel too badly about this race. Depression is a sad thing.

Then, a couple of miles after the half, we veer to the southwest, and the wind drops down. And we look up, and at the same time the pacer and I both say “maybe the wind is done”. The pace is feeling fine, so I pull out a little ahead of the pack to see if I can pull away. But after a couple of miles, I can hear them back there going pop, pop, pop, pop, so I give up and fall back into the group.

The pack is getting smaller, and we’re just holding on. But I’m right behind the pacer, and he’s a big guy — which is good, and it’s getting a little easier hanging with the group.

Miles 21 – 26.2 43:56

The rain has just about stopped and the wind has died down. If the race had started two hours later this would have been a PR day. Who would have believed it at 6AM.

At mile 21 something funny happens. We’ve been reeling in Ron — he tried to catch the 3:00 group but didn’t make it, and he had to run in the wind and rain by himself without the help of the group. So he isn’t that far ahead of us.

And then pacer slows down a little and says that he’s ahead on time, and he’s going to be slowing down — and the if you’ve got a little left in the tank to just go for it.

What the heck. Why not.

I caught Ron just before the bridge at mile 21.5 and keep going. In the last 4 1/2 miles I passed 49 runners, and got passed by two guys who beat me by about 100 yards. The crowds were out and the music was pretty good, and I was counting runners as I went. It was good for my concentration. My watch didn’t work, and I have no idea how CIM’s splits work, so I don’t know how fast I was going, but it felt OK.

My final was 3:03:40, so I ran almost dead even halves. That would include a fast first quarter, an awful second quarter that was both slow and a huge energy sink, and a strong finish.

Overall, this was a completely new experience for me. I’ve run PRs (which are pretty easy to get when you are a newbie), and a number doubles, where the second marathon is a fun run. This was neither. It wasn’t 100% effort, but it was close. And it felt good putting in my near best effort even though I knew it wasn’t a PR day. I could have mailed it in, but I didn’t.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Now it’s time to get ready for Boston 2013. I am committed to setting what is going to be my lifetime PR some time in the next couple of years. I would really like a Moose Mug (which does down to 2:52:59 in two month), I would love to hit a 2:49:xx before I get too old, and the course record for 55-59 at Big Sur is 2:57:xx. These are serious goals that I know are going to take a lot of work and some good luck. But I’m game to try.