CIM race report
I’ve had a few days to reflect on the race now, and am still very satisfied with the result. I’m not sure I would have changed anything, even if I could have. Below is my account of the race and the few minutes following the race.
The race started at 7:00am on Sunday morning. This was probably my only complaint about the entire race experience. We were up at 4:00am. I sleepily made my instant cream of wheat and forced it into me. I can remember thinking how happy I was that this was the last bowl of cream of wheat I was going to need to eat for at least a month (I found it, as opposed to oatmeal or toast or cereal was the most ‘stable’ in my gut while running. I had eaten it pretty religiously for breakfast before training 4 or 5 days a week. Problem is, it’s probably the most boring, bland food in the world). But at the same time I was excited that finally the culmination of all the training was here.
The course was point to point, and our hotel was near to the finish, so this meant for some logistical issues before the race. We (the 5 of us from
Vancouver that travelled down together) rented a car for the weekend and decided we would drive to near to the start, instead of having to sit on a school bus for 45minutes with swarms of nervous runners. The drive went by pretty quick as we were entertained by a really random mix of tunes of the radio. Trevor was actually staying in a hotel about 2.5miles from the start, so we got to his place around 5:30am, hung out there for a while then drove about a mile to a spot where we’d get a shuttle to the start. We got on the shuttle at about 6:20. But, it took some crazy roundabout route to the start area, instead of the 1.5 miles straight up the road. I started to get nervous and anxious at about 6:30 when the bus still hadn’t stopped to let us out. Even though I didn’t plan to do a lot of running to warm up I had planned to start it by at least 6:30. So, when we eventually got off the by at about 6:35 I was a bundle of nerves and started running immediately to ‘warm-up’.
Even though I didn’t go through the drills and stretches I had planned to I got about 7minutes of running in and had plenty of time to get my Mizuno Wave Ronin racing flats on and to the start line. I must have missed the handle cyclist start (which was happening 1min before the rest of the race) because when they starters started a countdown “ten, nine, eight……” I thought it was for the hand cyclist. So when they said “Go” and the horn went off and everyone else took off running I was caught off guard. Luckily I had 26.2 miles to catch up! I did a little shimmying and shaking in the first few hundred metres to try and make my way up to the guys I thought would make up the lead group. Problem was they were absolutely jogging and I was chopping my stride to stay behind them. I got frustrated with that after about 10 seconds (yeah I know I am really patient!) and decided to run off to the right side of the road and just find a rhythm. My rhythm quickly had me running ahead of the pack that was slowly forming. I told myself be patient, but just run a decent pace, don’t wait for the rest of them. This wasn’t my original strategy for the race, I was planning to just sit in, hand on, and make a strong move at 22miles, if I was still in the race at that point.
But, I also knew I was very fit, and that there was the possibility the lead group would go pretty slowly to start. So, we had also discussed that if I was running within myself, running alone wasn’t necessarily a bad plan. There was actually one guy up ahead who had set out a decent pace, so I just focused on catching up to him in the first mile, I caught him about 100 metres before the 1mile marker and he didn’t attempt to run with me, I was hoping he would have. But, when they called out 5:06 for the first mile, I just said ‘oh well this is not too fast I am just going to go and run my own race’.
I pulled away from the pack pretty quickly. I wasn’t really all that concerned in the early miles. I was a bit surprised that no one went with me. But, I wasn’t really trying to make a break away in the sense that I was trying to get as far ahead as possible in as short a time as possible so that they wouldn’t catch me. I wanted people to catch me and run with me (at least at that point I did). I wasn’t running a crazy fast pace, they were just running slowly.
I decided before hand to take intermediate split times on my watch every 3 miles. I didn’t want to take them every mile and get too obsessed with checking. After all I had no exact split times in mind when I started the race, it was supposed to be all about racing, so I never bothered with a plan that involved running any particular pace. But, at the same time I knew from my training that I’d be comfortable running around 5:00/mile. I split 15:00 or so at 3miles. I was pretty happy with that and I felt like I was not running hard at all. I ran a 4:48 mile for the 4th mile (I didn’t take a split on my watch, but the running time was called out to me by a race volunteer and I did the quick calculation) and knew at that point that there was at least the potential that I would have a good day cause I didn’t feel like I had changed my pace much. I just told myself to stay relaxed and comfortable. I tried to do this by chit-chatting with a few of the race escort cyclists. Talking to them helped me stay relaxed and make it feel like any old training run. I
wasn’t sure what was ‘kosher’ in terms of the info they could give me about what was going on behind me. So, I decided that to be safe I wasn’t going to ask them anything, but wasn’t going to tell them that they couldn’t tell me stuff if they wanted to. They ended up being a big help as they were constantly cheering me on and in the later miles I focused on their backs as I was racing.
I ran pretty consistent splits from 4 to 13 miles. Most of that time I was focused on getting my personal drink bottles. This was a fairly tough task as there was a larger than usual elite field this year and the organizers didn’t provide more tables than usual. So there was probably about 40 bottles per tables. I had some nice orange pipe cleaners on my bottles and red tape to try and help them ‘stick out’. I had to slow way down at the first station/table to find my bottle. At that point I was glad I was running on my own, as I couldn’t imagine trying to get my bottle with 5-10 guys around me doing the same thing. By the next station I figured out that my bottle was going to be in roughly the same position on each table. I managed to miss the table at 10.3miles all together, as I just didn’t see the table. That pissed me off a little bit and got me a bit worried that I wasn’t going to take in enough carbohydrates and fluid. As for the race itself, at that point as far as I could tell, from listening for the crowds cheering for the chase pack and the little bit of info I was getting from people in the crowds, the chase pack wasn’t closing on me. But at that point I didn’t really care. I was content to keep running the pace I was because it felt very comfortable. After a fairly quick 3-6 miles (14:43), I locked into roughly 5:00/mile for the next 10miles.
I passed halfway in 65:19, I was pretty motivated by this, as I knew I was running fast, but wasn’t doing any calculations of projected finish time based on my intermediate splits, until this point, at which time it’s pretty hard to prevent your brain from processing that one. I could tell from the way my body was feeling (already getting some fatigue in calves and quads) that I wasn’t going to maintain quite that pace for the second half, but I knew at this point that the chase pack was going to have to try to start to close things up, so I just wanted to try and maintain my pace. I figured if I could make it to at least 20 miles still running ~5:00/mile that they would have trouble catching me before that point and that it would make for an interesting last 5-6miles. I was very focused from about 15 to 20 and was able to maintain the pace. I hit 9miles in 44:51, 12 miles in 59:46, and 15miles in 1:29:54. I missed another drink bottle somewhere between 14 and 15 miles so I decided I would take some of the sports drink provided by the race. I almost vomited immediately taking a sip of that so tossed it. I again started to panic a little about hitting the wall because I had missed those drinks, but I also still felt really good, so tried not to stress too much.
By about 17-18miles I could tell my legs were getting pretty beat up from the first 15miles of rolling terrain. Some doubts about whether I could hold on to the lead started creeping into my mind around 18 miles. But, I was continually motivated by the fact that it seemed as though the chasers weren’t closing the gap on me and that I was holding my pace pretty well.
Many people say 20miles is the real halfway point in the marathon, and there is definitely something psychological about getting to 20miles. There was a big banner at the 20mile mark. When I reached it, I took a look at my watch
(1:40:00) and was immediately relieved that I was maintaining just slightly over 5:00/mile pace, but was also immediately terrified about how long I was going to be able to hold on for. My 21st mile was roughly 5:15, and I knew at that point if I didn’t at least maintain that pace there was a good chance someone was going to catch me – the chasers were bound to start racing each other at some point and if they were a minute behind, they ‘only’ had to start running ~5:05’s to catch me by the finish.
Well, one of them started doing just that apparently. There were pockets of fans along the entire course, and most concentrated around either the water stations or mile markers. I was estimating how far ahead I was by looking at my watch and figuring out the time from when I passed to when the crowds started cheering again. After estimating this a few times between miles 21 and 23 I quickly realized I was being caught very quickly. I stopped doing this estimating at that point and just did everything possible to will myself to run faster. I took a brief half-hearted glance back at one point, probably around 22.5miles. But, I didn’t see anything, probably cause I really didn’t want to look back at all. And after that I told myself not to look back again.
At 24miles I really tried to go as hard as I possibly could. But my legs were trashed and I was running out of energy. I focused hard on trying to maintain good form, staying upright and pumping my arms. I tried to remember all the hard training I had done, and to be confident that I could hold on. I started feeling sorry for myself a lot at about mile 23 and had a lot of doubts that I was going to be able to hang on. At times I felt myself almost giving up and conceding then and there because I didn’t want to put up with the pain anymore. But, I would catch myself doing this and get mad at myself and try to re-motivate and go as hard as possible again. I got a rough split of about 5:05 For my 25th mile. I didn’t hit my watch for the split and didn’t take a look ‘til a few seconds past the 25mile marker because I was of two minds about whether I should bother checking my split because at that point it didn’t really matter I just needed to try to hang on.
But, it was sort of motivating because it told me that I had actually picked up my pace (my split from 21 to 24 miles was 15:58) But, with about 1 mile to go I was told that he was only 13 secs back and closing hard. When I heard that I think I thought I was done, but then thought ‘no I can do this’. I was trying to make those last fews minutes of the race go by quicker by counting down the streets – Sacramento has a nice clean grid system in the downtown area and numbered streets. I knew we turned on 8th street and had about 250m to go at that point. I started counting down from about 38th street, but was really focused on the streets from about 18th on. This was good and bad – one second it felt like it took forever to get past two more streets, then the next I was motivated that I only had X numbered of streets left. I think at about 12th (roughly where the 26th mile marker is) I thought I was going to lose. People lining the streets were yelling all sorts of stuff at that point that gave me the perception I was going to get caught. I actually checked my watch again at that point. Before hand I had figured out it was probably going to be about 60-70secs from the 26mile marker to the finish (0.22miles). I think saw about 2:11:40 on my watch.
That excited me, that I might still break 2:13. And it also took my mind off the counting of streets, so I missed 11th street (or it doesn’t exist) and was pumped when I saw 10th and 9th were really close together, meaning 8th was really close. I saw the lead vehicles turn the corner on 8th and at that point I thought “hey you can win”. Just as I was about to turn onto 8th street one of the bikers that had been riding with me since the start yelled at me and told me I had it won and to enjoy it. I didn’t quite believe him so I looked back (for the first time since mile 22) as I turned the corner and realized that this was probably true as I still had about a 50m gap. As soon as I turned the corner the crowds were huge and loud and I was hit with a rush of adrenaline, and started sprinting, and to my surprise I was able to sprint pretty fast. I was in panic mode at this point as I sort of knew where the finish was but not exactly. there was just one more turn and then the finish line, and I kept looking ahead and to the left to see how far I had to the finish once I made the final turn, when I realized it was only 50m or so I finally knew I had it won. When I made that final left I immediately went crazy and started celebrating, pumping my fists and screaming wildly. It was a fantastic feeling. One I’ve never experienced before. A sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I’d never had before and may never have again.
As soon as I crossed there were reporters and cameras in my face, and one of the cyclists that had been ‘escorting’ me along the course came to congratulate me and I gave him a big hug, then the elite athlete coordinator put a medal around my neck and I gave her a huge hug. Apparently I was happy! The most rewarding of my post race hugs was probably with Richard Mosley, a few minutes after he had crossed the line. We were walking along together and I told him I had won and his genuine excitement was pretty cool. I had a 125lb man crushing me with a big ole bear hug. It was rewarding because we had suffered through many many miles of training for this race together, and we both put it together on the day.
It was a great day, but hopefully there is more to come in the next few years….