Monday, December 05, 2011

RUNDown: 2011 California International Marathon (#12)

This was my 12th marathon since my first in March 2009.

My motto has always been "Any day you can run a marathon is a damn fine day." This was an *extra* fine day.

This race report will be different than my others. I warned that would not take pictures during the race.....I did take a couple, and I did take some at the start, but  I think this was the right choice ....the focus of this race for me (and everybody!) was to run fast!

Rather than a blow-by-blow for each mile I'm going to just give my impressions about different aspects of the weekend....


I got to the expo early to pick up my stuff of course. When I picked up my bib they had little groups of 4 safety pins pinned together to hand out and every volunteer made sure to say "have a great day tomorrow!". This attitude was everywhere....a very friendly and well run race! 

I attended a seminar on "how to run the course" given by several many-time-CIM-runners. This was great.....they emphasized that you need to avoid charging the hills or  burn down the them too fast in the first 2/3 of the course. Instead you use the hills to keep your legs fresh for the last part of the course where you can go. 

The highlight of the expo was meeting up with Arthur of

Arthur is kind of my hero..I watch his exploits closely. There are NOT very many blogs out there from runners that are 69 years old, especially those than can run a half marathon in 2:02! (1:44 age graded!)

I had a chance to sit down chat, this is only the second time I've met a blogger friend in person. Here we are posing for a photo.

Arthur took up running about the same time I did (2008), which was when he retired. He's never been injured. Did you hear that? He's done a 70 mile week! Yow.

He has two sons and one of them was there with him to also run. 

He is the king of the half marathon but is now going for Marathon Maniac bronze and maybe silver. 

I also had a chance to finally meet a marathon maniac in person: Choy Bancor had posted to the MM group on facebook that he was meeting up for the pre-race dinner at the Pyramid Alehouse. It was really great hearing about his experiences in the maniacs, esp how the group in Hawaii is so tight-knit and supportive of each other.

BTW: The wind was RIPPING all day (from a bad direction too) and well into the evening..the forecast was for the wind to die down but it seemed was still ripping as we walked back to our hotels at 8pm ! 

Race Morning

The wind did die down! Whew! Forecast was low 30's at the start and up to 50 by 11am, no wind and sunny. Perfect running weather!

The buses to take us to the start were expected at 5am (the one downside of a point-to-point marathon). 

Two Canadians ITCHING to run!
David Sewell (L) and Matt Jackson (R)
I was down in the lobby at 4am to get my free banana and buy a $4 bagel when I  struck up a conversation with these two ebullient, extra excited gentleman. Their story was a hoot! Did you notice in the photo they are not wearing bibs? 

They had traveled from Canada to run the Death Valley marathon, (for the guy on the right, it would be his first marathon), however due to the strong winds the marathon WAS CANCELLED.

So..all that training and nowhere to run! What to do? They called Las Vegas and were not able to wangle an entry, plus they discovered the cutoff was very short there and the worried that for his first marathon they mind miss out on a finish.

So they looked at the website for CIM. Eventually after googling and facebooking around they found a personal phone number for one of the officials and called them. They were told they could get bibs on race morning in the hotel lobby! Hows that for friendly service to marathoners?

So they hopped into the rental care and DROVE 9 hours to CIM! I hope they remember the name of my blog and comment so we all can find out how they did!

[Update: They found my blog! Both of them had great first time marathons: the guy on the right is Matt Jackson and he finished right on his target pace in 4:15:42. The guy on the left is David Sewell and he also had a great day with a 3:55:59...we were probably very close to each other at the finish. Kudos to both of them for excellent pacing!]

Eventually the buses came and it seems a bit disorganized but it we all got to the race on time (I think). You are allowed to sit on the bus and stay warm which is a good thing: it was about freezing temps at the start!

I was well prepared: a throw away beanie ($8) over my regular cap to keep my ears warm, arm warmers made from socks, two old t-shirts over my race shirt and a nylon windbreaker on top of everything. 

I ditched the two t-shirts 5 min before the start, and withing the first 5 miles the cap and arm warmers too. I rolled up the jacket while running and tied it around my waist.

They have a *lot* of porto-pottys at this race: one for every 26 runners (normal is 1:100). I hung out on the bus to keep warm rather than wait in the still very large lines. When I needed to go I took advantage of one of the benefits of being a guy and took a 'walk' out by the dam along with a bunch of other guys avoiding the lines.

Steve Boyadigian, ready to run!
I was talking to a nice guy named Steve Boyadigian on the bus to the start and he took the picture of me above. Here's a shot of him.....

The Course

This is a great course. It's not uber scenic but it's got some rural sections at the start and very good crowd support. People come here to run a PR or get a BQ so the average paces for this race are higher than your usual marathon.

H street bridge at mile 22
I loved the course. The rolling hills were a bit challenging but I found it possible to maintain my target pace. I did take one picture during the run: As I crossed over the H street bridge and had my epiphany (see below) I took a picture of the road ahead and the river.
view from H street bridge of the river


If you know me, you know I'm a stickler for reasonable pacing. No crash and burn in the last 6 miles for me. I seem to have the typical noob fade problem nailed now and I am very happy about that!

My training was targeted at a 9:00 garmin pace, which I figured would be a 9:05 real pace (a 3:58 marathon). This would give me some pad in case I faded a tiny bit in the last few miles so I would still be sub-4.

During the race I used my garmin in my favorite long run mode: I show the time, the mileage, the average pace so far and the current 1 mile split pace. I like this display a lot because I can see when I'm behind on the 1 mile split early on and gradually crack the throttle to bring it in line before we get to the end of the split. This way you avoid a big 'oh crap!' when you pass the real mile marker flags and check your pace band.

CIM has great mile marker flags and at each one I would check my real time against the pace band to my actual status vs a 3:58 pace. For the entire race I ended up having a pad on my pad of about 15-25 seconds...i.e. my split at a mile marker was faster then my pace band time for that marker. Many mile splits I was amazed that I kept this extra pad. Water stops can eat away precious seconds. During mile 20, my left shoelace came untied! A first! I had to stop and retie which cost me 15s..and I did it too tight. I refused to stop again and eventually it felt ok, even though much tighter than the other shoe.

My pace tracking worked well for me, even with the up and down roller hills of CIM. The basic plan was to drop the pace on the uphills a touch and then make it up on the downs..and this I did. Speaking of rollers..the uphills were significant and plentiful. Not hugely long and always followed by a downhill, but if you weren't prepared it could be hard on you. Luckily, the hill sprints and fast running Jill had me do had put muscles on my muscles and I had zero problems with the hills.

In fact, my leg muscles were never a problem in the entire race! As I passed from mile 16 (where things get interesting) to mile 20 I noticed my leg muscles were in excellent shape...the best of any marathon so far! To use my metric, I would say they were "very lighty toasted, if at all". 

What did bother me a bit was the pesky was there the entire race but as the endorphins kicked in at about 4-5 miles in it became less of a problem. After the race I am now very sore and doing lots of icing, etc. 

Here is the pace can see I kept the pace pretty close to a 9:00 until mile 21...take a look:

Split Dist Pace HR % WHR Cad Elev+ Elev- YPB
 1 1.00 8:54 163 95.9 90 0 57 1.214
 2 1.00 9:04 139 76.2 89 52 64 1.397
 3 1.00 8:57 126 65.6 89 24 47 1.560
 4 1.00 8:57 127 66.4 88 29 63 1.548
 5 1.00 8:57 128 67.2 88 19 38 1.536
 6 1.00 8:59 130 68.9 88 10 18 1.508
 7 1.00 9:06 128 67.2 87 35 51 1.512
 8 1.00 9:01 130 68.9 88 39 19 1.503
 9 1.00 9:05 130 68.9 87 12 18 1.492
 10 1.00 9:01 129 68.0 87 20 20 1.513
 11 1.00 8:59 130 68.9 88 29 63 1.506
 12 1.00 9:06 131 69.7 87 42 62 1.476
 13 1.00 9:03 131 69.7 87 20 36 1.484
 14 1.00 9:06 133 71.3 88 0 8 1.455
 15 1.00 9:00 135 73.0 88 11 15 1.447
 16 1.00 9:01 136 73.8 88 15 26 1.434
 17 1.00 9:02 136 73.8 88 0 26 1.433
 18 1.00 8:59 138 75.4 88 0 16 1.419
 19 1.00 9:05 138 75.4 87 12 16 1.403
 20 1.00 8:59 139 76.2 88 0 17 1.409
 21 1.00 9:10 140 77.0 87 0 5 1.372
 22 1.00 8:54 144 80.3 88 0 21 1.372
 23 1.00 8:30 148 83.6 89 21 0 1.398
 24 1.00 8:38 148 83.6 88 0 10 1.377
 25 1.00 8:49 149 84.4 88 0 3 1.340
 26 1.00 8:59 150 85.2 88 0 4 1.306
 27 0.38 8:33 152 86.9 89 0 0 1.368
Summary 26.38 8:58 137 74.6 88 390 723 1.432
Summary2 26.38  8:58 137.3

At mile 21-ish I  went over the H street bridge (the last uphill..see previous photos) and previously I had the shoe-retying, both of which cost me a bit of time (a poor 9:10 garmin split). At this point I realized that barring a cramp or tendon problem of some kind there was NO WAY I would not be sub 4. I had a good pad of 2m 15s or so under 4:00:00 and so could drop 20s per mile  and still make it.

At that point I realized it was time to really FLY. Everything had conspired to get me to this point with muscles feeling good, a great pace so far, and only 5 miles to go! This thought washed over me with a wave of energizing emotion....not something that has ever happened before!

Feeling this good at mile 21 was something to be treasured and not wasted: the marathon gods were smiling! Who knew when I would get this chance again with such great weather and flat course laid out ahead of me? Time to give it everything I could!

I had a 3:58 in the bag by a few seconds but decided to see if I could get a 3:57. I knew also that if I did that even my gun time would be below sub-4 and I was excited to think I would see that on the clock as I approached the finish.

And so I poured it on.  I passed people like no form was great, I was relaxed and I was still doing a 2:4 slow was amazing..I felt like superman. The pace dropped to 8:30-50m/m and I was flying.

Eventually after 2 miles of that my legs did start to let me know I was going fast. Mile 26 was back at 9:00 math skills weren't very good but I knew I had pushed the time down below 3:57 so I was very exhilarated.

As I rounded the corner and headed toward the men's chute I did not sprint. The previous day at the Expo I attended a seminar on "avoiding the medical tent" and they pointed out that a lot of fatalities at marathons seem to happen when sprinting for the finish. 

I didn't need to sprint anyway as I had blasted it in! And as I saw the 3:58 on the clock I put my sprint energy into shouting and hooting and holding my arms up (eventually with 3 fingers for the first digit of my finish time). 

 I shouted out 'sub-4 hours!!!' a few times. The thick finish line crowds responding to my excitement..I think they knew I was happy ;),  but even if they weren't there I would have be just as happy!

post race 'beer' (coors lite)
holding up three fingers for 3:xx finish!
It may take a few weeks to wipe the smile off my face 8)

Overall place 2338/5755
55-59 place 90/247
Guy place 1629/3270
Gun time 3:58:39
Chip time 3:56:34
Avg pace 9:02 m/m

5.9M split 52:51
Half split 1:58:41 (2x that would be 3:57:22 a negative split by about 50s).
20M split 3:01:20

Age graded 3:20:31 / 62.3%
(For a 40 yr old this is equivalent to 3:25:30)

Of course, if I had run an even pace that was a few seconds per mile faster, I probably could have shaved even another minute of my result. Being able to pour it on at the end means I probably didn't crack the throttle enough at the start ;). We'll try to fix that next time ;)

The traditional post race unhealthy meal with some REAL beer ....and showing off the medal. 

Can you tell I'm a happy camper? You can be sure I will run this course again...


  1. I love the last pic! Cheers to a great race!

  2. This is the best race report I've read from them all this weekend. You truly had the love and spirit to run a great race. Congrats!

  3. Love the write up!!

    Well done on your sub 4 :-)

  4. Fantastic write up to a great race. I'm so pleased for you!

  5. Congratulations...VERY WELL DONE !!! You can be very proud of this achievement for which you've worked so very hard.

  6. Great recap!

    Crazy story about those guys from Canada, hopefully they had a good race!

    Congrats on the huge PR!!! It really does sound like you ran a perfect race. Those last 6 miles must have felt glorious. Enjoy the post marathon glow!

  7. Thanks everybody for your congrats!
    I don't think I will ever forget this day 8)

  8. I love your motto. I might even say any day you can RACE is a damn fine day.
    I love your smile. You had great paces on all those miles and what a last few miles. You were awesome. Bask in it for days to come!

  9. Great report and great job! My hubby and I have been considering this one for 2012, now I'm hooked.

  10. Awesome time. Congrats, Paul!

    Don't even remember crossing a bridge. A shot of tequilla and glass of beer at Hyatt brought back my senses.

    Thanks for the write up and enjoyed meeting you in person.

  11. Great pacing, Paul! Congratulations on a successful race. Wasn't CIM an awesome race experience? After hearing all the crap that went down in Las Vegas the same weekend, glad to have ran CIM. See you at CIM again next year?

  12. I've been so consumed with this blog gift exchange and then this nasty cold and didn't have time to read any blogs the past few days... but I've been dying to hear all the details of your very special day. I loved it! I'm so very happy for you, and I too, can't wipe the smile off my face for you. What a well-earned sub-4 - and by TONS! Congratulations, Paul! Hope the AT is healing up and you are resting and recovering well!

    (p.s., I ran the course in 2002 (I think) and I don't remember that bridge - ha).

  13. great job! you killed it! i was there this weekend and just loved it too, such great support!

  14. Blog gift exchange! That sounds interesting, what is it? :)

  15. Paul,

    I'm one of the Canadian lads above who had their Death Valley race canceled (I'm the one on the right in the pic).

    Firstly, congrats on achieving your sub-four goal. Really happy for you and enjoyed reading your blog summary.

    We also had happy outcomes for our first marathon (we were both first-timers). I finished in 4:15:42, which was right where I trained to be (6 minutes / kilometre...sorry, I'm metric)

    Not to be outdone, David joined you in the sub 4hr club, finishing 3:55:59. In fact, you guys probably crossed the line within sight of one another.

    Congrats again and good luck with your next one. Can't wait to read about it online.

    Matt Jackson

  16. I really liked this post. Well done sir.

    I hope to take your wisdom with me this weekend.

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