This past Sunday I ran my 6th CIM (California International Marathon) and my 8th marathon total. I didn’t blog much about CIM mainly because I had that OTHER big race I was thinking about and preparing for. Yet, CIM is one of those races that is near and dear to my heart.
It was my first ever marathon. It was the first marathon that I ever truly “bonked” and completely injured myself during the course of running it. When I was pregnant with the Peanut and couldn’t run the marathon, I ran the relay. It was also my first major run after my ankle surgery last year. It holds my marathon PR to this day and I just love that it is in my own back yard. Since my first year in 2004, I have only missed running it a handful of times.
With that said, last year somewhere between miles 40 and 50 on the American River 50 course, TiggerT said to me, “You need to run CIM with me again this year if I am pacing you during an ultra!” That seemed fair right? She paced me 10 miles and I was to pace her 26.2 … ya, math is truly not my strongest asset.
Still, I adore TiggerT and I ran with her last year during CIM just 3 months after my surgery. Not the smartest move at the time, but it worked out for both of us. I got to see how I would hold up running that far and she had someone by her side.
Fast forward to just a few months ago when TiggerT tells me she hasn’t been running very much. She has this bum hip that has been screaming at her for quite a while and it seemed the closer that CIM came, the more it barked. She had not run longer than 8 miles in the months leading up to the race.
Lucky (or unlucky?) for her, she has quite a few friends that said, “Nah! You can do it! Heck, we’ll do it with you and we haven’t trained either!” Ya have to love runners.
I told her I was keeping my promise. I would be by her side helping her get to that finish line and LAUGHING most of the way too. She tried to push me away and tell me that I could go run it with all my heart and see what I could do time-wise. Besides the fact that I had no intention of dropping her, I have not run on pavement in over a YEAR. My tender little tootsies have been running on dirt trails for the better part of a year. Switching to pavement is a whole separate beast. Sure miles are miles to some, but for me (and my back and my feet and my knees) there is a significant difference between the two.
When CIM expo week arrived I started to get excited. CIM traverses through Folsom, Orangevale, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, Carmichael and Sacramento. It was founded in 1983 and was celebrating its 31st race this year. I was execited!
I missed the expo last year but made a point to go and get my bib this year and for fun, I brought Vans along with me. He loves a good expo (aka free snacks and goodies). We saw TiggerT while we were there and I saw quite a few ultra-buddies too. It is such an electric environment! I love it.
With my bib in hand, I felt ready. I knew I could cover the distance, I just wanted TiggerT to be able to do it too and I could see and sense the fear in her every time we’d talk. That uncertainty can really play with your head. Yet, she’s strong and she said that NOT starting, was NOT an option (yet she had no qualms about bowing out mid-race).
Sunday morning couldn’t come quick enough. The weather was predicted to be absolutely gorgeous albeit even a little warm for this time of year. Last year’s CIM was a massive ice festival with a max of like 30 degrees for the day! That’s cold for around here.
5:40 right on the button, TiggerT arrived in my driveway ready to take me to the start. She has run this race so many times (way more than I) that she has the starting ritual down to a science. We get dropped off at a gas station, we use their inside (warm) bathroom and then we hop on a bus that takes us to the start and drops us off in the thick of things. This year, the bus took a different route which did cause a mild case of “what the?!” from TiggerT and myself. Glad to see that we were both paying attention!
Another quick jump into the super long porta-potty lines and then TiggerT dropped her bag of warm clothes off in the truck. This year I didn’t bring anything. I wore a long sleeve t-shirt that I was willing to toss and it was warm enough for shorts (or a running skirt). I didn’t need gloves or anything like years past, it was great! I had one water bottle with me and I threw some fuel in the pocket of my skirt. Inside the bottle pouch I had some salt tabs. Something just nagged at me that morning to grab a couple salt tabs just in case it got too warm too fast.
We found TiggerT’s crew and we made our way up towards the start line. It was just a sea of runners. The excitement was overflowing. We listened to the most beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and then they started the wheelchair division first.
When they blew the horn we made our way shuffling with thousands of others past the starting arches. We were on our way. TiggerT started off at such a good pace I wasn’t sure what to do. She seemed okay. Maybe she was trying to warm up? I just went with it. She ran ahead of her friends and we soon lost them in the crowd behind us.
We had goals in mind. We knew that TiggerT’s wife would be a mile 5.5 and we knew quite a few of the people running that aid-station as well. Our goal, was get to mile 5.5! TiggerT seemed okay. Me, on the other hand, was starting to think about a pit stop. When we reached the 5.5 aid-station I told TiggerT that I needed to jump into the port-potty line. She joined me. I hate having to stop during a race like this. On the trails, I don’t seem to mind, in a road race, I get annoyed but it is what it is. In line I got to talk to Stonegate who was helping at the aid-station. She laughed when she saw me in line for the bathroom, “Shocker!” she said. It was here that I shed the long sleeve shirt I had in my hands.
With business out of the way we were off again. Prior to our stop we were running right next to the 4:35 pace group which was a bit surprising to me. Yet, TiggerT seemed okay at that pace. Of course when you stop you tend to stiffen up a bit. When we started on our way again, I noticed that TiggerT was a bit slower than before. Maybe she had noticed our pace finally!
At some point she reconnected with her friends but it was pretty brief. We lost them again as our pace just naturally seemed to be a bit faster. Our next goal was mile 8 ish where we’d see Pigeon, Missouri and the rest of the Fleet Feet crew.
We talked as we ran. We passed a man holding onto a leash. Of course I just thought it was a dog but then TiggerT turned to me and said, “That was a goat!!” I looked at her and I looked back but I couldn’t see anything, “Are you hallucinating?” I asked her. “No! I swear that was a goat!” We had a good laugh about that one for a few miles which was a nice distraction.
One of my favorite things during a marathon is to read the signs people hold up. Yes, I DO read them so all you spectators out there, KEEP THEM COMING! I love it. One of my mental goals during the marathon is to try and remember the funniest signs that I have seen along the way.
This year, my favorite sign appeared very early in the race yet this woman was a superhero and somehow magically positioned herself all.over.the.course! She was EVERYWHERE! I wish I had a photo of her sign, it wasn’t artistic at all, but the message had me cracking up every time I saw it. The sign read: Chuck Norris has never run a marathon! How funny is that!? There were countless others that made me smile like, “smile if you are not wearing underwear!” and “Run Now. Wine Later.” I love it and appreciate it.
We were trucking along still moving when all of a sudden I see a boy holding a goat. I look at TiggerT, “that’s a goat!” I turn to the kid and said, “Hey man, nice goat.” He smiled and the woman next to him said “Goat-get em!” Which caused the cheesy side of TiggerT and I to crack up with laughter.
When we ran through Old Fair Oaks I saw chickens! I said, “Look chickens!” but TiggerT assured me they were behind the fence (thank goodness).
Somewhere past the half-way point I think, I started to feel the pavement in my feet and the tingling in my calves. They felt like they were on the verge of cramping. I took a salt tab hoping that would help.
The middle miles of this race are usually quite boring. They go through a section of the course that is more business than residential and usually that means a lot fewer spectators out there. Not this year! I have to say I didn’t have the middle mile dread! There were bands and people cheering and it was exciting! Such a difference and I hope it is one that sticks!
At some point in the race, we got to the point where TiggerT needed to walk every so often. At one point, she stopped to use the porta-potty and while she did I tried my hardest to stretch my calves out (they were still screaming at me).
I also ran into an ultra-friend who was running alongside a man dressed as Flash. Head to toe Flash complete with spray painted shoes, water bottle and fanny pack. It was awesome. Everyone would cheer him on as he passed. We ran with them for a bit while I was chatting with my friend who was running the marathon only to head into surgery on Wednesday. Amazing.
Closer and closer to the finish we ran. I was amazed at how quickly the miles were just flying by. It helps when you are running to SEE something, whether it is a friend or an aid-station where you know friends might be, having something there, really makes those miles fly by.
Oddly enough, running against the sea of runners was this guy in a speedo. It was pretty funny and he was quite boisterous cheering us on. He had sneakers and a speedo. The cop at the intersection cracked me up because he had this smirk on his face as if he was trying to decide if he should laugh at this guy or arrest him.
Down Fair Oaks Blvd., we ran and when we looked to our left we saw a man, holding two llamas. Yup. Llamas. TiggerT and I just looked at each other to make sure we were both seeing this. We were like, “Look! Llamas!” and the runner behind us said, “Oh thank god you see them too.”
We were quickly approaching Loehmans Plaza. This is roughly just past mile 20 in the race also my old neighborhood. Vans and the girls are generally here cheering us on (as well as hundreds of others). We jogged through the intersection and I couldn’t find Vans. I saw a line of cars and I thought to myself that they must have changed the way they routed traffic and he couldn’t get in (or was running late, or both). It was harder for him to gauge my time this year since we were unsure as to how TiggerT would feel during the race.
We did find TiggerT’s wife and we stopped to say hello. I think TiggerT even sat down for a minute! This would be the last we’d see of her as she was heading home and I was praying Vans would make it to the finish to pick us up.
Miles 20 to 26.2 are always interesting. They are heavily populated with spectators so it isn’t boring but it can be quite deceiving. It is here that you enter the number streets that lead you to the state Capitol. So if you are focusing on the numbers, you are mentally counting down in your head as you run however, the closer you get to downtown, the longer the blocks become so it really starts to mess with your head. I don’t think I looked at one street sign the entire time. I have learned my lesson.
It was on this section that TiggerT ran into quite a few friends and I finally met Jody who commented on my last blog post having run Mt. Tam too. Such a small world! The music on this section is always good too. They have DJs every few blocks. My only complaint is the instrumental band in front of the convention center … I get it, it is artistic but it is NOT motivating to listen to classical music at mile 25 of a marathon.
We were getting closer and closer. I could smell it. I kept wanting to pick up the pace but I was trying to be conscious of TigerT. I am a finish line girl. I know you are supposed to leave it all on the course when you race, but for some reason, I always find a reserve when I get near the finish line. It is in my nature to try and run fast the last mile no matter what.
I kept myself in check and instead focused on seeing my favorite guy at mile 25. Every single year I have run this race, there is this guy dressed like Jesus (wearing a robe and a wig and of course bright blue running shoes) standing ON the course holding a sign that says: THE END IS NEAR! I know he is there but it still to this day, makes me crack up. I love it!
We rounded the corner heading toward the finish line. I saw the number on the clock. It was my slowest marathon to date but I had smiled the whole day so I didn’t care. My goal was to get TiggerT to finish and I did. We crossed in under 5 hours and best of all, she felt (and feels) great! I was worried that this would push her hip over the edge pausing her running career for too long but she tells me days later, that she truly feels great. That makes me so happy.
I feel great as well. My calves were really starting to burn around mile 21. I recall taking another salt and I took an Aleve. I don’t like to take meds during a race but I was seriously on the verge or cramping up something terrible and I figured, why not, we’ll see what happens. As it turns out, the calf pain went away! Days later I feel great, no pain. I do need to foam roll my calves and quads still (I know I know).
As it turns out, a lot of people suffered from cramping on Sunday. We saw people lining the sides of the course trying to stretch their calves or hamstrings. I think the warm temperature really threw everyone for a loop. Vans and the girls made it to the finish area too which was really nice.
Overall, it was a good race. I look forward to a little recovery this week (not much) and then back at it for another trail race in late February and possibly another in April. After that, I may be taking a break from doing any races. There is a summer one on my radar if things work out but if not, no biggie.
Next year however, I want to train and run CIM for time. I think I finally have that PR bug again.
My CIM History to date:
CIM 2004 : First Marathon!
CIM 2005 : First major bonk & race injury
CIM 2006 : Ran the Relay (still injured from previous CIM)
CIM 2007 : Relay Team (ran two legs – pregnant with Peanut)
CIM 2008 : PR race, Peanut was 8 months old
CIM 2015 : Yes, I already signed up – I may try and actually try to BQ (eeeek)