On 04 Dec 2011, I ran the 2011 California International Marathon (CIM). It was my first CIM. If you have not run it before, make sure you read this. It will help you prepare for one of the most interesting runs of your life.
As with any major marathon events, the expo is as much a part of the marathon event as the run itself. I got there the day before, in time to check into my motel, and then pick up my bib, and check out a few booths.
Lesson #1—make sure you reserve a motel early enough (more than a month before; 2 months before just to be safe) so you don’t get stuck in a smoking room. That room smelled like the smoker was still in the room. I don’t smoke and I hate the smell of smoke. This made it difficult to get to sleep; the movies at the motel was pretty good though. They had an Indiana Jones movie marathon.
Lesson #2—make sure to have a checklist so that you don’t forget anything. I forgot to bring a little bit of Vaseline. When running for a long time, any rubbing between skin can become painful especially in a marathon. I realized this while doing my final check at the motel. Fortunately I was able to get something at the expo.
At the expo, I went around a couple of times to check out the various exhibitors. I did the Chicago Marathon last year and their Expo had a lot of freebies. Here there were only a couple of booths where they gave out stuff. The rest of the booths were basically selling running gear and various running-related stuff. I guess the good thing about all this is that you can purchase running gear you might have forgotten to bring.
On the way back to the motel, I decided to check by the hotel where the bus is supposed to pick us up. I asked the people working there if this is where the bus will stop by to pick us up; they said that they aren’t a CIM hotel. They even had a letter stating that the pick up is at 13th and J st. So I went back to the expo to ask the people who were selling the bus tickets. They just asked me to check the bus pickup list. I found another hotel next to the other one I checked and noted it. The good thing was that it wasn’t too far from my motel—only a short walking distance. I checked with that hotel staff as well, and non of them seem to really know. At this point, I realized that the CIM just use these hotels as markers on the map to identify runner pickup points.
The Ride to Starting Line
The thing with the CIM is that the route isn’t a loop. Basically, you start at point A and finish at point B—26.2 miles away. The starting line is near the Folsom Lake Dam. I woke up at 3:30 am and got ready. By 4:45 am I headed for the hotel lobby where the pick up were to occur. There were already some runners there waiting for the bus. By around 5:15 am, the buses (lots of them) came. I boarded one of the buses. At around 6:00 am, the bus reached the starting line. We all disembarked. There were many buses. We had the option to sit around in the bus or get off. I’ve been hydrating in preparation for this, so the call of nature was urging me to get off and visit one of their many port-a-potties.
At the expo, they announced the weather report. They predicted a temperature of 44 degrees with no wind at 7:00 am. They were right! For the run, I had a blue tech T-shirt, and my black running shorts. But for the wait, I had a jacket and a nice warm-up pants. I also brought a pair of light weight gloves. During the wait, I continued to walk around in order to warm up and drink. At around 6:35 am, I lined up for the port-a-potties for the last time. They did a good job here since the wait was only about 10 minutes. At 6:45 am, I took off my warm up jacket and pants, stuffed them in my goodie bag, and turned it in to the sweat bag truck. This gave me just enough time to stretch my hamstrings.
At exactly 7:00 am, the run began. It took around 5 minutes for me to get to the starting line. I had positioned myself with the 4:25 pacers. The temperature was perfect; it was enough to make you want to run.
The rolling hills make for a very interesting run, especially at the very beginning. It can make you run faster than you should. Which I did. For the first several miles, there were several steep downhills. I’m pretty good at going downhill, as I have learned to let gravity pull me down causing to me to go past sub 8-minute pace on several occasions; but then the uphills would get me. Here’s the funny thing…by the 13.1 mile mark my split was 2:03. By this time, I already decided to leave the 4:25 pacers behind.
At 17 miles, the 4:10 pacers were in sight. I started get close to them. I was doing pretty good, but I was starting to get a hint of cramps on my quads and hamstrings.
The one thing about the CIM course is that it starts to somewhat get flat in the later part of the second half of the run. That was good, because by mile 23, the cramps hit me. My hamstring muscles were in pain and wanted to contract by themselves. The same goes for my left quad muscles. At this point, I had no choice but to do some stretching and walks several feet before attempting to run again. I had to repeat this multiple times until I could continue to run again without too much cramp pain.
At 1 mile away, I saw a guy with a sign that says “The end is near”. At that point, I wasn’t walking any more, no matter what. I approach the final turn, and saw where the men and women started to split. I was close. I wanted to try to sprint, but didn’t want to pull anything especially as the photographers start to take finisher photos.
I finished the run with a time of 4:36—21 minutes faster than my Chicago marathon time!
I might have done better if I took it easy on the first half—maybe. But one thing for sure, I need to strengthen my quads and hamstrings. I probably need to add some form of equivalent hill workout in my training regimen.
Post Run Activity
The post run activity was OK. I got so hungry from the run that their pancakes, bananas, bagels, and cookies tasted good.
The best part was that my family was able to track me down. We had our own celebration and post run photo op. It was good to see them. They are my support team.
The CIM is a good marathon course. The uphills and downhills and the surrounding areas make it a very interesting course. The expo wasn’t as interesting as others I’ve been to, but the running experience was awesome.
If I don’t make it to the New York City marathon next year, I’ll do this one again next year.