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  • California International Marathon (CIM) 2012

    Posted on December 6th, 2012 Michele Sun No comments

    I have always heard about CIM  in Sacramento, but never thought about running CIM before, for I always considered that’s a race for fast runners! A race for people want to and good enough to qualify for Boston or Olympics trials. As far as my concern, everyone running CIM is an elite runner. If not because of the “yes you can do it; you can break sub-4 with room for a cup of coffee” from Max back in March, I would never be that cocky to register for CIM and dreaming about that sub-4. And here I am, writing my post CIM race report with sore and chafed body

    After Thanksgiving’s Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, it’s about time to cut down my training runs in distance but still kept my legs moving. On Friday Nov 23rd I went to a local 5ml Black Friday Run in Evergreen Village and I really liked the rolling hills, and wondered why I never joined  this  run groups  before for it would be a perfect training route for CIM. It’s a fun and energetic run, and I even won a Jamba Juice card at post run raffle drawing, what a good vibe!! I am going to bring this card with me to race day as my lucky charm, plus my Kodama of course! Sat I went for my last not-so-long long run at Los Gatos Creek Trail, and the planned 10ml turned into a 9:00 pace 12ml run. Thanks to Ben, Venkat and Mike, if you guys could be my pacers on race day, that sub 4 would be an easy snap!

    Runs were shorter and I found myself have free time to socialize with non-runner friends now. I met up with Kai whom I haven’t seen ever since I started my training 16 weeks ago; we had dim sum lunch in Mountain View and it’s so nice to see him!! I introduced him to another friend of mine and it’s funny how they thought the other person must be a runner for being a friend of mine. Frenchie  asked why I ditched Kai after he learned that I had become disconnect for 3 months, and Kai was so understanding that answered the question for me “She doesn’t want any distraction.” Thank you my friend and I will resurface up after CIM race, so we can go Napa to check out that Castello di Amorosa together!

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    I started cutting caffeine and alcohol completely to prevent race day dehydration, and also avoided dinning out as well. I cooked every day after work, and kept the meals very simple – sweet potatoes, pumpkins, rice with grilled chicken breast..etc. all the good carb. I was planning to buy some an-pan (red-bean bread) and bananas for race weekend snacks and breakfast. An-pan has become my favorite race day fuel ever since Tokyo Marathon! And no more going out at night, not that I planned to be an anti-social, but avoiding going to crowded place would keep me from getting the flu bugs I think. Monday I got my period and I was beyond happy!! So I am not pregnant, haha.. :-p, but as a woman runner the last thing you want is having menstrual cramp and weaken knees and ankles on race day. Guys runner you ARE so lucky and I know  you will never understand this! First time in my entire life, I suffered menstrual cramps and lower back pains without much complaints.

    Weather can be unpredictable in Northern California in winter, and it’s expected to be cold. However, when I saw the weather.com showing 70% chance of rain with wind I got concerned. I followed the forecast everyday and my frown deepened every day. It changed from rain to heavy rain, flooding rain, and wind to headwind at 27mph. A serve storm was predicted for Sunday, race day, and I started questioning other runners about race day attire. On Thur Nov 29th, I came to realize that my dream of PR was slowly drifting away and chance of that sub-4 was becoming as gloomy as the clouded sky. Couple runners suggested waterproof jacket, poncho, old disposable clothing…etc. After more research and discussion with Max, I had decided that I was not going to do anything different than how I have trained so far, would still stick to my short sleeve tech-t with compression arm sleeves, Capri tight, and a hat to keep the rains out of my face and eyes. It’s going to be cold, so thin gloves would be necessary. I was not really  worried about the cold, so no jacket during the run. On the race day morning I would be riding the shuttle bus to the Start, and from the CIM official website I learned that runners would be allowed to stay on the bus till 15 minutes prior the race. I would bring a trash bag and cut holes for neck and arms, and that way I could easily throw it away once I getting warmer after the initial miles. Went to drug store and got a tube of Vaseline to prevent blisters on my feet and toes also.

    Sat Dec. 1st, Max came over at 7:30am, and we joined two more runners Ben and Venkat in Pleasanton whom we would go to Sacramento together. Venkant had become my virtual training partner in the last 3 months, and I constantly joked about his getting everyone lost with his Apple Maps since he works for Apple. We embarked our CIM journey at 8:25am, and smoothly made it to Sacramento around 10:00am with Max’s race car driving. During the trip we spotted couple cars with the 13.1 stickers and we snerked at them:-p  Came across couple accidents due to the rain, and the weather in Sacramento did not look friendly at all.

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    It’s a medium size Expo and not much to look at, which was a good thing – saved our legs. I liked how the Bib was assigned according to the last name, and why do not all races think that way? I wanted to sit in and listened to the CIM experts talking about  “how to run the CIM miles”, which were given by the legacy runners that have run this race consecutively. Twelve of them have run it for 29 years non-stop! I usually read course map and elevation chart before a race, sometimes I would participate test runs if it’s right in our hood. However this race is from Folsom to Sacramento, and it’s just impossible to run on busy streets in our State capitol. The panels have prepared and presented the miles by miles with slides of the actual course photos, except the weather was quite the opposite. But seeing the hills, turns and bridge..etc was really helpful, it gave me a visual and on the race day it helped me to prepare for the upcoming turns or getting ready to charge the hills without fear.

    After picking up our bibs and shirts, we went out to have Chinese food at P.F. Chang for it’s right next to the convention center, and again save our legs especially it was raining and very windy. Originally we wanted to catch a movie but the schedule between now till carbo-load dinner at 6:00pm just did not work out, so instead we check into our hotel and rest in the afternoon. We stayed at the Hilton in Arden West area, for the rate was reasonable and it’s one of the hotels that race shuttle would come and take us to the Start in Folsom on race day morning. We were also given late check-out at 2:00pm, allowing us to finish the race and come back to shower and change. Room was clean and decent, except no free Wi-Fi, but I was OK with being disconnected for a day! Max and I watched Big Bang on his notebook and had some good laugh,  and sipped Powerade to stay hydrated the entire afternoon. Not exactly the happy hour we are used to I would say 🙂

    5:45pm, it’s time to go carbo-load at Buca di Beppo. I personally like to do carbo-load 2 days before, but Max wanted pasta the night before the race so I reserved a table for the four of us. Good that I got that taken care of a week before, because tonight they would not take any walk-ins and this place was just packed with runners from all over the places. I have done carbo-load at Buca di Beppo in different cities for different races before, and found their family style is really a great way to pasta feed group of runners. The good thing about doing a small group of carbo-load instead of big group is time saving and hassle free; it did not take us long to decide on vegetarian pasta and one with meat. No appetizer, no dessert, and only Max got a pre-race beer – whatever works just stick to it. We finished the pasta dinner and went back to our room to get ready for the big day tomorrow. Rain continued with gusty wind and no sign of changing at all.

    I got my shirt, tight, cap, arm sleeves, GU gels, and that must have Vaseline and BodyGlide all piled up on the sofa chair.  Max also laid out the Salomon shirt, tight, cap and hydration backpack filled with GU Brew…etc, plus a very nice windbreaker. I also put out my breakfast — a banana, red bean bread, and a small bottle of Powerade. It’s way too early to sleep, so I just stayed in bed and read about cable ties, masking tape and rope on my iPad while munching on an apple. I was half way done with my apple when Max questioned “how is your apple?” Opps, I forgot to offer and share, my bad! Got couple texts on my phone, so turned my phone off to make sure it wouldn’t disturb our sleep tonight.

    During the night the wind stopped for a little bit around 1:30am, and funny that I woke up because it suddenly became too quiet. I tossed and turned and went back to sleep until the alarm went off at 4:15am. First thing after waking up was eating half banana and that red bean bread in bed, and it worked well as usual – it pushed out the dinner from last night. Putting on my race armor and trash bag, we went down to lobby to meet with Ben and Venkat whom also were trash-bagged like me. We grabbed the breakfast that hotel had bagged for us and I found it very thoughtful and efficient – banana, bagel, cream cheese, energy bar, and a bottle of water. There were several school buses lined up outside already and runners stepped into the cold and onboard. It took a good 30 minutes to get to Folsom, as I watched the trees dancing in the wind like crazy; even the road closure signs were lying lifelessly on the ground. It’s pitch dark outside and I questioned myself “what kind of fun is this?”

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    Got to the Start and rain was pouring down heavily, none of us wanted to get out of bus to stretch or warm-up, so we just sit and ate our breakfast. Max was the first one went out to use porta potty, and when he came back few minutes later he was soaking wet and that nice windbreaker was just defenseless in such horrible hurricane-like storm. Venkat and I tried to make our way to the porta potty next, and we found ourselves shivering in storm and all runners were completely soaked regardless how well they dressed for this weather. We went back to the bus and stayed till 6:45am as planned; Max said we would regroup at the Pyramid Brewery since there was no way to wait for me at the Finish in such weather anyway. Feeling a little disappointed but I knew it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise; I gave Max a little hug to brave myself for this horrible conditioned race.

    Ben and I talked about staying with the 4:00 pace group for the first couple miles, then would catch the faster group depending on how we felt later. Ben is a much faster runner than me of course, so I was surprised that he was going to stick with the slower me. At 7:00am, runners took off in pack but I really had no idea how to run with pace group — ironic that I have been pacer myself several times already. Rain and wind were slapping my face so hard that I screamed, but at the same time it’s a crazy kind of fun! I had no music nor RunKeeper this morning, for I had no intention to kill my iPhone in the rain. Soon I lost sight of Ben and I found myself running in between two packs of runners, so I guessed I was between the 4:00 and 4:10 groups.

    The wind was so strong and roads were flooded, and I felt particularly small and powerless today. The only thing I could do was staring ahead and completely focusing on my stride and not paying attention to the mile marker.  It was about 8 or so when I heard conversation right behind me neck, and soon a pack of runners ran past me and my heart sank. The 4:10 group had caught up with me, which means I was running behind my target pace. I tried to pick up my pace and stay with the tail of the pack, but the distance between the group and me just grew bigger and bigger, and before reaching Fair Oaks I knew it’s going to be hard to reach my PR goal now. However, I told myself to stay focused on my form and stride, and do not think of anything else; hopefully I could increase my speed later. I started talking to myself in my head and repeated a Buddhist teaching I had read just last week  — “there is no past and no future, there is only present. There is no last step or next step, there is only this step.” I have never knew that Buddhism works at marathon race, but today it totally applied and helped to keep me focused and gave me strength.

    My body was getting very cold, and legs and feet were getting really heavy since tights and shoes were so soaked. I felt my feet were as heavy as bricks, and I could not run any faster while running against the headwind and kept stepping into the puddles. I wasn’t counting miles, but it probably was around mile 21 when I accidentally saw Michael appeared at the corner of my right eye. I asked a very stupid question,  “Michael, what are you doing here?” Now you know how disoriented I was. He said he had been running behind me for a while already, but I did not notice at all. For whatever reason I wasn’t aware of, but I picked up my pace and ran away from  Michael.  It probably had been mile 22 when I heard another voice calling “hey Michele” and this time it was Ben. I did not have to ask why he was there since we started the race together, but I thought he was way ahead of me. Seeing Michael and Ben behind me somehow gave me confidence, and I actually sped up! I started picking people off one by one, just like playing video games. Body was in great deal of pain, but I was feeling good about being able to pass other runners, however I also knew that I was not going to PR at CIM.

    Mile 24 to 26 seemed to take forever, and my whole body hurt so badly during this final stretch. However as I passing runners and walkers looking more like zombies, I had never felt so strong mentally before. When I made the last left turn at mile 26, I did not see the Finish arch but I started to sprint with my bricked legs and feeling tears were forming.  I crossed the Finish line but could not stop my moving body in time, so I dragged the volunteer with me a little bit while he tried to hand me my medal. Tears stroll down my cheeks and I shivered uncontrollably. A tall guy saw me in tears and he offered an encouraging smile and said “let me take a picture of you with your medal.” I could see his body was all stiff while holding my iPhone, and he said “you look much better than me; see I can’t even move.” He told me that he was from Wisconsin, so I asked “why did you sign up CIM?” And his answer really amused me –  “I heard that California has good weather and it never rained.” Haha… I jokingly apologized  “sorry that our weather has failed you.”

    I started looking for K Street and walked slowly with my limping, hurting, stiff body; I got lost a bit but that allowed me to walk off my very stiffed legs. When I arrived the Pyramid Brewery I saw no one from our group, and I wondered if they had left because I was too slow. The little child inside of me wanted to cry again as I stood on the street deserted and trying to get some sun on my face. Then I saw Max, Tina and Casey walking toward this direction, I used the last bit of strength to control my tears so I wouldn’t look like a wimp. I had the urge to run up and ask for a hug, but I knew I can’t and shouldn’t. Later got seated in a corner room got  windows with plenty of sunshine coming in, but I was still shivering and feeling so depressed from the cold, wet, shame and disappointment of not meeting my goals. When I no longer could control the emotion I covered my face with both hands and shed tears silently wishing I could just sink into the ground, until a very familiar hand touched my arm so very gently.

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    After a cup of hot soup and one well deserved Apricot Ale, we exchanged our war stories and took couple group pictures with our hard earned medals. We left a little after 12:30 in order to get back to shower and check out our rooms. On our way to the bus stop, a stranger/runner came up and struck a conversation “hey, you look very familiar.” I looked at him with a polite smile indicating that “sorry, but I don’t know you.” He then continued “you paced NorCal, didn’t you?” I nodded my head with surprise while he went on “and you also paced Morgan Hill.” Ahha, did not expect random stranger to recognize me that way and it felt extra good when  I obviously looked like shit after this brutal race.

    As soon as getting back to our place, I could not wait to peel off the wet clayed running cloth and lucky to see that I did not get any blisters on my toes, thanks to that Vaseline!! I step into the steaming shower and let out a stream of “ahhhhhhh”; I was chafed so badly on my shoulder, chest, belly button, waist, tummy, lower back..  where my compression tight and sport bra cinched and cut into my skin. I had never had chafing on these areas, so was completely unprepared for the pain.  Fifteen  minutes later, Max let out another stream of “Ahhhhhhhhhh” that’s so loud that you probably could hear it from 26.2 miles away! :-p


    p.s. On our way back to San Jose, we confirmed that Max PRed at CIM, an astonishing 3:13 in today’s brutal race. Congrats ~~ And he gave me a sheepish grin and telling me that I wasn’t doing too bad either since I beat fast guys like Michael and Ben :-p


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