Thursday, December 11, 2008

C.I.M. When can I do it again? (guest blog by Vivian)

Now that I have braved the vagaries of air travel back from California to our little northern outpost, restocked the fridge that the teenagers ate bare, unpacked, and caught up on my sleep (a little), I am ready to try to put into words the amazing experience that was my first marathon.
We landed in San Francisco last Friday at noon to a beautiful sunny day, 22 degrees. Sacramento is a 90 minute drive north and east of San Francisco, on the interior. Weather experts tell us that Sacramento is supposed to be several degrees warmer than the Bay Area at any given time. As we enjoyed our lunch amidst the flowering pots of an outdoor cafĂ© in San Francisco’s South Beach area, pre-race anxiety and sun-on-my-face-sleeveless-bliss competed for conquest of my emotional state. If it’s this hot here, what’s it going to be like 43 hours from now, 90 miles east, at race start?
We headed for Sacramento, checked in to our hotel and headed for the California International Marathon expo. What is that thing psychologists call “imposter syndrome”?
There I was walking around the expo, picking up my race kit and beautiful CIM technical shirt, having my chip checked, acting like I was a marathoner. What’s with that?
Somehow we were able to shovel a massive quantity of pasta and salad into me at Buca di Beppo’s
(which I highly recommend for the portions and price when doing a long run in the U.S.) and slept (pretty well) on Friday night. David always says it’s not the sleep the night before the race that matters, it’s the night before the night before.
As it turned out I needn’t have worried about the weekend weather. Looking out the window of our Sacramento hotel room on Saturday morning, I could see all the way to – well actually - my window. And what I could see through the fog onto the street looked like a whole bunch of people wearing down jackets and mitts. Is this how Californians react to a little bit of fall weather or is it really that cold?
There were vast numbers of young freakishly athletic looking people staying at our hotel. Many of these folks were leaving the hotel in droves for group runs on Saturday morning. David warned me that this would happen. He reassured me that going for a run in the fog would make no difference to whether I finished or even my time. So I tried to ignore all the BQ-chasers and resist peer group pressure to do a pre race day run. Instead David and I strolled the State legislature park that stretched for blocks across the street from our hotel. We couldn’t find the Governor’s mansion (we heard Arnold wasn’t in town anyway) but found scores of orange trees weighed down with fruit, rose bushes in bloom and fragrant snapdragons.
Somehow I got through pre-race day, we set our alarm for 3:45 AM and woke up to another foggy day, or should I say night. CIM is a point to point marathon. For $10 on top of your registration you board a school bus at your marathon hotel at 5 AM and get bussed literally to the starting line of the marathon. It was an other-worldly experience - scores of orange busses heading out to Folsom in the pitch dark, each bus boarded upon arrival by a CIM volunteer who makes announcements and wishes the group luck, and then 6000 marathoners and 750 relay starters headed off to 250 porta potties (max. wait time about 1 minute, really! Hear that, Manitoba Marathon?). Checked our sweat bags, threw our last minute warm up gear into the charity bin at the starting line, and off we went. A wide starting street, even well back in the pack it only took us about 45 seconds to cross the starting line.
Our race plan was for 10-minute miles inclusive of walk breaks every 10 minutes, which meant doing about a 9:30 pace while running. My “wildest dreams” time was 4:20. My “would be thrilled with” time was anything under 4:30. We kept to our race plan and things went according to plan, mostly. Every mile a CIM volunteer called out the clock time and average pace as runners passed the mile marker. We were on pace. The course was mainly straight, the spectators plentiful, and the course entertainment wonderful – high school cheerleaders in uniform, marching bands, live rock bands, soul singers. The first 5 miles were rural and there were cows and horses to cheer us on.
We took an unscheduled 2 – 3 minute break at about Mile 10 – someone didn’t use the porta potty before the race and it wasn’t me (and there were only 3 PP’s at Mile 10 not 250) – and our pace slowed down a touch after about mile 20 but honestly I didn’t start feeling really tired until about the last 3.5 miles (you know, those last three miles that you’ve never run before in training or in my case ever). The weather was near perfect for me – 3 degrees throughout the race, fog and clouds, obviously some humidity but not a real problem due to the low temperature.
As we turned the last corner and saw the State Capital Building and the finish line balloons David grabbed my hand and we headed for the women’s finish line. My chip time 4:24:01, David’s 4:24:02. That first marathon finish was really everything that they say it is, and then it’s all a blur of more awesome CIM volunteers, post-race phone calls, and the very stiff, very cold but very euphoric walk back to the hotel.
In my pre race blog I expressed my gratitude to David and my amazing running friends. I cannot say enough about the CIM organization and the Sacramento Marathon. The CIM organization bills itself as runners for runners, and this couldn’t be more true. Finally I want to put in a plug for the humble taper and for wonderful massage therapist Elanna Greene. I had many aches and pains, and worse, throughout the fall as I trained for this race. By race week the aches were there but they were whining a lot less, and by race day the taper and Elanna had scared my injuries into shadows of their former selves.
When can I do it again?
Larry, Vivian, and David at the CIM exposition.
Congratulations to Larry who completed CIM with a 5:35 time in the 75 to 79 age category.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Vivian.
That's one under your belt. Now lets see how many more you can do.

Unknown said...

250 port-a-potties!! That sounds like my kind-a race! Well done V. Sounds like an amazing race. It's on my list. And thanks tonnes for the guest blog; very much appreciated and enjoyed by many. Mike

Anonymous said...

Way to go Vivian! You are an inspiration to others (okay, me) who are looking to thier first marathon.