California International Marathon 2022 Race Recap
The California International Marathon was my tenth time running a marathon, but it was the first time I executed my race plan with near perfect fidelity. My second half marathon was 3 minutes faster than the first. The last 10k, 5k and mile were each the fastest portions of the race I ran. I passed 1,261 runners on my way to finishing at 3:43:14 with an 8:31 average pace.
I'm especially proud of this achievement because I blew up hard in my last two marathon races. Revel Rockies 2022 and Boulderthon 2021 both ended in really slow finishes with dramatic and sudden declines in pace per mile. CIM feels like redemption.
Before the Race
The day before the race I did a 3 mile shake out run with three strides at 9:00am. I went to the expo and got in and out as quickly as I could. I ate a lot of carbs - pancakes, a scone, pasta, and sushi. I drank lots of water - over half a gallon. But, I also stopped eating and drinking by 6pm or so.
That night I went to bed at 7:15 pm. After a fitful sleep, I woke just before my alarm at 4:00 am. I had some leftover sushi (I'm vegetarian so this is not as gross as it sounds) and coffee. I got my race kit on and then layered up with a pair of sweat pants, two hoodies, a beanie, and a throw away poncho.
It had rained heavily the day before the race and it was drizzling when I left the hotel. Next time if it rains I should bring a pair of old running shoes that I can change out of and toss while I'm in the starting corral. I might also do the same with an extra pair of socks just to really make sure that my feet are toasty and dry at the start of the race. Luckily this was not an issue this time around.
I got in line to load onto the buses at 5:00 am. When I got to the starting area there was at least 1/3 of a mile of porta-potties. The organizers brag that the porta-potty to runner ratio is the best of any marathon 1:30.
After the porta-potty, I got a few pieces of banana, a cup of and water. I returned to the bus and waited until 6:30am. I then went to the portapotty one more time and jogged to the starting corral. I ditched my extra layers. Luckily the weather was quickly improving and I was not cold at all in my shorts, singlet, arm sleeves, cap, and gloves.
The first 5k
The race had a waved start which was well organized. I lined up at the back of the 3:45 pacing area and crossed the start line about 7.5 minutes after the initial start.
The first 5k was all about holding back. I imposed a hard 8:45 speed limit on the first mile. This meant I got to watch the 3:45 pacing group go out ahead of me and I pretty quickly lost sight of them completely.
I kept HR, lap pace, and total distance on my watch. This was a great combination because I could make sure that my HR was not getting out of control throughout the race and I always knew what mile I was on. Of course in the first few miles my watch dinged and informed my that my HR strap was low on batteries. Next time, we'll add a fresh battery before the race.
During the second and third miles of the marathon, I noticed that my HR was surprisingly low. Typically when I do a general aerobic run or even a long run in Denver, my HR is somewhere between 135 and 145 and my pace is somewhere between 9:20 and 10:00. During these first few miles my HR was in the mid 140s and my pace was 8:30-8:45. This improved HR is probably because of a successful taper and the boost I get from training one mile above sea level and racing at sea level.
At this point in the race I wanted to optimize for a low heart rate and I was willing to keep my pace slow to do that.
As a result of my low HR, I decided to try to lock into a 8:30-8:45 pace. This meant running a lot slower than I could have at that point in the race. It felt really easy.
I checked my watch every few minutes to make sure I wasn't going too fast. On the hills I gave myself permission to slow down even more. I tried to keep my mind dispassionate and analytical.
I noticed runners around me breathing hard - not a good sign for them. At around mile six fellow next to me said, "How are you feeling?" I said, "Great." He said, "This hurts." I told him "You should slow down, there is a long way to go."
I followed a woman with Alphflys on and a Spartan helmet tattoo on her neck. She looked like she was holding a consistent pace, but was breathing hard and sweating a lot - heavy footsteps. She was very distinctive looking so she was easy to hold onto until she started to slow.
I took gels at mile 4, 9, and 13. I took water probably two times. I also didn't try to keep my pace while drinking. I gave myself permission to stop, drink, and then start back again. I don't feel like this cost me any time at all. I also made a quick bathroom stop at one point early on. Even with the stop, I was able to run an 8:45 mile and catch up with all the runners was side by side with before the start.
At mile 13 there was a lot of music and the course was pretty downhill. I got carried away and ended up running just under an 8 minute mile. My legs felt so good and I just wanted to run fast, but I knew it wasn't time yet so I reined it in and got back into my 8:30-8:45 pace.
After the halfway point I decided to try to keep my HR as low as possible until mile 18 and hope that I could maintain a pace in the 8:30s. If my HR started to climb above 155, I'd slow down, which prevented me from going much faster than 8:30 during this stretch. This was the phase of the race where I knew I needed to be the most patient and focused. I wanted to lock in on my pace and then at mile 18 see if I could starting speeding up.
I ran next to a really consistent runner. We chatted a little bit and I let her know my plan - stay steady until my 18 and then pick it up. I lost her at mile 16, but heard her say "Go Jesse!"
At mile 18 I started to feel a little more confident. I knew that I could maintain the pace I was at for 8 more miles, no problem. So I decided to make a change and speed up. Rather than targeting 8:30s, I targeted the 8:20s. I monitored my HR, if it got above 155 I tried to pull back.
At mile 20 I knew it was time to start pushing. I let my HR climb in the upper 150s and I held onto my 8:20s pace range goal. Once my HR gets to the upper 150s and 160s I'm on the clock, but with 10k left it was time.
Even though I was feeling strong, there is nothing easy about running 20 miles. At this point I began to think about my wife, daughter and son. I just thought about how grateful I am for them. I repeated the mantra, "Let's be great today." And even though it was hard I kept going.
I started looking at the total time on a second data screen on my watch and I knew that a lot of my friends had finished or were about to finish the race - fast friends. I took strength from that knowledge and continued.
At mile 23 I thought about my friend Yu, who had completed the race by that time, but told me to think about him during that mile. He's an experienced marathoner and I took strength from my relationship with him and his amazing story.
At the mile 24 marker I caught back up with the 3:45 pacing group and blew by them. At that point I was going 10 seconds per mile faster then them. They were slowing down. I was speeding up.
The final two miles were all about slowly and carefully increasing the effort. I traded more HR for speed. My HR at that point was in the low 160s and my pace was in the 8:00-8:20s.
In the final stretch I felt real tired. It felt like I was slowing down, but I was actually continuing to speed up. My vision was blurred.
I saw my buddy Eric cheering for me. I knew it was time to really go. I put the hammer down and really started to run. With less than a quarter mile remaining I was willing to trade it all for every second I could get.
When I finished, I felt great. I knew I executed my plan.
After some recovery, I'll start training again. I'm going to break my training down into 7 week cycles with two down weeks and a 5k time trial week. The time trial results will guide the paces I use in the subsequent cycle.
In May I'd like to pace the 4:15 group at the Colfax Marathon. Then I'd like to make the Boulder Boulder my big spring race - maybe aim for a 45 minute finish.
In October, I think I'd like to run the Boulderthon again, but I'll treat it as a supported training run.
In December 2024, I'll run the California International Marathon again, but faster.