Wednesday, November 28, 2012

California International Marathon Preview

When I first read that Bart Yasso quote about the California Inernational Marathon course being the best course to attempt a Boston Qualifying time (BQ), I had not yet considered running 26.2 miles. His words stuck in the back of my head for a year or so, more so because of the race's proximity to my home than because I have any designs on getting my BQ any time soon. So when I decided that 2012 would be the year I ran my first marathon, CIM immediately rose to the top of the potential races. It will be my 16th race of 2012, which was my first full year of running injury free.

This year marks the 30th annual CIM in Sacramento. From the CIM website: the course "[traces] an historic route used by the gold miners during the 1849 Gold Rush. It begins at the Folsom Dam, passes through semi-rural suburbs into bustling midtown Sacramento, and has a spectacular finish in front of the California State Capitol."

CIM Course Map
Organized by the Sacramento Running Association, the CIM has become a world class event, and is often a regional or national USATF Championship event, as well. I have talked to many repeat participants, and not one has had a negative opinion on the race organization or course. However, there are a few stories of carnage that I uncovered. Some years the heat is unbearable, some years the latter half of the course is enveloped in fog, resulting in chilled runners wishing they had not discarded so many layers at the beginning. Many recount how the whole "net-downhill" aspect is over-hyped. The hills in the first half can easily roast your quads if you let them. "Don't plan on walking any stairs on Monday", said Mike Buzbee, a fellow Sierra Trailblazer. Mike is one of 12 CIM streakers, planning to run his 30th this year.

Race Day forecast from Accuweather
This year's event will be a soaker. The forecast for Northern California is predicting a "Pineapple Express" storm system to move slowly through from Wednesday through next week. This "river of storms" is the West Coast's version of a hurricane. As I write this, the rain and winds have already begun in the Bay. Some areas will receive up to 18 inches of rain, and flooding is anticipated for race day. On top of that, there will be a stiff SW headwind for most of the course!

In situations like these, I look to the coach for guidance. First, my favorite quote from the legendary Coach Bill Bowerman:

"There is no such thing as bad weather, just soft people"

I bet I'll be feeling pretty soft, water-logged, prune-skinned and squishy at the finish line!

and Coach Tim provided positive anecdotes:

"I've run some of my fastest races in the rain! Positive attitude! ... Don't forget to wear your rubbers."

CIM has a tradition of having dozens of musical acts along the course, which I have been looking forward to, as I think they would break the miles up and provide some energy. I wonder how many of the scheduled acts will actually brave the elements? Plus, will the rain keep the spectators away? As I have absolutely no power over these outcomes, I am not getting too tied up in the answers. My main concerns at this point are what to wear, and how much Body Glide should I apply on race morning!

So, as the rain continues to build, I make plans to drive the course Saturday morning, hit the expo to stock up on swag, and jog the final miles of the course so that I know where to kick, if I can...

Finally, this weekend will be the first race I am attending solo. Twirly's company Christmas party is the night before the race, and she is organizing the event. So, I will make an appearance, and then drive down to a hotel a couple of miles from the race start. Race morning I'll take a shuttle bus to the start line, and my epic journey to marathon-dom will begin. I hope that Twirly will be able to make it down to the Capitol in time to see me finish, but I know how company Christmas parties go, so I have already decided to let her off the hook. Her support of my running seems boundless, and I would really like her to be a part of my first marathon, but if she misses it, it will not change my accomplishment.


  1. Good Luck Ken! I think I may have to try that marathon one of these years. I will be interested to hear your recap.

    1. You may have to wring it out, Bjorn! Thanks for the well wishes.

  2. You'll have a great time no matter the weather...because you have an awesome attitude :) The second time I ran CIM it was pouring off and on the whole time...and I didn't melt! Or chafe too badly. It was more. Go get 'em!!!!

  3. Thanks XL! I can hardly wait. I wanted a race to remember, and this one is shaping up to be epic. I think I'm going to ditch the trash bag at the start, tho. No need to embellish the story ;)

    "It was more" what? Chafing? I'm putting body glide in places I have never considered! (My feet)