CIM 2016 Race Report

Lots of Suffering. Big Reward.

Executive Summary

This is my 3rd marathon and my 2nd CIM. I ran a negative split of 13 seconds and had a major performance breakthrough with a time of 3:12:35, comparing to my time of 3:55:39 last year on the same course. I had to dig deep towards the final miles to keep myself from falling apart which made me even more grateful of this result. The run can be found here: https://www.strava.com/activities/793660521/overview

Pre-Race

It was a Sunday race. Rainie, Alex and I arrived Sacramento in Saturday afternoon. We stayed at a hotel next to the convention center where we picked up the race packets. This location is also conveniently located near the shuttle bus stop where we would meet at 5 am race morning to get transported to race start @ Folsom. This simplified the race morning logistics quite a bit and I got to stay in bed for probably 10 more minutes :-)

Found a Christmas tree in the hotel lobby
Alex checking out the beautiful winter view
Alex carb-loading

Race Morning

4:10am Wake up
4:20am Light breakfast
4:45am On-board the shuttle bus
5:40am Arrived at race start line
5:40–6:55am Hid inside of the convenient store at “The Dam Gas Station” near the start line so I don’t freeze myself in the sub-40 temperature 
7:00am Race start

The Race

I planned to run this marathon in 5 segments.

I started the race easy but quickly realized I was running at 7:15, 10 seconds faster than my goal pace. However, it didn’t take much effort to keep that pace with the help of the amount of downhills. I finished mile 1 with an average pace of 7:15 min/mi. Mile 2 was a similar story. There were much more downhills than I expected and I decided to update my race pace to 7:20 from 7:25 to reflect that, while I would keep my HR under my planned value.

0–6 miles: 
Avg. Pace: 7:20 min/mi
Avg. HR: 161 bpm

At this point, the race felt pretty easy, the 40 degree temperature felt just right. There was less downhills in the next section of the source but it didn’t take too much more effort to keep the same pace.

6–12 miles:
Avg. Pace: 7:20 min/mi
Avg. HR: 167 bpm

12 miles into the race and I still feel pretty fresh but I knew the next 6 miles was what was going to make or break this race for me as I ventured beyond the longest distance I covered in my training runs (16 miles).

12–18 miles:
Avg. Pace: 7:18 min/mi
Avg. HR: 168 bpm

To be honest, I didn’t have much confidence about my endurance at this stage of the race. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that both of my pace and my HR were still within the plan. I still had probably 10–15 bpm of room to increase for my HR for the remaining 10 miles. As long as my HR rises up at about the same rate with this pace, I should finish within 3:13! However, when things go south, it rarely goes gradually.

At mile 19, I was still running 7:21 min/mi with 171 bpm. At mile 20, even after I intentionally slowed my pace down to 7:24, I still couldn’t stop my HR from spiking to 177bpm. Mile 21 was a very similar story. Same as Mile 22. I did not know how long I could sustain at 177 bpm, but it was probably too high for me to sustain to the finish.

Mile 19:
Avg. Pace: 7:21 min/mi
Avg. HR: 171 bpm

20–24 miles:
Avg. Pace: 7:25 min/mi
Avg. HR: 177 bpm

With 2 miles left to go, I had to make a choice.

My legs were fried and my heart and lung were on fire. I could slow way down (8:20 min/mi) and still achieve my A goal of 3:15. However, in order to go under 3:13, I need to go faster than 7:20 min/mi.

I ultimately made my decision to go faster. In all honesty, I did not think I could hold 7:20 for two more miles. However, I knew I would regret it if I simply did not try. Sometimes, all it takes is the willingness to try and this is one of those times.

I stopped looking at my HR as I knew it was already too high. I opted for a longer stride, paid more attention to my form and just kept moving forward. There were more and more spectators as it got closer to the finish which kept me from backing off from my pace. A group of friends conveniently located at mile 25 even paced me for a couple hundred yards with a pace too fast that I didn’t even have the time to check my watch.

When my watch beeped 26 miles, I saw I still had roughly 2 minutes for the last 400 yards to make 3:13 which means it was not the time to relax yet. I saw Alex and Rainie as I made the final turn and there was the finish line. I looked at the watch and it read 3:12:35.

Mile 25:
Avg. Pace: 7:15 min/mi
Avg. HR: 181 bpm

Mile 26:
Avg. Pace: 7:04 min/mi
Avg. HR: 185 bpm

Mile 26.2:
Avg. Pace: 7:06 min/mi
Avg. HR: 188 bpm

Mile 26.1

What a marathon! What a race! I couldn’t express how grateful I felt for what I have experienced in the last several miles of the race and was reminded again why I am so fascinated with endurance sports. The training helps one to raise one’s physical limits, but it is the mind what ultimately gets trained and makes one stronger.

P.S.: This is a summary of my training leading to this race.

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