Saturday, December 19, 2009

CIM 2009

I didn’t mind the cold. It didn’t feel as biting as in 2005 and the prerace wait in the predawn chill went by quickly. The temperature was about the same as four years ago, just below freezing, but I was better prepared this time. I had my layer of throwaways, the key piece the Northwest Nazarene University hoodie obtained in exchange for $2 cash at the Salvation Army outpost, cotton, yes, but a ridiculously thick slab of the stuff. I was comfortable, and away from the buses and the start line there were porta-potties galore without lines, just walk right up, step right in. A rare and wonderful thing before a big race. And as for the bag drop, I must have hit it at just the right time because while I encountered a hectic scene, I did not find it to be the chaotic, race-derailing experience it apparently was for some runner-bloggers.

Maybe you've heard about the wind. That's been a focus of many of the CIM reports I've seen. The wind got me down for a little while on the southbound stretches. At one of the mile markers, in the mid-teens, I became so frustrated running into the cold wind that I asked the guy (not) calling out splits how long would it be before the road would turn and we’d be out of the wind. He thought I was asking for directions and told me to just follow the people in front of me! Definitely a failure to communicate there. I wanted to but did not stop, turn around, and explain the point of my inquiry. I ran on.

I guess if there’s got to be a theme to this race that’s a good one: I ran on. Things unfolded pretty much as I anticipated. Or planned? Maybe there’s no difference. I don’t think there was in this race. I wanted to run the first half in 90 minutes to see what it felt like to run the second half of a marathon after running a first half in 90 minutes. This, I figured, would give me valuable insight into what it might take to complete a marathon under three hours. And bang, that’s the way it unfolded. I hit 13.1 miles at 1:29:56, a fraction under the magic 6:52 pace. I'd kept the three-hour pacer guy in view until then, but the wind got to me not long after the halfway point. The blustery miles 15 through 19 went 7:07, 7:13, 7:07, 7:18 and 7:19. After that we were mostly not fighting the wind; it was coming from the south or southeast and we were running west or southwest. But my legs had grown tired. I had eaten gels around 5 and 13 (and then took another at 20). And there had been a piece of a banana along the way somewhere, as well as water—sips—grabbed on the fly at most of the aid stations. I think I was reasonably fueled. I just couldn’t go faster. Mile 20 was a 7:09, 21 a 7:10. At that point I was thinking a 3:05 might be possible, but 22-26 went like this: 7:25, 7:30, 7:31, 7:38 and 7:34, and even 3:05 slipped away.

As I suggested, this wasn’t surprising. With a half-marathon PR of 1:28:53 coming into CIM and no big workout breakthroughs, I couldn’t very well expect to run back-to-back 1:30s, adding up to a three-hour marathon. One of the things I've learned in running intently the past few years is that magic, craziness, doesn't often happen. Recent races and honest contemplation of your training will tell the story.

My second half of the race came in at 1:36:20, considerably slower than the first. No problem; I didn't come completely apart. I ran with composure throughout in what were hardly superb conditions (the consensus view was that the race was a 7 or 8 on a 1-10 toughness scale; I'd call it a 6, maybe 6.5). There was also the fact that I was running less than three months after going hard at Berlin. There was a sense, throughout my training leading up to CIM and on race day, that I had never quite completely recovered from that race.

So I suppose you could say the conditions cost me a minute or two, and lingering fatigue from Berlin maybe grabbed another minute. Or maybe not. Either way, I'm a few minutes shy of three hours. Of course those are the hardest minutes, those bare handful that stand in the way of the big goal, the goal of an athletic lifetime.

The plan is to do some resting, cycling on the trainer and easy running over the next few weeks then, in mid-January, embark on a 16-week program culminating with the Eugene Marathon on May 2, 2010. I'll tell the story here.

  • Time: 3:06:16
  • Overall: 372 out of 5848
  • 45-49M Age group: 25 out of 543
  • On my Garmin.
  • My CIM time in 2005: 3:35:32