Another race, another dynamite team of sighted guides, including two forst-timers!
The California Internal Marathon (CIM) is more than just a marathon for runners who are blind/visually impaired (B/VI) and our community. It doubles as the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Blind National Marathon Championships which brings together a huge contingent of runners who are B/VI and our guides. It is pretty much a social party for three days straight.
This was my third CIM and first since 2014 so I was very excited to see old friends and meet new ones. However, the last time I ran a hard effort marathon was Houston in January and once I crossed the finish line I started vomiting, was placed in a wheelchair, then dumped into an ice bath because my core temperature was 105 degrees. So I was nervous going into the race.
I signed up for CIM in the spring knowing that it would be at the end of a big year (more on this next post). I completed the Ghost Train 100 miler in late October so I had no idea how CIM would play out. I took a week of after Ghost Train and slowly got back into running at pace and for extended miles. I ran a decent 14 miler and a crowded half marathon which when able to I comfortably ran 8:30 min miles. But my body and legs were tired and a bit worn out.
I simply decided to run for as hard and as long as I could. I set three goals knowing that I was in good overall shape and had decent leg speed. A/Stretch: 3:32 B: sub 3:40 C: PB under 3:48:51.
After a weekend full of amazing activities/dinners networking, I was ready to race come Sunday morning. CIM is a 7:00AM start and point-to-point so at 5AM we hoped a bus to Folsom. Thanks to the incredibly supportive Sacramento Running Association, we had a heated tent with porta-potties and food (they also provide prize money making CIM the only marathon in the country that offers prize money for the Visually Impaired Division-thank you).
My brother Jayson, who previously guided me at Boston and CIM 2014, kindly flew in from Oregon to guide me during the first half. We picked up Sablle, who works with Nathan Sports and lives in San Fran, a few weeks before the race when the runner she was supposed to guide got injured. CIM is a crowded field so it was nice to have two guides at the start.
We lined up toward the back of the 3:37 pace group instead of taking the early start. My hope was that this would take away some of my pacing anxiety. The plan was to run around 8:20 for the first 20 miles then drop the pace if I had anything left.
CIM starts downhill so the crowds keep you in check a bit. We lost the pace group at the start but caught up around mile one or two. Jayson did a masterful job guiding me through the crowds and Sablle helped to create space as we approached and passed other runners. I was lucky to have such a dynamo guiding team.
|Jayson and me around mile 3 or 4. PC: Sablle|
The first half of CIM is super fun with small rolling hills. Nothing too difficult to climb then free speed on the way down. I commented to Sablle at one point that I should take it easy on the downhills because I haven’t run a hard road effort or for that matter any hills since Vermont 100 in July.
We clicked through the 10k in 50:31 8:08 pace. Whoa, this was pretty hot (time wise, not temps) but we were right toward the back of the 3:37 pace group. My legs and breathing felt good so I decided to push and see where I ended up.
Sablle guided me to the halfway point and did an incredibly solid job. She described what we were passing while keeping me away from other runners and over the numerous manhole covers (both she and Eric commented on how they never noticed all the manhole covers on roads-welcome to guiding!).
|Eric (check out those knitted shorts), Sablle and I at mile 13 transition. PC: Sablle selfie|
We rolled into the halfway transition with a good head of steam and on 8:11 pace (1:47 overall).
I felt OK but was nervous about the upcoming miles. Eric was my guide and this was his first time guiding in a race. I met Eric when he had me on his Ultra Runner Podcast show to chat about my Vermont 100. Knowing his lives in Sacramento I invited him to guide me and he kindly said yes. He did one 20-mile training run with my buddy Richard Hunter so I knew he was ready to go.
We slowed a bit to make sure I was taking in some Gu gels and water and I could feel the negative thoughts just waiting in the background ready to pounce. Somewhere around mile 15 or 16 I heard a runner loudly vomiting on the side which kind of reminded me of being in an ultra. Eric was doing a great job keeping me off the pesky bumps (he calls them “turtles”) in the middle of the road and right on the back of the pace group.
I was starting to work harder than I wanted to and around mile 18 or 19 I realized that the last 10k was going to be in survival and not pursuit mode.
We crossed the 20-mile mark in 2:44 and miraculously still at 8:13 min pace. Then I hit that good damn wall. I probably set myself up by telling myself pre-race that it had been a while since I ran a hard 20-26.2 effort. I saw the pace group slip away and my energy was depleted. I wanted to walk but thankfully was too embarrassed to walk in front of Eric. I started to do the math and knew if I averaged 10 min miles for the last 10k I would still PR.
|Loved meeting my Topo Athletic teammate Wheeler before the race.|
Eric knew I was working hard and was incredibly encouraging. We crossed a big bridge around mile 22 (ish) and Eric commented that it is all flat or downhill from there. I came upon my Topo Athletic teammate Wheeler, who I met pre-race, and he was also working hard. Not a coincidence that he is also a (very accomplished) ultra trail runner and therefore working hard on the roads. I got Wheler running with us then after about a mile or two he dropped and ran hard to the finish. Congrats man.
I was walking through the water stops instead of running slowly and just wanted to keep walking. I used every mental trick I knew. I touched the bracelet my daughter made me and I knew I wanted to finish strong for her. I told myself that I would regret walking and I could walk all I want when I finished. At mile 22 I visualized my go-to 4-mile training run. Then 3 miles-just to Jackson Square T Station and back. I muttered aloud a few “Lets go Robidoux.”
Around mile 24 Eric told me we were passing more runners than were passing us which was a HUGE mental boost. I couldn’t see my watch so I had no idea how close we were to my B goal. I shuffled through mile 25 at 8:57 pace then dug deep for the final mile. It was super flat through downtown Sacramento and I knew at some point we would take a sharp left to the finish line. C’mon, where is that damn left?!
At some point Jayson and Sablle joined me which was just the final boost we needed.
Eric guided me toward the men’s finish chute and the clock read 3:40 something and my watch read 3:39:52. I had no idea how far back we started to get my net time. About 20 minutes later we found out…
3:39: 23-a nice and shiny 8+ minutes PB for me!!! Quick takeaways:
· Road races HURT! Around mile 20 or 21 my right quad was burning on fire and shot. Thankfully it held up.
· Running with the pace group was fun especially when you could feel the entire group moving quickly forward as one. That said, I didn’t get a chance to meet/chat with anyone in that group. I think I was working too hard to carry sustained conversation (indicator that I was running way too hard).
· All three of my guides did a fantastic job. The beginning is always tough, there are a lot of turns and spotty road patches, and even toward the end it is challenging managing folks who stop suddenly or are walking. I felt safe and confident out there the entire time which provided the confidence to run hard even on tired legs.
· The crowd support is super strong especially for a point-to-point. Thanks to all of the folks cheering as well as the amazing course volunteers. Thanks to the USABA and Delta Gamma crew at the halfway point and to Eric’s wife and family who we saw a few times. Huge energy boosts having you all out there.
· Congrats to everyone who toed the line and finished the race.
· From start to finish that was probably the best running weather for any marathon I’ve run. Low 40s to start and low 50s (I think) to finish.
· Wow, I have never hit the infamous 20 mile wall like I did at CIM. My mile 19 split was 8:13 then 20 was low 8:50s. I managed one 8:37 around mile 23 but everything else was 8:50 something. Hard not to think about my time if I had simply run 20 seconds faster per mile. That said, I am incredibly content and proud of my time. Especially considering all of the miles logged this year.
|FINISHED! What a team.|
Post-Race Beeer: Eric is a huge beer geek (I promise that did not factor into me asking him to guide!) and his wife had Moonraker cans for us at the finish line. Possibly the best finish line beer (much better than shower beers) I’ve had. Thank you.
See you all in the streets or on the trails.
GEAR: Topo Athletic Ultrafly (my brother ran in the same!)