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Race Recap: 2022 California International Marathon 

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CIM 2021 was a fun race with lots of participants from the Portland area. A number of us decided to give it another go. Unlike 2021, the weather was mostly cooperative in November, so running on roads wasn’t as hazardous as the previous year. CIM is billed as a net-downhill race, but we’d learned in years past that it is best treated as a series of rolling hills till you hit the flat section in downtown Sacramento. This occurs at mile 21, so it feels almost like an uphill: the gentle aid in the first “half” of the course is gone, and the struggle begins!

Megan, Kellie, Kristin, Rohit, and Janne recount their experiences below.

What was your last marathon before CIM? What lessons did you learn in your previous race that you were trying to implement at CIM 2022?

Megan: Less than one month prior to CIM I ran the NYC Marathon “for fun.” I learned my lesson that I need more recovery time between marathons, no matter what pace I run! At CIM 2021 I surprised myself with a 12 minute PR (3:05), and this year didn’t quite have all the tools in my toolbox to set myself up for success. Moving forward, I‘ll build a consistent base, which is hard during the summer when my work is consuming. Maybe I’ll seek a spring 2024 marathon instead!

Kellie: I ran Eugene marathon in May of 2022 toeing the line there after being on a liquid diet and antibiotics the prior week due to oral infection (which I learned the following week was due to my wisdom teeth being impacted and erupting). Fortunately, the infection was resolved and discomfort was manageable, thus I was able to eat more solid foods the day before, and I was clear to race. Needless to say, I believe those prior conditions negatively impacted my race performance as my fueling and energy were compromised. Moving on to CIM 2022, the goal was to be conservative in the first half, consume more gels throughout the race, and top off stores along the way, as practiced. I tolerated more gels than ever, and also ran a more conservative first half, on pace for a substantial PR, but then hit the wall hard at mile 21.

Kristin: My last marathon prior to CIM was Boston ’22, where I ran steady for 3:07:46. The cross-country travel was tiring for me. I woke up fatigued on race day and never achieved a fresh and racy feeling. From that experience, I decided to limit travel for future PR efforts.

Rohit: I had initially resolved to not run CIM. Leading up to CIM I would have run Berlin ’21, Boston ’21 (two weeks apart), CIM ’21 (for a PB of 2:48:28), Boston ’22, and London ’22 (October 2). However, after a near-perfect training cycle leading up to London, I imploded in the heat at mile 17. Both legs cramped and I had to run-walk to the finish in my slowest finish since 2017. Following the race, I fainted from dehydration while standing in line for a beer and needed some attention from paramedics. I was fine soon after — I got to see Kipchoge at the Age Group Awards reception — but my ego took a bruising. I took a week or two to recover, then I decided to work on endurance and ramped up mileage. Along the way I noted that many of my friends were running CIM, so I decided to jump in with the goal of running a steady race with even or negative splits and definitely no fainting afterward. This was 7 weeks before CIM, and 2 weeks after London. I had run enough marathons by this point to know I would not be able to train at pace to really try for a PB, but wanted to use CIM to race myself into fitness (okay, I know that isn’t really a thing).

What were your last few workouts and confidence levels heading into CIM 2022? What were your goals for the race

Megan: This fall we did lots of track workouts ranging from mile repeats (6 in the smoke was brutal!) up to 12k of alternations (600/400, 400/200, 600/200, or 800/800). I ran longer workouts than I ever had before, including a 10k PR one Friday morning! Running with Kristin and Val in all types of weather boosted my confidence and made it so much easier to get it done.

My last workout was on the turf inside an icy track before a morning flight to Sacramento – not ideal! My last long run ended with 6 miles of goal marathon pace – I struggled to hit the pace running 6:59 avg. This was the indicator I should have used to reset my race day goals. The week before CIM I was stressed about my stretch A goal (sub 3). I knew this was too much of a reach based on my training. Instead of focusing on a 1 second PR (which I think I was capable of), I set myself up for disappointment before the race even started. I learned to set a “C” goal that is well within range and doesn’t include a PR.

Kellie: I decided to do CIM just 6 weeks before the race, but with a solid base and coming off of a strong and exciting season of trail racing, I was feeling confident! Plus, I had friends encouraging me to join them in on the fun, and you can’t pass up a chance like this! I made a fairly smooth transition from XC workouts to marathon long run workouts and track sessions of longer intervals. I went into CIM confident that I could reach my goal if I was patient and relaxed myself to 6:25-6:30 pace. I had been able to run that with relative ease for 16 of a 20 mile run two weeks prior. I aimed to keep a conservative pace in the first half 6:30, consume more gels to top off glycogen stores throughout the race, and break 2:50.

Kristin: I executed my workouts as written in November except for a session of alternations where I froze up in the rain. My final workout consisted of Aussies (400/200 alternations) with Megan and Rohit. When Rohit assumed pacing duties after the first mile, we cruised to clock-like splits, which bolstered my confidence. I also bumped (freshened up) during my taper, which I loved. Assuming classic CIM weather (45ºF, no rain, light air), I felt sure of my fitness and viewed the race as a chance to do my job. My confidence was affected by the possibility of rain, as I have not learned how to persevere in cold rain. That will be a goal for this year.

Rohit: After London, I focused on building up mileage in the four or five weeks before I would have to taper again. Ran a few doubles (having access to a treadmill helps!), and topped out at ~80 mi for a couple of weeks. I ran the Berkeley Half Marathon as my last hard effort before taper. My last big workout was a set of 400/200 alternations with Megan and Kristin. They paced the first few and I paced the last few. I’d never been good at hitting paces in an alternations workout but working together allowed us to hit our pace targets and helped boost my confidence.

Did you run any tuneup races? How did those go?

Megan: I was planning to run NYC for fun, with a workout during the 2nd half. The heat that day changed my plan and I was so pleased to finish, only walking during the aid stations (which normally I don’t even grab water from!)

XC in 2021 really set me up for success, running tired during my long run the next day. This year, I was only able to run the first two XC races which didn’t have the same impact on my training. I had a great time running with old and new teammates and ran faster and better paced than last year. I finished 12th place in the first race (Fernhill) and 8th place in the second race (MSY) and I’m so excited to run a full XC season in 2023!

Kellie: I raced the PNW half marathon in September, the Rogue Gorge trail half in October, and all but one of the Stumptown XC races. Each course provided me with unique and fun challenges and the variety kept me energized and curious about my body’s ability to perform in each unique race setting!

Kristin: I ran three of the four Stumptown XC races. All three races were unremarkable except my first mile split was essentially my final overall pace each time. I felt healthy and solid but was geared like a truck.

Rohit: I guess Berkeley was a tuneup race of sorts. I had signed up for it as an excuse to meet up with my daughter, who is a sophomore at Cal. It’s a hilly course with lots of energy from the crowds in the first half of the race (the crowds are strangely absent in the latter half till you’re near the finish). I ran it in 1:26:11, far from my PR, but good enough for a hilly course and where I was in training. An extended cooldown with Janne took my mileage for the day to 20+.

What was your pre-race routine, and how did you plan to fuel during the race? What was your race goal and pacing strategy?

Megan: This year I screwed with my pre-race nutrition the few days before CIM. I don’t recommend making any drastic changes without a trial run! I followed my race fueling plan that I trained with by taking a gel at the start and then every 4 miles, rotating between caffeinated and non. It seemed to work fine, and I carried all of my own gels so I didn’t have to rely on the aid stations.

A goal 2:59:59, B goal 3:03:32 (7 min pace), C goal 3:05:21 (1 second PR). My plan was to cross the half at 91 (6:56 pace) and then negative split with 89 (6:47 pace).

Kellie: I made a conscious effort to increase my carbohydrate intake the week prior and followed a taper plan gradually reducing both weekly mileage and intensity over the final two weeks before race day. I ate my usual pre-race meal plus an extra bar which I saved to eat on the bus en route to the course. I took a gel about 15 minutes before the start and then found a spot in the starting corral next to Megan!! I aimed to keep a conservative pace in the first half 6:30, consume more gels to top off glycogen stores throughout the race, and break 2:50.

Kristin: I consumed a large dinner, went to bed in a timely fashion, and looked forward to seeing how my build and taper would carry me through the race. There was a bit of a mishap in the morning. I arrived early for the bus but sat in the warm car to avoid standing in the rain prior to loading. Unfortunately, the bus I finally boarded had nonfunctioning wipers. There was a wait for a first, then second mechanic to arrive to attempt to repair them. A backup shuttle eventually presented with a driver who did not strike me as sober. Fortunately, there were local runners on board who kindly provided excellent directions to the driver. It was a dash from when we were finally let off the bus at 6:47 AM to use the restroom, remove outer layers of clothing, and run to the start while the National Anthem played. Some of the gate attendants would not let us into the corrals, “It’s your fault, you knew you had to be here by 6:40 AM,” despite letting them know their provided bus broke down and the backup bus that was supposed to be there in 10 minutes took 30….so I had to climb over one gate and through another to roll into the start. I was, however, happy the heavy rain broke in time for the start. Something I would have changed would have been to bring a second breakfast to eat on the bus because there was a long interval between breakfast and gun time. I took Maurten gels during the race.

My goal was 2:59:XX. The intended pacing strategy was 6:55 through the half and 6:47 after. I split 89:31 for the first half and had a 55 second positive split for the second half. After a slow first mile (7:01), I could not resist dipping under the prescribed 6:55 pace “just to be safe.”

Rohit: I’ve followed a virtually unchanged race routine since 2018, based on Matt Fitzgerald’s book. I cut down alcohol and count calories to ensure I’m not overeating starting about two weeks before the race, and add one small bottle of beet juice concentrate daily. I also eliminate caffeine to the extent possible to ensure race-day caffeine packs a kick, and my family now knows to avoid me for the first three days as I work through the caffeine withdrawal. Then carb loading started a day before, with no fibrous foods (only cheap white carbs and bananas) after race time minus 15 hours. I took a bottle of Maurten 160 3 hours before the race, a bagel, a banana, a Maurten gel and caffeine pill 1 hour before the race, and another Maurten gel 15 min before the race. During the race I took Maurten gels every 30 min, alternating between caffeinated and normal gels.

My goal was to not faint after the race, and to run steady. I planned on running 6:35-6:45 pace to come in around 2:55.

And how did the actual race go? Talk about the first 3 miles, then mile 4-18, then 19-21 (where you hit the flat section into downtown), and the last 5 miles. What was the race energy like? Did any friends cheer you along the way?

Megan: My first mile was my fastest – that says it all! Despite what turned out to be perfect weather, it wasn’t my day and I ended up running alone. I briefly saw Kristin and Anna near the start, but we never saw each other again! The first half went OK (91:40), slower than last year. Mile 14 was my last under 7 minute pace. I lived in Sacramento for 11 years so I have a large running community of friends and coworkers either running or spectating at CIM. This was my first CIM wearing a TRL singlet, so I was less recognizable to my old teammates and found myself shouting their names to catch their attention instead of the other way around. I threw my malfunctioning water bottle to a friend around 21.

I finished in 3:08 (3 minutes off my PR), 56th AG (50th last year). My hamstring and calf weren’t bothering me (lingering issues from October), I slept fine, my fueling was fine, just heavy legs from NYC, and I lost motivation the second half. I was upset seeing my A, B, & C goals slip away. I knew I couldn’t break 3 this time around, and should have been happy with my run. I ran the opposite race than last year, positive vs negative splits. Oh well – time for shorter races! I swore off marathons in 2023 to make space for a full XC season. We’ll see!

Kellie: In the start coral I stood beside friend and teammate, Megan Taylor, I felt excited to toe the line together in this exciting challenge to through the streets of Folsom to Sacramento! Took gel #1 before the start. I started out a little quick the first mile although it felt very easy. I quickly realized this and readjusted my pace in efforts to stick with the original plan going out about 1:24 the first half. I remember running into Rohit around this time and felt relieved that I could stick with him and hopefully hold myself to a relaxed pace. Reached the halfway point around 1:23:00 and felt controlled and not strained, and eager to continue in this effort. The enthusiasm of the crowds and friends I had no clue would be there shouting my name boosted both my confidence and my pace! Kept trotting along 6:20s feeling comfy, but requiring a bit more effort as we came up on some headwinds around 16/17. Took another gel around 17/18 which was noticeably harder to consume, but taken in smaller bits over a mile, I got it in. I maintained contact with the small group of about 4 of us who paced together for the last several miles. Still, I felt like I could hang with the upper 6:20s, but needed to give myself more positive affirmations, because the fatigue was getting more noticeable and started to creep into the 6:30s in miles 19-21. I remember coming by Rafe and Sarah around 20 and exchanging words of encouragement, which gave me a mental energy boost, but a seemingly short-lived one. As mile 21 came along I knew I must hang tough as one could hear someone shout “less than 10k to go” I was thinking, “I can totally do this. I have persevered through many occasions of fatigue and showed strength.” The mind was on board, but my body was rebelling. Legs/hips were stiff and my stride felt restricted by mile 23 the goal was to finish and maintain balance and focus the best I could. Pace dropped to 7+min/mile through 24, and I had to stop looking at splits and just focus on the task of finishing. Last couple miles were a march with a bit of stumbling, but I finished, and in a much better condition than last year!

Kristin: I ran easy to start and wanted to hold back even more, but I was getting passed left and right throughout the first mile, which felt odd, as I started with the 3:05-3:10 crowd. I got trapped a bit on the initial turn and climbs but did not really mind. The field never thinned out as much as I would have liked, and I had to skip some water stations because of the steady bunching. The first three miles were sedate, 4-18 I focused on rolling through the hills and biding my time, and 19-21 were uncomfortable. I felt like I needed more calories. The final five miles were near sickening, and I really had to grind to hold on. At mile 26, I told myself to drain the tank and go and thought of all the track work I had done in preparation for the day. The weather was reasonably good except for the wet cross and later headwind. This year was CIM’s largest field, and I felt it. Other than that, CIM is a well-done marathon, and the course flows well. I enjoyed seeing Rick at various points along the way.

Rohit: Having decided that I wasn’t going to try for a PB and to just run a steady race and possibly try for even or negative splits, I started running with Kellie and another friend, Elisabeth. I was goaling 6:40 min/mi, and we ran together for the first 4 miles, at which point Elisabeth dropped back to moderate her pace to hit her goal of a sub-3 race, and Kellie took off. I managed to get a few laughs out of the people around us when I shouted out to Kellie, “Remember, if you run faster than everyone else, you’ll win.”

I realized I was going a little too fast for my own good, and managed to moderate it down to 6:40 pace for the most part. After the overpass at mile 21, the course feels a lot harder because you lose the mixture of rolling hills and the net downhill, so staying on pace feels like a negative split by effort (not sure this makes sense but hopefully people can figure out what I mean).

When I saw Kellie around mile 24, initially my heart sank. I had a flashback to 2021 when I’d seen her on the course and I just wanted to will her forward. But she was running so much better than in 2021, even if she’d slowed from the start, and seeing her at the finish in a PB was the nicest feeling. Kellie will do even better as she dials in the last few pieces of her racing strategy, and this was such a good time regardless. Other friends from Portland finished around the same time as Kellie. I missed seeing Kristin, but saw Janne and then Megan followed soon after. Megan wasn’t happy about her time, but seemed philosophical about it and will be able to use her fitness for better races in the future.

My final splits were 87:46 and 87:51 — given that the first 4 miles were faster than intended, this feels close enough to my goal so I’m quite pleased.

What did you do to celebrate after the race?

Megan: Having Rohit greet me with a hug at the finish boosted my spirits — the finish line photos capture the moment perfectly! I was bummed most of the day after the race, but I enjoyed seeing old teammates at the end and sharing a beer while cheering for friends still finishing. I shared a dinner with my hosts in Sacramento, including gelato! Ice cream always helps.

Kellie: Celebrated with great friends, eating tasty indulgent foods and exchanging race stories!

Kristin: I shared news of the performance with those who are supportive of my running and felt good about the accomplishment.

Rohit: We repeated the visit to the Yard House near our hotels – we even got the same table we sat at in 2021! There was a lot of beer consumed there, and also on the plane back to Portland (yay for free drink tickets from Southwest!).

Janne: I am honored to be included in this report! After moving to California in June, I stayed in close touch with Lizard friends while being welcomed into the local running community. I also reinjured myself training for Chicago. Running the CIM Relay with a local friend was a perfect way to be part of the CIM fun, incorporate a hard effort as I was rebuilding, and to see Portland friends. Compared to running the full marathon, I was far more aware during the race to cheer for friends, and functional afterward to celebrate. I finished, immediately saw Rohit, and celebrated still being uninjured! We topped it all off at the same table at the Yard House, re-hydrating, re-fueling, and celebrating everyone’s accomplishments.

Summary of TRL results at CIM 2022

Adam Neale: 2:46:48

Rohit Grover: 2:55:37

Kellie Houser: 2:57:27

Anna Komer 2:57:59

Kristin Shaw: 2:59:26

Megan Taylor 3:08:24

Rachel Morris 3:12:30

Heather Rohrer: 4:16:31

Race relay: Team Striving for Adequacy (Janne Heinonen ran the 12.8 mi latter portion  in 1:26:32:00): 2:56:18

Kristin Shaw on course

Rohit on course (picture courtesy Mariko Tokoyoda)

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