Since I’m running CIM for the second time in just ten days, I came and revisited this recap I wrote in 2017 when I first ran it. That was my 6th marathon, and coming up next weekend CIM 2022 will be my 14th! I think I might write a pre-race post sometime in the next few days, but for now it was fun reading this post from five years ago!
Five years ago…
In 2016, after I ran my first marathon and guzzled the runner Kool-Aid, I took note of this hashtag that I continuously saw on Instagram: #runCIM. What is that?? It didn’t take me long to learn that it was a very popular, fast, net-elevation loss marathon in Sacramento, California which claims the be the “fastest course in the West.” It seemed a LOT of people thought very highly of this CIM, and lots of people went there with hopes of a PR or BQ, so I added it to my very long list of marathons I want to run some day. Then, I discovered my coach was running CIM 2016. So were other people on my Instagram feed. I WANTED TO RUN CIM TOO! So I registered for 2017!
Fast forward two more great marathon experiences (Victoria and Disney), two other disappointing ones (Calgary and R’n’R Seattle) and a great sixteen-week buildup, and it was time to head to Sacramento!!
I arrived around 10am on Friday morning after a very early alarm in Vancouver and two flights, connecting in Seattle, to get me there. This was of course after my initial travel from home in northern BC to Vancouver on Thursday. The joys of living in the middle of nowhere 🙂 My new airport friend Nancy and I split a cab to downtown and it was about thirty bucks USD between the two of us. I had good luck right off the bat – there happened to be a room available for me at 10:30am when I got to the Holiday Inn Sacramento Downtown! Check-in was 3pm and I went there just intending to drop off my bag, get lunch and then hit the race expo at noon, but I ended up with a way better situation which was shower, nap, Starbucks, expo, lunch.
The location of the Holiday Inn (one of the host hotels) worked out really well for me. It was about a mile from the Convention Centre where the Expo was held which made for a nice walk to stretch out my plane legs.
Also, bus pickup “B” (runners are encouraged to take the free busses to the start of the race) was like fifty metres around the corner at 3rd & L Street, but more about that later.
The CIM Expo was sweet! The giant C I M letters immediately after entering was a cool photo op, as well as the race course map and the giant poster with each of the thousands of runners names on it. (Mine and Karmen’s names fit in the same photo!)
Bib pick-up was by last name and it was quick and easy. We were also given a nice reusable CIM bag, CIM ankle socks, a runner’s belt thingy, and a buff-style headband. All of the swag is legit. I like all of it aside from the belt thingy, it’s just a little fanny-pack’ish for my liking but I’m sure some people would find it useful.
Around the first corner, going with the flow of the sea of people, were a bunch of tables for the relay runners, so I continued past to the race shirt table and was given my shirt. IT’S GREAT. If you know me, you know I loathe 99% of race shirts. Always too short or flared out at the bottom, or with a choking neckline. But this shirt! A long sleeve half (maybe quarter?) zip, navy blue top that wasn’t short or flared out at the bottom! Finally. I even wore it on the trip home.
I cruised around and discovered that I didn’t have to go to Fleet Feet Sports to find the Goodr Sunglasses I’d been wanting because they were selling them at the expo! The Flamingos on a Booze Cruise are finally mine!
I visited the Oiselle booth and then checked out the event merchandise which was pretty awesome, but not so fantastic that I had to further break my shopping freeze. After a lay down at the hotel, I suited up for four easy kilometers around my area and over the Tower Bridge.
Bedtime was seriously like 6:30pm and I’m so glad I went in bed at that time because I somehow managed to sleep pretty solid for almost ten hours!! Friday is sleep night, and sleep night was a success.
Saturday morning was the CIM Shakeout Run!! It was nice having the ten minute jog to the convention centre to wake up a little, and it really did wake me up because it was cold that morning! Around 4°C I believe. Perfect for running once warmed up, in my opinion. In the lobby where everyone met, I met Steph (@runstrongrun), Amy (@runaissancewoman) and Vanessa (@vancesa) and we chatted for a while before it was run time.
The route was simply loops around Capitol park, each lap being about a mile, and runners could do as many loops as they wanted! There was a big group pic outside and I got to say hello to Elyse (@milestomedals) and have a hug.
I linked up with Amy and we got to know each other on the jog and she told me this would be her first marathon. Solid crew at this shake-out!
I went back into the expo after the jog, chatted at the Oiselle booth and browsed around for a second time.
The afternoon consisted of candy from Andy’s Candy, PIZZA at Pizza Rock with my friends Karmen and Adam who were both running the marathon as well, and then more naps, pad Thai from Lotus Thai, and early to bed for some classic “fake sleeping” that I specialize in on all race eves. LOL.
My alarm was set for 3:45am, but since I wasn’t sleeping anyway I got up just before 3:30. This gave me more than enough time to make my oatmeal with hot water from the Keurig, eat my rice from the Thai restaurant, get my race kit together and layer up with throwaway clothes.
My check bag I had packed the day before. I left the lobby at 4:40 and was in the lineup for the school busses by like 4:43. The bus situation was so easy and organized, but I was also there a good fifteen minutes before the 5am scheduled departure to Folsom. My new bus friend Eric and I chatted on the whole ride to the start area, which took about 45 minutes if I remember correctly. He was running his first marathon and had bought a brand new BMW the day before but got his dad to drive it home. His finish celebration would be driving his new car home!
Once arriving at the start line, runners are allowed to stay on the busses to keep warm, or get back on any time. I ditched my check-bag right away (fast and easy), went pee in one of what looked like thousands of PortoPotties, and then got back on a random bus for a bit because it was pretty cold. At 6:30 I went to the corner by 7-11 for the #WeRunSocial meetup and by the time we were done visiting and taking a group photo it was time for me to go find the 3:52 pace group!
But I had to go pee again!! By now the porto lines were LONG and slow. Since I’m Canadian and don’t give a F, I peed behind a bush with a bunch of men (LOLOLOL) and then jumped into the starting area with the 3:52 pacers, Clark and Carolyn. There’s no way I’d have been able to use one of the toilets in time before the gun so good thing I’m a free spirit.
Go time!!! It was chilly and I kept my long sleeve shirt on for the first few kilometers before I ditched it. It was such a beautiful morning though! The first part of the race is in a fairly rural area and people were having fires in their front yards, holding signs and ringing cowbells. It’s also pretty downhill for the first mile which was really nice for a warm up. It was a bit congested and I tucked in tight behind Clark and Carolyn and rode their rhythm as I warmed up and enjoyed the “holy F I’m running a marathon today” energy. Our pacers were amazing and so great about reminding us to fuel and hydrate often and early. I started on my first Nakd bar around 6km, and hit the first water station with no spilling, even though I had my Nathan handheld. My plan was to drink from all stations that were easy to get at plus from my own bottle whenever I felt like it, eat my bars and also take the Cliff shots from the four fuel stations since I have lots of experience with that brand. I needed to get plain water from the stations since I had Nuun in my handheld. I am really glad that I had it because some of the hydration stations were SO crowded!
A lot of my run was a blur, that’s just the way it is. I was just focusing on staying calm, relaxed and present, and trusting the pacers to get me to at least half-way before I would likely break off on my own. I truly believe I saved SO MUCH valuable energy by running with them because I didn’t look at my watch once until probably 25km, and I didn’t have to obsess about my pace on the hills. Speaking of hills…
This race is a net-downhill, and yes there are lots of glorious stretches of mild downhill, but there are also a lot of rollers and tons of flat. It made for excellent variety and using all different muscles, and it also provided the opportunity to take an inventory of running form and breathing because each hill was always followed by a mild downhill to recover. I LOVE THIS COURSE SO MUCH!!!!!!
The section through Old Fair Oaks Village around kilometers 15 and 16 was a nice boost, it felt like I was at Oktoberfest or something, lots of bands and spectators and such a cute little area! The turns through that section of the race obviously weren’t helpful for GPS distance, but it kept it interesting and was a nice distraction since the majority of the course runs in long straight stretches. I honestly don’t even really remember much between that village and getting to the half-way timing mat. I know I took note of some really pretty trees, and talked a little with a woman from San Diego who was running with the same pack. The last short, steeper hill that I recall was just before half-way.
I remember I felt really good, like so good it was almost scary, up until like 32-34km and even after that it never got bad, just regular marathon feeling. Even so, I felt the pace group was a good idea to stick with for a while beyond the half marathon mat. There was a stretch somewhere between half-way and “the Wall” where we ran up a long but very gradual hill that seemed to last for a really long time. But, each time there was a hill that had me starting to feel fatigued or less in control, a gradual downslope would follow and give me time to regroup and lower my heart rate. I felt strong running through “the Wall”, (there was actually a wall display, I’m not just using quotes annoyingly) which I swear was further along than the 20 mile marker but maybe I just can’t recall properly. There was a big cowbell crew at one spot that I initially thought was Oiselle and something hit me and I got all choked up ahaha. Crying while running a marathon is awesome. I took note of passing the 30k marker since Clark was making fun of me for being Canadian and running in metric, and soon after that is where I started to run without being latched on to the pace group. I looked straight forward and kept steady. Kane had told me to think of him during kilometer 32, and I did, and continued to remind myself that it was now time to just simply run 10k. I also knew that aside from some bridge around 35km, the remainder of the course would be very flat.
Divide and conquer. Get to the bridge. Laugh at the bridge. Run on pancake-flat to the State Capitol! I passed many people on that last tiny bridge-hill (which doesn’t feel tiny when you’ve been running for 3 hours..) and then I said my inspiring runner friends’ names, my husband’s name, coach, and told myself “I can run 5km. I can run forward. Running is faster than walking. Moving forward will get me there sooner than if I stop.” My feet were on fucking FIRE and I was ready to be finished.
The actual Oiselle cowbell station was so loud and awesome and I choked up again running through them around mile 23. Amazing. Once turning onto J street (my hotel was at 3rd & J) after that bridge, the street numbers start to countdown all the way into downtown, from 57th street. I knew there was another left-right move onto L street, where then there were 20ish blocks to run until the sharp left on 8th, and left again onto Capitol Mall (the finish stretch) towards the Capitol building! RUN TO 8TH STREET JAMIE. Later-fun. Later-fun. Later-fun.
There was a drum line, and tons of spectators, the energy was awesome! I picked out a guy in a bright yellow shirt and rode his pace for a bit, then did the same with another runner. FINALLY I was at 8th street!! I was running right where Amy and I had run and chatted during the shakeout run the day before! Almost there!! Hung the sharp left, kept pushing, and just as I was making the final left turn into the chute, I heard “JAMIE!!!!!” and I saw Karmen and Adam shouting for me! F*CK YES!!!
I put forth my best effort to kick to the finish, which was NOT my fastest ever, but that’s good because it means I was finishing on empty, the last piece of the plan!
I crossed the finish and got my medal, which is massive and beautiful!! I was in a happy daze and put on the cloth jacket that was given out to each runner and got a stranger to take my pic in front of the State Capitol. I felt like I was on drugs I was so woozy and weak but so so so happy!!! I achieved my “B” goal of 3:51:xx for a twenty minute improvement on my previous 4:11 personal best!!!
I found a sunny patch of grass once I (very easily) retrieved my checked-bag, and took my time changing into some warm clothes, chugging water and eating a banana. Karmen and I texted a bit, she’d had a good day and Adam a GREAT day!! We didn’t find each other though, I find after the race I’m too stunned for much. I hung out and chatted with other runners and once more looked at the race merchandise (and refrained) and then walked like a snail along the final stretch of the course along L Street cheering before I hit up Starbucks for a venti white chocolate mocha with extra whipped cream. Then I zombie walked to my hotel in bliss, texting coach Andrew!!!
The California International Marathon is the best marathon experience I’ve had, so far! I’m sure this has at least something to do with the fact that I had a near-perfect day, but aside from that, the logistics and energy of this event plus the fantastic course makes me understand why it has such a great reputation. High fives to the Sacramento Running Association for hosting a bang-on event! The expo was great, the swag impressive, shake-out run super fun, start-line transportation was stress-free, the course was great (I wouldn’t call it scenic, but just great) and the medal is gigantic and beautiful!!!! I would not consider this a downhill course by any means, just FYI.
Before the CIM, there was only one marathon I’ve run so far that I really want to do again, which is the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Now, I have two. I plan to run CIM again in the future and I encourage you to check it out because it lived up to its reputation in my books!!