CIM Week 11.5 of 12: Race Preview

Let’s face it: it’s super awkward to post workouts from the last week of marathon training after the race, so I thought I’d lump the beginning of Week 12 with a little race preview, to get my pre-CIM rambling on. Ready? Let’s go!

First: the nitty gritty.

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: “Mini-fartleks” – 8 x (25 s on/1 min off). 25 seconds is in that hybrid territory between strides and fartleks. My body wasn’t sure what was going on, but it sure was happy to only run 3 miles. 3.1 miles @ 10:27/mile

Wednesday: Cruise intervals- 4 x 1000 m w/ 200 m jog. The goal pace here was 8:09-8:25/mile. My splits were: 8:27, 8:10, 8:04, 8:10/mile. I can’t believe that last week, I ran 2000 m repeats faster than all but one of these 1000 m repeats, but that wasn’t the goal today. No need to run myself into the ground 4 days before a marathon. 4 miles @ 9:13/mile

Thursday: 40 minutes + strides. I had some noticeable front/top of knee pain, but I figured it would go away as I warmed-up. Unfortunately, it didn’t. 12 hours later, with my knee still hurting, I think it was a mistake to continue with my run. Sigh. 3.7 miles @ 10:31/mile

The remainder of the week: Friday is a rest day. On Saturday, I have a 30-minute shakeout run, which I might shorten or cut depending on how my knee feels. Then, Sunday morning is the big day!


2016 California International Marathon: Race Preview

Before I begin, some personal history: 2012 was the year I “became” a runner and CIM 2012 was my first marathon. So, basically, I was a running newbie and had zero expectations…which was good, because the weather that year was awful. I always refer to it as the Year of the Monsoon, though my race photos belie that fact. (Especially the post-race photos when the sun came out!).

For my first stab at 26.2, I ran a fairly consistent pace, didn’t really bonk, and didn’t have any serious chafing. Except for the weather, I had a charmed race, finishing in 4:32:39. Unbeknownst to me, it would take me almost 3 years and 4 more marathons before I would have a faster finishing time.

Mile 17. Thumbs up for the VIP poncho!

Mile 17. Thumbs up for the dollar store poncho!

Fast forward to 2016. Sunday will be my 6th road marathon and my 8th race of 26.2 miles or longer. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the last 4 years, running-wise. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot and have become a better runner for it. This year, I’ve focused on two main themes: getting faster and not giving up (building mental strength). The first has come with regular speedwork, something that was new to me and, to my surprise, something that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve also targeted increasing race distances as the year progressed, starting with a 5K in March, to a 10K in May, to a half marathon in August. At some point, I had to transition from speed to endurance, but it’s been fun to keep doing some of the shorter interval workouts in the midst of marathon training. I’m now hitting paces during regular workouts that I didn’t think were possible even 10 months ago. So, that’s been a big confidence builder in a lot of ways.

Building mental strength was an equally important piece of the puzzle, especially for the half marathon and the marathon. It’s interesting to me, as someone who works hard and has achieved some major accomplishments through general persistence, that I tend to give up so easily when the going gets tough physically. When I think about the races where I’ve really struggled, I’m embarrassed at how quickly I went into making excuses and self-defeated mode. One thing I can easily point to is that my internal motivation wasn’t quite strong enough to fight through the challenges in the past. This was especially true when I was focused on a time goal, and it was clear that the time goal was *not* going to be met. (More on this later!) I also realized with this current training cycle that sometimes struggle and sacrifice is a good thing. When I’m having a tough time on Sunday, I will definitely be able to draw strength (and a bit of anger) from all of the 5:30am alarms this year. I didn’t wake up early twice a week for most of this year just to wimp out at my goal race! I am super determined to override any bad attitude (and knee pain) that gets in my way.

One thing I’m really good at is talking myself out of suffering. I might get to a point in any race and decide, “Meh. This isn’t worth it. Let’s take it down a notch and roll on home.” This is why I’ve found fast finish long runs to be so useful – I can simulate some of that end-of-race fatigue and practice pushing myself in spite of it. Also, when I’ve had some *really* crappy long runs this year, I actually see it as an opportunity to try out all of the tools that might help me overcome the perceived adversity. I ask myself, “What if this was happening in a race? What would I do? How would I deal with this?”

I had a realization earlier this year that I was doing visualization all wrong. Sports psychologists recommend that athletes practice visualization techniques before their competitions for best results. I was doing this too, but only imagining the rush of happy endorphins as I ran around effortlessly, crossing the finish line much faster than I had anticipated. I never imagined the death-slog with a side of bonk, with 8 miles still to go. It wasn’t until I read Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It that, along with the positive visualization, I should also anticipate the suffering – which has a very high probability of occurring at some point in a marathon.

OK, so enough about that. Let’s get to the real business of this race preview – what’s going to happen Sunday? And what’s my plan?

First of all, some race logistics: CIM is a point-to-point race, going from Folsom to Sacramento. I’m staying in downtown Sacramento with KH and taking the 5:00 a.m. shuttle to Folsom. (EEK.) Actually, as long as we get there on-time and without drama, I don’t really mind the early hour. Last time, I stayed in Folsom and took it too easy, and almost didn’t make it to the start line in time.

The weather forecast looks great for now (fingers crossed!!). Lows in the low 40s, then warming up to a partly cloudy 60 degrees F, with light winds and 4% chance of rain.

There’s a 4:08 pacer and a 4:23 pacer. Odd. I’m planning on lining up behind the 4:08 pacer and letting the group go for the first few miles.

As I hinted earlier, I haven’t had the best luck with outcome-based goals (i.e., I’m going to run X:XX on Sunday). I feel like I’ve done my best at races with process-based goals. Once again, Angela wrote a very thoughtful, well-stated post on this very topic, and I recommend that you read it! I’d be lying if I said that I don’t have a time goal floating around in the back of my head. Don’t we all? But I’m not going to let that time goal define my success on Sunday… mostly because I only have so much control over that. Therefore, the process-based goals I’m focusing on for Sunday are things that I know are mostly in my control, and hopefully executing them properly will lead to the best outcome. These include:

  • Sleep, hydrate, and eat well the week before the race.
  • Reduce unnecessary stress.
  • Make a list and don’t leave things last minute so I’m not stressed out and running around like crazy on Saturday morning (i.e., taking care of chores, charging Garmin, and buying supplies in advance).
  • Stay calm before the race (don’t burn up energy unnecessarily).
  • Do a very relaxed 5-minute warm-up before the race.
  • Start behind the 4:08 pacer.
  • Stay relaxed for the first few miles. Don’t expend too much effort weaving around or passing people.
  • Take a Gu every 4 miles.
  • Take water at the first few aid stations, since they’re space further apart, but then stop only every other aid station when there’s one every mile.
  • Thank volunteers.
  • Thank spectators.
  • Smile every mile! (credit: Danielle)
  • Head-to-toe form check every 1-2 miles.
  • Be persistent and don’t give up!
  • Enjoy! Be thankful. Stay in the moment. Etc. 🙂

As for pacing, this is where I get into murky territory. It seems impossible to have truly process-oriented goals with such a objective measure (e.g., splits). The other complicating factor is that, having been a pacer at 3 half marathons, and doing a lot of race pace workouts, I actually have trained myself to respond pretty well to, “I need to run X pace for this many miles.” So, I’m still thinking about my pacing strategy, but for now, my “plan” is to start relaxed and try my best to negative split based on effort. When I did this at Santa Rosa, I ran too conservatively in the first half, resulting in a 11 minute negative split between the first and second halves. So my goal for Sunday is to be a little more aggressive earlier, but still save some energy for the last 10K.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough. If you’ve made it this far – congrats and good job. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see y’all on the other side of 26.2.

Crossing the finish line!

Crossing the finish line at my first marathon


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in CIM, random, Training
15 comments on “CIM Week 11.5 of 12: Race Preview
  1. aewills says:

    BEST OF LUCK JEN! Have a great race. I have been lurking and reading about your careful and thorough preparations, which are an inspiration and a body of work to be proud of in an of themselves. I miss CA and CIM and will be thinking of you Sunday!

    • Jen says:

      Aw, thanks A! And good to hear from you. I had posted the photo of us from CIM on Instagram yesterday and noted how awesome you were for driving out to Sac in the torrential rain just to pace me for 5 miles. Hope all is well! CA (and I) miss you!

  2. ErinAMG says:

    So excited for you!!! You’ve had a great cycle, and I think you’re going to do very well. It sounds like you’re ready to opt-in to the late-marathon sufferfest that might be waiting for you, and you know that you’re ready and willing to rumble with it. I bet that confidence will do you wonders. You’re tougher than you realize, and the weeks and months of training have brought your physical and mental fortitude to a peak. Go get it, girl!! Rooting for you!!!

  3. Amy says:

    Woo Hoo! Marathon time! Wishing you a very process-successful race! Looking forward to seeing your victory finish line photo. It’s crazy to think that this time four years ago we were cheering you on for your first marathon. You’ve come so far!

  4. bt says:

    Congrats on such a strong training cycle. I’ll be watching and cheering for you remotely on Sunday!

  5. Dominick S. says:

    Good luck and take it all in!

  6. Angela says:

    Wow, you got a great finish shot in 2012!
    (Also, I am definitely going to re-read “How Bad Do You Want It” between now & Sunday….)

  7. gracechua31 says:

    Good luck on Sunday! Is there a bib number? Can I track you guys to cheer you on virtually? 🙂

    One pacing strategy I’ve heard of is to think of the marathon not in halves but in terms of 10 miles, 10 miles, and a final 6. First 10 eat, second 10 moderate, final 6 hard (I think orthodox heart rate training might give you some recommendations for HR ranges). By now you’ve accomplished so much in training that you can eat 6 miles for breakfast – think of those fast finish long runs.

  8. […] but sometimes it’s wonky, so I didn’t give it a second thought. I was following all of my process-oriented goals – staying in the moment, thanking volunteers, etc. I had forgotten how many small rolling hills […]

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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