Posts Tagged ‘BQ’

CIM, Susan’s quest to BQ

If you are thinking of running CIM and want the low down on what to expect that’s over here in my serious race report. This race report is Susan’s musings on her own race! Mostly to amuse myself but if it amuses anyone else, enjoy!

The quest for a BQ

It’s not that you aren’t fast enough for Boston, you just aren’t old enough! Fortunately, I am old enough and female enough that I have run Boston. But I need a BQ for 2023! Qualifying for Boston is a mixed blessing, once you’ve been once, you want to go back, over and over! Extra fun for a Squeaker like me! (Squeakers are those of us whose qualifying times are at risk of not making the Boston cut-offs)

In February 2021, my Seattle running buddy, Christopher, and I were living the pandemic race drought, and decided for mental health reasons we needed to register for a race we believed would happen in person. Enter the California International Marathon. It’s in December, surely, please, by then we will be racing in person again, pretty please? As an added bonus, CIM has a reputation as a great place to BQ. Book it!

It just so happens I had my marathon PR at Hamilton in 2019, so I also had almost 14 minutes below my BQ time for Boston 2021 registration (I know, I know, hand in my squeaker card but I promise I’ve slowed back down to squeaker status). Because of the pandemic, Boston was a fall race in 2021, and of course it might be virtual like it was in 2020, and who knows if we will even be able to enter the US to run it, but as it turns out, I had a bib for Boston in person in October 2021, 7 weeks before CIM.

Boston happened

Now as an experienced Squeaker I can tell you, you don’t try to BQ in Boston, are you nuts? Boston is a tough course and it’s also a fun race (if any marathon can be called fun) to just run without stressing out over your time. So I figured run Boston, race CIM! My sister and I navigated the COVID border crossing fun and managed to run Boston in person. I didn’t stress over the time, it was great!

CIM Training

So, now I have 7 weeks. 2 week rest, then start training again? Sadly my body had other ideas. Patellofemoral syndrome, and a wicked hamstring cramp did allow me to check two new running injuries off my bucket list but resulted in my first physio visits in 3 years (Hi Richelle!) I ran maybe 100 km total in the entire 7 weeks between Boston and CIM.

Pre-race rituals

I complete my COVID test (come on negative, come on negative, yes!!!!) and Wednesday Christopher picks me up at SFO (that’s San Francisco Airport in frequent flyer speak). All runners have a few important pre-race rituals and superstitions, especially before a marathon. One of our pre-marathon routines is going out for Gyu-Kaku (Japanese restaurant where you grill your own food). The race is in Sacramento which is sadly a Gyukaku-free zone, so we hit one in San Francisco and binged on beef and rice then the most important part. We sacrificed marshmallows to the running gods with a dessert of smores

CIM Expo

We drive to Sacramento Friday and there is a runner doing As and Bs in the parking lot as we pull in. I think this is the right hotel. The plan was to arrive Friday so we can do all the rushing around now and spend Saturday with our feet up! First stop race expo!

COVID is still a thing so we had to book a time for when we would pick up our bibs. To pick up our bibs we need to show our proof of vaccination, the volunteers are wonderful and within minutes we are trying to find ways to spend our money in the expo.

Clearly I need these two t-shirts, and a new pair of compression socks, Yes Christopher you definitely need another pair of Goodr Sunglasses, and yes I know CIM is one of the best places to BQ but I am *not* buying this shirt that would surely anger the marathon gods!

We continue with the usual pre-marathon rituals, we hand strangers our phones to take our picture (selfies in a race expo anger the marathon gods!), we take pictures of random strangers standing in from of banners, holding up their bibs, while friends yell out take off your mask for the photo (ahhh COVID!)

For the first time I look at the course map and I notice the elevation chart in the corner, ooooh I like that!

Around this point Christopher and I start having *the* talk. “So what pace you thinking of running Sunday? ” Don’t be fooled by the casual tone! Somehow you have to extrapolate a race day goal from your performance through 16 weeks of training with paces and performances that varied dramatically and probably culminated in a long miserable 20 mile run at a pace far slower than you hope to maintain for 26.2 miles on race day. It would be nice to run a BQ, and the weather forecast is good, should I? could I? Will the gods allow it? I need a sign!

Then I see the sign, an actual sign, a sign about a bell!

Well that’s it for me, I’m going to try and run a BQ! I want to ring that bell on Sunday. They have pacers for every BQ time, did you see the hill profile on that map? the weather forecast is perfect, F*K it I’m going for the BQ! Tempted by that hill profile, pacers, and weather Christopher also decides to try for a PB.

Laying out the flat runner

Saturday involves a lot of time in my room with my feet up, sipping Nuun, eating chips, watching whatever will pass the time on the hotel TV. Oooh back to back episodes of Christmas bake-off! Then it’s time to lay out all the running gear for race day. I don’t want to be making decisions about which socks to wear at 4:30 AM! a couple of months ago I ordered a shirt and tank from Athletics Canada so random strangers could yell “Go Canada” at me as I run by in US races. I also have my favorite pre-race throwaway bathrobe and some styling zebra pyjama pants from the thrift shop to keep me warm until the race starts.

The start line

The race starts in Folsom, in fact it’s right next to Folsom Prison of Johnny Cash fame. You can see the barbed wire of the prison yard when you get off the bus. After drinking copious amounts of Nuun Saturday all I can think of after we arrive is where are the port-a-potties!!! Fortunately, they literally have port-a-potties as far as the eye can see. Now, I can take a minute to look around the start, don’t trip over the rope between corals…and hey we can actually get back on the bus to sit down and stay warm… what was that crashing noise? Oh that was a runner who did trip over the rope between corals and pulled the fencing down with him. That would be a sucky way to get injured just before starting your marathon. Hmmm, not that this affects me at all but just wondering where do the 3-3:30 hour marathoners corral?

The race

With the limited mileage and injuries, I honestly have no clue how my body will hold out for 42.2 km! I remind myself of Christopher’s rule: Dead Last Finish > Did not Finish > Did not Start. Time to shift the mindset from I don’t “have” to run this marathon, I “get” to run this marathon!

I line up with the 3:55 pace team, make polite nervous conversation with the other runners in the coral, duck under the clothes being thrown over my head towards the fence and we are off! The weather is perfect, let’s do this.

The kms go by, and of course at various points I feel my knee injury is acting up, no wait my hamstring is acting up, but wait it was my right hamstring I injured not my left. So basically I had a pretty normal race experience thinking some random injury was going to sideline my race but each twinge faded away with the mileage.

There are some crowds along the way but instead of hearing “Go Canada” all I hear is “Go Karen!”, endless shouts of “Go Karen Go!”, “Way to go Karen!” “Yay Karen!” Apparently our pacer has a LOT of friends.

Karen starts giving advice on how to run up the hill, and the next hill, and the next hill, wait a second!!! Where did all these hills come from did they not see the hill profile on the map? Fortunately, I had trained for and run Boston so each hill I just kept thinking okay well not as steep or as long as Boston’s hills but wow what a LOT of hills! Anyone who expected this race to be downhill or flat could be in big trouble! (side note Strava says I ran 292 m of elevation in this race, Boston is only 340m of elevation so yeah that was not my imagination it WAS hilly).

Water stops magically appeared at distances like 4.2 miles and 6.7 miles. I crossed a couple of timing mats and called out hello to family members and my physiotherapist letting them know I was still on pace for a BQ. At the half way point I put on my metal playlist to give me an extra boost ( Iron Maiden Run to the Hills wasn’t the first song I heard, but I did get to hear it before the end of the race πŸ™‚ Here are some of the random thoughts that went through my head as I ran:

  • I wonder what a random passer by would make of the volunteers constantly yelling out “WATER” “CAFFEINATED” “NO CAFFEINE” “BANANA” for hours on end.
  • Okay this new Endurance Tap packaging is hard to open, let’s try ripping the corner with my teeth
  • Seriously does everyone know Karen? Why did I even bother with the Canada shirt?
  • Oooh Banana!
  • 21.1 km to go, I ran 21.1 km last weekend with Terry and it felt okay, I can do this
  • “Run like your mother just called you by your first name” okay that’s a good one
  • Yay I get to see Karin and Stephane at mile 16!
  • got a tiny hole in the top of the Endurance tap gel packet, maybe if I squeeze it like a tube of toothpaste rolling it up from the bottom?
  • Yay I get to see Karin and Stephane at mile 20!
  • Oh no, missed the banana!
  • another hill? wow! they just keep going
  • blister on my toe, blister on my toe, oh better now, probably burst and I’ll have a nice bloody sock at the finish
  • How miserable was I when I ran my PB in Hamilton.. I’m not that miserable yet keep going
  • Oooh banana, not missing it this time!
  • I am going to ring that Bell
  • New York marathon hurt a lot, I can take this
  • I am going to ring that F*** Bell
  • I hate the new endurance tap packaging!
  • I am going to ring that F*** Bell

We crossed a bridge around 21.5 miles. At this point the pace pack was starting to catch up to runners who had gone out too fast or who weren’t expecting all those hills. It gets flatter after the bridge, but oh my foot is trying to cramp, relax breathe, settle in, 3 miles to go still with the pace group calf is starting to cramp nooooooo not now… 3 miles, I’m so close, but no, I can’t keep up with the pacer I’m going to have to slow down or walk, I slow down the pace group starts to pull away, the change in pace settles my calf and I am able to pick it up and rejoin the pack. 2 km from the finish, I’m tired, I’m sore, but I’m not dying. Time to use up anything I have left and go! That runner I can catch that runner, now that runner, now that runner, “Go Canada!” Hey finally one spectator noticed my shirt. Extra 10 points for passing that runner in the Vaporfly shoes, that runner, that runner, 800 meters to go, Christopher and I walked the last 800 meters, every second I gain here is a better chance of making the BQ cutoff, every second counts, go, go, and then a song comes on my playlist with a wicked fast beat and includes the following lyrics:

Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head
Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head
Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head
Tickin’ in my head, tickin’ in my head, tickin’ in my head
If I, tell ya what I’m doing today
Will you, shut up and get out of my way
Someone ask me what the time is, I don’t know
Only know I gotta go now

Anthrax – Got the Time

That’s exactly the song I needed right now! Straight down the chute fist in the air, I even attempted to do a jump as I crossed the finish. (I got about 2 cm vertical and almost fell over when I landed πŸ™‚

Just keep moving…Medal yes thank you.. just keep moving…Finisher jacket, yes thank you… keep walking… water bottle thank you…. keep walking.. goodie bag thank you… okay now get to the gear check… If any of you have ever seen me after a marathon I am a complete and utter wreck, I hyperventilate, I can barely stand or walk, I cry, seriously the medics always watch me carefully as I go by wheelchair at the ready. I get to the gear check bracing myself to walk past all the tents to the 4000-4500 gear check tent. The volunteer takes one look at me and says “Would you like me to go get your bag for you” YES GOD YES PLEASE! I stop moving. I force myself to try and swing my legs a bit. She comes back with my bag. My angel!

The Bell I must find the bell. I hear it ringing, I slowly stumble towards the bell, past runners, single minded, the bell, I ran a BQ I must ring the bell. Oh crap! all these runners I am walking past are in line to ring the bell! Yeah I cannot spend 30 minutes standing in a line right now. Grass lawn, gear check bag, sweatpants, mylar blanket spread eagle on grass. I’m done. I am so so done.

At some point in the future I did find the energy to get in line πŸ™‚ Totally worth it. Thanks to all my running buddies and my Ottawa running group Run K2J for the helping make it happen

If you enjoyed this race report, check out the rest of my running posts everything from a fun quiz, to running disaster stories, gear reviews, and race reviews.