That said, the start line was another story. The weather forecast predicted rain and wind, and that we had. Kevin and I hopped on the bus from our hotel around 5 am and rode to the start line in Folsom. It was raining hard and felt so cold when we arrived and hopped out to use the porta potties. Luckily, the organizers let us stay on the bus until 15 minutes before the start so we weren't getting drenched. I made a second trip to the porta potty in even worse rain and wind, and when I got back to the bus I swore it was hailing. It felt like little pellets. By this point I was already very, very glad I had decided to wear my jacket. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to bail on the whole thing that morning.
At the start area I said good luck to Kevin and headed back to join the 4:40 pace group; I figured it would be more fun to handle the weather with a group then to go it alone. We introduced ourselves and started talking from the beginning of the race, and this is when things become a blur. I remember little things like dodging garbage bags on the ground and water in my eyes. I know a big palm tree branch fell on the road not too far from me and people were yelling. I remember splashing through lots of puddles, some way over my shoes. But most of all? I remember talking to the other 4:40 group runners, people cheering for us even in the rain, and carrying the pace sign for a while when our pacer needed the restroom. I wasn't cold (thanks Oiselle Clearly jacket!) and I wasn't miserable at all.
I stayed with the pace group until mile 20.5, where I said good bye and broke off for a bathroom break. I'm a little sad I didn't get to finish with the group, but your body needs what your body needs. They had a big line of porta potties and no line, so it was the perfect time to stop fighting it. The last few miles on my own were less exciting; my glutes were getting super tired and I slowed down a little bit, but I focused on staying ahead of the splits on my 4:45 pace tattoo. Without my 3-4 minute bathroom break, I think I could have stuck it out with the 4:40 pace group.
For the last two miles I just remember thinking 'I'm going to do this! I'm going to hit my goal!' and had a big smile on my face. There were more and more people spectating as we came into downtown and they gave me the last little push I needed. The next thing I knew, I'd turned the corner and the finish was right there. Victory!
I found Kevin right away waiting at the finish and then headed off to get food. They had pancakes, which in theory I thought would be great, but I couldn't stomach anything solid as usual after a long run. I went for water and chocolate milk instead. Sadly I didn't see any other friends at the finish or after as I hoped, but it was a good decision to go straight back to the hotel for a warm shower and rest.
I'm thrilled that I finally felt good for a marathon, that my body didn't and overheat or side cramp severely, and that the weather wasn't hot. Call me crazy but I would take this weather again anytime over the heat we had in Chicago.
My side cramp did rear it's ugly head a little later in the race, but I was able to keep it mild by focusing on breathing and telling myself not to panic. I swear it's worse when I get anxious. When it first started a lady in the 4:40 group gave me a mustard packet to eat, saying she knew experienced runners who always use it for extra electrolytes. It actually worked and the cramp completely subsided for a while; whether in my head or the mustard, I was a happy girl.
Now for more on the race itself.
The Expo. The expo was what I'd consider mid-size and held at the Sacramento Convention Center; I enjoyed the Christmas decorations at the expo. We didn't spend much time walking around after picking up our packets because the booths and offerings were pretty standard. I stopped by the SF Marathon booth to say hi to Ambassador Laura, and I met up with a few Oiselle team ladies. It's so much fun to meet everyone in person.
Kevin's ready to run. Also, it was his birthday.
The Swag. This was the 30th Anniversary of CIM so they gave runners extra race swag with the 30th logo: tech shirt, nylon spike bag, gloves, and headbands/neck gaiters. The shirts fit very well plus you could choose long or short sleeve at registration, a nice touch. Last but not least, the medals are huge!
Lots of goodies.
The Course. The CIM course is described as fast so it's easy to assume this course is flat. In reality, it has rolling hills basically the whole way. I prefer this kind of course because I like the change in muscle use, but it's a good thing to note if you decide to run CIM. The nice part is none of the hills are big or steep; I never had the 'I can't run up anymore' feeling during this race like I have with other courses. The uphill rolls end around mile 22 or 23, and after that it feels flat and even slightly downhill.
The Support. These volunteers and spectators deserve a huge round of applause for being out there in the rainy weather! I was surprised how many people were actually out watching the race and cheering, and it was fantastic. Volunteer support on the course was great, fluid stops were stocked with blue Powerade and water. They handed out Gu a couple of times later in the race, both caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions. Fluid stations seemed really close to one another especially near the end, which felt unusual but also welcome. The start and the course had plenty of porta potties, and I was excited for the long line of them just after mile 20 so I could run in without waiting in line. The finish line had tons of food too, an impressive amount of food really. I saw pancakes, chocolate milk, Clif bars, fruit, cookies, tomato soup, water, and I'm sure I missed something in that list.
The bus ride to the start was super easy and they picked up at a number of hotels including ours. We had bus service back to our hotel (Hilton Arden West) from the finish line area as well. Hint: staying a little farther out saved a ton of money on hotel cost and the bus service made it convenient.
Here's to wrapping up my 2012 race goals with a marathon success - cheers!
Signature medal pose.