The past 3 years, this week has been my peak week of training for the California International Marathon (CIM). Although it’s not this year for me, it is for so many runners!
I love this race and not just because I have ran my 3 fastest marathons on this course. I love it for so many things: the weather, the crowd, the small town feel, the “runner’s race” vibe, and my list could go on and on.
I knew when I finished last year that I just needed a break from the course. Running the same race year after year can be fun, but it also can just get old. I knew I needed to step away from the same thing this year and that I did. I am very glad I am not currently training for a marathon, but I also definitely get jealous of all those runners planning their CIM race weekends and race strategies.
Since I have run this race 3 times, I thought it might be useful to some of those running it this year to put together a list of a few tips and tricks for CIM. When I think about CIM and planning my races there, these are some of the things that have stood out in my mind. They definitely come from my biased viewpoint, but hopefully will be helpful to those of you running it for the first time this year!
First tip, if you are taking the shuttle to the start, get there early! Every bus I have been on lets you stay on the bus to keep warm once you get to the start line. Personally, I like to be there early and relax, one year my bus was late and it was a mad dash to the porta potties and start line, not so fun.
Second tip, if you aren’t far from the host hotel, just walk to it and get on the bus. I stayed down the street one year and waited and waited and waited for a bus and watched them all drive up the street. Finally we all ended up walking the few blocks up to the host hotel to get on busses because ours never came which made it a close call getting to the start line.
A very, very important thing pre-marathon. Last year there were TONS, I have never seen a race with so many porta potties. If you go all the way to the far end you can usually get back in line easily for multiple trips. I know I can’t be the only one who goes multiple times pre race.
Don’t pack anything valuable in gear check. I know many races say this and at some races I actually do check things like my beloved iPhone, but this race I would not. Although I have never lost my bag, I know people who have. Plus seeing the bag check first hand 3 years in a row I would never risk it. It is pure madness of flying plastic bags in a frantic craze to get to the start line.
Personally, the best thing I have found to do is wear throw away sweats and don’t bring anything that I don’t plan on either running with or tossing along the way. It does help if you have people at the finish line with warm clothes (since it’s typically cold!) or have a really close hotel room you can hurry back to. If neither of those work, just check warm clothes you don’t care about.
There are many water stops, but the first few, as with any race, are pretty crowded especially if you are near a pace group. For this race I like starting with a small bottle to use from the start, then toss when I am done. I then use water stops later on when it’s not quite as crowded and have started hydrating early. Win win!
I always like to know how long people run courses according to their Garmins so that I can use that to help with my pace calculations. When you are getting down to seconds in a marathon goal, every little bit makes a difference.
My Garmin Lengths:
Since there aren’t too many turns and this isn’t a huge race that requires a lot of weaving, you can get pretty close to accurate if you run the tangents right . If you are trying to break 4 hours or qualify for Boston, those extra tenths do make a difference, so I always try to account for them in my pace planning.
If you want to figure out a method to compare your Garmin to a pace band, I talk about how I do it in this post.
This is a “net” downhill course, but not a purely downhill course! There are never-ending rolling hills in the first half that definitely take their toll on the legs. Just be patient, use the downhills to your advantage and keep an even effort on the uphills, but don’t go into this race expecting all downhills because you will be in for a little surprise.
There is a small bridge you have to go up and over at mile 22. It’s not a big hill at all but can feel like it. This is the LAST "hill" and it’s smooth sailing to the capitol building after that.
Do yourself a favor and don’t look at the street signs at this point.
If you haven’t booked already, I highly recommend the Hyatt. it is super close to the finish line, extended late checkout without a fee (unlike the Sheraton) and very close to the host hotel for buses in the morning and across the street from the expo for the day before
There is a relay! Be aware of the exchanges (there are 3 exchanges for 4 total relay legs). You can usually tell they are coming because of the amount of people that are around, but just stay to the right to stay out of the traffic.
Also just make a mental note that the people speeding by you at mile 22 are possibly only on mile 2 of their run so don’t be discouraged.
Course Preview Video
If you are a runner who likes to see what they are in for when it comes to race courses (like me!), this video is a great drive through of the course.
So who is running CIM this year? Does anyone have any other questions or anything else to add?
I have a whole category on CIM with all my training, race recaps and anything else I have blogged about when it comes to this race.
Enjoy the rest of peak week and I hope you get through tapering without too much taper madness.