Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swimming the CIM

Back in 2010, I talked Mrs Notthat into running the Avenue of the Giants Marathon.

She said one was enough and swore she would never do another one. And she kept to that for a year or so until someone managed to talk her into the California International Marathon (CIM) that goes from Folsom  to Sacramento. The main selling point; it's a net-downhill course. The elevation chart makes it look like you are running down a ski slope, when in reality, you are only losing about 13 feet per mile - a flight of stairs when you are used to trails with serious elevation.

Another selling point is that there is a lot of entertainment along the course. Or there would have been if this had been a normal year. One slightly worrying thing was that there was a six hour course limit - after that, the course is opened to cars, the aid stations and course markers disappear, and you are on your own.

And the biggest worrying thing were the weather reports. The Bay Area was dealing with a massive influx of tropical moisture - pictures of people in kayaks on city streets had become common. Stories from the North Face Endurance Challenge, the first day of which was on Saturday, were filled with words like "epic," knee-deep mud," and "scuba gear would help." The unnerving aspect of this was how the weather experts were saying that the real storm was not set to hit until early Sunday morning.

CIM was on city streets though, so mud would not be an issue, and a little rain can't be that bad, can it?

Weird Haired Mom had also been talked into running this race, so the three of us headed up to Sacramento on Saturday with the plan that I would provide crewing support while the two of them ran the race. (I try REAL hard to avoid running on pavement.)

I had a secret weapon that I hoped would lead to a dry day - a pretend sun on a stick. How could that possibly fail?

The first stop was at the expo. Mrs Notthat loves these expos, especially when it's getting late on the last day, since the venders are just wanting to get rid of stuff.

The Endorphin Dude wanted the Queen of Hearts. WHM got exactly the card she wanted (which were used for dinner delivery purposes).
We headed over to the Marathon Maniac's carbo load dinner then off to our motel.

This is a point-to-point race, and is set up for the runners to stay in downtown Sacramento and ride a shuttle bus up to the start. The race starts at 7:00, and the shuttles start running at 5:00. Since I was crewing, we chose to stay out near the start in Roseville so that I would be able to drop them off, and we could sleep an extra hour.

Except there wasn't much sleeping going on. We heard the news just before bedtime that the second day of the NFEC had been cancelled due to the storm that was approaching. For the first time, the thought entered my mind that they could actually cancel this race too.

And then, a bit after midnight, the storm hit. The wind pounded our room's windows and the trees were really taking a beating.

When we got up at 5:00, the first thing I did was go to the CIM website to make sure the race was still on, and it was. So we packed up and headed to the start line. It was a bit of a madhouse the closer we got, but it worked out fairly well and I was able to drop them off in plenty of time for the race.

Photo by World Famous Retep (not his real name).  That's WHM with the water wings and a perkiness overload.
While they waited for the race to start, I drove to a spot at about mile three where I hoped to see everyone go by.

Another photo by World Famous Retep.
It was raining steadily when the race started, but switched to a higher gear shortly after that. I gave up trying to get any kind of pictures under those conditions, and instead focussed on holding up my soaking wet pretend sun, clanging my cow bell, and yelling out swimming tips.

After all of the runners went past me at mile 3, I moved on to about mile 10. That's when the rain REALLY started coming down.

That's World Famous Retep wearing a stylish shower cap and trash bag.
Driving was becoming very difficult - I didn't know the area and many streets were flooded. So I decided to try for one more stop at about mile 18. It was at this point, four hours after the start of the race, that the rain finally let up a bit and I could start taking pictures again.

The water wings likely saved her life. Or at least made a few people giggle.
I was a bit surprised to see WHM ahead of Mrs Notthat. WHM explained that Mrs was struggling with some pain issues and likely would stop once she got to me. The cool thing though was that, in spite of the conditions, WHM had a reasonable chance to beat the six hour cutoff!

Once Mrs Notthat, escorted by a shockingly pink Haiyr (not her real name), showed up though, she was looking great and had no intention of stopping. The rain had stopped and the sun was even peeking out a bit, both of which helped raise everyone's mood.

I hung around until the roads opened up and then headed to the finish area.

WHM just a quarter mile from being done in well under six hours.
It was a blast seeing the runners, most of them for the fourth time, so close to being done with this ridiculously challenging "easy" Marathon.

A huge surprise was seeing Mrs Notthat, dressed for a summer dash, come flying in, also under the six hour cutoff!

Me, with my powerful pretend sun, in front of the state capital building. In the sunshine!

The best story of the day, however, belonged to this woman, Eilsel (not her real name). This has been a big year for her, with a number of running "firsts," and this was to be her first Marathon.

As I was at various points along the course, I kept seeing busses loaded with runners that had had enough and dropped from the race. And who could blame them? Most of these runners were used to running on dry roads in good conditions - this race had become something out of an episode of Survivor. Nire (not her real name) told me that there were more "creek" crossings in this race than at Brazen's spring Diablo trail race. You really had to be careful since the road striping and especially the manhole covers were very slick.

I had seen Eilsel at mile 3, and while she was looking good, I could see that the conditions were taking a bit of a toll. A quick hug and she was on her way. I didn't see her though at my next two stops, and assumed she had wisely decided to say "uncle" and call it a day.

But then I talked to her squeeze and found out she was still on the course and determined to finish. I felt bad for doubting her - she's a veteran of tough trail races and is far from a road race princess. So I went out a bit and caught up to her. And then had trouble keeping up with her. The roads had been opened and the aid stations closed for about the whole last half of her race, but she had stuck with it (fortunately she had a course map, since there were no longer any markings).

And she finished (DLF!) and the CIM people were still there to give her her finisher's medal. (Click here to see a video of her finish.)

This was an amazing day. I'm sure there were a few more no shows than normal (there were 8000 registered runners and a bit over 6500 finishers, with a lot of drops a long the way), but everyone who finished this race is a certified Rock Star. I loved that I got to see so many friends finish this race - the finish area was like a party; everyone was so happy to see some blue sky and sunshine after such a grueling morning.

The most amazing thing though was that, once we got home, I mentioned to Mrs WHM that the Way Too Cool lottery was opening and I wasn't sure I wanted to put my name in. And she said she wanted to put her name in too.

She swears she is done with road Marathons (I don't believe her since I know she has her eyes on the 2014 San Francisco Marathon), but is open to some trail ones, which is very exciting.

Which also means I need to up my game. Yikes!

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

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