2009 CIM: Not a Race Report

I got something like 700 hits to this site on Sunday, which is roughly four times what I get on a big day. So I guess lots of people were curious about how the day went (and I’m sure a fair amount of the traffic was from other participants looking for race reports from the day).

If you’re looking for a race report, I’m about to disappoint you. I don’t want to write one, not so much because I’m upset about the whole thing. Which, of course, I still am. No, a race report invites analysis and scrutiny from everyone reading it. I’m not going to attempt to analyze what happened in terms of the actual race. So I really don’t want to read others’ attempts to do so either.

The race itself was not the problem, meaning nothing “classic” in the marathoning sense went wrong. I didn’t go out too fast, or get injured, have stomach issues, etc. The race was just a natural outcome of whatever fatal flaw has been undermining my training over the past year. I don’t believe that flaw can be found in the race data.

I do appreciate a lot of the comments. Many were thoughtful, smart and full of new perspectives. I know I’ll revisit them in the coming weeks as I think about the year ahead.

I’m not making any decisions about anything at this point. But I do know that the marathon is for me, right now, like a red hot stove. I’m staying away from it for as long as my hand is still wrapped in gauze. Figuratively speaking.

Finally, just something that popped into my head during those awful two hours in which I struggled, mile by mile, along the second half of the CIM course. A few weeks ago I read the autobiography of Sonia O’Sullivan, one of Ireland’s great distance runners. O’Sullivan is famous for, among other things, having exited the 5000m final in 1996 at Atlanta — not just leaving the track but actually running out of the stadium entirely with a lap and a half to go.

As the great Irish hope that year, she was under enormous pressure to perform well. She didn’t. Her father, who was there to witness his daughter’s disaster as a tsunami of criticism toward her formed, said the best thing when a microphone was shoved in his face: “Nobody died here. It’s only sport.”

The singing room

Imagine that you’re a singer. In your home you build a special room just for your singing. Every day you go into that room and for anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours you practice your singing. Some days are more challenging than others, with big octave shifts, trills or timber exercises. On many days, you go into your singing room twice a day.

For six months you pursue your singing, in your singing room, every day. Besides the time you spend singing, you sacrifice other things that might affect your singing. You miss those things. But, on the other hand, you love singing and you know you have the potential to get a lot better at it if you work hard and stay disciplined. So it’s worth it.

Twice a year, you get the opportunity to perform. You think about these upcoming performances each day, as you sing alone in your room. Those dates keep you going, even when the practicing gets tedious or you hit a patch when it doesn’t seem to be going that well. But overall, it’s going well. You’re getting better and sounding very good as the days, weeks and months roll on. You feel positive about that upcoming date, when you’ll take your talents and skills outside of your room at last.

Your performance date arrives and you take the stage. You’re a little nervous, but that’s normal. You’re confident and know you’re ready. You open your mouth to sing.

What emerges sounds exactly like a startled screech owl.

You’re disturbed, mystified, embarrassed. But mostly, you’re shocked. It’s like being slapped in the face by someone you love. The loss is terrible. But you get over it. Then you pick yourself up and you try again. You pick apart what may have gone wrong and try something new. Something that, while different, has you working just as hard and sacrificing just as much, every day, as you did before.

Six months later, the curtain opens, and the exact same thing happens.


Don’t worry. This post is where the self pity ends. This year was a terrible racing year and I’m writing it off. Thank you for all of the kind comments. I don’t know what I’ll do next.

CIM: Epic Fail


Slow from the get go. In trouble at mile 10. Died at the halfway point. The rest was a fucking death march.

At least I qualified for Boston. Again. Barely.

I don’t know that I ever want to do this again.

To wear: whatnot

The weather forecast for tomorrow’s race over the past 10 days has evolved from cool and rainy, to cold and cloudy, to freezing and sunny. I can’t get any read on the wind situation, as it seems to shift (like the wind!) every time I check, going from reasonable to downright ugly. But it’s going to do whatever it’s going to do, regardless of how much I worry.

I won’t be running in a Mr. Peanut costume tomorrow, so I won’t be easy to spot. But if you’d like to try, here’s my planned ensemble: black shorts, a bright orange tee shirt, black armwarmers, cheap black gloves (which I’ll abandon by mile 3 or so) and my orange “Kentucky racers” (courtesy of my virtual running pal, Tracy, who spends her days experiencing New Running Shoe Smell). I’ll start off with my Ted Corbitt Memorial 15K white cotton longsleeve, which I’ll also abandon early on.

I should also note that my experiment with living life as a blonde is drawing to a close after a year of fun with chemicals. I’m now more solidly on the brown side and will probably stay that way since the time and expense of maintaining my flaxen locks has become too burdensome. I’ll update the blog photo once I get a shot where I don’t look like Richard Lewis.

This will be my first outing with armwarmers, which I admit I felt a little douchey about buying, but when I have them on they actually look kind of cool, and they make my arms look less porcine, which is always a bonus.

The forecasted temps are actually ideal for me. I race best when it’s just above freezing, and start to get too warm if it gets anywhere near 50. But I know a windchill of 27 at the start is too cold for just a short sleeve shirt, and I didn’t bring any technical clothing I’m willing to throw away. If I wear a long sleeve tech shirt, though, I’ll be sweating by the end, when the temps are expected to be right around 40.

Armwarmer bonus: Extra storage space. I will take five gels during the race. I can fit four in my shorts’ pockets. Now I can stick the fifth one in the sleeve of my armwarmer rather than carrying in my hand it all the way to mile 3. Hooray!

“Yes, I am a freak. Be glad your husband isn’t.”

We just did a 3.5 mile run around Capitol Park, which our hotel is on the corner of. Along the way, we talked shop with a friendly woman from Philly (45-49 AG, by my sly extraction of information regarding qualifying for Boston). She’s trying for a qualifier tomorrow and I think she’ll make it, at least if her recent times are any indication.

I was happy to note that my heart rate (both while resting and running) seems back to its normal self. So no red flags are waving (or, like in the spring, actually whacking me) in my face.

On the way back up to our room we shared the elevator with four women about my age. One of them exclaimed, “Oh! You have the watch I just gave my husband. How do you like it?”

*Elevator bleat!*

“I do like it,” I replied. “But they removed some key features from the previous model.”

*Elevator bleat!*

She looked disappointed. “Really? Like what?”

*Elevator bleat!*

“Well,” I replied, slipping into full freak mode, despite my best efforts. “You can’t review your run during a session like you could before.”

*Elevator bleat!*

“You mean you can’t review the run afterwards?”

*Elevator bleat!*

“No. I mean, like, if you want to check your splits…” I noticed all four women looked confused. “You know,” I blundered onward, “Like while doing intervals on the track.” Awkward pause. “You, um, can’t do that anymore.”

*Elevator bleat!*

All heads nodded, yet still obviously perplexed. Jonathan sighed. I examined the elevator floor.

*Bleat! … Bleat! … Bleat!*

Ah. Freedom.


The trip from our humble domicile to Sacramento was relatively pain-free. But it was long, especially since we decided to pick up our race packets yesterday so we wouldn’t have to deal with it today.

The plan today is to do some shopping for dinner this evening. I’m a control freak (which is probably obvious to anyone who’s read more than three of my posts) and have no interest in attending the giant pasta feeds most races put on. My thought is:  I made it this far without catching a bug; how would I feel if I got food poisoning the night before the race?

The solution is to stay in a place that has at least a fridge and microwave in the room. This time we got lucky and I secured a kitchenette, so I can actually cook. All of this comes in handy for the post-race feed, which involves our lying around in front of the television, consuming all of the “bad” foods (and huge amounts of beer and wine) that we can’t have in any regular or extreme way during training.

Our room is perfect in other ways too. Our bedroom (which is separate from our living area) is backed up to a giant electrical closet, far from the elevators and on the ninth floor. The hotel also made me sign their No Party Policy. In our last hotel, our neighbors were up at 1:30AM watching television and engaging in a discourse over it that was loud enough for me to make out the substance of their exchange. Before that, we shared a wall with what must have been the winners for Loudest Scene at the National Porn Awards.

Anyhoo. Here I am, up early and still on New York time. Despite how incredibly busy work was prior to leaving, I managed to pack everything I needed. I did discover, once on the plane, that while I managed to pack my little computer, I’d stupidly turned it on beforehand. So I had no battery life left. I’d planned to do some writing and editing, and it would have been nice to have had the option of frittering away the 6.5 hours playing mindless games, but it was not to be.

Fortunately, I also brought a book. But I couldn’t dip into that without first engaging in my traditional perusal of the SkyMall catalogue. I can make a game out of this activity: What’s the most expensive item? Least expensive? How many of them make dubious claims based on shoddy science? Are there any that look outright dangerous? That sort of thing.

If I can find something that hits the trifecta — extravagant, unnecessary and inconvenient — well, that’s the winning item. Nothing I found quite hit that lofty mark, although the second one below comes awfully close. Here are the highlights:

“Have you ever wanted to make or receive a phone call underwater?” No, but I’ll bet Ted Kennedy did. For just $1,790 (cell phone not included), you can yammer away underwater with colleagues, family or illicit lovers while diving for clams or engaging in recovery of drowning victims.  “Honey, can you pick up bread on the way home? The dive’s going great, except my tank is…low…glug glug glug…”

“Produce your own water!” For $999 you can have an enormous, hideous contraption (in one of three cheerful primary colors) that — get this — actually makes water. We’re talking seven gallons a day! At just $0.20 per gallon. Or you could do what we do at my house: just turn on one of several taps we have, conveniently located right where we need them; we even have several outside.

Does anyone like bidets? I don’t. I won’t go into crass detail, much as I’d love to, but bidets are just weird. So the idea of buying my very own travel bidet seems like something I’d only do if I wanted to take a great trip abroad and ruin it. I especially appreciate the copywriter’s clever double entendre: “Enjoy the confidence…no matter where you go.” Also: $44.95? I could buy a turkey baster for $9.99 and get the same effect.

And finally, in the “I don’t think we should take the kids to any more barbecues at Bill and Mindy’s house” category, it’s the Zombie of Montclaire Moors statue. I think it speaks for itself. Note: No Rush Delivery!

At the moment, I’m preparing to go out and run 3 miles around Capitol Park, just to see how cold it’s going to feel tomorrow morning. Then it’s a day of list-making, light shopping, an attempt at napping, dinner and early to bed.

Fall Training: Week 12

Training, tapering, whatever. All I know is that the race is now close enough for me to check the weather for race day.

With the exception of a couple of quicker workouts, I’m firmly established in the holding pattern of a pre-race taper. The run on Tuesday, a little under marathon pace, actually didn’t go that well. I was surprisingly slow, owing to a mysteriously high heart rate.

I decided not to waste energy freaking out about it. It’s just one workout, right? I’m chalking it up to possible side effects of the drugs I took for my tendon for a week, plus a few nights’ lousy sleep, as well as my being in the follicular phase, which is typically when I run my worst in longer, sustained-effort workouts.

Friday’s session on the track was a blast. I love short intervals, especially when I’m running well. The hormones were in my favor for this one and my pace vs. effort shows it.

The rest of the week consisted of what I call “toodle along” runs. My legs are starting to feel very fresh and springy now, so it’s been difficult to hold them back from running faster.

The problem left tendon is back to normal in terms of appearance and flexibility, although there’s still some pain if I flex it in an extreme way. But I don’t need to do that for marathon pace running. At this point, I’d be surprised if I’m even aware of it during the race.

I was looking over the women’s results from last year’s CIM and was again reminded of just how competitive a race it is. No AG awards for me this time around, but it does look like I should be able to find plenty of people running my pace, whatever that turns out to be. Interestingly, I do see a lot of positive splits in those results. That may be the case in every marathon (I rarely scrutinize such things), but I’m wondering if the early downhills on the course tempt people to run too fast.

I plan to go very minimalist for this race. I’ll have just two data screens on my watch, each with a single readout: Time of Day (so I know when the race starts) and Heart Rate %. That’s it.