Okay, now for a real race report. Well, less of a race report than a tale of survival because I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, then stayed awake. Now with a 2 year old 3:30 is a common thing, but usually I am right back to bed after tossing a cup of water at Smarty Pants and tucking her back in. What struck me was that Smarty Pants was at the in-laws and I was throwing away a purrrfect opportunity to continue peacefully slumbering away the hours.
But I had this great idea. See, last year I ran the half-marathon and the entire time I was on the bus and waiting to start I was craving coffee and vowed to have it with me on the shuttle should I ever run again. So I had this great idea. Get coffee in a throwaway cup (with lid) on Friday. Recycle that cup Saturday morning and then send it, empty, to the landfill sometime post shuttle ride. Great idea, right? Right.
So I woke up mostly on time, ate, took care of shizness, got dressed, taped my feet, put on my shoes, grabbed my bag o’ stuff and left the nest with plenty of time to spare, but without my coffee in the handy throwaway cup. Now it wouldn’t be such a big deal except this plan had been in the works for the last 365 damn days. And ground Peet’s Coffee just for the event. And I still forgot. A prime example of how I roll.
No time to stop for a cup so we pick up my sister-in-law, who ran the half with Wifey, and drive 10 minutes to the shuttles. They took the half-marry shuttles and I moved to the other side of the street to jump on the marathon shuttles. I ran into a friend trying to organize the bus chaos and chatted it up for a minute before joining the bus mob. Those of us non-boat-rocker-types gradually had to move down the sidewalk because apparently people were afraid of being left and started moving towards anything yellow with wheels. It was bus bedlam. But I’ll spare the rant because as I moved down the sidewalk I noticed a local bakery was passing out cookies and COFFEE! For FREE and everything! Adventurous Bakery on Washington Blvd. in Ogden, I heart you! If I didn’t work so far away I would come by everyday and wear your peanut butter fingers on the MDA (more on this in another post) for eternity.
Now, I am shy and choose to brood and internalize everything. If I don’t know you and talk to you, understand that I am really putting myself out there. I could cry. Or run away. At any time. No, I never dated much, thanks for asking. So sharing a seat on a bus is always a bit unnerving. But rather than come across as a total dick, I try and make some small talk with the 26 year-old mother of three in the seat next to me. (Not validated BTW, but that is the Utah way.) I don’t know how long the drive was, but I shared way too many insecurities about my training, general fitness, body image, etc. to be considered anything less than a total twit.
Now, a PSA: if you have a drop bag for your clothes and two hours between the shuttle departure and the race start, fill that thing with everything you think you may need. Wet wipes in case you have to head to the johns, food, water…. Not really an epiphany, but to a first-timer like me to come up with that one on my own, I was damn pleased with myself. After not having a drop bag last year, it had been in the works (like the coffee). No need to thank me.
I’ve been reading about a liquid diet for racing. And, for once, actually testing it out before just showing up on race day with a new program for my intestines to follow. Granted, the bod was probably thankful to have Ensure® for fuel instead of my normal pre-ride malted French toast and bacon, or bacon omelet, or sausage muffin with bacon. I’ll say it, liquid diets rock. That was about the most stable I’ve ever been in an event. I consumed three bottles of Ensure over the three hours prior to the race, plus a Clif bar for a total of about 1,200 calories, and had no GI distress issues. Not saying the run wasn’t eventful, but there was no ass-ociation to the new diet.
One new thing I was trying for only the second time was my new Garmin Forerunner 305. Fuggin’ awesome. There is no way I would have maintained my pace without it.
Anyhoo, at the start I pee, lace-up my shoes using the coolest knot ever (zero slippage) sunblock the face with 50, bid adieu to my drop bag and warm jacket (it was only about 48 at the start, brrrr), and stage in the 9 minute mile section. Then the gun went off and we started running. And running. And running for the next four hours. And that, my friends, is pretty much what a marathon is all about.
I ran my ass off. And somewhere, Michael Douglas sobbed into CZ-J’s bosom.
As I mentioned previously, it was a truly beautiful day. I run with an ipod Shuffle and actually shut it off to listen to the birds and pitter-patter of runners’ feet. But the idle chatter of others had the buds screwed back in quick. How the hell can people talk at a 7:30 mile, I ask you?
At mile 8 I felt the first pangs of intestinal woes. Thinking it was gas from the Powerade (which is crap, bring your own electrolytes and drink water) I had drunk earlier, I struggled with the moral dilemma all endurance athletes have asked themselves: should I try to fart and hope for the best or hold it in until I can sit down and relieve myself safely? Rather than risk a shart (shit-fart) and then have monkey butt the rest of the week I put the urge somewhere near where Bilbo found the one ring and kept going - until mile 8.5, when it got a little more serious. I decided to hit the next open john. Apparently so did everyone else. So I came up with a plan: gut it out (pun intended) until halfway and refuel while I offload. Which is just what I did. At mile 13.1 there were rows of johns.
I grabbed Powerbars, water and a banana (cuz they be good to help stem the flow), found a “clean” john and took a break. A 7-minute break because no matter what, I don’t rush these things. A little long but I really didn’t want to be back. SEVERAL people tried to rip the damn door off to get in (or maybe they saw me go in and were checking to see if I was okay) which irritated the hell out of me. I really don’t think this was GI distress, just the results of Bob’s 10-Grain hot cereal. Afterwards, as the graph from motionbased.com shows, I suffered no adverse affects.
A mile later I hit the only real hill on the course, and I pretty much killed it (but what do you really “kill” at 9-minute pace) because I was feeling surprisingly strong. It was also when I started to notice the carnage around me. More walking. People taking off shoes to check out blisters. People stretching out cramps. It was starting to get hot and was really taking a toll so I was pounding two waters and a Powerade at every aid station. I could feel the pinky toe in my right foot feeling a little smashed but I wasn’t even stopping for that. Running around Pineview reservoir had me laughing at myself as it was the location of two of my biggest failures ever, and the reason I can’t call myself a triathlete. Because I’ve never finished a swim. Sharks and shit in there you know.
About halfway to the dam I walked through an aid station I think was manned by the Baptist church. And they had bubble gum. Real live bubble gum. Sugary sugary sugary bubble gum. And it was so savory-good. And it got me through to another aid station on the other side of the dam, at the top of Ogden Canyon, where a guy had a fistful of red Vines. And I loves me some Red Vines. These little things not only kicked ass but also went a long way to getting me to the finish.
Ogden Canyon is a beautiful place to run, but it’s also narrow and dangerous so you are really putting your life at risk to do so. But closed to traffic it was and it made for a nice run. It is also the location of the feared mile 20. The mile where you are supposed to break if you haven’t done your long runs. It was another little victory when mile 20 came and went with nothing but a mouthful of Gu. But my feet were feeling it now. The pinky toe was aching and I could feel BIG blisters forming on the sides of my big toes. I knew about how much time I had left and still felt pretty good so I decided to make up for my earlier time out and try and lower the 8:53 min./mile the Garmin showed. And then at mile 22 the Shuffle started to play a song that means a lot to me. “Time for Me to Fly” by REO Speedwagon.
You see gentle readers, I have an older sister who died of liver cancer on January 31, 2006. I say “have” because her memory is always with me, even though she isn’t. For her funeral my step dad and I put together a slide show and I added a few songs that I knew she liked. That is one of those songs. When I hear one of those songs, in a situation like this, any pain I have gets pushed out of the picture and is replaced with something like a rage. Oh, I get just fucking mad that she was taken from us. And I think about cancer patients and chemo, and I remember that the pain I am feeling at that moment is the pain of actual living, not the pain from trying to live, and that Sis and millions of patients and victims would love to just be able to feel what we runners are feeling on that day. And just. Be. Healthy. Unlike them, we can stop and just quit at any time with no real consequences other than a damaged ego. I look at the yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet I wear, even though they are no longer the fashion (though yellow is the color of liver cancer remembrance) and the black HARDEN THE FUCK UP bracelet also wear and no matter what I am doing, I work a little harder and am just a little more thankful. And that’s all I have to say about that, for now.
Out of the canyon and onto the Ogden River Parkway I carried my "momentum." I was under 4-hours on the Garmin, but I now wanted to make sure I beat 4-hours on the finish clock. I was doing my best to maintain an 8 min./mile pace but when I turned onto Grant Ave. the home straight, was really feeling the feet again. And another great song came on the Shuffle, and I gave it everything I had to get across the finish line which was now doing the horror movie thing where it seems to get farther and farther away. The tents eventually got bigger and I could finally see the clock and knew I’d beat the 4-hour mark. I saw Wifey and Smarty Pants and the in-laws and ran across the line. I would have brought Smarty Pants with me but was afraid I’d fall over if I tried to carry her.
Here are the stats from the Garmin:
Total Time (h:m:s) 3:53:00 8:43 pace
Moving Time (h:m:s) 3:45:14 8:25 pace
Distance (mi ) 26.72
Moving Speed (mph) 7.1 avg. 12.0 max.
Elevation Gain (ft) +4,217 / -5,366
Avg. Heart Rate 155 bpm Zone 4.4
Temperature (°F) 66.2°F avg. 71.6°F high
Wind Speed ( mph) ENE 3.2 avg. ENE 6.9 max.
Walking through the chute I saw a lot of friends, and even ran into a slightly familiar face, none other than Nytro, who was volunteering at the event. After convincing her I was not a “serial killer” I was shocked and taken slightly aback that she remembered not just our emailing from last summer, but my first, and last names. Stalker! You can read about our chance meeting on her blog also and it's a way better read than mine. It was nice to meet a fellow athlete and I will take her up on the beer anytime. I’ll explain the Duckboy handle in a later blog. Nothing special, but it warrants explanation.
After were a light lunch and an ice bath. Smarty Pants went to my mother’s for the night, Wifey went to Wendover and I enjoyed some quiet recovery time. Sunday had me on the road bike for a 2-hour jaunt to loosen up. My feet are healing, and I’m still draining blisters. I think I’m gonna lose the nail on the right pinky toe.
I’ve already committed to running the Top of Utah half-marry with Wifey. Actually running with her to try and pace her under 2-hours. Can’t wait. Not saying I am now addicted to marathoning, but I don’t think this will be my last.
Speaking of marathons, that is what this post turned out to be. I hope you were able to stick with it.