A Note from Fatty: Thanks to Joaquim at Zazoosh Photography for letting me use the photos in this post! If you’re in Utah, Arizona, Nevada or the surrounding area and considering putting on a bike event of your own, you ought to get ahold of Zazoosh; they’re good guys.
My life’s bucket list has kept me very busy the last few years. As many of you know, doing an IronMan was on the list…Running the Boston marathon is also there. Many of my friends of have done it, reporting to me how neat and rewarding it is.
I have qualified for Boston a couple of times without trying to, but actually getting to Boston and running the marathon has never been a possibility. This year, I had mentioned to Elden that I would really like to try and qualify and hopefully run the race in 2012. I thought I could try and qualify at the Odgen Marathon and if it weren’t meant to be, I would have a 2nd chance at the St George marathon at the end of the summer.
Well, I was disappointed to find out that I would be out of town during the St George marathon (I have a date with an Alpe named de Huez), so my one and only chance to qualify for Boston would be in Ogden.
The pressure was on! I had been running strong after healing from a hip injury that I somehow sustained running the NY marathon.
My 10k pace was the fastest I had ever run. My marathon training schedule had me running the Canyonlands Half Marathon. My friends and I (a girls-only trip) had gone to Moab in March to eat good food and run the race. I had hopes I would have a PR at the race. Unfortunately, there was a hard headwind and I finished a little slower than my previous fastest time. I felt like I ran strong and I felt great the whole race (which is extremely odd when racing)!
Then, a few days after the race, my right hip started to hurt (My left hip was the one I hurt after the NY marathon). I was frustrated! I rested it for more than two weeks, but the pain didn’t change much. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was on a schedule to get ready for the marathon and this was not in the agenda!
I tentatively started running again and discovered that I could run on it. The pain never left, but it never escalated either. I was faithful with the ice baths after my long runs. Elden still can’t believe that I can sit in ice-cold water and soak my legs. Icing your legs after a run is a great way to bring down inflammation, which helps aid recovery and decreases stiffness!
Because of my injury, I was now behind in my training schedule. My longest run was 20 miles; I had hoped I’d be able to do run two 20-milers and one 22-miler. One 20-mile run would have to do, hopefully. Oh well, at least I was able to run with only mild discomfort. There would be plenty of time after the race to rest and hopefully heal my hip completely after the race.
Elden did a good job describing the early morning hours before the race. I would like to say that he was acting a little strange…he was very quiet. Usually Elden can talk and talk and talk, thus I knew he wasn’t feeling real great.
I made Elden line up at the start with me and the 3:30 pace group. To qualify for Boston, I would need to run a 3:50. I figured that I could start with this fast group, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be finishing with them.
In the 3:30 group, I found my good friend Jilene Mecham. Jilene and I have been friends since the 5th grade. Jilene is crazy. By which I mean she acts crazy and she is crazy-fast! I rarely go on training runs with Jilene because, honestly, I can’t keep up. If I try and stay with her, I can’t carry on a conversation because I have no extra oxygen to use for talking.
Jilene has run many, many marathons, done a high-altitude Xterra IronMan in Park City, and will be doing the Leadville100 mountain bike race this year for the seventh time. Oh, I forgot to mention that Jilene won the women’s division at Leadville a few years ago-not just her age group, but the whole women’s division! It is safe to say, Jilene is fast (and crazy).
I was surprised to see her at the starting line dressed in normal running clothes, no thick eye makeup or bright-red lipstick, like usual. When she rides Leadville, she mounts pom-poms on her helmet and is frequently known to loudly sing songs while climbing up steep trails. (There is a clip of her in the film Race across the Sky doing just that!). This morning she seemed a little mellow….If she stayed that way maybe I could run a little bit with her!
The First 7 Miles
Elden and I stuck together for the first 1/2 mile, dodging in and out of people, trying to find the right place for us in the pack. Elden has learned that I turn into a different person when I’m running, a little more aggressive and very focused!
Pretty soon, someone came up behind us and was commenting loudly about how attractive our “biking” legs were. There was no need to turn around; we knew Jilene had caught up with us. Oh, I forget to mention that Jilene is also very loud and is missing a filter on her mouth! She basically says exactly what is on her mind. It does not matter if she knows you or not. You’re never bored when Jilene is around.
I think we picked up the pace a bit when Jilene arrived, Elden couldn’t hang on and he silently fell off the back. Or maybe he said goodbye, but I just couldn’t hear him over Jilene.
As we ran, Jilene would comment on people’s well-defined, muscular bodies-both men’s and women’s. She also was on a quest to recruit a few people to run on her ultra RAGNAR team. So if you looked like you qualified to be on her team–muscular (or crazy)–she would strike up a conversation.
We ran a lot of the first 7 miles with a man with neon green hair, green tie and green socks (yes, he did have shorts and a shirt on, I just don’t remember what color they were). He was fit (and crazy), but unavailable for RAGNAR. We also met Paul Hudson–a Fatty Fan who runs too. Paul said he was interested in doing RAGNAR, so Paul, if you want to do it please email Elden, so Jilene will stop hassling me about doing it!
But I am opening it up to any Friend of Fatty, if you are crazy and fast, and would like to spend 24 hours running and hanging out in the car with Jilene and some of her crazy, fast friends, let Elden know and I’ll pass the info along to Jilene. Jilene did invite Elden and I to be on her team, She must think we are crazy, because we aren’t fast, but it’s on Elden’s birthday and he would prefer celebrating his birthday by not running!
The first 7 miles sailed by! The raging Weber River was mesmerizing, the steep incline of the canyon was making my pace seem effortless and, of course, the conversation was entertaining! We were cruising at a 7:45min/mile. That is way fast for me! We crossed the 7 mile split banner and I felt great. I was 2 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race and we had successfully stayed ahead of the 3:30 pace group.
This was gonna be a good race.
Jilene left me soon after the 7 mile split. She said she felt good and took off. I felt good too, but not that good. For a while I kept Jilene in my sight; that made me feel a little better.
Miles 7-18 run along the edge of Pineview Reservoir. The road is basically flat (one slight incline), and the views are breathtaking. Pineview Reservoir was like glass, the sun was just peaking over the mountains, and there was no wind–it doesn’t get much better than that!
As I crossed the half marathon split, I realized I had just completed my fastest 1/2 marathon ever: 1:44! I was doing great.
Then something happened.
The 3:30 pace group went by me. They didn’t come up alongside me and hang with me; they just blew by me! What had happened? I had been feeling great, but seeing the group blow by me must have taken a physical and psychological toll on me. Plus, the only incline of the race also arrived.
My pace dropped almost 2 minutes per mile over the next several miles. I didn’t know how much I had slowed, but I did realize something wasn’t right.
One thought kept running through my mind: “Just make it to mile 20.” That is when we enter Ogden canyon and the road starts dropping elevation again. Up until mile 18, I felt pretty good. Sure I hurt, but I was running a marathon, that is to be expected.
The last 10K
When I finally entered the canyon, something was wrong. The downhill was not at all rewarding like I had anticipated it would be. Every step hurt. My quads were on fire.
I kept telling myself that I only had 6 miles left. I have a 6 mile route at home that I run frequently; I know by heart where every mile starts and ends. I tried to imagine myself running that route.
The first mile (mile 20-21) lasted forever. Elden and I both discussed this afterward. We think the race directors were playing a sick joke on us and moved the mile marker!
I will admit that although every mile I endured in the canyon was excruciatingly painful, it was also beautiful. Ogden canyon was spectacular. The Ogden river with its spring runoff was rushing down the canyon. Then, as I exited the canyon, I was greeted by a spectacular cascade of water rushing off the edge of the canyon wall.
For the next 3 miles you run along a river bike path. The path continually turns right and then left, then goes up and comes down…pure agony on the quads. Many times the thought crossed my mind to just stop and walk…but that would only prolong the agony!
It’s funny how your mind works. Several times, I had to fight back hysterics. I didn’t know if I was ever going to finish this mile, let alone the race! I had to mentally slap myself in the face and tell me to get control of myself. After all, I told myself, I only had 2 miles–20 minutes tops-left in the race. I could finish this!
It’s funny that Elden mentioned how he focused on his Ipod and his music as he ran the last couple of miles. Elden said that every mile took about 3 songs. I had never mentioned this to Elden, but I play this game all the time when I run, except for me one mile takes about 2 1/2 songs.
So I flipped to this mindset: block out the pain and agony and focus on the music. This brought me to the chute before the finish line. I actually even picked up the pace a bit, as the crowd yelled and cheered me on.
I crossed the finish line in 3:41:44.
I had done it.
Not my fastest qualifying time, but a qualifying time nonetheless.
Whenever I run fast in a race, my body responds pretty well while I’m running Afterwards, it is a different story! My bowels keep quiet the whole time I’m running, but as soon as I stop for an extended period of time and drink a large amount of fluid, they begin to rebel. They knot up in a ball, they don’t know what they want to do.
They are not happy.
So for the next 25 minutes, I paced around the finishers area, drinking water and using the bathroom. I was supposed to meet Elden at the VIP tent, but in my delirious, bowel-knotted stupor, I couldn’t find the VIP tent. (I later found out that I was walking around and around and around it!)
Finally I bumped into Jilene, still looking happy, mellow and fresh. She stated she kept ahead of the 3:30 pace group (which was her secret goal) and finished in 3:29. Not her fastest time, but damn respectable!
She also said Elden was looking for me.
For a minute I was confused. Elden? What is he doing here? He is still supposed to be somewhere in Ogden Canyon in misery, not here at the finish line looking for me! When I came back to my senses, I found Elden in the VIP looking very happy–almost giddy! I was very surprised and proud of his time! Not many people can pull off a marathon with a sub 4 without training! He continually surprises and impresses me!
When Elden asked me to write my story about the marathon, I said, “There is no story…I felt great at the first, fair in the middle and miserable at the end, it’s the most excruciating, painful experience anyone can imagine!”
I guess the gift of gab that Elden has must have rubbed off a little on me.
Now Elden, when can we sign up for the next one?
PS from Fatty: This photo (me giving it all I have in the final 100 yards of the course to finish sub-4-hours) doesn’t have anything to do with The Runner’s story, but when I saw it on Zazoosh I asked them if I could use it anyways, because I believe it is the best picture that has ever been taken of me.
Everyone, meet MattC:
Matt is one of the Team Fatty Co-Captains, and of the very nicest people you could ever meet.
He’s also, secretly, totally evil.
A Gift in the Mail
Last Friday I got an unexpected box in the mail. Curious, I opened it up.
Inside was a dozen white-chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Which are, by the way, my favorite kind of cookie.
Along with those cookies was a card. Here’s the cover:
And here’s the inside:
I am not exactly proud to say that the dozen cookies did not last the hour, but I am grateful there is no photographic evidence of me eating said dozen cookies in one sitting.
Luckily, this was the day before the Ogden marathon, and I was eating nonstop in preparation for it anyway.
So I credit Matt (partially) with my surprisingly good result in Ogden, but — as of this morning, anyway — it’s not looking like his little trick is gonna win him my Superfly 100.
Because with one week before the final weigh in, I’m sub-160 today. 159.6, to be exact (my daily weight on the sidebar of my blog will show 160 because by the rules I have set for myself I must round up to the next pound).
Which means I’ve got 1.6 pounds to lose over the next week. Which I’m pretty sure I can do.
But please, Matt, feel free to send more cookies.
And this time I’ll try to share with the family.
A Note from Fatty About Tuesday’s Post: My “Team Fatty in Bizarro World” post on Tuesday caused a little more heat than I intended. I thought of it as a “joke with a tweak:” mostly kidding around, but hey, this is really how people identify Team Fatty at this kind of ride and I don’t like the confusion. That said, I think Jay’s reply is heartfelt and in the end we’re all working toward making the world better. As in, I wouldn’t even consider taking action against these guys. In fact I just made a donation. (And if they’d like to make an in-kind donation at my LiveStrong Challenge page, that would be an awesome way to say, “Hey, no hard feelings.”)
A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: My friend Adam Lisonbee (Grizzly Adam to all his friends) is a great photographer. Recently I told him about something that bothers me about a lot of the photos I take while biking (both road and mountain): steep trails / roads look like they’re practically flat in my photos. I figured I am not the only person with that problem, so asked him to write a guest post for me. Which is what you’re about to read.
How to Make Steep Hills Look Steep
We’ve all been there.
We skipped the rest stop on the group ride so we could get out ahead of our riding buddies, tossed the bike into the bushes haphazardly, grabbed the camera from our jersey pocket, quickly turned it on and tried to get into that perfect spot to take the perfect photo. The photo that will capture the incredible ability of the riders as they gracefully glide over a mind-bendingly steep trail. You clicked the shutter just in time to capture your companions in what you were absolutely certain would be an amazing picture.
“Did you see how steep that was!”
“I can’t believe I finally rode that section.”
“I got some great photos of you coming down.”
And then you get home and open the pictures on your computer.
And that’s when you realize that, although nice, the photos are lacking something vital. That they are flat. That steep hill looks tame and normal and… “It’s way steeper than that!”
Take the photo below, for example. These ‘cross racers are on a pretty steep run-up. But it looks flat:
Camera lenses flatten terrain features. It’s one of the shortcomings of taking a three-dimensional landscape and representing it with a two-dimensional photograph.
However, all is not lost. Camera lenses are easily manipulated. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to capture pictures that look a lot better than reality. In fact, that’s what photographers do-they make reality look really, really cool. And you can do it as well. It’s easy!
I’m going to share with you a super-secret secret that will help you capture those “look at how steep this trail is” moments. Now, I specifically chose to share this secret here at FatCyclist.com because I know that Fatty has a large audience, but also an audience that will keep this super-secret secret to yourselves. You won’t just go blabbing it all over Facebook and Twitter. Will you? That’s what I thought. My secret is safe with you.
Oh, and I’m going to give this information to you for free. I could charge you for it, and I know you’d pay. But I’m giving it away for nothing, because, frankly, I’m tired of seeing all the mediocre bike photos that are appearing on the web.
Are you ready? The secret is unbelievably simple.
Just tilt the camera.
I know, I know, right now you are slapping your foreheads and exclaiming loudly (much to the wonderment of your coworkers) “Of course! I’ve been so stupid!”
Tilting your camera will turn even a mundane park trail into a hair-raising, death-defying, gravity-denying, decline.
Lots of tilt:
With just the slightest tip of the lens, you can make crazy-scary looking photos. Think of the bragging rights you will own when your coworkers, who probably spent the weekend doing yard work, see pictures of you like the one above. You’ll be the talk of the office!
You can thank me now. Or later. Either is fine. All I ask is that you get out there on your bikes and with your cameras and start shooting tilted pictures. It is, obviously, the only real way to overcome the mountain-flattening shortcomings inherent in the primitive technology of photography.
Oh, and your welcome.
Wait what? Oh. You wanted actual advice on shooting steep trails? Um.
OK. Let me google that. Hang on a minute.
All right. Here we go. Wait, no. Maybe this one…
This might take a minute. (Fatty, you told me that your audience just wanted razor sharp wit. I didn’t think actual advice was of any value here!)
Ahh. Here we go. Found it.
You want real advice? I’ll give you real advice…
…that I solicited from outdoor photographer extraordinaire, mountain biker, skier, and purveyor of PhotographyReview.com, John Shafer — aka Photo-John.
First: “Shoot perpendicular. Instead of shooting up at our subject, shoot from the side. This gives you the actual angle. Make sure to watch the trees and keep your camera vertical. If your slope isn’t actually very steep, this may not be the best method.”
Second: “Shoot across. I love it when I can shoot across a ravine or gully with a long lens. The combination of looking straight across at your subject and the long lens can make a slope look nearly vertical. This is a good technique for making things look steeper. The tough part is actually having a good vantage point for a shot like this. I think it’s easier with super long lenses and ski shots than it is for mountain bike photos. I also think telephoto shots in general imply slope better – as long as you stay reasonably close to the subject. If you’re 200 yards straight downhill you’re just going to flatten out the slope. But if you’re 30 feet downhill you can still get a sense of steepness.”
Third: “Wide-angle. Shooting tight with a super wide lens and keeping your subject near the top of the frame can make a trail look really steep and gnarly.”
Hmm. So maybe tilting the camera isn’t the ideal solution. In fact, maybe it’s cheating. To find out for certain, I set out with my camera, and John’s suggestions, in my pocket. The results? Well, I’ll let you decide. But I thought they were a good start. No tilting needed.
Wide angle sample:
Now it’s your turn. Go ride your bike, and take some great photos along the way.
Grizzly Adam is the author of Mythical and Tangible: Tales of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Singletrack. He writes regularly at GrizzlyAdam.net. He can also be found on Twitter.
I recently stumbled upon a nice photo of a whole bunch of people, all in Team Fatty kit. Check it out:
Say, that’s a good-sized group of people wearing the Fat Cyclist jersey! Awesome.
But…hey. Waitasec. Upon closer inspection, I’m not sure those people are part of Team Fatty! And, is it possible that those aren’t Team Fatty jerseys? Let’s take a closer look at a couple of those people:
Yeah, something weird is going on here. For one thing, instead of “FatCyclist.com” over the left breast, those jerseys say “Hincapie.” Even weirder, that’s definitely not the distinctive Rearing Clydesdale inside the orange circle. But otherwise, it looks a lot like my jersey. You know, the one that looks like this:
Collar’s the same, sleeves are the same, stripes are the same, colors are the same.
It’s eerie. Almost as if someone has taken the hard work that Twin Six does, along with the meaning that my blog gives to this look, and took it, without permission.
But you know, maybe I’m not being fair. Probably that jersey only looks the same as mine from the front. I’ll bet the design from the rear is totally different. For example, here’s what the back of my 2010 jersey looks like:
And here’s theirs:
See? Totally different, as long as by “totally different” you mean “swap out the horse for a sketch of people riding a tandem, swap out the text for other text, and swap out the URL for your own URL.”
Ah, so it looks like the folks at pedalingforparkinsons.org stole my jersey design. And by “stole,” I mean “Took it without asking, nor ever made any acknowledgement to me or Twin Six of what they were doing.”
Honestly, it’s incredibly inspirational to see the work Twin Six did for me so “faithfully replicated,” and to know that it’s totally cool to, you know, just kinda take stuff. Without asking. Because I’ve been thinking of branching my product line out a bit, and this really simplifies the design work and permissions process. For example, I think you’ll all really like the coffee I’ll be selling:
And my very own line of automobiles:
And I’m going to be having a Pro Cycling Team!
Congratulations, by the way, to my team for taking first and second in my new race, the Fat Cyclist Tour of California.
Of course, you’ll be able to buy all this merchandise at the new Fat Cyclist / Target Store:
I’ll bet that’s a really awesome place to buy a nice, cold drink:
PS: Good luck at RAGBRAI 2011, Bizarro World Team Fatty!
I had a beautiful plan for training for and racing the 2011 Ogden Marathon. And that plan was, “pretend like it’s not really going to happen.”
And I followed that plan to a T. Which is to say, ever since completing (more or less) the NYC Marathon, I haven’t run more than once a week. And when I’ve run, it’s usually been for between three and six miles. Until a week ago or so, when The Runner made me go out on a nine-mile trail run, to see whether I had a chance of surviving the marathon at all.
I finished feeling OK, but we both knew that what mattered for this particular race was that she do well. We’d start together (with me way too far in front for where I really belonged), I’d do my best to run with her for the first mile, and then she’d wait for me for an hour or so at the finish line.
It was a good plan.
The Day Before the Race
Then, on Friday morning — the day before the race — I woke up with a sore throat. I know the difference between sore throats due to a night of open-mouth snoring (I’m afraid I get those all too often) and a sore throat due to a cold. This was definitely a cold.
I didn’t honestly care very much on my own behalf whether I had a cold. I’ve had colds before during races and I know that I can pretty much push through them. In fact, while I’m exercising a lot of the cold symptoms will disappear.
But I did care about The Runner catching my cold. This race was to be the marathon she used to qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon. She couldn’t be running it with a cold.
Knowing that The Runner was already dealing with pre-race jitters and had enough on her mind, I made an executive decision: I would not tell her I had a cold, but would instead try to keep my contagion to myself (literally and mentally).
So I consciously washed my hands constantly, and stopped the newlywed handholding and such. When The Runner asked if I was OK, I just told her I was preoccupied with the race.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t breathe and I felt like I had a fever.
Finally, about 9:00pm, The Runner (aka The Nurse) said, “Something’s wrong with you. Tell me what it is.”
“OK,” I said, “I’ve got a cold.”
“Well, hopefully I won’t catch it by tomorrow morning,” she said, since she is a rational adult.
I set the alarm clock for 3:45, we each took 2.5mg of Ambien, I blew my nose about a hundred times (strangely and helpfully, our schwag bags included full-size boxes of Kleenex), and we were gone.
Here’s a shocker: I don’t like waking up at 3:45am. When you’re awakened at that time, your mind races and you can’t help but briefly think it must be because of an emergency.
Then you remember: it’s because you’re going to be racing soon.
And then you wish you could go back to having been awakened because it’s an emergency.
At least I didn’t feel as awful as I had Friday night. My throat was still sore, but just in a background way. I wasn’t coughing, and while my nose was all stuffed up, I knew that would clear up and stay clear when I started running.
Also, for the first time in what seems like forever, we had a forecast for good weather. Partly sunny, mid-60s. Not much wind.
I suited up: the fantastic Pearl Izumi shorts, shoe and socks I scored as part of the Team Fatty at NYC adventure last year, along with a Fat Cyclist running shirt, and a long-sleeve shirt I bought at a used clothes store with the intention of discarding it when I passed an aid station.
As we dressed, The Runner gave me an out.
“You don’t have to do this race,” she said. “You haven’t trained, and you’re sick. You’ve got a good excuse.”
I admit: I was tempted. But I know myself well enough to know that I would have spent the day feeling miserable, hating myself for taking the easy way out, wondering how I would have done if I would have toughed it out, and trying to figure out a way to spin quitting into a good story for the blog.”
“I’m going to do it,” I said. “Just don’t be too surprised if you have to wait for a very long time at the finish line.”
The Dubious Perks of Being a VIP
We drove to the general area for where we were supposed to board the buses, parked, and then walked to where we were supposed to board the VIP bus (Read here if you don’t know why we were VIPs).
There was no bus.
We looked around and walked around and then we saw it: down and across the street: our buses. We walked over and got our VIP breakfasts (half a bagel, a cup of apple juice, a packet of Swedish Fish), and were told we could not get on the bus, because they were not sure it was the right bus.
So we waited.
After a few minutes, we were told to walk to a third location, which — due to some confusion — is where our buses actually were. We did, and got onto our bus.
Then, five minutes later, we were told that this, too, was not our actual bus, and that we needed to get on yet a different bus.
This, as it turned out, was in fact the actual bus.
We sat down and I ate my Swedish Fish. I like candy.
A final note on the bus and our VIP-ness: I have never tried to use a back-of-the-bus potty before, but found to my surprise that a surprising amount of heat flows upward from the toilet itself, perhaps as a disincentive to hang around and read the newspaper.
The Last I See of The Runner
As we stood in line, waiting for the run to begin, I reviewed the plan the Runner had put together for me to survive this marathon. It will help to refer to the elevation profile:
The first seven miles, she told me, are downhill. I should try to imagine coasting for this part of the race, letting gravity carry me down, and try not to walk for anything but a quick drink and something to eat.
From mile seven to twenty, she told me, the course would be mostly flat. Here’s where I should put my “mile / minute” tactic into play: run a mile, walk a minute.
Then, finally, the last six miles are primarily downhill. Try to let gravity carry me the best I could.
OK, sounds good.
“I’ll see you in five hours or so,” I told The Runner. “Now go kick this marathon’s butt.”
We started, and my plan to stay with The Runner for the first mile immediately disappeared as she shot forward and nearly out of sight. I stepped up my pace to the redline, caught her, and hollered, “Good luck!” before she dropped me again, this time for good.
That’s OK. The fact that she’s so much faster than me was encouraging. I knew she’d have a good race.
I Settle Into What Will Have to Pass for a Groove
At mile 1, I saw a row of porta-potties. Strangely — for mile 1 anyway — I already need to use one. Ordinarily, I would put it off, thinking that stopping so soon in a race is a terrible idea.
Then I remind myself: I’m not racing, not really. I take care of my business and run back into the fray.
And now I have no idea where in the flow of runners I am. I can no longer see the stick with balloons on it for the 3:30 group, and I suspect the 3:45 group would have passed as well. Who knows, maybe the 4:00 group has, too.
I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. I don’t have a GPS or even a watch on. I’m just going to go the pace I can go.
I turn on my iPod Shuffle — something I normally don’t use, but I knew I’d be running alone — and try to let gravity carry me.
I watch the raging river beside me. I look at the mountains ahead. I stare at the sky, sunny for the first time in ever.
To my surprise, I’m enjoying myself.
Not until the race results are published do I find that for this first seven mile stretch, I ran an 8:01 pace. About as fast as I’ve ever run, and for sure faster than I’ve ever run more than a mile.
Change of Plans
I don’t feel the need to drink or eat anything when I hit the seven mile marker, which is where the course has leveled off, so I keep going. By mile 9, I’m ready for something. Banana, Powerade. I walk from the beginning to the end of the aid station as I eat, and then I’m off again.
By mile 10, my nips are hurting. I know what this means, and what I should have done to prevent this problem. Oh well, nothing to do but keep going.
I eat and walk again at mile 11, this time Powerade and an energy gel.
From then on, I walk every aid station, drinking a cup of Powerade and alternating a banana and energy gel. I know what works for me; my stomach never complains the whole run or after.
We ran around a lake in the country, the sun warm, the air calm. I hit the 13th mile — the halfway point — feeling just fine, enjoying the view, taking my time.
I did not know I was — on this fairly flat section of the course — running at an 8:48 pace. Had I known, I would have panicked and backed off, thinking I was heading for a full-on meltdown.
But the meltdown never came.
At mile 15, I was not at all surprised when a group caught me and then surged by — I had been being passed by people all day.
What did surprise me, though, was that this was the group hanging with the 3:45 pace runner.
I was 15 miles into a run and was just now being passed by the 3:45 group?
Suddenly, my objective changed. I no longer wanted to finish when I finished. I wanted to surprise The Runner by crossing the line a full hour faster than either of us expected me to.
On the spot, I decided I would do my best to hang with the 3:45 group for a mile or two, then let them ease away, but slowly, with the intent of letting them put about a minute per mile on me for the rest of the race.
If I could do that, I’d be looking at a 3:57 finish, maybe 3:58 if I started hurting toward the end.
Oh The Pain
As I told myself I would, I hung onto the 3:45 group ’til somewhere past the mile 16 marker. Then they dropped me, not so much because I let them go as because there was nothing I could do but let them go.
I chugged along, entertaining myself with how surprised The Runner would be when I finished in four hours instead of five.
By mile 17, though, it was obvious that relative to everyone around me, I was slowing down. Group after group caught and passed me. Few people talking. Only energy for moving forward.
A group of 10-12 runners engulfed me. All of them women. I wondered, briefly, if my male ego should feel injured by this. I decided that, as a man whose wife was probably two miles ahead of him at that moment, it should not.
I hit mile 20, which is when the road turns down again.
And that hurt. A lot.
Mostly the constant pounding hurt my quads, except for maybe it hurt my calves more. And also the jarring hurt my back. And my neck, too. Oh, and my nips. Especially my nips. I was pretty sure I had rubbed them clean off. And if you look at this picture which I have cleverly not embedded in the main story body because it is a very disturbing image, you will see that I had, in fact, pretty much rubbed them completely off.
OK, I was hurting everywhere.
I noticed, though, people were stopping and walking. Stretching. Clearly trying to cope with pain of their own.
Somehow, knowing that the pain was just part and parcel of the course — not something I alone was experiencing — made it easier to cope with. I may have been hurting, but at least I wasn’t being hurt unfairly.
I started thinking more and more about The Runner. How was her race going? Was she going to finish with a qualifying time? Was her hip bothering her?
The sooner I finished the race, the sooner I’d know. That spurred me on. As it turns out, from mile 20-23, I ran an 8:47 pace.
Meanwhile, I devised a clever trick to help me make it from one mile to the next. I called it, “Three songs is a mile.”
This game was incredibly helpful, since it took, on average, three songs for me to run a mile. As I got to mile 21, 22, 23, it seemed like the miles stretched on forever; it was useful to be able to tell myself, “No, this is just the second song since the last mile marker. One more song after this one.”
Finally, I was at the last mile. Then the last half. And then I could see the finishing clock. It showed 3:59:20.
I had half a minute.
Without considering that this was showing gun time — not chip time — I broke into the best approximation I could of a sprint, and passed under the Finish line at 3:59:40. Or something like that.
My chip finish time? 3:58:20. I had just run a sub-4-hour marathon. At a 9:06 pace, overall. With a cold.
I could hardly wait to tell The Runner.
Where’s The Runner?
I rushed to the tent where our drop bags were located, got my phone, and called The Runner.
I texted her.
I went into Panicky Mother Hen Mode. The Runner had not picked up her phone after the race! We had agreed we’d pick up our phones after the race to make it easy to contact and find each other! Does this mean that The Runner had not finished the race?
Was it possible that The Runner was lying in the medical tent at the finish line?
No, I checked.
But she could be in a medical tent on the course!
I ran around in circles, shouting things about the sky falling and stuff.
As it turns out, The Runner had finished her race in 3:41:45, qualifying for the Boston Marathon with time to spare. She just hadn’t picked up her phone yet because she didn’t think there’d be any reason she’d need it for an hour or so.
We found each other, collapsed into chairs, and began telling each other the stories of the day.
A Day Later
Yesterday, we could not make it up the stairs easily, and couldn’t make it down stairs without an assist from the rail. Today’s only a little bit worse. My quads have never hurt so much.
Also, yesterday we signed up for the Death Valley Trail Marathon on December 3 of this year. You should join us. It’ll be fun.
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