A Note from Fatty: Last Saturday, The Hammer raced the Provo City Marathon; I rode my bike along the same route, leapfrogging her and cheering her along the way. Obviously, this resulted in two very different experiences.
Let’s start with The Hammer’s.
The day started bright and early, well, maybe not bright-it was 3:45 when the alarm went off. I rolled out of bed after a pretty good Ambien induced slumber. I was starting to get the obligatory pre race jitters and new I would be spending some quality time with “john” before we would head out the door at 4:30.
Yes, I did say “we.”
My sweet husband, Elden had volunteered to get up at this ungodly hour and drive me to the race start. I kept telling him that he didn’t have to do this; he could sleep in. He had had a really stressful work week and could surely use a few extra hours of sleep. I assured him multiple times that I was capable of getting myself to the starting line.
Elden would hear none of this and insisted he would drive me. Not only would he drive me to the starting line, but he was also insisting that he would ride his bike along the course and cheer me on the whole way. Wow, my own personal cheering section — how could I refuse?
At 5:15, we arrived at the bus pickup in Provo where I met my good friend and coworker Ed. Ed was going to run the 1/2 marathon which started at the same location as the marathon and we would be able to ride the bus to the starting line together.
Ed is a remarkable person. A few years ago, Ed had gastric bypass surgery and has now lost at least a person in weight. He is the poster child for gastric bypass as he continues to keep the weight off. He has become quite the runner in the process and has participated in many 5K and half marathon races.
Way to go Ed, you are an inspiration!
We said goodbye to Elden and boarded the buses at about 6:00am. Elden’s plan was to change clothes, jump on his bike and ride to the mouth of Provo Canyon where he would meet up with my son Blake (aka the IT guy). They would then ride to Vivian Park and wait for me to run by.
The race organizers did a great job at the starting line. There were fires set up for warming us, plenty of loud music, and a crowd taking their pre-race jitters out on a piñata. And — most importantly — there were plenty of potties.
There was a nice chill in the air and very little wind. South Fork Park was beautiful this early spring morning.
I was surprised as the marathon group lined up. I would guess there were only a couple hundred runners, and probably a thousand half-marathoners. Definitely a different size of crowd than the 23,000 runners at Boston!
The marathon race started promptly at 7:00 am, followed by the half marathon at 7:15. I started with the 3:25 pace group, running at 7:49 minutes per mile.
[Side note about pacers: For those of you unfamiliar with marathons, most marathons have "pacers" -- experienced runners who will carry a sign while they run the race in a specific time. If you need a 3:25 to qualify for Boston, for example, or you have a time goal of 3:25, then you can run with that pacer's group. The pacer does NOT stop at aid stations for drinks or outhouses for potty breaks. He just continually runs. Pace groups are great for people who have a time goal or who have a hard time pacing themselves.]
I started out with the 3:25 group, but had no intention of staying with them the whole race. I knew I could keep up with them for the first few miles because it’s all downhill. My plan worked out perfectly and I exited South Fork Canyon just as the 3:25 pace group passed me.
As I ran through Vivian Park — the first place Elden and Blake were supposed to be cheering for me — I quickly scanned the aid station and the ten people there cheering on the runners.
They weren’t there! Oh no. If they missed me here, would they ever find me as the thousand runners behind me exited the canyon?
But then, just as I was thinking this, I heard cowbells for the first of many times that day. Elden and Blake were just around the bend. They hadn’t calculated the time right and didn’t think they would make it to Vivian Park in time, so set up a little further down the path.
My cheering section had found me!
The next 5 miles were down Provo Canyon on a great bike path. I know this path well; It was my training route for many years, back when I lived in Orem. I was feeling great and I was keeping the 3:25 pace group in sight.
The 3:25 pace group must have been sad as I drifted off the the back and they lost the perpetual cheering section of Elden and Blake.
Elden and Blake would ride about a mile ahead, get off their bikes, and start cheering and ringing their cowbells. I could hear the cowbells and know they were close by. What a great motivator! As I passed, I would high-five them and Elden would yell words of encouragement.
At mile ten, my dad even came out and cheered me on! Thanks Dad!
The halfway point of the marathon is — naturally — the end of the half marathon, and is on center street in Provo. As I ran by the finish line, I felt a little sad that I wasn’t running across the finish line. It’s funny how much of running is mental. When I ran the Moab half-marathon a few weeks ago, I was exhausted when I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t imagine running another 13 miles!
But as I crossed the halfway point on this day, I felt great. I looked down at my watch: 1:43. Wow, not a bad time for a half marathon!
Elden had left me about a block before the finish line/half way mark so he wouldn’t get in the way of people finishing the race. He said he would catch up with me in a little while.
Blake, meanwhile, had gotten bored and left. He said he would find us at the finish line. I didn’t blame him; riding your bike at a runners pace for 26 miles does not sound like the way I want to spend my Saturday morning. I was grateful for his smiling face and expertise at ringing a cowbell! Thanks Blake!
The first six miles of this race had been downhill, but then it had leveled off and become flat by mile thirteen, and continues flat until the finish — relatively flat for a Utah marathon. Now, leaving the crowds at the finish line, the road went up over an overpass — the only “climbing” for the day.
As I descended the overpass, I realized my feet were killing me! The reason was simple: the last three or four miles had been on a concrete road. I couldn’t believe what a difference there is running on concrete vs pavement. We turned, and I was glad we were off the concrete and back on chipseal (chipseal may be terrible for road biking, but it’s fantastic for running).
The next 6 miles would be run through neighborhoods as we made our way toward Utah lake. Once we arrived at the lake we would get back on the Provo River Bike Path and head east back toward the finish line.
As I approached mile 15, the marathon blues started to descend upon me. My feet hurt, and my hamstrings and calves felt like they were on the verge of cramping up.
“What am I doing here,” I thought to myself. “Running marathons suck! Why does anybody run them?” I couldn’t figure out how in the world I was going to make it another 11 miles! I was just going to have to walk.
I was sure all those people behind me were going to start to pass me–how demoralizing that would be! Elden would see me walking when I was supposed to be having a great race! He would be so disappointed in me.
Thank heavens Blake wasn’t around- He thinks im tough, he’d be so disappoointed. And then I heard the cowbell in the distance! “Oh crap,” I thought. “Elden is back! What am I to do?”
“Hey Baby, you’re looking good!” said Elden.
“Clang, clang, clang” said the cow bell.
“You’re not being helpful,” said the grumpy runner.
That’s what I said to my darling husband who got up at 3:45 in the morning and who had been cheering me on for 2 hours! What a brat!
But I couldn’t really say anything else, I was physically exhausted and quite possibly dying!
“Is the bell too much? I’m sorry, I won’t ring it anymore,” chimed Elden.
And he proceeded to be happy and cheerful and tell me stories about people he had met on his bike…blah, blah, blah.
And the thought occurred to me that I must have sounded just like this to Elden when we were running Boston. I was happy and cheerful and talkative. Elden was not. Elden was feeling this same exhaustion and pain while we were running Boston that I was feeling now. I had a new found love and sympathy for what Elden was going through so he could be with me at Boston. What a wonderful guy!
“I’m bonking bad, Elden, I need a gel!”
“One gel coming right up!” and he produced a gel and some water and an “I love you.”
Gel may feel and taste disgusting going down, but its effect is magic. Within a few minutes, I was back. My feet stopped hurting and the blues were on their way out!
“Thanks Elden, but dont be mad if I can’t talk. I’m pretty tired.”
“I completely understand, Baby, You just keep running and I will just keep talking…if it’s helpful.”
The next few miles flew by and soon I was back on the bike path headed toward the finish line–only six miles to go.
At one point I found myself alone. Well, I wasn’t completely alone. I could see one guy about 25 yards a head of me, but alone in the sense that Elden was a way behind me, talking to a different runner and I was out of cheering section for a moment. Then I heard a cowbell approaching. I thought it was the return of Elden, but was surprised to see Blake riding up to me.
“Mom, you look great!” Blake said.
“I do? I don’t really feel that great.”
“Well you look way better than the 200 people I just passed while I was looking for you. They all look like they are dying.”
It was sure a good thing that Blake didn’t see me 8 miles ago when I was the one about to die. My secret is still safe (I think). Blake still thinks I’m tough!
The last few miles I had a tailwind. It is amazing what a little wind on your rear can do for your momentum and spirits. Blake and Elden soon veered off the path and headed for the finish line. They wanted to be on the line when I crossed. I looked down at my watch–only one mile to go. I thought I had this in the bag until I rounded the last corner and saw the overpass!
“Crap,” I thought. “I have to go up and over that again.”
I slowed to a walk. How could I have forgotten about that? I passed a man who was walking on the sidewalk; he gave me a curious smile. At that moment, I interpreted his smile as a smirk. In my mind, the man was saying “Girl, you are almost at the finish line–it’s just over that incline and you are walking? What a wimp!”
That did it! I picked up the pace and finished strong! Elden was at the finish line greeting me with a giant hug and kiss! I collapsed in his arms–exhausted. 3 hours, 36 minutes. Not quite my fastest time, but pretty close to it! I couldn’t have done it without a fantastic cheering section!
Thanks Elden and Blake, for pushing me and cheering me on during the highs and lows! I love you guys!
Fatty’s Story: Marathons Are Fun And Easy
I have little to add to The Hammer’s excellent narrative. And by “little,” I of course mean “a surprisingly large amount, due to the fact that I seem to be unable to ever shut up and let well enough alone.”
- It was fun to watch The Hammer actually hammer. It’s very strange that up until last Saturday, I had never watched The Hammer run a race. That’s because up to this point, she had always convinced me to run the race along with her, which meant that either she would be running way below her ability, or she’d be way ahead of me and I wouldn’t see her anyway. This time, though, I’d get to see her run, for more than the few moments it took for her to pull away from me at the starting line.
- I was excited to be at a running race, but on a bike. I anticipated that there would be something deliciously evil about being on a bike at a marathon. To be comfortably lollygagging along, leapfrogging the very fastest runners, without even breaking a sweat.
- Running makes you emotional. I’ve ridden my bike for 20 hours straight before. I was exhausted and hallucinating, but I still felt like myself — friendly, stable, and silly (the three characteristics I self-define with). Whenever I’ve gone on a long run, I’ve become much more emotional than usual. It was reassuring to see that The Hammer has to confront some bugaboos on hard runs, too.
- Cowbells are awesome. When The Hammer and I were in Boston, Philly Jen gave us a bunch of little Boston Marathon-branded cowbells. One of these easily fits in a jersey pocket, and Blake and I used them the whole day. Cowbells are awesome because they’re louder than clapping and yelling, and hurt way less when used for an extended period of time.
- Racers love spectators. Of course, I was at the race for The Hammer, but I cheered for — and occasionally rode alongside — everyone and anyone. And after the race, at least half a dozen racers came up to me and expressed gratitude for me bing there and cheering them on. It makes me think: anyone who has ever benefitted from cheering spectators needs to find time to be a cheering spectator sometimes, thus paying the good karma forward.
- Small races are great. Of course, the iconic marathons like NYC and Boston have their obvious appeal, but a tiny race like (fewer than 300 runners!) like the Provo City Marathon made it possible for me to — without difficulty — constantly leapfrog the runners, either by taking a different street to the next place I’d stop to cheer for them, or sometimes just riding ahead of — and even alongside — them.
- The Hammer is modest. The Hammer doesn’t mention in her story that she took a podium spot in her age group: third. She also doesn’t mention that her time across the line at the halfway spot for her marathon was fast enough that she would have taken first in her age group for the half marathon.
- Everyone has an interesting story. I sometimes stopped and cheered for people who were racing, and sometimes I would randomly pick a person racing and ride alongside her or him for a few minutes, just chatting. And you know what? There’s not a single person out there who doesn’t have an interesting story to tell. The world might be a better place if we all took the time to talk to more strangers (but don’t tell that to your kids, I guess).
- Riding 40 miles, slowly, over the course of four hours, is easy. Between riding from the finish line to where we first caught up with The Hammer to leapfrogging and riding along racers, I put in about 40 road miles on my mountain bike (mountain biking shoes are much better if you’re going to be getting off your bike and standing around a bunch) that morning. But it was such slow miles that I didn’t feel like I had gotten any kind of workout from it. So after I brought The Hammer home, I got back on my bike and went mountain biking for a couple hours.
- This item placed because people like lists of 10 better than lists of 9. Have you ever considered how much of our world is governed by the fact that most of us have ten fingers? How would the world be different if we had fourteen? Something to think about.
And in short, I look forward to spectating in the future, as The Hammer crushes other running events.