Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mesa Falls Marathon - Race Report

I hit the porta-potty line immediately upon exiting the bus – like always. There were only four toilets which some people were complaining about, but I thought that it was just fine. After all, if everyone would have gotten on the buses earlier, then they would have had plenty of time to potty. Add to that the fact that there was a potty every two miles without fail, and I think that there were plenty of opportunities to privately tinkle… Oh – and a note to those in the line: If you’re not about to poop your pants, then you’re not ready for the line. Do NOT get IN the potty and read a magazine while you wait for your body to kick in. UG!

Anyway, after exiting the potty, I put my jacket back on the bus and waited for the start of the race. Little Bro and I hung towards the back knowing that we would be starting very slowly. I scoped out the slow competition to determine exactly who I would make it my goal to beat. Basically, it was Leopard Lady (a woman in her early 60s) and Pajama-Pants-Man (a man in his 50s who was hobbling like he had just been struck by a car and happened to be running in what appeared to be basketball print PJ bottoms). We said hi to Bill (co-worker) and his son, and then waited for the race director to give some final words (which we couldn’t hear) and then he shouted “GO!” and we were off.

We shuffled along leap-frogging Leopard Lady for a bit. We took my normal walk breaks at 13 minutes, 26 minutes, and 39 minutes. At 39 minutes, Little Bro was happy to walk and actually winced as we slowed. At 3.5 miles, he was already in pain. As we started this walk minute, he said “Well, now I guess we’ll see how tough I really am.” UG! After being a Marine and a Guardsman with an extended tour of Iraq, I replied with “Man, we already know how tough you are. That will never be a question for me or anyone you know.” We jogged our next 12 minutes, and he was in greater pain at the next walk break. We took an extended walk, and a shorter jog. The walks continued to get longer and the jogs shorter. We finally decided to try a 1/1 strategy. That lasted for about five intervals. Then, he just couldn’t take it anymore. We decided to just do whatever his knees would allow him to do which wasn’t much.

It was the left knee that was the initial problem, but after compensating for it, the right began to trouble him too. At mile five-ish, he couldn’t decide which leg to limp on. All along, my heart was breaking for him because his training had actually gone very well until just a few weeks ago. He’s just built for running, and he has really enjoyed it since starting up again eight months ago. We ran for the last time sometime in mile seven. It was about 30-seconds long, but basically, we walked almost all of miles five through ten. I tried really hard to distract both of us by talking, gossiping, and even giving movie reviews. He kept telling me to go ahead, but I reminded him that my training sucked, and I was only there to finish a marathon in a new state. (Yes, I would like to get faster. Yes, I would like to PR. But, this wasn’t the race for that to happen, so I wasn’t out anything by walking.)

As we passed the ten-mile mark, we saw the next aid station about .3 miles away. Little Bro finally let logic and pain prevail. He finally threw in the towel. As he was making his decision, I glanced over and – don’t tell anyone, but – I swear that I saw him choke down a couple of tears. I said “A marathon is a test of endurance, not a test of stupidity.” He replied with “Yeah, but you know that I don’t admit defeat easily.” I tried to lighten the moment as much as possible with “It’s not de-feet, it’s de-knees!” but it wasn’t enough to even get him to crack a smile….

The folks at the aid station were very kind and willing to take in “a stray” as Little Bro put it. They offered some pain relievers and a seat in their van while they waited for the OK to leave their post. We were sure that we were the last runners, but they had to get confirmation. I finally had a chocolate GU and some water. I gave Little Bro knuckles as I ran on without him.

I was pretty rested after walking for five miles, but my hip flexors were sore and tired. I haven’t walked that far that fast for a long time, but the rest of my body felt fine. I probably started out too quickly, but it was just nice to get my feet moving. The race course veered off of the main road long enough to visit the Lower Mesa Falls overlook. They were beautiful. It’s no wonder that the race organizers have chosen to show these falls as their logo. I then re-accessed the main road and continued my solitary jog.

Soon enough, I reached the half-way point of the race and the place where the ½ ‘thon began. Search & Rescue were there and shouted a few words of encouragement as I passed. I asked if I was the tail end, and they indicated that there was still one person behind me. Wow! They must be travelling with cement shoes to be slower than me! So, I whooped and hollered a bit to the chuckles of the S&R guys. Then, the course took a significant elevation drop. It was good that Little Bro didn’t hold out longer as this would have been a real beating on his knees.

The first nine-ish miles had all been on gravel roads through thousands and thousands of pine trees. It was very pretty, and that minty-lemony smell was prevalent the whole way. The course then followed the highway only for about four miles before turning off onto trails again. The trail that we followed for the next three miles was double track but closed to ATVs and cars. It is open only to foot, bike, and horse traffic. I was a bit worried about the bears since the trail was approaching Bear Gulch, but I came upon more runners fairly quickly (whew!).

This trail part of the course followed Warm River. Sometimes we were high above it. Sometimes we were right next to it. Someday when the boys are bigger, we will return to float down this river. It was anywhere between knee and waist deep and very calm. It takes a couple of hours to float. That would have just been too long to try and entertain two 2-year olds.

It was during this portion that I caught and passed the three power walkers, the 50-staterX2, and a couple of marathon maniacs. They all commented on Little Bro’s disappearance and were very sad to hear that he had dropped due to injury. At the bottom of this trail descent, I passed Leopard Lady for the final time. (I was really happy about that because there is just something about being beaten by someone twice your age…..) Knowing that the rest of the course was on paved roads, I stopped at the aid station to get the teeny rocks and gravel out of my shoes. The power walkers caught me, but I left the aid station before them. (There’s just something about being beaten by people who aren’t even running…..)

It wasn’t long before the course turned upwards. Since mile ten, I had been maintaining 12/1 intervals, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that on the big three mile climb. I opted for 1/1 intervals for a ways. It was on this climb that I finally passed Pajama-Pants-Man who was still hobbling along like he had just stepped out of a car crash. Determined, that man was…… The power walking trio passed me again, and while I joked with them, I was secretly seething and determined to overtake them eventually. The local EMT crew was really wonderful along this section driving up and down the hill on ATVs and asking us slow pokes if we were doing ok.

The race’s website indicates that this uphill section lasts for three miles (from 17-20), but I swear to all of the gods in heaven that it was at least 80 miles long. I kept my sights on a gal in front of me wearing a Camelback. I just wanted to pass her. While she wasn’t terribly fast, she was consistent. I managed to gain ground on her as we came out of the trees and into the wheat fields right after the aid station at mile 20 (which was staffed by a nice group of women – one of whom was getting really irritated with the traffic that continued to speed by completely disregarding her “slow” sign that she waved enthusiastically). Camelback woman and I were sticking really close together until mile 22 where she became Ornery-Orange-Slice-Woman after she threw a bit of a fit over the fact that the aid station volunteers didn’t have any oranges sliced up. She refused to wait the 15 seconds that it would have taken for them to slice one up insisting that she would get some at the next station (and they were out, by the way – serves her right for being snotty to people who give up their entire day to sit around and wait for us slow pokes!).

I was still doing fairly well to mile 22. My run intervals had become shorter and the walks longer, but I was still able to plod along. However, at mile 22 the whole day caught up with me. I was already at five hours and at my longest distance in three years. Oh – AND it was 80*. The heat really started to zap my energy, and I ran less and less and less. At mile 24, I decided that I couldn’t be bothered to lift my 900 pound arm to look at my watch so I chose to count my foot strikes and not run less than 200 at a time. This was a good strategy for a while as it kept my mind from how friggin’ tired I really was. The course wound through a residential section of Ashton for about a mile before turning down a long straightaway. It was here that I really hit the wall. I had been flirting with the wall since mile 22, but this was it, for sure. And, the wall hates me.

This seemed to be the longest piece of road that I had ever run in my entire life – even longer than Van Winkle in the SLC marathon. Miserable. I was able to pass one more person, and we chatted for the six years that it seemed to take me to actually get past her. She was from Texas and very nice. Her hubby had entered the ½ and was waiting for her so that they could finish together. I managed to change my run/walk strategy to going from light pole to light pole. This worked for about three minutes. That was the last time I ran. At this point, I was ready to lodge a formal complaint with the race director because it’s just mean to allow people who have already finished the race to walk back long the course with their finisher’s medals dangling tantalizingly from their necks. Oh, I was in a fine state, to be sure.

The orange cones directing us to the turn to the city park stretched for miles and miles and it was here that both Pajama-Pants-Car-Wreck-Man and Camelback-Ornery-Orange-Slice-Woman overcame me once again. Rat bastards! And, I didn’t have it in me to even curse them aloud. I gave it up and looked forward to just crossing the finish line and sitting in a vat of ice. This represents some serious hurt because I can’t even sit in lukewarm water without practically going hypothermic. I just wanted the ice. Ice. Ice! ICE, dammit!!!!

I approached the finish line looking for my cheering section, but none were to be found. I did notice Little Bro sitting under the shade of a tree looking pretty bummed. He was glancing down as I passed, and I didn’t even have the energy to get his attention. I just walked across the finish line with less than a smile on my face. My chip time was 6:09:58. A PW, but a finish.

1 comment:

Jeff & Shay said...

What a race. I am so proud of you that you stuck it out and finished. That is a huge accomplishment and you should feel good about it.