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Sunday, September 28, 2014

#83- The Huntsville (UT) Marathon!

I find it strange that I could be disappointed in something that just 2 months ago I would have thought was well out of my reach in the first place.

The Huntsville Marathon was my 6th marathon in the last 5 weeks and after running the fastest marathons I have ever run within those races and running a 4:07:15 at Big Cottonwood (with several bathroom breaks), I gained confidence that I could actually break that elusive 4:00 marathon if I could keep my GI issues in check.

If I thought I had a shot, Huntsville was the place to do it. The course is perfect to run a PR or BQ. Even more so than Big Cottonwood due to the more gentle downhill that doesn't shred your quads as much. 

Friday night severe thunderstorms rolled in with heavy rain and lightning. By 4:00am when I got up, the rain was still coming down very hard. My neighbor Galen called me and asked me if I wanted to ride with him to the race and given the race was over an hour away from Draper and I don't drive well in the rain or the dark, I took him up on his offer! Thanks G!

On the way there, I was actually praying that the race would be cancelled. The thought of running 26.2 miles in the freezing rain just sounded miserable. I hate being cold and I was just tired.

The race started at 9:00am, but if you wanted to pick your packet up on race morning, you had to be at Huntsville Park (the finish) at 6:00am. We parked the car and walked to in the pouring rain to where the packet pick up was, got our packets and was informed that the race was still a go. Doh! We headed back to sit in the warm car until the bus to Monte Cristo (the start of the full marathon) left at 7:15am.

We got on the front seat of the bus, which was heavenly as I was sitting right next to the heater. I fell asleep the whole way to the start and that little warm nap was awesome!

I remember last year they had a heated tent for runners to stand in before the start, so being in the front seat of the bus, I jumped off the bus and headed into the tent securing a spot right next to the heater that warmed the tent. The ground was wet, so I used the garbage bag they gave us for our gear bags to sit on.

I parked my butt right next to the heater!!
We had about an hour to wait before the race started, which gave me time to use the bathroom and warm up. The rain had let up and it wasn't super cold by the time we got ready to start. My attitude began to change. This might just be the best conditions to run in ever. Cool temps and an overcast day to keep the sun off us just might be ideal!

 Gorgeous view from the start at Monte Cristo
I am ready to give this a shot!
At 9:00am, we walked to the starting line and the race was underway before I knew it! At this point, I decided I would give it my all. 

Walking to the start!
Once we started, I settled into my pace. I was feeling very comfortable and did not feel I was pushing the pace at all. I was trying to go very conservative to save something for the later miles. The rain started to come down again, but I still felt good.
I hit the half at 1:52:43 (I was actually there at 1:50, but I hit the bathroom before crossing the timing mat). I had banked some time and still felt really good. Two other guys came up on me and complemented me. The said they had been following me for a while and they were impressed with how consistent my pace was. We talked for a bit, they wished me luck on my sub 4:00 and speeded away (they were looking for a 3:40ish finish).
The course got a little rolly at about mile 16. I still felt strong, but I started having trouble breathing. I just could not catch my breath and I started coughing like I had a chest cold. It was odd. I slowed my pace a little so I could catch my breath. All was still good though. I was still well within my sub 4:00 pace.
The rain had let up again and since I was layered up, I started getting a little warm, so I thew away my rain poncho (which I had a feeling would be a mistake). Then at mile 20, the skies opened and the rain came down so hard that, with the headwind that came blowing in, I could barely see and suddenly got super cold. I started to mentally break down.
By mile 22, I was absolutely miserable. At mile 23 I saw the 4:00 pacer come pass me, and at that point, I was mentally done. When I hit the mile 23 aid station, I got really dizzy (from being so cold), that they wanted me to sit for a while. I declined and just walked a little until I felt OK to run.
The last 3 miles, I just tried to get through by running and walking. When I was able to see the finish line I looked at my watch, I realized that I still had a chance to at least run another PR! I tried my best, but my legs were cold and I just couldn't move them fast enough. I came across the finish line in 4:07:49, missing my PR by 34 seconds. Doh!  
I went straight to the medical tent upon crossing the finish line as I was was so dizzy and cold, I just needed to sit down before I passed out. They gave me a couple of space blankets to wrap around me. It was there that it hit me that I had forgot to bring a change of clothes. I would have to drive the hour home in soaking wet clothing! Double Doh!

Looking like a drowned rat on the way home!
Luckily, since I had picked up my race packet that morning, I did at least have the dry race t-shirt to put on. On the way home Galen passed a Cracker Barrel and even though I was soaking wet, we were starving and stopped in for me to change into my warm shirt and partake in some nice warm comfort food! OMH!! It was so delicious!!
Heaven on a plate after a cold, rainy marathon!

After lunch, Galen dropped me off at home and I took the longest, hottest shower known to man, grabbed my little Zoe and jumped back into bed and watched a funny movie just relishing the thought that I would NOT have to run a marathon next weekend!

Weather was the only thing about this marathon that was not amazing this year (and that is out of the Race Director's control). The organization is great, the course is fast, the scenery is beautiful and those wonderful volunteers that stood out in the pouring rain for hours were AMAZING!!

Huntsville is a must do race!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#82- Beat The Blerch Marathon (and my Birthday)!!

Back in March while driving home from the Bataan Death March, I called my sister in Atlanta, gave her my credit card and asked her to register me for the "Beat the Blerch" Marathon. This was a race based on a 6 part comic by The Oatmeal entitled The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons I run Long Distances. If you have not read it, you should. If you are a runner, you MUST! It is hysterical!

One of the reasons I wanted to run this race (besides the fact that I love The Oatmeal), was that the race would be held on September 21st, which just happens to be my birthday!

One of the race perks was listed as follows: "There will be large quantities of birthday cake at every aid station, in addition to Nutella and magical grape beverages." Large quantities of birthday cake at every aid station? On my birthday? I HAD to get into this race!!

I sat on pins and needles as my sister sent me text after text letting me know that the website was crashing. All seemed lost when about 30 minutes later, I received a screen shot of my registration confirmation! The race sold out in 27 minutes so I was over the moon to get one of the coveted spots.

Needless to say, those that did not get in were pretty upset. In fact there was so much demand, they decided to add a race on Saturday (the day before the actual race), to accommodate more runners.

On Saturday morning, I flew from Salt Lake City to Seattle. Once I got there, I picked up my rental car and headed to the packet pick up which was held in a cool running store called Road Runner Sports.

My Maniac friend Laura was so sweet to offer me a place to stay in her home. She was running the Saturday race, so it worked out well for me to get all of my errands out of the way when I got there.

I got to her apartment in Renton, which was right on the water. She was on her way home when I told her I was already at her apartment. While waiting for her to get there, I opened my suitcase, pulled out my running shoes and Garmin and got my 1 mile streak run in. Laura laughed when she pulled up and saw me running along the dock in my jeans and t-shirt!

Getting my streak mile in!
Once I got settled at Laura's apartment, I went out to grab a quick dinner before relaxing for the evening. I found this great place called Gyro House had a great meal!
Yummy pre race dinner!
After dinner, I went back to Laura's, got my stuff ready for the race and hit the hay. The race started at 9:00am, so it was nice not to have to get up super early.
I left Laura's apartment at 7:00am and made it to Tolt MacDonald Park by 7:30am. I parked, got some photos, met up for the Maniac/Fanatic photo, picked up The Oatmeal's new book, checked my bag and was ready to run!

Getting ready to run in my most festive birthday hat!

Sriracha and I!

There were lots of cute costumes!

 Getting ready to start!
The Oatmeal (aka Matthew Inman, in the green suit) himself saying a few words before the race!
After a few words from The Oatmeal himself, we were off! I, in the excitement forgot to start my Garmin when I crossed the timing mat and didn't realize it until I was about a 1/2 mile into the race. This threw me off a little. I didn't feel that hot when I started running. I just felt really tired and congested. I thought it would work itself out, but by mile 6, I questioned why I didn't just do the half and worse, I questioned if I would even be able to finish the next 20 miles! I started doing a lot more run/walk intervals.

The trails were some of the most beautiful and well groomed I have ever run on!

O Canada!
 At mile 3 we hit the first aid station and it did not disappoint! There was birthday cake, Nutella sandwiches, purple drink and other delicious treats!
 Birthday cake in a cup. It was really good cake!
Nutella sandwiches

Eating cake on a couch with a Blerch! I didn't want to leave!

Blerchs everywhere!
Still having fun here!
While the trails were nice, this was not an easy course. From mile 6 to 15, we were going uphill. The grade was deceiving. It didn't really feel like we were going uphill, but since I was already feeling crappy it felt hard and tiring. Thank goodness the scenery was so beautiful to look at! 
This is the marathon elevation chart.

I am a sucker for a dog in a dinosaur costume!
The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) himself ran the half marathon in this get up!!
Beer served by a girl in a banana suit anyone?

Maniac Kati and I!

The trail ran along the lush green forest.
I was so happy to see the turnaround at mile 15! The course actually started feeling a bit better as now we were running downhill. I was still hot (the temps were in the high 80's), but the shade of the trees and a little gravity intervention made me feel a little better.

The Blerch had my number from step 1! Ha Ha!

Another Blerch!

The aid stations were a hotbed of activity! The volunteers were amazing!

Saw newly minted Double Agent, Busta Groove on the out and back! She won the best costume award!

I REALLY did not want to get up! The Blerchs felt like a big comfy pillow and I like resting!

The Blerch, Handsy Bigfoot and I! Ha Ha!
The last 1 1/2 miles we came out of our shady fortress and were back in the sun. It felt so hot and all I could think of doing was getting finished. When I hit the last half mile on the paved road, my legs felt so tired and strange after running on trail for so long. I pushed my way through to the finish, got my medal and immediately went to pick up my gear bag so I could get my book autographed by Matthew Inman.

Finished in 5:01:17. Not my fastest, but considering I was thinking of a DNF at mile 6, I will take it.
I want to say something about Matthew Inman. I have never met him before this race, but from what I saw and heard about him, this guy is a pretty good guy.
Not only did he run the half marathon both days, after finishing he would go to a table and sign books and race bibs for hours! One of the staff told me while I was waiting in line, that when the last place marathoner on Saturday was a mile out, he ran out to get them and run in with them! He the presented them with a DLF cake at the finish! How nice is that?!

Waiting to get my book signed.

The Oats signing my book after running the half marathon!
The best part of any marathon is being done!! 

Kissing the Nutella!

 The swag!
After the race I made my way back to Laura's apartment, showered and got ready to head out to my birthday dinner with Michael "The Shoe", Laura, Richard and Shannon! Thanks friends for making my birthday special!
Is this Michael or the Prez, Steven Yee? Ha Ha!
I LOVED this race even though I would have liked to feel better, everything was just so fun and festive. My only request would be that there are a few more aid stations out on the marathon course. When it's so hot, every 2-3 miles in the later miles was tough. Other than that, the race was great for a 1st run.
They are planning on expanding into 5 more locations across the country, so if you don't live close to Washington, keep a look out for a Beat the Blerch coming to a city near you!
On a sad note: A 28 year old half marathoner named Evan Sebenius collapsed at mile 12 on Sunday and did not survive. A fund for his family and a memorial 5k race is in the works. Click here if you would like to help. I don't know the details of what happened, but I would like to think that the runners around him knew what to do. Please folks. LEARN CPR! It may have not been useful in Evan's case, but it could be helpful someone else's situation.
Class act, this guy!! He gave $10,000 to Evan's family! Wow!