The short: Flat course of 3.2 mile loops around Greenlake. Wet, cold, muddy, blistered. Chose the Marathon distance, finished in 6:55:37.
The long: Originally, I was registered for the 50k. The race only had two options: 50k and 100k. However, a few days before the event, the RD (and fellow Marathon Maniac, Jonathan Bernard) had opened up a newer option - a marathon distance. This was a good thing for me. I could still participate, but not go nearly as long. It's nice when you have a bailout option in a race. If you're not feeling so good, you can opt to stop, but not be considered a DNF if you reach a certain designated spot to drop. If I was feeling good, I would continue to the 50k. If I was falling apart, I would do my best to hold it together until the marathon point.
My original plan was this for the run:
1.) Keep my HR within my aerobic range (around 138 bpm)
2.) Shoot for a finish no later than 8-9 hours depending on whether I choose to do the 50k or marathon option
The night before, I got two whole wheat Peanut Butter & Strawberry sandwiches cut and bagged up, my Nathan's hydration pack filled with 2 liters of water (opted not to run with hand-held bottles this time), two packs of Espresso Love GU, a pack of S!Caps for electrolytes, a pack of TUMS Smoothies, some basic pain-killers, my clothes, and my Suunto HRM ready to go for the next day.
I woke up around 4-ish in the morning and realized I wasn't going to make it to the 5am early-start after getting dressed and breakfast, but I could make it to the 6am start. I popped my vitamins and drank some Super Orange Emergen-C, drank some chocolate milk and headed out the door after getting changed into my gear. As I was on the road, I started having GI issues. Seems the vitamin C boost mixed with the chocolate milk in a bad way and I was suffering for it. I had to make a pitstop at my office on the way to the race course. Lesson learned.
I got to the race start, but since it was so rainy and dark around there - I had no clue where anything was. Thankfully, someone else showed up and told me where the start would be once the official start time happened. So, I started running at 6am exactly and ran into the darkness. As I was going, I found that I was running in the wrong direction. My friends who started earlier were coming in from the other direction! Oops! But I had already started and since it was a loop, there was no point in turning back around since it would be the same distance in either direction. There was a double-blessing in disguise going this way. Seems my GI issue from earlier wanted to come back to attack me once more. I saw a 7-Eleven in the distance (about a quarter-mile away) and I headed there to beg the clerk to let me use their bathroom. Thankfully, he showed mercy and that was the last GI issue I had.
I got back onto the course and continued with the mantra of Forward Relentless Motion. Heart Rate was doing great and I eventually finished the first loop in under an hour with the pitstop time at the 7-Eleven. I re-checked in with the RD and proceeded to run in the correct direction (counterclockwise). It was much easier this way since I was running against traffic and wouldn't get so spooked by cars.
Finished up my second loop and was on for my third. I was starting to struggle to keep my HR low, but staying on top of things. Then one of my Maniac buddies (Thomas Tan) had caught me in the middle of my loop. He had early started at 5am and was on his 6th loop. He was also getting really tired and achy (IT Band issues). I was totally cool with him running with me, but I warned him that I was going slow due to HR training. Seems that my body and spirit decided to break all the rules after that. I stopped focusing so much on my HR and proceeded to run more. I began to push the pace with Thomas coming for the ride. What was a shuffle at 13 minutes/mile became 8:30-9:00/mile and no stopping until we reached the end of the loop. I messed up my original plans, but I didn't care. I felt awesome moving that fast. It was very liberating. Thomas only had two loops left to do and was going to only go to the marathon point. With how soaked I was with finishing three loops, the marathon option would be my choice as well.
With 5 loops to go, I started to walk it all. Now when I walk, I walk with purpose. My stride and leg turnover is pretty decent (12-13 minutes per mile has been my best speed for fastwalking, I usually can hold a 14-15 minute per mile pace better). I found that I was able to complete each loop in about 47-50 minutes every time. This was a positive sign that I could complete the race in well under my 8-9 hour planned time. At this point, it was a mental game when it came to the loops. I got through the 4th and 5th loops easily. I even did a quick errand and got my friend's tiresled harness out of her car (yeah, I said tiresled - I need it for my training for the Oregon 100! Gotta develop that core strength!)
In the middle of the 6th loop, I started to feel alot of discomfort in my left shoe. The pain was relatively familiar. A rock? Gravel? After another series of muddy puddles and getting filthy, I sat down at the aid station to check my foot out. My shoe was empty. Small grains of sand, but nothing that would make me feel like this. I wiped out what I could and then continued on my 7th loop. The pain didn't go away though. I stopped again on a bench in the park and decided to take off my sock. That's where I freaked out. Somehow, all of those puddles of dirt had sand as well. The dirtsand-water got into the shoe and into the sock. I wiped a rather LARGE, putty-textured glob of sand off of my left foot and saw the blister underneath. The clump of sand rubbed so much and grew so large, it might as well been a rock. I wrung out the sock to see more dirty water, put it back on, and proceeded to finish up the run. I thought, "Okay, we're fine now. Can't get any worse." Wrong.
Ann Treason said one time about ultrarunning, "It hurts to a point, then it doesn't get any worse." Ann was wrong or I wasn't at "the point". A large bolt of pain shot through my left foot and I winced hard. That pain was extremely familiar and something I hadn't experienced in a very LONG TIME. The blister popped open and I had to finish up the current loop, one more, and a .6 mile out-n-back. This was the point where I knew I had to suck it up hard. I played alot of mental games with myself to focus on other things. I kept reminding myself that I'm almost done and just had one more loop left.
I hit the aid station and decided that I'd do my best to run some of the last loop. Run to the tree and walk. Run to the traffic light and walk. Run to another landmark and walk. Going around a loop over and over, you get familiar with how far things are due to passing by them so often. I finally hit the aid station to finish the last loop and it was time for the final out-n-back. For that, I shut everything off in my head and ran for it. I knew I could hold it together to do this. There was no dropping, especially now.
I came screaming into the finish in 6:55:37, a sub-7 hour marathon. The longest marathon I've ever done, but the only marathon where I've ever walked the most.
I hung around to recover, chatted with my fellow Marathon Maniac friends who were still running the longer distances (much respect to my brothers and sisters in suffering!), and was so happy to be involved in this. This was the kick in the ass that I needed. Despite all the training and all the focus on numbers, I needed this. The distance. The pain. The accomplishment.
My first race for 2009. I can say that I've earned my t-shirt and definately earned my self-respect to start wearing my Marathon Maniacs singlet again.
So, now I'm at work, feeling mild soreness and twinges. Have a Johnson & Johnson Advanced Healing Compeed pad on the blister I had to cut open (it got really dirty inside after it popped). But ya know what? I'm feeling fan-freakin'-tasic right now and I'm looking forward to the next event and my continued training.