When I saw that there was a new trail marathon set up on my birthday, I knew I had to go for it! I've said many times in the past that the only way I'd do a marathon was at the end of an Ironman... it just seemed like something I would not enjoy. However, I have watched so many ultra trail races in the last year and a half - watching Paul go through the highest highs, and the lowest lows - being out in the mountains, enjoying nature, and most of all having FUN... and the more I watched, the more I wanted to run one myself!
I asked my 15yo son if he wanted to do the race too (he had been asking and asking to do a longer race)... but when I went to sign up, the website said that the race was on hold. Come to find out, they ended up switching it to a "Fun Run" - no entry fee, and NOT a race. Well, even better for me! So I signed us up. In the meantime, our son developed an injury called iliac apophysitis - basically he had to stop running due to an injury of the growth plate on his hip bone. So if he wants to do a long distance race, he'll have to wait until at least next year...
Paul has been injured too - since July - and has done much, much less running - his diagnosis was an annular tear of the L4/L5 disk in his spine, which has led to nerve damage of the sciatic nerve that runs down into his right leg. The main result of that is that his muscles in his right leg aren't firing at 100%, and he is in almost constant pain. But he is so in love with running, and being on the trails, that he goes out to run sometimes even with the issues he's having. He had said that he wished he could run the race with me - and when I asked him if he wanted to try, he said that yes, he did want to try. So I swapped Errin's spot for Paul, and we started training.
My last attempt at long distance running was a pretty miserable failure... back in January I decided to do a "fun run" 50K at Lake Hodges - with only 3 weeks to train. When it came time to run, I made it through about 15 miles before hobbling the last 5 miles to the car with a knee injury. So I only made it 20 miles, and I hesitate to even call it that...
This time, I had 5 weeks to train... and this was just coming off of my 70.3 race in September. I felt like I had a much stronger base in place, and if I could do a 70.3 that ends in a 1/2 marathon (after climbing a mountain on a road bike) that I would be able to do this marathon! I found a training plan from Hal Higdon that was for multiple marathons and used this for my outline. I didn't follow it exactly, but I ran a lot! I was super conscious about my foot the entire time (since I had just fractured it in August), and did quite a bit of power hiking up hills during my runs. I also did lots of cross-training - biking every week-day, swimming on the weekends, and lots of pushups, bicycle crunches, planks, squats, and lunges!
Fun Run Day!
When we got to Al Bahr on race morning, it was COLD! I had brought arm warmers, gloves, sweatshirt, jacket - but just before the race started, I decided that it was starting to warm up and that I'd leave it all in the car - I'm so glad I did! What a beautiful day it was, and I was never cold! Since it was a fun run, we didn't pay for entry into this race - but they had shirts for sale so we both bought one - nice long-sleeve technical shirts.
After a course talk with Kath Baker and Scott Mills, we all walked outside, and then we started the run (no frills). I had determined to myself that I wasn't going to try to go anyone else's pace but my own - and that any attempts to "keep up" with others would just hurt my chances of finishing. So I started out pretty conservatively, but we ran out of Al Bahr apparently at a pretty fast pace (so we learned later). Another running friend, Carlos, ran with us for a mile or so before I slowed down a little - and then we were out on single track that led us around a lake.
Somehow I ended up leading a line of runners along this trail, and kept worrying about holding people up - but they said they were fine. Then finally Paul stopped to let the other runners by, and I stopped with him (thanks Paul!). It was a good thing - because I immediately felt better, not worrying about the people behind us.
I feel like I played this run very smart:
- run slow enough that I can maintain easy breathing
- hike any uphills fast enough that I don't feel I'm losing ground
- use my glutes and hamstrings for climbing
- keep on top of my nutrition (4 gus, 2 waffles, 1 shotbloks, 1 salt tab)
- keep on top of my hydration (1 water bottle, 1 electrolytes bottle - fill up at every aid station)
- eat whatever I want at every aid station (cookies, cookies, cookies, homemade fig newton, COOKIES!)
I really wanted to be done with this run in around 6 hours... because that's when the party started back at Al Bahr! When we got in to Penny Pines (mile 13.7) in 2:53, I started thinking that 6 hours was possible... but, we still had another mountain to climb. Up Mt. Laguna on the PCT - 3.5 miles and 700 ft of gain, and it took us 1 hour. During this climb, I discovered that my glutes and hamstrings were starting to burn. I was so afraid to use (and burn out) my quads, that I used and burnt out my glutes and hamstrings!
But, my mind still felt clear, and I could still run and still hike - the burn wasn't injury, just fatigue... which I can handle. Mentally, I felt great - I was so glad my knee had not complained even once, and my foot was not in any pain. Also, the climb up Mt. Laguna was not as bad as I thought it would be - so my high spirits took me up and over the mountain, and we made great time!
|by Ralph Otto|
Paul's leg was not happy though. He had been feeling good through the first half of the race, but his leg started acting up and he was running on his heels, which got him a blister/bruise on his right heel. He dragged himself to the last aid station where Christine convinced him to drop - but only if he could make it back to the finish line so he could watch me finish.
|by Ralph Otto|
Meanwhile, Christine had kicked me out of the last aid station while I was waiting for Paul - and told me to get going. When I took off, I got a burst of energy. It helped that I was going steadily downhill too! I ran pretty fast for a couple miles, telling myself I was going to keep running until the next up - and I ran for a little bit with a lady named Heather, who I had been seeing off and on throughout the race (we had volunteered together at races before). But when I did hit the uphill and started walking, I was glad that she kept going... only because I didn't want to be trying to keep up with her. I knew I was going to make it to the finish line (I was so close!) - I didn't have to run someone else's race to get there. After she took off, my legs/hips started getting more and more sore, to the point where I didn't want to walk anymore, but I couldn't run the entire last couple of miles. So the walking was painful but necessary. About 1/2 mile from the finish line, back in the Al Bahr campground, I finally decided it was close enough that I was just going to jog the rest of the way - no more walking. I was sooo glad to see the end in sight, and Paul there cheering me on! And I was surprised to receive an awesome finisher's medal from Kath!
I finished the race in 6:10 - which I was totally happy with, and I didn't miss the party! Paul and I got our showers in (so cool to have that option) and felt much better afterwards. Then it was time to sit down! Paul brought me a big bowl of veggie chili, a veggie dog, and tortilla chips - and a beer! It was soooo good - just what I needed! We sat there for awhile, talking with the other runners, watching people finish, and I was very happy - I had done it! I was exhausted though - that really wore me out!
Paul took care of me throughout this - running my long runs with me during training, spending my birthday taking care of me on the trails, taking lots of pictures so I didn't have to, being there at the end to see my finish, and taking care of me afterwards - all while dealing with his injury... I can only hope to take care of him the way he takes care of me - I just wish that me taking care of him was all it would take for his leg to heal up!
I wanted to mention Vanessa Runs - many of her blog posts reinforced what I knew inside of me - that I could run my longest race ever, feel great about it... actually, feel bad-ass about it! I highly recommend stopping over to her website for some great reads!
Now that I've done this marathon (Paul says I should count it as an ultramarathon because it was 26.7 - and anything over a marathon is an ultra!), I have signed up for the San Diego Trail Marathon!