Sunday, April 08, 2007

04/07/07 Easter Marathon

There's a guy near Olympia, Washington who puts together a marathon (and lots of other races) for several holidays each year: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter. These aren't the best organized races you'll ever do... and I always feel badly for the person who has traveled here from afar to do one... but we do them anyway because they are close, and once you've done one, you know what you are gonna get.

Saturday was this year's Easter Marathon. The races start and finish in a local state park... Millersylvania State Park (where the vampires are In The Mood)... and are out-and-backs alongside roads open to traffic. Dodging horse trailers is half the fun :-). In fact, this race was a double out-and-back. I don't mind these because I like interacting with runners going in various directions, and it is always fun to see the leaders blow by.

When I got to the park, it was raining. The cold, soaking kind. And it wasn't supposed to let up. The race director asked me, "are you going to do the early start? Most everyone in the race is going to start early. It'll be in a few minutes." Huh. Well, I guess it would get me out of the rain sooner. So I ran back to my truck to pin my number and get my raincoat.

It was here I realized that I hadn't brought any gel or nutrition of any kind (cue the ZONK noise from Amazing Race). Hmmm.

I ran up to the starting line right as he was about to say go... and he told us, "you realize there won't be any aid stations for another hour, right?... and... go!" Huh. (cue another ZONK)

Off we went. All twenty of us, an hour before the official race start. It turned out that there were only 30ish people signed up for this race. Really weird things happen in tiny races. Last year I was in a tiny ultra and came in DFL. Yeeks.

Many of the early starters drifted back, and I was with a little pack of 4 people as we loosened up. Around M2, it occurred to me that I only recognized one name on the race list who was a sub-3 type - a fellow Maniac named Gregg. My only goal for the race had been "put in the miles" and finish somewhere around 4 hours. But. Well, I wondered if I could finish before Gregg (and any folks I didn't recognize) could catch me.

I was cold and wet. My raincoat was weighing me down. I had no calories and there was no water on the course yet. However, if I ran a little faster, then provided I didn't explode, I'd be done and warmer faster.

The mind works in mysterious ways. So I took off. I didn't notice anyone else take off with me, so I ran alone. I hit the turnaround at M6.5... and on the way back, I didn't see the next people until I was past M7 (before their M6). Around M8, the people driving to set up the first aid station stopped and gave me some water. My first drink. Warm water - yum! Luckily, after this point, the aid stations would be up and running. Good.

Around M9.5, the first regular-start half marathoner and the first regular start marathoner... Gregg... went by on their outbound leg. I passed a few more, and then around M10, I started catching lots of 10k people on their way back to the finish. I said "hello", or "nice job", or provided a shaka to each person as I went by them.

I hit the half at 1:52. I stopped long enough to drink and ponder whether I should ditch the coat. I kept the coat (ZONK) and off I went. Almost immediately, the guy behind me came into the aid station. It was clear that he was actually chasing me. COOL.

I passed a few more people on their way back in. Some of them looked beat, so I smiled at them. But most were hooting for me. Believe me, this never happens.

Onward. The rain continued, and I was getting a little tired... but mostly, I was trying to stay focused. I generally can't stay "race focused" for things longer than a half. And definitely not when there's no one else around. This was a run in the country. In the rain.

I passed the first regular-start marathoner once again. We said "hey"... it looked like he was gaining steadily. Go, Gregg, go. As I approached the turnaround for the second time, I could tell that my legs were starting to tighten up. My brain wanted some calories, and I was behind on fluids. At the M19.5 turnaround's aid station, the volunteer asked me if I wanted some gel. YES. Ooops, she didn't have any. D'oh! Thanks for bringing it up.

Off I went. There was the guy who had been chasing me, coming towards the turnaround. I told him, "I'm fading... I'll see you in a few minutes." We slapped five.

M20. M21. Still out front. Gregg, the real leader, was coming the other way. "See if you can catch me." "I don't know..." was his reply.

M22. I'm hurting and wondering where the guy behind me really was. But I smiled and shaka'ed and Good Job'ed everyone I saw.

M23. This damn coat was heating me up and weighed about three tons. M24. I needed something to drink badly. I wanted to eat a whole pie. M25. Oh crap.

M26. People setting up for that afternoon's duathlon clapped for me.


I was the first finisher. So much so that the finish line people asked me if I ran the half. "Nope, the full. But I did the early start."

3:48. Not much of a time for a front runner, but there it was.

I got my two sodas and waited. The guy who tried to catch me finished 9 minutes later. He had faded badly. We chatted. His PR was 3:50, and had he caught me, then I would have helped him set a new PR. That actually would have been pretty neat.

Interestingly, it kind of felt like being in the penalty box on Amazing Race. My actual placement kind of depended on who finished in the next hour. Generally, I do not care about stuff like this. But running out in front... way out in front... was really interesting.

Gregg pulled in about 3:09. So he started 60 minutes after me, but finished 21 minutes after. He made up a lot of time, but he wasn't going for a sub-3. The penalty box phase continued.

The first two (or maybe three) women finished. Many early starters finished. And then, just four minutes before the official race time hit 3:48, the second regular-start guy came in. Heh.

I came in 6th (or 5th, not sure about one woman yet) overall and 3rd guy.

What a weird experience.

Little races are funny that way.

I hung out talking to people and drinking soda. Lots and lots of soda. I did not eat a whole pie.

Next up: The Glass City Marathon and probable cooooold weather. Brrr.

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