Tuesday, October 09, 2007

09/30/07 Quadzilla finale: Gateway to the Pacific Marathon

Well, this was it. The last race of the elusive Quadzilla. The picture above was taken afterwards, so the short version is that I did not spontaneously combust. In fact, I ran my fastest race of the weekend thanks to 1) sea level altitude and 2) company from a nice pacer. The other guy in that picture is Maniac Brian... he and I were the two finishers of Quadzilla this year. I borrowed this picture from Brian's site (plug for Brian: he turned around seven days later and ran a 3:27 in Maine... that's a PR and a BQ. After the Quadzilla. Dang!)

The Gateway to the Pacific Marathon is not an exciting race. It is organized by the same guy who does a number of "holiday" marathons (Valentines, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas) in the Olympia, Washington area. These races are low-key to the extreme. Like the first two races in the Tahoe Triple, these races are always held on roads open to traffic. Unlike The Triple, the roads are never really busy. Also unlike The Triple, the courses are flat-to-gently-rolling, at sea level, and there's plenty of aid. One more thing that is different from The Triple: the holiday marathon courses are laid back "runs in the country" which many find to be boring. This may help explain why the races are small.

Gateway to the Pacific is just like the holiday marathons, except that it is held at a completely different location. A location which, as hard as it is to believe, is even more laid back and definitely more boring than the holiday runs. Gateway to the Pacific is a double out-and-back course that starts, laps, and ends at a little park outside Elma, Washington in the shadow of a nuclear reactor.

This race used to be held in July. When starting, the park would be empty. When finished, the park would be absolutely PACKED with people making use of the park's little lake. Last year, the race was held on the hottest day of the year. It was 75 at the start and 97 at the finish. No one DNFed, but it was a hard, long day. I managed a 2 1/2 year road marathon personal worst that day. Of course, I did it the day after running my very first ultra on the second-to-hottest day of the year. Hee.

Anyway. This year, the organizer moved the race to the last day of September. Goodbye heat. Goodbye packed finish. Hello, possibility of crappy weather. And as I got in my truck on Sunday to drive out to Elma, the possibility was a certainty. It wasn't that cold, but rain pelted my windshield... and it was breezy. If I wasn't trying to finish the Quadzilla, I probably would have bailed on the race. Lots of people did. I got to the race site a few minutes before 10 or so people were going to start early. I joined them, and we would represent about half of all the runners who did the race at all.

Out we went. Into a stiff headwind and steady rain. Ultrarunner extraordinaire Van Phan was getting some miles in after a 100 miler the previous weekend. She's usually a little faster than I am. When she has recently run a really long race. In other situations, she's a whole lot faster than I am. The weather was terrible and she was a little afraid of being chased by stray dogs (with good reason, I might add) so she hung with me.

This was tremendously helpful. Van is really good about starting out slow and running negative splits. And indeed, we started out slow. Very slow for her, and even kind of slow for me. After about 4 miles, we settled into a slightly faster pace. We hit the turnaround at about M6.5. The expected tailwind did not materialize, which was weird. There had definitely been a headwind going out. Coming back, it was still... and the rain had slowed down.

As we were running back, we went past all the folks behind us. All eight or nine of them. Brian yelled "Quadzilla!" Then, as we got closer to the start, the few folks that had started at the regular time went by. The leader, Maniac Greg, also yelled "Quadzilla!" Van and I began making (no-money) bets about who would eventually catch us and where it would happen.

We hit the end of the first lap at 1:56. I peeled off to go to the bathroom. This was a mixed proposition. I needed to go, so it was a good thing. However, my legs were completely stiff afterwards. Very VERY hard to get moving again. Van slowed down a bit and helped me through it... but she also subtly started speeding up. And so did I.

Greg had apparently overtaken all the rest of the early starters. "Quadzilla!" he yelled. Okey doke. We estimated he'd catch us around M18. Brian passed me. "Quadzilla!" he yelled. Yeah, buddy.

The wind was back. The rain was off and on. I had originally started the race in a rain coat, but I had wrapped it around my waist by M4. Too hot. Then I ditched it at the first lap because it was annoying me. So at this point, by M15, I was cold and very wet. Kind of a "Sophie's Choice" thing.

M18. Greg passed us, right where we thought he would. "Quadzilla!" he yelled. Uh huh.

I was getting tired, but compared to the previous three days, I felt pretty good. I did not feel like someone had whacked me with a hammer. About M23, Van pulled away from me a bit. I was able to keep her in sight, but I couldn't catch her. That's what she does. It was fun to watch.

M25. M26. I saw Van enter the park and finish... the second person to cross the line :-). I was the third. Greg had finished about 15 minutes before us. Officially, he finished about 45 minutes before us.

3:50 for Van, 3:51 for me.

No kidding. My Quadzilla times went 4:26, 4:15, 4:27... and then 3:51. Even in rain and wind.

And. That's a negative split for Gateway. 1:56/1:55. Cool!

I celebrated by drinking full-sugar cokes and eating donuts. You can see this "in action" in the picture at the top. Ha.

A few minutes later, Brian finished too.

And so ended Quadzilla for this year.

That was something.

The next day, I woke up ready to run a fifth. Seriously, I felt great. I didn't run, though. Didn't run the next day either. On Wednesday, I went out to run, and it hurt like hell. Yikes. I should have run on Monday, I guess.

Would I do another Quadzilla? Hmmm. Theoretically, I guess I would. This is a tough call. I don't really want to do the Tahoe Triple again AND the travel logistics of my previous triple were simply too hard to be very enjoyable. So, while I'd be happy to do four... or five... races in a row, they'd have to involve a central location. And not Tahoe. As far as I know, this mystery centralized series does not exist.

That's alright. I did it.

Next up: it has come and gone. The Portland Marathon. My story for that will be quite different from any of the others you have (hopefully) read here. I paced a friend in her very first marathon ever. I'll be back with that story soon.

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