Wednesday, April 09, 2008

4/5/08 Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Yakima is a cornerstone Maniac event, at least for those of us in the Pacific Northwest. The race always gets great turnout by club members. Especially last year's edition, which was our annual reunion. I ran the race last year as the first day of my first double in 2007... a really challenging double, logistically. I ran Yakima on Saturday, drove 2 1/2 hours to the airport in Seattle, flew to Dallas, slept 4 hours, and ran the Big D Texas Marathon on Sunday. I had no fast goals for Yakima last year, but even though I spent lots of time talking and enjoying the scenery, I still turned in a fairly respectable (for my early 2007 fitness) 3:49.

Yakima is a fast, mostly downhill course. It has two minor ups at M5 and M14 (this one is followed by a short but steep down). And then a rather nasty, long up at M21. Unfortunately, the road is cambered... that is, quite slanty... and this can be annoying. As long as the runner isn't looking for trees, this race offers up amazing scenery. After a few zigzags on farm roads, the course dumps out onto a road that twists and bends alongside a river through a canyon for about 23 miles. It is peaceful and beautiful.

I was not at the 2006 edition of this race, but I heard that it had rained. Glad I missed it. In both 2007 and 2008, the weather was bright blue skies and COLD. This year, it was also a bit breezy too, although this wasn't a factor until the last few miles where the canyon narrowed considerably and the breeze funneled into hat-stealing wind.

I have been sick off and on since December. After recovering from sickness #1, I PRed a half marathon, and I had fully planned on trying for 3:30 at a marathon in February. It was quite hot and incredibly humid that day, so I consciously held back and managed a 3:46. A couple weeks later, sickness #2 caused me to skip my first ever run-for-time event, a local 6-hour race. Then I PRed a half again. The following week, I was at my first alternate choice for attempting 3:30 - Seabrook. However, the second sickness kind of messed me up, so I tried for 3:40 instead. And didn't get it, hitting 3:46 again. See the pattern? PR a half, run a 3:46 full. The next week, I ran a 3:44.

Then it was time for sickness #3. This one really held on, too. I skipped a 50k. I skipped practically all my workouts and training during the following week. I was coughing up lungs, pancreas, spleen. Maybe even uterus. Which is weird.

And that brings us up to date for Yakima. This had been my second alternate choice for attempting 3:30. No chance.

As I stood at the starting line, I was still coughing up major organs. I probably shouldn't have run the race. I tricked myself. Surely I couldn't be sick two weekends in a row! No way. So I ran. If you could call it "running".

I decided that "beat 4:00" would be a worthy goal. Fast course, good weather, and a 15 minute sickness penalty from my last race. Off we went. The sickness affected me in other ways, too. Yakima is a great run for socializing with all my friends and new maniacs. But the coughing made me completely anti-social. I was in an "I just want to finish" mood almost immediately. Boo.

By the clock, the first half of this race went very well. Smooth, even 9:00 miles and a 1:57 first half. However, I had been coughing. A lot. Every cough made me tighten my diaphragm and messed up my breathing. By M14, my abdomen was really sore. Worse, every cough was now sending my head into unbelievable pain. "I just want to finish"... "and curl up into a ball". I could also tell that I was getting fatigued. Not running out of fuel - my muscles just hurt. 9:00 miles turned into 9:30s. I was able to run the hills at M14 and M21, but my pace slowed at each hill and did not return after the hill. By the 20s, I was running solid 10:15 miles. Oh man.

I will say this: aside from walking a couple aid stations, I ran the whole thing. I looked bad enough during the later miles that one of my Maniac friends kept offering me a ride :-). Nah.

Robert Lopez, running his 164th marathon!

Woohoo, I got announced. Alas, it was really my 163rd marathon, but they didn't know that I had skipped the previous week.


Goodness. I coughed for five minutes nonstop at the finish. The editor of Northwest Runner even came over to ask if I was ok. Cough. I guess.

I did have a good time visiting with BRB, but I was mostly anti-social to everyone else. I feel badly about that. Luckily, I'll see all these people again, maybe this weekend.

So when will I try for 3:30 for real? I'm not sure. I've had to skip a lot of training during the last three months and the sicknesses have slowed me down when I have actually run. I'm pretty happy with all the 3:45ish races and my half PRs, but I don't see 3:30 happening in the next few weeks. Hmmm. Boo. I need to get well.

All that said, Saturday at Yakima really did seem to be the last true day of sickness. I started training again this week, and I've felt ok. Slow, but no coughing. I've felt ok.

Next up: The Whidbey Island Marathon, a race I've never run. The logistics are kind of challenging, and I just found out that they only offer gatorade at four stops on the entire course. This may be the only time I do the race.

But Dean Karnazes will be there. Do I seem excited?


How about now?

I'll see you there! I am more excited about seeing you than Dean, whoever you are!

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