Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tucson Marathon, 12-8-2013

On a chilly morning that eased into a warm afternoon, I ran through beautiful Arizona landscape and completed my fourth full marathon. The Tucson Marathon was a small race with just under a thousand runners in the full. Point-to-point downhill with some rolling hills (and one aggravating monster at mile 23), and starting 2000' below my normal elevation, it had the potential to be very fast. My training this round has been only okay, however, with excuses of the "I've been stressed and emotionally drained" or "I want to do all the things, like hiking-lifting-MMAing-dancingbriefly, so I don't rest much" or "of course I need a trip to Jamaica [and I do actually intend to blog about it, you people who know who you are] with my girls, where I will exercise by floating in the Caribbean" variety, so I didn't really have a time goal. Spoiler alert: the PR is still 5:01:50, from Seattle. Despite a promise from my boss that he'd buy me coffee if I broke 5:00:00, I set my goal simply to not start off too fast (I've been burned) and to run consistently and strongly the entire course. SUCCESS.

Bethany and I met in Phoenix on Friday, where we spent a fantastic evening with Mandy, Bob, Sarah, and the puppy girl Stella. Bob cooked spaghetti for the weary travelers, and I was excused from a very late night of revelry and got a good night's sleep. After a lazy morning, Beth and I drove off to Tucson. 

The expo was held at the Hotel El Conquistador, which was gorgeous. It was the smallest of the marathon expos I've attended, consistent with the race itself. The layout was cramped and confusing, but I did emerge with a great new shirt and my bib! While white's not my best color, I'm using short sleeved shirts more these days--I typically run in either tanks or long sleeves, but for my new martial art and gym habits, I prefer a bit more moderate coverage.

We took our stash of Cliff bar samples off to our hotel, the Catalina Inn. Don't let the very drab exterior scare you--it was quite clean and comfortable inside, for the money I paid. They were extremely accommodating to the racers: breakfast started at 4am and a shuttle took us directly to the start line!

Bethany was exhausted from her previous night of partying and I was looking at a 4:15am wakeup call, so we decided to head to the nearby Olive Garden and then call it a night. We waited in the crowded lobby for 45 minutes in a hungry stupor. Apparently, Olive Garden is THE place to be on a Saturday night in Catalina, AZ. A couple struck up a conversation with us--after I told them I lived "near Santa Fe," the husband asked if that was close to Los Alamos. "…well, actually, I live THERE…"

We eventually carbo loaded successfully and returned to the hotel, where I performed my race-eve ritual of dressing the imaginary person:


My alarm rudely woke me from a dream (in which Katie, Auna, and I stole pizza, got arrested, and rode off on motorcycles) to something even more strange. The lights turned on as soon as I stopped the clock and an extremely chipper Bethany said, "IT IS YOUR MARATHON DAY! I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU TO WAKE UP FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES!!!!" We both got breakfast, and she went back to bed, while I shuttled off to the start line!

It was freezing, with wind chill, up over 4750' on Mt. Lemmon. We were able to sit in the warm buses for 20-30 minutes, which was lovely. Finally, the portapotties called, and we shivered en masse for another half an hour. I wore my beloved UW sweatshirt, purchased freshman year, 2002. Mom said I could part with it. May it rest in peace or bless someone who needs it more--I ditched it when we were told to line up. (Volunteers collected the piles of discarded clothing and donated them.) 

The race MCs played a terrible recording of the Star Spangled Banner, and then with the dulcet tones of Run, Run, Rudolph, just after the sun peeked over the hills, we were off! 

The course was winding and fairly steep downhill for a couple of miles, and the flattened into a gradual downhill for *most* of the rest. Soon after the start, a good-looking guy struck up a conversation, asking how many I've done (this was his first) and whether I had any goals (his was to finish). He ran off ahead, but I'd run into him much more later in the race.

I felt so strong! There was so much oxygen, and we were going downhill! I stuck to my plan, though, and reined in my pace. I walked the few legitimately steep inclines, but breezed up the more gradual rolling hills that were on the four-mile roundtrip out-and-back portion off the main highway upon which we ran for about half of the race. Normally out-and-backs kill me mentally (SO FRUSTRATING), but this was fine! It was pretty! The volunteers and spectators on that stretch were especially welcome, as that main highway part was almost completely devoid of them. I also used the turn around to verify that there were plenty of people behind me. Heh heh heh. Sweet.

Around mile 15, I warmed up enough to remove my long-sleeve shirt. So many runners ran the entire thing bundled up. 

Dear Arizonans, 
50-60F is NOT run-in-sweatshirt-and-gloves-and-hats weather. 
the Girl from WA/NJ/NM 

At mile 17, I had my first moment of despair. You know, where you wonder why you would ever choose to run this far, or really, why anyone would EVER run at ALL. That was a hard mile. I took a couple of walking breaks, switched my music up, and shook it off by 18. 

This race, I fueled with alternating Espresso Love Gu and Honey Stinger packets. I ran with my own water, but drank a swallow or two of Gatorade at aid stations. They handed out Cliff Shots, and I tried one…but it was just weird enough to make me stick with my regular fuel. I had six gel packets total, approximately one every four miles, starting at mile 1.1. Somewhere in the low 20s, a station passed out M&Ms! The first few were delicious, and then I almost choked on one. No more M&Ms while running. A motherly volunteer at another late stop forced a couple of goldfish crackers on me, as I apparently looked like I needed salt. Again, I choked. I am not allowed to eat solid food while running, okay?

So, my friend! I passed him around mile 20, and we exchanged "WE GOT THIS" encouragements. I was running pretty consistently at this point, so I'd pass him during his walk breaks, and he'd pass me when he ran. He fist bumped or yelled encouragement every time. It's amazing how much that helps. This happened (as it always does) with another couple of people. One woman found me after and we congratulated each other. Runners (in my pace group anyway) are so *NICE*.  

I was impressed with the sheriff/deputy presence--many, many were out, blocking and directing traffic for us. I did almost get hit once, and that was pretty uncool, but for the most part, they managed to keep roads half open and runners fully alive. 

I really started losing it physically around 22, and at 23, I was pretty convinced that the race was never going to end. Ever. That mean monster of a hill didn't help, nor did the steep descent that followed. My knee had been hurting for the past two days and the entirety of the race (ssshhh I'm fine; I shouldn't confess these things on the internet), so the downhill made me very nervous. I survived, and I had less than a 5k left. When was the last time I couldn't finish a 5k? I got this!!

I started counting the evenly spaced orange cones of protection: run past three or more, take a walking break, but only until the very next cone, then run again. That worked.

I continued my tradition of crying during half and full marathons near the end. I apparently cannot fight the combination of exhaustion, pain, anticipation, and excitement of being ALMOST DONE! 

Mile 26! Only 0.2 miles to go!

Mile 13, for the lucky halfers! ONLY 0.1 MILES TO GO SPRRRRIIIIINT! YEEEAAAAH!!!

I finished strong with barely anything left in the tank, so was ecstatic.  My time was 5:29:38, and I finished without injury.

Bethany's beautiful face met me after I got my medal and water. She led me slowly back to our car, where she had a caramel brûlée latte and Subway sandwich waiting for me. SO GOOD.

She drove back to Phoenix, where we were fed fried chicken, fried risotto balls, and macaroni and cheese, and watched the Seahawks barely lose to the Niners. It was an excellent afternoon.

Now, it's kind of hard to walk, due to good soreness. I'm resting up and planning my next moves. I'm going to take a couple of years off of full marathons now, to work on my strength for and with MMA and my speed with 10ks and halfs. I also want to do more of our awesome local trail races, and become a decent skier of bumps. I'll get back to fulls when I have a good shot at that sub-5:00:00 time. Did I say that before? I mean it this time!!

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