Thursday, September 29, 2011

Winthrop Marathon

Winthrop Marathon
Winthrop, Washington

Winthrop course scenery

Waiting for the bus with Tony Seabolt

Bus ride to the start

Starting Line
The week leading up to Winthrop Marathon, I began to question my training, nutrition, sleep habits, fitness level and whether I could break 3:30 even though my half marathon times indicated it was more than possible. I knew this kind of thinking would not help me on race day so I filled my mind with positive thoughts and forced the bad attitude to the background. My mileage was reduced but I didn't follow a DRASTIC "taper" down to nothing. Some people don't run and it works for them. I'd been following Advanced Marathoning schedule, jockeying between the 70+ and Under 70 miles per week schedule depending on my life's circumstances.

Seven days before the marathon, I ran the You Go Girl Half Marathon and, against the advice of good friends, I chose to race it. I couldn't help myself! My finishing time was 1:35:57 and my confidence in finishing under 3:30 the following weekend improved. I felt if I pushed to the brink of death, perhaps I could pull a 3:20 out of the magical hat. My goal for the week was to do easy, comfortable running since I did my speedwork at You Go Girl. 6, 9, 8, 6, and 4 miles with no run on Saturday. I HAD planned 2 miles but the long drive up to Winthrop took priority. Since I've already lost my streak for the year, I let it go and decided that 2 miles wouldn't make or break the race. 

Friday night brought news that Jeff would be working and couldn't go with me. I knew a group of awesome runners were heading up the next morning and could take me but I felt like it might be a hassle for them (it wouldn't have been and I've been sufficiently chastised!!) since I'm staying at a different location and decided to go it alone. I threw together my suitcase contents and huffed and puffed to get the suitcase into my SUV. You can't be overprepared, right?

5 hour drive was on the schedule and I made sure to pack lots of water and snacks so I wouldn't be stuck eating food that wouldn't settle well on race morning. Seattle traffic held me up an additional 45 minutes and once I escaped the city exits, it was smooth sailing. 4 stops at restrooms were necessary since I was drinking water nonstop in preparation for the race. I arrived in the no cell reception zone and quickly my radio began buzzing and hissing at me. I don't have a connector for my Itouch and ironically I had taken out my CDs to upload them to my Itouch and hadn't returned them."Im a dirt poor son of a..." SEEK..."and my wife, she done me wrong"...SEEK..."the moonshine, it's my friend". station. What to do, what to do?? Ok, kept it on and soon a song came on that referenced "shake that thing to the squirrel" AND I AM NOT KIDDING! Stop drinking moonshine, cowboy!

Highway 20! I was finally on the last stretch of the drive and I now had a choice between honkey-tonk/country, gospel or oldies/classics. Still no cell reception. I was wishing I had time to stop and explore the trails and amazing views. Absolutely stunning.

Signs leading to Winthrop indicated it was a deer migration area and range area and to use caution when driving. I prayed no animal would decide to commit suicide with my vehicle and finally arrived in the little western-themed town of Winthrop, Washington. The town "marshall" greeted me as I passed the red barn, where we would be catching the bus in the morning.

Checked into my hotel (greeted by spider on lamp), drove back to Mazama Community Center and picked up my number and decided to head back to Winthrop since the pasta dinner wasn't ready. I was tired! Red Apple Market for dinner. I found some pasta and a sandwich...alright, alright, and some salt and pepper chips. All nutritional guidelines I fastidiously followed were thrown out the window as I didn't want to load up on anything filled with fiber or complex carbs as this can really mess with my stomach. I also avoided dairy, something I've been doing anyway.

I snuggled up with my dinner, a book and had a much-needed down time. There were 7 channels to choose from on the tv but nothing was interesting. 9:30, lights out! Ear plugs in and even those didn't drown out the noise from above my room. I'm certain there was a bowling alley directly above me from 10:00-11:00 pm. 

I somehow fell into a fitfull sleep, dreaming about driving over a cliff on highway 20 followed by another dream where I could not move my legs at the start of the race so I tried to crawl like a military maneuver under barbed-wire.

4:50 a.m arrived and I turned off the alarms set for 5:00. My plan was to leave by 6:00 and drive 5 minutes to the red barn and catch a bus to the start. Left my room just before 6:00 and was happy to feel the semi-warm air. It was 88* on Saturday and a high of 75 was expected for race day. It felt perfect for a race. I'm often freezing before the start of races and it can be difficult to start running fast when my body hurts from the cold. Deer sighting on the road and they made no effort to move aside.

At the red barn and I quickly spot my running friends, Janna and Tony, along with Larissa and Heidi. We're loaded onto buses and I sat next to a woman my age. I feel silly not to have exchanged names with her (I realized later!) but I'm sure it's Contente from the list of entrants. She and I shared the same sense of humor and it made the time go by quickly. I had my "plan" in writing on my left hand and arm with a Sharpie pen. Contente asked if I had a contingency plan for a bear attack and how would that affect my pacing strategy? We joked that our families really were sending us to a camp to rehabilitate us like they do with wayward teens. After a very bumpy ride, we arrived at the starting line in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded by forest, rocks and the location of a huge fire years earlier that took precious lives.

We quickly stood in the porta-potty line and were informed the race would start in 5 or 10 minutes and bags were being loaded and to get them to the truck. AWWW!! I needed to go! Would they start the race without us? I had my marathon maniac singlet on but it was driving me nuts how it was a little short and very loose. So I took a poll...should I wear it or just start in my sports bra? I stipulated that since it was a point to point course, no one would have to look at my stretch-marked belly. Having kids is a blessing but they do leave behind evidence. There goes the shirt! I barely made it out of the porta-potty in time before the countdown to the race began.

3...2..1!   I was at the front and took off, looking at my graffiti-filled hand to remind me of my pacing strategy.   Mile splits, half-marathon split, average pace were emblazoned on my hand along with words, "Believe", "Power", "Strength" (in the palm of my hand symbolically), and as a last resort, "Run Happy" on my arm in case all else failed.

I wore my Itouch clipped on my shorts and prayed it wouldn't bother me. This would be a me-and-the-road marathon and I was hoping music would help the time pass by as well as keep my pace. It never bothered me and am happy I decided to have music on this race. I realized my sunglasses were on the top of my head about .2 into the race and pulled them down before they fell. Goal first miled was 7:10-7:25 and I hit it at 7:15...perfect!

So the miles are a little bit of a blur. There were a lot of trees, a river, some farmland and the aid stations. I recall passing certain mile markers - which were long from the first mile - and hitting the halfway mark at about 1:36. The time seemed to fly by. I ran the race alone as I couldn't see people in front or behind me most of the time. The first place woman took off like a jet and after the 7:15 first mile, I knew it would be stupid to try and catch her only to blow up later. I was 98% sure I was in second but there's always that bit of doubt since no one was around me. It wasn't until mile 24 that a volunteer finally confirmed my field placement. I didn't give up the possibility of winning as I've been in numerous races where I've passed a leader due to an injury. I wasn't wishing for her to get injured!! It was just in my mind that the race isn't over until I crossed the line.

The half-marathoners were waiting for their start time when I ran by them at 13.1 and it was an adrenaline boost. I was feeling strong and didn't have the dreaded feeling of the wheels coming off. I heard a guy remark to his friend how strong I looked and that just sealed up my confidence for the duration of the race.

As I passed mile 19, I recalled the race director telling us we would be heading left over the river and it would be well-marked. I got nervous as I didn't see where to turn and asked a woman who was walking toward me if I was on the right path. She reassured me it was just ahead. Small races do have the fear factor of getting lost, even on what can seem an impossibly easy course to follow.

I headed out near farmland and was soon at mile 23. There were no walls, black holes, pleading with God to get me through this, never-agains, will this mile ever end feelings or thoughts. I. Felt. Great!

Somewhere in the 23-24 miles, the road opened up and I faced some wind that made it feel like my pace was slowing. It was.  I plowed through it and suddenly I had one mile to run. I passed 2 men during these last few miles and 2 men passed me. I found out later that I was passed by half-marathoners.

Run run run! I kept telling myself to push, stride, power off, whatever would make me get to the line as fast as possible. My time was giving me a little anxiety because I KNEW I could beat my 3:17:11 Boston Marathon time if I didn't lose any speed. And I was hoping the finish line would show up when my Garmin said 26.2. The first mile was long and every mile thereafter was off on my Garmin.

26.2 and look at that!!! 3:14! Where's the finish line???? Around the corner, down main street and I see the clock at 3:16 and I pushed as hard as I could to make sure I was under the 3:17. WHAT?!?!!

How did I do that? If you've been reading my blog, you know I haven't gone under 3:30 in over a year and haven't been in the teens since 2008. The reality of it is still not quite real. I feel like I dreamt it all up because of how fast it seemed to be over, how great I felt, seeing the time on the clock...all the stuff I have envisioned during my preparation but had eluded me for so long.

James Varner, race director, gave me a silver star for second place overall (there's a new sheriff in town) and Tony Seabolt and I walked back to our vehicles to bring them closer to the finish line. Oh yeah, Tony finished in 3:10! And he walked 3 miles!

I took some time walking downtown; okay, that doesn't take TOO long. I returned to the finish line, ordered my mexican food that all finishers received and enjoyed the company of other runners while trying to keep the bees from taking over my food and drink. I did treat myself to two scoops of Sheri's ice cream on the way out of town, too!  I called my family and shared the exciting news!

I would have loved to stay overnight so I could rest and actually have a chance to explore this area. Instead, I filled up the gas tank and head out for the 5 hour drive home.

This marathon, even if I hadn't PR'd, is on my list of "do it again" marathons.
Um...yeah.  See, Janna, this is my race face! 

Rob and Larissa Ralph, Me, Janna Theriault, Heidi Swenland Huber and Tony Seabolt
2nd Overall Female HUGE silver star, finisher's medal and HUGE plate of mexican food!

Avg Pace


total time
26.54 miles

7:24.5 average
17:15.0 1.00 7:15.1
26:59.6 1.00 6:59.7
37:12.1 1.00 7:12.2
47:15.6 1.00 7:15.7
57:24.5 1.00 7:24.6
67:01.7 1.00 7:01.8
77:06.0 1.00 7:06.1
87:17.1 1.00 7:17.1
97:30.8 1.00 7:30.9
107:26.1 1.00 7:26.2
117:40.3 1.00 7:40.4
127:21.8 1.00 7:21.9
137:37.7 1.00 7:37.8
147:22.2 1.00 7:22.3
157:24.2 1.00 7:24.3
167:33.8 1.00 7:33.9
177:32.9 1.00 7:33.0
187:24.6 1.00 7:24.7
197:43.5 1.00 7:43.6
207:13.4 1.00 7:13.5
217:37.6 1.00 7:37.7
227:31.9 1.00 7:32.0
237:49.1 1.00 7:49.2
247:49.3 1.00 7:49.4
257:31.1 1.00 7:31.2
267:25.7 1.00 7:25.8
273:32.1 0.55 6:25.9