Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mountain Marathon - Olympia, Washington

To be played while you read my report:

6:15 a.m.:  Out the door with my Dirty Girl Gaters on, camel pack stuffed with water, gel, pain reliever, Itouch, chapstick.  The temperature was mild as I left my house for the 70 minute drive to Rock Candy Mountain parking lot.

7:17 a.m. and the parking lot was already full so I squeezed my SUV along the side of the dirt road and made my way for packet pickup and the porta-potty.  With bib #413 in my hand, I stayed warm in my vehicle until 7:45.  Heather, Laura, Ana and Jill from my YMCA days were at the race for the Hillbilly Half Marathon.  

We lined up and faced the mountain ahead.  The first mile was on dirt/gravel and began our ascent before finally leveling out after climbing nearly 500 feet over 1.3 miles.  This was the good part of the course.

The trail turned to single-track and the real adventure began.  At 2 1/2 miles, a young girl was being escorted to the start, crying "I don't want to quit!" as a search and rescue volunteer was consoling her.  I felt bad for her but was thinking the same thing.  We were running in a slushy, slippery mess, "slick as snot" mud, puddles that were at times thigh-high.  Yeah, good times.  

I was frustrated.  I was mad.  I was pathetic.  I knew the course would be difficult.  I didn't expect the trail to be so unrunnable.  I knew about the elevation. I knew there could/would be snow. The slipperiness of the course really messed up my attitude. I watched others go through running/jogging and I did here and there, but mostly I found myself walking and slipping.  Some fast half-marathoners passed me and I tried to maneuver my body out of their way.  

 My lower back was screaming at me after the first 5 miles of trying to keep myself from falling.  Already I was contemplating quitting at the turnaround for the half-marathoners.  A quick grab of a branch to keep me from falling yet again was a huge mistake as thorns burst through my gloves.  I somehow even slapped my face with branches - more than once - while attempting to move them out of my path.  

As I reached the turnaround for the half-marathoners, I decided to keep moving forward.  It was too early to call it quits.  I needed to at least get half-way and then make a decision.  My feet were hurting from the cold slushy puddles.  The full marathoners were treated with a half-mile trek uphill, all walking for me.  It was compact snow but it was too steep to consider running.  And my feet hurt.  Did I mention that?  

Finally at the top, I was once again demoralized.  The snow had tire tracks and I found myself not able to run in the tracks.  My feet would step just out of the track, causing my ankle to roll inward.  So more walking until the snow leveled.  I was leap-frogging with some runners, each of us fighting different battles.  Miles 7-9, I found myself mostly alone and gave up the will to finish.  I wanted to finish but the course mocked my every step.  

I had to make a decision.  These are the factors that I had to consider:  
  • My daughter had a 3:00 soccer game and I promised to at least be there at the finish and drive to Key Arena in Seattle for a 6:00 concert.  That meant I had to be there by 4:40.  Her game was about an hour's drive from the finish line.  
  • My lower back was shocking me occasionally.  
  • My ankle/heel was hurting this past week and I was nervous about causing more strain.
  • I am in the midst of a high-intensity marathon training program.  I need to stay injury-free and this course was designed to tests weaknesses.
About mile 9 or 10, wind pushed trees sideways and I dared not to look up from the trail. to see if a branch was crashing down on me.  Thankfully this didn't happen but some branches fell across the path as another obstacle.  I spent some time making up curse words like "Rachael" and "Craig" that only the trees could here.  I then spent time praying and asking God to please give me peace about a decision.  I've never quit a race.  It has never occurred to me that I would unless I was injured.  At mile 12, I felt resolved to stop at the half-way point after confirming with another runner that I would have transport back to the start.  

I reached the top of trail and saw a search and rescue man with his truck and asked, "Are you here for quitters?" and he laughed and said yeah.  I told him I would be back.  The last mile, ironically, was not bad running.  It made me doubt my decision.  I talked with the aid station volunteers and told them I was probably quitting.  They said I still had time.  But I knew I didn't if I were to make it back to my daughter as promised.  

I reached the truck and gave my official notice that I was done with the slicing my hand across my neck gesture.  Three hours, forty-seven minutes for 13.77 miles.  At that rate, I would not finish until close to 4:00, definitely too late to get to the concert on time.

After 20 minutes, we were given the go-ahead to head back to the parking lot.  We had to head back to the turnaround because another runners also called it quits just after we left.  As we drove to the start, we heard another 3 runners had decided to stop at the half-way.  I felt better that I wasn't the solo DNF runner of the race.  "There's a crazy man with a gun who just walked into the woods," was exclaimed over the radio on the ride.  Hmmm...wonder what happened with that.

The search and rescue man was extremely nice and commended us on even attempting to finish the run.  At the finish line, I thanked him for rescuing us and I made my way to the tables of food.  Yum, everything looked delicious.  I felt guilty taking anything since I didn't finish.  Kenny Rogers heckled me with  "The Gambler".  I grabbed some potato salad and a cupcake and headed back to my vehicle.  After inhaling my cupcake, I called home, then my husband at work and finally my running friend, Lori.  I needed to vent my frustrations and realized how fortunate I am to have family and friends who tell me exactly what I needed to hear.

On the trail, I promised myself I would "never run this stinkin' race again".  A few days later and I still don't know if I'll do it again.  I do know I would go into it with a different attitude and make sure I wasn't up against a time pressure or using it as a long run.  If I can meet those demands, it will go on the maybe again list.  

So since this was not my 49th marathon, my next and 49th marathon will be Dizzy Daze on March 24th, quickly followed by my 50th, Dash Point Trail Marathon on March 31st,

We made it to the concert a few minutes late, sat in the nose-bleed section but had a blast at the Rock and Worship Road Show!  What a long day but totally worth it.  Every challenge is a chance to build my character.  Right??

The next definite Guerilla Running race I am attending is the 12 hour Transcendental Race on August 12th.  My hope is to make this a personal record for longest distance/time run.  We shall see!

Daniel Kuhlmann gives us a short tour of the Mountain Marathon:

Here is another runner's perspective.  His doctor gave him a month-long "vacation" from running following this race.
"Finished The Mountain Marathon & Hillbilly 1/2 Marathon. My knee did not hold up so it was mixed running, jogging, walking and crawling. I lost a shoe 4 miles in in a large muck of mud.. Searched for it in vain so I ditched it about a half mile later. Ran in two pairs of socks but ditched one pair. Ran in socks and after a while notice a hole was in them so I stopped to checked them and noticed there was also a hole in my feet. Flipped the socks to the unholey side and kept running. Eventually ran into my second pair of socks and threw them on but had to keep rotating them for the holes that were being worn in. Eventually had no more sock options so I tore the hoody and pocket off my under shirt and fashioned socks out of those and they help up awesome. I think I will use the rest of that shirt to make socks. Stopped multiple times just to take in the views and breathe in the mountain. Amazing experience. Had to go to the hospital and they cleaned my feet and said I only lost the first layer of skin which is basically the dead stuff. Maybe a little frost bite on my big toes. We will know tomorrow. Some may ask why I didn't just stop but I'm really trying to live up to the advice I give our kids and I always say, "Never give up." I cannot in good conscience tell them this and then give up. I don't live up to following my own advice always but I'm getting better and knowing I walked the talk for my kids in a big way today made me cry. I will recover. I will run again. I will walk the talk. Thank you Craig DicksonRachael JamisonMonica Lloyd, ericha, Dan SaulMariah Summers, all the runners who ran today, all the doctors and nurses who care for me today, Diante SpearsKyLee Spears, Mekhi Spears. Thank you everyone who posts your positive messages and achievements. Thank you"  
------Brian Spears
Brian Spears