Well after a long and hot training session, it is done. The ET marathon is behind me but it will never be forgotten. This is a race report that I don't even know where to start. While the memories are still very painful and beautiful, I will tell you a little bit about it.
For starters here is a glimpse at the marathon profile that I knowingly subjected myself too
I also subjected myself to the dry desert heat (more on the effects of this later). I heard it was 87 at the start but it felt much cooler. I know the reported low was 69 which I image came in the very early morning hours as I was finishing. Humidity was fabulous at less than 20% with winds from 6-19mph. Considering what I had trained it, it felt almost refreshing.
It was a long day leading up to the marathon. I never really adjusted to Vegas time so I was up on Saturday morning at 7am. I ate a good breakfast, planned out the rest of my meals for the day and went out to lay by the pool. for a couple of hours. That was one of my many mistakes looking back. Although I tried to catch a cat nap in the afternoon, I really couldn't sleep. Our room was located above the famous "Rehab" pool and the music was pumping ALL DAY. I was able to lay in bed and rest but I never slept.
We boarded the bus that would take us out to the ET highway at 845pm. As we turned onto the ET highway, the window blind across the aisle from us flew up unexpectedly. Everybody jumped. What a way to get us into the "supernatural" spirit. The excitement continued as we pulled up to the race start. This is what the crowd looked like from the bus window
The excitement lifted my spirits as I was disheartened. I had left my iPod back at the hotel. How was I to ever run in the middle of the night, in the middle of the desert, no spectators and nothing to look at without music?
When I got off the bus I was actually able to hook up with my friend Jennifer. Here are some pics of the two of us waiting at the start
We didn't have much time to wait around. The official start was at the "black" mailbox. I never actually saw it that night but here is a picture I snapped of it from the bus on the way back.
The start was no frills. There was no timing mat, there was no gun. Instead at midnight we simply began running to the sound of a cow bell. The cow bell must have stirred the local livestock as for the first couple miles, I heard their protests. I could never see them but they were definitely there.
I knew quickly that I was getting blisters. Although I developed two pretty nasty blisters (ironically from some mole skin I had put on to prevent blistering), they really didn't bother too much during the race. I stopped a couple times and applied glide to the areas which I think helped. I also stopped very early in the race (and a couple times there after) to apply petroleum jelly to my lips. I was very happy that some of the aid stations were stocked with this as I had forgotten mine. This should have been my first clue that I was not as hydrated as I thought.
The uphill for the first 9 miles was not challenging. I felt the dramatic difference beginning at about mile 9 1/2. I had done hill training and I was thankful. It wasn't easy but it was manageable. I am not sure if I hadn't been doing run/walk intervals how I would have done. However using that method allowed me to totally kick that hill a**. My pace was right where I wanted it to be. I knew I had run smart. Almost immediately into the downhill portion of the race, I recovered. I was able to shorten my walking intervals and increase my speed. I felt like I was flying. I was running 10 min/miles (this included the 0.15 of each mile that I walked). The next 7 miles made for the most exhilarating run of my life.
I was thankful that I had forgotten my iPod. I think it would have changed the whole experience. I was completely lost in the beauty of the mountains. My eyes had adjusted to the night. As I reached the peak of the mountain, the moon was bright and it looked so close that I could almost touch it. I tried to photograph it but the camera could not capture it's reflection on the mountainside. I did get a couple shots as the sun was coming up. They don't do it justice
This a photos taken at about mile 24. It is of the ET highway sign and the mountains in the distance. As strange as it sounds, I felt connected to the place I was running. It suddenly wasn't a race. It was about the love of running and the ability to lose yourself. I think this is a race that every true runner should experience.
This above portion is the beauty of the race. The following portion is about the pain of the race.
My first twinge of cramps came at mile 17. I was running along and felt my left calf begin to ache. It became increasingly worse. I stopped and rubbed it out. I continued running for about another 1/2 mile when my right calf did the same thing. I took plenty of time and massaged and stretched both of the legs. By mile 18, I was back in full stride. There was a fully stocked aid station at mile 20. I knew some of the stations were stocked with electrolyte (salt) tablets. I guess I should have realized that maybe they knew something about running in dry desert heat that I didn't. I actually had an entire bottle at home that I had never even tried. However, the cramps were gone and I didn't even give it a second thought that maybe I should grab some and take with me.
The dehydration cramps came on with a vengeance between mile 22-23. I was stopping frequently to stretch and massage. I was only able to run about .2-.3 of a mile between each episode. The cramping was so bad that I knew I could no longer run. I was nauseous. I just prayed that I would make it to the finish.
Leading up to this race, I never considered that I would not be able to finish a marathon. I can honestly tell you, had there been another aid station between mile 23 and the finish, I am not sure what I would have done. I hate to think that I might have told them to call someone to come get me but I think I might have. Instead I felt strained out in the desert. There was no aid station. There was no place to sit. I contemplated just plopping down on the side of the road but I knew that would only prolong my agony. Instead I just kept walking. Looking back, I am thankful I had no way out. I will NEVER take finishing a marathon for granted ever again. It will always be my #1 goal. Everything else will just be icing on the cake.
As every runner knows, we are stubborn creatures. Even though I had been walking for 3+ miles, I was still hoping that I would be able to finish strong. I just wanted to run across that finish line. I knew I would not be able to run far so I waited and waited. I rounded the corner. I saw the timing mat and the clock
. I started running. This was my fatal error.
Both calves seized up at once. I am talking full blown "charlie horse" cramps. I doubled over on myself, grabbing my calves and crying. I was probably 10 ft from the finishing line. People came running. People started cheering for me to just finish. I couldn't move. I was in complete agony. I was offered assistance to get over the line. I was embarrassed, disappointed, humbled yet determined. I refused assistance. I told them I would somehow make it. I massaged the calves. and when I felt ready I tried walking. Again, I was forced to stop. It seemed like I was hunched over and crying forever. In reality it was only about 1 minute. I stood up and walked across the finishing line. After that, it was a flurry of activity. Someone helping me to a chair, someone getting me ice, the medic coming to assist.
Going into the race, I thought it might take between 5-6 hours to complete. I had looked over previous race results and knew the times for this race were slow. I won't lie and say that I wasn't truly hoping for under 5. I was on target for a 5 hour finish but it wasn't meant to be. I still made my original goal even with walking the last 3+ miles. My finishing time was 5:38:13. I got a funky medal
and I learned some valuable lessons. I guess in the end the lessons that you learn make you a smarter and better runner. At least that is what I am telling myself