Monday, September 17, 2007

Top of Utah = Top of the World!

Even up until the final seconds before the starting gun sounded on Saturday morning, as I stood shivering amongst a crowd of thousands of other cold and anxious runners, I wondered to myself why I was doing this. Did I really have to run 26.2 miles to feel the full physical and emotional benefits running has brought into my life? Did I really have to punish myself this way again to feel the accomplishment and the validation? Was all this madness really necessary?

Up until the starting gun sounded, I wasn't so sure. But several hours later, when I crossed another finish line and once again was declared a marathoner, my uncertainty changed to heartfelt conviction.

I love running marathons!

Granted, I am and probably always will be a middle-of-the-pack marathoner. But upon finishing my second marathon on Saturday, I realized the experience of my first one more than a year ago was no fluke. I love what accomplishing 26.2 miles on foot does for my heart, mind, body and soul. I love being able to run 20 miles and feel like I'm just getting in a great workout. And I love the last 10K of a marathon, when it takes every bit of physical willpower, emotional courage and mental tenacity to fight off the discomfort and exhaustion to just... keep.... going.

Instead of doing a play by play recap of my race this time, I thought I'd just hit upon some of my observations and highlights, which made for such an interesting, fun and unique experience.


  • Why is it the bus ride to the starting line feels longer than the race itself? It must have something to do with the fact it's a school bus, which of course doesn't use any form of shocks or struts to cushion its ride. All I know is every single time I've ridden a school bus to the start of a race, I've had to scramble off the bus as soon as possible to hit the line to the port-a-potty, hopping up and down and crossing my legs until it's my turn. Inevitably, the more I have to go, the longer the people in front of me seem to take. Fortunately, though it was a close call, I managed to hold out... only to feel the need to go again about 30 seconds before the race started. But instead of climbing the hill to the port-a-potties again, I just told myself I'd have to stop somewhere along the way. I timed it just right at mile 14 when I only had to wait about 10 seconds for an open bathroom. I'll admit, however, for a couple miles beforehand, I was eyeing up just about every tree and tall bush along the course.

  • Which brings me to another thing regarding pit stops during a race (then I'll move on, I promise): Shouldn't it be against the rules, in the sake of fairness, for men to stop literally on the side of the course and do their business in front of everyone passing by? Most of the men (and all the women) would at least find some kind of privacy, but there were a handful of guys who figured a tree ten feet away was good enough. I suppose the fact the first half of the course was through a wooded canyon gave true meaning to the call of nature, but I could've done without being witness to that over and over again. I'm just glad once we emerged from the canyon and started running through residential areas, there weren't any pit stops on manicured lawns or in bird baths or anything.

  • I'm not sure the temperature at the start of the race, but let's just say it was a 'lil chilly. The organizers had set up a huge warming tent for runners to congregate in to stay warm. And congregate, they did. It was more or less packed like sardines, but we were warm sardines! As I sat in my little coveted claimed spot on the ground in the tent, I noticed in the corner two male Kenyan runners, looking cold, but poised and confident. I realized I was looking at athletes who would be running the marathon in about the time it took me to reach the halfway mark and for a bit, I was almost star-struck. What I didn't realize at the time was that the two impressive elites I was watching would be ultimately bested by eight minutes by a skinny, bespectacled white kid from Laverkin, Utah, earning himself a spot in the Olympic trials in six weeks.

  • About an hour into the race, I was running up onto a scene with police cars and several officers gathering on the side of the road. As I got closer, I realized there was a runner being detained on the ground by the police, face down, hands behind his back... in the process of being arrested, it looked like. "Well, this is new", I thought. Not every race I get to see somebody get arrested. While he was on the ground struggling against the force of the officers, he was yelling things out to runners passing by. The only thing I made out was, "You all are a bunch of vegans!"

Ooo-kay.

I turned to the guy running next to me, confusion plastered all over my face and asked, "what the hell was that???" He laughed and shrugged, equally as confused. I learned after the race the guy had been running behind women and grabbing them in... uhhh... sensitive areas. I guess he took offense to being apprehended for such a thing and figured heckling the runners was the next best option. I can't decide if being branded a vegan offends me or not, especially since I am, in fact, an enthusiastic meat-eater and leather-wearer. Nevertheless, it made for an entertaining stretch of run.

  • 'Bout mile nine, I started feeling pain in the front of my left shin. It wasn't terrible, but it was definitely uncomfortable and I was annoyed at being bothered by pain in a location I hadn't had before in training. There wasn't much I could do about it at that point, though, so I just pressed on and did my best to ignore it. Hours later, when I crossed the finish line, a volunteer bent down to take off my ankle-wrap timing chip and upon doing so, exposed a nice, purple, circular-sized bruise on the front of my shin where the plastic chip had been pushing against my bone. I instantly rolled my eyes at myself for having endured pain that could've been easily alleviated if I'd just realized the source of it. Another reason why I much prefer the shoelace timing chips. (If only that were a good excuse for my oblivious stupidity.)

  • At mile 15, I was still feeling strong, but starting to notice the effects in my legs of the 14 miles of downhill. Anticipating that would happen, I had strategically stored four 200 mgs of ibuprofen in the back pocket of my running skirt. I reached behind, unzipped the pocket and started digging for the pills. And digging some more. Good grief... how deep are they? Then I grabbed a handful of what felt like lint, pulled it out and realized my strategically stored ibuprofen was now nothing more than powdered dust. My sweat had gotten to them and rendered them useless. Another moment of brilliancy. I felt instantly deflated, having really counted on them to help me out at that point. For just a second, I considered licking my fingers but figured I ought to do what I could at that point to salvage some semblance of dignity. Of course, that last thread of dignity I salvaged was depleted a few miles later after eating an orange slice and not being able to get the extra strings unstuck out of my teeth for the remaining eight miles. Or perhaps it went when I tried to put down my fourth chocolate GU gel and smeared half of it on my cheek instead. Oh well. Dignity is overrated anyway.

  • At mile 25, with the end in sight, we were running along the main road in town, lined with traffic and cheering crowds. As I had experienced in my first marathon, my mind at this point had completely shut down and my body was on auto-pilot. I knew only enough to keep running in a straight line... and sometimes I wasn't even so good at doing that. But during one of those few moments when I managed to look up and acknowledge the crowd cheering for us, I noticed a woman sitting in a wheelchair on the side of the road. She had no legs, but she was wearing the biggest smile I have ever seen. She looked at me in the eyes while holding her smile, clapping her hands and yelling for me to keep going. In my utter exhaustion, I was suddenly struck with a feeling of awe. Here was this woman, without the use of her legs for whatever reason, sitting on the side of a marathon course, cheerfully applauding runners who make a hobby of using their legs. I smiled back at her and mouthed a "thank you", feeling just a hint of new spring to my step.
Although it was well within reach after 20 miles, I lost my personal record somewhere in the last 10K, when the atmosphere through which I was running inexplicably turned from air into molasses. When I saw the minutes clicking away on my stopwatch as I was still making my way through the last mile, I admittedly felt pangs of disappointment. But when I finally turned the corner and saw the finish line those long 385 yards ahead of me, I teared up as I slowly made my way toward it. When I crossed that finish line at 4:33:57, I felt that familiar sensation of exhausted exuberance, this time mixed with reverant inspiration and gratitude. How blessed I am every day of my life to have my health and strength and the ability to do what I love to do.

I came away from Saturday's marathon surprisingly unscathed. The stiffness and achiness is there, constantly reminding me of my accomplishment, and I've got a nice little chafing burn around my bellybutton of all places. But this morning as I went on a comfortable three-mile recovery walk, I decided upon my arrival home, I would officially bookmark the website of the marathon I want to run in the late spring next year. The marathon, I've concluded, is where it's at.

I think I've created a monster.


18 comments:

Jim said...

Excellent job Angie. Mega-Congrats for a successful Number 2. (Wait, that didn't come out right. You know what I mean.)As for the perv arrested for illegal use of the hands, well, that's just too cookey.

Allen said...

Congratulations, Angie, you did it! Now, on to #3. And, remember the backpacking lesson you learned about putting everything in baggies :)

In a month from now, after you've fully recovered, think about your two marathons to see how your body-strength compares between the two, and let us know what you decide about that.

Ovens2Betsy said...

Great race report! I had to laugh about your disdain toward male racers foregoing the port-o-potties; you'd absolutely hate Medoc! There simply aren't any potties, so everyone is forced to take "le pipi rustique" (personally I think they do that on purpose. From what I understand French men LOVE to pee outdoors!)

:)

P.S. Although I had hoped to have my report done last night, I came down with a sore throat. But hopefully it'll be up tonight!

AddictedToEndorphins said...

Great Report! Congrats on the accomplishment. Glad that you stayed a 'tentatively focused' runner. Enjoy the recovery. Can't wait to hear about your next adventure!

runningDeb said...

Angie,
I am so jealous. I had to bag my marathon due to a partially torn achilles tendon. Sounds like you had a great race. Congratulations!

P.O.M. said...

Thank you for sharing. I can't wait for my first marathon. Less than 4 weeks away! I'll remember the baggies for the advil! Any other tips??

robison52 said...

As usual, an excellent race report!!!

You're very fashionable in a black running skirt and top, looks like you're about to have tea. You must be the BEST dressed runner out there!!

I had to chuckle at the "birdbath" mention, yup, we're runners!

Did he say, "vegan" or "Vegan?" I take acceptance of that remark!

I never even seen an ankle chip timer before, obviously a bad idea.

You're going to clobber your personal best next spring!!

Tall Girl Running said...

Bruce,

As always, thanks for the kind comments. I think I like to wear black in races because I feel invisible... as if nobody can notice a six foot tall woman clamoring up behind them. ;-)

Although it's a few months off, I'm already making decisions on how to go about my training for the next marathon, including doing some longer long runs to help push out that wall as well as some speed/hill work. I can't qualify myself as a novice anymore, so if I'm going to keep doing this, I'd better get down to business by making some improvements!

See Zanne Run said...

oh man ... you went and got me all teary eyed! i love this! i saw that it was up the other night, and couldn't wait to have a moment - or a few, to really sit down & digest every single word! I am so happy for you ... pr or not, a great great race! congratulations! (what's the next one you've got bookmarked?!)...and, who are you wearing? (clearly - watched the emmy's ... but the skirt - love it).

Tall Girl Running said...

Suzanne,

You're always so sweet to me... thank you so much for being so supportive! I'm feeling so good right now I seriously wish I could run another one right away. I'll just have to live vicariously through you now. ;-)

I've decided I prefer training through winter instead of summer, so I'm shooting for another Utah marathon in May. I'll give myself the rest of the year off from racing (with the exception of a charity 10K on Thanksgiving), then start full training mode again come January 1st. I can't wait!

As for my ensemble... sports bra and top are by Nike, shoes by Brooks, visor by Quicksilver and skirt by Target. ;-)

Rosie said...

I loved reading about your marathon! my favorite was the orange getting stuck in your teeth. That's somethign that would happen to me. So fabulous. And how amazing is it when someone in the crowd just sticks out to you like that and they cheer for you and it helps so much to just get through or to change your focus! :) Good job!

See Zanne Run said...

i'm telling you ... i think the weather plays a huge role. i feel so invigorated with this cooler weather. no longer do i feel like the life is being sucked out of me as i walk out the door! i'm with you on the winter training!
man, i so remember that feeling of being ready to go right out & do another ... its' a great place to be. just refrain from doing it! recipe for injury! you deserve a great recovery. target skirt. sheesh. genius.

Laurel said...

Awesome, awesome race report! I was laughing out loud and crying all at the same time!

You write so well and really have a way of capturing all the little things (Gu on the cheek, orange strings in the teeth) that make such a momentous event momentous! And I will definitely remember to put my ibuprofin in a baggie. Thanks for the tip!

Congratulations on the time too! It wasn't a PR, but a great time nonetheless. Awesome job!!!

The Salty One said...

Awesome, Angie! Just reading about your awesome experience is getting me excited about my marathon. Now I can't wait. Well, maybe... Heh.

I hope the recovery is going well. What's next?

Joe said...

Great story! It was very fun to read!

Christy said...

Love your race recap. There are always such interesting stories surrounding a marathon...loved reading yours!
COngrats on a great, great race!
happy recovery!

Anonymous said...

you should NOT be taking Ibuprofen in the middle of a race. You are going to give your kidneys a big problem..........be careful

Tall Girl Running said...

Anonymous,

I was aware taking too much ibuprofen could cause kidney and liver problems, so I've always been careful. I didn't know, however, it was dangerous to take ibuprofen during a race.

Do you have more information on the subject you could share?