Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dean Told Me To

So I'm not sure how to begin this entry. Should I talk about how we spent a wonderful weekend in Monterey supporting my cousin as she ran her second marathon and save the surprise for the end? Or should I just get it out of the way now? I vote for the latter.

We did spend a wonderful weekend in Monterey supporting my cousin as she ran a wonderful marathon. She started out slow, well within herself, kept a consistent pace and effort and crossed the finish line in 5:06:34. I finished right next to her in 5:06:33. But it's not my fault. Dean Karnazes told me to do it.

We headed down to Monterey on Saturday after I got off shift in Reno. Friday night had been spent moving fire engines and trucks in and out of the station after all the earthquakes hit. The biggest one was 4.9 and I thought someone was shaking my bed in the middle of the night. It's our policy to move the equipment out of the station in case another big one hits for at least a half hour. So it was a busy night.

Our hotel room wasn't quite ready so we met up with my cousin and her family at the Expo. As we were walking in I noticed Dean Karnazes walking by. I immediately said hello and was impressed with how genuine he was. He asked me my name and we spent a few minutes talking. I mentioned I probably wasn't going to run the next day because of my injury and he said that I just needed to go to the start because it's such a beautiful race I would hate to miss it. I could just see how things felt and play it by ear. Now you need to understand my mindset here. In the days leading up to Big Sur I was 85% sure I wasn't going to run. But I packed my running bag anyway, just in case. I guess I came up with another one of those "you know you're a runner when........you take your running bag to an event that you're pretty sure you won't run just because you believe in last minute miracles". Dean's comment shifted that ratio to 85% sure I WAS going to run. By the time I picked up my chip, #, bus pass, and beautiful technical t-shirt, I was hooked.

I told my husband I really wanted to run. We came up with a plan. I would run the first 10K and see how I felt. It usually takes me about an hour to get warmed up and into my stride so that would be a good time. If my leg was really bad, I would go to medical and get a ride to the finish. At least I would be on that start line and try. Problem is, I hadn't run a single step since the AR50 and Daffodil 5K weekend (3 weeks prior) and had no idea if I COULD run. Plus, I had promised a lot of people I wouldn't run and further injure myself so I could see I would owe some people some apologies.

Race morning came early, 3am early. Joey's husband gave us a ride to downtown where we would load onto buses for the hour drive down the coast to Big Sur. It is definitely daunting to drive what you know you will be running. 26.2 miles is a long way. Especially in a school bus at 4:00 in the morning.

Joey and I at the start

We arrived at the starting area by 5:15 with 1 1/2 hours to wait. It was warm, about 50 degrees. We visited the porta potties a couple times, snacked, visited, and people-watched. Then it was time to line up. We found a spot in about the middle of the mass of people and a gentleman sang the national anthem. It was incredible. His voice was deep and strong and it echoed up and down the canyon. When he finished they released a flock of white doves and they flew around the canyon in beautiful circles.

The race started and the first couple miles are downhill. It was agony. My leg hurt a lot more than I expected, especially with that downhill. I was worried. If it continued to hurt this much, I was in trouble. I had taken some Ibuprofen before the race and I had a couple of Tylenol in my pocket for later. Finally the course leveled out and we got into some rollers. I started getting warmed up and it didn't take long to figure out that I did much better on the flats and uphills, less pounding on my leg. Things were improving.

Point Sur Lighthouse

The next 7-8 miles flew by. I couldn't believe how fast the mile markers kept going by. Our pace was slow, we averaged 11:00 min/mi but the effort was perfect for us. Joey has been dealing with some health issues, I've been dealing with my injury so we were perfectly matched. It was great. We talked with folks around us, playing the typical leap-frog with the same people. I really enjoyed reading all the different shirts. There are a ton of runs out there to be explored.

Loved the shirts (says Hills Ahead, Carmel 26.2 miles with a vulture on it)

Occasionally the terrain would open up and we were faced with a pretty strong headwind. I later heard reports that it was up to 30mph. When the road would take us in and out of the coves the wind would die and it would immediately start warming up. Occasionally we would get lucky enough to get an uphill AND a headwind. But the views were incredible. The first 5 miles were run in the trees of Big Sur. Stunning terrain. By mile 6 the ocean became our constant companion. The green hills were full of California Happy Cows munching grass in peace.

Following Joey down the long open road

Up to about mile 12 my leg was doing really well (at least as well as could be expected). But then we started the long descent to Bixby Bridge and that downhill just about killed me. It was the most pain I would experience on the whole run. My stride was short and choppy, I was favoring my leg which put more strain on my right quad, and I was just really hurting. I could hardly wait to get down to the bridge so we could start the 2 mile climb to Hurricane Point.

Bixby Bridge, halfway there

The climb wasn't bad. We just put our heads down and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Before we knew it, we were at the VERY windy top. I was carrying some gu's and shot bloks and was surprised at how quickly I was going thru them, I was hungry. Miles 17-20 were tough for me. The heart/lungs were feeling good but my body was getting really sore. 20 miles on pavement is tough. I was able to get some apple slices and bananas at one aid station and some more gu's at another and that kept me going. Joey and I were so intuned with each other the entire run. Sometimes we'd walk through aid stations and other times we'd just keep running on thru. Our pit stops were well timed and we ran every step of the course except when we'd walk through an aid station. But our bodies were getting tired.

At the beginning of the race it was announced that Jeff Galloway was there and he'd be running a 5 hour pace with a run/walk ratio. Anyone was free to join him. As the race went on we found ourselves playing leap frog with his group even though we were running most of the time. My psychological high point was getting past mile 20. After that point I knew I could finish. My leg was holding up (with the help of 500 mg of Tylenol) and it became my goal to finish in front of Jeff Galloway. Nothing personal, but everyone needs a goal. Joey and I were picking up the pace, continuing to run up all those little nasty hills at the end when at mile 23 my left calf and foot suddenly seized up and I was stopped in my tracks. I quickly took some Endurolytes and started jogging again. We were able to pick up the speed and made our way in front of Jeff again. But we were both on the verge of cramping, our calves, the arches of our feet, even our hamstrings. We were running quickly but carefully. No sudden moves that would send our muscles into spasms making us cry out in pain.

Jeff Galloway, my unsuspecting "rabbit"
We weaved through runners and soon we were along the last stretch of road where the spectators are barricaded behind the fences. The finish line came into sight. We continued to run hard and finally we made it across that wonderful finish line where volunteers were there to place our beautiful medals around our necks. Suddenly a man was calling my name. He was a volunteer and he asked if my husband was here. I said yes, somewhere, and he said that he had heard my husband yelling loudly and wanted to make sure we found each other in the finish line craziness. What a wonderful touch.

And that brings me to the volunteers. What an incredible bunch of people. The ones handing out the medals at the finish line have a wonderful job. But there are thousands more doing the less popular things. I saw many of them at the aid stations, chasing down thousands of cups that had been discarded by runners and were now blowing across the ground by the powerful winds. And if you weren't running, it was cold. They spent hours out there just to support us. These races just wouldn't happen without all those selfless volunteers. My thanks go out to them.

Joey and I with our new medals
We reunited with our families and made our way back to the hotel. We decided to spend some time out at the pool so the kids could swim. Unfortunately, I must have burned up some brain cells in addition to calories because I didn't put sunscreen on. So that night I got to add the pain of a slight sunburn to my already aching legs. After having some pesto brie and baguette by the pool, we showered and headed down to Cannery Row. Dinner was at El Torito which is an excellent mexican restaurant. We walked the streets after dinner and I even found a Toll House cookie shop for some dessert.

My parents and Joey's parents were suppose to join us on this trip but circumstances kept that from happening. They were missed but I must say it was nice for Joey's and my family to spend time together. We haven't done much of that without also having other members of the family there. We are the next generation and it was fun to make some of our own lifetime memories. Joey and I ran our very first marathon together last June at San Diego. This was our second. I wonder where our third will take us. I can't wait to find out.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't be there in person but after reading all about your weekend, I feel better. Sorry about your pain tho. You and Joey are great. So glad you can be together and do these memories. It is wonderful that your families can share these good times. Good going on your run. Love, Mom

I knew all along you would do the run. No doubt in my mind. xoxoxo

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Great story and unplanned marathon finish. I'm so proud of you! Plus two celebrity encounters!

I've finally answered your tag, worked into my latest (late) report, but it only counts as 1/3 credit, so I still owe you.

Sarah said...

You're pretty amazing! I hope your leg is holding up. : )