Monday, October 3, 2011

St George Marathon 2011 - A little mental defeat, a lot of summer heat, some staggering and in the end SUCCESS

I knew it was take me a few days to compose my thoughts on this last marathon of the season.  It was a unique, hard, and very interesting experience physically, mentally and emotionally.




Splenda and I headed south Friday afternoon, went straight to the Expo so I could pick up my packet.  I also had forgotten to pack shot blocks and Gu so I grabbed some there.  One year, I am going to get there early enough to spend a lot of time browsing the expo.  So much cool stuff.  I could wander among the tech shirts, shoes, glasses, and shorts for HOURS.

After the quick pick up, we met Ape and Er at Pier 49 Sourdough Pizza place for some serious carb loading.  My favorite!!!  The Alcatraz -no cheese.  I love the looks that people give me when we order no cheese.  It's like they have to repeat it several times to make sure they understand : )

Being suitably stuffed, we followed the kids back to their home where they graciously allowed us to stay.  They have a couple of guest bedrooms and I, being cocky, chose the upstairs one.  We got settled in and then it was time to get to sleep.

At 3:15am,  the alarm went off - I dressed quietly and made sure I had everything packed and ready to go.  Splenda and I quietly sneaked out and drove to the finish line where the buses were loading.  After a fast run into the rec center for safety pins, I got on one of the first buses.  They are SO organized that they have volunteers everywhere doing just about everything.  I've never seen buses loaded so quickly and efficiently.  I glanced around and realized that I was one of about 4 women total on that particular bus.  The rest were dudes.  Imagine, if you wil,l the smell  : )

I popped my ear buds in and closed my eyes.  I hate the bus ride to the top.  It's discouraging when you just keep going and going and going knowing full well that you will run every step of the way back.  I kept my eyes closed - no psyching out for me this time.

Before I knew it, we were stopped and unloading.  Again, a mass of volunteers to help, direct, assist in any way they can.  It is seriously the most organized event ever.  I made my way to one of the first fire stacks, wrapped myself in the foil they handed out, put on the freebie gloves and laid down trying to sleep and rest more. 

That's where I started to get crazy ideas in my head.  I had looked at my BQ time.  4:00.59 - could I do that?  That would mean shaving a full 33 minutes off of last year and 16 minutes from my best time.  I thought about last year and where I could make changes to be faster.  I let myself start to think that it might be possible.  I start calculating my strategy.  No holding back.  No wasting energy with carrying a water bottle.  No talking on the phone.  No stopping to take pictures.  No unnecessary walking.  Full Boar!  I wanted to finish knowing that I tried the very best that I could and that there wouldn't be any regrets or "if I had only"'s.  If I qualified fantastic, if I couldn't then at least I would know that I had given it my everything.

Next thing I know, I hear someone walking around and the clicking of a camera.  Just outside of my little cocoon that I had made for myself, I saw the flash and heard the snap.  Someone had just taken a picture of me.  Out of curiosity, I sat up, looked around saw a STG volunteer taking a shot of every person gathered around the firestacks.  I also noticed that there were now some other guys sitting with me who were inclined to chat.  I obliged. 


I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Runners are a rare breed.  And  unless you understand it, we may seem psycho.  Crazy.  Insane.  Stupid even.  But the more I meet and hear their personal stories, the more I am convinced we are the exact opposite.    I am so inspired by others that I think that's the best part about sitting at the start line, trying to keep warm, and waiting for the gun - being uplifted and motivated by fellow runner's stories.

They finally came around and lit our firestack.  Immediately it was like moths to the flame - people were scrunching in to get a little warmth.  Really, the temps weren't that cold, but it's nice to warm up your legs enough to start stretching.

I looked at the porta-potty lines and knew I better get in one fairly soon, or I would miss the start.  First I made my way to the aid station, got some water and a banana.  They  were playing music and a DJ was talking, giving interesting facts about the marathon and keeping everyone pumped up.  By now, it was getting very crowded.

I found a line for the johns, and patiently waited my turn.  I still knew there was plenty of time, but wow, how do you get 7200 runners a chance for one last pee all within a short period of time?  Not easy.  And not very pretty smelling.

After my turn, I headed to the start line.  They put the elite runners up front and then pacers every so often.  If you have a goal set, you want to line up with the pacer that will get you there.  I looked and saw 3:45 and then the 4:00 pacer.  I decided to line up between them and as long as the 4:00 hour didn't pass me, I was safe and could meet the qualifying time.

The national anthem.  The start of the handcranks and wheelchairs.  Some more jostling of bodies and pictures and then the masses started to move.  The minute I crossed the line, I started my watch and away we went. 

The first three miles are always a tussle of bodies and legs.  Moving around people. Getting moved around yourself.  Shuffling from one side of the street to another to be able to move ahead.  I quickly ditched the gloves and thought the temp was perfect, if it could only stay this way!

After about mile 3 or 4, it thinned slightly.  I was still ahead of the 4 hour pacer and as I checked each mile marker and my time, I could see that I was about 3 minutes behind the gun time.  As long as I stayed within the 3 minutes and ahead of the pacer, I had a shot. 

My left calf, ankle and tendon have been bothering me, but I had already popped an anti inflammatory and sprayed Ironman on them so while I could feel some definite discomfort, it wasn't a deal breaker.  I knew I could push through it.  Usually by mile 6 or 8, they are starting to numb up anyway.

The beginning is a beautiful down hill, and the sun begins to rise.  Words cannot express the feelings I have for the next several miles.  Looking ahead there is just a sea of runners.  Each working hard at their own pace.  Each with a goal in mind.  Each with a personal reason for doing this.  And while there is still passing and getting passed, it's never a negative thing.  It's just a part of the race and everyone's different paces.

Once we hit Veyo, the crowds start to build.  We come down hill and then at mile 7 we hit the up"HILL".  The dreaded Veyo hill.  I knew it was hard last year, but I had done it with Lisa at my side.  This year, I was solo.  And it was much harder.   I had to keep telling myself, that I had done Park City, so this should be a piece of cake!  My legs weren't believing it.  It was much harder than I remembered.

There is also a phenomenon called muscle memory.  Boy did that kick in.  My legs most definitely remembered running long distances, and they were rude enough to remind me that not only did they have a vivid recollection, but that they didn't particularly care to do it again so soon after Top of Utah.  They were rebelling.  My left one in particular was ticked off!

Finally reached the top of the hill, and I am starting to feel the heat.  Now, it's still the morning hours, but this is the southern Utah desert.  It gets hot and fast.  I was making sure to drink water at every aid station, and I will commend the organizers for AGAIN having so many volunteers and fantastic aid stations.  I watered, sometimes downed some gatorade and just kept running. 

By now, my left leg pain had extended beyond my ankle and calf.  My knee (IT band) was angry and there were now odd jabs of pain that seared the entire length of my leg.  I was only at mile 13.  Not a good sign.

As we came down Snow Canyon, I saw off to the side my friend, neighbor and fellow running fanatic standing off talking to his parents.  This guys is an ANIMAL and I couldn't even believe I was looking at him on the sidelines!  I called out to him and motioned for him to come run.  He shook his head, I kept motioning, and then he ducked, started moving and caught up to me.  It was hard to talk since we were flying downhill, but I got the idea that at mile 2 something had happened and he was in pain.  We stayed together for about a mile talking.  He asked my goal time.  I told him if I finished sub 4 I could qualify.  He asked if that was based on the old BQ standards or the new ones.  I was alarmed.  I thought the new ones didn't go into effect until NEXT season.  He informed me that they were effective now.  As of the Saturday prior, Boston had filled up for 2012 and so now the new qualifying times were in place.  That meant instead of 4:00.59 - I had to do it in 3:55.59.

Mentally that killed me.  I felt punched in the stomach.  I looked at my watch, gauged my pace, knew I couldn't continue at the quick rate I was clearly at now.  The realization that a BQ was NOT going to happen completely deflated me.  I gave in to the screaming pain in my legs and slowed my pace.  Rob encouraged me to keep up, but I told him to keep pushing and get his BQ.  I really just needed to run alone for a sec and process.

How could I have ever let myself even DREAM it was possible.  I'm such an IDIOT!  No speed training.  New to marathons in general, and I entertain the idea of a BQ?  Nuts.  So stupid.  I let myself get angry and frustrated  but kept running.  I gauged my pace again, checked the time and mileage, evaluated my pain level and knew that I would be lucky if I could even better my time from last year.

The next several miles were hard emotionally.  Negative self talk, physical pain and emotional frustration was all encompassing.  I was still maintaining about the same pace, but I wasn't enjoying it like I normally would be.  By now, it was also getting extremely warm and I was feeling the effects of dehydration.

I saw a porta potty up ahead, and knew I should take the few seconds and make the most of it since there was no line.  I rushed in, emptied my bladder and was amazed at how hot my pee was.  Gross I know, but it was hot and strong.  I knew hydration was going to be an issue for the rest of the course. 

As I continued on, I started my inward self talk.  I was able to set aside the negativity and focus on my accomplishments.  I was HERE!  I was running the St George Marathon!  A coveted marathon - one of the best in the country.  I was surrounded by amazing athletes.  I was watching people with new eyes.  Each person had a story behind them.  Why were they there?  Why were they running? 

I caught Rob again.  He was walking with another guy.  That was my signal that he was in pain.  Rob doesn't walk.  We continued to leap frog with one another.  It hurt more for him to run, and it hurt more for me to walk.  So between my steady pace and his run/walk we were within each others sights most of the time.

It was now getting very hot.  I was taking advantage of every single aid station, but instead of sipping the water like I should, I was so thirsty that I was gulping, thus making me feel sick.  I knew I had to keep drinking though.

I rounded a corner only to come across an ambulance loading a runner in.  I could see the shoes and the IV poles that were attached the nameless body.  I started to cry.  This runner was done.  Dropped with heat exhaustion I am sure.  I could only imagine how they might feel.  What if this was their first marathon?  What if this was the one that they were gonna qualify?  I felt so awful knowing that someones goal and dream might very well be ending in the back of an ambulance bus.

By now, the shuttle vans were starting to circle and more and more aid bikers were along the course.  I passed another runner down, but she was already getting help so I didn't stop.  She didn't look good at all.

At mile 20 - that shuttle van looked VERY appealing.  I was hot.  Tired.  Dehydrated.  In serious pain even though I had popped some more advil at mile 19 and feeling like I was running in mud.  I couldn't get a decent foot turnover to safe my life.  Just getting one foot in front of the other was a huge challenge.  But I was raised to never quit.  It's not in me.  And physical pain I can most certainly push through.  I've done it before, I could do it again.  I wanted the satisfaction of crossing the finish line and not only getting my finishers medal, but my Grand Slam medal as well.  If I quit now, the Grand Slam was for nothing.  I stopped looking at the shuttles longingly and pushed them out of my mind.

Determination to finish was now my only thought.  Finish.  I no longer cared about time.  I no longer cared about pain.  I was going to finish or pass out trying.  The second seemed a valid reality in the heat.

As we came down the big hill into the city of St George, there were now spectators lined up.  Cheering, clapping, little ones standing hoping you'll slap their hands as you go by, and encouraging each runner.  As I passed through the intersection, I stayed on the right hand side to avoid most of the crowd on the left.  I was struggling.  As I looked up at the spectators, an older gentleman looked right at me.  It was like there was no one else on the course but me.  He looked straight into my eyes and said,  "You got this!  You're doing great!  Keep going - you GOT this!"  and as he talked he nodded his head and clapped his hands at me in encouragement.  I don't know who he was, but I felt like he was placed there just.for.me.  I started to cry - again.

That kind gentleman who took the time to be personal got me through the next couple of miles.  I was able to keep my feet moving and even when I saw the 4 hour pacer pass me, I didn't let myself think about it.  I just focused on moving my feet forward and staying upright.

At about mile 24 there was someone handing out free popsicles to the runners.  GOD BLESS YOU!!!!  It was the most welcome treat ever!  Cold, sugary and while it took some energy to hold the popsicle, eat it and still run, I didn't care.  It was the most blessed thing ever.

We rounded the corner and came into the neighborhoods as we neared the finish.  There were people with cold, wet towels you could place on your head, or wring out down your back - thank you.  More and more people lined up cheering and signs everywhere!

I was focusing ahead when I noticed a girl starting to stagger and sway.  The runner next to her caught her, put her arm around her but was struggling to keep her upright.  Just then two medics on bikes pulled next to me on their way to her.  I said,  "She's going down - hurry!"  The one dropped his biked, ran towards her and gently held her while she collapsed.  I turned as I passed her only to see her face completely devoid of any color whatsoever and watched as her eyes turned back in her head.    Again, I felt the sting of tears in my eyes.  She was SO CLOSE.  She was within a mile of the goal!  My heart hurt for her.

The finish line is now up ahead and around the corner.  I know this. The 4:15 pacer has now passed me, but I can picture Splenda and Ape waiting for me.  I can picture the National Guard guys in their fatigues waiting to assist anyone who needed it.  I saw in my mind's eye the hundreds of people waiting and watching for their "special someone" to come within view.  I had nothing left in me to sprint.  I had to mentally focus on one foot in front of the other.

Earlier when Rob and I had first started together in the canyon, he said, "lets finish together"  I knew that I had passed him last during our leap frogging and hadn't seen him since, so I slowed enough to turn around to see if I could see him behind me.  I would finish with him, if he were within eye sight.  I couldn't see him.  I turned back around and then the stars came, the nausea, and the limp legs were hitting me all at once.  I heard my name being yelled and looked over to see Splenda and April cheering and April's awesome sign.  I tried to shake off the shut down of my body and find something left in me to sprint.    Nada.


I think I was able to speed up a little but sprint was not part of that equation.  My legs were rubber, I was seeing double, and wanted to puke.  I literally staggered across the finish line.  I remember a volunteer grabbing me and asking if I was okay.  They are certainly trained to see the signs.  I lied, said I was fine and kept shuffling towards the misters.  Once in the misters, I grabbed a pole to hang on to and keep me upright and just stood there for I don't know how long.  The cold water was the only thing I could focus on.  I could hear things around me, but it was like they were muted.  You know how in movies, when it goes slow-mo?  Yeah, it was like that. I stood there until I was sure I could move.  I staggered some more in the gate and another volunteer held my arm and asked if I was okay.  I lied, said I was fine, and shuffled forward some more.   I stopped, placed my hands on my thighs, leaned over and fought the urge to vomit.  I stood out of the way a bit, but  was right where finishers were coming in and heading to the runners recovery area.  I wanted to see Rob. 

As I watched him cross, knowing he was hurt and frustrated, my admiration for him grew.  He found me.  We congratulated each other.  He expressed disappointment with his time, but never once gave an excuse.  That is what I love about him.  He didn't excuse it.  He was frustrated, but he's been running long enough to know that stuff happens and you deal with it.  We separated ways, I was now feeling like I could walk but desperately wanted water.  Thankfully, again with so many volunteers there was water shoved in my hand, a cold cloth pressed in the other and offers of food and aid all around me. 

I could feel my phone vibrating in my running belt but honestly didn't have the energy to pull it out.  I kept walking around in kind of a daze trying to formulate what I was supposed to be doing.  I was pretty sure I needed to meet Splenda and Ape, but I didn't have it in me to pull out my phone.  I also knew I needed to get my shoes off since I could feel some serious blisters had formed.

They finally caught my eye and Splenda asked how I was.  I started to cry.  He motioned to head out the exit and he would meet me.  As I finally got to them, I was now able to walk without staggering and the stars had disappeared.   I was still sure I could throw up at any minute but instead, all the emotions came pouring out.
"so brutal.......I was foolish enough to think I had a shot.......so hot.........runners dropping.........why do I do this?............I hurt.........I feel sick............so hard..........I know what I need to do next year."

You might laugh at that last one, but it's true.  After berating myself for what I felt like a poor performance, the next step was planning on how to attack next year.  *shakes head at own craziness* 

I visited with April and Splenda for a bit and got some pictures with her awesome sign! 


Love it!  Love you Ape!!  That gesture meant the WORLD to me!  And the fact that she knew exactly how I was feeling was a comfort too.  Then she left to run errands, Splenda found some shade to sit in, and I waited in line for a quick massage. 


I knew I had Cassie coming Monday after I got home, but I needed someone to quickly pound out the lactic acid that I could feel built up.    Nice girl who worked on me, and I am grateful.  But there is no one like my Cassandra.

After the rub down, pound out.  I walked to the results tent and got my official results.  I knew from my watch what the general was, but it was nice to see it in print.  Then off to the Wasatch Running tent for my Grand Slam medal and shirt.  I thanked the Wasatch Running guys for the great experience with the Grand Slam.  One noticed the sign about toenails and asked if I had lost some.  I laughed and said, "You don't even want to know".  He laughed as well but insisted on seeing my feet.  After he fought the gag reflex he chuckled that they should have given an award for the worst feet at the end of the season, because I would have surely won.  I choose to take that as a compliment.  There was also a couple who loved the sign and asked if they could pose for a picture with it.  See Ape?!  The sign was a freakin hit!



I picked up my drop bag and then waited in the shade while Splenda fetched the car.  As I was waiting, I saw another runner drop.  She had been waiting for her ride as well, and collapsed in the sun.  Two medics were laying her down and  radioing for back up.  I was counting my blessings that while I came close, I was able to hang on and stay upright.

A quick lunch at the Taco Time and then back to April and Eric's for an ice bath, hot shower, more advil, and the afternoon session of General Conference. 

The best was that I had finally allowed myself to feel successful.  I had bettered my time from last year.  I battled the physical pain.  I fought off the dehydration.  I conquered the mental enemy that wanted to bring me down.  Success indeed.


As I have had time to process my thoughts about it all, the same theme always comes to mind and I've expressed it before with marathons. They are distinctly different in race attitude.  With Ragnar Wasatch Back or other relay events, it's all about the roadkills. And to be honest, when I first started running, that was my mentality all the time.  The road kills.  Keeping track of the number of people who I passed.  Then counting that as part of my success.  I no longer feel that way.  Okay, on a relay yes.  But not in a marathon.

People who run marathons have an attitude of shared admiration for every runner they encounter.  Whether it's the runner they just passed by, the one they see walking or limping, the one who breezes by them and the one that might be on the side loaded into an ambulance.  Only another marathoner can understand and appreciate the physical, emotional and mental endurance it takes to run 26.2 miles.  We understand that the tiniest bit of encouragement can go a long way.  A quick stop at an aid station and a glass of water from someone who calls you by name and tells you that your doing great, is sometimes enough to get you to the next aid station.  It seems as though there is no competition just a sense of camaraderie.  We are all in it together and attempting to reach the same goal.

How I wish people in general were more like marathoners.  Instead of paying attention to those we "pass by" and counting them as defeats, or comparing ourselves to someone who seemingly is "breezing by", why aren't we more concerned with the runner on the side who has dropped.  Why aren't we cheering on each other when we can see struggles?   Where are our signs, applause, and words of encouragement? Where is our attitude of shared admiration and sense of camaraderie?  Has society created us to become such competitive, cut throat and malicious humans, that we can only feel good about ourselves at someone else's expense?

I like to think not.  Yes, there are those in the world who will continue to raise their own self esteem's through the downfalls of others and I believe most of those people don't even realize that they are doing it.  But more so, I have faith in mankind.  Most of us, in our core selves, DO give a crap about others.  We DO want to encourage, lift and inspire those around us.  We ARE holding our "signs" of encouragement hoping we can help someone.  The problem is, most of that is internal.  We think it on the inside, but we don't necessarily act on it.  I am challenging myself to act on it.  In turn, I challenge you.  Be a cheerleader.  Be a motivator for good.  Be inspiring simply because you are kind.  Be more patient with others. Be encouraging even if it means someone goes farther than you in some particular area.  Be happy for them.  Be a marathoner in life.

Official results.:

Time - 4:22.18 (11 minutes faster than last year)
Roadkills - 7 (5 snakes and 2 unidentifiable carcasses)
Not going to even figure out where I placed in my division, among women or among the entire field.  It doesn't matter. I finished.  I staggered at the end, but I finished.  That's all that matters to me.


PS - a final shout out and thank you to our wonderful friends Eric and April (watched these two grow up ya know) for opening their home to us.  We had such a great weekend with you guys - Love you more than a fat kid loves cake!

18 comments:

Tom said...

Wow!...That was an amazing post. That is one of the best descriptions of a marathon I have ever read. I was reliving every bit of St. George with you. I like to think I'm a tough guy, but I have felt that urge to break down and cry at the finish line not just from they physical pain, but becuase you get so emotionally exhausted. Good job!

Pedaling said...

running has been a part of your journey, especially this last year.
and i can see your perspective turn....we learn, we grow, we keep going.
always love these posts and they always amaze me.

Cherie said...

I love reading your play by play on these big runs - amazing to me - I mean SUPER Amazing!!
I feel my own heart start to pound as things get tough for you.
I love your perspective M, and the analogies you get from your running.
Congrats - I think you did FANTASTIC!!

P.S. I love the toe nail sign :-D

tammy said...

I was doing okay reading this until I got to the old guy cheering you on, then I totally teared up. We need to be more like that in life, cheering each other on instead of dragging people down and focusing on their faults. And those people that like to do that and have been doing that to you this past year can just suck it.

mintifresh said...

Oddly enough, this post makes me want to run another marathon!

Good job!!

Jewls said...

You are seriously my hero! I hope I look as amazing as you when I'm your age...and I'd better stop reading your blog because every time I read about your marathons I think a little bit more..."maybe I should do it again..."

GREAT JOB! YOU ARE AMAZING!

Connie said...

I am in tears reading this post. So happy you finished. I honestly don't know how you can reach so deep to get that stamina to finish! I have been to the st. George marathon to cheer a friend who ran. I saw several people stagger and fall just yards away from the finish line. Shorrible to watch but wonderful to see the cameraderie among the runners as people would pick up the fallen runner to get her/him across the line.
Melissa, you are amazing!

Garden of Egan said...

I love your story! I love hearing the details about everyone of your marathons. They inspire me so much. I can't imagine that kind of dedication. You are really something my friend.
Thanks for sharing it and making me cry.
You are an amazing woman!

PS........for the love of all that is holy don't show me your toes.

" Hit It......." said...

I cannot believe how you make me cry. You are so talented and are a gifted writer. I am so proud of you. Congratulations on your journey.

Amy said...

I love how you share your race experience. I am in awe of the mental, emotional, and physical strength it takes to make it through those 26.2 miles. Congratulations!

Mom of 12 said...

Wow! I am so impressed! I don't think I could ever do anything that physical. You are amazing!
Sandy

namaste said...

wow! what an amazing post! i LOVE how you write! you are a natural story teller, m. i found you through a few friendly blogs at just the right time. i see two of my friends in this comment thread.

anywayz, i took a keen interest in your blog because you talk so much about marathons. my husband is running his second marathon (this weekend), but its been 20 years and i have been a little nervous about that.

i confess, unless it's a short, i am a skimmer of posts cuz i read so many blogs and my time is short before and after work. but once i started reading this, i was like, whoa! i couldn't stop! i am sending this link to my hubby for sure. i learned so much as i read. and you made my eyes fill with tears, especially when you cried for the girl who was put in the ambulance so close to the end.

and your comparison to how we should be in our lives, supporting each other like marathoners and spectators, so true! thanks so much for sharing this awesome marathon experience. great post!

Diana said...

You are awesome. On Sunday, DH and I rode 30 miles on bicycles and it wore us out. And all i could think of is that you ran that far nearly as fast as we average on the bikes. You are awesome. It kind of makes me want to train for a marathon. Just not sure how to find the time. I think I'll start with a 5k again.

Again, you are awesome. I loved you narrative. Also, wanted to say loved you 9/30 post. Would have been my SILs birthday as well - she died on 4/1/10 at the age of 44.

gigi said...

You are amazing! Way proud of you and for you :)

LaurieJ said...

Well done!!
I love every detail. Not being there was such a bummer this year, but I think I just relived the whole good, bad, and ugly through this post!
Congrats on the grand slam...that is amazing :-)

Heather said...

I was so touched to read of the man who looked in your eyes and cheered you on. What a great and powerful lesson. Well done. You never fail to impress me.

Mrs. Organic said...

I absolutely love reading about your runs - you are an inspiration. You didn't quit. I love that about you, you keep going no matter what gets thrown at you, and I'm not just talking about running.

Keep it up.

Rachel said...

What an awesome post! I love your assessment of marathoners. They are that way, roadkills don't matter - it's all in the building up and carrying it on to the end. YOU are one of those amazing people, never forget that! I still can't believe we both ran the slam, I love to stalk your blog and still haven't had chance to meet you. I do, however, think I remember seeing that sign. It was awesome!
I did want to leave you a note telling you that your eminem song you posted a while back was my 'pump up' song for this marathon. Although my day was eerily similar to yours (but I didn't get to hold back the barfing, and it came at mile 21!) I have now found the strength to understand that simply finishing this race was enough. Onward and upward.
I still hope to run into you some day at one of these crazy running events. I admire you so!
If you're interested at all, you can read my SGM horror story at: http://radrunning.fastrunningblog.com/blog-10-01-2011.html Like I said...eerily similar!