Saturday, September 22, 2012

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2012 - Finish what you started!

I'd heard about this one, but with St George in two weeks, the idea was NEVER entertained.  And then of course, the whole "feeling like crap" thing added the nail to the coffin of "don't even think about it"

And then....... I saw that the awesome group of runners that I am lucky enough to pace with were going to be the pacers for this one.  Hmmmmm........  offer a "sweeper" again?  It was a great experience last time, but doable for a marathon?

Packet pick up was at the store on Thursday and Friday so after much thought and physical evaluation, I decided I'd throw it out there and see if the race director was interested.  I wasn't scheduled to work until late afternoon so even if I spent 8 hours on the course, I wouldn't have to worry about work.

I met Layne Brooks and talked about what I could offer.  After he discussed it with his RD, they decided it was a pretty good idea.  Bada bing bada boom.  Within 3 minutes, I had a bib, shirt and label for a drop bag.  Sahweet!

Did the usual Friday night, pasta and go to bed early.  Not before I decided I should prob take a look at their website and check out where I should be and at what time in the morning.  Considering this was their first year putting this event on, I wasn't expecting too much and much to my surprise I was WAY WRONG.  Just navigating around the site, watching a little bit of the packet pick and I was impressed.  I didn't really know how the morning would go, but so far, I was quite impressed.

I had my alarm set for 4:00am putting me at perfect timing to meet the other pacers at 5am.  Suddenly at 3:15am, the dogs start barking, the garage is going up and wouldn't you know it one of my spawn (who shall remain unnamed but it might rhyme with Schmuke) decided to crash here rather than go all the way home.  Thanks for that son.  Really.  Thanks.  What a dirtbag!

Got my pb&j's made, Monster opened, water w/Ensure prepared, dressed and out the door by 4:30.  The start line and finish line were at a business center with tons of parking so that was a breeze.  I headed over to the bus loading, found my pacing peeps and hung out until it was time to load.

They easily identified which were half marathon buses and which were marathon ones, so the loading was easy and smooth.  I found a seat settled in and started the long thought process that proceeds every race.  This time, no thinking about my race strategy or visualizing the course.  Instead, I wondered who I would be pacing with at the back and what it might involve. Mostly running?  Mostly walking?  A combination? The course was deemed fast (I never even bothered looking at the elevation drop), so I figured it would likely be a combination of both, but more jogging than anything.  Most walkers don't tackle a marathon, especially one that gives them a cut off time of 6 hours.  And while that was specific on the guidelines at registration, once I got added as the sweep the event organizers decided that they would leave the finish line up, and with me staying with them, they wouldn't pull them from the course but allow them to finish.  Cool eh?

It was chilly at the start.  First thing I did was hit the honey buckets.  While headed to find a spot to sit and wait, I ran into Chad!  I forgot he was doing this one so that was fun!  Some chit chat, and then it was time to get the drop bags into the truck.  The pacers lined up and runners found their spots getting ready for the horn.  I hung around the back and just waited.  Layne introduced me to his Dad who would be driving the SAG wagon and then once we were sure the porta potties were clear and every runner on their way, I took off.

Hit the Garmin right as I crossed and slipped into a nice easy lope.  The sun hadn't come up yet and it was still pretty cold, but it felt good to run!  IN THE MOUNTAINS!  IN A RACE!  For a couple of minutes anyway.

I saw a runner in the distance who was taking a nice slow trot, I caught up to her and fell in step.  Karen was an experienced marathon runner but was fighting a beast of a cold.  She had debated even showing up this morning, but thought she would give it a good try and see how far she would get.  She found that trotting/speedwalking was working pretty well for her and I just followed her lead.  Wonderful woman.  See this is the beauty of pacing, you get to chat it up a bit.  More so than if you are racing.  Come to find out, Karen is also running on new knees.  Wow.  I felt amazingly proud of her!

As we went along I saw us approaching another runner.  Cute Carrie in her green glitter skirt!  Darling girl!  Her approach was also one that follows a Jeff Galloway plan.  Jog two minutes, walk two minutes.  She had a timer attached to her shoulder strap that would vibrate and tell her when it was time to change cadence.  She was also wearing a heart rate monitor that I noticed she was paying a LOT of attention to.  This was her first marathon, but she was an experienced half marathoner.  She has done a lot of Disney half's so it was fun to hear about those stories.

(look what we saw!  A moose!  I tried to get closer, but the officer tailing us warned me about getting any closer.  This was just dang cool)

We continued our jog/walk only for a little bit and then it became just a walk.  Carrie explained that she has a heart condition and she cannot get her heart rate above 120ish.  She confessed she was ignoring her doctor rules (he doesn't want her running at all) but she was keeping a close eye on her heart rate.  Problem was, it was climbing and she couldn't get it come back down during the walk periods.  And while we kept with the walking, it still wouldn't come down.   She was currently in the 140's and while she felt okay, she knew she shouldn't be there.  We got another couple of miles down the canyon when she decided that it just wouldn't be wise for her to continue.  I was disappointed for her but man, can I say....way to respect your body girl!  What a tough choice to have to make!

I used the porta john, she jumped in the sag wagon and then I took jumped in and had them drive me down to the next runner since I had no idea how far ahead they would be or if I could be fast enough to catch them.  It was about a mile and a half down the road and as we neared I could see it was Karen!  She was still at it and looking good!  I jumped out, fell in step beside her and we picked our convo right back up.  By now, the sun was starting to come up and get a little warmer.  At least warm enough that my legs were losing the purple color.  We could also see the beautiful fall colors in the canyon.

(insert gorgeous fall leaves with brilliant color here - I swear I took a pic but guess I didn't save it? CRAP)

Karen and I continued with the trot/speedwalk and I have to say, it was challenging on the steep downhill.  There were times where it was more painful to walk it than to jog it.  I did more jogging at this point, even turning around and walking backwards to alleviate the pounding on my knees.  Karen was a trooper.  She was feeling sicker and sicker and had decided that at the mouth of the canyon where it splits and sends the half marathoners south and the full marathoners north, she would head south and finish there.  Because she started at the full marathon start line she was still getting more miles than a half, but I could tell she was a little disappointed.  At least until she saw her son in law and two grandsons at the bottom of the canyon!  What a sweet moment for her!  We came to the intersection and I wished her well and turned north.

The police officer had been right behind us, and the sag wagon behind that.  Carrie was still in the front seat since the wagon had to stay with me.  She was a great cheerleader.  Since I didn't know how far ahead the next runner would be, I again jumped in and we headed forward.  Only for a few feet though. We passed the next aid station and was scanning out the windows for a runner amongst the vehicles.  At first I didn't see him, but then as he pulled away I saw the slow trot of an older man.  After pulling over, I hopped out - turned back and hollered to him "There's my running partner!  I've been looking for you!"

The man smiled and slowly kept running.  I fell in step alongside and asked how he was doing.  I learned pretty quickly that dude's are much for talking.  At least he wasn't.  I introduced myself, got his name (Rick), and then asked if this was his first marathon.  It was now about mile 15 and by his pained looking gait, I was dubious as to whether or not he was going to finish.  To my surprise, he told me that this was his 59th marathon.  FIFTY-NINE peeps.

Well, now I'm in a bit of a quandry.  Clearly he is experienced in the distance and what it takes to finish.  He likely has no need of, or want of a pacer.  As I walked/trotted alongside of him I debated what to do in my head.  Should I stay with him until he decides to sag out and then move ahead like I had already done previously?  Do I move ahead now knowing that he will sag out and he doesn't appear to want the company anyway?  As I was mulling it over and attempting some more small talk I could feel our pace slowing.  It was now an incline portion of the course and it was getting him.  We were now walking fairly fast but it was a comfortable fast since it was uphill and not down.

We chatted some more and I decided I needed to stick with what I had promised the race directors I would do.  Stay at the very back and hang with the last runner.  I had been expecting a first timer, or someone overestimating their fitness - certainly not a man who has run 52 more marathons than me!  At any rate, poor chap was stuck with me!

We talked some more, I asked a lot of questions about him and his races.  His favorite marathons etc.  Rick is usually a  4 hour/sub 5 and some change mark so his pace today was frustrating to him.  He mentioned that the older he gets the harder it is to stay fast.  He also mentioned he had an extra 25 lbs that he felt like was contributing to his slower than usual style.  Such a nice man.  The more we talked, the more I really enjoyed spending the time with him.  I was trying careful to balance the conversation so that it was enough to make the time go by and serve as a distraction but not be so much that he felt overwhelmed with a lady that wouldn't shut up!

The course was now on the foothills of the Salt Lake Valley and it is stunningly beautiful.  Nothing like looking out over the whole valley.  This valley I group up in, raised my family in, and will likely die in.  I loved it and took the chance to enjoy everything I was seeing.  As the course wound into Millcreek and the neighborhoods, I admired the trees, the beautiful homes and amazing landscaping.  The course really was absolutely stellar.

Knowing that we were still plugging along, many of the volunteers at the water stations stayed to make sure our needs were taken care of.  I ran into the Achiva man at one of the stops where they were offering water or Achiva drink.  As he offered me the drink (not knowing who he was), I grimaced and said,  "No way.  Tried that stuff once and it was the nastiest thing I have ever had in my mouth".  Then I looked at his shirt.  Then the lightbulb came on.  I profusely apologized for dissing his product but he was a great sport and explained how the formula had changed and I really needed to give it another try. He promised to send some to Glen at the store for me to sample again.

Rick had watered and was moving on, I took more time to let the BioFreeze guys rub some on my screaming left shin and chatted for a minute while stretching my calf.  It felt great to run to catch back up with Rick, so I decided that would be a good strategy to employ from here on out.  At times we stopped, I would let him get started and ahead while I stretched and then let myself run my legs a little to catch back up.

As mile after mile passed, I realized something about Rick.  He wasn't going to sag out.  Nope.  This man would finish what he started.  We passed the marker for mile 20 and in my head I thought, "I HATE THIS MILE".  If I tend to struggle mentally - it's always here.  I needed something good to talk about to get past this one.  I bravely brought up politics.

I know, I know...... but Rick is a partner in a software firm, has two sons in college and I really wanted to hear his take on how things have been for his business and what his feelings were on how things could be better.  GREAT CONVO! I didn't even notice the time or where we were at until the next aid station.  It had been emptied of volunteers but they left water and aid supplies behind.  While Rick drank, I rummaged looking for some advil in the medical baggie.  At first all I could come up with was a tampon and before I could stop myself I asked Rick if he by chance needed this.  *Facepalm*  mCat - you cannot joke like that with people you don't know! Gah!

Luckily for me Rick has a great sense of humor, we laughed, he made a joke that I won't share, I fell into serious "like this dude" and then he was back at it while I finished finding the advil, drinking and ignoring my phone.  Carrie had come over from the sag wagon to check on us.   So I stalled a little more talking with her before I let my legs loose and ran to catch up.

We continued a nice convo but as I watched him walking I could see the walk of a chafing man.  Listen, I raised three boys, I know the chafing moves when I see them.  My heart went out to Rick because I knew he had to be miserable.  He was tired, he admitted the course had kicked his butt and I think he was mentally done.  I reminded him that we now had less than a 10k left and according to my Garmin, our last mile had been faster than the mile previous to that, so overall we were doing well.  He brought up the cut off time and he kept looking at his phone to try and stay within the 6 hour limit.

I confessed then that the directors had decided last night that they would leave the finish line up and not pull him from the course.  As long as we stuck together, we were gonna finish this bad boy!  I heard a sigh of relief (or a heavy pant - could have been either) and on we went.

At mile 25 and the last aid station, the volunteers were still there and thoroughly fantastic!  Clapping, cheering, encouraging....everything a marathoner needs at mile 25.  Thank you Team in Training for not just being there, but BEING there!  As we pulled away and started on the final 1.2, I thought of those last sets of volunteers.  TT folks, in their trademark purple shirts.  What a great example of not just doing your job, but DOING your job.  BEING there.  For someone else.  And I should re-phrase - it's not a job, they were volunteering.  They stayed longer than they were asked and then took it a step further and made sure that even though it was only two old people coming through, they made us feel like we were the most important two people ever!  Love them and I thank them for their example and the reminders they taught me today.

We soon turned east and unfortunately missed the path that we were supposed to veer to, but luckily Dad in the sag wagon stopped and motioned us back.  We found it, and was now off the busy streets and on a quiet, lonely trail.  As I looked to my left I could see my beloved mountains and their bursts of orange colors.  Gosh it was pretty. Rick and I made some more small talk, heading in what we assumed was the right direction.  The sag wagon was no longer tailing us so we basically followed the trail in a comfortable silence with a few words placed here and there.

Rick didn't need the usual "you can do it" talk.  Sure, we remarked about the remaining distance, how we were feeling etc.... but this was a markedly different pacing experience.  He didn't need the reminders of his great accomplishment, how no one can ever take this from him, how he DID it!  For crying out loud, the man has more marathon experience than me!

No, this time it was about finishing what he started.  Sure he could have sagged out HOURS previously.  He has nothing to prove to himself or anyone else for that matter.  He has 58 other marathons under his belt.  Been here, done this.
BUT - he would finish because he started.

Oh, oh, oh what lessons can we learn eh?  Sure he got up at the early alarm.  Sure he got on the bus and ran at the sound of the horn.  But when things got tough (and I don't know at what mile he started to feel it), he.kept.going.   Plain and simple.  He started something and he was gonna finish it.  I thought back to the time I let one of the boys talk me into letting him quit piano lessons (there is a whole proposal drawn up, I should scan it and post it sometime - funny stuff).  I've often wished I would have made him stick with it.  At least long enough that he could plunk out a hymn if he had too.  He can't.  I let him quit too soon.  I started thinking of other things in my life where maybe I gave up, threw in the towel, and called it game before I should have.

Don't get me wrong.  There is much to be said for respecting your body, your limits, and your safety.  No shame in legitimately easing up, or pulling out if it means physical/emotional harm to you or your loved ones. we go too easy on ourselves?  Do we?  I bet we could do much harder things if we believed enough in ourselves.  And trust me, I am looking at me.  Just throwing out to the public as food for thought, but really the reminder and lesson was for me.

Rick and I finally wound our way around and saw the 26 mile marker.   Point 2 left.  That miserable .2

As we neared, I reminded him that they had promised to leave up the finish line and we could now see it.  Of course, the crowds had dispersed and all that was left was some event volunteers cleaning up.  Carrie and Dad from the sag wagon had arrived and was waiting for us on the other side of the line.  As we got within a few feet, I asked Rick if he had anything left in him for a kick.  He thought so, so as he picked it up, I hung back and watched him finish.  Word of the day.  FINISH.

Carrie happily put his finisher medal around his neck and then mine.  Someone handed us some cold bottles of water and we went to go find our drop bags.  Before walking away I hugged Carrie, thanked her for the great time and support along the way.  She is DARLING!  Hope to run with her again soon!

As Rick and I were finding our bags, he turned and thanked me.  He said, "In all the 59 marathons I've done, this is the first one that they sent me a pretty, young woman to run with me in."

Okay.  Day officially made!  I thanked him for the pleasure and honor of meeting him, running with him and being inspired by him.  I doubt he will ever really know the lessons I learned today while by his side.  Lessons about people, politics, and most importantly myself.

I chatted with Layne's dad again for a minute and he offered to give me a ride to my car.  I looked at my Garmin and because I had paused for the couple of times I was in the car, I didn't have 26.2 yet.  I laughed and told him I needed to get that last little bit, so off I ran to find my car and get my freakin shoes OFF!
I still didn't get the 26.2, but really - I'm okay with it.  I did what I came to do.  I did what I said I would.  And I feel good about that.

Check out the medal - super cool!

Just a post script with some thank you's.
First off Layne and Kevin, Dad and their RD.  What an incredibly well run event.  From packet pick up, to parking, to bus loading, to aid stations, to course, to volunteers, to support.  ON POINT!  Outstanding work.  And if you are looking for a marathon that is fast and gorgeous?  It's this one.  Make sure you get in next year, it fills fast and they had a substantial waiting list.  It's also a BQ'er and it would make a perfect one for that goal. (just wait until I get a spot k?  I wanna race this one next year)

Thanks to Wasatch to sponsoring and Glen for supporting me in my pacing cause.  Not always easy to let an employee have a Saturday off in the retail business, but he's great to support his runners and the entire running community.  This was the perfect trial for St George on my body, and gave me the confidence to know I can do all 26.2. So thank you!

My pacing peep's!  Seriously, you guys make me proud to be a part of  American Flyers Pace Racers.  Walter - killer win in the half today.  Paul, and the fun glow sticks.  All the FB messages and comments to each other full of encouragement, support and fun.  How cool is it to know that many of the pacers today helped someone achieve their Boston Qualifying goal?  Serio - it's just damn cool.  And great to meet some new ones this morning.  You are ALL the shiznat, you know it?

Karen and Carrie for sharing the canyon with me.  Great conversations, sharing stories and enjoying the scenery.  Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey's today.

And of course Rick.  The man I underestimated.  The man I was sure would sag out.  The man I wondered if he would even speak to me at first.
Dude  - you are rock solid!  Thanks for letting me hang with you.  Thanks for answering my trivial questions that helped me keep my mind off my aching legs.  Thanks for teaching me that whether or not you've done it before and even done it a lot  - 

You're not just a rockstar, you are the RICK-STAR!


susette said...

I had no idea you were up there today! I would have found you and said hello. I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon too. MY FIRST ONE! What a sweet story about Rick. I wonder if I will be able to someday say I did 59 marathons? Yeah....doubt it!

Connie said...

I always enjoy reading about the races according to Em-cat! You seriously are an amazing woman! After all your health issues, I can't believe how well you did today and the people you helped a long the way. You're the burst!

Connie said...

I mean " best"

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

I need to use your friends method, run two minutes then walk. Maybe, I could stick with it.

You always amaze me. You are a gifted writer. Your endurance and stamina and love of this sport is inspiring.

btw - I loved the pic of Chloe' and Corbin on f.b. It made me smile!

Pedaling said...

I'd want the pretty young lady aka you to be my pacer, too!

you like people and people like you.

now, what was the tampon joke?

CountessLaurie said...

If I ever run a marathon (baaa haaa haaa, oh sorry, where was I?) I am going to do it in Utah and make you run the rear with me. (Don't worry, I'll give up after 200ft, but riding in the wagon watching you run sounds good too!)


Dr Zibbs said...

I miss running. The doctor told me I should stop.

Mrs. Organic said...

I love this post. The Rock Star and the Rick Star.