Thursday, September 25, 2014

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2014 - the time I became a Ucan believer but lost my runner's high

I know, I know....... so late with my usual post-race wrap up.  Been busy yo.

So the Big Cottonwood Marathon was a couple of Saturday's ago and as usual, I loved it!

The first year, I participated as a pacer/sweeper, you can read about it here

The second year, I freaking QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON!  You can read about it here

This year was a plan to pace my friend to HER Boston Qualifying time.  Turns out, she didn't need me at all - girl rocked.  All.On.Her.Own.

Training had been sporadic leading up to race day.  I don't have any kind of excuse other than I've lost my mojo.  My heart hasn't been in it.  Running feels like a chore instead of a blessed relief.  I dread it instead of love it.  But I digress...we'll address that later.

Race day arrived, I ate my oatmeal, grabbed my pre-packed stuff and headed out the door.  On Facebook several of us had arranged to meet at spot to be able to ride the bus together and start the day off fun!
(I love these people!)

In addition to my traditional Monster and doughnut (no maple bar sadly), I had a blender bottle full of this stuff:

My new favorite nutrition product.  I tried it on a long run earlier and found fantastic results, so I decided to go with it for today.  I find that I can drink a serving of this stuff and literally need nothing for several hours.  It's built with starches that keep one's blood sugar stable instead of spiking and dropping necessitating more fuel.  It's loaded with enough calories to carry me for awhile.  I mixed up two bottles of it the night before and as I left the neighborhood, I dropped one off at my friends house who was going to volunteer at an aid station so she would have it for me about half way through.

We loaded the bus and enjoyed some chatter on the way up the canyon.  Once at the start line/waiting area, it was friggin cold!  I kept my warm clothes and space blanket on as long as possible.  There was word that there were some problems busing runners  so we were going to be getting a late start.  I was okay with that, but others began expressing concern for the heat that we'd get later.

After a final potty break, Kandi, Enrique and I lined up with the 4 hour pacer, sang the Star Spangled Banner and then off we went!  The first loop around the ski resort was slightly uphill and I have to say I liked that.  Nice way to settle into a groove before allowing oneself to start off screaming down the canyon.
My plan was to stay with the 4 hour pacer so that we'd hold back enough in the canyon to have some left in the tank for the out and back (which I knew was going to be brutal) and then the final three into the finish.

I knew Kandi had a different plan and as I watched her slowly slip away from me, I realized that she totally didn't need me.  She didn't need a pacer!  She had the training in place, the mileage, she just needed to go run her race.  I wasn't going to be able to hold her pace and still have anything left in the tank, so I let her go on and hoped that she would be okay.
(the only time we were ever really together - go Kandi!)

I settled in with the 3:55 pacers for awhile, enjoying chatting and catching up with running friend Holly until the bottom of the canyon.  Then I took advantage of another bathroom break.

(yes I am next to the old man - he's kinda my hero)

From this point on, I had lost the pacers so I headed into the out and back with determination.  I had run it before.  I knew it could end up being a death march, and my plan was to just do the best I could.  I was no longer needed as a pacer, so rather than push myself, I rearranged the plan in my head and turned this into a long, training run in preparation for St George.  Amazing what it does when you remove all pressures.  I started to enjoy it!
(that out and back was brutal)

I liked watching the leaders pass me on the other side of the street as they were heading back out.  I tried to watch for as many people as I could recognize and tried to cheer them on.  The turn around point was at mile 18.5 and I was ready for Brenda and my next bottle of Ucan!

As I approached the aid station, I saw her, hollered at her and next thing I knew she was at my side, with my bottle in hand and asking if I needed anything.  Can I just tell you what a boost it is to have a cheerleader there with goodies for ya?  Holy smokes!  Exactly what I needed.  I had been carrying a packet of Gu, just in case, but now that I had the second bottle of Ucan, I knew I wouldn't need it.  I tossed it to B and headed on my way sipping down the sweet nectar of endurance gods.

Not gonna lie, the back out was hard.  That stretch of 7 miles is exposed with no shade.  It was getting hot, and part of it is not particularly pretty.  It's rough 7 miles.  I discovered two more friends up ahead, Jenn and Paul so I gradually sped up to reach them.  We chatted for awhile and stayed together until we made the turn and the final three or so miles.

Now the course takes another steep downhill.  So basically, you've killed your quads the entire canyon, then marched the brutal 7 out and back and now have to rely on those fatigued quads to hold you down the hill some more.  Yeah, they were ticked.  Nice to know that other runners were feeling the same thing.  I even saw someone running backwards in an effort to spare the pain.

This part of the course while downhill, was still a bit hard.  Exposed.  No shade, cars on the left side of you with exhaust spewing and sadly some of those drivers were irritated at the road closures and ensuring traffic snarls and felt it necessary to take it out on us runners.  Really?  Flipping me the bird or yelling out the window is gonna make your car move faster?  Not.  It just makes me think you're an asshat.  Whatev's.  I had more on my mind than some disgruntled drivers.

My longest run going into this event was 18.5 miles.  Not what I would usually want under my belt.  I knew going into the race that I was undertrained and underprepared.  Thankfully, I hadn't come up on Kandi, so I could only assume she was still killing it and was going to reach her goal.  That left me with my own head.  No music.  No metronome.  Just me and my head.  I counted for awhile and attempted to keep the right cadence.  I talked to other runners along the way.  Chatted with Galen and Angie for a few minutes, and just tried to enjoy the run.

At about mile 23, the sideache hit.  I have no idea where it came from, nor do I deal with it very often - if ever.  I slowed down and walked.  I tried slowing down my breathing, raising my arms, doing whatever I thought would help.  As I was working through it, a familiar voice came alongside me "Hey there hot stuff"  Oh my gosh there is Mindi!!  She's smiling huge knowing that she is about to crush her PR.  I picked up running with her for a few minutes but that made the sideache worse.  I congratulated her, and told her to keep going as I slowed back to a walk and tried to get the sideache under control.

For the remaining mile I alternated walking fast and running.  Looking at my Garmin, there was no qualifying time for me which was totally okay and certainly not a PR, but I would finish respectfully and that's all that mattered.  Especially since I had turned it into a long training run rather than a race with serious expectations.  The only thing I cared about then was whether or not Kandi had BQ'd.

I crossed the finish.  Looked at my garmin and stopped it.  Took a water bottle and cold wet cloth and then kept moving around while looking for friends.  It didn't take long for me to find running buddy after running buddy and I was THRILLED with all their stories of triumph!  PR's here, BQ's there!  Everyone seemed to have reached the goal they had set out and honestly, it was the greatest feeling!

I FINALLY found Kandi and learned that not only had she qualified for Boston but she CRUSHED her time by giving herself an 11 minute cush.  I couldn't have been happier for her.  And the icing on the cake?  She did it completely on her own.  Her race.  Her BQ.  Her own personal victory not shared with anyone but herself.  LOVE IT!
(I'm so incredibly proud of this lady!)

I retrieved my drop bag, picked up my results card and wandered a little bit to keep the legs moving and to keep chatting with friends and hearing of their successes.  Kandi and I met up again at a massage station for a quick pic opportunity.

I finally called Splenda Daddy and talked to him as I made my way back to my car.  I was hot, tired and sore.  He was kind, congratulatory, and supportive.  Our usual post race modus operandi :)  And one that I have come to rely on and appreciate.

As I made the drive home, I evaluated how I was feeling.  Legs in good shape, no niggling of an injury, just fatigue that should be expected.  No bonking during the run - thanks Ucan.  Decent and respectable time.  So where was my runner's high?  Where is the usual, "I can do anything" feeling that comes after a marathon?  Instead I was......meh.

I've been thinking about it for several days now and have no reasonable explanation for my lack of excitement and thrill, other than perhaps I am getting a little burned out.  Perhaps I spent all of the last part of the season training so hard while chasing that BQ, and then Boston was so freaking amazing that now, I just can't replicate those feelings and I'm left with burnout.  I'm not sure.

The event itself was top notch as always.  The RD's really do a fantastic job.  The glitches with the buses were due to last minute cancellations of drivers and there was nothing the RD could do, so I hope people will understand and cut him some slack.  The course was hard.  In fact, so hard that I feel like they have made it an HONEST qualifying course.  I don't know if I could qualify again on that course, it's that hard.  Kudos to them, I hope they ignore the whiners that want it changed back to last year.  All three years have been hard, but this year was by far the hardest.  Keep it honest boys.

Congratulations to all my friends who performed so well and reached their personal goals!  I am so happy for all of them and hope that they are still basking in those feelings of supreme accomplishment - it truly is a high.

As for me, I'll go into St George in about 10 days with the plan of running my best and seeing how it plays out.  My heart isn't it like it should be.  I think after 10/5, I'm gonna take a little break, incorporate more cross training and decrease the running a little bit so I can bring back the drive.  The love.  The mojo.  See if I can find my runner's high again.  I'm sure it's around here somewhere...

Thanks Big Cottonwood for yet another great year, and Ucan?