|At the expo|
|Starting area in daylight|
The plan was for an early dinner and bed by 7 so I would be well rested for the 3 am alarm.
Dinner went as planned but when the sun was still out well after 7 I started watching a movie. This was not really much of a big deal since when I finally did power down at 9 I couldn't sleep anyways.
As I tossed and turned for the next few hours I tried to clear my mind, or at least visualize the the race but one thought kept coming up; that was of the bus to the start careening down the side of the canyon after driving off the narrow mountain road.
|Ready to go|
At some point I was able to fall asleep but 3 am came way too fast. Since I had everything laid out and ready, it didn't take long to get my poop in a group and be headed to the bus. Along the way I met a fellow runner from AZ and we walked over together and shared a school bus seat for the trip.
I'm happy to say that the ride was uneventful and we got to the drop off safely. Since I was on an early bus the were no lines for the "Honey Buckets" which was nice. With business done it was now time to find some warmth. As I mentioned, it was cool enough during the day at 9700 feet but before the sun was up at 5 am it was downright cold, maybe in the 30s.
While I was dressed for a bit of a chill with an Under Armour Cold Gear shirt I wasn't prepared for there being no fires or heaters. No bueno. I figured they would have planned for this, or at least let us know in the pre-race communications but nothing except for foil blankets.
For the next hour plus there was nothing to do but fuel up and shiver as daylight slowly appeared from the distant mountains. Now this didn't do anything to warm things up but trying to stay wrapped up and warm actually provided enough of the a distraction.
Before I knew it, the announcement that the race was beginning in 15 minutes and I had to scramble to get gear on and hoping for short lines at the Honey Buckets. With everything taken care of, I managed to get to my pace group with about 30 seconds to spare. So much for warming up.
I don't much remember if there was a horn or a gun, just that the mass in front of me was moving and that I was along for the ride.
Right off the bat we had a steep decline and with the quick pace and bouncing, one of my water bottles came loose. Luckily it bounced for and as I slowed to scoop it it, all I could think of was getting trampled by the 1000+ runners behind me.
For the next quarter mile or so I carried both bottles as I worked out this potential issue. It soon dawned on me that I could simply cover them with my shirt. Problem solved.
Soon I began to settle into a rhythm and let the decline determine might pace. With the steep grade I didn't want to be too fast but conversely I didn't want to expend too much energy holding back.
The first challenge began just passed the 3 mile mark with decent incline for about 100 yards followed by a light uphill before we looped back. At this point my legs felt a little stressed but it wasn't long before I relaxed and got back into the groove. By now it was light out but the sun had yet to make it's way into the canyon. I was doing alright but even with gloves my fingers were still cold.
Soon the 9 mile point was approaching and this was where I would take my first refueling break. The original plan was to walk as I drank but since I was behind schedule I decided to run at an easy pace in the 9s. This provided for a nice break and at the next available opportunity soon made a quick rest stop. As I exited the Honey Bucket I saw my pace group approaching and settled in with them. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing but I wasn't planning on having them catch me until much later. Still this was something I could work with.
Things were still going pretty good but there were some signs that all was not well. For one, I was beginning to notice some pain developing in my calves as well as my quads. Going into the race I tried to do a fair amount of hill training but I really underestimated how this extreme course was going to effect me. I just needed to continue to grynd and at the 13.1 mark I was on pace at 1:40 but needed to make a quick stop.
The real issues began around mile 16 when it became more of a struggle as my calves were hurting much more on the steep declines at this point. Even after some motivation and inspiration from The Black Crowes' Ballad In Urgency, I came to the realization that today was not my day and began to focus on finishing under 3:45 which was still doable.
What I was really happy for was my next refuel before mile 18. At some point I went off script and stopped taking my ENERGYbits and honey along with water. I seem to recall feeling something minor in my stomach after something and allowed it to spook me going forward.
It was also around this time where the sun was starting to make it's way into the canyon and it felt great. Finally I was able to take off the long sleeve shirt I had been wearing and be comfortable with my singlet. It was pleasant enough that it didn't bother me after all the training in the desert.
When I got to the bottle I wasn't all that thirsty and wound up tossing it after drinking about 2/3 of it. I have no explanation why but by now my head was as scrambled as my legs. What's worse is this came at one of the more difficult sections on the course. It was on a slight, but long, incline at around the 18.5 mile mark that I gave in and began to walk.
It was now all about just finishing.
The last time I was here was around mile 14 of Last Chance BQ.2 - Chicagoland Marathon a year ago. This was more of a disapointment as I had what I considered a very good training cycle which I was for the most part injury free. I did everything I needed to do except for a few long runs that didn't happen due to the Arizona summer.
For the next 6 miles there was more walking than running and while I never considered dropping out, BBW was in my head. I was broken as he had me questioning whether I'd ever run 26.2 again.
What was interesting was that I was not alone. There seemed to be about a half a dozen other runners who were in the same boat as me; they would run past me and then as I started running they would walk and I would go past. This kept repeating itself and while we all probably noticed the same thing, we were also oblivious to one another's struggles and focused on our own tale of woe.
Really the story should have ended here but what makes for compelling theater is when things are at their bleakest, the hero of the story rises up against all odds and slays the dragon. Now before you get any ideas of a miraculous recovery where I was able to sprint the last few miles to BQ, put that out of your head. Besides, the truth is always more interesting.
In this movie what really happened was by the 24 mile mark, I was done with the shock of any bit of downhill running resonated in my calves. So while we were out of the canyon and into the city, there was a fairly steep and long downhill section that I couldn't take; even walking down it hurt. A lot
It was here, at my lowest, that I resigned myself to the fact that I would never get into Boston as a qualifier. I was even composing a blog post in my head explaining why I was giving up the quest for a BQ and why I was going back to being the Halffast Runner. All I wanted was for this to be over with.
Let me tell you those first few strps were an experience in pain but as I saw these ladies urge other runners to keep going, the pain started to subside somewhat. Soon I was actually able to gain some ground and it wasn't long before I was going by them. Yeah it still hurt but no more than when I was the walking dead. It was also time to put some music back on and Montrose's Space Station #5 was just what I needed as I crossed the 25 mile marker.
Before I left the finish area I wanted to hang around and thank the pacer that made the PR possible. After a couple minutes she came in and I told her how much I appreciated her encouragement and how grateful I was for it. This is what the running community is all about, helping and cheering and picking up one another. Sure, it's an individual sport but you cannot go it alone.
All I know is I'm looking forward to a few days to a couple weeks off before I start training for Phoenix in late February.