December 22, 2008

Go West...

To me Christmas is Christ, family and skiing, in that order. Just about every December we travel from Illinois to Utah for Christmas. Sometimes we fly, this year we drove. We also drove last year and got stuck in Rawlins, WY due to high winds on the way out and were slowed down between Dillon and the tunnel on I-70 going home. You'd think we'd fly this year but even though we looked for reasonable airfare beginning in July, we didn't find any. So again we drove. Here's a summary:

1. Charleston schools closed on Friday morning due to an ice storm that never happened.
2. Left Charleston at 10:30 am with a goal of getting to Denver, CO that night.
3. Lesa and I listened to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - I highly recommend it.
4. I made Lesa a little nervous when I updated our progress on Facebook using my cell phone.
5. McDonald's always seemed to be the fastest option. Lesa flirted with a cute cashier named Jace.
6. See Denver around midnight. I knew the general area where a Fairfield Inn was located and after only a few minutes of being "lost" we luckily stumble upon it.
7. Leave Denver at 7:30 am. Wind in Wyoming made me to decided to stay on I-70. I hate Wyoming's Wind. I pretty much hate wind in general but especially in Wyoming.
8. Snow flurries and snow packed roads from Georgetown to Vail. The roads weren't that bad a few other drivers were terrible. After Vail it was smooth driving (see photo below).

8. Lunch at the worst Wendy's ever in Grand Junction, CO. Should have gone to BK or Taco Bell.
9. Arrive in Riverton a little after 5:00. Polly goes wild, she's really excited to see Erin, and that alone makes the trip worth while.

December 9, 2008

Tecumseh Marathon Quatre, 2008 (#22)

December 6, 2008.

Recall: It was a Winter Wonderland
Overall: Still one of my favorite marathons.
Rating: Remains 5/5 carbs

(The pictures aren't mine or of me. If I get any, I'll add them later.)

I sit down in the last bus seat and the driver calls out, “Does anyone know where we are going?” Normally, not the words you want to hear but this bus was for the Tecumseh marathon, the same race that starts not at 10:00 as advertised but “as soon as the last person is out of the Port-A-Pottie”. Not to worry. The same race director who sets the start time steps into the bus and asks, “Does anyone know how to get to the start?” Two runners who could have played the leads in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure raise their hands. The race director replies “good” and leaves. “Bill” tells the bus driver to turn left out of the Yellowwood camp ground when every other year the buses have gone right. I assume “Bill” isn’t stoned since he’s about to run a marathon but you never know. The runner seated in front me also wonders allowed whether we’ll get to the start. After two hard stops, one backup of 50 feet, and a very slow hill climb we arrive 20 minutes before start time having followed a route that no yellow school bus ever take.

Outside the temperatures are in the high twenties with brisk southwest winds and snow flurries so we all stay on the warm bus and wait. By 10:00 it’s obvious that the race will not start on time. For a second time the race director pops into our bus to announce the race will start in 10 minutes. I wait 5 minutes and go outside to get ready to run where I hear the race director announce that the race will start in about 10 minutes. Wait? Didn’t you just say that 5 minutes ago? And, after another 5 minutes he makes the exact same announcement. Is his watch frozen? My guess is that he’s basing his approximate start time by the length of the lines at the Port-A-Potties. Finally, the lines are gone and race vehicle’s battery is jumped, so we’re ready to start 20 minutes late.

Somehow between the start and mile 2, 500 runners have merged onto a single track trail. It’s slow going at times but I’m in no hurry. My last long run was over a month ago so my primary goal is to finish and secondary to that, stay warm. At the first descent, I sense trouble when I see a line of people standing still on the trail. The snow flurries have put an icy glaze on every rock, stump and exposed patch of hard dirt. I wait as runners slowly make their way around the icy spots. Three young ladies, in particular, are extremely cautious. When I said I wasn’t in hurry I didn’t mean that I wanted to stand and wait while sorority sissies tip toe around every ice pellet. Eventually, we all get past the slick patches and arrive at the mile 4.5 aid station. I’m carrying my own energy sources, Snickers and Payday candy bars, so I don’t stay long and leave the three ice princesses and a few others behind. The runners have spread out between miles 5 to 9 so the slow downs at the slick spots weren’t as long. I snack as I run and stop at the aid stations only to grab a drink and add a cookie or gel to my pocket. The cold temps made gave the energy gels the consistency of fudge. I’ve never had to chew energy gels before. But it’s worth it. Running in a small groups I’m able to notice the sharp contrast of the dark brown leaf covered trail cutting through the brilliant white snow. No one should get lost today. Off to the side of the trail I see green ferns poking through the snow. It’s beautiful. The trail cuts through a small pine forest and it really feels like Christmas! Was that sleigh bells I just heard...or was it gunfire?

At the mile 12 aid station a runner ask about a ride to the finish as I put two peanut butter cookies in my coat pocket. After the aid station, the beauty of the last few miles is replace by a one mile run on a slick gravel road. The only traction is on the larger, uncomfortable gravel poking through the ice. I would walk but I know the road will soon turn upward at an angle know as Indian Hill so I might as well shuffle along until I’m forced to walk. The good news is that Indian Hill is half way. As I summit the snow has slowed but I definitely feel the wind on the top of the ridge and for the first time feel a pinch of cold. I’m glad that I wore my old New Balance trail shoes and an extra pair of socks. I’m also glad I wore my Marmot coat with wind stopping capabilities and even more glad that my brother Tom gave me the coat in the first place. I went with a red Marmot ski hat to not only match the coat but to let the hunters know I’m not a crippled dear and not to shoot.

Back on the trail I follow a young couple at a comfortable pace until we catch four slow men. At this point the trail runs along a hill side and slants downward to the right making the slick spots even more challenging but come on guys. It’s almost worst when you go slow. There are too many to pass and we’re not too far away from the 15.8 mile aid station so I adjust down to their speed and hope the any energy saved is available over the last 6 miles. At the aid station we are greeted by a sign that says, “All You Can Eat” but I just grab a banana. Before I leave I hear the slowest of the four runners ask about a ride to the finish.

The ascent at mile 16 starts with not just any icy spot but a 20 foot section of ice. One slip to the left and it’s into a creek. Grabbing ferns on the upper hill side with both hands, I crab walk sideways on all four over the icy stretch. Never done that before in a marathon. I walk up the rest of the hill and descend into another beautiful section of trail that I run through at my own pace taking in the scenery as I go. The snow picks back up and is wetter than before but I remain warm. Thanks again Marmot. At the mile 18 aid station I feast on Gatorade and pretzels for a minute and leave. Before I know it I’m at mile 20 and as long as I’m not walking up hill my legs feel fine. Wait! This hasn’t happened before. No wall. No bonk. No problem.

The snow is lightly falling at mile 22 as I “cruise” down the last major switch back decline and think this is as close as I’ve gotten to skiing in the Midwest. A mile later I’m at the northwest end of Yellowwood Lake, opposite from the finish line. From here it’s two miles along the west side of the lake then the home stretch mile on icy gravel roads. I hate that last mile even without the ice. At least it is the last mile. After five minutes short of six hours and about 10 minutes slower than last year I cross the finish feeling better than I ever have at the end of any marathon. I’ll take that.

Now for the swag. The sweatshirt in the race packet was ugly and the only other freebie was some Vicks cold medicine samples. But, I didn’t mind. I know from past experience that the real treat comes after the race. I line up for the traditional Tecumseh post-marathon meal of soup and a sandwich. Sounds ordinary but I’d run 26.2 miles for it. No offense to mom or Lesa but it is the best tasting soup I’ve ever had. I tell the serving lady the soup is the reason I run the marathon. She says, “That’s a lot of work for soup”. She might be right and it probably doesn’t taste as good without the running. Now that I think about it, running, like Bill and Ted’s favorite herb gives me the munchies so just about anything taste most excellent after running a marathon. But, really, this is good soup.

[According to my Nike Plus system, I ran 26.61 miles and burned 3522 calories. It also shows that I passed out at mile 16. Huh?]