double marathon coming up

Day 174

I just finished a marathon today. I will do another tomorrow. I will write more on this in another post of how people do or more marathons without rest. Back-to-back marathon is not too hard a thing to do. I found a secret.

I did Altis Cross County Marathon. It is a small ultra like race. There were 80 ish people running the full and about the same number running the half. Unlike other big names, this one was really low key but it has everything about a good race. I like the food and candies they offered. It had some trails to run on. The ground had everything: we had sand, asphalt, concrete, and dirt and might have some gravels. Luckily no water crossings.

Any way, this race was one I learned an important lesson about life. Not everyone running in a race have the same purpose.

I got to the race about an hour before the start time. I got out of the truck and saw a group 15-20 people was doing some warm up or at least I presumed they were warming up. They were heading out around the lake and I thought I would just follow them. Who would have known they were the advance starting group (first wave). The race director didn’t mention anything about this. I am not blaming the RD. Usually for small race RD is very flexible to different runner’s need.

However, I was blindly follow them to the point of missing the start. I did not time myself but when I came to my sense that these people were not going around the lake but instead was going farther out than I was comfortable. I could have turned around. I could have asked them where they were going, but a guy was being rude to me. He said he couldn’t help me and that the starting line was the other direction. We were like an hour out and probably have gone 3-4 miles already. I started being anxious. I guess my vibed was infecting the whole group I was with. More on this later.

I saw the race has now started. The real runners were catching up.

The race had two laps of out and back. I continued to walk with them. I would not want to splint back to the starting line. Actually, I was still curious where they were heading and was tailing them. Part of me did not want to believe that they were runners and I had goofed. At the turn around point, one of the guys told me to stop tailing them because I was making them nervous. The guy was mean and I sensed if I kept on, he might do physical/bodily harm to me.

This has never happened to me in a race and if it was really a race I wouldn’t tail them either.

Any way, I was quite disturbed. I calmed myself down, got away from them, by following them from far away. By this time other runners caught up and the trail was full of people. I fet a bit safer. I walked back to the starting line with them.

After passing ‘go’, I started running and started my garmin watch. I figured the race gave a generous time of seven hours and with about 5 and half hours remaining, I could still finish if I started then. If anything I just used it as a long run. I glad I was not disqualified from the race. The race was not bib timed, so it didn’t matter when I start (The RD was really generous). Actually he didn’t know I started that late. We all used the race clock. I started about an hour and half late but that was ok. Official time, I finished at 7:10, and my garmin time was 5:30. I ran 28 miles based on garmin measurement. If I added in the extra 9 miles walk before my start, that means I did a total of 37 miles. I was going to add two more miles but figured I didn’t want the race timing person to wait another half hour for me. I already finished after 7 hours (the supposed total time allowed for the race). I accidenally did an ultra and got an official finishing time (for the marathon). For that I was glad.

Any way, I was angry at myself for making such a rookie mistake. I did not check where I was going and followed the wrong crowd. I did not keep track of the ‘warm up’ time. However, in the end, it was no harm no foul. I could have been DQ for late start or failed to finish within the allowed time.

I was angry/frustrated also because I always thought myself a nice guy but there were people telling me to go away during the race. They said I made them nervous – how was it my fault? I should not let a random stranger bothered me. I always thought everyone in the runner community are welcoming. I shouldn’t let one person ruin the whole. I was bothered at the time because it was totally not within my expectation.

There were others who encouraged me during the race, such as saying keep it up, good job, you can do it, keep going. Or they simply smiled at me. Not everyone are mean. However, I was quite shaken. This was one of emotional races and left a salty taste.

Mountain boys

Day 172

I will try to make this short. My race report usually goes on and on. The past weekend, I went to West Virginia and did the Morgantown Marathon. Boy, was it hard. To compare to previous marathons I ran, this was an ultra level marathon. I was knock out by mile 19. I walked then for three miles and finally picked up running again but was going at 15 min mile, very very slow jog. By mile 25, I walked to the finish. I finished at 5:10; the orginal target goal was 4:40-45. So I might have gone out a little too fast in the beginning.

The course could have been tougher but I saw at many hills, the race path was diverted to an easier path. In my mind, I was thinking, thank God I don’t have to go up that hill. Though the course was made easier, it didn’t mean there was no hill. The whole course was hilly. We are in West Virginia, where there is not flat ground! There were hills that go up for a mile long. Mile 25-26 was like that. A whole mile of uphill. They had to put it at the end! Some people mention mile 20 as well, but I was walking at that point and do not remember if it was a hard climb.

One thing I noticed was even walking was tough. You would think if you couldn’t run, you would walk to catch your breath, but while walking, my muscles felt like they would not want to take another step. At that time, if the snag wagon came by, I would have taken it and gave up on the race. I never thought walking was hard before, but in this race, walking was hard for me.

The race organization was great. It started on time. They managed it like a 10,000 people race even though there were only 2500-2600 people registered and only about 250-260 people ran the full marathons. There were lot of food, water station, and after party. They have a pace vehicle! I thought I was running in the olympic. I couldn’t catch up to it though. There were many road crossings but they had crossing guards through out. We ran on closed roads for most of the race. There was one point though, I think one or two cars broke through a roadblock at an empty stretch. I know some people did not like us running on the road.We were in West Virginia, and to my mind, it is the wild wild west (their state slogan is ‘wild and wonderful’, indeed).

crowd support: It was not like other big races, but some neighbors came out. I am thankful for the frozen grapes at one of the houses. Unfortunately, no one offered me moonshine on the course. I was kind of hopeful to get some moonshine in WV.

Final word. They say run to conquere Morgantown, but I think the mountain boys conquered me.

Reflection

Day 146 – full race report (Jack and Jill)

The marathon course by itself is one worth seeing. The course started from Hyak (aka Snoqualmie Pass, which is not near the Snoqualmie forest at all) and ended in North Bend. North Bend is about 45 minutes away from Seattle. The course is point to point, started from the top of the pass end in the valley, with a total about 2000 ft of elevation change, all of it was downhill with maybe 15 ft of uphill. The trail is on an old rail track, so any change in elevation is gradual. The path is wide, a double trail and even 3 or 4 people can run side by side. It is mostly gravel. The tunnel section is paved asphalt or stone.

The race is known for running through a tunnel of 2.5 miles in complete darkness, no light except from either end of the openings. Look can be deceiving. It seemed near but 2.5 miles is far away. We lost sense of perspective and even our sense of balance in darkness. Most people couldn’t maintain their pace. GPS watch was completely useless.

We wore head lamp. But I turned mine off, to kick it up a notch. There were enough light from other people’s lamps for me to see and made out the path, but other people couldn’t see me. It was kind of dangerous, like running with my eyes close (even if I had my light on). I dressed in complete black. Nothing reflected off me except for my shoes and my water bag. Others wouldn’t able to see me as I slipped in beteeen them and passed them by like a ghost.

The place was damp and cold. I felt the draft blowing through. Cold is relative but I had on two long sleeves, and a short sleeves underneath. There were reverberant too inside the tunnel. You see light reflected off people’s clothing. It was an unforgettable experience. I ran (walked) it alone the day before, so I was familiar with the feeling. It was more scary to be running alone. As a group, I felt like we were doing a prison break.

Besides the tunnel, the whole course is scenic. Mountains and valleys can be seen along the course. It was one breathtaking sight after another at every turn. Pine trees are everywhere, probably (Washington) Douglas fir and other pines. It was breathtaking. In the morning there was mist and fog surrounded the mountains and trees. That morning had a bit of drizzle. I didn’t mind. Not many people mind. The rain came to keep us cool.

One thing though, we had to park at North Bend, which was not a bad place at all. It was truely beautiful when I finished the race and looked back up the mountains surrounding it.

As for that morning, we arrived before the crack of dawn at a park, which I don’t remember the name. We were in no mood to enjoy the view since many of us didn’t sleep the night before. I had to wake up at 2AM to get to the bus pick up site for the 4:30 bus. There were 700 of us, so it took a while to transport us up the mountain. If anyone considers running this course, either have someone drop off at the starting line or take a bus up the pass. Most people took the bus. Buses were for runners only during the morning to the starting line. Later in the day, buses would take runners or family or friends members to/from between the finish line and the parking lot.

Everyone brought their breakfast with them. I got more. I prepared a 3 AM meal, a 6 AM meal, and an 11 AM meal. I figured food is my source of energy. I needed to eat. Unfortunately, I lost my 6AM breakfast on the way. Not sure where I lost it. I later didn’t even need my 11 AM food, as seen from all the left overs I carried back. I could have run faster without the extra weight.

We had a staggered start. I think there were at least 5 waves. I started in the last wave and it didn’t feel crowded at all. I passed close to 200 people. Only a few people passed me back. I was racing with the 4:50 (finishing time) pacer, she handled it with ease. She was running close to 4:40 and I was aiming for 4:30 or less. She of course left all her runners behind at that speed. She was a bit confused about her pace since the tunnel section has messed up everyone GPS watch and mine included. They had pace band but I don’t know how she couldn’t keep the pace. Maybe she is bad at math. Our distances and pace were all reported incorrectly. The 4:50 pacer thought she was 10 minutes behind and couldn’t figure out why, hence she was running with me. She finally passed me at mile 21. I saw her again at mile 24 where she stopped and I think she realized she was 20 minutes ahead of her pace by then. She waited and finished at 4:50, a few minutes after I crossed the finishing line.

The race was well organized. We had aid station with water and Gatorade every two miles. You know the race director has thought it out, that Gatorade was served in Gatorade cups and water was in the plain cups. Usually Gatorade was placed up front (first table) and water on the second table. The volunteers called out which one was which. There were stinger/gels at certain stations but I didn’t use any of those.

I hit the wall around mile 18-20. I slowed down to walk and run. I ate my peanut butter sandwich. I recovered a bit. I was too full to eat earlier but I should have eaten to avoid hitting the wall.

My energy returned. I might have able to finish at 4:30 but I felt I didn’t want to push myself. My original goal was just to get to mile 20 and walk the rest of the way to the finish. I know even if I walked the rest of the way, I would still have plenty of time. I reach mile 20 in 3:28. I could run a 10K when I was healthy under an hour. But I was kept on running and was expecting at some point my heart/body might make me stop and I would walk. However, that moment never came. I checked my pace, I was doing 13-14 min mile pace.

Since haven’t had much training run over last six weeks, my quad muscles started to hurt halfway in the race. Luckily they didn’t cramp up. Down hill usually make it worse since it keeps using the same muscle group without rest.

I couldn’t walk once after crossing the finish line. And not even talking about climbing up the stairs for the bus, which was impossible. I pulled myself up. I don’t know how other people did it, but I had such a hard time getting on and off the bus. For the next two days, squading down was a trial.

I didn’t stay too long after the race. The post race food was the usual stuff. There was no pizza but they offered some kind of pasta. I didn’t take any. I took a carton of muscle milk and a bottle of water and couple bananas.

They also have another exactly same race the next day. I didn’t go for the second day but I can imagine someone signing up a second day too. I can’t imagine the race director and volunteers coming out for another day. One day seemed to be all I could take. I appreciate all the volunteers to make it possible. Our first day is like a preview for them. I hope their second day would be just as good.

What else did I do? I cleaned up, unpacked my stuff, I ate like a pig and slept for the rest of the day.

The next day, I went out to Seattle and visited the farmer market. I saw the original Starbucks store.

For the rest of the trip, I drove up to Surrey and Richmond and Vancouver, BC. I ate to my heart content there. I am not much a travel blogger, so I won’t share too much. Vancouver is a nice and big city. I was amazed by its public transportation. It was unlike what we have in the DC area.

As now I am on my way home back to the east coast. I finally understood why Seattle airport is called Sea-Tac. I thought it was a cute and weird name. Sea-tac stands for Seattle-Tacoma. It is kind of boring after knowing the truth. That is a kind of secret I took from Seattle.

Race Completed

Day 145 – Jack and Jill Marathon

I did not have to use every minute available to complete this race and that in itself is a good news. I finished it an hour and half ahead of time!

It wasn’t my best time but I was very happy though. I felt like I broke a record. Indeed, it was a miracle that I could even run.

One lesson learned was that even though the race said I have 6.5 hours to complete, but I started on the last wave and that cut in to my time and in reality I only have about 6 hours to finish (race close at 1pm). So in the future, if I ever plan to use the full time allotted, I must factor in the wave start time.

As expected marathons unlike ultras did not provide food at the aid stations. I also didn’t eat most of the food I brought with me to the course. Here is a picture of the left overs. It looked like as if it was for the start.

Update: I checked the last finishing time for the race. They extended the race beyond 6:30 hours of the race clock time. (The last recorded time was 7 hrs chip time, so they were very generous). My worry of losing time at the wave start is not a concern for this race. Though for future races, the time it would take crossing the starting line should be part of the pacing calculation.

Just a little bit more

Day 144

It is only a few more hours before the race starts. About 9 hours away techically. But to me it is just a few hours since I plan to wake up at 2:30 to make it to the pick up location to get to the starting line.

Everything is set. I wish I could take a picture of the things I will be carrying. I am planning this race as if I am doing an ultra 50K race. I got my water pack and food. Real food. Snacks. Tons of snacks. I got coconut water. Strawberry-apple sauce. Gatorade. Rasins.

I got to sleep. I am excited. I am nervous. Much nervous about this race than when I did my first marathon. The reason is I don’t know if I could finish it or not. I felt I should be able, but who know if my body will throw a curve ball.

By the way, I had an all you can eat pasta dinner at a Chinese buffet restaurant.

Pre race

Day 143

It is two days before the race. I signed up for Jack and Jill downhill marathon back in who know when. It is my first far away (Seattle) marathon. I had to book a flight and hotel and car rental.

I have been eyeing this race since when I first heard maybe back in 2017. My friend did it and liked it a lot. Flying to the west coast costs lot of money and originally I was planning to doing only marathons in the east coast and eventually work my way to the west. However, my friend was going to run with me in this race and I was so excited, however she was injured during training and won’t be able to make it.

At the moment my health is not that great and that is an understatement. I really don’t know if I will be able to finish it. Last week, I could barely run a mile. I will try any way. Couple days ago, I was able to do 5 miles and that was the longest run so far. My body is recovering from the Lyme disease. I am one week in of taking antibiotic. I have two more weeks left.

I know now at least I can do 5 miles. If I can do 5, I probably can do 10. I did the math that as long as I could run 20 miles in four hours (or 4.5), I can finish. Will see. My plan is to run 2/3 of the time and walk 1/3. For the first 5 or 10 miles, I don’t have to walk. Then from 10 to 20 miles… I might have to start walk and run. Maybe every 10 min run couple with 2 min of walk. Then 20 – 26 mile , will likely all walk. I will need to bring a pen with me on the run to calc my target pace.

After all the money spent on this race, it is too late to back out. I just need to rest well today and tomorrow.

Roanoke

Day 109

It was probably my 8th marathon, but who is keeping count? My training was about the same compare to previous times except for lacking in long runs this time. Even though it was only couple days since the race, things are getting blurry. Statistics wise I didn’t do as well as in my previous marathons. I was much slower. It shows that without working on hill runs, I did poorly on hills. The whole race was about running up the Roanoke mountain and that is about 1000ft. The whole race has about 7000 ft in change of elevation and the topographical map shows about 600 ft at the most extreme portion. Everyone just walked up except for a few who were running for prizes.

I walked. They said we ran over and on top of three mountains. The first one, Roanoke was the hardest and longest. Mill mountain was in between and was really on our way down from Roanoke Mnt and I don’t really consider that a mountain. The third one wasn’t as high as Roanoke Mnt nor Mill Mnt but it was unexpected more difficult for me. I guess I lack the will to tackle it any more after running up the first two. I just walked along with everyone else. I did a walk run going up the Roanoke Mnt but when I got here, I couldn’t muster a run.

Running downhill was fun. It was pure joy. They say watch your knees. I had no problem the first long downhill, but second downhill, I couldn’t manage it any more. My run was like a walk. It was still better than flat! It think it was at mile 15-16 when I broke. It came early. I had a big breakfast and ate all the right thing the night before — spaghetti. Maybe my metabolism is way too high, at mile 16, my tank was empty. It was screaming – what spaghetti, where was the spaghetti you ate. It’s not there.

I don’t remember how I was able to recovery. The crowd support from the community was amazing. I love the volunteers, always. They were the sweetest people. At the food table, I had some gummies and fruits. I think the strawberries helped. I didn’t take some Gu (gels) they were handling out. I think some of the stuff I drank – they were offering scratch energy drink, which I never had before, kind of upset my stomach. I felt I drank too much water also. There was water station almost every mile apart and I drank at each of them until I felt i had too much water and about to release back out in the other direction. I don’t know how I was able to get to mile 20. It was a mile at a time.

I saw my mom at mile 22. At that time it was just plain tiredness. All the hills were behind me by now. There were little ones here and there. The tip to myself was don’t find any excuse to stop, if I stop, I wouldn’t able to bring myself to run again. I was feeling loopy. I was crying, yet no tear. My emotion was all over the place. There were only four more miles but they were the longest miles I ever did. The ‘wall’ was over. I got new burst of energy. The feeling was great – hence I was crying. I saw a flag and thought of ‘the Lord is my banner’ and I cried as I ran. I think at that time there were two more miles left.

Then there was one more mile. Everyone by then was gone at least to my mind. Those who still could run already passed me while I was feeling loopy. All those who were around my pace disappeared. I looked far ahead. They were gone. Somehow the people behind me weren’t catching up either. I passed the 4:45 pacer a few miles back. I was alone. I felt indeed it was the longest mile.

But you know what? They had to put one last hill right before the finish line. I don’t remember seeing the 26 mile marker, but I had a sense the end was near. I saw the hill, but the finish line was not in sight. I turned and said to the runner next to me, I was no longer alone then. I felt being crowded by two or three other runners. I said last hill. The people watching also echoed out last hill. I pressed on. The runners passed me.

I turned the corner. Saw the finishing chute ahead and the crowd. My vision grew dimmed. Only thing I saw was the finishing clock above the finishing line 4:43/4:44. I ran as I never ran before. My mom said she waited at the finishing line and didn’t see me at all because of couple other larger runners were in front of me blocking her view and suddenly I appeared, she said she couldn’t get her camera ready at all as I ran through the chute passing other runners.

My lung was screaming. My back cramped up. I did it. They put a finisher medal over my head. Then the rain started literally. I was just overjoyed. I forgot to stop my Garmin watch! Oh no have to rerun the course. Ha!

My exgirl friend first told me about marathon and Roanoke was her first. The things she told me about really matched up as I ran it. It took me three years to tackle this race. I know I shouldn’t think about my ex any more but I just couldn’t help it. It has been near three years working toward to this race. Every step I took there was like stepping on sacred ground. Weird feeling.

Having obtained it now after working so hard toward this, not cheap, but I didn’t value it. It was just another medal and another marathon. Some day, I will have run in all fifty states and have 50 medals. So this is just one in many for Virginia.

But I am happy at the same time.

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despis├Ęd straight:
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
        All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
        To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129

In our Sunday school class, we talked of what things we went after that in the end let us down, and I thought of running this race. Well sort of. It is done now. On to the next one.