A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 1; 31st
812.2 miles run
550.2 miles to go
Race: Frank Maier Marathon
Place: Juneau, AK
Miles from home: 2599
Course Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Course Enjoyability: 4 out of 10 (much higher if not for the conditions)
Weather: High 40s –low 50s; foggy, windy, rainy
Finisher’s Medal: 8 out of 10 (A Native Alaskan Raven-head)
Donations To Date: ~17k
Airline Industry: -52 out of 10.
If you have read some of my emails prior to this posting you will know I was bumped from my flight the Thursday night before the race (held on Saturday) and moved to Friday morning. Not awful and I did allow myself some extra time in case something of this nature happened but this was just another in a long line of horrid dealings with the air industry I have had this year.
Someone will have to explain to me someday the logistics of how a plane can be oversold. I know why. (The airlines have to fill seats and they do not ever want an empty seat on a flight as it costs them money.) But how? Is there any other business in the world where this is feasible, let alone legal? I cannot sell my car to Steve on Thursday and hope that he does not pick it up when he wants it because I sold it to Sally the next day. And when Steve does show up, I assuredly cannot tell him that I will get him a car the next day. Oh what, Steve? You needed to have that car this very afternoon because this was the day you had to go in to have your brain, liver, kidney, spinal column transplant, which is why you bought it three months ago? I am sorry about that but there is nothing I can do. You did not “check-in” to pick up the object you already paid for. So, here is a voucher for some overpriced crappy food at my house. Thank you for your patience. I apologize for the delay.
Juneau: I have a feeling it is gorgeous. Lush and green, mountains nestled right up next to rivers. Thin rivulets of waterfalls cascading down the side of the hills like pieces of string on a green felt background. Tops of hill and mountains that touch the sky. I mean, I think they touch the sky. There is a sky right? A place does not get lush and green without its fair share of rainfall. Unfortunately, its fair share came this weekend in buckets. A steady drizzle punctuated by some random downpours populated the Juneau area this weekend. But I will say this: the volunteers and workers of the marathon were completely undeterred and some of the friendliest people I have met. Serious kudos go to people who stood out in rain slicker for hours directing traffic and handing out water and food.
One thing is for sure about Juneau; it is expensive. Do not ask me about the hotel prices or the how much a Subway meatball sub meal deal costs because they are more than you would expect (although it was a drive-thru Subway which I had never seen before. Plus the McDonald’s had dueling lanes of drive-thru which were then funneled back into one lane. Did not get that at all. But it was interesting). Luckily for me, I had a friend who lives in Juneau (and his fiancé and daughter were also wonderful hosts) so the uber-pricey plane ticket was the most I paid this weekend. (Thanks Van Alen family!) Onto the race!
We were warned that the course (a 13.1 out and back course on highway) was going to have rolling hills. The website even gave excellent descriptions of the total ascent and descent of each major hill. What we were not expecting (or rather hoping against) was chilly temps, rain and fog. (What is it with fog? I have run in fog the past 4 weeks, regardless of the fact I have gone to almost ever corner of North America except Florida!) As most of the nation swelters in a heat wave and I was glad to have a break from DC’s heat and oppressive humidity (How oppressive was it? Thank you for asking. It was soooooo oppressive it made the South’s police force in the anti-segregation days look downright sissy. Thank you. I will be here all week. Don’t forget to try the veal.) I did not want it to be TOO cold. And the beginning of the race was actually quite nice. Chilly standing at the starting line (where a large contingency of Marathon Maniacs, a group I have just joined recently, had gathered) we were quickly warmed as the countdown to the start had us take off into the fog and loosened our muscles.
From the beginning, I could see there was going to be about 3 or 4 people vying for 2nd and 3rd place (1st was all but assured to Marathon Maniac Chuck Engle who quickly left us in the dust). The question was: who was going to round out the next two spots? It would be a battle most of the day.
The rain came steadily as we traversed the first few miles. But the temperature stayed pretty even. I actually felt good. I had removed my bib number from my shirt to my shorts pre-race as I knew I was probably going to have to wring out my shirt a few times before the day was done. Running strong with chuck fading away, two other gentlemen passed me. One said he was using this as a training run and would probably take the first 8 miles at a 7:15 pace and then taper off. Runners are wonderful people. But in races they lie. Lie like their lives depended on it. If a runner tells you he is going to run slow, he is NOT going to run slow. Ask a runner his time after a race and his answer will start never with a number but with “Well…” I am guilty of it too. This is not finger pointing. Just facts. I give them faster than Joe Friday can ask for them. (Google that, youngsters.) This guy was no different. As I averaged 7:15s for more than 8 miles, he steadily disappeared into the foggy distance. Saving yourself for Chicago, my untanned butt.
Getting closer to the turnaround point, I figured I would be seeing Chuck soon. At his pace in marathons we have run together this year, I have noticed he usually beats me by about 4 miles. (Ego-busting, huh?) Ergo, I expected to see him at mile 12 for me (14 or him) on the way back. (Pretty simple math, right?) However, 12 came and went and it was just a little down the road that I finally saw him in the distance coming at me. I knew there was a hill at 13 but the fact he was where he was now told me it was not going to be a fun hill. I was right. I slapped him a low-five and started up the hill.
Cresting this large but not unmanageable hill (especially since it was at mile 13 not 22; hear that race directors?!) I found that I had been tracked down by another runner. Some whippersnapper had been reeling me in for, what had to be miles, and as we grabbed our drinks from the aid station, he passed me by. Now, I was in either 4th or 5th place. Could not really tell at this juncture which it was but I was sure it was the latter. But knowing I felt pretty good here (you always do at 13; it is a horrible gauge of your energy level in the next few miles, FYI) and this was the youngster’s first marathon (we chatted) I felt maybe he would falter and I would pass him.
Coming down the big hill, I was now able to more fully appreciate the beauty that had opened up on our left. I can only wish that the bay/river/lake that exploded out of the trees in a clearing had been less covered in fog. The scene was quite breat-taking nonetheless and I forgave the race director for calling it “scenic”. Taking this in, I also noticed the rain had stopped. Excellent! Especially since the temperature in this little area was easily 5 degrees cooler than everywhere else on the course. It was downright chilly. Looking ahead and paying attention to the race again, I noticed Lying Runner (said with no ill feeling) was no where to be seen (even though I had seen him coming down the big hill) but Young Gun was still in my sights. I was still almost certain there was another guy in front of us and that he was beginning to fade. So, I decided to stay just a little behind Young Gun and see what developed in the next few miles.
Rain developed, that is what. Hard. The light drizzle turning into nothing had turned back into a steady, relentless rain. I knew I could handle this. A lull in my energy from miles 15-18 had disappeared and I found myself running with new fervor. I was actually on a Fiddy2 PR pace and feeling very good. I had closed the gap on YG somewhat and was basically wondering where Fading Guy had gotten to, given our picked-up pace. It is the little things like this that helped. For example, I was trying to recall the last time a flight was n0t screwed up this year. (N.B. I could not do it.)
Then wind developed. Always present during the course, it had not been a huge problem until almost exactly mile 20. As running t-shirts will say, a marathon is a 10k race with a 20 mile warm-up. However, much to my chagrin, this 10k race was going to be run directly into a stand-you-up-straight headwind. Throw in the fact that I was now catching early-starter marathoners, half-marathoners were coming at me and other people who I can only guess were running some event I did not know of, and the shoulder of the road was getting quite crowded. Trying to say “goodjob” to as many people as I could as I plodded along (seriously, the first mile into the wind was a downhill mostly that ended up being slower than the uphill without wind that preceded it) was tiring enough, but I could also see one rather exuberant woman ahead of me who was undoubtedly a beacon of light to other runners as she flashed them (she had tights on under her skirt) and cheered and kicked. However, for Grumpy Wet Dane she was simply an obstacle with unpredictable flailings of arms and legs. Sure enough, as I approached her to pass, she came to a dead stop, mooned some on-comers and almost got pancaked by me. I think I said a much bluer version of “Please make yourself more aware of your surroundings, gentle miss” and pressed on.
Mile 24 loomed. Only 2 more to go. I started to kick as best I could because I was pretty sure it was flat the rest of the way. (It is rather amazing that a road you ran on just 3 hours ago can be come a blank canvass in your mind once you turn around to traverse it again). Unfortunately, one last small hill waited at mile 25. As I passed the mile marker, a little blue rocket passed me. “Whatinthe…” is what I think I said until I realized that the first half-marathoner was sprinting by like it was mile two. (I am not kidding; on this course, on this day he ran a 1:12. Hot pot of coffee!) With the end near I kicked it in all I could, went around a corner and prepared to be done. Much to my dismay, the start line was not the finish line but rather the 26 mile mark (which makes me wonder how the first half was 13.1 miles, but my math skills are not that great) and we still had .2 to go.
A sub goal for this year for me was to knock out times between 3 and 3:30. I have not run a 3:17. Looking at my watch, I saw I easily could slow down a touch and run a 3:17. But, I did not want to do so. Kicking it into high gear, I finished in approximately 3:16:50; my 5th, 3:16 of the year. (Dane: 3:16 - For God so loved comic relief and pratfalls that he gave the word Dane).
Herein is where the surprise lies. Unbeknownst to me, one of the guys finishing in front of me was a Master’s runner. Therefore, his place would not count in the overall standings. The Fading Guy? Disappeared. So after a quick shower, a hamburger at the awards ceremony and hopes to get an age-group award, I found out I had finished 3rd! My second “placing” in 14 days. I was pretty happy. Still have no idea what happened to Fading Guy but I am almost assured I saw him at the finish in clean, dry clothes.
So there you have it; the Marathon Maniacs got a Gold/Bronze showing and I get to start preparing for the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, WI next weekend which promises to be a good time. You know, as soon as I get that pesky work thing out of the way.
Please donate at www.fiddy2.org to benefit L’Arche Mobile.