It was an early wake-up Saturday morning to get to Douthat State park (apparently pronounced “doubt that” not “do that” as I had thought) for Brian to pick up his number before the 6:30 a.m. 40 miler race briefing and 7 a.m. start.
I still had no idea what I was going to do. I was registered for the 1/2 marathon which started at 10:00. I was thinking that maybe I’d just run around the park and do some exploring after Brian started his race and before mine started.
When Brian picked up his number, I went with him and asked (hypothetically) whether it would be possible to switch from the 1/2 to the full marathon. The volunteer didn’t know, so she called the race director over. When he heard that I had originally registered for the 40 miler, he told the volunteer to just switch me, no charge. He was so nice about it and said he just wants everyone to run and have fun. Wow! I was surprised and grateful. I hadn’t been expecting that.
The course is a 13.4 mile loop run once for the 1/2, twice for the full and three times for the ultra.
Elevation profile for each loop:
I saw Brian off on his first lap and walked up to see the lake.
It was a beautiful.
I love watching the fog lifting from the water in the morning. It always makes me think of Maine.
After that, I mostly just tried not to freeze. The temperature was in the sixties, but for some reason I was shivering. I was also worrying about rolling my ankle again and questioning my decision to switch to the full marathon.
Although, the race director was unusually easygoing. At the race briefing for the 40 miler, he had said that if anyone wanted to stop early for whatever reason that was fine. Usually, stopping early results in a DNF even if you complete the distance of a shorter race, but he said if you ran one lap, you’d get credit for finishing the 1/2 and if you ran two laps you’d get credit for running the marathon. Very generous! I also noticed (too late to take advantage myself) that he allowed people who were running shorter distances to start with the runners running longer distances. I could have started with the 40 milers instead of standing around freezing for an hour and a half.
He had also said at the race briefing that the dry weather had made the course more technical than usual. He warned us of loose rocks and told us to be especially careful on the downhill after the big climb. This was definitely not what I wanted to hear.
Eventually it was time for the marathoners to start.
I don’t know if it was the dry weather or just that I was nervous to begin with, but the technicality of the course surprised me. It was way more technical than I remembered.
I started out close to the back. There were probably less than a handful of people behind me. My plan was to treat this as a long training run. I wanted to take it very easy. Especially the first lap. I stayed behind a group of people who were walking slower than my normal walking pace for more than a mile, before finally deciding to pass them. Easy is one thing, but there was no reason to be going slower than I would on a training run. I knew they’d all come flying by me as soon as we started going downhill anyway.
As we neared the top, the trail cut along the side of the mountain. The path was narrow and crumbling off on one side. It didn’t make for easy running, but the views from this section were spectacular. I was happy it was such a nice day. Last year it was foggy and I hadn’t seen a thing.
The first aid station was also in a beautiful spot!
There was only water at this aid station and I had started with plenty of Nuun in my hydration pack, so I just snapped a picture, thanked the volunteers and was on my way.
Within a mile of the downhill, everyone who I had passed on the way up passed me back. After about two miles of downhill an older gentleman came by and asked if I was okay. Ha! I told him I was fine I just suck at downhills. He slowed his pace to chat. We commiserated about injuries for a while, but he eventually pulled ahead.
My energy was great at this point. I was just mentally exhausted from worrying about my ankle and concentrating on each and every foot placement.
I was relieved to see the second aid station. I added some water to my hydration pack and used my collapsible cup to get some Heed, grabbed a couple of cookies and headed out.
There was a short section of road and I was a little sad to waste the first “easy” section of running (9 miles in…) by walking. But nonetheless, I walked while I drank my Heed and ate my cookies. Even though we were back on trails, they were less steep and rocky. I was able to mostly run and I caught back up to the man I’d talked to earlier at the next aid station. I grabbed two more cookies and some more Heed in my cup and headed out. Walking again, while I ate and drank.
I was right with that same guy, so we ran together and talked some more. He asked if I was going to go for the second lap. He had had a couple of injuries this year and was only doing one lap. When we’d talked earlier I had told him I may only do one lap, too. And I still wasn’t sure. I had been feeling my hip for the entire loop and at one point, I had to stop and walk on a climb because I had a sharp pain in my hip flexor. Those last two miles were spent thinking about whether I would keep going or not. The closer I got to the finish, the more I wanted to keep going. I decided that I would at least start out on the second loop. I could turn around if I needed to.
I finished my first lap in 3:04. My time for the 1/2 marathon the year before was 2:40. So quite a bit slower this year, but I still had another lap to go this time.
I grabbed a Hammer gel from my drop bag (the first aid station with food was nine miles away on the other side of the mountain), filled my hydration pack about halfway with water and ate a piece of banana before I headed out.
It was getting hot. The climb wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t terrible either. I passed a handful of people, which was a bit of a relief because I hadn’t seen any other marathon runners since the long downhill on the first loop. It was good to know I wasn’t miles behind everyone. A couple of the 40 milers lapped me on the climb.
I had nearly finished my water again, so I filled up at the first aid station. I was a little less stressed about the downhill and thought I was moving quicker on this section than I had on the first lap (I later noticed that my Garmin said otherwise, though.) My hip was definitely feeling better than it had at the end of the first lap. I was actually wondering if I might be able to run negative splits.
At the second aid station I got a cup of Heed and two more cookies. I drank the Heed and ate one cookie. Heed is pretty sugary though. And I had eaten my gel on the climb. I had no desire for that second cookie. Angry with myself for being wasteful, I put the cookie into a pocket on my hydration pack.
It was starting to require concentrated effort to make myself run. The last 4.5 miles are completely runnable, but I didn’t feel like running anymore. I made myself keep going though. I was within sight of a man and woman in front of me and for a while the thought of catching them pulled me along. They got ahead of me at the last aid station though and I never saw them again.
I must have looked pretty unhappy the first time I came through because the race director said I looked much happier this time. That’s because I wasn’t worried about finishing anymore! After the first lap I wasn’t at all confident that I could make it another lap, but now I had done it!
I was elated that I was able to run the marathon and that I managed to not roll my ankle again.
Brian was there to greet me. After a stressful week of travelling for work he was exhausted and had decided to do the marathon too, instead of the 40 miler.
I didn’t come anywhere close to running negative splits. My second lap was 20 minutes slower than my first which surprised me. But I slowed down much less than most people. I ranked 30th on my first lap and 15th on my second. Not too shabby.
I was still pretty close to the back of the pack, though. I placed 23rd out of 36 finishers.
I don’t care at all. I’m just thrilled I was able to do it.