ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
[personal profile] ilanarama
Cliff notes version: 3:35:57, a 6-minute PR and 10/256 in my age group, on a seriously gravity-aided course, on a stupidly hot day, wearing a tiara, on pretty much no sleep and the least amount of fuel ever, feeling good (for values of good that are possible while you're running 26.2 FREAKING MILES) the entire time.

I had developed peroneal tendinitis this spring and ended up running minimally until Boston, at which point I stopped running entirely for 8 weeks and got PT, cross-training with mountain biking and walking. I was able to start easy run/walk intervals in mid-June, and ran a continuous 5 miles for the first time in the last week of June. This made for a short training period before St. George, and I was only able to get up to an average of 40mpw and a max week of 50m before a 2-week taper. But a 5K and a 10K in August reassured me that a goal of 3:35-3:39 was reasonable.

I wasn't completely sure I was going to run until last Wednesday, though, as I caught a bad cold on the previous Wednesday, 10 days before the marathon. "Extreme Taper" has worked well for me before, though, so even though the only thing that ran all week was my nose, I felt ready to rumble by the time I had to commit to the long drive out to St. George, which I'd be doing solo since my husband decided not to come. I left Thursday afternoon in my Sportsmobile (a 4WD camper van) and drove a little past the Hoover Dam, where I camped off a dirt road in the Escalante National Monument. The next morning I continued, taking a break to stretch my legs with a short hike around Pipe Springs National Monument, arriving in St. George early afternoon. By the way, the drive went from Colorado through a short section of New Mexico, into Arizona, then Utah, then into Arizona again, and finally back into Utah. And that's not counting the three reservations (Mountain Ute, Navajo, and Paiute) I crossed, too!

The expo was mostly fun, although I made the mistake of having my bodyfat electronically tested. (Just before a marathon is not the best time to know that you are carrying 27 pounds of fat.) I went to the First Timer's course intro presentation, which was great fun. The best lines were: "You might have heard about the 'wall' at mile 20. You'll be happy to know we moved it to mile 27, so you won't hit it until after you finish," and "At this point you'll start seeing spectators. They are going to lie to you. They will tell you that you're looking good, and that you're almost there. Trust me: neither is true." The pasta dinner was reasonably tasty, but the company was the best part - it was great to see HikerGirl, Runner in Paradise, and BarbBQ again - friends from the RWOL forum I'd met in person in Boston - and meet Barb's husband, and CharliePro and his wife.

I spent the night in an RV park in town, and it was pretty miserable. I don't have A/C in the van, and it was ridiculously hot, even in the pop-top with all the windows open. There was a football game nearby, and I could hear the announcer talking, and the crowds cheering, on top of the traffic noise; I stuck earplugs in and got a couple hours of sleep, but when I woke around midnight I took them out so I wouldn't oversleep my alarm, which was set for the insane hour of 3:55 am. It didn't matter - I was awake for a couple of hours, slept maybe one more, and then lay in bed for a while before deciding I might as well get up. I made a cup of coffee in my travel mug and took two slices of raisin bread with me, and ate breakfast on the bus to the starting line.

HG, RiP, Barb, Charlie and I all hung out together at the start, which was pitch dark, lit only by fires from fire-pits and a couple of floodlights. It was in the lower 50s, chilly enough that I wrapped a mylar blanket around my legs, but not so cold that I felt uncomfortable with no gloves or hat, just a light jacket, which I put in my drop bag with 15 minutes to go before the 6:45 start. In fact, it felt like a nice temperature to run a marathon. Too bad the forecast was for 73 degrees and climbing by 9 am, at which point I'd be only a little more than halfway.

Barb and I decided to start next to the 3:40 pacer, who was conveniently carrying balloons so I could keep an eye on him. We were chatting when the woman in front of me turned around and said, "Are you Ilana?" It was Redheadruns (another RWOL person), whom I'd exchanged email with - she was going for about the same time as me. Barb had originally planned on also going for around 3:35 but had not been training well over the last month, and had warned me the night before that she was just going to take it easy. But as soon as the starting gun fired and we started shuffling toward the line, I lost them both in the huge press of bodies.

I had a pacing spreadsheet from the St. George chat forum that I used to sketch out a basic plan aiming at 3:37: I'd run the first 7 downhill miles conservatively at 8:10-8:20 pace, take the uphills from 8-12 by feel, and then let it rip on the downhill to the end. I didn't have a pace band; instead I just memorized a few markers - that I wanted to be at mile 13 around 1:49, and at 20 around 2:46. I turned off the autolap and hit the lap button manually, but I was late for several markers so my split times are kind of wonky - I've guessed at my actual splits using the Garmin/Sporttracks calculated paces, since oddly my old 301 didn't do as badly as it usually does.

I started out just trying to keep an eye on Balloon Guy, figuring that as long as I stayed behind the 3:40 pacer I was not going out too fast.

1- 8:25
2- 8:17 I'm starting to feel too warm already, and the sun's not even up.
3- 8:03 big downhill, seems fast, but my HR is way low.
4- 8:06 big downhill, and I decide to pass Balloon Guy.
5- 8:03

At this point I make a small tactical mistake. A woman near me makes some comment about the scenery, and I respond and we start chatting. The problem is that I figure that talking means I'm running a nice, easy pace, but in reality I think running with someone makes me run faster. My HR is actually at LR level rather than MP level, so I don't worry too much. I also got so caught up in our conversation that I forget about the shot blocks at mile 7, which I had carefully memorized to make sure I could get adequate fuel. Oops.

6 - 7:52
7 - 7:54

We hit Veyo hill and the other woman falls behind. I'm passing a lot of people here, and some are even walking. It's definitely a steep hill, about 250 feet in a mile between about 7.25 and 8.25, but it's no worse than what I run at home, and it's about 2000 feet of elevation lower. I admire the cone of the extinct volcano to take my mind off the ascent. Then it rolls generally uphill to mile 11, where it flattens out for the next mile before beginning the long descent. Somewhere in here I pass Craig, who has a sign on his back declaring it his 200th marathon. I congratulate him as I go by.

Somewhere in here I grab a few of the shot blocks I have stashed in my pocket. I start worrying about hyponatremia due to the increasing heat; I have some salt caps in my pocket, too, but when I pull them out they spill all over the road. To make up for this, at the next aid station I take Gatorade, which I usually avoid, as well as water, which I take at every aid station.

8 - 9:08 big uphill
9 - 8:38
10 - 8:29
11 - 8:33 I forget about the shot blocks here, too.
12 - 8:18

Now the course goes downhill fast. So do I - fortunately I mean literally, not figuratively. Unfortunately, many other runners are figuratively going downhill, stumbling and walking and looking pale. It's getting quite hot. I eat a couple more of the shot blocks I have in my pocket. I see a club aid station with food and I randomly grab something which turns out to be a small square of peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I eat it in small bites and it, surprisingly, hits the spot.

Somewhere in here I pass Redheadruns, who gives me a cheery wave and promises she'll catch me later, and generally doesn't look like she's about to throw up (which she apparently did shortly thereafter). I also passed HikerGirl, who had been aiming at a 3:20 finish but was miserably sick to her stomach the whole way. But at least they were moving, unlike the guy sitting in the middle of the road looking like he was ready to knife the first person who dared suggest he stand up.

13 - 8:05 at 1:47:53, about a minute ahead of my spreadsheet
14 - 8:07
15 - 7:51 big downhill on a beautiful curve with red rocks rising up beyond
16 - 7:46 big downhill
17 - 8:00
18 - 8:05

Then - there is an uphill. It's a pathetic excuse for an uphill, about 40 feet in half a mile, but suddenly I was pretty much the only person actually running as everyone around me slowed to a walk. As I am a bad person who takes pleasure in the misfortune of others (at least during a race) this gave me a lot of energy and I just (relatively) zoomed on by, and pretty soon the road turned back downhill.

In case you have forgotten, it is still really really really hot. I get two cups of water at each aid station, drink most of it, and dump the last bit on my head. There are misters set up here and there for people to run through. At one point I am on the wrong side of the road and briefly debate with myself whether it's worth it to zigzag across the road just to run through the cool mist. Finally, I go for it. (It was totally worth it.)

19 - 8:28 pathetic uphill
20 - 8:09 for a total time of 2:44:42, about a minute and a half ahead of plan
21 - 7:59 big downhill
22 - 8:22
23 - 8:18 big downhill

Around this point is where we started picking up spectators. There had been a few here and there, but now there are bunches of them lining the course. When I'd gone to the thrift store to get a throwaway jacket (which I ended up keeping), I'd impulsively bought a silvery plastic tiara with sparkly pink "gemstones" to wear, just for fun, during the race. It turned out to be the best 25 cents I've ever spent. From here to the finish line, I hear a constant chorus of, "Go, princess!" "Keep it up, princess!" "I love your crown!" and it puts the biggest grin on my face. I even manage to smile graciously and wave at my loyal subjects, and high-five the kids. I am totally wearing this tiara at all my races now.

I'm starting to feel the fatigue now, and my HR is climbing alarmingly to numbers I usually only see in 5K and 10K races (88-92%WHR). I figure it's the heat, which is probably somewhere around 150 degrees by now. Maybe 200. I try to strike a balance between keeping up my speed and not passing out short of the finish line, which would be bad. Several ambulances have already gone by. There's some shade as we get into town, which helps. And then there's the sign: "Look alive! Mortuary 3 blocks ahead" which cracks me up entirely. Fortunately, I'm coordinated enough to giggle and run at the same time. I'm sure the spectators thought I was insane.

24 - 8:12
25 - 8:14
26 - 8:23
.2 - 8:35 pace yeah, no kick at all, trying not to pass out.

Total time 3:35:57, 10/256 F45-49, 192/2457 women, 970/5697 overall. Awards went 8 deep, but 8th in my AG was almost 10 minutes faster than me, so I wasn't close by a long shot. I am sure that on a less-incredibly-downhill course I would have been slower, but I am also sure that on a cooler day I would have been faster, so I suspect the latter mostly (although not entirely) canceled out the former.

They had a mister set up directly after the finish line, and I shoved some guys out of the way so I could stand under it. (Just kidding.) As I cooled down I realized I was starving. I had eaten only 2/3 of a pack of shot blocks (that is, 4 of them), a tiny PBJ square, and two cups of Gatoraid during the race, a new low in fueling; I guess the heat suppressed my usual ravenous hunger. Fortunately, there were kids with big boxes of ice cream treats just past the people handing out medals, and I had a rocket popsicle and an ice cream sandwich and most of a drumstick cone. (Just thinking about all the ice cream I scarfed in the first 15 minutes after finishing makes me kind of queasy in retrospect.)

I somehow found my friends and we all dissected our races - some of us had run new PRs, others had had tough races. Barb and her husband gave me a lift back to the RV park, where I showered and took a dip in the pool, which was a sad substitute for an ice bath but I figured that relative to the air temperature, which was no doubt getting close to 300 degrees by now, it was pretty much the same thing. I met up with the group for burgers and beers at 3 pm, then drove a couple of hours toward home, camping in the Kaibab National Forest near the north rim of the Grand Canyon - a spot I chose deliberately for the altitude and therefore the cool temperature. The funny thing is, I could barely pop the top on my camper because in order to do so I had to push up with my legs, and man, I had nothing left there. But wow, did I sleep well that night.

The next morning I drove the rest of the way back home. Thank heaven for cruise control, is all I can say. Today I'm feeling about like I did yesterday; that is, everything hurts, but it's all DOMS hurt, not injury hurt. I feel good about my race, and hopeful that in the spring (haven't picked a race yet) I'll break 3:30.

The official photos are up here. Yep, I'm the woman with a manic grin and a sparkly tiara.

ETA: Barb's husband Pete took pictures at the finish line and after the race, including several of me.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-04 11:44 pm (UTC)
purna: (Louise Brooks)
From: [personal profile] purna
Awesome result! I love that you rocked the race in a plastic tiara (with amazing heat-defying properties no less). You're going to crush that 3:30 come spring.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 01:12 am (UTC)
purna: (Louise Brooks)
From: [personal profile] purna
Yep, sure am! I dunno about sub-3:35. I'll be shooting for under 3:40, so a 3:35 would make me very happy. NO summers suck for anything speed-related (not a lot of races and it's too miserable for the results to mean much anyway), so I feel like a slowpoke and pacing blind.

We finally got some nice weather on Saturday in time for my last 12-miler. It was around 70 when I started, and I was kind of cold. Sad, I know. But I'm looking forward to running in weather that doesn't replicate the surface of the sun. My race plan is to go mostly by feel, which may be a recipe for a blowup disaster, hah. I've got the BQ already, so I'm treating this one as lagniappe. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-11 11:43 pm (UTC)
purna: (Magritte)
From: [personal profile] purna
Heh, busted. :D

Seriously though, whoever said that there are no surprise PRs has never marathon trained though a NO summer. I couldn't even hit my Eugene paces this cycle, much less pull out anything faster. But it's that way ever summer, and you know you're improving. You just don't know how much.

I'm sure it helped with the heat tolerance. I've never seen so much carnage, whilst I was feeling really hot, but not debilitated. It was so weird seeing all the walking dead in the last half. At first, I felt a little guilty about passing them, and then there were so many of them that I got annoyed with weaving around them all, and then I felt guilty for being annoyed. Very strange.

As for race strategy, the seat of the pants approach seemed to work this time. I never race with my Garmin because it stresses me out. I did have a pace band, but I wasn't paying much attention to it. Good thing, too, since I managed to miss half the mile markers. And when I did see one, I kept calculating that I was on a 3:35 finish, doh. Not sure how I was so far off. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but the fact that I already had the BQ let me relax and just enjoy the race. I was so happy at the end.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-04 11:52 pm (UTC)
eisoj5: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eisoj5
Woo!! You go, princess :D Love the tiara, and congrats!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 01:16 am (UTC)
sophinisba: Frodo smiling (frodo happy by proverb)
From: [personal profile] sophinisba
Awesome, congratulations! And thanks for the detailed, report, it was so much fun to read.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 01:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Great report for a great race!

I was a bit worried when you caught your cold, but I was glad to hear you were ready to go.

I almost envy your trip out and back as much as the great race. :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 04:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Just got a chance to look through the photos.

You are always good for the upbeat shots!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 02:24 am (UTC)
malnpudl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] malnpudl
Woohoo! You are totally the prettiest and sparkliest and the awesomest! \o/

You really do look joyous in those pics. :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 03:09 am (UTC)
melusina: (Running onefootinfrontoftheother)
From: [personal profile] melusina
Wow! The tiara is fantastic and you look happy and determined in all the pics. I really enjoyed your write-up - it made me want to run a marathon!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 03:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Love the tiara! (And I have become so addicted to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while biking it's not funny, although shot bloks fit in the pocket better... *g*)

Awesome job on the PR and the kicking butt up hills!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 06:26 am (UTC)
delurker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] delurker
You've got some great photos there! Sounds like you had a fun day.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 08:52 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whatistigerbalm
The pictures are too small for me to confirm, but please god tell me you ran with the tiara.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 09:00 am (UTC)
the_antichris: Bob with his dog (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_antichris
Awesome! The tiara was brilliance.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 10:24 am (UTC)
zulu: (sga - teyla/sora)
From: [personal profile] zulu
Awesome! That is a shiny shiny tiara. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 04:10 pm (UTC)
gnomad: Orange stick figures doing triathlon (Triathlon)
From: [personal profile] gnomad
Tiara! Congrats on the PR and an awesome race despite the 500 degree heat. ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-05 06:09 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Runner-in-spe)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Fun and interesting and exhilarating read as always - you are so awesome for racing in a tiara :o) !!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-14 07:28 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Default)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I don't doubt it!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-07 12:08 am (UTC)
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
From: [personal profile] cyphomandra
Go you!! I am almost as impressed by the tiara as I am by your time :)


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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