Saturday, July 30, 2011

Return to the motherland...or "how to hurt yourself with what are, at first glance, really great ideas" Part II

Okay, it wasn't actually blizzarding in Steamboat - it was blizzarding on Rabbit Ears pass getting into Steamboat.  Steamboat looked much more pleasant.

It turns out that was only the beginning of the pleasantness.  In true motherland fashion, it was roughly 75 and sunny every day we were there.  We ran on beautiful trails, up mountains, around waterfalls, through unicorn nests, etc. for an entire week.  It really was an incredible week, as we were able to spend it with an assortment of our best friends from a variety of stages of our lives, but as gushing isn't funny, I'll leave that segment of the trip at that.  On the funny side, we were inspired by Josh and Becca, who are fancy and buy art when they go on vacation so they have something to commemorate the trip, and bought a moose carved out of a log by some guy with a chainsaw... because we're klassy like that.

pretend this is a moose.  and not holding a welcome sign.
yes, i'm too lazy to go upstairs and take a picture of the real moose.
and also too lazy to use capital letters.
On packet pickup day, we walked to the 'expo' venue and picked up our stuff.  We also met the Honey Stinger guy, who was to become our new best friend.  We ran into him approximately 14 times over the next 48 hours and will be working with him for the Umstead marathon next year. So if nothing else positive came from this whole trip, the marathon got a gel sponsor.  We also figured out that the bus pickup on race morning was about 3 blocks from our house and the race finish was about 1.5 blocks.  Talk about random dumb luck (okay - Steamboat's not that big, but seriously - 1.5 blocks??? That's some serious serendipity there.)  Once we had our packets, we scoped out the rest of the expo, which consisted of our Honey Stinger friend, some guy peddling some sort of oxygenated water (??), a new recovery drink, and a tent outside from a local running store.  The water guy warrants additional mention because was all sorts of happy to talk your ear off and had a table full of his fancy water, but I'll be darned if I saw him give away a single sample.  He seemed weirdly protective of his stash.  Or maybe didn't want to give the whole field an advantage???  If you listened to him, you would be convinced that you would pretty much sprout wings and fly to the finish of the race if you drank his miracle water, which, as far as I could tell, was filtered a million ways and then had oxygen bubbled through it.

So race day finally arrived and our house full of assorted friends began to ready ourselves for what looked on the published course profile as a run off a cliff.  This included a 300-mile bus ride to a lovely little outpost in southern Idaho, where some weirdo was maniacally peeing on a wagon wheel while holding a thermometer.
This actually isn't even the start - I have no idea why they
have this in my official race photo set
At about 7:15, we were instructed to put all our drop bags on a bus, which then cruelly drove off down the road, leaving us half naked in the cold morning air, waiting to initiate the destruction of our quads. (did I mention we were to be running off a cliff??)

As we made our way through the early miles of the race, I realized two things: 1) I was not in marathon shape and was relying on inborn talent that did not exist, and 2) the apparent cliff in the race profile had masked some not entirely insignificant uphills.  Regardless, I was making not entirely embarrassing progress through about mile 15 when the somewhat annoying 'something's not quite right' feeling in my left foot turned into what felt like a cherry bomb exploding in the vicinity of my second toe inside my shoe.  I stopped momentarily to determine if I had stepped funny and just fired off a weird nerve impulse or if I had done something dramatic, convinced myself it must have been the former, and loped off down the road, a little slower than before, but still making forward progress.

forward progress...sort of

When I reached the aid station at mile 17-ish, I stopped for some stinger chews and gatorade, and as I tried to start off again, it became abundantly clear that this was not going to be a possibility.  I literally could not run, and even walking was causing intense pain in the region of the toe that I was pretty sure at this point had actually exploded in my shoe.  So there I sat, 100 yards from the aid station, wondering if I was actually going to have to settle for my very first DNF.  The very strong argument against such a thing was "You CAN'T DNF.  YOU brought all these people here.  How much of a tool would you be if you didn't finish???"  The possibility was just too much to bear.

my new slower pace allowed me to
fully enjoy the scenery
So I sat down by the side of the road and took off my left shoe to assess the situation more fully.  I found that my toe was already turning a different color and my foot was a different size and shape than it was when I started (the downside).  The upside, however, was that it didn't hurt nearly as much now that my evil shoe was out of the picture.  So there I was on the side of the road, performing some quick calculations to determine whether I had time to walk the last 9 miles in before the cutoff.  After determining that I did if I kept myself under ~18 min miles, I headed onward, barefoot, aiming to reassess at the next aid station (which was 2.5 miles down the road).  I met a number of very nice individuals this way, including a bike monitor who checked up on me periodically for the next 4 miles and a police officer who drove by twice, trying to convince me I should just take a ride back to the finish.

you can tell I'm excited because you can see
my belly button
Unfortunately, something about the way I walk and the status of the pavement caused me to develop ~2 inch blisters on the backs of both heels after about two miles, and I was forced to put my shoes back on.  Luckily, the fresh air had done my toe some good, and it was content to hang out inside the shoe as long as I didn't try to run anymore.  So that's how I finished out the race.  Clipping off 15-minute miles, taking in the scenery (which, to be fair, was quite lovely, and I probably would not have enjoyed as much had I been attempting to race back into town).  Luckily, my friends fared much better, with Ronnie running a solid 3:06, Jim close behind at 3:11, Becca taking 2nd female overall, and everyone else turning in reasonable performances.  Except maybe Josh, who also apparently had some special moments of his own out on the course, but now has empirical evidence that you do need to train for more than 7 days if you want to run a good marathon.

So all in all, toe-sposion aside, I would call it a successful trip - we learned some things, we had some good times, and I can now cross Colorado off my states list if I ever decide to get into that sort of thing.

...for those who are interested, we never did figure out exactly what was up with my toe (after ruling out a clear break and determining the course of treatment would be pretty much the same regardless, we decided to forego additional imaging), but I got to spend 2 weeks in a super sexy surgical shoe, and avoided horsefly season at Umstead almost entirely with the minor caveat that I then got to spend most of July learning how to run again.  Oh.  And I am taking this as a sign that my body had totally rejected roads as a running option.  No big loss there.
I'm pretty sure this guy beat me


Dave said...

The bear with the welcome sign is made by a somewhat eccentric dude in Nederland! His water is infused with much more than oxygen.

Awesome post! Hope things are amazing Karen.

TimTodd said...

That's too bad about your toe. Did you consider just hopping on your one good foot all the way to the finish? I'm pretty sure you could do it.

Karen said...

@Dave - now is that eccentric for Nederland or eccentric in general? Those are two very different things, you know...

@TimTodd - there is NO way I am coordinated enough to hop that far - you've seen me play kickball!!