Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Tucson Marathon and an almost DNF.

I made it to the aid/water station just past mile 20 and asked the lady in charge to call a shuttle to pick me up. I was done. One of the bike patrol offered to make the call about a mile back and I said, "no, I only have a bit more than six miles to go." But, then I thought six miles of walking. What will that be for? It won't help me with my PF Chang's Marathon in January. It won't make me a stronger runner. All it will do is get me a medal and my third marathon completion. At the time it made perfect sense to throw in the towel.



The lady in charge of the water station offered me a chair, while she called. As I sat in it, Vince happened to run by. "No way buddy. You're not done. Come on, run with me." I didn't know Vince at this point. He was just a helpful fellow competitor. I told Vince I was done and he went on. I sat. I became a non runner. I hit the stop button on my garmin. The shuttle was a green jeep cherokee and the driver took 5-10 minutes to get to me. So, I sat and watched as runners stopped, got a drink and hurried on their way. I never volunteered at a water stop, so this was all knew to me. A runner would come by, the volunteer would give them a cup and say how great they looked. I was waiting for her to point to me and say, "you're doing way better than that guy." She didn't.



In the meantime, I massaged by calves.



My day started at 4 am. Actually 3:44. That's when I awoke at the Best Western Innsuites Hotel. I wanted that extra 16 minutes of sleep, so I closed my eyes. Figuring I got the extra rest, I looked at my clock again. It was 3:45. For the next 15 minutes I kept looking at the clock figuring time was up only to see a minute had gone by. Finally, I got up and got ready for the 2009 Tucson Marathon.



It was going to be a good day. The first 8-9 miles are ups and downs with a net elevation drop of about 400 feet. Starting at 4800 feet in Oracle, AZ. The plan was to run the downs and walk the bigger ups, but to conserve energy for state route 77. SR77 is where you go from 4400 elevation to around 27oo over the final 17 miles (little did I realize it would also be in the face of a pretty strong wind). The plan worked for the first 10 miles. All my splits were under the 12 minute per mile I planned. All except for mile 8 that was over 15 minutes and was the biggest up hill on the course.



As I sat at aid station 20, I watched runners go in and out and I knew they'd finish. My time to that point wasn't horrible. I was behind where I wanted to be, but it was the calves and feet that were the reason for me stopping. I'm not good with pain. I tried to pretend I liked pain, but that didn't work.



Miles 12 thru 20 were my undoing. I wanted to do these downhill miles in under 11 minutes. My plan was to get to the finish under 5 hours. The hardest part of the course was behind me and I expected to do negative splits. Around mile 12 I could feel the pain from the Oracle hills in the beginning of the race. The walk breaks became longer. I wasn't sure if I was developing blisters on the pads of my feet. I did realize that I should have trimmed my toe nails the night before. I could feel that one or two of them were slicing into the neighboring toe. Turned out my feet came out ok. No blisters and only one toe got bloodied. My splits in these middle miles were in the 14 to 19 range. Any split over 15 is a mile in which I could only walk. Today, it's hard to imagine I couldn't run. But, from mile 16 until the water stop after 20 I walked. I watched my garmin and I thought how could I ever be able to go another 10 miles? I saw the Catalina Moutains way to my left and I knew the road would curve back to them.



I became a non competitor at the water stop. Vince couldn't get me up. It's weird watching a water stop activity as a non competitor. So, I continued to massage my calves and then I stood up. I walked to the street and said, "I'm not done. Thank the shuttle driver. I'm going to head on down the road." Yeah, I thought about what I was going to write in my blog. I thought about what my fellow bloggers would think. I guess you're my enablers. No, there was no Rocky music with this decision. I just decided my legs felt better after the rest and I could run/walk to the next water station and then see how I felt.



I had a new plan. Survival to the finish line. I was going to count my running steps. 20, 30 or 40 right steps and then I could walk. I did this a few times and passed 3 runners that I watched pass me at the water stop. I did it a few more times and then saw the green jeep. She had her window rolled down and asked how I was doing. I tried not to look at the plush leather seats or feel the heat escaping from the car window. I told her I was fine and that I was going to soldier on. Little did I know that Vince, my 'enabler' was a soldier.



After a few more running segments I passed a Team Chances runner from Ahwatukee. Practically a neighbor. She was laboring with her two sons to get to the finish. I was in the middle of one of my running segments, so I kept on moving. Up ahead I saw a guy in a white shirt. Could it be Vince? After a while, I caught up to him. He was walking with a hiking stick. Never seen that before in a race. I tapped him on the shoulder, which scared him to no end. He was glad to see me and congratulated me on returning to the race. We talked for a while. He's in the army at Fort Huachuca (wa-chu-ka). This is where I learned his name and that he almost quit on a 100 mile race. At mile 93, someone got him up and running. He was just paying it forward. I thanked him for his service and we walked for a while. Then, I told him I needed to get running. I didn't think I'd see him again. But, around mile 25 he passed me. Said I inspired him to finish strong and he finished ahead of me.



Then, the Ahwatukee lady caught up to me. We walked and talked. Her boys still with her. I told her she was doing great and she said I was too. The comradiere at the back of the pack is nice. Everyone supported each other, except for the two 'Paris Hilton' wannabes that were running and wouldn't even talk to me. More on that in another post.



Miles 22 thru 25 were 14:09, 13:56, 14:30 and 15:56. The last hill up Hawser Road slowed me down at the end. I was making a lot better time than in those middle miles. Not fast, but at least there was some running involved.



My attitude wasn't very good. I was upset that I didn't properly train for a marathon with this much elevation change. I was a bit naive to think that a couple hill workouts would suffice. I was embarrassed that I wasn't doing 11 minute miles. I had friends that told me, I just didn't listen.



By mile 26 I was toast again. I was walking and people that I had past were now passing me. I was glad for them (not the paris hilton girls). They all passed me, but by then I knew I would finish. I did in 6 hours and 9 minutes. It felt like 60 hours. But, I finished and for that I got my third marathon medal.





Tucson - Twin Cities - Rock N Roll Arizona


Below are pictures I took. I didn't take many during the last half of the marathon. I was not in a good frame of mind then.



The expo was at the El Conquistador in north Tucson.


The expo was small, so I sat poolside and looked at all the brochures they give you. The El Paso Marathon had a booth, so I spent a long time looking at info for West Texas and Big Bend National Park.



The race director had two school buses at the start. You find the window with your race number, put your extra clothing in a drop bag and toss it in the bus. Then at the finish line, they had your warm clothing for you to pick up.




Me at the start line. The start is in the middle of the Coronado National Park in Oracle, AZ.





A beautiful start area, surrounded by boulders and unbelievable views.


As luck would have it, a bunch of porta potties too. I chose to use the tree on the right instead. I'm sure the women appreciated less competition for the seats. However, I did see a few women squatin' in the desert.




Before the sunrise. We had to ride buses to get there and then we sat for over an hour until the race start time.



A close up of the rock climbing runners. I took several pictures from atop similar rocks.




The start.


Miles 5-9 are an out an back. They are also a down and up. I liked it, because you got to see all the other runners. The views were great at this point. I even saw superman running by.

Now I have 35 days to train for the flat PF Chang's Rock N Roll Marathon in Arizona. Yeah, yesterday I would have cancelled my registration.

14 comments:

Lisa said...

That's a cool medal. Nice job sticking it through to the finish.

MCM Mama said...

Good job finishing. Some days even doing that is amazing.

The scenery is awesome!

Irene said...

You are THE MAN! I think you need to add "persevere" to your vocabulary.

Nice bling, too!

Anonymous said...

This is "Superman" from the Tucson Marathon yesterday. I thought the race was supposed to be all downhill. Great job everyone.
James www.marathontags.com

Running Brad said...

Way to hang in there! I'm a firm believer that the power of positive thinking can get us through a lot. Nice finish!!!

Pat said...

James, loved that they mentioned you in the newspaper. I once ran with a guy that was dressed as clark kent at the start of the race and then he stripped down to superman midway.

Brad, I saw an orange street cone yesterday with PMA printed on it. I thought Postive Mental Attitude.

CurrentlyVince said...

Congratulations, Pat! Thankfully most races are attended by really helpful and encouraging people.

Adam said...

Nice work Pat. I'm a firm believer of the saying that "if it were easy, everyone would do it". Nice work hanging in there and cranking out the last few miles.

I know that the mental toughness that it took to finish it out will serve you well in future races.

TexasTaxMan said...

Nice job toughing this one out! Great report and nice pics. I thought it was a perfect day myself until turning on to Hwy 77/Oracle. The wind was horrible.

Funny about Superman. i just remembered him and explained to my 4yr old daughter last night at dinner that her Daddy beat Superman in Tucson. She thought that was pretty cool.

Take care and get some rest this week!

Anonymous said...

Great job/determination finishing Pat! That wind sure was tough. I tried to use a cycling trick by drafting off the people who passed me using their bodies to block the wind for a bit. Didn't help enough! LOL.

Mike
www.mikeerides.com

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TNTcoach Ken said...

I stopped reading after Vince left you, I knew how the movie was going to end. Congrats!

Firefly's Running said...

Congrats on finishing! You are the man!!

Jeff said...

Way to finish Pat. If you hand't have given the ending, I'd have known you'd finish getting to 20. This only makes you stronger. Congrats, my friend!