Monday, May 28, 2007

C D'A Marathon Report

Finish time: 5:53:05. Thirty seconds over my Tacoma time and I must say, I'm surprised. Surprised I managed to come in so close, because for a while there, I thought I was going to go over six hours.

Melissa and I left Puyalllup about 7:30 on Saturday morning. We had a five to six hour drive ahead of us. The weather was pretty nice, we had a stash of food and drinks to keep us going and hours of conversation stocked up. I drove for the first four hours or so, then traded seats with Melissa. We made good time and arrived at the Expo in C D'A about 12:30. As we walked up to the door we spotted Sonya and Patch standing out front. A few minutes later Lesa and Dave joined us. We chatted a while, then went in to get our packets. The Expo was tiny - four booths. After checking them out, we headed back to Washington to find my brother's house.

My brother and his wife moved to the Spokane area two years ago and this was my first visit. Eric had been there when he was in town on business, but all of our family events happen on this side of the mountains, and I'd see them here rather than over there. We wound through the country side till we found their place. They have a beautiful house with a fantastic view. They are currently working on their unfinished basement - in the drywall and mud stage. Kelly (my sister-in-law) was more than happy to be interrupted. Mitch is a Captain in the volunteer fire department and was out on a call. Kelly, Melissa and I hung out on the deck talking away, till Mitch got home. He decided to get a little more work in downstairs, so we continued to visit. Eventually we headed out to dinner, and finally to bed.

Melissa and I left the house at 5:45. The skies were gray and there was a warm wind blowing. We fiddled around the car for a few minutes and I ran a few steps to see how my leg felt. I decided to wrap it with an ace-bandage. Melissa has been having some knee problems, so she wrapped her knee and added a neoprene brace. We started walking to the start - both of us worrying about our injuries and the run. I decided a little warm-up was in order - which I never, never do. I figure I only have so many miles in my legs on a given day and that I should save them for the race. After all, I'm not out to win any speed records, so I can use the first mile or two as my warm up. This time though, I knew I was going to be starting out with a limp. From the runs I did last week, I knew it would take a quarter to half mile to warm up. I ran maybe an eighth of a mile to the porta-potties, then stretched my calf against the curb. By that time all our friends were there and I lost my focus as I stood around chatting. Next thing I knew we were lining up for the start. Oh, well!

I actually felt pretty good starting out and by a quarter mile found my rhythm. This course is a 6.5ish out and back, done twice. Eric and I used to live in Spokane, and I worked in Post Falls - just a couple miles down the road from C D'A. I really enjoyed the run out along the lake - everything was familiar and just as beautiful as I remembered. The first half went smoothly - a slight pain in my leg, but otherwise fine. Melissa was struggling a little - both physically and mentally. We got to see everyone go by at the turn around, which is always fun. The half-marthoners were surging past us from about mile seven on - the course was crowded and busy. We had to run right past the finish, where tons of people were waiting for the half to finish. They lined the chute, cheering for everyone - it's so energizing to run through an enthusiastic crowd like that!

After passing through the chute, the course was suddenly empty. I had to stop and tighten up my shoe, which of course I got too tight, and had to adjust a couple more times. Melissa was taking pictures of the lake when I caught up to her. She had a good 2nd half - her knee stopped hurting and her attitude brightened. I kept slipping into a zone - no thoughts, just running along. Melissa would say something to me and it would startle me. I'd answer, then back to the zone. About mile 18 my stomach started to bother me - I began to feel nauseated. That lasted about a mile. I'm not sure why - it was kind of warm and muggy, and the wind started blowing hard off the lake. A rain squall passed through, soaking and chilling me. I pulled on my windbreaker for about five minutes, but then overheated. Finally everything settled down and I started feeling good again. By this time, there was one runner in sight ahead of us, and no one in sight behind us. We made the turnaround (big hill at about 19.5, climbing to the turn around at 20).

Things were going well, though my calves were pretty tight on the hills. It was somewhere in here - after mile 20, that I started getting a tight chest. Melissa was sticking with me like glue, even though I tried to get her to run in without me. I warned her that I was going to have to go post-to-post. She stayed right with me. We did that for a couple miles. I was having the same experience I had at the Mt. Si 50K - run a short distance, gasp for breath while I walk, settle down, try again. Right at mile 23 something happened. I don't know what and I had no warning. I could not breathe - my chest was so tight that I was scared. I tried to tell Melissa but I could barely talk. Tears were streaming down my cheeks and she was trying to help me walk and relax. When I could talk by voice was strained and I was wheezing. It really scared me and it really ticked me off. Poor Melissa - she saw a fire truck down a side road and tried to talk me into going over to it - I could get enough words out to tell her that I was "three damn miles from the end and I am not going to quit now". I started Pilates breathing - turn on the powerhouse, breath deep through the nose, huff breath out. I did that for a while and suddenly, everything let go and I could breathe easy. I thought I could run to the finish, but discovered I couldn't. I went back to the post-to-post method. Everything was better though - I wasn't gasping on the walk breaks, and I could feel when it started to tighten. We made it across the lonely finish - only the volunteers were left. There were still four people on the course behind us, though the results show many with longer times. They must be the walkers from the early start.

We decided to go into the gym and see if anyone was there. Turns out the awards ceremony and raffle give-away were going on and everyone we knew was in there. We hung out for a while, Melissa got an ITB diagnosis from a Marathon Maniac who is a doctor and showed us a bunch of stretches to use. We all walked backed to the cars together, then went to a local pub for lunch. There were eight of us from the Y Run Club (all Maniacs), plus three other Maniacs. As we ate, more and more Maniacs started arriving. It was hard to leave, but we had decided to head for home rather than stay another night. We went back to the house, showered, packed and said good-bye. We left Spokane at 4:30 and pulled into our driveway at 10:00. The wind was howling through the entire Eastern Washington part of the drive - we have a Honda Element - kinda tall - and the wind was really shoving us around. The scariest part was in Vantage and over the Columbia River bridge - water from the river was spraying over the car, semi-truck trailers were wobbling around and my knuckles were white. We stopped in Ellensburg to get gas and switch drivers. Melissa got the wind till we hit the pass, then she got sheets of rain. All-in-all a lovely drive.

I don't know exactly why everything went bad at 23. We were running post-to-post, and I decided I could go a little farther - which was foolish because I was struggling for breath. That little bit could have been too much. It could have been the heat (around 70 and I'm currently used to 45-50), it could have been the altitude (I'm not sure if sea-level to 2000 feet would do that) or it could simply be too many marathons in a short time. I used to have a lot of problems when I ran too far, or too hard or too many hard runs in a row. Considering that this is my fifth marathon, plus one 50K in nine weeks, that could very well be it. I think what was scary was that I didn't feel it coming. I usually feel it working its way up my back - it's my early warning signal and allows me to slow down, go easy and manage it. My chest will still get tight, but I can typically prevent big problems. The chiropractor has been working on the exact spot that warns I may have lost my early warning signal.

I also know I get a little irrational when this is going on - as evidenced by Melissa trying to get me to stop and me refusing. In retrospect, I know I probably should have. Knowing myself, I know that I probably won't. If it had happened earlier in the race, I might have quit. Way back when all this first started, in 2001, I finished two half marathons, from mile seven on, in similar circumstances. I guess I have a stubborn (and probably stupid) streak. Steve and Eric would say I'm a "dumb runner". I make no apologies for it. I am going to run till the day I can't. Sometimes it will be a struggle, sometimes it won't. Part of the problem is that I've proved to myself several times now that I can work through it. I have to trust myself that I'll know when it's too much and I'll stop.

That said, next weekend holds the Rainier to Ruston 50 Mile Relay. The third year in a row for our all-woman Bustin' for Ruston team. I am on tap for the shortest legs - including the finish leg. The week after that is my final marathon till fall - the North Discovery Olympic Marathon. At this point, I'm still planning to run it - going for the same time range as the last two. Maybe it's foolish, but I have to try. See my previous post - something about testing and re-testing...

Eric report: he's running the last 20 miles of the WS100 route today, then will be heading for home. He ran the toughest section Saturday -35 miles- the next 20 miles of it yesterday and the final today. He sounds pretty optimistic and cheerful about it all. I think going down there and experiencing some of the run has really built his confidence. I'm sure he'll get a post up in the next few days.


Michelle Sarabia said...

Michelle, I am glad you made it through, but you are scaring me. Take care of yourself..

olga said...

Wow, what a run! Michelle, take good care of yourself, and I am glad you got under 6 no matter what. But been a "Dumb runner" often describes way too many runners while it probably shouldn't. I can't tell you what to do, as nobody can tell me:) You are great!

E-Speed said...

glad you are okay and have another marathon under your belt. It is so scary when we don't get warning signs. I guess it is just a sign to listen even closer to our bodies and hope for the best!

Sarah said...

Congrats on another marathon finish! The end sounds scary, but it also sounds like you are pretty in tune with your body. Just don't be too much of a dumb runner. ; ) NODM should be cooler. And nice job pulling out a sub 6 hour finish despite the walking. : )

olga said...

And you know, ggod that you learned that Pilates breathing, huh? Sometimes I use pranayama breathing too:)
BTW, your drive doesn't sound like fun at all. I remember you said you don't really like to drive to begin with. That first CCC100 crewing experience?

Anne said...

Could it be exercise-induced asthma? Kinda scarey how it just crept up without any warning and left you breathless. Congratulations on another one in the can.

robtherunner said...

Yeah, you're a dumb runner. Glad you made it through safely. I won't say anything about maybe not being fully recovered from all your previous marathons. Sounds a bit scary, but you know the warning signs better than anyone else.

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Michelle, Michelle, Michelle. What are we gonna do with you? Take it easy this week.

Wes said...

Just listening to your episode scared me! Darn stubborn woman :-) I just feel very comfortable that you are going to take care of yourself. Nice job on another fine run/race!

Anonymous said...

What a scary experience! I'm glad you are OK, but, please remember to listen to your body on your upcoming relay! We want you to be able to keep running, so take care!

It was funny to read about your trip back home. I was in E. Wenatchee this weekend (and followed part of that same route.) However, we did not have to drive in that wind. We were helping my husband's parents move throughout a "breezy" day. At least we didn't get the rain!

Darrell said...

Michelle, you sure are stubborn. Please, please take care out there. No race finish is worth that, but I totally understand.

Jack said...

That was kind of scary, I hope you don't have more experiences like that. Respect, for pushing through and finishing. My wife would forbid me from running another race if I had that much trouble (I would have to make sure I didn't tell her about it):

Jessica Deline said...

Yikes. You are a maniac and I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing sometimes ;) I wonder the same thign about myself :)

Take care of yourself!

runliarun said...

I read your Addendum, and this comment might fit better in there than it will here. But I just read your Addendum now, and I have been mulling over this very post for the last day or so, and I decided I would better comment here, where the thought engendered. I am a slow thinker, the same way I am a long distance runner. I never envisioned myself in a sprint. It takes time for my feeling to emerge into articulatation.

The question is: was it folly or was it endurance to hang on? We mostly judge such a situation in hindsight, by its outcome. Since you did well, it was endurance that kept you in the race, so very apt since marathon running is a test of endurance, and you prevailed.

But ultimately, if you go beyond appearances, it is a matter of what you are ready to risk, or more bluntly of what you are ready to give up for the sake of endurance.

I could go on, but I am scared again :).