Steve Marra / October 22, 2014
If you ever see boiled potatoes and salt at a race you can be it is going to be a long, hard event usually no less then a marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Tomorrow, I’ll be running another trail marathon up in the hills with 5,000 feet of elevation gain which explains the potatoes and salt. I know this for sure, that during the race I will stumble over rocks or roots and almost fall, multiple times I will not be sure if I am going the right way, I will feel nauseous and light headed and I’ll force myself to not think how much farther I have to go. Sort of like parenting….preschool, middle school, college and so on. If I can do one, I can probably do both.
Zero Dark Thirty and hard not to think “why am I doing this”. Again, there is a link to parenting that I am familiar with. Arriving at race start, since this is a point to point race, competitors are bussed to the start, 26.2 miles away. Loose conversations during the ride with a common theme of “wow, this is far away.” At the start, we all crowd together, listen to the race director tell us which color ribbons to follow and to be careful and watchful of each other. We start. As I start up the first hill I’m thinking about my kids and maybe feeling slightly guilty that I’m yet at another race but then think were I home I’d probably be folding laundry.
I don’t want to comment about the first hill because I don’t want to have to think about that hill again. It was horribly steep and never ending and is the major hill of the race. It took forever and was painful. Every time I thought we were close to the top I was wrong so I stopped thinking about getting to the top and just kept moving forward. We made it to the first aid station and I ate boiled potatoes and salt. The next killer hill was at mile 18 which would be tough, we’d be tired but at least closer to the finish. I just didn’t think about it especially when I was going downhill on a narrow trail and almost ran into a guy walking his little dog that I almost tripped over and scared the dog who then started yipping at my feet. At mile 10 aid station I was not feeling great, actually pretty bad. Upset stomach, light headed, low energy and not able to process I still had 16 miles to go. I thought about stopping and calling it a day which I also knew I would not do. But it was like a little mental vacation just knowing I could stop and then reaffirming I would not stop. Again, parenting came to mind. Sometimes rough with roots and you know you can’t stop. So I started to run again and thought all I can do is also keep on parenting. I saw I was at mile 13, half way actually felt pretty good and I bet I could even increase my pace and those upcoming hills really didn’t look all that bad and it was a pretty nice day and I bet the potatoes and salt at the next aid station would be the best of the entire race. I also fantasized my family had fed and walked our dog Rudy, done all household chores and dinner would be ready by the time I got home.
Miles 10 – 26.2
All I had to do now was keep doing what I had been doing. Mile 18 was miserable as predicted. Not only was the hill long and steep but unlike the first big hill which we did early in the morning, this hill was very exposed to direct sunlight and was very very hot. Finally made it to last aid station, 4.5 miles from the finish and unless something horrible happened, pretty sure I’d finish ok. Pain level was tolerable, nothing hugely sore, hydration was good, no nausea so all in all in reasonable shape. The last miles seem to go on forever. Marathon distances are often called 2 races, one of 20 miles and the other 6 miles. The last 6 miles being tough. I think the last miles are tough because one can entertain the thought of finishing whereas when still “out there” to think about finishing with so many miles to go, would be risky. Back to my kids, I think they’ll probably finish college just fine and at some point will need help with a down payment on a house. Better focus on finishing this race.
Crossing the Finish Line
From about 2 miles out I could see the Finish area could hear the cheering. The last 100 or so yards were lined with competitors and families and friends and dogs and everyone was cheering as the runners crossed the finish line. The last couple of miles, although glorious, are also sort of sad for me. So much energy expended, so much fighting to stay focused and pain to deal with and now almost over. I crossed the finish line and was handed a Finisher’s Medal and a bottle of water and people were shaking my hand and patting me on the back. It feels like re entering the world and takes a few moments to adjust to being back. It felt pretty good.
Not too sore, not really hungry, certainly very grimy and thinking about taking a shower and hoping my family won’t say to me “your turn to walk the dog”. I download my results from my GPS watch and think maybe I could have gone a little faster here and there, maybe less time at the aid stations. Then I sign up for another marathon in a month, same location thinking I just might be able to go faster. Parenting and a marathon have much in common…both require focus and commitment and the ability to go the distance and in doing one you at least get boiled potatoes and salt.