Friday, September 13, 2013

The Worst __________ Ever (Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon Report)

This was Marathon #27 and State #20, and in all those marathons I don't remember saying, "This was the worst (anything) I've ever seen in a marathon" very often. I did say, after San Diego Rock and Roll in 2011, that the line for the shuttle at the finish line -- a line a mile long in the sunny, blacktop, 85-degree Sea World parking lot -- was the worst logistical mess I had ever seen. And it was -- until this weekend in Allentown, Pennsylvania! Somehow this race managed to have BOTH the worst start line parking and the worst finish line shuttle ever, which is quite an accomplishment for a marathon calling itself a runner's marathon.

Anyway, I had picked this marathon a few months ago with the goal of qualifying for Boston and with the secondary goal of visiting friends in New Jersey, where I used to live. I knew I was not going to qualify for Boston -- since the Ann Arbor Marathon in early June, I had run 18 miles once and 17 miles once, and that was it for long runs -- but I was still looking forward to the marathon. The Lehigh Valley is beautiful, the course was described as easy and scenic, and fall is the best time for marathons. Also, I got to see Joan from WOG the night before, and that was great too. So it should have just been a nice day running, even if I didn't get the time I wanted.

The first part of the problem was-- I admit it! -- my fault. Even though the event website told us exactly how to get to the start line ("If coming from west of the Northeast Extension", etc), I was too lazy to look at a map to figure out what direction I was coming from and instead just used Google Maps to get directions to Lehigh Valley Hospital. (Quote from the Athlete Guide: "This net descent course starts marathon runners and relay teams at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA. Maybe an odd location to start, but it’s easy to find and has plenty of parking." Ha.) So I searched Lehigh Valley Hospital Allentown PA and my map told me I was only 1.7 miles from it. Perfect! I slept in till 5, and at 5:45 was turning into the hospital parking lot for a 7 a.m. start only... there was no one there. No race setup, no signs, no nothing. I was sitting in front of a giant neon sign that said "Lehigh Valley Hospital" but it was, obviously, the WRONG Lehigh Valley Hospital. Okay. This was a setback but I was still early and had plenty of time. I opened the Athlete Guide on my phone and typed in the name of the exit and found that I was 14 miles away. Well, geez! Who even knew that Allentown was that big. Anyway, it was all freeway so it went fast until I got about a mile from the exit. At that point traffic in the right lane stopped. There was no other traffic on I-78 except for traffic in the right lane. The backup started at the top of a huge hill and I could look down and see a long line of brake lights all the way to the exit. Well, actually three long lines of brake lights. One line in the right lane and the other two lines parallel to the right lane as drivers, desperate to get off at the exit, passed up as much of the line as they dared and then shoved in.

I sat in this bottleneck and at first told myself not to worry, it would move, but it didn't. It wasn't even creeping. It just wasn't moving at all. I decided someone must have been hit, and it must have been serious for traffic to be dead stopped for so long. It was 6:15, then 6:20, then 6:30. Parking lots were supposed to close at 6:40. Some runners (who presumably had other people driving them) were running along the side of the freeway. I thought about getting back on the freeway and going to the next exit and letting the GPS reroute me but then I realized with road closures and the way Pennsylvania roads just meander around in random directions that might just be making a bad situation worse, so stayed where I was. As terrible as it was, I began to think maybe I would just get out of doing this marathon! If I didn't get to the start line soon, I wouldn't be able to finish and get back in time to check out of the hotel. So maybe I could just NOT RUN! Go back to bed, have some more coffee, read my book, have a leisurely day with my friends in New Jersey, do the Pittsburgh Marathon later for my Pennsylvania race and just write this trip off as a visit to Jersey PERIOD.

Then traffic started moving at 6:40. Moving slowly, but moving. Bummer! By now I had almost accepted the idea that I wouldn't have to run, and now it looked like I was going to have to. I saw that some runners had parked their cars on the side of the freeway and left them there. I guess they were more concerned about missing the start than I was! 

The assigned parking was closed by the time I pulled up at 6:55. I just parked in the first visitors lot I came to and then sprinted for the start line. I got there at 7:02 and stood just this side of the first timing chip mat adjusting my waistpack, setting up my music, etc while people yelled, "Go! Go!" and pointed at the start like I didn't know where it was. Do they not know about chip timing? I glanced at the Porta Potties and should have just stopped there! but I didn't. I was tired of being yelled at to GO and I figured I would just go on the course. (NOTE: starting a marathon without going to the bathroom -- especially after a giant cup of coffee -- is one of the dumbest things I have ever done. Did I think there wouldn't be an issue with that? Seriously?) 

I have never started a marathon after the gun went off; it was a totally new experience. Kind of fun, actually, as I passed hundreds of people without hardly even trying in those first couple of miles. I was cranky because I had been thinking I was going to get out of running and now I had no choice but to run. Also I felt tired and out of breath from the beginning. (Probably those extra 15 pounds I'm carrying! All that junk food consumed in the process of fixing up the house, coming back to haunt me...) I can't even tell you what the course was like, really, except that it did have a lot of downhill. It was warm and humid. This would not have been the day to forget a sweat/spit rag and luckily for me I did not forget it. Eventually we wound up on a towpath running alongside a canal, and that was pretty. The footing was dirt and sometimes chipped asphalt, which I enjoyed but apparently a lot of people didn't (based on the reviews on, which slammed the race for not warning people it was more like a trail race than a road race). 

The course was shady and pretty but boring after a while. Flat, green, yes, pretty next to the water with steam rising off it but after that many miles you get tired of looking at anything no matter how pretty. The website had advertised aid stations every 1.5 to 2 miles but there was a stretch of almost 4 miles with no aid stations, between Miles 8 and 12. I would've been mad if I had been planning on a drink at Mile 10. That was really the only problem I had with the course itself. 

Around the half-marathon mark we got to get off the water and briefly run through a park of 18th century industrial buildings in Bethlehem, which was cool. I really have always liked this part of Pennsylvania and wish I had had more time to look at stuff. My time at the half was 1:48, which was just under BQ pace, but I had felt crappy the whole time and knew I would slow down soon. It was back on the waterside path after that nice little break. I honestly don't remember much about the second half other than a general impression of shade, trees, water, and flat. Oh, except that I finally had to stop to pee at Mile 20. I could not believe I had waited that long! I must have the best bladder in the world. 

By then I was still running only because I was so worried about getting back to the hotel (where Duncan had been in his crate since 5:30) and checking out in time. Nothing was really hurting and for once I wasn't nauseous. Oh, of course my legs felt like sticks of dead wood since they hadn't run this far in three months but I didn't have an injury. By the time I got to the finish I saw I would be just under 4 hours. My GPS said 3:56 but my chip time was 3:57:22. Not the time I wanted, but the time I deserved. (Actually BETTER than the time I deserved.) I didn't feel sick for once, and after picking up the unspectacular medal I went to look for food. There were granola bars and pretzels and that was it. I asked about fruit but the volunteers told me it was all gone and pointed at empty bags and boxes that used to have oranges and bananas. Gone? Finishing around 4 hours is not super impressive but it is not slow enough that all the fruit should be gone. On a hot day like this that was all I really wanted, so I took a couple water bottles and went in search of the shuttles. 

After being directed to a completely wrong place by a volunteer, I finally wandered around enough to find the line, and right away got a bad feeling. Not only was the line incredibly long, it was in an active parking lot with cars constantly pulling in and out and with no shade at all. Marathoners and half-marathoners were in the same line and no one knew how often the shuttles were running. The guy in the front of the line had been there 45 minutes and had seen one shuttle. After 40 minutes in line, two shuttles pulled up, one giant charter bus and one the size of a paratransit bus. Luckily the giant one was for marathoners and the small one for half-marathoners. I made it onto the bus; it was standing room only and we were packed in there, which no one minded because at least we were not standing in that parking lot anymore. 

The bus was like a sauna with all those people packed on. It reeked like... words fail me. Imagine a couple hundred runners having just finished a warm-weather marathon and then having stood in the sun for anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. It was not a good smell. Everyone was desperate for the bus to get going so the air could be turned on. Finally the bus pulled away from the curb and started crawling through the completely jammed up streets of Easton. Still no air. Everyone was playing with the vents above the seats but there was nothing, not even the tiniest movement of air. People yelled at the driver to turn on the air but we were in the back and couldn't hear his response and don't know if he even heard us. It was not possible to open the windows so eventually we gave up and just suffered. Those of us who were standing had to hold the handles above us to keep our balance and sweat just poured off of us. I watched the guy standing next to me drip sweat like a faucet on the guy sitting in the seat next to him. There was nothing anyone could do. Finally we got out of Easton and onto the freeway. I had never looked at the course map so didn't realize just how far we had to drive. Oh! 22 miles, said some guy who had his phone out. Everyone shut up when they heard that, thinking of enduring this bus for that long.

That shuttle ride was the single most miserable thing that has ever happened to me that was in any way related to a race. Other marathon problems -- freezing cold at the start line in Boston, that Sea World parking lot in San Diego, walking the entire Mt. Lemmon Marathon on a stress fracture -- NOTHING came close to this. It was hard to keep a lid on the sense of impending panic attack -- no way out, hard to breathe, intolerably hot, lots of other people in the same situation any one of whom might give in to the urge to panic and start a mass panic where people would get trampled... I truly believe that could have happened. It got worse when we finally got to our exit and people started mumbling, "Just open the doors and let us out! Hurry up, man!" I cannot describe the relief that everyone on that bus felt when they stepped out into the fresh air. That shuttle ride scarred me to the point that I not only have literally experienced it in a terrifying dream once already, but also I know that I will never, EVER get on a shuttle without assurance that the air is working. What excuse could there possibly be for not having any air moving? Not even a fan? I can't imagine. 

Of course I had no idea where I left my car, AND I was desperate to get back to the motel for checkout, so I had to run through what felt like acres of parking lots until I finally stumbled on it mostly by luck. Just what I wanted to do after running a marathon -- run through parking lots! I made it back fine, I'm glad to have another state done, I was no more sore than usual, it was great to see Joan and my friends from Jersey, but that marathon I have to say was the worst marathon experience out of all the ones I have done, and that's saying something!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Boston Qualifying, I Don't Think So... Oh Well

I am good at teaching class at Leader Dog, I am pretty good at buying a fixer-upper house and fixing up what I can and finding people to do the fixing that I can't do, I am really good at packing up my house to move, I am good at training new dogs... but apparently I am NOT good at doing those things and training for a Boston qualifier. In fact, my training has pretty much sucked. (And my blog writing has COMPLETELY sucked, so bad that I don't know if it will ever recover or not.)

First of all, class. Class ran from July 7 through August 1. My only day off in that whole time span was July 31. Days in class were very long. I lived in the dorm at Leader and had to get up and take care of my own dogs first thing in the morning, then work with my students from 7:15 in the morning till at least 4:30 in the afternoon, then take care of my dogs again and give them some decent exercise since they were spending so much time locked up in the kennel. So it was at least 5:30 by the time I could even think about exercising. (And that was if I wasn't on duty, which I was six nights, which meant that I worked with my students till 8:00 at night.) Even with those long days, though, I did okay in class. No long runs, but I worked out more days then not, and lost almost ten pounds by telling the kitchen crew at Leader not to feed me anything but fruit, vegetables, and egg whites. That diet plus the stress of teaching class and doing all the work necessary to make sure my students were happy and safe with their new guide dogs made it not that hard to lose weight. And losing weight makes me able to run faster. So I figured with one month between the end of class and the marathon, I still had a shot.

But then... the house. This is a really nice house, BUT. It was owned by a cat lady, not updated in probably 30 years, vacant for two years, mouse-infested, and I could go on. I bought it because the mortgage is half what I'm paying for rent and because its backyard literally opens into a nature preserve with a paved exercise path running through it. In other words, a giant backyard that I don't have to mow. It's an awesome house. Mom came out a few days before the end of class to work on the house while I was in class. That was the idea. But closing was delayed over a week. So we couldn't do anything on the house at all. Stress, stress, stress. Then when closing finally happened we had four and a half days to work (which is what I did with my week off after class). Mom worked 12-17 hour days every day, doing nasty stuff like ripping up carpet and sitting in puddles of carpet adhesive remover scraping up adhesive that was older than me. I didn't work as many hours but that was because I had to keep going home and letting the dogs out periodically. I bleached walls and pulled up tack strips (exposing crumbling asbestos tiles, which will probably kill me but hopefully not for a while, till I've had time to enjoy the house and make it worthwhile). I also had to find a floor guy (Home Depot wouldn't touch it because of the asbestos), painters, and electrician, a handyman, duct cleaners, et cetera, all of which required phone calls and appointments, things I hate. It was obvious from Day One that this house was going to suck up all my energy and time if I wanted to move in by the end of the month and that doing all this work would only be possible if I was fueled by junk food. ("If we finish bleaching all the walls, tonight we can eat dinner at Ram's Horn at midnight when we're done.") Without junk food, there is no way I could have done all this work. So I have probably gained back all the weight I lost in class. I'm afraid to look and my scale is packed.

I came back to work this past Monday and got new dogs. In four months these dogs will be well-trained guide dogs, but right now working with them feels like I'm steer wrestling in a rodeo. What's stronger than a 14-month-old Lab who weighs 80 pounds and was used to living with a family but is now living in the kennels and getting about 10% of the exercise he's used to getting? Nothing! I finish work every day profoundly tired from working with these dogs and barely able to find the energy to walk my own dogs, let alone go home and work on the house some more, let alone work out.

Since the Ann Arbor Marathon in early June, I've done ONE long run. And that one was only 18 miles. And it wasn't Boston qualifying pace. It was close, but not that close. My shorter runs, anything under half-marathon distance, have all been where they should be pace-wise, but I am ready to collapse when I finish them and know I won't be able to keep that pace for a whole marathon. Maybe I should be more upset about this -- I really would have loved to do Boston with WOG people next year -- but I'm not really that upset at all. The way I think about qualifying for Boston -- for me, anyway -- is that for me to do it, I have to be at a point in my life where I am able to prioritize Boston training over everything else. I just plain am not at that point right now. Nothing is more important than teaching class and giving my students all of my energy, time, and focus, and now that class is over, well, I have to be out of this house and into that house by the end of the month, and I don't have enough money to pay someone to do all that for me, so.... if I don't do it, no one will. I can't just put those things on hold to get my mileage done. So I am just going to look forward to seeing people in New Jersey when I go to the marathon, having a nice run, hanging out with Joan before and after the race, and getting another state done. I guess it's not impossible that I could qualify, but I think it's highly unlikely and even if I did, it would be by the skin of my teeth, which wouldn't even be enough to get me in most likely.

Oh well. I can still go to Boston next year and be a spectator while my awesome fast friends from Tucson run it!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

No Other Plans? Run A Marathon. (Ann Arbor Marathon Report)

This was how I decided to run the Ann Arbor Marathon today. (Keep in mind that if you had asked me when my next race was, say, yesterday at 5:00 in the afternoon, I would've said Lehigh in September.) I skipped the group long run yesterday, for no other reason than that I slept in because I was still tired from my very long work day in Kalamazoo on Thursday. I told myself I would go to Lifetime and do the elliptical, but I never did because shopping for clothes sucked my soul out of me and the only things I had energy to do were eat crappy food and drive around looking at houses. So, okay, I was going to do the group run on Sunday. Well, this week there wasn't one, everyone ran on Saturday instead. Still learning the local group. So yesterday evening I was sitting at home wondering where I would run and thinking maybe two loops around Stoney which would only give me twelve miles. And I didn't even want to do that because that stupid nagging hip pain was still going on (has been ever since that ill-advised charge across the trampoline at Sky Zone during trampoline dodgeball).

As I was sitting idly at my computer, knowing deep down I was not going to do a damn thing on Sunday except sit around eating and possibly mow the lawn if I got really ambitious, I thought, when was the Ann Arbor Marathon again? I looked it up and found that, oh, it was tomorrow. I thought, I wonder if they have race day registration? thinking, no, of course they don't, no marathons do. I checked on their website and, guess what, race day registration was available. Okay. I thought about it and thought about the pain in my hip and knew, because I knew myself, that I would NOT take time off to let the mystery injury heal; I would keep running until it either repaired itself or else blew up. If it was a real injury, maybe it would blow up in a marathon faster than it would in the 30 miles or so a week I'm doing now. Okay, let's let it blow up, then, and if it doesn't, I need to stop being a pussy about it and quit complaining.

This morning was beautiful -- cool, overcast, not humid, a perfect day for running. I drove the 45 minutes to Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is one of those places that I have been to a disproportionate number of times considering how short of a time I've lived here. I love everything about it, the downtown, the lush green hills and tree-lined streets, the powerhouse University, the beautiful Huron River, everything. About the marathon itself I knew nothing except that it was hilly. Well, of course, you couldn't have a flat marathon in Ann Arbor; it would be like having a flat marathon in San Francisco, can't be done. But I didn't know exactly what the elevation changes were or where the hills were because I couldn't get the pages to load at 9:00 last night on my computer. So I went into it totally clueless.

It was absolutely perfect weather, the kind of day you never, ever get in the desert. Nice cloud cover but with just enough sun behind the clouds to color the sunrise clouds pink and orange. Just one day like this is good preventative medicine for missing Tucson too much. There were supposedly around 1000 people in the marathon. It started at the U Mich stadium. I paid my registration at 6:10, walked into and out of the porta-potty line in under 5 minutes, and strolled casually up to the very front of the start line because the crowd was so sparse there was no reason not to. The race director was introducing one of the runners, a guy who, at 85 years old, was running his 150th marathon. He had started running when he was 50 and overweight. Anyone who says "I'm too old to run!" needs to look at this guy. Anyway, after she introduced him we all took off. This was a small marathon but it still had pace teams for every 5-minute goal time. I had no plans to run with any pace group because I had no goal time. I just wanted to run moderately hard or as hard as my injury would let me.

The first few miles went through campus and then down a beautiful residential street, and I do mean down. There was so much downhill that I stayed right in front of the 3:30 pace group for the first 4 or 5 miles, and I was not even breathing hard. I wasn't trying to stay ahead of them, just trying to run at a comfortable speed. Then we came out onto a path that ran along the river. The river was beautiful, huge and slow and lazy. It invited fishing or kayaking or swimming or picnicking or just about anything you would want to do on or near a river. I felt so good on that path I was doing 8:00 pace with no trouble at all and having very enjoyable flashbacks to the way it felt to be in top shape and to know I was going to shatter my PR and qualify for Boston with time to spare. I even dared to think maybe I would qualify for Boston today. I had no idea what the hills to come would look like, but I knew I liked a course with some hills as opposed to a completely flat one, so maybe...? I mean, if I felt that good it was certainly a possibility.

We left the path at Mile 8-ish and came out onto a big out-and-back, Huron Parkway. It was uphill on the way out and mostly downhill (but with a headwind) on the way back. It was boring, but I was still well-ahead of the 3:40 pace group (although I had lost sight of 3:30 by now and 3:35 was in the distance ahead of me). The weather was still perfect. I have often thought that the cool air out here tastes so delicious it's almost like you can drink it like water. (Or slice your throat open with it in winter, but I digress.) Once we were done with Huron Parkway, we got a long, boring uphill back to campus, during which I lost some enthusiasm and was passed by the 3:40 pace group. Oh well. I really didn't think I could BQ today anyway. It was nice to be back on campus. There was a lot more to see there. Especially when the course turned onto a beautiful, shady dirt trail that was also a screaming downhill. I think it went through the Arboretum, or something? That party ended when the trail began to go as steeply uphill as it just had gone downhill and I ran out of energy and walked. It was still pretty, beautiful even, but steep.

The trail spit us out on campus again and I managed a slow jog. We came out from campus onto State Street and here the course turned to crap. It was the longest out and back yet in a boring, deserted commercial area. I felt like it was sucking my soul. I wanted to walk the whole thing but couldn't shake a feeling I was doing moderately well and should keep running unless I had a physical reason to walk, which I didn't. (No nausea, no pain, just a messy blister forming on the bottom of my right foot, but I could run through that. So I did.) The sun was out now (though only briefly, thankfully) and I was not the only one who was visibly short of enthusiasm. I saw one girl puking and a whole bunch of people walking. We were headed uphill and could not see the top of the hill, only that wherever it was it was a looooooong way in the distance.

Finally we reached the top of the hill at Mile 21 and ran down the other side of it. The course then circled a shopping mall for a mile. There were no cones blocking the lanes and I watched a runner almost get hit by a bus. I had picked up company by now, this girl who was as pissed about the suckiness of State Street as I was and, also like me, did not object to throwing around the F-word to communicate the extent of her displeasure with everything about this part of the course -- the hill, the scenery, the lack of safe traffic controls, everything. Bitching made the mile around the shopping center fly by, and then once we made it around the shopping center and started on the "back" part of State Street, I felt better just seeing all the runners still on the "out" part. I guess I am just a bitch. Because as much as I hate "outs" on the out and backs, I love the "backs" even more. Something about seeing other people suffering like I just was, but now am not, gives wings to my feet.

There was a good amount of both steep uphill and steep downhill in the last six miles. This made it harder, in my mind, than Flying Pig, because at Flying Pig the last six miles were nearly all downhill. I had not been passed by the 3:50 pace group and also hadn't looked at my Garmin in a long time. I finally looked at it with half a mile to go and saw that it was on 3:45, which meant under 3:50 was not only achievable but mandatory since I was so close and felt basically okay. I came across the finish line at 3:49-something (after having to slow for that last sprint across the field to the line because a very slow, very wide line of half-marathon WALKERS was spread out right in front of me).

I felt fine at the finish but not quite up to doing justice to the great spread -- pizza, cookies, giant muffins, smoothies, all kinds of stuff. I had a banana and half a piece of pizza, which I chewed on until my stomach gave me the "Not This" message and then I spit it in the trash. Believe me, sitting on my deck writing this I would happily eat the whole freaking pizza right now, and may just do that later. I am very happy with my time. Ten minutes faster than at Flying Pig a month ago, on a harder course. I am proud of myself for being able to get out and run a decent marathon with less than 12 hours notice. And I am hopeful for my September marathon being my Boston qualifier!

(Marathon #26 and State #19, for those keeping count.)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Marathon # I Don't Know Exactly, State # I'm Not Sure Anymore

I never thought that I would lose track of how many marathons I've run or how many states I've done, but, surprise! That happened. I THINK this is my 25th marathon and my 18th state but I will have to go home and count bibs on the refrigerator or else get a big US map and check off states to know for sure.

I always knew my Ohio marathon would be Flying Pig, just because it's the biggest and most famous and Ohio is not a state I ever get excited about for any reason, so I figured I would need to do a fun marathon just to make Ohio enjoyable at all. In my head all of Ohio is flyover country and boring. If I hadn't moved to Michigan I'm sure this would have been one of my last states. But because I DID move to Michigan, I signed up for it. It happens to be on my birthday this year. I'm 37 and I take great pleasure in the fact that not only am I running a marathon on my birthday, but also I look better than I did at 17 AND at 27! Take that, aging process!

I was surprised to find that Cincinnati is actually a really pretty city, with the river and the hills and the bridges and the trees and the cool downtown buildings. I did notice as I was driving to the hotel that there were an awful lot of hills. The course was described as hilly too, although I had looked at the elevation profile and only saw one that looked sort of bad, and even that one was only a 400' climb spread out over a few miles. So not bad at all. I wasn't expecting great things from this marathon. I'm both seriously undertrained and fat. I mean, I ran a 20-something back in mid-February and then everything got all messed up because of the move and the cold. Literally I ran one 16-miler in early April (and fell apart on the last 2 miles of that) and then did the 16 miles of Kamran's trail ultra a couple weeks ago -- but that was not really much running. Other than that I've done a couple of 10-to-12 milers and that's it! I just barely decided I was going to lose weight and requalify for Boston a couple weeks ago, but I haven't done that yet and am 20 lbs over my Boston-qualifying weight. So I was not expecting anything great and didn't really even want to try. I planned to walk whenever I wanted and be without a time goal other than that I really should be under 5 hours.

I must say this marathon was one of my favorites. They've had the same race director for eleven years and there was not a single thing about the race that didn't go smoothly. The weather on race morning was warm. I had debated over whether to wear my Boston Marathon shirt or my Marathon Maniacs shirt. I decided last night it would be the Maniacs shirt because it was sleeveless, but then when I tried it on last night I saw that I was too fat to wear it. A roll of stomach fat was hanging out under the bottom of the shirt. Can't have that! Boston shirt it would be, even though I thought it was really too warm for that. I figured I could always roll the sleeves up.

At the start line, we could go into Paul Brown Stadium and use the bathrooms there. There was enough room in the stadium to run your warm-up there, if you wanted to. I imagine that is much appreciated in rainy years. I was warm at the start, always a bad sign. But there was a beautiful pink and orange sunrise straight ahead. The start line was right downtown next to the river. Everything was very well-organized and went off without a hitch. The streets on the course were wide and for the number of people running (20,000 between the half and the full, which started together) there was hardly any of the run-a-few-steps-then-screech-to-a-halt-because-of-congestion that there usually is at big marathon start lines. The first few miles went through and around downtown. We ran over one bridge into Kentucky, and then over a different bridge back into Ohio. I was grumpy and did not want to be running. I don't know why. I was just thinking of all the things I would rather be doing, like lying in the hotel taking a nap, or reading my book or spectating on the sidelines with Frieda. My feet hurt for no reason, my leg hurt for the stupid reason that I had tripped going up the stairs to the bathrooms at the start line and given some muscle a little pull, my U of A visor was bugging me because it was too low over my eyes but if I tightened it so it would stay up then it would be too tight and uncomfortable on my head. Et cetera. I wanted to quit, pretty bad, for no real reason. I scolded myself and reminded myself of Tom in Zane Grey, Kamran in the 100-miler, all the WOGgers in Boston, Keith who just won a marathon yesterday, none of them quitters. I bitched and moaned in my head for the whole first 5 miles and then we hit "the hill" and suddenly, inexplicably, I felt better. I ran all the way up the hill feeling fine. About 2/3 of the way up we went into Eden Park, which had such stunning views of the city and river that I wanted to stop and stare. But I didn't, I just kept running.

Okay, so this race does have some up hills but it has a lot of downhill too. So much that by the half-marathon I was wishing it would flatten out or even climb again. My quads were sore and both my ankles and my Achilles hurt. I love Newtons but I do feel like they don't really have much stability, especially around the ankles. Any suggestions for shoes with the same heel-toe drop as Newtons but more stability would be much appreciated!

My half-marathon time was 1:55, which would be a 3:50 finish if I kept it up. I had no plans of keeping it up, just wanted to keep running until I couldn't run anymore so that I could get done as soon as possible and get to the eating part. My brother had mentioned something about a grilled cheese donut and I wanted that, bad, whatever it was. It was sprinkling rain and had actually gotten cooler since the start. The forecast had been for 30% chance of rain the last time I looked at it; well, someone got that wrong because it rained for the rest of the race. I didn't mind that -- much -- because it wasn't, at that point, a miserable downpour, just a light rain that made me glad I wore my long sleeves after all.

Miles 16-18 is where I usually fall apart but today I was strong through those miles. I got to twenty miles at 2:57 and knew I had it in me to go under 4 hours, if I wanted to. I still didn't care. But I did think I should keep running unless an obvious reason to walk presented itself. My feet hurt but not terribly, and I wasn't nauseous like I usually am. Also, the course was a gentle downhill practically all the way to the finish. I just kept running.

When I got to Mile 24 it was obvious I would be right around 4 hours exactly. I was running long according to my Garmin -- .33 miles ahead of the race mile markers, which meant I would run 26.5 miles, not 26.2. I was annoyed with myself because I had run fast enough to make 4 hours attainable (I had been planning on a 4:20, 4:30-ish finish or maybe even more, but there's no dignity in a 4:02 finish.) Plus, the 4:00 pace group had appeared out of nowhere and were right on my heels. I could not bear to be passed by the pace group at Mile 25, so I had to speed up.

I could see the finish line right in front of me and I saw 3:58 on my Garmin, so I had to speed up racing down the chute to the finish. I stopped my watch on 3:59 and hope it matches my chip time; who knows when I actually pushed "Start". The rain had turned into a downpour by the time I walked through the Recovery Zone, picking up huge handfuls of fruit and crackers and bars and water and everything else I could carry. I was soaked by the time I got to the car. I felt bad for all those people still out on the course. Even now, many hours later, it is STILL pouring outside. Hasn't let up at all. I will not be going outside if I can help it!

Overall I am really pleased with my time. It used to be a big deal to be under 4 hours, and my average marathon time is still 4:10, so to do 4 hours when I haven't really been training is pretty cool. Happy birthday to me! This was a great marathon and for anyone looking for a nice course and the "big marathon" feel without the big marathon logistics complications, I totally recommend it. Plus, it has a really cool medal:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

100 Miles NEVER

That's my conclusion, after spectating at Kamran's first-ever 100-mile race and pacing him through a middle-of-the-night lap (actually beginning-, middle-, and end-of-the-night lap, as it turns out, if I'm being technical). It's not the distance or the pain or the cold or the nausea or anything else that makes me say never, it's the realization that you have to STAY UP ALL NIGHT to complete one of these, and staying up all night is not something that I like to do, not ever. Even when I was younger I did not really like staying up all night. I just did it because that was what you did when you were young. But I've always felt more myself waking up at 5 a.m. ready to get a jump on the day. Staying up all night now makes me so tired it takes a week to recover from it.

But enough about that! I was really looking forward to this event. It's called the Indiana Trail 100, and takes place in Chain O'Lakes State Park, outside the adorable small town of Albion, Indiana, about three and a half hours from my house. The course was six laps of a 16-mile loop. The park was beautiful. Inside it there are nine little lakes, created by glaciers, and strung together by little waterways. The trail, though advertised as rolling, would be considered flat by any Tucson trail runner. It had just enough small rises and falls to keep your legs from getting bored on a true flat. Under better conditions, I believe it would have been an ideal first 100-miler, just because of the scenery, the cushy trail surface, the lack of any significant climbs, the nice spacing between aid stations, and the number of runners (180 in the 100-miler, enough so that you could always see a headlamp somewhere after dark). Unfortunately the whole Midwest had just been dumped on with rain for a couple days, 2-4", and much of the trail was flooded out. The race was going on as planned and people would just have to get their feet wet. Oh well -- it's a trail race, right? What are you going to do?

On race morning I drove from Michigan to Indiana. The race started at 6 a.m. and I had told Kamran that I would try to be there at 10:00 in hopes of catching him at the start/finish line aid station. Four hours looked like about the right length of time to finish a 16-mile lap, although of course that was just a guess. There was snow on my car and it was icy cold outside, in sharp contrast to Thursday which had been 80 degrees, and when I stopped to get gas about 40 miles from the race, the icy wind ripped through my clothes like they were made of Kleenex and there was a dusting of snow on all the fields and farm buildings. I shivered thinking of the runners starting in this cold, and hoped it would get warmer but was not hopeful. The predicted high temp seemed to drop every time I checked the weather, from 55 to 50 to 47 to 42 and at that point I decided to stop checking because, really, what was the point? Clearly it was going to be cold and miserable.

The park is out in the middle of farm country. It was beautiful. Once I arrived there, I drove around aimlessly for a while. I stumbled upon an aid station but by the time I found the start/finish aid station, Kamran had already been through, finishing up his first lap, and I had missed him. The start/finish line is on Sand Lake, one of the bigger of the nine lakes. There was a freezing wind blowing off the lake, so I did not want to hang around there any longer than I had to. Instead I drove around the park until I found the Schoolhouse aid station, named for a one-room schoolhouse originally actually used for school teaching but now used for housing exhibits on the park's history. I walked Frieda around and let her play with sticks, her new favorite toy. (And mine. They are free and numerous, and it's easy to stick one in her mouth if she looks like she might bite someone. Can't bite with a stick in your mouth.) It was more comfortable here because the trees provided a nice wind break, but it was still cold. I could see into the woods where the trail emerged onto the road that the runners had to leave the planned trail and push through bushes because the planned trail (I could still see the flags) had turned into a mini-lake itself. I did see one girl, the eventual winner of the 50-mile race, run right through the mini-lake and the water was, I kid you not, nearly up to her hips. Now that was a Trail Runner magazine cover photo if I ever saw one.

I somehow missed Kamran here too (the runner tracker online was not working properly, just as it has not at any race ever in my experience where anyone was depending on it) so I finally headed back to the start/finish and decided I would just park myself there and not move until he came through to start his third lap. It was freezing and windy but I had no choice but to bundle up and sit outside, because otherwise I was afraid I would miss him again and we really did need to communicate about what our plan was for the pacer lap.

Finally he showed up an hour later than I thought he would be. He did not look pleased. He told me how crappy the course was and mentioned that he thought he might drop after the third lap. I never know what to say in these situations. Do you insist that the person keep going, thereby making them feel bad if they really need to drop? Or do you tell them it's okay if they drop and then risk having them hate themselves for dropping when they could have kept going? I never know. I try to strike a balance between the two. Our consensus was that he would definitely do the third lap, which would bring him to 50 miles, and then reevaluate whether he felt like continuing or not. Personally, at that point I thought he would drop. I was not entirely upset at this thought, envisioning a nice dinner and me NOT having to go out and run through mud in the middle of the night, but I tried to conceal that from him.

At the end of the third lap, which he finished so fast I almost missed him, he said he had got his second wind and was going to keep going. He looked pretty good at this point. We decided I would go back to the hotel for a nap while he ran the fourth lap alone, and then I would meet him for the fifth lap.

The hotel was almost forty minutes away, so by the time I got there, ate something, and showered I only had time for an hour nap. I woke up afterwards wanting to cry at the thought of driving back there and going out in those conditions. I held on to my secret hope that he would drop and I could just go back to bed.

I got back to the race at 11:00. If he had finished at 11:00 that would have been a 4-hour lap. It was dark and freezing, of course. I waited outside the aid tent and every time a head lamp came bobbling up the dark hill I looked at the number to see if it was Kamran. DNF's were piling up on the board; every time I looked there were a couple more of them. Already more than 70 DNF's out of 180-something registered for the 100-mile race. The winner of the race, a local girl, came in around 11:30. She came into the tent, had some chicken noodle soup, had her picture taken with the plaque she won, and then left. Right after that Kamran showed up. He was tired but didn't look too bad, and was definite that he was going to continue. He changed from wet socks and shoes into dry ones and then we headed out. Since I knew I was doing it now, I was excited again and looked forward to seeing the course.

The first leg wasn't too bad. Mostly downhill, some patches of mud and water but nothing horrible. There was enough moon that we could turn our head lamps off and run by moonlight. I was warm after a couple miles and even splashed through puddles that I probably could have gone around. I was surprised Kamran was doing as much running as he was after that many miles. (These were miles 68-83 for him.) He didn't look like he'd been running for 18 hours already. We chatted and the first four miles zipped by.

We didn't linger in the first aid station. The trail left the woods and went into a beautiful farm field. No trees and it felt like you could reach out and touch the stars. Then it went back into the woods and we started hitting the major mud obstacles. The mud filled the whole trail and you could not avoid it unless you wanted to walk through the brambles on either side of it. These feel just like catclaw and I would rather suffer in mud than be ripped to shreds by the Indiana version of catclaw. The mud was icy and had plenty of standing water in it. It sucked at my shoes with every step I took, like quick sand. Suddenly it wasn't fun anymore. My feet slowly turned to ice as we went on and I could not feel them at all. I felt something rubbing against my leg and thought maybe I had brambles sticking to me, but when I reached down I found that, no, it was not brambles, just my track pants which had frozen solid in the shape of bell bottoms. (I was planning to wear just tights but threw the track pants on over them at the last minute because of the cold.) My shoes and socks were also frozen. Literally frozen, like with ice. I couldn't feel my feet or toes at all. Kamran couldn't either and did not seem overly concerned, so I decided to stop worrying and keep going. Our water in our packs also froze and so did the valves on the tubes. Oh well, who needs water anyway?

This was a long stretch. As we jogged into the aid station, I could feel something in my shoe that was getting bigger and more uncomfortable with every step. I had no idea what it was. Maybe I had broken a toe and not felt it because of the cold and now it was swelling up? At the aid station I sat down in front of the fire. After five minutes of struggling with my laces, which were frozen, I got the shoe off and found a ball of ice in there. Glad my toe was okay. But I could not for the life of me get my shoe tied again. I held it over the fire and the lace remained encrusted with ice. I could see that Kamran was getting ready to leave so finally I just stuffed the lace into the shoe.

After this aid station there were sections of runnable trail but many more sections of freezing mud. The water was deeper over here. At two points they had rope strung across the water because it was so high and/or the mud bank was dangerously steep. We got through those places and then slogged through the most miserable miles of the night. Kamran stopped talking and I knew he was in yucky ultra-runner space. I've been there and it sucks. I knew there was nothing I could say -- if I forced light-heartedness, he would be annoyed with me for being falsely cheery; if I complained or said anything negative, he would feel worse. So I said nothing at all and just kept walking. The trail went on and on. We both felt like we had been walking forever and the trail would never end and we should be at the aid station by now and blah blah blah. Finally it appeared.

At the aid station an EMS guy asked Kamran how he felt as Kamran flopped into a chair and he responded, "Bad" and offered no further information. The EMS guy asked him if he was feeling unusually bad and Kamran did not answer. The EMS guy prompted him: "Nausea? Dizziness?" and Kamran agreed, both. He had a cup of soda and then got up and walked back towards the trail. I went with him. The EMS guy shrugged and let us go. "I do not think I'll make it," Kamran said, but I didn't respond to that because I figured he was just saying it because he felt bad and it might go away soon if I ignored it.

Back on the trail Kamran said his biggest problem was that he was dizzy. We decided he would take a short nap at the start/finish aid station, which was only three miles away. Suddenly he felt better and five minutes later we were discussing religion and I knew he was going to be okay. We did have one scary moment when we couldn't see where the trail went and he became convinced we had lost it. I almost believed him although I knew we had been following flags and there was no way we were lost. To make it worse, another runner had lost the trail and was blundering around in the woods to our right, calling to us for help in finding the trail. Once he got back on trail, he found the real trail -- through a small lake of standing water, naturally -- and soon we were dragging into the start/finish aid station.

Kamran took his nap while I held his shoes in front of the space heater to dry as much as possible. When ten minutes passed I woke him up and got him out the door. He looked a little better. It was about 6 a.m. which gave him six hours to finish the final lap. I knew he would do it. I went back to the hotel for a shower and another nap. I rinsed my socks and pants in the sink -- shoes went straight in the trash; they were old -- and could not get the water to stop running brown. It looked like I had dunked everything in coffee and squeezed it out. I finally decided to deal with it at home.

I made it back in time to see Kamran finish, looking pretty good, smiling and even jogging. I cannot tell you how proud I was to see him finish! So many people dropped and he did not, despite being exhausted and freezing and wet and muddy all night. (The race director was at the finish line and he said they were only expecting about 30% of the registered 100-mile participants to finish, a DNF rate higher than anything I had ever heard of before.) Standing at the finish line, exhausted and excited and proud, I naturally thought of Boston and the finish line there and how messed up it was to have something so horrible happen at such a wonderful place. But even thinking about that could not ruin the joy of the finish line or the feeling of excitement when he showed up almost an hour earlier than I had been expecting him. I love finish lines and always will! Crazy people, you can't stop me or any other runners I know...

So that was that. I am glad I did the pacer thing in an ultra but have no desire, ever, to do a 100 of my own. Not unless I get so fast I can complete it without staying up all night. Ha.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Uninspired Triathlete In Michigan

Yup, I live in Michigan now, and between packing up my whole house, driving across the country, moving into the new house, and starting the new job, my workout schedule AND my diet have gone to hell. Luckily my scale broke in the move so I have not been able to see how much damage this month has caused, but I know it's significant. Fortunately it is still so cold here that layers of clothes make everyone look fat, so it's hard to tell who really is. But it has been over 50 degrees two days in a row and soon the truth will come out.

I actually like Michigan. Even the weather. I know this will shock people who have been listening to me bitch and moan on the 12 days a year Tucson isn't sunny and when the high temperature drops below 80, but it's true. The cold, the dark clouds, the snow, the wind all make me feel like I'm living on another planet. If Arizona has an opposite, it's Michigan. The weather changes all the time and without warning. Right now, since it's almost April and the end is in sight and I have only been here a few weeks, I enjoy it. Ask me again next February if I'm still enjoying it; the answer might be different.

As far as running and riding (forget swimming -- I no longer even make a pretense of being interested in that), there are lots of good things and one major bad one. The major bad thing is that road riding does not appear to be nearly as popular or as safe as it is in Arizona. I live about 20 minutes north of Detroit, and my work is a 20-minute drive north of where I live. Between my house and my work, there is no major thoroughfare with a bike lane or even a shoulder (except for small, isolated stretches). There are smaller roads but none of them go through. The road surfaces themselves are horrendous. Tucson roads, even roads like Euclid near the U, are far superior to roads in my area. Even driving on the roads is uncomfortable. This morning I was drinking coffee while driving on I-75 and went over a bad section and spilled hot coffee all over myself. I would expect that, say, on a dirt jeep road or something, but not on a major interstate. I have not seen one single cyclist on the road since I've gotten here. (I've seen a few on the sidewalks but usually riding the wrong way and with lots of plastic shopping bags hanging from the bars.) The traffic is high-speed and high-volume and I am afraid that, because they're not used to seeing bikes, they're not going to be as aware of them as drivers in Tucson are. I have mostly resigned myself to the idea of not ever bike-commuting. That's not all bad because I can bring Frieda with me to work, and I wouldn't be able to if I biked. I'm sure there's somewhere in lower Michigan with bike lanes, so I may just have to... gasp... DRIVE my bike somewhere in order to ride it. I can probably kiss my 4026 bike mileage goal goodbye, though.

The running is much better. My first "long" run here was 14 miles, in my part of town. This might have been the flattest run I ever did. The elevation was at all times between 635' and 650'; there were no hills anywhere in the route. Not even an incline. I like the running in Rochester, where I work, better. There may not be mountains in Michigan, but there are definitely hills. Leader Dogs is at the top of a big hill that I always run down at the beginning of my run and up at the end. (I usually have a tail wind coming back, so I don't mind the hill much.) There are a lot of trail systems in northern Oakland County, where Rochester is. So far I have been on the Paint Creek Trail and the Clinton River Trail. Both were crushed asphalt surfaces. My feet feel like they have died and gone to heaven. I cannot think of a nicer running surface than crushed asphalt! (Except maybe pine needles.) The roads may suck but they know how to make trails out here!

The change of scenery is also invigorating, although also slightly disorienting. (When there are no mountains and there is no sun, and trees surround you, how the hell do you know which way is west?) I have been taking Frieda with me on my post-work runs, and she saw running water in nature for the first time in her life. It was the funniest thing -- she actually froze in her tracks when she saw it and even hackled up! That's my suspicious shepherd for you. Then when I dragged her down to show it to her and she sniffed it and decided it was harmless, she got giddy with excitement and starting spinning in circles. When it gets warmer I'm going to take her to a lake and teach her to swim -- I can't wait! Anyway, that is one more thing I like about running out here. It is best for me by far to run immediately after work. If I go home, I have lost all motivation by the time I get to my house, and if it is cold, or wet, or anything else, I just won't go out at all. But when I go to collect Frieda from her kennel at Leader, and she comes out all full of energy and dying to run, it is not that hard to get excited about it myself. Frieda is a great running companion. She knows the rules of running with me now and never breaks them.

This morning I went on my "long run" of 16 miles with a group leaving from the Hanson's running store in Lake Orion, a little town about 10 miles north and west of Rochester. I had looked at that town when I was here on my interview, but decided it was too far from the city to live there. I may have now changed my mind. If it can support both a running store and a bike store, it's good enough for me! And apparently all the worthy outdoor recreation is north and west -- NOT by Detroit. The run I did this morning was 2 laps of a 7-ish mile loop. Scenery was trees, farms, frozen ponds, rolling hills, and some lakes. Running surface was (mostly hard-packed) dirt road. The people from Hanson's had marked the course and had four water stops out there, which was awesome. There is also a local running club in Rochester. They run on Thursday nights and I am definitely going next Thursday. I went on my first hash run ever last weekend in Ann Arbor. The people were fun and I am glad I finally got to experience one of those runs, which I've heard about my whole running life, but I don't think I'll do another one. Only because the beer:running ratio is a little too close to 50:50 (or maybe even over, in favor of beer).

So that's the current state of training out here. In April I'm meeting Kamran from Tucson in Indiana to be his crew for an ultra, and on my birthday I'm running the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Still trying to decide on which other marathons to do this year: Indianapolis, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Steamtown, Philadelphia are all possibilities. I would like to try to keep up with this blog more but since I am also keeping a thorough daily training journal at Leader, I doubt I'll do more than one blog post a week max. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Breakup That Worked!

Me and Tim -- now that was a good breakup. No yelling, no terrible things said, just a mutual parting of the ways. Now it's a year later and when I got the idea to do a Bear Canyon Loop to ring in 2013, I knew Tim would think that was a good idea, and he did!

It snowed in the Catalinas yesterday and I could see it from my house and in pictures on Facebook and for some reason, I wanted to go up there. Originally I had planned to do the traditional WOG Saguaro East run. Then Tom mentioned a Sunday-morning BCL and I started thinking that sounded good. Then out of nowhere came the idea for a midnight BCL. Why, I don't know. Because I have had only lame New Year's Eves, like, every single year since I moved to Tucson? Because it was a little bit crazy and seemed like it might be epic? Or (most probably) because it would get my obligatory January 1, Back-to-Working-Out-After-Almost-Two-Weeks-Of-Sloth run out of the way and allow me to sleep in on New Year's Day? All of the above.

We parked at Sabino at 9. It wasn't that cold, not freezing, I think 37 or 38 degrees. I had on tights, wool socks with poop bags over them in anticipation of snow (hey! they work! and I am a fan of the cheap and low-tech), my brand-new trail gaiters, a thermal shirt with a long-sleeved tech shirt over it, nice warm gloves, a neck warmer, and a hat. I am pleased to say I dressed right and was neither too warm nor too cold anywhere on the run.

We decided to do the loop in reverse because we anticipated the water would be flowing in Bear Canyon and did not want to do the whole run with soaking wet feet after the crossings, so we headed up the tram road. Right away I was not feeling good, tired and cranky and icky stomach. My fault: on the way over to Tim's, I got a Mushroom Angus Swiss burger from McDonalds. AND fries. AND a big Diet Coke. All because it was my last day that I was going to let myself eat like crap. When I got to Tim's house and ate the burger, I looked at the waxy cheese and the congealing grease and wondered, briefly, if this was a good idea. Then scarfed it down anyway. It was NOT a good idea! Also not a good idea to drink that much soda right before a run. What was I thinking.... I have no idea.

The tram road was almost empty except for one group of walkers about two miles up and one little pair of red eyes, maybe bobcat- or coyote-height, shining in the light from my headlamp when I looked into the bushes. As soon as we got to the top of the tram road and starting climbing up into the mountains, the moon gradually came out and illuminated the mountains to the east. They had snow on them and looked stunning in the moonlight. When we got to the East Fork-West Fork junction we turned off our headlamps and listened to the silent mountains. I ate a nearly-frozen GU, so cold I could barely squeeze it out of the wrapper, and then we took off again for the long slog up and out of Sabino Basin.

A little ways up Tim called down, "Snow!" and pointed. There were tiny little patches of snow scattered on the sides of the trail. As we climbed higher, they got more numerous, and finally the whole trail was covered in powdery snow. This was neat for about five minutes. Then I remembered why I hate snow. The higher we went, the more I hated it. My stomach was bothering me (and I kept flashing back to the way that burger looked, all slimy and disgusting under the street lights at Tim's house, and burping up tastes of it) and I was slipping all around. I pictured myself slipping and sliding right off the edge of the trail. I also pictured throwing up that entire disgusting dinner and leaving the mess in the middle of the trail so Tom and Sion would have to step over it in the morning when they did their BCL. I actually stuck my finger down my throat, gleeful and inspired by that thought, but my stomach refused to cooperate as always when I tried to purge something, so I just went on, miserable.

Tim was far ahead of me and was loving the snow while I was getting more and more annoyed. We got to the top of the East Fork trail and he took off running. I was grumpy and walked. Then suddenly I heard something large and heavy crashing through the bushes on the slope above me. Okay, it was probably a deer and NOT the mountain lion I saw in my imagination, but still... I screamed for Tim, who was way ahead of me, and kept screaming until he turned around and came back. I was so ready to be out of these scary, snowy mountains. I could not stop thinking about whatever had made that noise until Tim tactfully pointed out that my bloodcurdling scream had probably scared away everything in the vicinity. This was true.

We were headed downhill now and could hear the rushing water way down in the canyon bottom. I usually fly down this stretch of downhill but couldn't because there was still some snow and it was covering the rocks. Just before we got to the canyon crossing the clock hit midnight and we stopped and screamed, "Happy New Year!" at the twinkling city lights down below us. That was that and we kept on going.

I had totally planned on getting wet crossing the canyon since I knew there was a lot of water, but actually we were able to walk across on rocks like always. This is good. In all these years of running BCL I have managed to never once get my feet wet. I have no interest in ever doing it either. We were mostly walking by now (because of me and my stupid stomach) so were getting colder, and didn't really want to add wet feet into that. The only time I got wet was on the dirt road going back to the visitor's center, when I decided I didn't need a light because there was enough moonlight and promptly planted my foot in a mud puddle just as Tim, who had his head lamp on said, "Puddle." Thanks a lot!

Back at the parking lot, Tim made tea while I was in the bathroom. There was one other car in the parking lot, covered with frost. No one else. Then an older SUV pulled in and started driving in random circles around the parking lot. It would drive for a minute, then stop and sit, then drive a little more and stop for a few minutes. That car creeped me out and I was glad to leave the parking lot and head home.

All in all it was a great New Year's Eve, and the Catalinas looked amazing in the dark with snow on them. But I was reminded of two things. Snow running is not for me, and neither is nighttime running. Good to know; that should quell any latent desire for a 100-miler.