Monday, May 30, 2016

Nice in a Blah Way -- Med City Marathon Race Report

This was, if not quite an impulse marathon, at least a last-minute marathon. It was drivable (9.5 hours each way = totally drivable by Marathon Maniac standards), cheap (only $85 even for last-minute registration), in a state I hadn't done yet (Minnesota), and smack in the middle of a holiday weekend, which meant I would have time to drive out, drive back, and still recover.  The reviews on Marathon Guide were mostly good. I had never been to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, and probably (hopefully!) will never have any reason to go, so it was sort of a sightseeing trip, too. Also, I start teaching class at Leader on June 5, which means the whole month of June is pretty much shot as far as marathons go. The stars were lined up and I decided to go for it.

Will and I drove out on Saturday. It was a long drive. We had the dogs with us, which never makes for a really relaxing trip, but we figured that for one night it would be doable. Rochester really, really feels like the middle of nowhere. We drove and drove through what felt like a couple hundred miles of rolling green hills, farms, and big blue skies before we rolled into Rochester. I looked at the map and it didn't look like there was any civilization any closer than Minneapolis-St. Paul, which was still a good ways away. I cannot figure out how anyone decided to build a city here at all, let alone a world-famous medical clinic. At the same time, Rochester looks like a very... nice place. I mean nice in that bland, Midwestern way, the way that most of Michigan is also nice. People are friendly, scenery is pleasant if not exciting, there is a nice, sort-of-scenic river (with the cool name the Zumbro River) flowing through town with lots of parks and multi-use paths attached to it... but to me, places like that are neither exciting nor interesting. I would much rather live in gritty places with cars up on blocks in the yard and pitbulls behind chain link fences, where no one cares whether you're zoned for the animals that you have living in your backyard and where people have loud front yard parties that anyone strolling by on the street is invited to, and where no one complains if your dog barks because it's a dog and dogs bark. Rochester did not look like my kind of city at all, though I didn't spend a lot of time there and I'm sure it is a perfectly pleasant place to live.

I picked up my number while Will walked the dogs. I was surprised to find that you actually have to finish the race to get the T-shirt! That's different; usually they just hand you the shirt along with your number. (And one marathon, the First Light Marathon in Mobile, mailed me a finisher's shirt even though I never even started the race, or even went to Mobile on race weekend!) It probably goes without saying that the expo was small and I did not get any free food samples, nothing but a bag full of fliers for other races. (One of my personal pet peeves... such a waste of paper! I immediately go through those bags and dump every paper thing in the trash, and save the bag to use as my dirty laundry bag for the trip.)

We stayed in Motel 6, and that Motel 6 parking lot had to be the most ghetto place in Rochester. I'm always glad when I have Frieda to walk with in places like that. It's like walking through a crowd of vampires wearing a clove of garlic around my neck. Her alert and suspicious demeanor makes people cross over to the other side of the parking lot when they see us coming.

The race started at 7:00 a.m. at the elementary school in Byron, a town seven miles west of Rochester. My last three marathons have all been big urban ones with complicated logistics. This one was not complicated at all. We parked in the school parking lot, walked the dogs around, took part in the Maniacs pre-race picture. There were plenty of Porta-Potties, or you could use the bathrooms in the school. It was warm and humid, but there was a nice tail wind blowing, which I was very grateful for because I am not acclimated to humidity at all! I mean, two weeks ago I was running through snow flurries. It's never a good sign when you're sweating at the start line of a marathon. It reminded me of the Shires of Vermont Marathon last May. That had not been a pleasant experience and I really hoped this one would be better.

The first seven miles into town were on rolling hills through farm country. We were running right into the sunrise and I was pouring sweat. Still, I was keeping up with the 1:45 half pace group. 1:45 was my half time in both Atlanta and Boston, and, while I had no specific time goal for this marathon other than to hopefully be under four hours, I would like to keep my B.Q. streak alive if possible. There were early signs that that wasn't going to happen. For one, I was thirsty, really thirsty, so thirsty that I deviated from my set-in-stone fueling pattern and had water at Mile Six rather than waiting till somewhere between Eight and Nine and having water with my first Gu. For another, I was cranky about running into the sun and about how much sweating I was doing. I brushed those feelings aside and told myself I was always cranky in the beginning of a race and that I should feel lucky because nothing was hurting and because my stomach felt fine. Also, I should feel lucky because Will was going to be at Mile Nine. (Another nice thing about a small race: easy for spectators to see you multiple times on the course.)

We were back in town now, running around the place where the expo had been yesterday and close to where I knew the finish line was. This was one of those races where you're close to the finish line and then sent out on another loop away from it. I hate those! When I know the finish line is close, I just want to cross it and be done. But I kept going because I knew I would see Will soon. Sure enough! He was on the grass next to the multi-use path we were now running on, playing the ukulele. We had discussed this before the race and I told him if there was one thing that would not be out of place on a a marathon course, it would be a guy playing a ukulele. He had been dubious about that, but there he was with the ukulele. "Hi, baby!" was all I managed to say as I ran by. "Is that your boyfriend?" asked another girl who was running with me. "Yup," I said. "You're lucky," she said. "My husband won't even come to my races." This is a really, really common thing I hear from tons of runners! I never expect Will to be supportive of my marathons -- he is totally entitled to his own interests and hobbies -- and yet he is, like, the best and most dedicated race sherpa ever. I have no idea why I am so lucky. It just goes to show that the world is not, in fact, a fair place, because if it was, there is no way I would have a boyfriend as good as Will.

Anyway, I had had my first Gu and should have been feeling good, but instead I was feeling cranky. The course went through a nice but boring residential neighborhood, then back into a park for more path. Then back downtown. The half-marathoners had been with us this whole time. As we approached Mile 13, they kept going straight and the full marathoners turned left, away from downtown. I did not want to make that turn! I thought to myself, what if I just run straight, pick up my half medal, call it a day? Come back to Minnesota later for Grandma's or Twin Cities. But I knew that wouldn't happen. I was going to cross Minnesota off my map for good today no matter what.

My half time was 1:47. Will was at Mile 14 playing the ukulele again. He asked how my time was and I said it was fine right now but it was about to go bust. I whined that I was tired and didn't feel like running. Oh! I forgot to mention that my new wireless earbuds had died after less than an hour and a half. The same earbuds that I can use for an hour and a half working out in the morning, then put in my purse for the whole day, then use for another hour after work doing housework. I have no idea what happened with those. I gave them to Will and accepted the fact that I would be doing the rest of the run without music.

The route headed out of town. Multi-use path running along the river, no spectators, few other runners. I had just passed the Mile 15 banner when, right after that, I saw the Mile 25 banner. Suddenly I realized what kind of course this was -- a long out-and-back on a mostly-empty path, my least favorite! Oh, man. I wish I had known this before signing up for this race. The thing is, the path was beautiful. It was shady and green and the river was making nice happy burbling noises off to the side. But there was nothing else to look at. There were even some runners out there not participating in the marathon, just out for their regular runs. Oh, how I hate this kind of course! It's pretty much a supported training run as opposed to a marathon. I tried to calculate how far to the turnaround but I suck at math, and couldn't figure it out. A long way is all I could come up with. No music, no scenery, no spectators.

The rest of the race was pretty much a drag. I was wrong about one thing -- it wasn't just an out and back. It was like four miles of path, then a couple miles of highway. Sunny, exposed highway that made me grateful to be back on the path. I was drinking like crazy at every aid station, water and Gatorade both, and still thirsty. I even took two salt caps, which I haven't done in a long time. I walked after Mile 21. I texted Will and told him I wasn't even sure I would be under four hours. He told me to take my time. Then a girl ran past me and said, "You're a Maniac, you shouldn't be walking!" I said, "You have a point," and started slow-jogging, although, actually, she did not have a point. Lots and lots of Maniacs walk. There are pretty much always more Maniacs in the back than in the front. I told myself that if I ever felt close to puking, I was going to walk again. A sub-4:00 finish was not worth it if it came at the cost of me puking. (Although I have considered the possibility of, after finishing all 50 states, going back and doing a sub-4:00 marathon in all 50. Out of my 34 marathons, exactly half have been under four hours. Not that I'm planning on doing that for sure, but just in case...)

The course slowly headed back towards town. I realized I would be under four hours unless something terrible happened. I kept jogging. That last mile seemed endless! I could hear the finish line noise but it didn't seem to be getting any closer, and even the timer on my Garmin seemed to be dragging. Finally I was crossing the river one more time and headed for the finish line. There was a Jumbo Tron and the announcer was calling out everyone's name as they finished. I know exactly what he said about me only because Will was recording it on video; I was totally out-of-it and not thinking of anything other than stopping running. What the guy said was this: "And this is number 17, Christie Bane, from Madison Heights, Michigan. She's a Marathon Maniac! These folks do a bunch of marathons in a row! I'd love to talk to that gal and find out when the last time she did a marathon was. It was probably last week. Maybe even yesterday!" Ha ha! No, sir, actually a month ago.

I managed to finish with an official time of 3:52:32, a respectable time though not great. I felt terrible, hot and dehydrated and not quite all the way there mentally. I didn't look at the medal or the shirt until we were back at the car, and answering Will's questions seemed like a lot of effort. I couldn't even drink my post-race chocolate milk till I was back at the car reclining with my feet up, unlike the past several races where I've chugged it as soon as they handed it to me.

People seem to love this marathon on Marathon Guide, but I guess I'm just not a fan of nice little hometown races, because it was one of my least favorites, right along with Lehigh Valley, Trailbreaker, New Mexico Marathon, and Narragansett. I need either really stunning scenery or an exciting urban course to really like a marathon. I will give them points for organization and friendliness, but there is no way I would ever do this marathon again. Oh well, on to the next one! Right now I have nothing on my calendar till the Extraterrestrial Marathon in August, and the saddest thing ever is that in my time off after class -- June 25th through July 5th -- there is not a single marathon that will help me in my 50 states quest! Is that a bummer or what?

34 states down, 16 to go. I'm getting there!

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