With a name like the Self-Transcendence Marathon, how could I not run it :)?
I am very grateful for Alanna, who picked me up at 5 am on Friday so we could drive up together. The ride was about an hour and drives are always easy at 5 am... when someone else is doing it ;). (Thank you).
As we arrived, a bus load of primarily non-english speaking (or not native english speaking) people also did too. It was a fantastic experience being part of a small event that had such an incredible international following.
As we walked towards to the start, the mist over Rockland Lake was beautiful. The energy coming from the masses of runners was so friendly and inspiringly positive to me. People seemed happy. I didn't sense a huge competitive energy... just a bunch of people preparing for a long run on a Friday morning. Despite feeling sluggish the day before, I was starting to feel ready to try to run a little.
The course was 9 loops, nice and flat, with the first one a little shorter than the remaining eight 2.93 mile loops. About 500 people lined up. I had to pee.. I thought about going back to the potty line, but wasn't sure I would have enough time. After a moment of (complete and utter peaceful) silence, I still had to pee. The commands were give about 7:07 am and we were off. (I still really had to pee). I was immediately swallowed up by the runners as I was stuck behind a few less aggressive at the start than myself. (Hurry up people! I really really have to pee!) I was hoping that I once I started to run and I would forget about having to pee, but after a mile that was not going to happen. (Oh boy did I have to pee!)
I made it around the course, ran as fast as I could right to the course side port-a-potty and then finally I felt like I could relax. On the second or third loop, I saw Arpan, who I met and ran with at the BUS 6 hour Birthday run. He tried to run a little with me, but I was moving well (about 7:45-7:50 pace) and Arpan had recently finished running over 2700 miles in 52 days and was a little tired still. Slacker! ;) (Yeah, um... that was not a typo. Go look at your log for the year. How many miles do you have? Arpan ran 2700 miles in less than 2 months and technically DNF... but at that level of awesomeness there is no DNF) He ran this distance while competing affiliated Self-Transcendence 3100 race (the World's Longest Ultra). Arpan could see I was trying to stick to my pace and let me go. Later he passed me on a bike :). I give him credit for not just riding a bike everywhere... like to the fridge, the bathroom, from the bedroom to the living room. After 2700 miles in 52 days, I don't think I would be able to walk. It was nice to catch up with him after the race for a little bit.
Oh wait, this is about me.... so as I ran, I was surprised at how good I felt. I was not shooting for a PR. I know I stink it up in the summer. I also had already logged over 77 miles in the 6 days before so I was surprised I was able to hold just sub-8's.
Although it seems the 3 mile loop might get boring, this race was so interesting that I did not get bored at all. Around many bends, we could find small simple gatherings of people or individuals singing acapella, playing the sitar, or their violin. There was someone drumming. There was a four piece band with electric guitar and a flute. People were cheerful, and positive. There was not a big deal made about or by these musicians. It was not a highlight feature of the race. Mostly it felt like they just happened to decide to just be there and make music. For someone who runs without my iPod, this was nice.
The Aid stations were plentiful. I believe 3 per lap. Water and Cytomax were provided. I noticed fruit and other snacks on some tables. I tried some Cytomax but all I could think of was how Cytomax was very close to the word Cytoxan and this made me queazy. Cytoxan was the name of my chemo. I couldn't drink more than one cup. I am sure it is a fine choice of sports drink, but not so much for me. I stuck to water for the rest of the race.
I had 2 gels pinned to my shorts and a few more in my cooler which was set right next to the course. I love loop courses and small races because of these lovely conveniences. Often in ultras, you can park right next to the course and crew yourself from your car. So wonderful. Big marathons make racing so much more complicated than this sports needs to be. This marathon was a wonderful exception.
I took some salt before the start, actually 4 e-caps. I didn't feel like stopping to grab more. I am experimenting with getting by with less, so I wanted to see how things went on 4 e-caps and two gels.
I took my first gel early on, about 6 mile in. I felt ok. At about 16 miles I took the second gel. By then I was still on an 8 minute mile pace, but feeling sick and queazy and my stomach was crampy. I was trying to wait it out but with 6 miles to go, I threw the gel away and made another bathroom stop. At this point, it was very hot, and I was feeling the effects of the sun when in the shadeless sections.
Although one of the most interesting parts of this race was the small cups of seaweed the volunteers were handing out, I just could not bear to try it on a unsettled stomach. Maybe next year.
Those last two laps were tough. I slowed a lot (to about 8:30-8:40) and just tried to keep moving. I was so happy to see that finish shoot on the final lap.
I crossed the line in 3:34, feeling over heated and needing to sit. I staggered my tired legs over to the med tent and asked to simply just sit for a moment. Being one of the earlier finishers, there was not much for the med tent staff to do, so they gave me their undivided attention and had wet clothes and ice packs for me. They had even filled a plastic pail large enough to climb into with cold water. I climbed completely inside, dunking myself and feeling so amazingly refreshed (and grateful to have been one of the early female finishers so I got to dunk in fresh water).
I quickly felt cooler, got hosed off and went to look for Alanna. While I walked around, my stomach just could not settle down. I knew it was because I did not take in enough calories during the race and my body was all messed up from this.
While we drove back, I recall telling Alanna how I can't believe how easy running feels when things are going well. It should seem that running faster should be harder, but sometimes it just feels easier to move quicker. Sometimes when moving slower, the distance feels further therefore harder to deal with, but when moving fast, the miles sneak up and surprise you. I love when I feel this way in a race.
It took a long time, but by the time we got home I finally started to feel a little better... just before I had to leave for my flight to South Florida so that I could spend the weekend with Tropical Storm Isaac. LOL! Hey after a 50k and a marathon book ending my week, I needed some rest days.
I was incredibly happy to run a 3:34 at the end of 103.9 mile 7 day stretch. I did not think I would be able to run so fast on such a tired body.
My time was good enough for 8th place female and 52 overall out of 499 runners.