A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 10th Edition
234.9 miles run; 1 mile swam; 30 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Pocatello Marathon
Place: Pocatello, ID
Miles from home: miles
Weather: 50s-70s; humid; sunny
Well, 6 years later, I got my wish.
when I was running 52 Marathons in 52 weekends in 2006, I saw the
elevation profile for the Pocatello Marathon and knew someday I would
run the race. The downhill portion really suits my strengths and at the time I had never once been to Idaho. I just never assumed when I did run it, that the race would be the first marathon I had
run in over three months with only three 12-mile runs to serve as
“long-distance training” in between. But that is what life does to
you. It makes you deal with the unexpected. The only question which
remains is how will you handle it?
in 2006, when I told my Myspace friends (yeah, seriously) about the
Pocatello Marathon, I also didn’t expect I would be headlining its first
ever pasta and lean beef dinner. However, that was the case this year
as part of Idaho’s Team Beef. I was fortunate enough to speak to one of
the best crowds I have ever had at a pre-race dinner. Engaging,
bright-faced, attentive and good-looking, and the crowd wasn’t bad
As I told my tales, hoping to inspire some,
calm the nerves of others and make them all laugh, I was treated to many
wonderful experiences. Not the least was having one of my best friends
on the planet in attendance, attempting her first road marathon in 14
years. Shannon, who crewed me on my 350 miler, was herself coming back
from an injury. Both of us were treating the Pocatello Marathon as a
barometer of where our fitness was at this point in the recovery process
of our injuries.
dinner was packed and there was a plethora of people in the crowd who I
was happy to have heard tell their tale earlier in the day. One in
particular, John Schmitt, who survived a horrific car crash, subsequent
torturous surgeries and the prognosis of never walking again, was here
to complete his 30+- marathon in the past 12 years. Truly amazing. I met
one woman who, like me, lived in Portland and I found out I literally
ran three blocks from her house just a few days prior. Another large
group of 30-plus members from Colorado had made the trek to Idaho to Run
the Gap. Heck, I think I even saw a Denver Broncos cheerleader at one
point. She looked like she wanted my autograph but scurried away with
her food all shy-like.
After the dinner, I surprised
myself for the second weekend in a row by being in bed before 10:00 p.m.
With a 6:15 a.m. start, and a bus out to the beginning, I knew I would
have to be up around 4:30 in the morning. I kept telling myself the lack
of sleep would be fine as this was not a race. This marathon was a
chance for me to see if I could run over twice the distance I had in
three months and hopefully not do any further damage to anything that
was already healing. Somehow, that was comforting enough to get me to
I always, even
after 140 marathons, have butterflies on race morning. I believe that
part of the difference between “doing” a marathon and “racing” a
marathon is (as friend who has run over 100 himself said) pushing the
envelope. Sauntering across the finish line, oodles of energy left in
the tank with 100 photos in your camera means you had a fun time. But
you probably didn’t race. While I wouldn’t exactly be racing this day, I
also knew I wasn’t going to have the extra energy to play games. The
goal was to push through the first ten miles around a 7:10 pace and then
back it off from that point on. Anything faster than that, for longer
than that, would be foolhardy and pointless.
gathered near the start, music playing in the pitch blackness, with a
blue moon shining down from above and the sound of goats “baaa-ing” in a
nearby barnhouse, it was chilly but not cold. In addition, it was
ridiculously humid for Idaho in the mountains at that time of day. I
had slept so soundly the night prior that I had apparently missed the
deluge of a rainstorm that had swept through, wetting everything and
raising the humidity level drastically. That being said, the weather was
pretty ideal otherwise.
As the runners lined up for
the start, I was saying hello to people I had meet the previous night or
even months before. Others, while I had never met in reality, were
friends via social networking sites. People forget that in the morning,
when they are wearing sunglasses or cap which is partially obstructing
their face and we have never met, chances are slim I will immediately
remember who they are. Throw in the fact that a majority of races begin
at my ever hated time of the day (anything before 10:00 a.m.) and I
sometimes feel bad for not being able to pull a name out of a hat. But
if I talk to someone long enough, the light bulb usually flickers enough
for recollection. Moral of the story? Noon or later, people.
I said above, this was going to be me feeling out my body (but not in a
perverted way) for ten miles and then seeing what else I had in the
tank. With just a hint of lightness permeating through the
early-morning sky, the wheelchair racers were on their way. There is
essentially 1,400 feet of downhill in the first 13 miles of the race so I
can only imagine that it is like a sustained frightfest for these
wheelers, especially as this is not a straight line course we are talking
about. Many twists and turns lay ahead and I am happy to hear not a
single thing happened to any racer.
My first few miles
felt fast but that is only because they were faster than anything I
have run in the past few months. However, they were anything close to
“fast” at least in regard to what I am used to. Most of my miles put me
right around a 3:05 pace, as evidenced by my running with the 3:05
pacer, Charlie, for more than a few miles. I met Charlie a few years ago
and his drop in marathon times has been stellar. If memory serves me,
he recently had something akin to a 15 minute PR that put him at 2:45.
However, as we approached the 7 mile mark, where a surprise small uphill
reminded me I am not ready to maintain this pace for long, I bid
Charlie adieu. He looked back to say adios and said “Wonder why the 3:10
pacer is right there?” Charlie would go on to run a 3:04:52. Now, THAT
is some stellar pacing.
The next few miles I spent
running with two local boys, at least one of which was running his first
marathon. I asked what time they were shooting for and they said
somewhere in the 3:20 range. Oof. I told them they were probably going
to be either massively surprised with their effort or the second half
was going to hurt a bunch given the pace they went out at. They both
agreed that second half was going to be a sufferfest. Why people put
themselves through this way-too-fast first half horrifically-painful
second half in spite of mountains of evidence against EVER being able to
“bank time” is beyond me. However, I would not be around to watch them
finish. At mile 12, the first uphill of the course, I stepped into a
portapotty for a small break.
Coming out I wrung the sweat out of my shirt and so much had accumulated it even surprised me. Here, Erin Henderson (someone you just have to read about)
passed me for the first of what would be a series of cat and mouse that
we would play for the next 5 miles. As we approached the halfway point,
I began to really wish I had chosen to do the 13.1 distance instead.
My legs had survived the downhill intact and the test was over. I
knocked out the first half in 1:36:02 and was pleased with my effort
for the day.
neglected to mention the absolute beauty of the first half of this
marathon. I do not say that to slight the second half, which holds its
own charm but rather to really point out the stunning visages which dot
the beginning of this race. It truly is something to behold. To be
honest, as I went inward to focus on maintaining proper form when my
body began to tire, my eyes missed a great deal of the second half’s
Fortunately, the sun did not break
through the cloud cover for a good two hours into our race and when it
finally did it only stayed intermittently. Near the end, after about
three hours of running, the clouds did eventually burn totally off and
the temperature rose. However, for a race so exposed to the elements, I
can say we truly were fortunate.
When one takes the
second portion of a race as an elongated training run, and takes the
foot off of the racing pedal, they can focus on many other factors which
make or break a race experience. As I moved along at a clip which was
not exactly what I was hoping for but far more than I could have
expected to be doing, I did just that. The only real “con” I can think
of with this race was that the electrolyte drink had been poorly mixed.
It was a bit too diluted which rendered it more or less just colored
water. But this really was the biggest complaint I can think of. The
liquids, all flavors of them, were very cold. The volunteers were
extremely friendly and helpful. The aid stations were fairly plentiful.
The locals on the roads, which as far as I can tell were not officially
closed, were very understanding and non-aggressive.
Idaho Beef Council, it was a
pleasure to see dozens of other Team Beef runners out on the course.
The RD said groups like this, or the one 30-strong from Denver, used to
be about how many total runners he thought would actually make the trip
to run in Pocatello. Now, dozens of states, hundreds of runners and all
sorts of talent are represented in this eastern Idaho city.
the miles got a little tough for me nearing the last big hill at mile
21 I thought about this growth. To be thanked for helping to grow his
race, as well as the overflowing accolades at the dinner the night
before was very flattering but I know that my part was small. It is the
hard work of dedicated people wishing to make an event in their hometown
a success that truly deserved the praise. For example, this race, as
recently as 2008, was holding steady with less than 200 marathoners.
However, the past few years have shown amazing growth. Soon, the problem
of “too many runners” may be the biggest problem that the Pocatello
Marathon weekend has.
Making the final turn in
the pristine Ross Park Aquatic Complex, abutted by the Pocatello Zoo, I
was very happy to have about three more minutes of running to go.
Finishing in a time of 3:27:54, which was good enough for 55th place
overall in one of my twenty slowest marathons ever was in no way
disappointing. Rather, I was elated. This was a great time for what I
had been able to put into this race. It showed me that muscle memory
from the previous 140 marathons had allowed me to make it through
relatively unscathed. While, I do not wish to spend many more races in
the current shape that I am in, it was a great starting off point.
say I enjoyed the overall weekend’s experience would be selling the
experience short. I met some wonderful people and heard some incredible
tales. I got back on the running horse and besides some very sore
quads, I am no worse for the wear. Many friends, old and new, seem to
have had an excellent running experience in this fantastic place.
was able to come from the lowlands of Austin to over a mile up in the
air and post an excellent time. For having maybe three months of
training since her Achilles injury, her effort was stellar. My buddy Sam
Felsenfeld (check out his website)
didn’t get the PR he was hoping for but he did notch marathon number
102. Erin set a new PR in spite of dealing with some GI issues and her
friend Jennifer, who also sang the National Anthem (beautifully, mind
you) completed her first ever marathon,
might be half a million people who finish a marathon in America this
year,when I recall weekend’s like this I think that number is about
tenfold too short of where it should be. As I said to the assembled
masses at the dinner the night before the race, there is just something
nicer about runners.
Most of them, anyway.