Yesterday was my first full marathon ever, and in Muller fashion, I decided-- instead of a garden variety marathon-- to do what is considered by most an incredibly challenging trail marathon.  That is, take a marathon, and put it up a mountain, so you're not just tackling 26.2 miles, but also hills, rocky trails, dry river beds, and sometimes felled logs.  Yeah, this is not a dirt path, this was FOR REAL trails.  For real.

So, let us review.  In Hollywood fashion, I was irresponsible my race week and may or may not have wound up drinking a few beers, a few wines, and falling asleep with my clothes on as of Wednesday.  (What?  Judge not.)  Oops.  I did my longest run on Sunday, which was pretty close, but after my nice $22 thai massage (thank you, Living Social!  Serious key to budget athleticism is stocking up on massage coupons, they help recovery so much) the knees were back and legs were feeling good, so I didn't mess anything up in that respect.  I did a few short spinning classes to keep up the cardio, a little yoga, and took off work Friday to get on over to Catalina.

The course "strongly encouraged" bringing one's own water and food, as aid stations would be few and far between, so I hit up my favorite place, Arch and Sole, to grab some Gu's and a Nathan bottle belt, which was a brilliant investment:

This thing basically saved my life, but I'll go into that later.

This thing basically saved my life, but I'll go into that later.

It seemed a better call than my CamelBack, which I did run with on Sunday, but seems like a sure route to double shoulder chafes-ville.  This guy sets on your hips right nice with good padding... a nice choice for the ladies.  And my Gu's and SPF 20 lip balm fit right in the side pockets.  Word.  (The pic's of an older model, methinks... mine's a different color and slightly more awesome, probably.  But you get the picture.)

Mahmmoud was his usual encouraging self, although I had to say I had NO idea what to expect, as this was my first marathon, let alone trail marathon ever, and due to the sis' wedding and Halloween and such, I wasn't so positive my training had been up to snuff.  But he said he was sure I would pull it off wonderfully.  (Didn't hurt that I did not mention my Wednesday... hydration schedule.)

And off we went to Catalina.  I had my equipment manager/chauffeur/moral supporter Jack along for the weekend, which was a fine choice, because the island, Noah's Ark style, is made for pairs.  This was most certainly not the most budget friendly of races... while I was happy to get a $10 discount online, my savings  quickly evaporated into the $28 for the parking garage and the $66 roundtrip ferry ride (on the way there, regular admission was full, so we had to do the $15 upgrade to the Commodore's Lounge... which was actually kind of fun.  Got a free cookie and beverage, boarded first.  Also got to feel somehow important.  It warrants a mention that the Catalina Express from Long Beach has the best bloody mary I've ever drunk... so good, in fact, that I couldn't wait to get one on the trip home.  Mmm.  "Shouldn't you have been drinking water and Gatorade?" you may ask.  To you, I say... hush.)  

It was my first time to the island, at it's now one of my new favorite places of all time.  SO quaint!  So charming, so cute!  Our hotel, which gave me the best rate I could find, was an adorable big pink six-story Victorian, with a B&B feel, though larger.  We ate a lot of oysters (get them when you can, and they're fresh, right?) and buffalo burgers (they live on Catalina, and are on my finisher medal-- spoiler alert, I finished the marathon) while there, as that's what you do.  We even got to sing some karaoke the night before the race, which made us a little famous.  And yes, while drinking some beer and singing sounds like revelry, we were good and got back to the hotel by 9, when I got all my race stuff in order and continued to chug my gatorade-water to counteract any poor beverage choices, and ate some prunes to hopefully... encourage regularity.

Morning came, but regularity did not, so after getting everything together, we did a quick hunt for a latte which got things "cleared out" lickety-split.  (Yeah, TMI, but come on.  I'm training for a race where people will literally pee on their bikes.)  We walked over to the start and at 8AM, off I went, up the mountain, to start the grueling task ahead.

So, one thing you might not think about if you've never done a marathon, is what to do if you have to use the bathroom.  During tris, I've always seen copious port-a-potty opportunities.  Not so with this race.  It was hard enough to get aid stations, and thusly impossible, it would seem, to get temporary toilets.  A woman who I kept up with for the first half of the race, Listy, has done 31 marathons, and keeps "emergency poop supplies", aka TP, in her pack, and says you pretty much "make four new friends" when you have to relieve yourself.  Yikes.  So that was one learning experience.  I was very happy I went through the effort to get that latte ahead of time, even if the caffeine made me wonky for the first 20 minutes of the race.  Worth it to avoid the GI drama later.  (I did, if you must know, pull a ninja-pee in the middle of the race... so quick and stealthy during a healthy distance that none was the wiser.  Skills.)  I should also mention, another major difference between this and my tris is that iPods were allowed.  WTF!  That totally defeats the purpose of the whole man-versus-self, stare-into-the-abyss-ness of it all, doesn't it?  But boy if I wasn't jealous of the chick with the Nano when all I had running through my head on repeat was Rhianna's "Only Girl in the World" refrain (I don't even know if that's the name of the song, I only know it from the radio, and only the refrain, which I recreated in my mind for HOURS on end.  That and that disco song "If You Could Read My Mind".  And no, I work out to neither.  Stupid brain.)

I thought this marathon would be a good one, as it would be scenic and cool (November 13 and on an island was promising, no?) but for whatever reason, the temperature decided instead of the even high of 72 to go for the 80s, so it was already warm in hour one of the race.  And if there's one thing you should know, it's that heat makes this girl CRANKY.  But what could I do, but carry on.  This did, however, make hydration a real issue, so it was very good to have my bottle on hand, and ready for refills.  I even took salt tablets, which I don't much do, at a couple of the tables at the start and later in the race... I think it saved me from some mega crampage.  Seems weird, taking salt, but that's one of those "athlete" things, I guess....

The first mile was up the street, and then we hit the trail, which wound around and went up and up and up.  Already I was walking a little, but so was everyone.  Walking and running is the name of the game for a trail marathon of this kind, and with my handy Garmin Forerunner, I could make sure I caught up on downhills and straightaways for the times I had to keep my heartrate sane by walking uphill-- I'd been told by a seasoned trail marathoner of the LATC that I should expect around 5 miles per hour for a trail course, so that seemed a good goal (if ambitious... I fell short of that on off-days training.)  The day got hotter, and I kept running, and the course got hairier: there was some awkward downhill stumbling, a narrowing of the path, and some steep descents that were tricky to maneuver, but I made it to the half marathon mark by 2:30 and was averaging 8:30 minute miles in the woodsy path, so I felt pretty good.  Of course I dreaded the upcoming alleged "Catalina Crush", a nasty hill at mile 19, which is just cruel in my opinion, but at least I was mentally prepared. 

I was NOT mentally prepared for the crazy-steep slip-n-slide down a dusty slope that was all but impossible not to fall on, and in mile 14, I found all that fancy footwork had led to my already occasionally tweaky right ankle to feel SUPER effed up.  I rolled it around a little, limped on it a little, walked a little, tip toed, and thought "you finally have injured yourself."  But after a few trials of pronating and doing different things, I somehow started to run again, and eventually the shooting pain all but evaporated entirely.  While many around me were cramping up like crazy, I felt suuuuuuuper lucky that my ankle moment didn't prove lasting.

So I hobbled along from mile 15 onward, walking, running, but keeping my five mile an hour goal still, and even hauled it up the damn "crusher" in fifteen minutes, gobbled down some fruit at the aid station below it and got to mile 20 by hour 4 (which I'd hoped to do, since I did that during training... but not really, 'cause during training I totally paused for bathroom and water breaks.)  Side note: if you do this marathon, definitely bring your own fuel.  I'd brought 3 Gu's, thinking I'd fruit it up and such, but a lot of the tables were meager.  The first only had water, the second had only jelly beans and M&Ms for food, and one had only candy and-- get this-- burger.  It may be the Eco Marathon, but it certainly is not the Veggie Marathon.  A few tables had better road access, I guess, and had nice big plates of watermelon and oranges, which, with that heinous heat, were sweet sweet relief.  But man, I had to ration my Gu's.  Didn't wanna bonk.

The last six miles were fairly brutal.  We all thought the "crusher" was the end of the insulting uphills, but no... it's like they just kept returning.  Of course, they were milder, and these were on the dirt roads and the like, but with the sun beating down and your feet and knees and legs all brutalized, it's a difficult thing to bear.  I was cursing the island and the race by mile 23, which I swear went on FOREVER.  The pain of the GPS watch is you get to see how LITTLE you've progressed.  Plus, somewhere I lost .2 miles, so I would always feel a little cheated when I passed a mile marker and my watch wouldn't confirm.  Ironically, I made it up and then ADDED .3 miles, which led to a very grumpy sprinter at the finish.

I passed a guy with those creepy toe sneakers around mile 24, as we neared decent, and he gave me a chocolate Gu, which he said he wasn't going to eat, and I was super grateful... I'm pretty sure that's what gave me the cajones to finish.  Down the path from whence we came I galloped, legs all wobbly and awkward, ignoring the pain, trying to run as best I could without tripping and dying on the rocky path (I have my parents to thank for our hikes in the woods... the sure-footedness I developed as an 11 year old, running down paths in sandals, jumping from stone to stone without tripping totally helped me out here.)  Right at the 25 marker at the base of the mountain, my toe just caught a stone and I pitched forward, both calf muscles seizing up in threat of charley horse, but then I caught my step and my muscles relaxed.  HUGE sigh of relief.  So close to the finish, could you imagine?

I made it out of the woods, back to the road, and passed the last aid station.  "25.5 miles" they told me, and off I went, getting to that little hysterical feeling, where you just want it over and you realize oh my GOD it's almost OVER, and suddenly it's hard to breathe, but you just gotta GO and DO IT, and I was running around 8 minute miles, and I look and it's like, where is it! Where is the effing finish line?  And people on golf carts are clapping, but I don't hear anything, and I don't see the finish, and I'm getting furious, because my GPS tells me, I'm AT 26.2, I'm done, I did it, but nothing, and I'm angry, but running, and running harder and hardest as I can, and finally I see it, and I'm panting, and saying "this is bullshit", but I still do the best I can and run in, and I finish at 5 hours, 18 minutes, and I have done 26.5 miles (I swear, those trails are sketchy, one easily picks up and loses a few.1s).

I was so glad it was over, and the minute I took off my left sneaker, my arch went into a terrible cramp, but I took a happy Pacific Ocean ice bath (no need for a tub!) which I think will do me real well in recovery.  Every race should end near a very cold body of water!

To my surprise and delight, when I leisurely hobbled over to the results, I found that I'd come in 90th out of the 250 entrants, and in my age range, I was.... (drumroll!)... second!!!  Yay!  This is the first time I've ever placed, and it was my first marathon!  (And a really hard one!)  I'm not sure how many people in my age range competed... but I choose not to know.  There were at least enough that someone did come in third, so I say... go me!!

I finally got around to hooking up my fancy Garmin to my laptop, and am geeking out bigtime over the results.  It shows me a map (an actual map!) of where I ran, and has a whole schematic of my pace, speed, elevation and heart rate (as selected) over mileage or time.  FYI, my total ascent was 5499 feet, says the watch.  Yeah, it SUCKED.  But I did it!  And I actually placed!  So awesome!!!

This is the screen capture of elevation and heart rate.  I coulda done speed, but it was so variable.  Then again, choosing heart rate was pretty arbitrary, but whatever.  But dude: look at that first climb!  WTF!  By mile three my calves were already in dire shape.  I think the elevation map is what best translates in terms of what a pain in the ass this marathon was....

Transient

Onward: entry for Vineman is open, and I'm seeking people to do the 3 for 2 entry.  There's always more to do!  Wooooooot! 

Posted
AuthorNikki Muller