Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coeur d'Alene Marathon - 5/30/10

It was one week shy of three months since my last marathon. Hard to believe it had been that long already, but there I was ready for marathon #2. Whoever said the second marathon was easier than the first was clearly full of shit. Sure, you've learned a thing or two from your first and you now know what it's like to run the distance, but in reality, running 26.2 miles is brutal no matter how you slice it.

Perhaps attempting another marathon after only three months was ambitious, but I needed goal. After Napa I was left with a void in my life in more ways than one. You train for four months, you run the race, and you're done. What was I supposed to do now that it was all over. I needed someplace to divert my attention and the answer was fairly clear to me that this was it. It was something I'd been considering even before I did Napa, so it seemed a natural path to take. I was prepared to head to Coeur d'Alene, ID alone, but though that my sister might be interested in joining me to run the half. Sure enough she was and we had a destination race!

We both flew in Saturday morning to Spokane, WA, rented a car, and took the short 40 mile drive to Coeur d'Alene, ID in a bright yellow Chevy Aevo. We named the car "Old Yellow". It was equipped with tinted windows that were practically solid black and the car in general looked like it belonged in downtown San Jose. Old Yellow was the butt of many jokes that weekend.

We were staying at the Holiday Inn Express right near the start of the race in an area called Riverstone. After a little confusion, we found our way to the hotel. Apparently Post Falls, the neighboring town to Coeur d'Alene, has the same address as the Holiday Inn we were staying at. Once we realized we were in Post Falls and not Coeur d'Alene, we breathed a sigh of relief. Post Falls was very Spokane-like, basically not somewhere we were going to be excited about staying. As we pulled into the real Holiday Inn we were thrilled. It was right in Coeur d'Alene, and it didn't look like your typical Holiday Inn. It was adorable, all wood, with a big sign that read "Welcome runners and race fans". It got even better as we checked in and we were told about their 24 hour hot tub, hot breakfast every morning, and warm cookies at 7p every night. This was going to be great.

After we dumped our stuff and checked out our room we walked out down to take a look at the starting area and pick up our race packets. The weather wasn't ideal. The development that was hosting the race was called Riverstone, it was a new area that had been built just 2 years prior. There was a movie theater, and a number of shops and restaurants that were all located near a little lake. Riverstone was having a memorial day festival that day with a beer garden, band, entertainers and all, but unfortunately it was very overcast and cold, sprinkling on and off, so there wasn't a whole lot of people out enjoying the day.

After Kim and I picked up our bibs and shirts it was time to eat. We ate at Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery. The food was great and it took everything we had not to have more then one beer. We figured we'd leave that until after the race. Later we did some shopping, and then decided to go see the Price of Persia. The movie was entertaining enough, but my new shorts and jeans go to show that the shopping was great. We made it back to the hotel in time for the warm cookies which were fabulous. After taking a short drive into downtown Coeur d'Alene to scope out what we might like to do after the race, we turned in early.

That night I slept great, however, the anxiety I had definitely came through in my dreams. I dreamed that I was in the hotel and some person came by and dropped off their kid that I was apparently supposed to watch. Well the person never came back in time and I missed the start of the race. I then woke up, realized it was a dream, but it was 30 minutes after the race had started. I ran to the start and was allowed to run, but there was no one left on the course and I didn't know where to go, so was running in circles racking up the mileage but not getting anywhere. Luckily, that was a dream too, and I woke up right on time at 6am knowing I only had one thing to do that day. Run 26.2 miles. I took comfort in the fact that I'd run one before and I knew I could do it again.

After having a little oatmeal and toast with peanut butter, Kim and I put on our racing gear, and applied body glide very liberally. It was a bit of debate as to what to wear. It wasn't warm, but it wasn't raining, although it looked like it could at any moment. The wind was out too, so we both opted to wear the long sleeve tech shirt we received at packet pick up as an additional layer and the hats we bought the day before to keep the rain from streaming down our faces. We walked down together for my 7a start. The anxiety was high, Kim wanted to set a PR, and I was just nervous about having to run 26.2 miles again. The fact that the two weeks I'd taken off to hopefully heal my runners knee apparently wasn't helping, didn't make me any less anxious. I bought a patellar knee strap that I was hoping would aid in correct patella tracking, but having only used it on a short 3.5 mile run, I wasn't sure if it was going to help at all.

We timed it just right, everyone was lining up as we got to the start. Kim and I said our goodbyes and good lucks and vowed that we'd meet up soon at the post race beer garden to revel in all our glory. There were 403 runners for the marathon and over 1100 for the half marathon. The gun went off and all of us marathoners set out. The half marathoners were to follow 30 minutes later. For the first few miles I kept repeating to myself "slow and steady". The last thing I wanted to do was start off too fast like I'd done in Napa. It wasn't much further after I'd finished mile one that I met my running partner for the next 19 miles. Her name was Denise and she was from Alberta, Canada. We discovered that we ran half marathons at the same pace and both complained about how hard it was to force ourselves to run at such a slow pace. We both knew from the beginning we'd do a good job keeping each other in check so we stuck together.

Slowly Denise and I started knocking off the miles, marking each one with a "yay, mile 2 and yay, mile 3" at the end of each. I think it was around mile 6 that I realized I needed to go to the bathroom and there was no way I'd make it the entire time if I didn't go. I saw someone come out of the porto potty at the next water stop and no one was in line, so I took the opportunity to go. This was the first time during an actual race where I had to stop and use the bathroom. It was annoying, but a necessity unless I wanted to be miserable the rest of the run. Denise continued on at a reduced pace and I caught up with her not long after. The first 10 miles were easy, it's all about staying slow and just getting through them. I told Denise I'd be happy once we reached mile 15. To me, that's when the run really started.

I'm not exactly sure at what mile it was, though probably around mile 11 or 12, when we hit a pretty intimidating hill. At it's steepest it was probably a 3-4% grade and went on for what seemed like an eternity. Denise and I could barely talk during this stretch. We just kept pushing forward, frustrated by the fact that we couldn't tell where it ended since it was one long curve. The marathon leaders started passing us going the opposite direction, and one of them yelled out to us that we were almost at the top. I remember that really helping me, I knew I could push through a little longer. We then got to coast downhill for a bit. We both thought that was the last of the hills until the turn around, but we were wrong, there was still one more, but it wasn't quite as bad as the first.

At mile 14, we made one more pit stop, this time Denise had to use the restroom, I held up and waited for her using the less then 2 minutes to eat an orange and drink some water. A mile later we finally saw the turn around up ahead. That lifted our spirits greatly, nothing beats knowing that you're finally heading back in the right direction to the finish. While we were happy to be headed back, we both knew that we had to tackle the other side of those hills we went up and down on the way out.

The next few miles, we both felt pretty good. Even my knee seemed to be holding up really well. After hitting the top of the last hill at around mile 18 was when I started to feel I needed to slow down. I told Denise to go on ahead that I needed to drop my pace. We said our goodbyes and she continued on. Over the next half a mile though I pretty much stayed directly behind her, not dropping my pace like I thought. She saw me at the next aid station, and we started running together again. However a mile later, at mile 20, I was done. Wall hit. I was exhausted. This time I told her to go and I really did drop my pace. I was upset, I wanted to keep going with her, but physically I just couldn't. My pace dropped and now I was just focused on finishing the six miles.

Those six miles were some of the hardest miles I've ever run. Shockingly my knee didn't hurt. The strap I bought seemed to be doing it's job, but everything else hurt. My hip flexors were in pain, my calves were burning, and I felt like someone played a cruel joke on me and replaced the souls on the bottom of my shoes with cement. My pace was horrible, it must have dropped to a 11:00/mile, but I was still going, despite a few very short walking breaks that started around mile 22. There was probably only a handful of walking breaks, but they allowed other muscles in my body to be used which helped me to continue on.

Starting at mile 24.5 or so, I was able to see the buildings where the finish line was located. For the past 5 miles or so, there were very few other runners around because with only 403 of us the course was incredibly spread out. I'd pass a runner here and there, and some runners would pass me, but for the most part it was just me and whatever spectators were there cheering us on. One fan was on the side of the last trail and was telling me I was almost there. I commented that I could see it but it still seemed so far away. She then said "Well, I have to warn you. You don't run straight there.", she was motioning to where the finish was, "You still need to run around that lake off to the side. But don't worry, it's small and you're still close." That disappointed me a bit, but I knew the lake was small, and I still knew the distance I had left.

A little after mile 25 was the last aid station. The volunteers were calling out the usual "water, heed, oranges". But then I heard one of them say "snacks". Snacks?! I had to know, so I asked. Turns out it was granola bars, bagels, and a few other things. I grabbed part of a granola bar and bit off a huge chunk. I'm not even sure why I did it, I wasn't that hungry. I'd had at least 4 GUs that morning, which weren't necessarily that filling, but were keeping me sustained. I tried to chew the granola bar, but my mouth was so incredibly dry I was getting nowhere so I immediately spit it out. Mile 25.7, almost there. I had started running alongside these two young boys who were probably not even 20 yet. I started talking to them and found out they were from Washington, this was their first marathon, and when they were done they were headed back to take finals. So cute. As we rounded the corner to head in, one of the boys took off in a sprint. I usually sprint to the end in all my races, but I didn't have much left in me. I picked up my pace substantially, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I sprinted to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line and saw my sister, fully showered and dressed from her race already, on the side of the chute cheering me in. She came around to the finish and gave me a hug just as I'd been given my finisher's medal. Immediately after I saw Denise on the side who was waiting with her husband for me to finish. We hugged and congratulated each other, and then I made her take a picture with me and big giant bird. I'd finished the race in 4:33:25, which was 14th out of 27 people in my age division. I wanted better. I learned during the race though that in order to not completely hit the wall at mile 20 that I need to really start working out my muscles in order to gain some strength, and do some training runs beyond 20 miles to get my body really used to running the distance.

Soon after I finished, Kim and I went to the beer garden. We'd been waiting for this moment. Kim had managed to set a PR and was feeling pretty good about it, and I was feeling pretty good about having just finished my second marathon. We were both really happy that it managed to stay dry during both of our races. As I stood there drinking my beer, I realized just how hard it was to stand. My legs were shaking, both from fatigue and from the cold. I slurped down my beer and then Kim and I headed to the Mexican restaurant right there, Azteca, for some real food. A burrito and another beer later and I was ready for the hot tub and a nap.

Later that night, Kim and I were ready to head out and really celebrate. We headed into Coeur d'Alene and started the night out with drinks from the Beacon Pub and then at the Coeur d'Alene Brewery before heading off to have dinner and more drinks at Bardenay again. After a good night sleep, we spent the next day driving along the lake, which also happened to be the course of the marathon, eating a huge breakfast at this cute little breakfast spot, and then going to see a movie, Robin Hood. By this point, my knee was really hurting again and I wasn't looking forward to the plane ride home. Granted, I don't think sitting in a movie for 2 hours helped, but it was raining outside and nothing sounded better.

As we headed into Spokane towards the airport, we both commented on how the destination race is something we need to continue doing. Kim is hooked on running again, and I couldn't be happier. We had a great time together in a beautiful area neither of us had spent much time in, doing something we both really enjoy. Running.

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