Friday, July 3, 2015

June 2015 Mileage: Hanging on

June was very touch and go, both in terms of my ongoing state of Exhaustion as well the tibialis posterior pain in my right leg.  It was also the first month in which I ran significantly less than I did in  that month of 2014, the year of never ending injury.

I just never could seem to get in a groove.  I'd run one day and be totally fine, and then the next day I would go out and couldn't run one step.  The injury never seemed to progress any further, thankfully.  I just couldn't rack up decent miles, and I couldn't be consistent.  I never even tried to make the trip out to Horsetooth or Lory because I never knew from day to day whether I'd be totally fine, or whether I'd get to the end of my driveway and have to turn around and come back due to pain or exhaustion, or both.

One of the highlights of the month was when we took a camping trip to Gould and I got to run the hills at 9000ft.  I've run at that elevation or higher before and don't recall ever having trouble, but this time I definitely felt it all.  Maybe it was because I started out running uphill for 3 miles straight.  Still, I was having one of my "good" days, my leg didn't hurt, and it was great.





I'd hoped to get in another 20 miler before the Bear Lake Marathon, but couldn't manage it.  I was glad I'd done an impromptu one at the end of May, because that was all I got.

I was strangely calm going into the Bear Lake Marathon, really unconcerned about how my leg kept hurting.  "It'll be fine on race day," was all I could think, with a shrug.  Just like Bear Chase.  Something will happen on the start line, and everything will be okay.

And it was.  The day we left for Idaho, I still had that all-too-familiar pain as I walked down the stairs and loaded the car; I even had pain on the morning of the marathon as I climbed down the ladder from our pop up tent.

But I got to the start line and ran the entire race without so much as a twinge.

Bear Lake Marathon start

Mile 11

Mile 15

I really liked the Bear Lake Idaho Marathon (I wrote about it here).  A lot of it was on dirt roads, and since it was geared towards Marathon Maniacs and 50-Staters (some of the participants were running 4 marathons in 4 days), it felt more like an ultra to me.

Unfortunately, the course was short, so my finishing time of 4 hours does not seem genuine.  I'm trying not to be disappointed about that, but I've haven't been able to break 4 hours since hyperemesis and giving birth.  "Your best race is yet to come," my new marathon friend told me during the race.  Someday your kids don't require so much of you emotionally, physically, and you can be a real, actual human being again.  I'll have to get The Exhaustion and The Injury under control first.  And maybe not choose a race on a 80 degree day at 6000+ ft elevation.

Bear Lake Marathon finish

In the past, I've often gotten injured in the weeks after a marathon because I don't rest for long enough and don't realize that I needed more rest until the damage is already done.  This time, we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for almost week afterwards, and I didn't run a step.  I didn't even hike or walk that much--the blister and sub-blister on my left foot hurt too bad, and once that started letting up, the pain in my right tibialis posterior returned.

As soon as we got back home, I gingerly set out for a test run to see how things felt, and I ended up going 8 miles.  I guess it felt okay.

That weekend, we took another trip to Gould (yes, we went camping again after only 2 nights of being at home) and I had a chance to run in the State Forest State Park.  I had intended on only going about 8 or 10 miles, but I just kind of zoned out and kept running instead of turning back.  I also missed the turn off to the trail I was headed for, so I logged a couple of miles in swamp (who would have thought there are swamps in Colorado, at 9000ft, even) with thigh-high grasses and even more mosquitoes than had been at Grassy Lake.

Trees down.
I didn't know exactly where I was, but it sure was pretty.

If you are supposed to turn, they put up big signs.... like this one...
If my leg hurt, I didn't notice it because I was too busy dealing with other things, such as 1) Is that mountain lion scat; 2) Do rattlesnakes live in swamps;  3) Have I entered a never-ending maze of logging roads, in which I will be lost for all eternity; 4) Can you die from loss of blood due to mosquito bites; 5) If only I had known I would be running 16 miles, I would have brought more than 40 ounces of water with me.

Even though I did, literally, make it out of the woods during that Gould run, I wouldn't say that I am out of the woods in terms with this injury and The Exhaustion.  I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread-- I'll have a good day followed by a bad day, and I've got precious little time to train for Howl.

June was okay, but I'd like the miles to come easier, to not feel like I am fighting for each and every step.  Hoping that July will be better.

112.86 miles this month. 714.39 year to date.  Still 101.17 miles up from where I was last year at this time, but my lead is dwindling fast, and it's looking like I will be hard pressed to make it to 1500.

Thanks for reading.




Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Summer of a Little Bit Wild: Grand Teton National Park

**Please note: All of the good photos in this post were taken by Rob**

On our last morning at Norris in Yellowstone, I got up around 6:45am and people were already circling the campground like vultures, looking for vacated sites to occupy.  As I was climbing down the ladder from our camper, a woman jumped out of her subaru to ask me if we were leaving and if she could put her camp chair at our site to claim it.  I sighed.  Rob and Will weren't even awake yet, but this kind of thing was enough to make me want to get the heck out of Yellowstone.

We headed south to the Tetons, planning to see if we could find a dispersed camp site at a place called Grassy Lake that I had read about in my Lonely Planet guidebook.  Because when has Lonely Planet ever led anyone astray.

Snake River and Teton Range
Grassy Lake Campground, along the Snake River.  What a great name for a river.  It reminded me of how I had wanted to camp on the "Poison Spider Mesa" when we were in Utah, but we didn't end up venturing over there.
The place seemed good enough, if you could ignore the swarming mosquitoes.  Mainly I just wanted some solitude, like our trip to Gould, when we were alone in the mountains and it had been the best thing ever.  So we set up our canopy tent and left a camp chair at the site we chose and then headed on into the Tetons.




These mountains were lovely, and I instantly liked the Tetons better than Yellowstone.  There weren't as many people, for one, and everything seemed more relaxed.

Jackson Lake and Teton Range

Tetons

Tetons


We stopped to make lunch at a picnic area along Jackson Lake, and Will set to work on his Grand Teton Junior Ranger booklet because he was very motivated to earn another badge.


After lunch, we drove the rest of the loop around the park.  It was much smaller than Yellowstone, so we had time to stop and enjoy the things we wanted to see.


Grand Teton and Jenny Lake
Kayakers in Jenny Lake.

Tetons
The Grand Tetons
One of the major attractions of the park is an iconic barn on a stretch of road called Mormon Row, where I think some Mormon settlers had endured harsh winters to work the land.  I don't really care that much about Mormon history, but I do like old barns more than the average person, so this was nice.

Old barn on Mormon Row

By the time we made it back to the mosquito-infested campground, we found that our canopy tent had blown over, and a van-residing young hippie was squatting at our site.

I wasn't very happy about this, but he seemed like a nice enough kid who just wanted a place to park his van and sleep for the night, and it appeared that all the other sites were occupied.  So we were like, whatever.  In the scheme of things, it wouldn't really bother us to have his van parked near our campsite.

Snake River dispersed campsite

Snake River mosquito-fest

The bothersome thing about the campground was the mosquitoes.  Who would have thought that at a place called "Grassy Lake" mosquitoes would be a problem.  In addition to any bit of exposed flesh, they went for your eyes and ears, and every time you breathed, you got a few of them up your nose. We climbed into the tent as soon as we finished dinner, desperate to seek the shelter of the mosquito net.

Long about 10:30 that night, we were woken by a cowboy-hat-wearing Utahan, who had returned from a long day of fly-fishing to discover (much like us) somebody squatting in his campsite.  He seemed to think that we were in on this conspiracy (which he viewed as affront his manhood), simply because we were at the adjacent campsite, though in truth, we had not known anything about it.

The Utahan and the squatter sparred for about an hour, in a way that made silverback gorillas seem polite by comparison.  The Utahan finally took off on his motorcycle to go get the park rangers, and the whole thing began to seem like that time I watched a 2:00am police chase/drug deal from the window of my house in St. Louis.

The next morning, we talked to the Utahan, who in the daylight seemed like a really nice guy, but I was still very eager to leave Grassy Lake.  The whole reason why I had wanted to camp at a dispersed campsite was for some more solitude than is available at one of the Walmart-like campgrounds inside the park, but even the crowded campgrounds at Yellowstone had been more peaceful than the night we'd just lain awake through.

We headed to Jenny Lake, the most popular campground inside the Tetons, and we snagged the last available place.

Our campsite was beautiful but was the farthest one from the bathroom.  I kid you not, it took 6 minutes just to walk to the bathroom (and that meant another 6 minutes to walk back up to the campsite), which with my still-sore foot, was kind of difficult.

The Jenny Lake area was pretty ramped-up in terms of bear safety precautions.  A little over a week before our visit, the park staff had euthanized a "bold," purse-snatching black bear who had been attracted to the $700/night Jenny Lake Lodge after some guests left the trunk of their car open (and food accessible) while unloading.  I think it is horrifying that the bear was euthanized, but even more horrifying that despite all these warnings, I saw people at the campground doing things that the rangers specifically said not to, such as leave water jugs and fuel containers unattended at their campsites.  Seriously, at the campsite you were not supposed to dump out dish water, brush your teeth, hang up laundry to dry, or sleep with chapstick in your tent.  Nothing that would make a bear suspect that humans, and their associated foodstuffs, are around.

I didn't ask if peeing in the woods was strictly prohibited (because your two injured legs make it painful for you to walk 1/3 of a mile to the bathroom), but given the heightened level of other precautions, I just assumed it was and didn't even consider it.

At any rate, we saw no bears at Jenny Lake or (spoiler alert) any other time during our trip.

The main reason why Rob had wanted to camp at Jenny Lake is because it was an area where you could access many of the trails in the park.  As soon as we arrived and got ourselves minimally set up, Rob began readying himself for a long run up Cascade Canyon.

He didn't end up needing the Bear Spray he brought with him, but he did have to filter drinking water from a stream.



While Rob ran, Will and I went for a hike around Jenny Lake.  With enough bandaids, my blistered foot was finally feeling better, and my injured leg was okay.  It wasn't until after we started the hike that I realized it was over 7 miles all the way around the lake, so we didn't do the whole thing.  But we still had a nice time, and on our way back, we stopped at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and general store to get ourselves a treat.

Jenny Lake

When Rob returned after several hours of hard trail running, I decided that we could all use a shower.  It was a Tuesday, and none of us had had a shower since Friday, at our friends' house in Idaho Falls.  We drove over to Colter Bay Village (I think it was about a 20 minute drive from Jenny Lake), where they had a laundromat, general store, and shower facilities for campers.  It kind of doesn't make sense that the showers are at Colter Bay, when most of the hiking trails are at Jenny Lake, but I'm assuming there are sustainability/environmental reasons why they don't have showers by the trails.  At least I hope there was a pretty good reason why we had to get in the car and drive 20 minutes just to clean up.

It was nice to wash of the last several days of grime, sunscreen, and bug spray off me.  When I got done showering, I went out to the common area to wait for Will and Rob and started chatting with a woman from Iowa.  We compared notes about how we'd planned and packed for our trips, and we discussed the extraordinary level of preparation it took to come up with meal ideas and bring along everything our families were going to eat for an entire week.  We both marveled at the grocery store in Colter Bay--she was thrilled that they had meat, I was thrilled that they had hummus, tofu, and produce.  I hadn't known about the Colter Bay grocery store before we left for our trip, but if we ever go back to the Tetons, I will keep that in mind for restocking our supplies.

When we finally got back to our campsite after our Shower Expedition, it was getting late, and everyone was hungry.  

Grand Teton NP campsite
"Where is my dinner?"  -- William
Because it was the last night of our trip, I decided we would try the expensive, dehydrated backpacking foods I had bought at REI.  What I didn't realize was that it took like 20 minutes for these to rehydrate, so we just kind of wandered around hungrily waiting for the time to pass.



I made all 3 meals, even though I knew that would be way too much food, because I reasoned that we could keep the leftovers in the Yeti and eat them on the road the next day.

Will only tried the two rice and bean dishes and declared he didn't like either of them.  I tried all three and thought they were all good.  I liked the Santa Fe Rice and Beans the best, followed closely by the Kathmandu Curry.  What was impressive about the curry was that it had vegetables in it and they tasted like real, actual, vegetables.  What was not as impressive about it was that it was the saltiest thing I'd ever tasted in my life.  


When we were done with dinner, Rob and Will offered to wash our dishes, and Will had so much fun doing this that he got sad when he was done and asked me if there was anything else he could wash.  I told him that when we got home, he could do dishes whenever he wanted.


We snuggled into the camper for the last night of our trip.  I slept well and woke up when the sun rose.  While the boys were still asleep, I went for a walk on the trails near the campground, and then I went to the store and visitor center, where I bought myself a black coffee (when I'm desperate enough, I discovered I can drink coffee black), and I bought Will a toy bison he had admired the day before.

Then it was time to begin the long drive home.  I told Rob that I was sad our camping trip was over.  He said, "Do you want to go back to Gould this weekend?"  And I answered, "Alright."

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Summer of a Little Bit Wild: Yellowstone

After recovering from the marathon as best I could, we headed to Idaho Falls to stay overnight with friends.  This visit had been one of my ulterior motives for running the marathon-- it was only 2 hours away from friends I really wanted to see and hadn't for a couple of years. 

As soon as we arrived, Will set off with our friends' two boys, and these 3 tow-headed little children spent the rest of the day and night romping through the house and yard like a small pack of wild animals who were having the time of their lives.  Will even slept upstairs (in bed with one or both of the boys), which is the farthest away he has ever slept from me except for the one time I was away overnight for the Frisco Railroad Run.

Playing with friends
Will showing his friends our camper.
Our friends made a delicious curry for dinner and then helped us devise a plan for Yellowstone, which basically involved trying to leave their house by 6am the next morning and get there as early as possible.  The campsites are on a first come/ first serve basis and if you aren't there by 8 in the morning or so, you are out of luck.  Our friends had warned us that you just have to drive around the campground and watch for people emerging from their tents to brush their teeth, and ask them if they are leaving and you can take their site.  If they say yes, you just sit there idling as they pack up their stuff.

This is the exact procedure involved in finding a parking space at Target in St. Louis on a Saturday or Sunday.  Horrifying.

We managed to get out of the house at a fairly reasonable hour and make it to the Norris Campground, where we found a site without too much trouble. (I think we were kind of just dumb-lucky).

Then it was time for some sightseeing.  The thing about Yellowstone is that it is HUGE.  That meant a lot of driving.


Norris is kind of centrally located, and we decided to do the north loop of the park first, which included the hot springs of Mammoth Country and a small detour into Montana (because none of us had ever been to Montana before).


Hot springs

Then we decided to hike on the Yellowstone Picnic Trail because it seemed like something Will could do, and it would offer good views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.





Yellowstone River trail
I was surprised how great I felt just one day after the marathon. I had no pain in either my injured leg or blistered foot.

Yellowstone River

We had taken so long just to accomplish these few things (did I mention that the park is huge and everything is far apart) that it was already late in the day and time to head back to Norris, where I got creative with the camp stove for dinner.

On most of the other times we have been camping, it has just been for one night and I have made pasta for dinner.  But this time I had tried very hard (and expended much effort) to figure out what else I might cook during our more extended adventure.  Our first night in Yellowstone, I made Roasted Garlic Cous Cous, which was brilliant and easy.  It is just a box mix you can buy at the grocery store, and to make it, you add boiling water and cover it for 5 minutes (more like 7-9 at that altitude).  I also opened up a can of vegan baked beans and heated them up, and for our vegetable, we had raw broccoli still fresh in our fancy new Yeti bear-proof cooler (it keeps stuff cold for a really long time).

I was pretty darn proud of myself for putting this together.


Norris had a ranger program that evening, and we went to it.  The program was about earthquakes and the geology of the Norris region.  Will was aiming to complete his Junior Ranger booklet (so he could get a fancy Junior Ranger badge), and attending the program fulfilled one of the requirements.  Will sat rapt, listening to the ranger's every word.  It was so much more educational than the education system.

The ranger who led the program talked about how the Norris campground was notorious for the presence of wandering bison, and on our first night there, the bison did not disappoint.  On my way back from the bathroom, I found this between me and our campsite.


Campsite bison

When I woke up the next morning, my left food hurt a lot as I tried to climb down from the camper, and I could barely put any weight on it as I tried to hobble to the bathroom.  I discovered that my initial blister had a sub-blister that I had completely overlooked, and at some point between the marathon and this moment, it had become inflamed.  To make matters worse, my injured right leg was throbbing in pain.  

This whole situation made walking quite difficult, if not impossible, and meant that for me, hiking was out of the question.

We started out exploring the Norris Geyser Basin, which was really cool and sulfuric, but even the little paved nature trails were difficult and painful for me to manage.

Norris geyser basin

We then continued south on the Grand Loop towards Old Faithful.  Because you've got to see Old Faithful, right?

We had a long wait among throngs of people until the next eruption, but that gave us plenty of time to help Will work on his ranger booklet and earn his badge.

The school district is doing away with "Eco Week" because learning about the environment and natural world doesn't meet Common Core standards.  Thank goodness for national parks and junior ranger programs, which still value teaching kids useful things.
At last, the geyser erupted.
Old Faithful

It was okay, I guess.  Pretty cool even.  But the masses of people who had packed into the Old Faithful Industrial Complex made it seem kind of as awful as I imagine Disney World would be.  

Also, my foot hurt.  And my leg hurt.  And I hadn't had coffee since Thursday.

Requisite family photo by Old Faithful.

We spent so much time in the gift shop and general store (Old Faithful Industrial Complex was an honest-to-god city) that by the time we were ready to leave, it was almost time for the geyser to erupt again.  We thought we might as well stay, but in the end, we felt like we'd only wasted too much time there and left other amazing parts of the park unseen.

When we finally left and continued driving around the south loop, I fell asleep right around the time we passed Yellowstone Lake.  I had really wanted to see this, though I hadn't mentioned it to Rob, so he didn't wake me.  Luckily he took this picture.

Yellowstone Lake

We drove past Hayden Valley and saw a lot of bison.

More bison

Bison



Then we stopped at the Lower Falls and Upper Falls, which give amazing views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Yellowstone River.

Yellowstone River lower falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


Even the short (yet steep) walk to see the falls was excruciating, on both my open blister and injured leg.

We headed back to our site at Norris campground, where I again tried to get creative with dinner, but this time, with much less success.

The quinoa mix I attempted to make seemed like it was never going to cook at this altitude, and the beans were kind of like a large unflavorful blob.  We did find however, that Will will eat roasted chickpeas if you call them "chickpea popcorn," so that was a plus.



Yellowstone campsite

We settled in again for the night, and I hoped that in the morning both my foot and injured leg would be better, as we planned to move on to the Tetons.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Summer of a Little Bit Wild: Running the Bear Lake Marathon Like I've Lost My Mind

When I decided I'd like to run a marathon this summer, I stumbled upon the Bear Lake Marathon Races.  Three marathons, three days, three states (Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming).  It was highly geared towards Marathon Maniacs and 50-Staters, but was also open to people like me-- who wanted to run just one marathon on dirt roads and then go to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons "on the way" back home.

My right calf started giving me trouble in early May, which prevented me from training like I should have, but I was mainly so preoccupied with getting Rob through the Quad Rock 50 alive (why, I don't know, it was his race) that I didn't have time to stress about it.  Even 2 days before the marathon when it hurt just to walk, I was just kind of like, meh, it will probably be okay once the race starts.  Like what magically and inexplicably happened last September when I ran the Bear Chase 50.  I didn't know how or why, but I just felt like everything was going to be okay.

We drove to Montpelier, Idaho on Thursday (the race was on Friday) to pick up my packet, and then spent the night at the Montpelier Canyon Campground.  The mosquitoes were terrible, and the campground itself did not appear to be maintained very well because there were patches of grass up past my knees at our campsite.  I was glad we had the pop-up and didn't have to pitch a tent in the knee-high grass. Also, the bathroom situation was not ideal.  It was a pretty uncomfortable place to spend the night before a race, and I think I got maybe, oh, say, a half-hour of sleep the entire night.

Camping outside Montpelier, ID


The only other time I've camped before one of my races was at the Bear Chase 50, and the morning had gone terribly.  This time, I felt like I had things more dialed.  Also, it helped that the sun rose around 5am, so it was light enough to see while I was packing up and getting ready.

I ate a Berry Pomegranate Clif Bar (this may be the only kind of Clif Bar I haven't thrown up) and we headed to the start line in plenty of time.  Will was in a very chipper mood, so I felt less bad about getting the family up so early.

The start was super low key (I think I moseyed from the warm car to the start line about 2 minutes before the race), and I loved that.  The whole thing was really more of an ultra-runner's marathon, which was one of the main reasons why I picked it.

I was feeling really nervous about my calf and tibia, so I ran gingerly for the first several miles, half expecting my leg to burst into flames or fall apart at any second.  But it seemed fine.  Just like what happened at Bear Chase.  I think it was finally around mile 8 that I began to unclench my teeth and relax my shoulders a bit.

Bear Lake Marathon start
Start line. Nervous. Will my tibia survive this.

Mile 3
Mile 3, I've caught up to the 4-hour pace group.


The course was beautiful.  It was very green as we ran through farmland and grazing cattle (including a couple of cattle grates) and at one point, even a caramel-colored horse that raced back and forth along the length of its fence as though to cheer us on.

For several miles I ran with two other women, one of them was the 4-hour pace leader, and the other was a Marathon Maniac who had run something like 47 marathons but never done an ultra.  I told my new Maniac friend about how I gave up marathons for a while and switched to ultras because they were more laid back for me.  In marathons, I was always chasing down my PR of 3:37--a race I had run before hyperemesis, before having a child.  I knew I was never going to come close to that again, and there were times that felt more sad than bittersweet.  But my new friend shook her head and assured me: women in their 40's and even 50's can run stronger than when they're young.  Your children grow up and don't require so much of you anymore.  You can be your own person again.  "Your best race is yet to come," she told me.

Mile 6
Mile 6: We are the 4-hour pace group

The 4-hour pacer lingered at the aid station around Mile 6, but my Maniac friend and I kept on.  Leaving behind the 4-hour pacer so early in the race is a classic Stupid-Melissa move (so many times I have done this and ended up finishing in the range of 4:05-4:15), but I did it anyway.  I figured that the pacer was just refilling her bottle or something and would catch up soon, and besides, my Maniac friend and I were in a serious groove.

I ate a Peanut Butter Gu from mile 7 to 8 and refilled my water bottle (it was a cupless race, good for them) at the next aid station.  At mile 10, I dropped a Cherry Limeaid Caffeinated Nuun into my bottle and drank it slowly until the next aid.  I started to feel really, really good.  There were whole bananas at the aid station, and I took one, eating it bite by bite for about 2 miles.  This was fantastic.  There were more bananas at the next aid station, so I took another.  I wanted to hug the race organizers for having bananas.  At this rate, I could get through the race by alternating bananas and Nuun, and I wouldn't have to try to force down any more Gu.

Mile 11
Mile 11. Feeling good.  Left the 4-hour pace group behind. Rocking the one calf sleeve, so the other one stays clean and I can put it on after the race.


By mile 11, I noticed that my Maniac friend and I were slowing a bit, even though the 4-hour pace leader was still nowhere in sight.  We also started catching up with the runners who had done the 5am early start, and they told me I was the 5th woman on the course.  It wasn't long before I pulled away from my Maniac friend, and then promptly passed another woman.  I felt amazing.  I felt like I was on fire.  I'd been worried that my leg would hurt or that I'd cause serious damage to it by even attempting this, but it was totally fine.  What was the point in holding back?  I might as well go for this.  I might as well give it to glory.

Mile 15
Mile 15. Banana in my hand, everything is awesome.

A Jenn Shelton quote kept going through my mind, back from when she was live tweeting the 2014 Boston Marathon and Shalane Flanagan's heroic run.  
Of course, we all know how that ended for Shalane.  She didn't win the race (as I'm sure she had hoped to), but she did set a personal record (just for perspective, her time was over an hour and a half faster than what I was looking to finish in).

I felt like, you know what, I might as well.  I could end up dying for a while on the side of the road, or I could run the best race of my life.  Or both.  Come what may.  I might as well run like I've lost my mind.


Mile 15

Now a couple of hours into the race, the sun was beating down with a vengeance, and shade was minimal.  Nuun and bananas will save me, I promised myself.

My left foot began to feel like I was stepping on hot coals with each footfall, but to hell with it.  My injured leg was fine.  As long as I could still move forward, I was going to keep on running like I've lost my mind.

Mile 19

My last sub-9 minute mile came at mile 20, at least according to my GPS.  For the entire race, the mile markers along the course had been off, and they'd been becoming progressively worse.  By this point, they were about 0.75 miles off of what my GPS said.  As in, my watched buzzed for mile 20, and then three-quarters of a mile later, I arrived at the mile 20 marker. This began to concern me.  I'd assumed that eventually, everything would even out, but we were running out of time.  This might be a "heavy" course.  No matter.  I would just keep running.  I would keep running like I had lost my mind.

I thought of Rob at the Quad Rock 50 the previous weekend and how otherworldly hot it had been then.  "During every race you reach a point where you know you aren't going to be able to eat or drink anything more, and you just slug it out to the end," he'd said.  For him, that was mile 47.  For me, that was now, mile 20 of this marathon.

I saw Rob for the last time at what should have been mile 24.  He cheered for me and I thought, he has no idea how terrible I feel.  I should have saved my energy but instead I crumpled a little and said to him, "The mile markers are way off."

I rounded a corner that seemed to have a slight incline and for the first time in the race, I began walking.  Jebus Crist the bottom of my foot hurt so bad.  And for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why the 4 hour pacer hadn't caught up with me yet.  I knew I'd been a little ahead of schedule for a while, but by now I must be way, way behind.  I had no idea how I was going to get to the finish line.

In one of the most gutsy moves of my life, I began running again.  I told myself, it doesn't have to be fast (it won't be fast), but just keep running.

My Maniac friend returned and passed me now; I hadn't expected to see her again, especially considering that she was running another marathon on Sunday.

The next mile marker sign I got to said 25.  I'd never seen one for 24, and my GPS hadn't quite made it to 25 yet.  What was going on? Was my GPS right, or the course markers?  How much distance was left to cover?

Even in my disoriented state, I could do the minimal math required to arrive at the conclusion that I could still finish in 4 hours if some kind of miracle happened.  I'd just been looking at my mile splits during the race, not the overall elapsed time.  But now, I flipped screens and saw I'd been running for 3 hours and 49 minutes.  If I was really at mile 25, I still had 11 minutes to make it to the finish and THIS MIGHT HAPPEN.

I ran like I'd lost my mind.  The 4-hour pacer never caught me.  I have no idea how I did it, I didn't even know my suitcase of courage went that deep.  There was no clock at the finish line, but when I crossed it, my watch said 4:00:47. (Official results here)

Bear Lake Marathon finish
I feel every bit as terrible as I look in this picture.

It turns out, if the course is short enough, I can still run a 4 hour marathon.


The Garmin often "shorts" me on mileage (which is why I rarely use it), and this is about the difference I might expect for a marathon.  But in my heart of hearts, I do think the course was short.

Do I care?  No.

I couldn't talk or see or think after crossing the line and eventually staggered over to lie down in what was probably someone's lawn because I was desperate to get off my feet.

(Note: when the finish line is at an LDS church in Idaho, there isn't any beer).

Once I finally got my bearings, there wasn't much else to do but head back to the car just as the first waves of nausea hit.

Damn.  I had been so sure that I'd dodged the bullet on this one.  The bananas and Nuun were supposed to have saved me.  I sat on the curb in abject misery, fighting off the waves with what minimal reserves I had left.

Rob decided I'd feel better if he drove us back to the campground and set up the shower for me.  As I peeled off my shoes at the campground, I saw why my left foot had hurt so bad.  A silver-dollar sized blood blister festooned the ball of my foot, raised from the skin by about a half a centimeter, I swear.  Just seeing that sucker put me close to passing out, so I rinsed the grime and salt off me as quickly as possible and got myself sitting down again.  I could put absolutely zero weight on the foot, it was useless to me like that.  I swabbed my foot and a safety pin with alcohol, and I popped the blister.  Blood spewed out like one of the geysers we would soon be seeing in Yellowstone.

We drove back to Montpelier, where Rob and Will got lunch at a Subway, and I threw up in the bathroom.

I'd expected only to have a brief window of time before the nausea took hold of me again, but the one puke seemed to do the trick.  I was able to drink water, and in about an hour, I felt like eating something.

It was time to head on to Idaho Falls, where we'd be staying the night with friends and beginning the second leg of our trip.

What I learned from this race:
Bananas and Nuun FTW, even though I puked in the end.

Would I do this race again?
Yes.  Cattle grates and all, this was by far the most beautiful marathon course I've run.

Observation:
The people who do this kind of thing are hard core.  The woman who won the entire event ran all three races between 3:22 and 3:43.  I couldn't even walk for two days after (although that was mainly because of the blister), much less run 2 more marathons.

Splits:
Mile 1 - 9:10
Mile 2 - 8:54
Mile 3 - 8:50
Mile 4 - 8:48
Mile 5 - 9:11
Mile 6 - 9:14
Mile 7 - 9:07
Mile 8 - 9:39
Mile 9 - 9:00
Mile 10 - 9:25
Mile 11 - 9:05
Mile 12 - 9:00
Mile 13 - 8:52
Mile 14 - 9:07
Mile 15 - 9:02
Mile 16 - 8:50
Mile 17 - 9:07
Mile 18 - 9:02
Mile 19 - 9:17
Mile 20 - 8:59
Mile 21 - 9:23
Mile 22 - 9:55
Mile 23 - 10:20
Mile 24 - 10:49
Mile 25 - 10:36
Mile 25.8? - 7:54 (mile pace was 9:49)