Race Report (2012 Grizzly Peak Marathon)

I thought I’d get out for a run today but I’m still too sore. So, a race report instead.

Okay, I guess I’ll start from the beginning. I woke up about 5:15 AM, I wanted to eat as much as I could so my muscles would be stuffed with glycogen- anything to combat the dreaded “wall” (apparently your muscles run out of stored glycogen at 20 miles; more on this later). I knew I was gonna hit a wall; I didn’t think I’d hit 3 or 4 like I did. I’ve been carbo-loading the last 3 days- heavily, so what’s a little more food going to do? This would turn out to be a huge mistake come mile 8. Disclaimer: if you don’t like reading about stomach issues and all associated problems that go with said human digestion responses skip the part below in bold. I promise you this story is going to get really gross at some points.

So; I ate 2 blueberry waffles, 2 hash browns, and drank 2 cups of coffee right after waking up. Took a shower to get loose, then had a banana at 7 AM, all the while drinking a ton of water (24-28 oz. maybe?) and headed out the door about 7:05. Was nervous as hell so I asked Ally if I could drive, it would give me something to do- she was all, “I have no idea where we’re going, so I’ll take directional notes while you drive…” I was super chatty, jumping from topic to topic and rambling on about nonsense, she was giving me that “there, there” look. Nerves. Mentally I was just ready to go, physically these nerves (I’d learn later) were turning my breakfast into a time bomb.

We got to the event at about 7:30, plenty of time to check in, stretch, do a little warm up jog. Ate a Gu at 7:45, drank some Nuun electrolyte water, saw the line on the bathroom and passed on all that (I’d definitely miss my start time if I had tried to get in on that craziness). Figured there’d be a spot to pee in the woods once the 10Kers split off from the rest of us.

8 AM- start! Since all the races started together, there was an insane log jam for the first 2 miles; I was cursing every one in my mind at this point (but later realized it was a blessing; preventing me from going out too fast, so- thank you 10Kers, Half-marathoners and 30Kers; you were my unofficial pacers early on). I would concertedly call out “on your left” and dance on the side of the trail past 2-3 runners at a time, headphone joggers that were totally over-dressed (no offense if you’re one of these folks) and trying not to get muddy. Yeah, this is trail running, thank you and you’re welcome- we came to get muddy. It was probably just below 50 degrees at the start, and the weather was calling for a high of 68. I’ve made the mistake of over-dressing for races; things I’ve learned about this- 1) you will run faster because of adrenaline so 2) you will sweat more so 3) don’t wear as much as you would wear on a training run. Less clothes, less sweat, less chance of dehydration. This is half of the reason I ended up almost naked.

Everything was great going up Selby trail through the first aid station, I hadn’t even touched my water (I was running with a hand-held Nathan 22 oz thingy) and had 4 Gu’s stuffed into the pouch, and was on a plan to have one every 25 minutes for the first 2 hours then go to one every 20 mins until the end.

I charged Redwood trail, charged Tower (started getting nervous that I was coming out way too fast, but figured I’d deal with this on Arroyo trail, the first really major climb a few more miles out). Hit Grizzly Peak trail and flew downhill, passing about 10 runners in the process, was feeling great. Charged the fire road out to the paved road crossing, hit Vollmer Peak trail and settled into a nice pace between some other marathoners and the serious 50K runners. I figured at this point I was somewhere mid-pack, I didn’t realize later that I was pretty much near the front from here on out. 

Down Lupine trail my stomach started feeling weird, I was starting to realize I hadn’t been passing any gas by now (you know what I’m talking about, fellow runners) and the relentless downhill pounding (I have a mountain goat style of downhill running that can only be described as a “frenzied but controlled fall”) made my stomach feel awful; I had already eaten one Gu and was on schedule to have another at the 50-minute mark. I knew from my training splits that I was about 3 minutes away from the first full aid station, so I’d chill out a minute down there and re-assess what was going on with my belly.

Got a refill on water, had some Clif electrolyte stuff (whatever they had there) and powered down a Clif shot (again, not taking my own Gu and Nuun here and going with what they had may have contributed to my worsening stomach issues, although I felt totally fine leaving the AS). Started strong up Arroyo trail, made it to the top just fine and started the mellow, long downhill on Seaview trail. The view was awesome.

Stop reading and skip the next few paragraphs if you hate poo stories: I was still trying to pass gas but kept having that awful “oh, this isn’t going to be gas…” feeling. I knew I was just about the halfway point of the first loop and a bathroom on the course wasn’t in the cards until back at the start. There’s a bathroom that would take me maybe .5 miles off course, but that’s also a good 3-4 miles away. I figured I should just grit it out.

The uphills were fine, I can clench cheeks with the best of them running up a hill, it’s the full body jiggle that turns my insides into a blender on the downhills. After another 1.5 miles I had no choice- it’s “pooping in the woods time”. I swear I haven’t done this since Boy Scouts, maybe 23 years ago. So, what had to be done was done. Having no TP, well… let’s just say there’s a really nice green North Face technical shirt somewhere off of Seaview trail.

And after this, right at 1:20 or mile 8-ish I took off. It’s funny how much faster you can run when you drop off some extra weight.

Squeamish folks- you can start reading again here: anyway, I got to the second aid station right on par with my best trainingsplits. Had another Gu, dropped a Nuun and flew up Vollmer Peak trail onto Lupine, passed a few runners that had dropped me way back. The next part is a blur, I was moving. I got back to the start at 2:16, 8 minutes ahead of my best half marathon training split. Unbelievable, even after a pit stop and not feeling great for a few miles I was on pace? I grabbed 4 more Gu’s, another Nuun tablet, ate some potato chips and some boiled potatoes (hey, I’m Irish) and took the eff off.

I felt great for the next 9 miles, right up until the dreaded 22. Then, after either all the adrenaline wearing off or the fact that I had been running for 4+ hours, everything decided to start hurting. Bad. Calves and quads were struggling, I could feel two blisters on the bottom of my feet eating into my insteps, the part where my short’s lining rubs the joint between my taint and thigh was chafed, I was frigging miserable. I was staying on schedule with Gu’s, had plenty of water (was filling up and drinking it all between every AS)- but I was just a pissed off little bitch at this point.

I went to some really dark place for about 10 minutes, started having like an existential crisis, basically questioning everything- “why am i even doing this?” “why am I here?” “I’m gonna just quit and take a DNF, it’s not even worth it…” all this sorry bullshit. I think the guy in red that I was trying to pass is what did it- I was chasing this guy for a good mile before I caught up to him, and right as I did my calves seized up like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Like “locked” completely. I had to stop and massage them out and stretch for a good minute or so, right where Grizzly Peak and Tower trail meet up.

I thought, “I always get passed by some motherfucker in the last mile of a race, I’m not going out like this again”. I also realized it’s all down hill from here, so let’s fucking thrash my quads and see what happens. That’s it, no awesome inspirational quote, no “dear God, if you…” foxhole-style prayer shit, just figured if I was gonna blow up, let’s blow the fuck up in spectacular fashion- let’s try and run 6-minute miles here on out.

And that’s what I did- I ran that guy down, then ran down another, then passed 2 more folks (I realized at the finish they were all running the 50K- oops, my bad!). I felt kinda foolish because it was such an ego-feeding thing to do, but at that point I was looking for something to get me to 26.2- anything; even if I had to run down some folks that were running an extra 5 miles, so be it. I ran the last 3.7 miles in about 24 minutes (like 6:30 miles, I was possessed- I almost cried at one point).

And that’s how I ran my first marathon. People were like, “dude, you ran a trail marathon as your first marathon ever? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

I wish I knew the answer to that last question.

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