Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Desert Classic Marathon, Surprise AZ; World Class Racewalking Clinic, Mesa AZ

Friday - The day before the race, I drove out to the race site from my Aunt’s house. Phoenix is really a lot bigger than it appears to be on the map. I took me 2 hours to get to Surprise, AZ from Sun Lakes, AZ at about 10 am. Then, it was another hour and a half drive to the World Class Racewalking Clinic host site. I knew it wouldn’t take me that long to get there on race day, given that I was starting at 6 am. This was probably the smallest marathon I will ever do. I didn’t find out until today that there were only 75 entrants in the full marathon and about 125 in the half marathon. They also had a 5k and a marathon relay.

Anyway, back to my story. I met Dave McGovern when I went with the clinic host, Lauri from AZ, to pick him up from the airport on Friday. We made our way back to Lauri’s house and I got ready to be videotaped. We got started and I soon found out that I have not been racewalking. I knew I was flatfooted in the rear of my stride, but seeing it on tape was really an eye opener. After the quick video review, we went back outside, and I learned a thing or two. I really felt lucky to get some one on one coaching, and as soon as I “got it”, my pace dropped to right around 10 mpm. Dave warned me not to try to “racewalk” the whole marathon, but just to use it a little to keep my average pace where I wanted it to be. I probably would not have finished the marathon at all if I had tried to racewalk the whole thing. The difference from the walking I was doing before was striking, and now I have a real foundation to build on. It’s going to take lots of technique work to undo all the damage I have done by trying to learn racewalking on my own.

Lauri cooked a nice pasta dinner for all of the clinic participants, and they started to arrive at her house as Dave and I were finishing up looking at the second part of my video. We all introduced ourselves had dinner together. The pasta, salad, garlic bread and vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were delicious. There were locals from the Phoenix area, folks from all over the country, and even someone from Canada attending the clinic. Everyone was very nice! Oh, I almost forgot, I met someone from the US Centurion list. I will be corresponding with him in the near future to see if he can offer me any new information I can use on my quest to become a Centurion myself. It was time for me to head home and get ready for the marathon and everyone wished me luck.

Back at my Aunt’s house, I made a pbj sandwich for the road, got my race gear ready including mixing my electrolyte drink and filling my fuel belt. I talked to my mom and my Aunt and thought I had talked them out of meeting me at the finish line because it was so far for them to drive. I put my race clothes on (yes I sleep in my race clothes the night before a big race), these clothes don’t wrinkle, and remember, I am just going to walk 26.2 miles in them anyway.

Saturday - I got up at 3:30 am and was on the road by 3:45 am. I ate the pbj at about 4:30 am and arrived at the race site at 5 am. The check in tables and the chip and packet pickup were ready by 5:30. Love the tech fabric race shirt! I walked back to the car and deposited everything I didn’t need for the race, jacket included (it was about 40 degrees), and headed for the starting line for the early start at 6 am. It was really dark outside with no moonlight, only starlight and the headlights of the occasional 18 wheel truck whizzing by, and I was really wishing I had brought the headlamp. By the way, the entire marathon was on the shoulder of a 4 lane divided highway headed directly west out into the desert from Surprise AZ; 13.1 miles out, 13.1 miles back.

Now, I was wishing for my jacket and gloves, because as we headed west out into the desert, the temp dropped from the comfortable 40 at the start down into the 30’s. I ended up using my bandana as a hand wrap and switching hands every so often. I was really glad I chose to wear my Sunmart long sleeve shirt, but also glad I didn’t wear layers when the sun came up. More about the course… it is a gradual incline for the first 9 miles, then a little steeper downhill the next 4.1, then a turnaround and 4.1 miles uphill, 9 slightly downhill back to the start.
I was doing really well the whole first half, using a little racewalking, but mostly just walking fast. I was right on pace for my 5:30 full and finished the first half in 2:42:13 with the sun and the wind at my back. I ate my Clif bar, little bits at a time during the first half, and I had 3 GU for the second half.

Now for the second half. After the turn around, the sun was in my face, so I put my shades on. We were headed east now, DUH! The wind was also blowing in my face now. The course was going up hill, but things were going down hill for me. I know I started out too fast in the first half, because the second half was just too hard. There is just nothing else to say about it. I tried to racewalk a little, but not much. Even though the going was tough, I really was having a good time! I love small races because people really try to encourage each other! I got several comments about being from Texas because of the Sunmart shirt.

The first GU went down well, and I got the expected burst of energy. I continued on with the race plan, 4 oz of electrolyte and 4 oz of water at an aid station, then just GU and water at the next aid station (they were spaced at about 2 miles apart). After the second GU and drink of water, nothing went south like it was supposed to. I felt like there was a large brick, or maybe a water balloon in my stomach. The discomfort grew with every step. I tried small sips of the electrolyte, hoping the sodium would help. I was getting close to 24 miles into the race and feeling like total CRAP! I was supposed to take the chocolate GU, but my stomach would have surely rebelled. My cell phone rang, and since I was feeling so miserable, I went ahead and answered it. I was moving as slow as molasses in January anyway. It was my DH calling to see how I was doing. I told him remember I’m racing right now. He thought the race was on Sunday. I told him I just might have my first race puking story to tell in a little while because I was sicker than a dog. He suggested I take it easy, and I said I couldn’t take it any other way right now. Funny thing is, as soon as I hung up the phone, the puking feeling passed, things that were in my stomach, stuck, were passing along where they belonged. I was able to take the chocolate GU and drink some water so I could finish strong.

Remember, I said there wouldn’t be anyone waiting for me at the finish line? There is a little hill right before the last 200 or 300 meters to the finish. When I crested the hill, I hear my name, Maryann… Maryann… Maryann. To my surprise, there was my mom and my aunt and uncle waiting for me at the finish line. Members of the local racewalking group were also waiting and cheering me to the finish. Thanks, Ellie! My official finish time was 5:44:13; not 5:30 (dream goal) but still a 5:06 PR at the marathon distance. When I realized during the second half I wasn’t going to make the dream goal, I backed off the pace a lot, and the near puking incident didn’t help matters, either. There was no sense in killing myself, especially when I am racing 50 miles a week later. I hung around for a little while to wind down and eat a banana before I headed back to Lauri’s house to continue with the racewalking clinic.

I realized something on the way to Lauri’s. After the 50 miler at Rocky on Feb 7, I am eligible to join the Marathon Maniacs for completing 2 long distance events in 7 days! I’ll be joining a real club for crazies! Do you all think I will fit in?

All right, this is enough for now. I’ll tell you all more about the racewalking clinic after I finish Rocky. I really need to go to bed so that I can go to work tomorrow.

Sorry the post is so long, and I still have lots more to say...

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