Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tampa Bay, Florida, Gasparilla Distance Classic Marathon
March 1, 2009
State number 7! This is the point at which I decide for sure that I might as well try to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.
After suffering through frigid winter weather in DC, I thought Florida would provide a sunny, warm venue on March 1. But this was, so far, my coldest marathon (that is, for overall temps--San Antonio was colder in the morning) and my wettest and windiest. At the start line, about 1300 people gathered in the dark on a rough cobblestoned street. The forecast called for miserable weather: 40s, rain, wind, and possibly thunderstorms. Well, the gun went off, so off we went too, and the rain held off for about 90 minutes. I can't say the sun rose; let's say a pallid, sickly shade of mauve replaced the pitch black in the sky. We ran through some posh neighborhoods where every other yard had a For Sale sign clattering in the wind. I selected a couple of stately, beautifully landscaped properties for myself. A few crimson rays of sun appeared for just a few minutes, and then scary inky clouds obscured the light again, and the wind started, and the rain started, first as a sprinkle and then as a frenzied, battering downpour. My hair, dahlings, was Such a Mess! I was completely soaked within a minute. Socks drenched. Squish squish squish... Sneakers turned into Spongebobs. Yikes, 18.2 miles to go...
Now what you must understand is that because of a fine sinus infection that I had picked up in the middle of January, I had been out of commission and had NOT run for about 5 weeks because this illness was just incapacitating to the max. My longest run since January 15 had been 8 miles, a week before this marathon.
So, I knew I should not race this, but airfare and entry fee having already been disbursed, there was no way I was going to NOT show up. I figured I could just do a slow, fun sort of distance "walk-run." I pictured warm breezes, palm fronds swaying... But it was SO cold and SO wet and SO windy and SO just plain dreary that I couldn't walk--or I would freeze or get depressed to death! So I ran. But I really felt the lack of training. My knees were wobbly, my quads hurt, I was sure eight or nine blisters were forming, and breathing was tough (Humidity, about 200%). At some point I overheard a runner telling another that there was thunder further out and they might have to stop the race. My thought was, Oh, yes, good idea! would you PLEASE stop this torture?
As you can imagine, there was precious little crowd support, with this nasty stormy weather; but one lady in a pirate costume did her best to encourage us at mile 18 (arrgh, me hearties), and a few hardy, tanned folks under umbrellas, sipping steaming cups of java, casually cheered us on. ("You're almost done" is so cruel to hear when you know you've got 9, 8, 7, whatever number of miles left...) When I finally reached Mile 24, I was really spent and had to start walking, and what do you think happened? The clouds parted a bit, the rain stopped, the wind abated, and the sun shone for about 10 minutes. That little bit of sunshine was heaven. Reaching the finish line and getting that big, bad, piratical medal was heaven. Spent the rest of the day in bed, sleeping. Heaven.
Time: 4:56:32; Placed: 17/28 division/ 367/502 females; 1036/1307 overall.
Moral of this Marathon: State mottos are not all they're cracked up to be. Florida, the Sunshine State... yeah, right! : )
Actually, given the circumstances, the race organizers did a good job, and there was food at the finish, which was sheltered from the rain. And the medal rocks: Skull and crossbones, a symbol of the pain endured.
Note: Sadly, this marathon spoiler was the storm in which NFL players went out on a boat and were shipwrecked and only one guy survived.

Got Four More States Checked OFF!

November 16, 2008

San Antonio, TX--Inaugural Rock'n'Roll Marathon.

My time at SA marathon was not stellar; I was hoping to do a bit better, but I have a list of very good excuses, not the least of which is the rank and hideous hotel that I innocently booked and which forced me and my daughter to be outside the room two entire days before the marathon, mostly walking around about 40 miles a day. The stench of dead rats inside the hotel room was so overpowering we did not enjoy staying inside. Even with the night temps in the 30s we had the window open all night in order to breathe. The smoke detectors had been ripped out of the ceiling. The bathroom sink was clogged. The furniture was broken (yeah, we took pictures and we're complaining). Nuff said. We searched the city for another hotel room, but with the marathon and a big convention in town, nothing was available until Sunday (after the race...).

It was damn cold (37 degrees F) and dark when I set out at 5:30 am to catch the shuttle to the start line, too early perhaps but smart in retrospect, since I learned later that there was a snafu with some shuttles not returning to pick up about 1,000 runners, who waited and waited and finally crammed into taxis to get to the race start.

The starting area was very dark, with nary a shelter in sight. The only glimmerings were those of lovely frost formations on the grass. No Starbucks anywhere in the vicinity! No Starbucks? Can this be America? Nope, it's TEXAS! We the runners (those who had taken the early shuttles) stomped our feet and danced in place for 2 hours in order not to freeze and lose toes to frostbite. By the time the gun went off, we (meaning I) were (was) already exhausted. They let corrals out exquisitely slowly so that when mine was let go (# 16), it was almost 30 minutes after the gun start (and there were 16 more corrals behind mine). To prevent crowding on the course, the volunteers would wait until the previous corral runners were almost out of sight before releasing the next one. So when we were finally let out, everyone ran like bats out of hell to try to catch up with the runners way down there, far, far away. My first mile was just over 10 minutes, and I wanted it to be slower, but who could tell the pace? Everyone was passing me, it seemed. And it was so cold it felt good to move at last.

When the sun came up and over the buildings it finally warmed up, and I took off 2 layers on top and one on the bottom while running (hard to do the bottom part while running, but with practice I will get better). (Yes, I did have shorts under the sweat pants. And I wore my FTM singlet, the 2008 edition that says "The Marathon: 26.2. Never a doubt") I lost several minutes in a disgusting porta-potty. Unlike some of our trainers who emerge from those structures in a highly energized state, I was not invigorated by the sight or smell. How some people manage to smear their excrement all over the seat is beyond me. Is it that hard to just centrally position a rear end over the seat? I had to spend some time on logistics and then, after exiting, on warning the next person in line and exculpating myself. Note to self: Always carry your own tissues.

It got hot (75?) at around mile 15. Perfectly blue sky, lots of sunshine. The course was beautiful and scenic, if a little twisted (yes, I ran the tangents!), and tons of spectators and bands cheered us on. My daughter actually caught me at mile 9. I remember some old Spanish missions, I remember Victorian mansions to rival Charleston's best, I remember some hills, I remember a river, I remember more hills; in fact, I remember a 5-mile hill starting at mile 17 not unlike the return trip on the CCT that we often take on our long training runs; I remember that hideous and treacherous finish line hill, which nixed any hope of glorious last-minute sprinting to a triumphant finish. In short, I remember The Alamo! It was the same kind of feeling, except I think nobody died during this marathon. One spectator wearing a shirt saying in huge letters "YANKEES SUCK" appeared about thirty times along the course. How did he do that? I thought I was hallucinating. At the finish line my daughter was there with a camera, and we had the best cold beer(s) ever! (Glad she's finally of drinking age!)

But what of my FTM compatriot?? I looked for those elusive compression knee-high socks everywhere on the course and at the finish area but didn't spy Nick "the Brit" until later that evening at a Mexican restaurant (Mi Tierra, scrumptiously delicious, we went there three times for breakfast [and that was just on one day!]). Ah, yes, nothing takes the hurt of the marathon out of you better than a couple of margaritas and a good steak! (Unless you're vegetarian, in which case I recommend the cheese enchiladas iCaramba! idelicioso!) All in all, a good race for me, my tenth marathon, finished in 4:45:44, missing perfect fours by 60 seconds. Pace: 10:45 minutes per mile. (Curses on you, porta-potty!) Placed 86/280 in my division, 1505/3511 females, 4055/7526 overall.

That's it, my peeps, I had a fun time. I recommend this race: great crowd support, beautiful course, fun bands every mile or so, and did I mention ice-cold foamy beer at the finish? By the way, when I landed in San Antonio and saw the line at the car rental, I decided to do without the petroleum-mobile, and that was a brilliant move--you really don't need one unless you want to explore the hill country outside San Antonio. San Antonio itself has a great trolley system, which we used all the time, and the people are extremely friendly. Also, The Riverwalk is just wonderful to stroll along; however, the better restaurants are NOT on Riverwalk. So do give San Antonio a try. But don't book the cheaper hotels. And bring a disposable fur coat and a portable heater to the start line. And sanitizing wipes.