Monthly Archives: May 2012

Horseshoe Marathon, 19th May 2012

I don’t remember Salsa dancing..but it was a hot day

I was lucky to be able to have a go at this marathon as I had a stinking cold during the week. When it came to 5am on race day I felt ok and I decided to give it a whirl. If I could do it, it would be the first time I had done marathons on three consecutive weekends ..which appealed to me as a little goal. If I attempted it and made myself ill  – I would be in for spousal reproach and the possible removal of running privileges/wine money.

I tiptoed out of the house so as not to wake the family/have said spouse bar my exit and drove to a coffee shop. Yes I felt fine. I approached a caffeine giver person and ordered a latte but to my surprise I produced a strange croak interspersed with bits of silence and he produced a cupped right ear. As I hadn’t spoken to anyone yet that day I had had no idea I couldn’t speak. After some harrumphing I could communicate just fine but I stood there sanity checking myself …am I infact terribly ill? ….and decided all was well. It is just one of those things where the actual cold has gone (the main symptom of which was sore throat) and you are left pain free but sound impressively sick.

I drove for an hour and a half and found the race, the registration and finish booths all looked very jolly and welcoming nestling in the hillside and I was glad I had come. It is a friendly group and I knew it would be fine to start and just drop out if I had to. I bumped into Rebecca Yi who also ran the Cinderella marathon last week. We had a fairly joyless exchange where I complained about being sick and having to possibly drop out/dead and she explained that this course was pretty horrible, very exposed and nothing like as nice as last weeks’ one. She had done it several times before and was only doing it now to build up her mileage as a training run.  I wondered afresh if I was about to have a horrid time and whether or not I should run at all. I strolled lethargically up to the start line wondering ….am I  dizzy? Maybe I am terribly ill? ….but when I got there I was lifted out of myself by being entertained by a tall Indian man who was doing his first  50K, he was full of excitement and ‘here goes nothing’. Time to have fun and get sense of perspective. Off we went.

As soon as we started running I had a sense of relief. Having a cold is probably more of a handicap for most other runners than it is for me as my nose doesn’t function normally at the best of times. And all was fine. I started at a relaxed pace and was continuing the piteous, self obsessed wallowing in my own pernicious health when something really very nasty happened. We were winding up a steep, narrow single track when the man ahead of me spat with vigor and somehow a good deal of it landed on my face with droplets showering my open mouth. I don’t know how we managed this, whether he spat back over his shoulder or it ricocheted off something but it was a startling experience that brought me out of myself. I said: ‘arghh you got me!’ and started scraping my tongue down with my hanky and squirting water at myself to rinse it off.  It was disgusting but hilarious, why do these things always happen to me?. I believe there was a little horrified laughter from the line of runners behind me. He mumbled an apology and I worried he might think I was angry or something, so when he spat again a few minutes later and did so in an awkward way aiming straight down at his feet I attempted to display good humour and shouted: ‘missed!’. However, he didn’t respond and soon ushered me in front of him.

As it turned out Rebecca had done me the most enormous favour. The actual terrain was a joy compared to the twisted horrors of  my imagination. I ran with boundless pessimism, fearing each nice foresty bit would not last long and resigning myself to the start of some hideous never-ending trawl frying in exposed sun each time we emerged from cover. We ran by Horseshoe lake, bounced around a forest, streamed across a grassy hillside on flat trail, bounced around more deep forest climbing to reach a scenic ridge fireroad. This really had not been winding uphill for too terribly long before we came across the encouraging sight of the lead men returning. This is always a wonderful sign that  the turnaround must be coming up. You just have to factor in quite how much ahead of you they might be ..and they were pretty darn nippy. And then there it was – the aid station and turn around. I couldn’t believe my luck. My negativity and pessimism drained away and I thought …I am pretty sure I can do this. I knew the elevation was about 3, 600 ft and as such 2,000 ft or so less than many trail marathons including the one last week but still, it seemed too good to be true. Often I prefer races that don’t repeat at all but in my current state this was wonderful. I had seen everything I had to cope with and nothing was insurmountable or boring or grim. I love it when a course has  clear stages and it is a little like working through levels in a computer game. It was wonderful.

Ironically, if I had not been expecting some dreadful haul through exposed terrain at some time I might have found the grass and fireroad sections exposed and tough. Certainly they were hotter the second time around later in the day and many runners including myself ran out of water long before we reached the turnaround.

It was good to see Rebecca when we passed each other, she always looks very fresh and relaxed. It was fun to see her move up to second lady position and hold on to it. Our times were much faster than in the previous two

Rebecca – fresh as always- at the finish

years, possibly they had been running in extreme temperature before (which would make those exposed sections more arduous). There was also a small change in course too as the race was

All hail Jason Wolfe – finishing 20 mins ahead of me!

not allowed to take its normal route by the lake at the beginning – just from my feel and from my Garmin mileage I did wonder if the course was actually a little short – though Coastal Trails is always very keen to specify how accurately they measure their courses. Anyway, at least I can be absolutely sure on this course that I didn’t mess up and I ran the same as everyone else.  Jason Wolfe  won the men’s race in 3:30:30 (he looked amazing speeding along…his legs appeared to be carved out of wood) and I was first lady at 3:50:05.

It wasn’t a great race for meeting people as I ran alone for much of it and had to leave as soon as I finished (rushing home for my adopted Opa’s 90th birthday party!). Beyond the spitting incident the most memorable little exchange I had was with a guy who asked me if I had a band aid. It was rather frustrating as  – being a mother of three – it is difficult to catch me not in possession of a band aid. I went into girl guide mode and offered to fashion one from a wet wipe and my hair band but he preferred his blister as it was.

Before I left chatted with  a lady whose son Micah Brown had finished in second place between myself and Jason in 3.46:58. He was just 18 and this was his first trail marathon. She was very proud of him and I love that she had not just come along to support him  – she had done the 5 mile race herself too.

Off I went to  Opa’s party wondering what Opa was up to when he was 18, and what Jason Wolfe would be up to when he was 90.

Thank you Coastal Trails

http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/hl_horseshoe_lake.html

Horseshoe Lake Trail Run

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Cinderella Marathon 12th May 2012

Once upon a time I attempted this Cinderella marathon before. It was not a fairytale ending. I did not go to the ball.

Last time- the cautionary tale:

When two rather plump hikers with a large fluffy dog affably pulled themselves to one side of the forest path to let me pass, they unwittingly concealed a sharp left turn fork in the trail. I  shot up a  horrendously steep section (let’s hear it for the Starflower trail) and continued unaware I was in error until I hit pink  ribbon. The brief moment of joy at the confirmation I was still on track was followed by an awful recognition. This is the top of a long fire road hill. And I am supposed to be going up it later, not down it now. I made the best repairs I could, I tried to retrace my steps but couldn’t be sure which of a cluster of trails I had emerged from so  I ran all the way down the fire road and back up again. As a consolation prize I found my friend David Schoenberg at the bottom and was cheered by his laughter at my misfortune. The really embarrassing thing is that I missed that turn on the second loop of a repeating course. The first time around I had had adult supervision, I was with David. We ran to the finish together and in the race autopsy it was clear that I couldn’t have a  finisher’s medal as I hadn’t done the right course and I was low on overall mileage. But in my mind it counts as a honorary marathon. Garmin information is not completely accurate in deep forest, but the fact that mine reported 11,000 ft of climbing  rather than the expected 5,oooft may hold the clue to why my calf muscles were moving around by themselves that night.

Cinderella II

The  gentleman in grey shorts must have been pleased with these official photos of the start.

So back I came. Hello Cinders …we meet again. Following last weeks’ disastrous late start at the  Western Pacific Marathon in Fremont, I arrived ludicrously early and had time to stroll around sampling the delights of all the different restroom facilities. At the first, the portaloo (full marks, nice and clean) I met my neighbor Johnathon Sonett from San Anselmo who was also doing the marathon. At the second, the permanent toilet at the park (quite beyond belief…people were leaving their cell phones outside encase they dissolved in the fumes) I met Sham and Stephanie. Recuperating from the restrooms, we entertained ourselves making a smiley face out of  Stephanie’s leggings and water bottles (see pic).

Stephanie’s smiley faces

Not only was Stephanie was wearing what I call  ‘creepy feet’ (shoes that look like feet and offer minimal protection), she was actually considering leaving them behind and tackling the half marathon course in completely bare feet. She is a young  mother. Has she not  trodden on enough pieces of lego to know better?  She insisted it could be done. I know she completed the race but couldn’t see a finish photo to check her feet…I wonder.

At the start. ooh I  can see my neighbour John and my hat

My feet were also causing me concern. My shoes offered plenty of  support  – I like as much puff and gel as  possible between myself and mother earth – but they looked kinda freaky. I have strangely wide feet  (circular like an elephant’s), misshapen toes of inappropriate lengths (following three toe surgeries) and a bunion the size of New Jersey.  So I accept that I don’t get to pick shoes  by appearance.  However, my friend Charles from the Marin Running Company in San Anselmo had forced me to sink to new depths when he pulled the cash out of my hand and kicked me out of his shop with the only pair of shoes in the place that I could wear…and they were these Nikes,  completely monotone in a disturbing light  turquoise  –  a  color I have always loathed. Joking aside, Charles always goes to a great deal of trouble not just matching runners to shoes but helping them to make their relationship work with various tricks. This time he had the novel idea of leaving the bottom part of  my right shoe unlaced  – giving New Jersey wiggle room but keeping the ankle secure. It didn’t help with the colour but I have to say I bought these shoes the day before the race and my feet were so comfortable they thought they’d spent race morning in a spa. On that colour though,some runners were helping me in my quest to consider then light blue when it was pointed out that they looked like Cinderella’s glass slippers  – which made me laugh out loud. I wondered now if I would retain both of them for the duration of the run. I have failed to do so before in mud.

With Sham, resplendent in my glass slippers

The race started with lovely news  as Wendell the race organiser and his wife were celebrating the birth of their two week old  son. Then the start sounded and 50k, marathon and half marathon runners streamed into the forest.  It is an interesting start. As ususal on trail, you do need to get to the front if you are a competitve  runner as the path funnels down to single track fairly quickly and you don’t want to be trapped behind people slower than yourself. The immediate trail has some extremely steep sections but it is worth busting  lungs to get over them in a good position  as it soon  flattens out so there is plenty of time to recover your breath. And off you go on a glorious rollercoaster ride in deep redwood forest. Actually very like a fairytale…but definately the Grimms original version with a smattering of violence and suffering in it. During the first mile I was overtaken by a pretty blonde-haired lady in a blue top.  I later found out this was Andrea Warburton. I was pleased to have a lady to run with but she disappeared into the distance and I could see her darting through the trees ahead like a bluebird.  I knew better than to chase her. I have learned from experience to run at my own pace …my plan is to take it beyond comfort into one notch of suffering and keep it there with as little whimpering as possible. Many people are much better on uphill than me and though I have improved by watching the departing heels of ladies like Caren Spore on these very trails and then tried to emulate them in training (to do so properly would require surgical insertion of some form of motor) I know that if  I push myself to stick with  them early in a race  I am in danger of fizzling. Aren’t I Caren lol. I also had to remember I had raced last weekend too  – even more reason to just guard long term energy etc. So I plodded on waiting to hit a comfort level that never quite arrived. It is so beautiful, I wished I wasn’t so tired.

I saw  Bluebird again at the 8 mile aid station. This is where you emerge blinking from the delicious cool forest and face the ‘ant under a microscope’ feel of a three mile crawl uphill on fire road. I passed her at the turn around as she wasn’t carrying water and had to stop to drink etc. but it wasn’t long before she stormed by me on the hill. Shortly after it seemed  like every other runner in California did the same. I had eaten a gel already to prepare for  this hill but really faced a terrible lack of energy. I know the best way for me to  get up this kind of slope  is  little steps inching up on my toes but I found I could only do short bursts of those before resorting  to power-walking with long strides, then  regular walking when I tired of that. The little steps were also causing some mild cramping in my calves so I walked that off every time it twinged. I have had calf cramps later on in races recently but it was a tad grim to have them so soon. I was pleased I  had just invested in a pair of calf supports  in Charles’ shop and hoped they would work. So far they just made me feel very hot.

So Bluebird  was off on the horizon, it was oddly comforting to see her go,  it was clear this was going to be a survival effort not a race for me. I laughed to find myself sort of cheering her on..it’s not a great sign when even you are not rooting for yourself.  But I do like the ladies to perform well.  I forced myself to eat another gel  and chipped away slowly upwards. The vultures were circling in my head.

Once you are at the top of that hill there is some rolling up and down in the forest before you plunge back down to the start area. It is a terrific technical surge down in parts and I thought how wonderful it would feel to be doing that heading to the finish. So half marathoners stop here and marathoners and 50k runners repeat the loop. Until you get there you don’t know which course many runners are doing and I was alarmed to see Bluebird  dart into the finishing tunnel ahead of me. I lumbered passed and headed back up the trail. At this point I felt quite nauseous and dizzy. I genuinely wondered if I should call it a day. I had already eaten three gels now and still wasn’t feeling a foundation of energy. Perhaps my body wouldn’t cope, it certainly didn’t feel good. I decided to slow it down and see if I felt better by the first aid station.  Just then Bluebird  appeared looking all fresh – she was on the marathon but had just stopped at the aid station and had gone down the finish tunnel by mistake. That encouraged me. I  staggered up the steep bits behind her. Another runner (Nathan) came by and the two of them were ahead of me for a long time.  I could see glimpses of them through the trees  – always well ahead but not disappearing so I felt I had some company.

Nathan VanNortwick

Again I ate even more gel and waited for positive effects but it was like they were duds. I was really suffering and oddly my right thumb holding my water bottle had gone totally numb (never had that before) so I continued with a eerie sense that all was not good. I’ve never had a race where I spent so much time thinking about how tired I was, I just couldn’t get my mind on other things. I kept trying to squeeze the thought that 26.2 miles is a heck of a long way out of my head too. Not helpful. After a while I turned a corner and to my surprise came across Bluebird. We were starting the down hill section leading to the aid station and the base of THE hill and I went ahead, it made sense as I know I  tend to go fast downhill but I wasn’t expecting to catch up with her again. We had a friendly exchange, and both groaned about how tired we were feeling. I told her I was ‘on fumes’ and she said she felt the same but I doubted she did and wondered if she might soon stumble over my unconscious carcass and think …wow that girl really was on fumes. I told her she would get me on the hill and she told me I would get her back on the downhill after it. I doubted it. I was thinking of a rescue team removing me from that hill.

I then also passed Nathan on that downhill. As I did so I commented on how wet he was. I asked him if he had stopped for a swim somewhere. Looking back this may have been a little rude (sorry Nathan) as the guy was just sweating a lot, but I was  actually thinking he may have thrown water over himself at an aid station (I have done so myself before, sometimes deliberately, sometimes trying to drink the stuff).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a  runner so drenched and you will probably need to be a runner on a hot day to understand how much that state is to be admired. My own body was clearly retaining all H2O for critical organs and of course the need to keep my incessantly streaming nose going strong. That thing needs a hose pipe ban!.

I  turned around at the aid station, filled up my water carrier with sports drink, considered eating everything there ..fingers hovering over bits of potato and banana …and rejecting it all (feeling a little rude to the hosts….sorry it all looks lovely its just that I would throw up if I ate any of the things you have so thoughtfully displayed here)  and I just knew gel was the only thing I could keep down. Good news, I’d snagged a raspberry one ….they are quite invigorating! I’ve never eaten so many gels in a race before, I was begining to lose count. (Normally I bring and eat three, I have my own little entertainment going wondering which of the three flavours it will be when I eat them …always secretly hoping for chocolate espresso.) I wondered if my calorie intake might exceed the output.  And I  headed towards the hill.

Now something inside me changed.  In a funny way I felt good about going up this hill on the second loop, because I remembered all too well the horrid feeling of running down it knowing I had gone wrong and was out of the race before. I thought of  David and made a note to email him after the race. He is injured this year as I was last year and I am looking forward to running with him in the fall. I smiled remembering  his horror when he understood where I had gone wrong. It had helped that someone was sorry for me. Gradually the  gels gathered together in my stomach and decided to get the party started. I pulled my hat down, put some music on and thought lets just chip away and see how much I can get done before Nathan and  Bluebird swoop by me.

The heat was absolutely intense by now and it was a tough old climb. It is a sneaky hill as it keeps saying: ‘well done, welcome to my summit….step forward to refresh your drink at the aid station round the corner ……..PSYCH!!! ..here’s a really steep bit  instead..ha ha haaaa’. I was surprised when I had been on the hill for a while that I hadn’t been overtaken. Three thoughts kept me going:

1) How I regretted mentioning Nathan swimming. I kept dreaming of jumping in a pool.

2) I wasn’t sure if I was drinking too much water or if I was dehydrated. I wasn’t thirsty but I kept wanting to drink. I had perhaps drunk too much too quickly as I kept getting flashes of a cold chill.

3) Should I  look back down the hill to see where they are? I was worried that as soon as they passed me I might find it more difficult to keep going as I suspected they would completely disappear out of view, so I was getting myself ready for it mentally. I was also wondering if by any chance they weren’t right on my shoulder  – but I knew that if I looked and saw that for sure it would also be more difficult to keep going. Some of those shady patches looked tempting for a bit of standing still. In the end I promised myself I could look if I got to a particular spot ahead and kept moving the spot when I got to it. I never looked back.

I got to the final aid station and fell on the sports drink. I actually filled the water carrier, ran off, stopped and drank half of it and ran back to fill up again. I was getting significant cold flashes down my arms and back now – I decided it was  just the effect of the sun and I needed to drink more.  I was now worried about the two behind me, I had noticed neither of them had hats or a water carrier and that hill was on fire. Still, they might be just round the corner……go back and save them or nip ahead….mmmm… so I headed off, actaully still not feeling great but so happy to be on the last and mainly downhill stretch.

When I got to the very last part I stopped and turned to look behind me. I thought I might  see  Bluebird and I didn’t want to run in just ahead of her, I thought we could finish together because  she had been a strong lead for most of the race and had really helped to keep me going, but there was no sign of anyone and I ran out of the forest into the clearing where the finishers tunnel lay ahead. An amazing feeling to have done it. I have honestly never been so close to quitting a race, I have never felt so bad and have a recovery late on (normally I feel steadily worse towards the end). How wonderful to challenge yourself  and come through. Nathan came in next, then Andrea and after her Rebecca. A great day for the ladies, we had all broken the female course record (held by Rebecca herself).  Nathan and I weren’t a million miles away from the male one either. It turned out that there was no-one in the marathon ahead of me (it has to be said it was an extremely small field compared to the half marathon runners, and of course many people were doing the longer 50K) but it was cool to find out  I was actually the overall marathon winner. I noticed in the results  there were some amazing older runners in there. How many of the four of  us running today would accomplish that? I felt about 70 yr old at times, one male finisher actually was…and not hanging about either.

With Nathan and his friends at the end. Thank you Jen for the photo!

Andrea, Rebecca and myself. Three ladies in the top four.

Name City

Bib No

Age

Age Group

Time

Pace

1

Penny Macphail San Anselmo CA

413

44

1 F 40-49

4:22:40

10:06/M

2

Nathan Vannortwick Oakland CA

427

26

1 M 20-29

4:27:55

10:18/M

3

Andrea Warburton Lodi CA

428

30

1 F 30-39

4:39:22

10:45/M

4

Rebecca Yi Fremont CA

432

37

2 F 30-39

4:40:14

10:47/M

I checked the results to see if my neighbour John had triumphed (he has battled with injury and had to pull out of a marathon recently which is gutting) and he certainly had.  I absolutely love his finishing photo.

John at finish – I love this picture, just says it all

As always in my life, a position of confidence and competence is never long lived…

I was having some trouble breathing and feeling dizzy at the finish and sat down at the Coastal Trails aid station picnic tables, threw my soaking hanky and salt rimmed hat on the bench and held my head down to my knees. There may have been saliva streaming out of my mouth too as I was feeling quite nauseous. Very gradually I became aware that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. There had been a double booking on that picnic area and the Coastal Trails event area was now further down the meadow. I was surrounded by  ladies in their Sunday best who were smoothing linen table clothes out and setting up vases of flowers and fine china for a graduation ceremony.Fortunately one of them (an 80 year old) was a keen runner. She patted my back comfortingly while also firmly lifting me  up,  passing  me my hat with the very ends of the fingernails and pointing out where I should go.

Picnic tables at the start- I was a little slow to understand they were turning into a graduation party when I finished

So I located the actual Coastal Trails recovery area and caught up with some other runners.  Stephen Itano had done the Western Pacific Marathon last week too, and though he stuck at the Marathon he was attempting the 50K  (love it, another person who makes me look normal). Wendell did his little prize ceremony – and I strode away with two medals jangling around my neck  (finishing and overall winner)….a much jollier scene than the year I limped away with  none. As always, I wore all bling (medals) on the drive home and was feeling pretty good about my morning when I decided to slather some Icy Heat balm onto my back as it was aching. At the finish I was alarmed to find my  iphone  capable of  nothing other than displaying an orange temperature alert triangle (it recovered after a while thank goodness). Perhaps a more intelligent person less caught up in the glory of finishing a marathon might have wondered what effect extreme temperature might have on Icy Heat balm. I held the pot between my thighs and unscrewed the lid with one hand while driving away from the park. My intention was then to scoop the thick balm out with my fingers and smear it on my back. What a surprise it was to have liquid Icy Heat slosh out of the jar like water and completely drench my lap…immediately turning solid again on contact with my body. So here we have little Miss Two Medals, breathlessly concentrating on the road,  genitals on fire, covered in glutenous wax. I decided not to stop for coffee on the way home. Thanks for another memorable day Coastal Trails http://www.coastaltrailruns.com

Sadly these runners turned back into a dog and a horse just inches before they reached the finish


Western Pacific Marathon, 5th May 2012

Featuring PB silliest race start and finish & Northern Irish bumble bee

Fashionably late, Western Pacific Marathon May 5th 2012

The sat.nav. in the car assured me I would get to the race by  7am. Not ideal (I had taken a little detour by mistake ahem) but ok for a 7.30am  start. Then I joined the jam outside the Quarry Recreation Centre. Cars were  backed up in two directions, sloooooooooooowly funneling into the park entrance – and each stopping at a booth to pay for parking. I didn’t know the area well enough to try to park elsewhere and jog to the start as I saw other people do …so I sat there, gazing forlornly at  the giant inflatable start funnel bobbing around on the horizon.

12 mins to start time aahhhh

Most of the cars were full of competent, calm people  – arriving in good time for  the half marathon and other races which started 30 mins later. There was no saving  one frantic little marathon hopeful.  I parked with literally 5 mins to go,  ran to pick up my race bib and chip and lumbered off to the toilets where a sympathetic line of half marathoners took mercy on me and let me go ahead of them. In the background the tannoy reached an excited pitch asking if everyone was ready ‘Yes’ the crowd cheered, ‘No’ I whimpered.  As the race started I still had to tackle the fiddly business of  attaching the timing chip strip to my shoe.  I finally got it done, clambered over bunting to get into the now deserted  race start funnel and careered through it painfully conscious of how comical I must look – a disheveled, panicked idiot. I was  holding my Garmin in my teeth, stuffing the course map down my top, juggling my ipod and  hanky while trying to detangle my headphones ….after a few minutes of running they had snarled into the tightest knot I have ever encountered.

With Chris Jones at finish, just the first of his marathons this weekend

There are two major benefits of starting like this and one drawback. On the plus side you have your own little send off (I received a special little round of cheers) and then you are so  insulated with gratitude to have made it and mortification to have caused a public spectacle you don’t feel the first few miles at all. In this case my mind was also fully occupied with the process of picking away at headphones wires.  I was lucky it was a flat fire road/path race. If it had been a trail on single track I would have been in the soup. On the negative side, the luck of the Irish will always ensure that if I start a race late my chip will not work.

I passed my friend Chris Jones and waved my knotted headphones at him. We had the most typical runners’ conversation in the world. I asked after his ankle injury. He asked after my back. I warned him not to push it to hard and risk damaging that ankle, and he warned me about my back. Then off we went to mess up our ankles and backs  by running a marathon on them. The difference between us is that 5.30am the next morning Chris would be treating his ankle to the OC Marathon. I love it when people make me look normal.

When I caught up to John (red shirt) and Russell (white shirt)  I fell into stride with them and we ran much of the distance to the 13 mile turn around point together. It was funny they were comfortable at the same speed because I was struck by how comically different their running styles were as I approached them. Russell is what I call a Darth Vader runner – they sort of glide along close to the ground hardly lifting their feet while John is one of the bounciest runners I have ever seen, he lifts his heel higher than his knee with every step, often close to hitting his thigh -I guess Russell would need to see a rattle snake to achieve that height. No style is right or wrong of course – each to his own. In the picture here I am catching up to them. In the end this is the order we finished in. John got frisky around mile 17 and breezed so far ahead he was able to wave at us from the other side of lake. Russell got a  second wind around mile 24 and stormed by him to strong finish in 5th place.  (John and I believe he deployed the magical powers of his mesmorizing bright orange shoes.) Our times were 3.19.57, 3.19.29 and 3.19.58 respectively. Kinda sweet.

Mr Bumble Bee

Oi wait for me…

They were great guys and we had a few laughs and adventures on the way. At one point we jogged up behind a man dressed entirely in yellow and black  and considered making bee  buzzing noises as we passed by, but he looked like he was suffering a bit so we just ran up to him and told him we thought he looked like a bumble bee. As soon as he laughed I had my suspicions and when he spoke ‘me stomach’s killin me’ I realised he was from Northern Ireland like myself (from Newcastle, close to my hometown Bangor) We high fived and cheered for Newcastle/Bangor  every time we passed after that.

I had worried I would find this course dull. Flat stuff by a quarry does sound grim. However, the place was really interesting. The quarry was filled with water in some places and marshland in others, the path crossed a few bridges and dipped under more so there was some variety and lots of things to look at – dog walkers, cyclists, squirrels, ducks and other birds. Above all,  the set up of the turn around aid station just stole the show for me. It was at the very end of a long spit of walkway, gorgeous marshland stretched off for miles on either side. The station itself was a burst of color on the horizon and as you ran towards it and the smiling volunteers manning it you couldn’t help feel a little elated. The weather added to the special atmosphere here too. There was no shelter on this stretch and the sun was bright and hot  – but there was the most  glorious cool breeze. The combination just made my skin feel like silk. Truly memorable.

With John at the finish

The marathon return retraced our steps. There were  buoyant exchanges  with inbound and outbound marathoners greeting each other, I looked out for Chris and Mr Bumble Bee and was of course interested to see if there were any females in front of me or sneaking up behind me. There actually weren’t  any ladies ahead or very close to me which takes away the thrill of competition but does allow you to relax and run in your comfort zone -and  considering my back problems that  is what I am supposed to be doing! We  soon reached a bigger field of runners as we met with the half marathoners. It was a welcome mental lift to have lots of people to watch but at times hard to get comfortable in your stride as you have to keep weaving around people.

Let’s hear it for Nakia’s knees

Around mile 21 the half marathoners sail off downhill to the finish and he marathoners are sent as if in disgrace on a punishing little  two mile detour along a straight, seemingly unending and fairly featureless lake side path. I looked at the mile 22 sign beside me and eyed the back of the mile 24 one across the track…I felt on the whole it might be more fun to fast forward the next little section of my life…and indeed these were the toughest two miles for most of us. I was praying to see the people I knew were ahead of me coming back towards the finish …you know you need body count coming back  before it is possible for you to get to the turnaround.  Eventually I saw the leading man, Doug.. yay. He looked very strong, so strong indeed I told him later  I considered tripping him up – but he said he was really suffering at that point. I also saw Nakia Baird who was to come in 4th man at all these little interactions. He certainly deserves an honorable mention as I later found out he has had 4 knee surgerie..so I took a photo of them (see pic). The option of cutting out running has not yet occurred to him! It was so  great to see John and Russell, both looking comfortable and determined, Russell  just getting ready to unleash his last hurrah. I took a sports drink at the mile 23 aid station and attempted to stagger around the turn around cone while consuming it and promptly  threw it into my eye (unless I stop I am just hopeless with those paper cups) so I headed off on the return winking vigorously at the people coming up behind me and trying to preserve my contact lens. I normally carry a spare contact lens in the pocket of my water bottle. When I went to take a sip of water at mile 5 I realised both water and lens were sitting on my car.

The finish was great, the course swoops down and around paths leading by an artificial beach and you can see the colorful finishers’ tunnel and aid area ready to welcome you home. I especially like that the course returns on a different path to the start route. I was really on fumes at this point and my back was very sore, I kept my eyes on John’s red shirt (still bouncing up and down in a lively fashion)  a good  way ahead of me …a friendly back if not face to lead me home like a harbor light. On the final turn John was out of view but I smiled when I heard a little  cheer and announcement as he crossed the line.

Now at this point I  have to admit I started anticipating the slightly childish but very human joy to be had in  finishing a marathon as the first lady. I have been fortunate to have the experience before and they do sometimes make a bit of a fuss of you. So though I knew my family would not be there,  I crossed the line ready to perhaps wave and don an ‘oh it was nothing’  expression while savoring a tender moment of personal pride in response to strangers cheering. And then I  shot through the funnel to complete silence. It was so silent I wondered if I may have taken a wrong turn until a smiling lady greeted me and we started sorting out my medal. When she realised I was the first lady in the full marathon she headed off towards  the tannoy operator to  insist that  he made an announcement. A few minutes later he did so but unfortunately ended with ‘congratulations first lady MELANIE SOANDSO.’  So here was the silliest finish in my running career. A couple of people high fived me and said ‘well done Melanie’… you can’t really not respond to a high five but in doing so you are kind of agreeing that your name is Melanie. Simultaneously  I heard John’s voice saying..’.I thought you said you were called Penny?’ And ahead of me I could see the  smiling lady returning with a ‘ THAT’s better’ expression on her face ………….and I’m think oh dear, how am I going to break it to her … It suddenly also seemed hilarious that we all had our names written on our chests in block capitals. It was hysterical. Bless her, off she went striding  purposely back towards the tannoy.

In the end it emerged that this company  has  a policy of only using the gun start time for the first three male and female runners home  for each event (its probably a common thing and it does make sense). So  I needn’t have bothered struggling to put the chip thing on.  It did turn out there was a problem with the  chip technology- just covering a series of numbers including mine – how typical of me ….see  luck of Irish rule at top of this blog. This problem also scrambled names – hence the Melanie. To be honest I thought John was called Brian for some reason, I started calling him John because that is what is written on his bib in the photos….and now see  he  is listed in the results as David. I wonder.

Overall I was delighted that I did this event, I was genuinely surprised at the beauty of the course …and the people were wonderful, runners and organizers. I think I’ve won a pair of shoes. The next humiliation will be when they have to tell me they don’t have any wide enough to cope with my  huge bunions.

Thank you Brazen Racing!

http://www.brazenracing.com/westernpacific.html

with Russell and Doug (first man home) at finish