Sunrise, Malheur River, Malheur County, eastern Oregon.
Well, the DOMS is really set in good. Walking outside on the ice and snow is quite entertaining, especially for Goddess and Skinny.
Peaking and tapering went well for this race. The only unknown going into it was the weather. All week leading up to the race, winter was in full swing, with several inches forecast for the entire area in the days leading up to the race. At one point, models were indicating up to 12” of fresh snow on top of whatever they had on the ground already. So we just didn’t know.
Luckily, race morning broke with crystal clear skies and a Wolf Moon to greet us. But it clouded up on the drive to Rodgau and left us wondering when the big blob of snow in Belgium would finally make it to the Frankfurt area.
Since this was my first race in Germany, I really had no idea what to expect. The final e-mail that was sent out Thursday said that over 1,000 people had signed up, which was huge compared to last year’s ~250 finishers. Coupled with the expected snow and cold temperatures, the organizers were at a loss as to how things would work out (or so I could figure out with Google’s translator). But it did turn out fine, with only about half as many showing up as had registered.
What a great concept – pre-register, show up, pay your entry fee, race and leave. No huge cost loss to the organizer, since there weren’t any t-shirts or medals to hand out. The only thing that it looks like they had extras of were the beer and soda afterwards. But that carries over well into whatever event the Rodgau running club holds next. So for those folks that registered but didn’t show, they weren’t out anything and I doubt the organizers were either.
From the registration/parking area, it was about a mile walk to the start line. Goddess, Skinny and I got there about five minutes before the gun went off. It was a cautious walk, since the road was covered with chunky ice and some slick snow. Wouldn’t you know it, so was the course. Right before the start Goddess took a picture (right). And no, that’s not a belly under that jacket; that’s my Fuel Belt.
Lots of German talk over the loudspeakers, a German countdown and the gun went off. With 400+ crowding the start chute and a chip time system, it was just a matter of filtering down to the side of the crowd, squeezing in and then through the chute. Off we went, over the ice, which was fairly slick.
The course was a 5km loop through farmland and forest. Fairly flat looking, with looking being the operative word. Just a few hundred meters into the course, we took a hard right U-turn; luckily they had spread sawdust over the corner to keep everyone from slipping (too much).
It took the first 5km lap to thin out the crowds, but that was fine. For the most part everyone was doing pretty good, mainly trying to figure out how the footing would treat us.
The first few laps were pretty non-eventful. With the temperature hovering right at freezing, everyone was warming up and getting settled in for a few hours (or more) of work. Right after mile five I was lapped by the leader, so that meant he was at mile eight. And for the rest of his race, like clockwork he lapped me every five miles. Right after mile seven I was “chicked” by the lead female, so she was already at mile ten. Just like any other big race that has the Kenyans and other fast runners, it’s always impressive to watch those with perfect form and quick turnover. Unlike me. I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be the fastest or strongest. But if it comes down to having a hard head, I may just win.
By the end of the third lap (15K/9.3mi), the ice was getting pretty beat up and started softening, which was a nice development.
For a little bit.
I hit the half-marathon point at just under two hours. Not too fast at most other races, but would, in hindsight, be the beginning of a longer than anticipated 50K.
Rolled through 25K (15 miles) at a very comfortable 2:27, which kept me on pace for a sub-5:00, which was my goal. But between 28-30km (17-18 miles), things started to stiffen up. Nothing horrible, but definitely a change to the previous miles. Mentally I worked through everything, identified what was uncomfortable, and just kept pushing forward. Nothing was wrong, just a bit of discomfort. At left, that’s me at 30.2km (just over 18 miles). When Goddess asked me how I was doing, I said “I’m not dead yet”.
Once I hit the feed station at 30.5km, I sucked down two Powergel’s, had a bit of banana and a coke. I figured I needed a bit more fuel than I had been taking in. Normally I’ll suck down a Powergel at 40 minutes and then every 20 minutes after. But considering how narrow the road was and the knot of people, I decided that I’d be fine with just taking in fuel every time I hit the feed station, which was working out to every 27-28 minutes. That meant that instead of taking in 300 calories per hour, I was taking in 200. A huge difference? Probably not. But by this point, that meant I was 300 calories deeper into a hole than I normally would be.
The extra banana and coke helped out for the next 10K, but the stage was set.
During this stretch, between 30-40K, I noticed that the ice, which was softened with all of the abuse, was turning very, very slickery. We had worn a few bare spots through the fields, which were nice. But for the most part, it was still ice and snow. These long stretches of ice and snow offered little traction. Based on feel, I figure that there were two separate 1-2km stretches where we were lucky to have 40-50% of our energy translated into forward movement.
The rest of the energy was strictly “Scooby Doo” motion. You know, when Scooby and Shaggy start running when they see a “ghost” and their legs just spin in place. That kind of motion.
I rolled through the marathon (42.2km/26.2mi) at 4:40. Not great, but not horrible. Putting it into context with the sub-2:00 half, I realized what was going on. But I didn’t realize how much “fun” the last five miles were going to be.
Not soon after the marathon, the wheels came off. Not gently. But with great force. Folks talk about hitting a wall; this wasn’t a wall, but my legs turning to stone. All other systems were go, but the legs had had enough.
Right about that time, the snow started drifting gently down. All day long it had been cloudy, with a stiff cold breeze. But no snow. Slowly the spigot was opened and pretty soon it was dumping. Well, without a breeze, it would have been dumping. With the wind that we had, the runs through the field were interesting in the sideways snow that dropped visibility down to less than 100 meters at times. Once in the forest, the flakes drifted down, making for beautiful scenes. At right, that’s me crossing the timing mat at 45K (28 miles); Goddess asked me how I was doing and I said “I’m still alive”.
The saving grace of the new snow was that it increased our traction over the ice. Too bad my legs weren’t there to take advantage of it. But this is where my stubbornness pays off – I just put my head down and keep moving forward. Which got me to the end.
5:51:46, almost an hour longer than I had hoped. But a good time considering the conditions. Another surprise, once I downloaded the data and ran the route through the terrain maps, was that the “flat” course had a total of 1,230’ of climbing/descending through the 50K. Those gentle rolling fields were sneaky, I tell you.
Am I disappointed? Nope. Not in the slightest. Could I have run a better race? Absolutely. Even though I’ve been racing a while and have learned a lot, I learn better from my mistakes. And in this race, there were plenty of learning opportunities.
So right now the legs are tighter than they’ve been in a long, long time. The stairs are my nemesis today, especially going down.
And I’m already looking for another marathon in a few months time.