NOT IDEAL Idaho Marathon
No matter how hard you prepare, sometimes things do not go as planned. As I have said countless times, so many things have to fall into place to run a “perfect marathon” or well a PR marathon. Every time I line up for another 26.2, it is my complete intention to run a personal best marathon. It’s kind of WHY I do it! But we all know there are so many other factors that play into a successful race. The weather, the crowds, the course, injuries and the list goes on and on.
I was excited about this race. It was a small race and it was a breath of fresh air to the likes of Honolulu, Rock N’ Roll Louisiana, Philadelphia, Hartford, etc. The expo literally was nothing to speak of. It was simply a tent where you picked up your number (that got assigned to you as you showed up) and a few boxes of tank tops. The race director was filling plastic bags with “goodies” as we showed up and they didn’t even have the real bags in yet. It was a small time race that appeared to be lacking support and planning. The race director even said he thought he would have more help than he did. However I didn’t even think they needed any extra people there. They just were not prepared. It didn’t really matter to me if I got a bag or not. I have a million bags in my basement that I don’t even use. The race shirt was a very tight tank top that I thankfully could switch out the next day after the race. It’s annoying to me that a SMALL size sometimes is HUGE or sometimes like an EXTRA SMALL. From race to race, you never know what you are going to get.
I spent the rest of the day walking along the bike path by the river. There’s not a lot to Idaho Falls but we saw what there was and enjoyed that. It was a rural area but yet had several new buildings like as if it is trying to attract people. It’s a cute little area, but I probably won’t ever come back to visit. Other than that I tried to rest as much as possible. I was still completely exhausted because our flight to SLC from was delayed 5 hours so tack on the 3 hour drive to Idaho Falls and there you have a 3:45am bedtime which is 5:45am EST. So it completely sucked. I fell asleep but I woke up fairly early still because I was hungry (from being awake so long and not having a real dinner), so Pat & I elected to get up to eat breakfast only after a few hours of sleep. I was so worried this lack of sleep was going to come back and bite me in the ass on race day. I wasn’t feeling good – just wiped out – and that’s never a good feeling with a marathon the next day. I tried to do as little as possible and yet still eat well and hydrate. I was hopeful I would sleep well the night before the race at least.
So I did – I still woke up fairly early but I had to be on the bus at 4:15 to go to the top of the hills where the race started. I thought it was a nice touch that the race director came onto the bus and wished everyone good luck. It was personable. I loved how it was a small race and I talked to a nice woman from New Mexico (who is on the board of the 50 States Marathon Club BTW) and we talked about races and running and it was an enjoyable conversation to the top of this hill/mountain. It was completely dark outside. I’m thinking “Will wild animals be nearby and run into the road?”, “How will I know where I am going?” But it was cool. I love a good adventure so I was simply enjoying the ride (bumpy as it was) especially as we drove on the gravel road. We got to the start line and the only lights were truck headlights shining on the start line. That’s it. Port-a-potties existed but were in complete darkness. The race director had water and GU for the taking. Again, nice touch. Some guy was talking about how the roads near the city get confusing but he had run the race several times. The race director even said at the start to stay on the right side of the road (not left facing traffic) and that the townies will know about the race and will watch out for you. He put us at ease running 26.2 miles on the wrong side of the road, technically. Soon we were off for another adventure! We were running down this soft gravel road in complete darkness. The sunrise over to the east showed a layer of bright red sky underlining the charcoal gray clouds off in the distance. It was a beautiful sight but I didn’t take out my phone to take a picture. Even taking a picture of THAT wouldn’t even do justice for it. We ran about three-tenths of a mile and then we took a hard left to continue down that gravel road for another mile or two. All that I know this gravel road turned into one big ass downhill and I had no idea where my next step was going. I was running quickly yet in still in complete darkness and occasionally worried if I was about to twist an ankle. Frankly, I was hoping for the best here – that I would get out of this part of the course unscathed. I loved the downhill. I felt like I ran it hard, but I am not going to lie. I was somewhat disappointed with an 8:04 pace at the 1-mile marker according to my Garmin. I said “What?! How could I have run so slow down that giant hill?” I don’t know. I never saw the first mile marker but I wondered if it was because we were out in the boonies that they just didn’t have one either. I continued to run as the hill flattened out and my 2nd mile was just under 8 minutes. OK, now we are talking! That’s more like it. And just as the big ass downhill flattened out, I looked ahead and could definitely see some big hills to climb. Ah ha, this is what the race director meant by rolling hills. I get it. But I underestimated how many freaking rolling hills there would be. As soon as we climbed up, we went down (but never as far down as we went up) and there was yet another hill. It was constant but I knew it was only for 11 miles and then it was time for a giant downhill. I persevered through these hills. For a while I was the 2nd female runner and that was cool. The 1st female passed me in mile 1 (LOL!). Then some friendly woman said something to me (nice, I think, but I couldn’t fully hear) and then passed me. An older gentleman passed me around mile 4 or 5 and I was quite impressed with the pace he was keeping. I’m guessing this guy was in his 70’s and he was doing great. He was run/walking the course, but when he was running, he was doing fine. When I reached one of the early water stations, the volunteer asked me if I wanted water or Gatorade and the proceeded to pour my drink. It was weird and I wondered why she wasn’t prepared. I was one of the earlier runners but there were only 114 runners in this marathon. There were definitely about 10-15 people ahead of me. I thought maybe they were trying to conserve what they were giving out, but I have never seen this in any marathon. She seemed nice, just not prepared. Around mile 5 or 6, I actually saw a DEAD rattlesnake right in the middle of the road. Thankfully it was dead or I would have freaked out beyond belief. I thought about stopping to take a picture of it but I was still cruising at that point, despite the rolling hills. The hills continued off and on for about 10.5 miles. The last hill just seemed unbearable. I was slowing down considerably and feeling a little mad at myself for not running more hills in training, but I simply had to take it step by step and deal with what was in front of me at the time. I knew once I got to mile 11 there would be a giant downhill and I could try to make up some time there. Ironically, I passed a guy on the downhill which I thought was odd. He was running slow and I just sped up like a crazy person. (Yes, later this would come back to bite me in the butt in the form of complete agony, but right now I was enjoying “flying downhill”.) There was a port-a-potty at mile 12 so I decided to stop since there were no lines, no waiting and just empty out. I thought I could do this relatively quickly without sacrificing too much time. I didn’t have to go as badly as I thought, so that tells me I could drink more. I continued to cruise and crossed the half marathon mark at 1:58 which isn’t my best – but isn’t my worst time either. Considering the crazy rolling hills, it really wasn’t a bad time to run a sub-2 half. There were still some a few hills again (around mile 14) and I thought those were all BEHIND me now. I guess not. It was tiring. As we leveled out and approached the bustling city of Idaho Falls (not really), the sun was poking out at times and I was feeling a bit fatigued. I was still running back and forth with this older man and I hit mile 17 at 2:35 on my watch. This was the EXACT same time I hit this time point in the Hartford Marathon and subsequently finished that marathon in 4:06. It was just about at that time that I decided to dial it down. It’s something I have hardly ever done in a marathon. I did this in Honolulu too. I just felt like I had to do it - as crazy as it sounds. The heat and sun in that race was overbearing and in this race, I feel like the rolling hills fatigued me, plus the fact that I only slept 3 solid hours 2 nights before the race due to our delayed flight. I was no longer feeling that I was “on” and I started thinking about how we were driving to Yellowstone National Park RIGHT AFTER THIS RACE and how my legs were going to hate me! It definitely played into my decision making. For one of the first times ever, I became afraid of feeling the pain after the marathon because I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk around much. I was still running at a 9-minute-something pace which is still fairly comfortable, but it wasn’t my best. I am capable of cruising in the mid-to-high 8’s for most of a marathon. I knew that if my time was going to be over 4 hours that I was ok if it was some worse time over 4 hours. It’s not normal for me to say this, but this wasn’t a normal race with normal circumstances. Once we got into the residential neighborhoods near Idaho Falls, the marathoners met up with the half marathoners and the little orange arrows taped to the road were hard to find. I was trying to find them as best I could. There were NO UPRIGHT SIGNS anywhere, just these 8 inch long arrows taped to the right side of the road. The roads were so wide in some spots that you had to run all the way to the right to ensure you didn’t miss the arrows. Honestly, it was completely ridiculous. I couldn’t believe this was how a race was operationalized. Marathoners do not want to be searching for arrows on the road but RATHER they want to see clear signs on which way to go. I started to think the budget for this race was so small and the director just didn’t want to spend the money on these basic things! It was rather annoying. I was following the arrows I thought but then a bunch of runners started coming back towards me saying this is the wrong way. I started to follow them back that way and then continued to go back in that other direction. But then some other nice woman who was a marathoner said she thought the direction was to go straight so I turned around and followed her. The people going the other way were half marathoners and although there was NEVER ANY SIGN THAT SAID “full” or “half”, somehow they thought they knew where they were going. This was just the beginning of my complete annoyance with this race. First there were NO MILE MARKERS at all. OK, that’s fine, I have my Garmin to tell me when I reached a mile. Then there was the unprepared WATER STATION around mile 3. Then, there was the realization that there are NO FREAKING SIGNS AT ALL FOR THIS RACE, just these tiny little orange arrows TAPED ONTO THE ROAD! I tried to keep pace with is woman so at least I had someone to follow. Then we eventually saw half marathoners again. The same back-of-the-pack people I originally was cheering on, I cheered them on AGAIN. This course was so messed up. I hated it. I was outwardly just talking to people – either cheering them on, talking to them and/or saying how much I am annoyed with this course. People agreed. Then as we approached the zoo, the same thing happened. As if I wasn’t already annoyed enough, runners were going in different directions and it made no sense. The little rinky dink orange arrows said to go straight but most runners were going right at the zoo. I ended up stopping for a while and talking with some lady who was looking at her phone trying to figure out which way to go. My pace that mile was 13:39. Some guy who seemed to be affiliated with the race drove up in a car and when asked, he had NO IDEA on which way to go. OMG. Is this real life? I told him this was ridiculous that people don’t know where to go and you have to get real signs. Since when does a road race NOT have any REAL SIGNS? It was aggravating. It’s especially aggravating because marathoners train hard for races – for many miles and many months – and for the performance on race day to be a piece of shit – partially because the race is poorly organized and executed, is a complete shame. It takes a lot of time to recover from a marathon and to waste the effort on a sub-par performance and course, is just not good. It was equally frustrating to then circle back with the same half marathoners AGAIN! It’s like how the heck are we going to get to the finish line people? The first time I met some woman pushing her baby in a jogging stroller I told her how amazed I was that anyone could ever do that!? She humbly said “I’m only running the half.” I said, “Still, it’s an amazing accomplishment. It’s hard enough to run just on your own let alone pushing a baby in a stroller.” Then when I met up with her again in about 25 minutes, I asked her if her baby was sleeping the entire time and she said “Yes”. Around this time, I was simply cheering on the runners and feeling proud of them. I don’t care who you are and/or how fast you run. Everyone out there is putting forth a tremendous effort for themselves. That is something to be proud of and happy about. I love cheering on perfect strangers and knowing that it made them smile in their moments of fatigue and desperation (at the end of a marathon or half marathon). It’s another reason why I love running. You can cheer people on when they play football, baseball or lacrosse, but it’s not the same. These athletes are not all living consecutive moments of complete fatigue and desperation trying to laboriously put one foot in front of the other simply trying to survive until the finish line. These other athletes get moments where they can walk, stop, catch their breath and rest. Including myself, I got through this marathon one step at a time. Even though there were no mile markers, no signs, no police or race personnel stopping traffic at busy intersections, us runners just persevere step by step and find our way to the finish line. It was probably about mile 17 or so when I texted Pat to tell him that I was no longer “racing” this course. I felt so frustrated with it and worried about the impending pain coming my way. So that’s what happened. I simply tried to “enjoy” the run, the people (despite the course!) and enjoy the journey and it still felt good crossing the finish line even though my time was about a half hour slower than my more recent marathons. It is what it is. I’m glad to have checked another state off the list. I’m disappointed in the race experience but I learned a few things too. First, I need to train for hills. LOL. These hills make Boston’s rolling hills in the marathons look like ant hills. Second, you need way more sleep leading up to a marathon! Don’t get me wrong, this small town race has the potential to be awesome. The course is hard, it’s varied with big ass rolling hills, large downhill, high altitude (6700 ft), flat terrain and paved and gravel roads. It combines so many different things that make it challenging. My biggest thing is please have UPRIGHT SIGNS to show runners which way to go and please have traffic control at the busy intersections. Not everyone is from Idaho Falls and runs this race every year.
Post-race recovery: Wow, I was hurting pretty bad after this one. I suspect from the hill running. After the race we drove to Yellowstone National Park and pretty much from 11:30am to 8:30pm, I was in the car for the most part. We got out a few times to check into the hotel and the sights along the Upper Loop. However, most of these hours, my legs ached. So much so, that I had to take 3 extra strength Tylenol a couple of times. As we were stuck in a “bison” traffic jam, my left hamstring ached terribly. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say it was a 9. I just wanted to get OUT of the car and walk around but I couldn’t unless I wanted to get flipped upside down by a bison. At one point, I started crying because I couldn’t take it anymore. I hardly ever cry but I had to. OMG it was tough. Once I could walk around again, I was ok, but I could not sit still any longer. My quad muscles were unusually sore for a few days. I didn’t run again until the Friday after the race and I ran an easy 4 miles. My heart rate was still high so I know I needed more recovery so took it easy even after that. Almost 2 weeks post-race now, and I am in the midst of the reverse taper wrapping up this full week at a mere 25 miles. I have been able to do a few quick miles here and there (pace into the high 8’s and low 9’s) but nothing crazy yet. I feel good and have finally caught up on my sleep from being out West by having slept an average of 9 hours 15 minutes over the past 7 days. I haven’t developed a new training plan yet but that’s because I’m going to book another race! I need to redeem myself with a good race sooner than later before I go to NC in November. This time, I’m doing a lot of research about the race and asking the 50 States Club for feedback. I think I’m going to Nebraska for my next stop! (3 weeks post race, I feel awesome again!! It takes a long time for an older lady to recover, you know!!)