Ok, time for a race report on the 2010 Famous Idaho Potato Marathon!
Though I’ve known about this particular marathon for 15 years (since this is the marathon my Mom did in 1995 when she was 40) I hadn’t, at first, seriously considered signing up this year due to a pretty heavy Spring race schedule.
I did Robie Creek, my first half marathon, “The toughest in the Northwest”, April 17th and couldn’t stop smiling thoughout it! I really enjoyed this distance! I felt strong and finished in 39th place out of about 280 in my age and gender division and placed #979 out of more than #2400 runners despite holding back for most of the race. One week later, I attempted my first official ultra – The Weiser River Trail 50K. Though the course was flat, it was brutal on the hips and joints, though the real enemy turned out to be my own stomach. I struggled with GI distress from shortly after mile 11 until the end of the race. I did conquer the distance, though – coming in last place (26th place) in the race with a time of 6:43. One week after the 50k, I was feeling pretty strong and decided to sign up for The Famous Potato Marathon – only two weeks away! Since it was the 15 year anniversary of seeing my own Mom run the race, there was a sentimental reason for really wanting to do this marathon, despite having fairly worn down legs going into it. So, I signed up online and mentally prepared to race again – my third big race in less than a month!
I decided that my only real goal with this race (my second marathon) was to finish. I used my last marathon and my recent training runs of marathon distance or greater to choose a conservative, training-type pace from the start (between 11:30 – 12:00 min miles.) I also decided to use the Jeff Galloway method of taking a one minute walk break for every mile from the first mile, in an effort to ensure I could recover quickly afterwards.
The morning of the race, I was pretty nervous! I had butterflies as I loaded up my Camelbak, checked my other gear and helped my five children and husband get ready to drive to the race start. I felt really excited that my family would be there for this marathon, since they had crewed for me in my first one just 7 months before and done a wonderful job of keeping me encouraged along the course.
When we arrived at Lucky Peak reservoir, I was surprised to see so many runners shivering in the morning cold! Due to the deep bowl-shape of the area, the wind was intense down in the bottom. 232 runners were there to do the marathon and over 1350 showed up for the half. All the runners start at the same time, with the half marathoners veering off the course to the finish at 13.1 miles, while the marathoners continued onwards to a turnaround at mile 19, then come back to the finish line. It was so bitterly cold in the wind that I stayed with Wayne and the kids in the minivan until the very last second!
Finally, it was time to start. I put on my Camelbak, filled with Gatorade and race snacks (since my other marathon was directed by the same organizer, I knew that fuel on the course would be sparse and I wanted to ensure I would have plenty and didn’t need to stop at the aid stations if I didn’t want to.)
I made my way through the crowd into the center of the pack and immediately felt the warmth and camaraderie of more than 1500 eager runners, ready to start the journey! Everyone quieted down as someone sang the National Anthem. I always get a little emotional when I hear that song and this time as no different. Once the song was over, someone on a microphone started the countdown – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – GUN! The crowd cheered and we surged forward. I hit start on my watch, interested this time to keep track of “gun” time verses “chip” time (the time when I actually crossed the start and finish line.) It was only 23 seconds from “gun” time before I shuffled across the starting line. It was a very crowded start and we all moved at a snail’s pace getting moving towards the exit of the park and on our way to the Boise Greenbelt running path.
I spotted my running friend, Julie just up ahead of me and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned and we exchanged smiles. I wished her good luck in the half and relaxed into my own pace. Right away I got another fun surprise — three women running in colorful tutus were coming up beside me. One in pink, one in blue and one in yellow! It really is impossible not to be in a good mood when you see a tutu in a race! I was triple-happy seeing three of them!
Coming out of the park, the temperature was noticeably warmer. I knew from checking the weather report the day before that I should expect to enjoy temps in the 50’s for the start that would soar into the low 80’s by the end. The early miles of the race were pure heaven! Gentle breezes and perfect temperatures in the 50’s! I found my nice, easy pace and relaxed into it and enjoyed the experience. Every time my Garmin beeped that another mile had passed, I slowed down to a walk and just sipped my Gatorade. I was very focused on keeping the pace like that of a training run since I really wasn’t sure how fast I could handle a full marathon at a “race” pace so soon after my other two races. My goal was to stay consistent and to control the impulse to go out too fast or too hard early on. I would later regret this only a bit, since those early temperatures really were ideal and I probably should have enjoyed a faster pace early, since the horrible heat and humidity were waiting for me at about the halfway point.
Around mile 3, I caught up to a woman wearing a “50 States T-shirt.” The 50 States Club is made up of runners who make a personal goal to run a marathon in all fifty states! I’m totally in awe of them and find the members’ dedication very inspiring! This particular woman was around 50 years old and she’d used a black marker to “check” off the states as she completed them. I was totally impressed to see that she only had 3-4 states left to do – and one of them was Idaho! Wow! I wanted to chat with her about her racing and congratulate her on achieving so much of her goal already, but I controlled myself and didnt’ say a word. Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a tendency to chatter nonstop. I’d talked with my training partner (who is so much wiser and more experienced at this sort of thing than I am) before the race and we’d both agreed, I should save my energy for the course and try not to chat. So, I mentally sent the 50 States woman good vibes and plodded along.
The Boise Greenbelt travels along the Boise River and I enjoyed the scenery as I went along. The entire path is made of asphalt, so I again reminded myself that it was a good idea to run this race conservatively, since my joints and bones really do feel more protected when I’m running trails, dirt or grass instead. One of the nice parts of this particular course is that my family was able to see me several times. I spotted Wayne and the kids waving at me (and Wayne taking pictures) twice in the first five miles!
Around mile 5, all the Gatorade I’d been sipping came back to haunt me! I needed a bathroom! I finally saw one around mile 6 and veered off the course to the “real” restroom as fast as I could go. Amazingly, I only had to wait about 1 minute before a stall opened up and I did my business quickly and zoomed back out to the course. Since nearly an hour had passed by this point, I knew it was time for some fuel. I took off my Camelbak and grabbed my Shot Bloks and a 1/4 peanut butter sandwich I’d carried (something I’d eaten many times during training.) I walked as I enjoyed my little “snack” of one shot blok and the tiny sandwich, knowing I still had about 4 hours ahead of me and that fueling is crucial in a long-distance run. It occurred to me here, that I didn’t really want to put the rest of the Shot Bloks back into the Camelbak since they’d be hard to reach, so I tried to think of creative ways to carry them the rest of the journey. At first I thought of my waistband of my shorts, but that didn’t feel very comfortable. Then it hit me! – My sports bra! Why didnt’ I think of this before?!! I tucked the packet of gummy snacks right under my left strap and wallah – I didnt’ have to carry them in my hand anymore and they were easily accessible!
Somewhere around mile 6 I spotted my cousin, Ben, the super, duper, ultra runner dude. He was taking pictures of the runners he knew. I gave a smile and a wave, then saw my wonderful family cheering me on from the grass nearby. I high-fived each of my children and my husband then kept moving forward. It felt great to have so much support from family and friends!
My pace was consistent and I stuck with my plan, just jogging happily along with the other runners. I did notice a couple more noteworthy participants, though. I saw one woman running with a man in a wheelchair! It was so impressive and she was going at a pretty good clip! I also saw another man and his wife running side-by-side, while the husband pushed a jogging stroller. I thought that was going to make a great story for the baby when it was older! Not many of us run (or ride) our first half/full marathon at such a tender age!
By mile 12 or so, my friend, Sam caught up with me. He had paced another friend who was doing her first half marathon, for the first 6 miles! It was nice to see a familiar face and I admit to breaking my “thou shalt not speak” rule here, for just a mile or so. Sam and I chatted about the course, the weather, which was warming up and his family. Just before we reached the halfway point (where the half marathoners veered off the path), I spotted a bathroom! I knew my bladder would only thank me if I made one more pit stop. I wished Sam well and headed off to the brick building. I noticed a cute, little blond boy standing nearby and didnt’ realize until I got a bit closer that the cute boy belonged to ME! It was my son, Wayne Jr! He grinned and high-fived me and I looked around and saw that the rest of my clan was hanging around this park enjoying some fun time, while Mommy raced. I dashed into the bathroom and saw the feet of my 10 year old daughter, Rebecca. We chatted and she was surprised I’d ended up at the same place she was at, right in the middle of my race. I finished quickly, then got a group hug from the kids and a kiss from the husband before I headed back onto the second half of my race. I felt great and really was starting to wonder if I was going to end up with a PR after all. It was right about 2:30 into the race and I was still chock-full of energy, intending to let myself surge the final 6-10 miles. My first marathon time was 4:57:33, so I knew it was a possibility.
Once I hit the path again, it wasn’t long before I saw the bridge that carried the half marathoners over into the park for the finish chute and after-party. I smiled as I heard all the cheering and hoopla! It sounded wonderful and I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. I grabbed some water at the aid station and did my 1 min walk, while I mentally prepared for the second half. The temperatures were already starting to rise. It was about 70 degrees by this point.
I looked down at my Garmin and started thinking about my buddy and training partner, Bertha, waiting for me at mile 16. I picked up the pace just a bit, eager to have some company for the last 10 miles. I felt really strong and just enjoyed the leisurely pace. It wasn’t long before I saw my buddy jumping up and down in a turquoise running outfit yelling out, “MILK!” She and I call ourselves “team Chocolate Milk.” She’s Hispanic and I’m Caucasian, so – she’s Chocolate and I’m Milk! We always get a laugh when we share that with our fellow runners. She had surprised me and showed up at mile 14! I couldn’t stop grinning and was having a hard time sticking to the “no talking” rule since I love to chat Bertha’s ears off on our usual workouts! Instead, we both just grinned and I settled into my conservative pace again, knowing there was still a long ways to go, but feeling extra confident that I’d be just fine with Chocolate by my side to cheer me on and pace me!
By mile, 17 or so, the temperature was around 80. I started to feel nauseous. I’ve had stomach problems in my longer races before, so I eased up a bit on the pace and looked forward to water from the aid stations. I saw my minivan around this point and asked Bertha if she’d take my Camelbak to my husband. This was one of those times I felt so lucky to have a pal along for the race! She took my pack and quickly when in search of my family, while I jogged on ahead. She caught up with me shortly after, and we kept running. I still felt pretty strong and was starting to wonder if I was going to PR. I quickly brushed that thought out of my head, though, knowing that the real battle awaited me in the final 6 miles and that – anything can happen in a marathon!
Because this part of the course was an out and back, I had the pleasure of seeing the front runners of the race! I had already passed many of them right around the midway point (which is when the first place runner came in!) I was really excited to see a woman in 4th place overall just zipping along looking strong to the end! I was totally inspired and clapped and gave the thumbs-up to every one I passed. After doing this for a few miles, I realized I was wasting precious energy, so I reverted to just giving a smile and a head nod as I passed each runner heading the other way. Bertha was wonderful for this part of the race! She yelled out, “GOOD JOB” as we passed by each one. That was awesome of her since I wanted to do it too, but needed to hold back.
Once I saw Mile 19 in chalk on the ground, I got excited! I knew the turnaround couldn’t be far and I was looking forward to seeing one of my running heros – Jenny Stinson, who I knew was running the water stop! We spotted our buddy Sam around here too. He teased, “C’mon! You’ve been resting all day! Run!” He was heading back out to the path, just as we came into the path, so I estimated he was about 1/2 mile or more ahead of us. We spotted Jenny right away once we’d traveled to the end of the neighborhood where the turnaround was and waved hello! She yelled, “Good job!” and wished us well and we drank some water and headed back on the path we’d already traveled! I was pumped! I felt pretty good and my Garmin showed a time of about 3:40.
The heat really started to get to me about here. I think all the Gatorade and Shot Bloks did a great job with keeping energy running to my brain and legs — but my stomach started to feel off just a bit. We ran along and I felt fairly good by the time we hit the 20 mile chalk line. Around this point we started seeing more and more marathoners walking – some of them doing the death shuffle. The “Wall” had arrived for many. I still felt pretty good and was thanking all of my training over the past several months for that. But, it wasn’t long before I was doing my own death shuffle!
In my first marathon, that mighty wall hit me smack in the face at mile 22. I’d been on pace, to that point, of hitting my goal time of 4:45. This was where I’d lost the battle the first time around and it appeared I was about to lose it again. My first marathon was 40 degrees and nonstop light rain! This time around it was 80 and very humid. There were a couple of sprinklers near the path and Bertha encouraged me to get my head wet in them. She was right. It helped — but my stomach started to do the boat-rock and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to handle that feeling much longer. I finally saw a nice, group of trees and bushes and dashed off the course to use nature’s restroom. Thankfully, I felt a little better after that — but nausea and dizziness would stay with me for the rest of my journey.
We caught up to a man, in his early 30’s around this point. He was walking and looked miserable. We told him, “Good job!” and passed. A couple of minutes later, I felt sick again, so we slowed to a shuffle, and he passed us. This happened for another couple of miles, making all of us laugh a little bit at our leap-frogging.
I had to just stop an lean my hands on my knees several times during miles 23, 24, and 25. I felt so sick. My pace for those three miles stayed in the 15s! I walked nearly all of those three miles, though I did try to revert to the “I’m running-as-fast-as-I-can” death shuffle here and there.” As I say, NEVER underestimate the things you may encounter in a marathon! Anything can happen!
Bertha and I had a personality switch in these last few miles. Usually, I’m talking her ears off, but all of a sudden, she was chatting away, smiling, laughing, gesturing, and all I could do was stare in front of me like a zombie and keep slowly moving forward. She was so cute especially in the final mile! She kept saying, ‘LOOK! You’re doing it! You’re so strong! I’m so proud of you!” She was squealing and leaping and clapping and all the regular Saturday-afternoon strollers, stopped, stepped back and clapped as I slowly made my way past them. I felt like the President of the United States getting so much attention and the parting of the people as I passed. I could only laugh inside at how much of a contrast Bertha and I looked like at that point. I was clearly looking like death warmed-over and Bertha was all smiles and energy and bounce!
Once we hit 25 miles, she kept trying to encourage me to GO FASTER since we were almost there. I was like a grumpy child who won’t believe a thing until I see it with my own eyes and I refused to push the pace until I saw the longed-for bridge that I knew did, in fact, cross over into the park for the finish. Finally, mile 26 came and I saw the bridge. I passed another runner or two at my lightening pace of about 14 min miles. ha ha. I felt terrible! But I was so happy! I’d been wearing my MP3 player and the song I was listening to was, “Another One Bites The Dust” and it seemed perfectly timed as I passed a lone runner here and there coming to the finish too. The only problem was, I couldn’t hear much of anything else. Bertha started gesturing wildly at me and so I followed her arm movements and started running across the grass to what looked like the finish. Quickly, Bertha and a volunteer shook their heads “NO” and got gestured back to the path again. Oops! I’m kind of famous (or infamous) for getting off course right at the end of a race, so this was no surprise I did it again. Once, I got back to where I was supposed to be, I looked ahead and saw I still had a long half loop to do before the finish line. Around 2/10ths of a mile or so. It seemed REALLY far! I slowly started to pick up the pace, focusing with all my might to get to that finish line. I saw a woman just ahead of me, coming in with her little tiny son – maybe 2 years old – running in alongside her. I passed her.
I saw the guy waving me in, holding two water bottles and pretending to be directing an airplane. It cracked me up and I was able to shake off my tiredness and nausea and just give it my ALL! I have a good final kick and I used it. I felt like I was flying and high-fived the “air-plane landing dude” as I crossed the finish line with a gun time of 5:14. (My chip time was 5:13.)
I wanted to faint! A woman placed my finishers medal around my neck and I grinned. Then a man asked me to sit down so he could take off my timing chip. I felt weak and hot and worn out.
After the chip was removed, I got up and went looking for my family – who were right there, cheering and clapping for me! My husband asked me, “Didn’t you see the children trying to run in with you?” I felt terrible. I had no idea, but three of my children had tried to run in with me, but I had been so focused on just ending the race that I didn’t realize it. Later when I saw a picture of them following after me, while I’m running like the wind, I thought it was kind of funny. It looks like I’m running away from them, but I really wasn’t.
As soon a I could, I found a little patch of shade and promptly collapsed flat on my back under it. I just wanted to rest. And, I was craving an ice-cold glass of water. They’d handed me a bottle of water at the end – but it was totally warm and that just did not sound very good at the moment given the heat and my nausea.
Several of my other friends came up to congratulate me and we took photos. It was a wonderful time of celebration.
I did it! I ran a half marathon, my first 50k and a marathon in less than a month! I’m SO proud of myself!