Monday, October 30, 2006

Tri-Cities Marathon

3:51, PR by 6 minutes...
20+ MPH winds ...
10+ hours to get home...
3rd place in age group...

Saturday I checked the weather forecast one last time. It was to be a bit windy but warm. I don’t really like running against the wind but how bad could it be? I guess now we know! I rode over to the Tri-Cities Marathon with Cliff the winner and Mel. I think this was Mel’s 309th marathon. We arrived with plenty of time to get ready to run.

It was a little chilly at the start but I knew once I was moving it would be the perfect temperature. The route was an out and back with 4 crossings of the Columbia River on 3 different bridges. And the wind did show up as predicted. But at least half the time it would be at your back.

I forgot my watch, so I thought to myself, self just run strong but try to stay behind people in the beginning that you KNOW you should be behind. For the first 1 1/2 miles there was some dust and sand being blown at us but for the rest of the day was just wind. Except for that leaf that was pinned to the side of my leg for over a half mile. I figured it would fall off when the wind changed direction and it did.

All day the wind seemed to come at us at an angle. It was almost never directly from behind. From mile 2 to 8 it was pushing us pretty good but also a lot to the left. So when I would have my right foot off the ground I had to make sure I didn’t trip myself. And with the left and had to make sure I didn’t kick the guy next to me. After all it was his first marathon. At one point I looked down and saw that my left foot was being pushed out over 3 inches by the wind. I asked the time at 3 miles and it was 24 something. I figured this was too fast but without a watch what choice did I have. I was trying to hold back. At 6 miles I still felt real good, but at 49 minutes I could tell I was going faster than I should have been.

At 8 miles I crossed the river for the second time, this time going directly into the wind. I could barely walk 4 mph let alone run. I tried to draft behind that same guy running his first marathon but then he started going slower than I was. Once I got down off the bridge I was headed west into the wind. Now I was leaning to the left instead of the right. I figured it would all even out by the end of the day.

At about 11.5 miles I got to the turn around. I still felt pretty good, I was just wishing the wind would straighten out so it would be more at my back. This sideways stuff was no good. It seemed to be slowing me down in both directions. At 12 miles I was close enough to another runner to ask her the time. She said 1:39 that’s an 8:15 mile, still too fast. I continued to keep a good pace all the way past mile 15.

Now I was crossing the third bridge and the wind was at my back. I went up the bridge like I was running downhill and down the bridge like I was skydiving. At one point the wind spilt around a pillar and came at me from the both the front and back. I felt like I was floating for about a second and a half. What an adventure. The cables were also singing a nice tune. I’m just glad I didn’t get thrown into them like some of the runners did.

At the end of the bridge it was the start of 8 miles of running into the wind, hunched over and leaning to the left. The wind was stronger than ever and could (and did) push you right off the path without warning. I was passing a lot of people some walking; they must have been early starters and some kind of running. It felt like I was going rather slow myself but I only got passed by 2 people. A couple of other guys tried passing me after I had just passed them but they couldn’t hold on very long. I kept asking the time whenever I passed some wear a mile marker but I don’t remember most of them.

Just before mile 20 my Maniac hat, that had turned around backwards because I was running into the wind, (I kept turning it back and front depending on the wind) flew off like a kite on a broken string. It went at least 50 yards straight sideways before I lost sight of it. Damn it! I love that hat. I thought I can go down that 70 foot embankment and find it but I’ll never get back up again, it’s just too steep. So I started running again, sans hat, cursing into the wind. Like it cared, I’m no Charlton Heston.

At mile 21 I remember the guy said it was 11:03. 11:03? Ahhh AM! So I had to figure out the time. I think we started at 8 so that 3:03. So I have almost an hour to go 5.2 miles. Can I do that? Into this wind? I don’t think so. It felt like I was running slower than that already. With about 3 miles to go I saw Van, she was on a short walk break. I’ve never seen Van this late in a race, even when I started an hour early. She must be having a hard day. Running 40 marathons in 10 months will do that to a person, if they’re still alive. I figured this was a good time for me to take a walk break also. 5 seconds later she started running and so did I. I passed Van with about 2.5 miles to go but I knew she would be passing me back before the finish. If she really wanted to that is.

With about 2 miles to go I got a time of 3:31. Wow 29 minutes to go 2.2 miles. I can do that! So I put the hammer down. Well it wasn’t much of a hammer. More like a feather and with that wind it was gone in a flash. Ok let’s try it again. I just need to make it over the last bridge then it’s just a mile to the finish. It was really tough into the wind and up hill but I knew the downhill would give me back some time. Well there was nothing left for the downhill. Sure I picked it up a little but nothing like I normally do. Now there was 1.2 left to the finish. I splashed some water on my face at the last aid station and gave it all I had. I just continued to do what I had been doing for the past 9 miles. Focus on the runner in front of me and try to catch them. I finished in 3:51, a Personal Best by 6 minutes. How fast could I have gone without the wind? We’ll never know.

After the race the awards were handed out and I ended up taking 3rd place in the 35-39 age group. Wow!

This is normally where the story ends. We got in our car at 2:15 and drove the 3 hours home. Blah blah. I took an ice bath. Blah blah, it was cold. How boring is that? Where’s the adventure?
Well here’s what really happened.

We got as far as Easton where the freeway was completely stopped. The Semi’s were either getting off the freeway or turning their engine off. After sitting for nearly an hour we decided to turn around and head for White Pass. That’s a pretty long detour but since the traffic advisory said the freeway was closed in both directions and would be for several hours we all came to the conclusion that it would be better to drive around. On any other day we would have been home at 9:00 pm which is what Cliffs GPS was predicting as our arrival time. But not today. We came to the turn for White Pass and the sign said Chinook Pass was open, which it should be, after all it only October right. So we took the shorter Chinook Pass route. The first time we stopped was right at the top. There was a pickup sideways against the guardrail. I thought, hey that’s it, it’s all downhill from here. We’ll be home in no time. Well ½ mile later we stop again for about an hour. Then the park rangers clear the vehicle out of the ditch. So we’re off we’ll be home in no time… 100 yards later stopped again. And again we wait for them to clear the obstruction. Now the sheet of ice has a nice layer of water on it from all the engine heat. So even after being parked for 5 minutes, cars are sliding sideways. Poor Cliff, after running a 2:59 marathon with 20+ mph winds (WOW), he can’t even give his foot a brake. He has to keep a foot firmly on the peddle or we’ll end up in the ditch like those other Yahoos.

Finally we made it out of the snow but everybody’s still so paranoid we’re only doing 40 mph in a 55 mph zone on dry pavement. I made it home at just about 1:00 am Monday morning. Good times!
Luckily next weekend it’s only a few miles to the start of UWR.


robtherunner said...

Congrats on the PR! I remember the wind from the only time I ran that race two years ago. It sounds like it got the best of quite a few people I have talked to.

olga said...

Wow, a PR on crazy Tri wind course! Way to go, Arthur!