Saturday, August 30, 2014
29th Marathon Completed
Runners: 346 (195 Male, 151 Female)
Start Time: 6:15 am
Course: Starting line 6,070 ft in mountains, which drops 1,500 ft over the first 13 miles, then flat and rolling on the second half ... first half scenic, second half not a lot to look at, finishes at 4,600 ft
Weather: 55 degrees at start, 65 degrees at finish, 72% humidity,
6 mph WSW wind
SWAG: Black Adidas gear bag, long-sleeve moisture wicking shirt, and sack of potatoes
Race Organization: Very good
Crowd Support: None until the finish line
Volunteer Support: Great, very encouraging
Water Stops: Not enough and could have been organized a little better
Food: BBQ, homemade deserts, and general post race fare
Finishing Time: 1:26:51
Average Pace: 7:54
Place: 42nd/346 Overall, 9th/32 45-49 AG
Total Experience ... 1 2 3 4 5
Writing a completely comprehensive & objective review of the 15th Annual Pocatello Marathon might be a little difficult for me right now. Quite frankly, I wish I’d never ran it, at least not under the circumstances. As I sit here a few days after the race, I can tell you it was probably the third or fourth least favorite race I've ever ran. But several variables undoubtedly skew that assessment. I ran poorly. The altitude killed me. But obviously more than anything, the passing of my wife’s mother only two days before the race left me thinking about nothing but being by Michael’s side. The last place I wanted to be was a million miles away from her, waiting to run some dumb race, while she was grieving. I’ll spare you the details, but getting to her in a timely manner would have been logistically impossible. And since I was in Idaho already, we made the decision for me to go ahead and run.
Getting to Pocatello, Idaho is not easy. The most direct route, if flying, is to land in Salt Lake City, Utah, and then drive North for about 2-1/2 hours. The drive isn’t bad though. Interstate 15 takes you along the East side of The Great Salt Lake, the West ridge of Cache National Forest, and through Indian Rocks State Park as you near Pocatello. The mountains along the way are nothing like the beautiful Rocky Mountains, but rather brown and somewhat treeless. However, the changes in elevation make for interesting viewing. Plus, if you’re up for a little jaunt off the highway, the trek also takes you only 45-minutes from Preston, Idaho, of course better known world-wide as the filming location of one of, if not maybe the greatest, films of all-time … “Napoleon Dynamite”. And in case you’re wondering, the single best line of the movie is when Uncle Rico says to Kip, “How much you wanna make bet I can throw a football over them mountains?”
|There are several flowers along the roadside on the drive to Pocatello on Interstate 15|
|Original sign from the old Chief Theater|
One of my big disappointments with the race is that the course took runners nowhere near downtown Pocatello. After the first 13 miles of the run, as you make your way out of the Portneuf Gap, there's nothing left but a long, boring stretch of asphalt featuring dirt hills, trailer parks, and auto body shops on Old Highway 91. Frankly it's one of least scenic stretches of a marathon I've ever ran. And just as you enter Pocatello, the race simply ends at the zoo. In my opinion the race organizers do themselves a disservice by not showcasing their wonderful city. It would have been nice to run down some of the tree-lined streets. And frankly, it would have made the second half of the race much more enjoyable. But obviously the primary focus of the run is the Portneuf Gap, which is beautiful indeed.
|Beautiful downtown and historic Pocatello, Idaho|
|Holt Arena at Idaho State University - the nation's only indoor college football arena|
|Race shirt and gear bag from 2014 Pocatello Marathon|
All things considered, the trip was enjoyable. But I always miss Michael when I'm somewhere new like this without her. And considering what she was going through, I couldn't stop thinking about her. I just wanted to get home.
The packet pick-up and Expo were both very small, as expected for a 350 person marathon. They were held at the Clarion Inn, which was also the host hotel, and the site of shuttle bus pick-up and drop-off, before and after the race. Runners checked in at a Ball Room adjacent to the lobby, and then could visit the chlorine-scented Expo, basically held on the deck of the hotel's indoor pool. All participants received a small black Adidas gym bag, pre-labeled with our bib numbers, to be used as gear check bags the next morning at the starting line. I thought pre-labeling the bags on a laminated tag with our name, address, and bib numbers was a very nice thought out detail. Runners also had the opportunity, as advertised, to grab a bag of real Idaho potatoes - appropriate! I grabbed one, but left it behind so I didn't have to take it with me on the plane. The extra 5 lbs would have probably been another $75 from Delta or something.
All runners also received a long-sleeved red with blue screen-print moisture wicking shirt. Due to my art and design background, I’m always way too critical on race shirts. But it seems that most are designed by folks with absolutely no eye for design, and this one was no different. I loved the logo, but blue print on a dark red shirt is really tough to see. Plus, I think I got a defective shirt with an incomplete screening of the lettering, because it looks a little blurry, and fuzzy around the edges. But it wasn't a big deal ... I mean all I need is another race shirt, right?
|Pocatello Marathon Expo held in the pool area of the Clarion Inn, with complimentary potatoes ... of course!|
|The Gateway To The Northwest ... Pocatello, Idaho|
I woke up at 3:15 am Mountain Time to shower, gather my gear, and be at the bus stop by 5:00 am. I texted Michael and told her “the LAST thing I wanna do today is run a race – I just wanna get this over with and get home – I can’t focus on anything but you” … and that couldn't be more true. My mind was completely focused on my wife and her pain, and not at all on the looming 26.2 miles ... probably not the best approach to an endurance event that demands my full attention. But I knew I was in pretty good shape, and I’d practiced this drill several times before, so I felt like I should at least be able to “phone in” a 3:20 … but I was quickly reminded that a marathon demands your complete attention.
The Shuttle Buses to the starting line were well organized and lined up right outside the Clarion, and left promptly at 5:10 am, just as they said they would. I sat with Bobby and we chatted about the race, and other downhill events we’d ran. Earlier in the week, the weather forecast had indicated it would be about 50 degrees with a light wind. And from everything I read, it would be about 45 degrees at the starting line. But on race morning, it was actually about 55 degrees at the starting line. It wasn’t a huge change, just a little warmer than I’d planned on, but had no effect on the run.
|UPS Truck parked in front of the barn waiting to take runner gear to the finish line at the start of the race|
|"Runner's Corral" at the start of the 2014 Pocatello Marathon. Pun.|
With the morning sky just barely beginning to illuminate the silhouette of the mountain tops that overlooked the Portneuf Gap, we began down the steep decline. And I mean the steepest I've ever ran in a race. Even though I was well aware that the course dropped about 1,500 ft during the first half, I simply wasn’t prepared for the intense pitch of the descent. The path was completely paved, but there were a few stretches, that if covered with gravel or chat, I swear you could have slid down without moving your legs. At points it felt like I was running down a stairwell, trying to brake my speed to avoid going out too fast. Bobby and I didn’t start the race together, but I caught up to him at about mile 4. We chatted for a few minutes, both surprised and somewhat lamenting the fact, that there had literally been no point over the first 4 miles where course leveled off, even a little. And that would pretty much be the case for the next nine miles. Actually at about mile 7 there was a short inclined out and back, but it couldn’t have been much more than a half mile, and then it was back to the seemingly never ending descent.
|Starting area at the Pocatello Marathon in the dark, at a barn, at 6,070 ft of elevation|
|2014 Pocatello Marathon Elevation Chart ... 1,500 ft descent in the first 13 miles, with a rolling hills the rest of the way|
As we finally made our way out of “The Gap” at about mile 13, we leveled off for a while and I began hitting my training paces. We passed a handful of runners who were lined up for the start of the Half-Marathon and they cheered as we passed, which was really up-lifting. I kept an eye out for the timing mat at the half-way point, which in an email from the Race Director a week prior, had indicated would be there, but it wasn’t. Neither were the other two promised split timing mats. Because of their non-existence at the race, anyone trying to track runners on-line had no idea where they were. Again, it wasn’t a big deal, but it would have been nice to have.
|One of last really pretty views before we started the long, straight, and boring stretch on Old Highway 91|
It's not all happy, happy, happy and level, flat ground after you come out of the Portneuf Gap. Because at mile 15, you're greeted by a two mile stretch of gradual 100 ft incline that just seems to go on forever. As marathoners, most of us have a point in a race when we know whether it's going to be "our day" or not. Mile 18 is always that point for me. And after burning most of my remaining energy on the two-mile hill, I definitely knew it wasn't going to be mine. And I thought to myself, "How much you wanna make a bet I can run a bad marathon in them mountains?" Actually, the only thing I was thinking is how hard it was to breath, how heavy my legs felt, and how much I wanted to be with my wife. The situation only got worse at mile 21, where you encounter another 100 ft climb over the next mile. Normally, these hills wouldn't have taken such a toll, but my quads were toast at that point and I didn't have much left.
I went into the race mistakenly thinking I needed a 3:20 to qualify for Boston again. I have no idea how I did that. But I forgot that since I turned 45 last year, the required time for me now was actually 3:25. As I pushed through to mile 21, I started doing the infamous runner math in my head, trying to calculate exactly how slow I could run and still make my mistaken 3:20 cutoff. But when I hit mile 22, it seemed it was going to be out of reach and I began walking ... a lot. And if you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that if I'm not going to hit my time goal in a race ... I have "A LOT OF QUIT IN ME!" I mean, what does the finishing time really matter at that point. So I walked. And walked. And walked. And finally finished with a 3:26:51. Later in the day I looked up the Boston Qualifying time for my age, and was pretty frustrated. I COULD have pushed it for a 3:25, oh well. The failure to qualify for Boston aside, it was a complete disaster of a race considering that I thought I should be around 3:05 ... but the worst was yet to come.
|Actually snapped this picture from on of the laptops they had set up|
in the finisher area to retrieve finish times ... just before disaster set in
I looked around and saw the Charter Bus that was to take us back to the host hotel, about a quarter mile away down the street. It might as well have been five miles to me, because I had serious doubts if I could make it there. When I finally did, I drug myself aboard and waited for the other runners to fill out the shuttle. Just as the bus started moving, I got really dizzy, started a cold sweat again, and thought I was going to throw in the cushioned seat. This was about an hour after I finished running at this point. I desperately looked toward the back of the bus for an on-board restroom, but was able to keep everything inside my body until we got to the hotel ... where I went inside and threw up again. I eventually made it to my rental car, parked outside the host hotel, and back to my room at Hampton Inn, about a mile away. When I got to Hampton, the housekeeping lady was finishing up in my room. I quickly tipped her and asked her to leave because I was going to be sick again, which she did, and I was.
|The only picture I was able to get of the finish area, while fighting off post-race nausea from the altitude, presumably|
|Sun setting over the Bannock Mountain Range near Pocatello, Idaho|
... be great today!