Sunday, August 28, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
CAMP PENDLETON’S MUD RUN, 6-18-11: One of three such events where people pay almost $60.00 to “run” through 6.2 disgustingly dirty miles. I did it to be with friends. I was sure I would not like it.
Mud. Where is the mud? Dirt, yes, for the first three miles Cammie (61), Delsie (56) and I (67) run/walk through California chaparral trails, kicking up dust. We see camouflage dressed marines, 6000 participants and one fluffed up hawk on a telephone wire but nothing wet. THEN, the first stream crossing. Hey, I will NEVER dip my running shoes in water up to my calves!
The next instant I’m IN. Shoes fill with water and spandex slaps, sloshs, slips through the stream. Cool water, no danger of falling, mud at stream’s exit, I’m done and it’s fun.
At approximately Mile 4 we round a bush and come upon the biggest mud pit of the day- 30 feet across, waist deep, the smell of an excavated latrine site. I DO NOT EVER sink my body into stink. I would walk six miles to avoid this.
I slide in. The technique is to pull your feet along through the waist high, brown shit smelling mix. In about ten feet you meet a 4‘ tall wall which I hike over, splashing down on the other side. Protecting my bad knee, I do not want to land on my feet, so I fall in mud, covering me up to armpits. Newly perfumed by the doodoo pool, I slog out, run a bit to find Cammie and Delsie and continue on, happily.
We trip along the trail, unfazed by the muck splattering from all body parts. Warm weather, blue skies, we are filthy and euphoric until I spot a huge lake-like reservoir, “I can’t get across that!” I scream to Delsie. My running shoes, 2 sizes too big to accommodate marathon-feet-swelling, are full of mud. They are anchors. I cannot swim with them on my feet.
“Hang on to me and to me” say Delsie and Cammie, my expert swimming friends and they are IN.
I follow, desperate to keep up with my two living life rafts. Instead of holding on to the ladies, I hold on to a line stretched across. So do 99% of the other participants. We WALK across in an ant-like que. I’m 5’2” and am able to hold my head above water the whole way, I do not even drink any water which is good because just ahead of me, Cammie is peeing in the reservoir.
The “swimming” part I dreaded turns out to be my favorite. Cool clean water, poo-pit washed away.
Momentarily clean, we walk half mile to another “river” crossing. Now I prance in welcoming the cool current, swirling around my ankles. My big running shoes store enough water at each toe to accommodate a couple of gold fish.
By the time we reach the second mud pit and wall, water’s drained from shoes to be replaced with sweeter smelling mud this time, I look at Cammie’s back, pure sticky brown from shoulders down to ankles. Delsie turns to tell me, “Your face is full of mud.” Her face and blond hair are still perfect.
A steep incline arises in front of us at about Mile 4.5, a hose shooting water down the path. We start uphill, water washes down. In spite of the fire hose, we make steady progress up, holding on to the fence wire, planting feet in the thick mud to prevent backwards slide. Piece of cake, (chocolate)
Next, a crawl through a pipe, the idea is to go on hands/knees, but my knees have knobs which hurt against the hard pipe, so I crab-walk through. Easy.
Half mile to a 20’ stream with flags stretched across. We’re down on our bellies, heads under the flags. We use arms to pull across, feet floating out behind. My water-filled size 8’s do not float out behind me so I crawl under the flags. Refreshing.
We hear music and the FINISH ahead, we join hands and run down the wrong chute, we are NOT registered as a team so somebody sends us out. We head backwards to the “individual” chute where we squish on through, hands still joined, crossing at 1:42:22.
There are showers at the end but we all have commitments so we skip the long lines at the shower and stay filthy. We jump into Delsie’s Mercedes reeking of mud and satisfied with our mucky morning.
Quote from Cammie: “I’m here because I like to do something new.”
Quote from Delsie: “I’m here because I can do this and enjoy it.”
Quote from Carrie: “I like mud.”
We kiss each other good-bye, the only people on Earth who would touch us are us.
I get home by I:00. At 2:00 I sit in the Performing Arts Center, watching the formal National Ballet of Cuba. I watch the ideally feminine ballerinas on pointe and the strong leaping premier dancers. In my mind, I move along with them in graceful synchrony. In reality, I'm better at moving through the mud pit.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Surf City Half Marathon, 2011
“I was so slow today,” I told Catherine as she leaned into my car window bidding me good-bye after our usual Saturday work-out, She and Elizabeth finished our fifteen-mile work-out at least ten minutes ahead of me.
“Yeah,” Catherine said, “but you have it where it counts. You beat Elizabeth and me both last Sunday.”
Sunday was the Surf City Half Marathon. I am a sixty-seven-yr-old marathoner. My goal for the half was under two hours. My fastest previous half had been a 1:58. I’m the oldest runner in our informal work-out team, old enough to be the mother of some and the much older sister of others.
We carpooled Sunday, me in Jill’s big Chevy SUV. Jill’s a school principal and a member of Jill’s staff gifted her a parking pass which put us right up near the start, the best parking place at the race.
We arrived around 6:30 for a 7:45 start which gave time for one bathroom stop at the beach bathrooms on the boardwalk. Turned out I needed two bathroom stops but we ran out of time.
Runners from two cars got together at 7:30. Elizabeth, Catherine, Jill and I walked to the corral designated for the two hour finishers. What’s our strategy? I asked Catherine, our coach. She pointed to a slender six foot dowel with “1:58” in 4” numbers printed on the flimsy paper taped to the top. My eyes followed the dowel from the top down to a hand. The hand attached to the arm of a short hispanic man who later told another runner he was from Mexico City. He wore a navy blue singlet and had a small spare tire around his middle.
“ Keep that pacer in view,” directed Catherine. We were the third wave. Bad luck, just as I realized I needed to hit the toilets, our horn sounded. The pacer who had SnailsPace Running Club on the singlet started right out at a 9-minute-pace. His relaxed gait spoke to me. I knew he could go faster.
For almost thirteen miles he was my beacon, his flag bouncing in steady counterpoint to his regular step. I did not speak to him but I listened to his banter with others. He said, “Stick with me, you’ll get in at 2:58,” the voice of confidence. I watched him check his Garmin. I gave my race to this man. He cured my habit of going out too fast. Watching him made me forget I had to go to the bathroom. His effortless steady motion tempered my inclination to pick a runner to pass, surge ahead and wear myself out. He was the conductor and I ran to the rhythm of his six foot vertical wand, bobbing over everybody’s head.
We came upon Mile Four (?) where we turned at Sea Cliff and encountered the only steep up-grade of the race. Never breaking pace, my SnailsPace pace-man took the hill. I lost him for seconds but told myself to get my butt in gear. I regained my place in his pack. I heard a runner say to him, “I just want to stay with you for the first five miles.” He answered, “That’s fine, after that five miles, we’ll talk about the next five.” I heard a smile in his voice. I never looked his face. My focus was to listen and keep up.
We came around and down Sea Cliff, a little scream went up from first one runner, then another, and another. I kept running. I’m generally nosy and want to take part in every tiny excitement but this time, I kept my head up and ran. After the race, Catherine told me that a rat ran across the street, stood up on its hind legs and look terrified. I ignored the rodent, happy I did not step on it. The shock of squishing the rodent would have changed the outcome of my race and invited disaster considering my bathroom situation.
We returned to PCH. and I took note of the Marathon Mile Markers. They were high. I kept missing the Half Marathon mile markers which were lower. I asked other runners, what mile are we? When I heard “Seven!” I thought 7+7=14, I’m more than half way done! At some point the pacer took to the bathrooms himself. A young runner ahead of me with a sparkly skirt had been consistently running beside the pacer up until he peeled off . While he was in the bathroom, I watched her skirt. The pacer joined us shortly thus producing proof that he could run much faster than the 1:58. Upon his return, I resumed keeping his “1:58” dowel within easy sight.
I still remember that dowel fondly. I’ve tried to follow pacers before but most have their pace pinned to their shirt. At about 5‘ 2” tall, I loose sight of them if one runner comes between me and the pacer.
We turned at Mile Nine (?) and welcomed the straight run to the finish. I started to get anxious and ask what mile we were in. It was here that the pacer spoke the only words we would exchange. “I’ll get you in at 1:58, don’t worry.” A thought crept into my mind so I asked, “Will you tell me when we’re on our last mile?” “Yes,” he answered. The tiny thought was: I might finally finish a race with enough in the tank to put on a dash at the end.
I was not worn out. All experienced runners told me that for every minute you go out too fast , you give up two minutes at the end of a race. All that Catherine and Caroline cautioned me about my famous surges taking away from my final time made sense. The pacer took my self defeating responsibility away from me. All I had to do was run.
When I saw the 11 mile mark, I took off. I could run the last two miles, full intestine, bubbling along with me. I pulled into the finish at 1:57:21, forty seconds ahead of my pace group. Those few seconds put many runners between me and the 1:58 group. I never saw the pacer again and never got to thank him. I still don’t know his face. I did email Snail’s Pace Runner’s Club to say “thank-you.”
I found a port-o-pottie and celebrated as I sat.
I dedicate this personal best to my generous-hearted pacer. The personal best is the point of running. The fact that at 67, I got a faster time than ever in my running career is important to me.
So, why do I run faster in races than the stronger, younger runners in my group? They finished minutes behind me.
That is a mystery to me. I am not faster in our pre-race work-outs. Elizabeth and Catherine should beat me on race day and when they do, I’ll be satisfied that they deserve to win. For me, the point will still be, did I match or better yet, beat my old record?
I really wish I could take the Snail’s Pace Pacer from Mexico City with me.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
On the Road
Saturday, August first, I met my usual distance running partners at the usual spot, the Corona del Mar High School parking lot, Newport Beach, Califorina. What was unusual was that we planned to add four miles to our customary 12-mile-loop around Newport’s Back Bay. The daunting 16-miles was part of training for the New York Marathon, November l, 2009.
Marie, sporting a new short do, prepared to punch her Garmin timing watch and start. She’s a 53-year-old ex-nun who casts an impervious air of good will and calm wherever she goes. Carol, 42, our third partner and Marie’s “roomie,” is a nuclear engineer, who runs a three-hour-and-twenty-minute marathon to our four-hour-and twenty-six minute time. Carol, a natural director and pleasant know-it-all is also our official coach. Today she looked us right in the eye, and delivered a New York accented command:
“You two run at a comfortable pace, about a 10:30 minute mile.”
Obeying, we left the parking lot at 6:00 a.m. instead of the customary 7:00. We hoped to avoid the blistering August sun.
I’m a 65-year-old runner. I’d attended an out-of-town writer’s workshop the previous week, sitting on my behind for hours. Maybe the week off made the start of this long run so easy. Too often muscles and joints complain, creek, resist the first mile. Today I started right out enjoying the pace, the feel of pumping limbs, the sensation of footfalls upon path, air moving past cheeks and elbows, the sudden breeze, the witch hazel smell of the mountain misery bush growing among the chaparral on the bluffs.
At mile 9 everything changed. Hot, sweaty, and tired, I had to command myself to move forward. Then, a second wind, a push from an invisible hand, the freedom to run without nagging inhibitors and so it went. Tiredness, release. Fatigue, renewed energy.
Carol ran ahead, leaving Marie and I alone to battle 16 miles. The 10:30 pace which sounded so easy at 6:00 a.m. became harder and harder to maintain. By mile 14 the punishment from sun and mileage drove us to beg for sight of the school athletic field, signaling the parking lot and finish.
“Yes!” we let out a weak cheer when we spotted the chain link fence surrounding the field. I put on my end-run-speed JUST TO FINISH and Marie came up behind me, running circles in the parking lot until her watch measured exactly 16 miles. I stopped as soon as I hit the lot not caring that I was three tenths of a mile short of 16. We accepted congratulations from the speedy Carol and other runners who finished shorter runs. Marie and I, flushed and dripping shared a smug high five. The mileage gave us a feeling of self worth, no doubt about it.
Driving home I looked forward to seeing my husband. I’d brag about my run and eat a delicious breakfast of oatmeal scattered with walnuts and melting chocolate chips.
I walked through the door to the kitchen. My husband hit me with the need to make the decision I’d put off for weeks and left undone before when I went to the writers’ workshop.
“Take a shower and get in the car,” he pressured. “Go to Canyon Fireplace, decide which screen and order it! Lets get moving on this thing.”
I moaned. Hadn’t I justified my existence by getting up at 5:15 a.m. and completing a sixteen mile run? If not accolades, I expected my husband to leave me alone.
I whined, “That store is across from Anaheim Stadium. Driving there is like traveling cross country.”
I ate my oatmeal, the reward I’d looked forward to dissolving into resentment for my husband’s nagging and the ride ahead.
I showered, dressed and dragged myself to the computer to look up directions to Canyon Fireplace. There it was, printed plainly at the top of Google Maps, Canyon Fireplace, exactly sixteen miles from my home in Newport.
My eyes locked on the “16,” confirmation of how odd a distance-runner can be. The mileage I’d been proud to struggle through on foot was exactly the same as I resisted when all I had to do was place my foot on the gas.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Leaving for the Chicago Marathon Friday. The actual run is Sunday, 10-10-10.
As usual, my running friends are falling apart and so am I. Two recently discovered small hernias, one smashed her knee on the door and my own left knee is ready for amputation.
All that’s normal. I remember the day before Boston, I couldn’t walk three steps and wished I’d kept the race a secret. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to run. Next day, I forgot the whole crippling incident and had a great marathon.
I’m trying to flush the bad thoughts OUT of my head. What’s bothering me is that a month ago I finished a 19-mile-workout and realized I was pretty comfortable with the distance. Next day, I left town for 10 beautiful days in Oregon. While I was gone, my O.C. running partners shared three long runs, 22 to 24 miles. I promised myself that I’d match the O.C. group with at least two 22-mile runs while in Oregon.
Turns out I like sleeping late on vacation and biking, hiking, eating. So when the rest of the O.C. runners were here learning marathon distance, I ran about two miles.
By the time I got home, the O.C running group was into our “taper” which means low mileage period designed to rest before the 26.2 marathon distance. As Joan Benoit Samuelson writes in Running for Women, “At this stage [taper] any new training cannot help you; it can only hinder your performance.”
I don’t want to think about missed work-outs because it reminds me of the miserable final four marathon miles where lack of preparation turns every single step into torture.
Thank you. Now that I wrote the above complaints and excuses, I’m looking forward to running the famous Chicago Marathon. Love, Carrie
TRAINS, THE CHICAGO WAY
A nonstop flight from California brought my husband Paul, 72 and me, 66, to Chicago O’Hare on Friday, October 8, 2010. The trip brought me closer to 10-10-10 and the famous Chicago Marathon. We collected our luggage and walked across the terminal to the train which streaks through the airport every few minutes to take travelers to their hotels. In Calif, CTA means Calif Teachers Association, but in Chicago it means Chicago Tranisit Authority, transportation all over Chicago for $2.25.
After a 30-minute-trip, we jumped off at Clark and Lake, in downtown Chicago. We pulled suitcases behind us for the two-block-walk to Hotel Allegro where my marathon running friends were staying.
At 5:15 that evening Cal Coast Runners from Orange County, California gathered in the Allegro lobby to catch another train to the EXPO where, as in all races, we show I.D. in order to pick up our numbers and computer chips, the timing devices which attach to a shoelace. The chip matches the runner’s number and records the exact time he/she crosses the start and finish. During the marathon, the runner must cross several check points along the course to be sure nobody takes the CTA to the end for a false finish. Ever hear of Rosie Ruiz?
So, we assembled in the Allegro lobby at 5:15 p.m. to go to the EXPO. Caroline our head coach and motivator, fastest runner, winner of Newport Beach, California’s recent Susan Komen Survivor’s Race took off to catch the 6:00 train, sprinting through the streets of Chicago at her pace. We scrambled after her scooting around well dressed Chicagoans, hoping she’d be stopped by a red light. She wasn’t.
By the time we arrived at the station, Caroline and Catherine, our other coach were nowhere to be seen. Nervous because we didn’t know where to go without them, we fumbled for our fares. I forgot to say that you need exactly $2.25 or the machine keeps your extra money. I’m a champion fumbler so John, a fellow runner bought two tickets and shoved one into my hand. The little band of lost Californians charged on to the platform looking for Caroline and Catherine. There were two trains on the tracks but only one train with its doors open so we agreed, “This must be our train.”
John, Jeanie, JohnO. and I got on. John took charge. He’s a nuclear engineer who works with Caroline, also an nuclear engineer. John asked a young man with a ball cap pulled over his eyebrows, “Does this go to the Expo?”
“EXPO?” the look on the kid’s face told us that not everyone in Chicago spoke Marathonese. “Does the train go to McCormick Place?” John corrected himself. “Yeah” the young guy said as he moved on to find a seat.
“WHEW!” we heaved a collective sigh of relief and sat down on the train--still unsure and on the edge of our seats.
John texted Caroline, “We’re on.”
However, due to doubts that we were headed in the right direction, we asked a rider seated near us. “No” he said, “this train goes out of town.” We four scrambled to exit back to the platform.
John texted Caroline, “We’re off.”
However, a uniformed CTA worker appeared. “Does this train go to McCormick Place?” John asked. The thing is, this was the only train around and we badly wanted it to go to the EXPO so we kept asking until we got the answer we hoped for.
“Yes, first stop,” he said.
We reboarded the train and sat down somewhat uncertainly, on the edge of our seats.
“We’re back on,” John texted Caroline.
The train soon slowed for what we thought was the first stop. We jumped up to exit, waiting at the door, four runners over sixty, lined up like anxious school kids on the first day riding the school bus.
The door didn’t open. The train picked up speed. We reentered the car and sat down in loud chatty puzzlement as the train left Chicago at a rapid pace. Tall buildings gave way to brick houses with peaked roofs. We were speeding toward the suburbs. John texted Caroline. “We’re headed for Hoboken.”
We perched on the edge of our seats, wide-eyed.
A lady sat against the bulkhead of the train. Her tightly curled hair crowned a face with two eyes that went off in different directions. She was seriously hump backed. She faced our way and I thought our noisy confusion must have invaded her space so I said,
“Don’t mind us, we’re lost.”
“Where do you want to go?” she asked.
We want to get off at McCormick Place,” we explained. She smiled and later we all agreed, that smile was beautiful. We loved her more when she gave us specific directions. “Get off at the next stop. Catch the inbound Chicago train going the opposite direction and you’ll see McCormick place.”
We thanked her, watched miles of the burbs rush by before we could disembark. Pressed against the door as the train stopped, we bust out together when, this time, it OPENED.
Landing on the platform in the middle of nowhere, we four senior clowns looked longingly at the bench on the other side. A ten foot ditch with an electrified track separated us from the train we desperately wanted to ride back to Chicago.
We’d left our angel in the train, now two more appeared, giggling at our ignorance.
“See that door?” they directed us to an opening which led to a stairway under the tracks. Inside the stairway, the air was dank and pee smelling. We clung closely together as we descended into the catacombs of the CTA transit system. “You think anybody uses this secret passage?” I asked. Happily we climbed up another set of stairs into fresh air and miraculously on the other side of the tracks!
We spotted a little building with two neatly groomed Asian women seated on the bench inside. We asked, “When does the inbound Chicago train come?
They spoke Japanese, “No Englishie,” they told us, smiling sweetly.
We were in the midst of sign language when a train sped up. “Chicago,” it said. We boarded enthusiastically and sat down, all on aisle seats, on the edge of sanity.
A conductor came through to stamp our tickets. John, Jeanie and JohnO held up tickets. Panicked, I ransacked my big travel purse, finally locating my ticket. We gave him the tickets. “These are the wrong tickets,” as he shook his head, rolled his eyes and stamped each one.
I noted that the conductor was handsome in his CTA uniform so I asked him nicely, “Will you please stay here to show us McCormick Place?” but he went on down the line.
We were on our own again. It seemed like hours going out of town, but the train got back into the city rapidly. Eyes glued to the window, we must have looked anxious because an empathetic passenger said, “You’re on the right train.” We settled back into our seats, feeling the seat-backs for the first time.
We looked out. Suddenly, “McCormick Place,” big letters on the brick subway wall. The door opened. We vaulted up from our seats and flew out to find ourselves at the Grand Entrance to the CHICAGO MARATHON EXPO. Honestly, that train back into town couldn’t have left us off at a better place.
John texted Caroline, “We’re here.”
By the way, we got our numbers, shirts, computer chips and overpriced Chicago Marathon Jackets. We hadn’t run the marathon yet, but we earned the jackets by getting to the Expo.
For the rest of our stay, my husband, Paul bought 3-day CTA passes, learned the Chicago map and transit routs. With Paul, I saw the Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, History Museum, Zoo and Conservatory, BILLY ELLIOT, Navy Pier and back to O’Hare Airport We never got lost once. CTA served us very well, once we got the hang of it.
Carrie Luger Slayback came in 6th in the 65-69 age-group in the Chicago Marathon. She is a freelance writer who lives in Newport Beach, California. Recent articles appear in the LA Times, SASEE Magazine.
THE MARATHON 10-10-10
Here’s what the Chicago week-end weather report looked like: Friday: 73, Saturday 75, SUNDAY 85, Monday 76. What kind of bad trick was this? Why was Sunday, the famous marathon date of 10-10-10 the hottest day of the week?
Marathon morning, I know the drill-- alarm sounds, pull on tried-and-true marathon shorts and top, eat an orange, peanutbutterhoney sandwich on Trader Joe’s Complete Protein Bread, milk, hardboiled egg, put on visor, sunglasses, sunscreen, and fanny pack with electrolyte “candy” and zip lock bagged cell phone. Grab water.
Hotel elevator door opened, crammed with runners. I squeezed in. Floated down to the lobby to meet my pace group: Catherine, Elizabeth, and Jill. We met at 6:00 a.m. to make it to the start by 7:00 for the 7:30 gun. No nervousness on my part. Marathons don’t register on my Nervous Scale, but driving the freeway does. [weird]
We walked through early morning Chicago to the the runner’s village, stood in line for the port-o-pottie and made our way to the gob of tens of thousands of people prepared to run. The gun went off while we were in line for the pottie but a fellow runner told us to relax. It’d be half hour before we saw the starting line as we shared the course with 38,000 other runners.
That came true. We left the potties, walked to our corral and waited, waited, waited. Meantime the sun got brighter and hotter. An official prevented us from joining the river of runners inching toward the start. She held a flimsy little rope across our path. Runners took a look at the barrier and jumped over. The official gave up, dropped the rope and we started out----WALKING. Evil portends. I never suspected my finish would book-end my start.
Anyway, we walked because we were stuck in a dense crowd. What was supposed to be a 7:30 start turned into past 8:00. The sun looked down, mocking us.
We finally crossed the start. I had my Garmin timing watch on. Caroline warned us the Garmin would go crazy due to tall buildings blocking the satellite message. Mine read l.56 miles when I pressed “start.” Should have read one mile at the end of the first mile.
The crowd thinned a little as we continued past the start and Catherine took off. Her goal was 10 minute mile, dropping to 9:40 and then keeping pace for the first half. Due to Garmin malfunction, we had no idea what our pace was, but we followed Catherine as she snaked through the crowd. Near mile two, I almost went down catching my shoe in a pothole. From then on, I kept my eyes glued to the pavement. An otherwise perfectly maintained city, there were many deep ruts in the roads of Chicago. Elizabeth, Catherine and I ran together for the first half.
We all had water lasting the first ten miles, so we sipped as we ran. We did stop for vile disgusting Gatoraide to keep our electrolytes up. We took cups of cool water to dump over our steamy heads.
During marathons in San Francisco and New York, I saw breathtaking views of Golden Gate Bridge or the N.Y. skyline. In Chicago, I saw the street nicks, potholes, and cement irregularities during the marathon. Chicago is a stunningly beautiful city. In the days that followed the marathon, I fell in love with the city skyline.
As in other marathons, I lost Catherine and Elizabeth at the half. I continued to drink water and Gatoraide and even stuck some Shot Blocks (Electrolyte candy) in my mouth. It was hot. Lee Ann, one of our running group took a photo of the thermostat at the high school, it read 96.
I didn’t think the heat bothered me. I became weary but that’s what happens to me around mile 18. I began to feel the hint of leg cramps around mile 20. “NO,” I told the cramps, “Don’t you dare!” I ran on, pleased I’d banished the cramps with my strong will.
Then overwhelming cramps grabbed my calf muscle, and quads. I’d been mad at runners who blocked me by stopping mid course. “Can’t you move to the side?” I snarled under my breath. Cramps stopped me dead, mid course. People dodged around me. OUCH, OUCH, OUCH, I said. A paramedic cut across the course and came to my side. “I can call an ambulance,” he said. “I’M NOT INJURED, I HAVE A LEG CRAMP!” I told him in a tone that made him retreat to the sidelines leaving me to suffer on my own.
A lovely lady runner stopped beside me.
”Stretch and massage those muscles.” she ordered me.
“Go on,” I said, “don’t wreck your time.”
“My time isn’t important, now stretch,” she answered sharply.
I did and she went on. I don’t have any idea what she looked like. I was doubled over, stretching and rubbing for the whole conversation.
I tried to run again but was almost blown off the track with fierce cramping of all my leg muscles. I walked. I could walk without cramps. I picked up my legs to run again but again paralyzing cramps seized my legs. I gave up, completely demoralized. I walked in. Yeah, I tried to run a few more times but no act of will could control the cramping.
For the first time in my marathon-running-life, I walked all the way through the chute and past the finish. I didn’t even want their corny finisher’s medal.
My finish time was my slowest at 5:03:06 and I got 6th place in my age-group.
I like the LA Marathon, I like the Orange County Marathon, I love the San Francisco, New York and double love the Boston Marathon. I don’t like the Chicago Marathon.
When I got home to my computer, I looked up leg cramps on the internet. As suggested, I took in the water and electrolytes. I have never thought of salt tablets, another antidote to cramps. With the heat, maybe the salt tablets would have made a difference. Potassium may be important. I eat a banana almost every day at home but I did not have one on the day of the marathon. Next time I will.
Other runners complain of leg cramps. I’ve never had them before and I hope that I never have them again.
That evening I spoke to the father of one of my former students, Nick Arciniaga, a world class runner. Nick hoped to break 2:10. He came in at 2:18. He did qualify for the Olympic Trials but he and his teammates could not make their times in Chicago. I spoke to a young man from Chile who came with 14 other Chilean runners. Like me, he had leg cramps and was almost half hour off his time. My pace group, Catherine and Elizabeth, well trained runners, came in half hour after me. In our Orange County group, only our head coach, Caroline made her time of 3:33. Nice to have a champion in our midst. We’ll all be back on the trail Saturday analyzing Chicago, and you bet there’ll be talk of our next marathon.
ADDENDUM: I came in sixth in my age group, 65-69 year-old females. Well, last week I found the record of my age group. Here’s the galling thing: I was in THIRD PLACE by an average of seven minutes all the way to a 35K or twenty-one miles. That must have been where the leg cramps started. I lost so much time, I dropped to sixth place. Curses!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Running Diary Feb 7, 2010, CALIFORNIA-- Surf City Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday”
I think it’s silly when people make a big fuss, congratulating me on second place in the Surf City Half Marathon. On the other hand, it disappoints me when friends act as if it’s nothing--”yeah, you placed again” and change the subject. Both congratulations for placing and ignoring what I did miss the point.
I want my friends to enjoy the sensations I felt and catch the significance of what I achieved at 66-years-old running my guts out.
We’d had a cold rain storm (by Californian standards) the night before the half marathon. When Carol (48 yrs. old) picked me up at 5:15 a.m. on race day, THREE HOURS EALRY, I shivered running from my house to her car even though I had on two sweatshirts and rain poncho. Due to Carol’s expert-New York-driver impatience, Marie (52 yrs. old), Carol and I flew down Pacific Coast Highway. We skidded through the U-turn at Beach Blvd and reached Carol’s goal and the reason for the early arrival. We got a good spot in the parking lot.
Once parked, Carol and Marie put their seats back and I curled up in the back seat. We slept under beach towels making quick bundled up trips to the beachside public toilets. We awoke at about 7:00 for a 7:45 start. Marie had the nerve to tell me I snored and tooted in my sleep. So, what do you expect when you maroon a runner in your BMW hatchback 3 hours before her race? And I don’t believe Marie anyway. Snoring and farting in bed are what my husband does. I do not.
About forty minutes pre-race, we opened the car doors to bright sun. The big sweat shirt and poncho stayed in the car. We walked over to the typical squashed-body-to body start. I usually run with Marie, but she was still recovering from her hamstring injury so she planned to run with our new running friend, Jill.
I’d run this race on my own. The gun sounded and I took off. I am not a technical runner but I had a goal for Surf City. Last October 11, I finished the Long Beach Half Marathon at 1:59:38, 9:08 pace. I wanted to do it again. I had looked up a 1:59 pace and found I’d have to run around a nine minute mile. Impossible. I train at 10:30 and my so called speedwork last Wednesday had been 9:30 for a puny three miles. I felt spent at the end of the three miles, winded ready to walk. I had not been doing many long runs during the week due to rain and out-of-town guests. All these excuses explain why I could not run thirteen nine-minute-miles.
Here is what I did.
- Broke the race into segments as always, the first three miles seeming the longest in this half marathon.
- I drank in the beauty of California after a rain. WE NEED RAIN. I love rain. I ran down Pacific Coast Highway looking to the south at playful whitecaps waving at me from a bright blue sea and to the north at miles of snow-dressed San Gabriel Mountains. In California, the snow melts quickly at lower elevations so being outdoors to view the snow all the way down to the foot of the mountains is a unique piece of good luck. What a distance runner wants is distraction. My head turned from side to side as I inhaled the fresh, slightly moist ocean air and reveled in the views.
- I looked at my Garmin pace watch at random times during the race to see times of 8:47, 8:30, 9:10. I seemed to be going pretty fast.
- I pretended I was Nick Arciniaga, my former fourth grade student, now an elite runner. I’m a retired teacher and Nick’s dad keeps in touch, sending me video of his races. I’ve noticed Nick stands straight, chest slightly inflated, head up, face relaxed, arms swinging by sides. Nick looks like somebody who knows he can. Can what? Do anything. So, I unhunched my shoulders, got my eyes off the pavement and hung my face muscles loosely. I couldn’t manage Nick’s look of the conqueror but apparently the rest of the strategy worked. A petite young woman with a brown pony tail and the defined cheekbones of a runner pulled up beside me. “Nice form,” she said. This was mile 11 and I replied, mystified, “I’m not tired.” “You don’t look tired,” she said. Then I told her, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and laughed. I believe she understood. I was afraid to focus on my UNusual lack of fatigue for fear that old familiar dead-legged feeling would overcome me.
I appreciated the miles melting away between mile ten and twelve. By mile thirteen I DID get tired, finally spotting the balloon arch with relief. Only it was a lie. The arch remained anchored at the start. The finish was still a block ahead. I wasn’t the only runner who found that arrangement cruel.
I went though the slot to a time of 2:04. I was disappointed with the time but then, I’d felt good, I had not walked much at water-stops, didn’t do the runner’s shuffle. I felt some degree of self-satisfaction even if I hadn’t made my time, and besides I am always thrilled to be DONE RUNNING and ready to eat something, everything in sight. I got my surf-board-shaped medal, made my way past four-foot-tall barriers of water bottles, volunteers handing out space blankets and the chiropractic massage tents. I should mention, I stopped my watch at 1:59, but discounted it. My Garmin miles had not even lined up with the official mile markers.
I found the results tent where young men used scotch tape to hang posters listing runners results. They taped up the 1:50 to 1:59 results and I looked to see who made the goal I’d missed. There was my name. Carrie Slayback at 1:59:14, a personal best for me. I got 2nd place behind a women I would like to meet. She came in at 1:39. Her time is remarkable in the 65-69 female age group.
I met my group of friends. Carol finished at 1:33, making a 4th place, just missing her chance at a plaque. Jill had the dry heaves and Marie stayed behind with her. They gathered around my plaque with its little surfboard glued to the face and took a photo. All there congratulations were beside the point. At my advanced age, I place every time.
The plaque, the second place meant less to me than the fact that I’d felt like a runner, not an old-lady-jogger. I’m not that fast. My competitor who got first place IS. That didn’t matter to me either, the magic word is “personal best.”
At 5:30 am Tuesday morning I met my long-time running partner, Ken, a former baseball coach and avid sports fan. I looked forward to telling him the story of my half marathon. He was more interested in relating how my race closed Pacific Coast Highway so he and his wife, returning home from a party in Long Beach, were forced to take a 45 minutes detour. He glossed over the most important sports event of Superbowl Sunday: On a perfectly beautiful day in Huntington Beach, California, Carrie Luger Slayback, at sixy-six years-old, clocked a personal best in the Surf City Half Marathon.