Saturday, October 4, 2014

St George Marathon

THE RETURN

Well, it's taken me awhile to get my thoughts down, but what an experience!


So, back in January when I ran my first marathon (Houston Marathon), I was able to talk with my Dad about his ONE marathon experience.  I capitalize ONE because his tale is a cautionary tale, one that began, and then ended his marathon desire.

It goes like this.  It was cold, and then started to rain on top of that.  By the time they started, everyone was drenched.  On top of that, it was dark.  Which is usually a good thing.....start early, finish early, avoid some heat of the day.  Well, in my dad's case he started out at what he thought felt like a good solid pace, even though his soaking socks and shoes made it unpleasant.  Well.....once the sun came up a few miles in, and he was able to see his watch.....complete horror.  Marathons are all about pace.  Train, train, train, then go out a bit slow...build on it, and finish as you trained.  My dad had gone out too fast, WAY too fast.  As soon as he saw his pace, he knew he was toast, and he still had about another 20 miles to go.

Then as he is miserably suffering through the long middle miles, his nutrition tanks, and he is looking for anything to help.......some spectators actually had a chocolate bar, which he took, and it helped immensly.  Needless to say, he finished, but suffered from the beginning to the end, and that was his last marathon.


He now tongue and cheek makes fun of us, for all the extra "help" we get along the way.  Aid stations with Gatorade, GUs, fruit, vaseline, and hot and icey rubs.....he implies it is essentially cheating....which compared to his time, A LONG time ago, I could see that (just kidding Dad, it wasn't THAT long ago). ;)

So, where was this marathon?  St. George Utah, in 1983 (I was 5).

Thus.....the return.....


The story of how "The Return to St. George" came to be, is also a story worth telling.

I run, and bike, and swim because I love to.  It's in me now, it's part of who I am.  I don't do it for special events, medals or accomplishments......I do it because I enjoy it, and because I can.  I know someday it will not come as easy, and eventually there will be a day when I won't be able to.  A day when the body will say "no".  And I want to make sure I don't let days in which "I can" slip away.

After finishing the Houston marathon, I got a lot of calls and texts from my family, but one in particular struck a nerve.  He talked about me inspiring him, motivating him, and how he wanted to run a marathon too.......it was my older brother Brian.  He used to run track in high school, and was the fastest 400 meter runner in the family (depending on the brother you ask, and it is arguable, since is it always argued when we get together).

Since then, life has happened, as it does to us all.  I don't think he's ran since high school, and has put on a bit of weight, and health wise has not been too great.  I told him that if he started training, and started running, no matter where and when, I'd be there.  I kinda had a hard time believing him.

Then......he started texting how he was training, and what he was doing to get ready...every single day.  Then Jill, my older sister, was added to the texts right away, and now there were 3 of us lending support and encouragement, then I thought........wow, this might really happen.  Jill had never ran a marathon either, and was hesitant, but said, "if Brian runs one, I'll run one."  Well, she was now in too.  Mind you, she is a Division I All-American and in the BYU Hall of Fame, but she hadn't quite taken on the Marathon distance.  And her issues are a little different, she has blood sugar and insulin problems, which makes it hard for her to do long endurance sports, as it is unpredictable how her body will or might respond....and we're not talking about physical or mental exhaustion, we're talking serious possible medical issues.

After 10 months of texting, encouragement and training.....we really met up in St. George, which we decided to do to bring the marathon story full circle.  We even had the next generation represented, as Derek (Jill's son) joined us to run.  He had never ran a marathon either, and his school schedule really didn't allow him the best training.....and he felt it later. :)


 Of course Dad came down to relive his agony of that day 31 years ago, and he had the shirt (that still fit) to prove it!


The crew, the morning of.  So what could go wrong?  Everybody had made it to the destination, trained, had their gear, and were ready to run....oh, how about Jill forgetting her INSULIN (she found some and bought some, but paid a pretty penny for it), or what about Brian forgetting his racing bib the morning of, and having to go back and get it from the hotel!

I tell you what.  For people who were focused and ready to run, and had trained....their focus was a bit extreme, when you forget some of the essentials! LOL! ;)

Well we all made the bus, with everything we needed, and rode up to the start line together.  I love the time right before big events.  All the energy pinned up and waiting to be released.  The excitement, nervousness, uncertainty, and anticipation.........and then we were delayed 30 minutes due to bus breakdowns (which is unusual since St. George is ranked one of the most well run, and organized marathons).  By this time, we had all separated, and lined up with our respective pace times, but as soon as they announced the delay, I thought "oh man, Brian is in trouble."  He had trained, but the heat had caused him difficulties.  The delay would only make it hotter now.

The gun went off and we were off. I felt great for about 15 miles.  My hill training was lacking, I'm from Houston....the only hills we have are overpasses.  People call this a "fast" marathon course.  Maybe, if you are from that area.  People who aren't familiar with hill running, always talk about the uphills, well the DOWNHILLS are just as bad, and for me, they were even worse.

By the time I hit mile 20, my quads were gone, and beyond that the toenail on my right foot had completely come loose and was pretty painful.

But beyond the pain, the course was absolutely beautiful.  A lot of the "fun" of doing endurance events is enjoying the different locations, crowds, scenery, and surroundings......and St. George did not disappoint, it was amazing - even though it crushed me.

I finished in just under 4 hours (16 minutes slower than Houston in January).  Not what I had planned, but this marathon was more than times, paces, personal goals........it was about family, and 3 others that were trying to finish their first marathons.

After crossing the finish line, I was exhausted, but the first thing that popped in mind was, "Grab some ice cream, and get going back up the course and find Derek, Jill, and Brian."  And so I did.  And that is how I found them, in that order.

Derek was looking strong, and had a great race, especially for his first, with very little training.  If you run into him though, ask him how his knees and legs felt the days after! :)


This picture depicts exactly what I saw when I found Jill.  Completely having a good time, smiling, really enjoying that she was in the process of completing something that she thought she might or could never do.  She was all smiles, and was running behind Natalie Downs (who was also running her first) by only a few yards. It was only after the race, that I heard the story of her blood sugars dropping dangerously low, and being worried about almost missing a very important insulin injection, which her husband Eric was driving around with on the course to meet her at designated spots (team work and family)........what an accomplishment.


 And then I found Brian at about the mile 21 marker, and got to run the rest of it with him.  He was not in the best conditions.  But he was moving.....forward.  At mile 23 there was a time cut-off.  After that, you could take as long as you wanted to finish.  There was a van driving the course picking up runners that didn't think they could make it, or didn't want to continue any more........no way Brian was getting in that thing.

He made cut off by 10 seconds.  BOOM!  And what got him there? I encouraged, but it was his amazing family and kids, who had surprised him by driving in from Wyoming the night before, and cheered for him at different points throughout the race.  As I talked to him about time, and pace, and making the cutoff, and about the people who had quit behind him........he had one motivating factor propelling him forward, his family.  His wife and kids who had watched him train and prepare, and were there to watch him FINISH, not quit.  You would have had to take his legs to stop him, and I don't know if that would have done it either.

 

The final stretch.  His kids got to join in, and finish with their dad, how cool is that?  What a memorable experience for Brian.......but also for his kids.  To finish with their dad who had started something, and finished it.....and they got to be a part of it.  Family, it's all that matters.

 The four of us, post race, with our medals.  I have been able to finish a lot of different endurance races, but his one was different than them all........finishing with family, cheering family, watching family achieve what they thought was impossible.....what an incredible experience!

 

Brian, right after the picture.  He may have laid there all night had we not been so hungry.  we are pouring bags of ice on his feet.  His heal had split open, had huge blisters, and blood all over the place.....with a smile on his face.
And until you finish something you never thought you'd be able to do, you'd think "how can he be smiling?!"  But that sense of doing, accomplishing, and overcoming is so powerful it dwarfs any temporary pain....a memory that will never be taken away! :)

 

 I am sure I speak for us all with the below picture and words:

 

And while in St. George, so close to Vegas.......doing things involving family, how can you not stop and see the grandmother that has been so supportive and instrumental in our parents upbringing, and thus ours?  What a great family I have, and am able to be part of.


And I could not end any of blogs without thanking my family.  To Jamie for watching and holding down the fort while I was gone for the weekend.  It is no small task chasing 4 kids around.  Thank you. :)

PS - There are rumors and initial email chains about Honolulu in 2015 - WHO'S IN?!