Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Race Recap: Arbuckle to Ardmore (A2A) HM

4/1/12 - Race day - Race #2 of my first double (Sat/Sun races back to back)

A few hours after the Bloodgusher HM in Midland, TX I began my drive to Ardmore, OK for the second race of my double. After nearly a 6 hours of driving through the long, dry dusty Texas roadways I crossed the border into Oklahoma. The change in the terrain and foilage was amazing. Having driven across the oil plains of Texas, into desert like conditions with wind and blowing dust it was a huge shock to suddenly cross a river that actually had a decent amount of water in it (versus the Pecos River about 100 miles to the northwest of where I live that is at a very low level) was truly amazing. The foilage was a lush green, there were small ponds and lakes almost everywhere I looked. I don't think I ever saw any dead grass or patches of dirt during my short stay in Oklahoma. The terrain went almost immediately from flat and dry to rolling hills and lush. During this long drive, I did however find a new addiction...the Fresh Fruit Lemon Slushes at Sonic. Ugh. Like I need another addiction!

Again I continued my carb loading behavior having eaten some Fazoli's left overs before leaving Midland, but also stopping for an early dinner (6pm) at Napoli's in Wichita Falls, TX...a place I had found with good, authentic Italian food for cheap when I came here to do the Xpress HM in March. In Ardmore, having arrived relatively late in the evening close to 9pm I was glad that I had eaten when I did because the only thing open were places like Applebee's and such. I managed to drive to the venue so that I knew where to go but unfortunately got to town too late for packet pickup. There was no way that I'd be able to drive the course at night and get a really good idea of it so I'd just have to find out about it as I ran it. I got checked into the hotel (where I had a 2 person, whirlpool tub to myself) and got my gear ready for the morning. After a quick hot soak in the tub, I headed to bed only to get about 4 hours sleep total. One thing I wasn't ready for...the humidity! I had set out my clothes from Midland to dry and when I woke up in the morning they were still damp! Oh how I hate humidity!!

Race morning I'm up early and dressed. I head down to the breakfast area where the hotel has arranged to start breakfast at 5am for those participating in the race. Huge kudos to them for doing that! There was quite the crowd down there for breakfast and I was glad that I had gotten down there just after 5am. As I grabbed all my gear to head for packet pickup I really wished that I had my hydration belt as I was really disliking the new handheld Amphipod (which kept slipping out of it's holder) and SPIbelt. Arriving at packet pick up early enough to park in the third row of a small parking area I head in to pick up my number. It was a bit harrowing to find out that they didn't have a number assigned to me, but I was at least a little relieved that 2 others who had also pre-registered didn't have numbers assigned to them as well. At least I wasn't alone in my situation. As I was getting ready to leave registration after finally being issued a bib (only took about 20 minutes) I was approached by a Marathon Maniac from Dallas who introduced himself and we chatted a bit before parting ways. I did't see him after that.

I headed back to the car to get everything together that I needed so that I could be sure I had everything before I boarded the bus to the starting line. As I was sitting in the bus I thought I had seen a Half Fanatic hat pass by outside, but I was unable to see who was wearing it or into which bus he/she had gotten into. The drive out to the starting line was about 13 miles out...for some reason it hadn't sunk into my thick head that of course it would be that far out since this was a point to point race but wherever it was I'm glad I didn't try to drive there the previous night because I would have definitely gotten lost at some point! While waiting at the starting area I was keeping my eyes out for a couple of Half Fanatics that I know would be there. They were two brothers, ages 9 and 11, who at one point were the youngest members of the Half Fanatics club. I did manage to find them, I knew generally who to look for as I had been chatting with their dad on the Half Fanatics FB page about them, and introduced myself. They both looked a bit cold (yes, it was a tad foggy and in the low-50°F range...we were way out in the middle of the country) with the eldest's lower lip quivering a bit but the next time I saw them they had been running around playing hide and seek or tag and looked to be quite warm. Ah...the joys of being a child and not putting so much stress into a run! The next time I talked to them, I introduced them to a couple of gents that I had been talking to for a bit. One was a man who typically ran full marathons but decided to take a break and run the half marathon this time and the other was a newer runner than I am and who was doing his first half. We talked about the problems encountered at Rock & Roll Las Vegas (which the veteran runner had been a part of but hadn't become ill like many others did) and the benefits of doing run/walk intervals (the new runner openly admitted that he was of the mindset that if he walked at all he would feel like he was failing in his attempt). I asked the young Fanatics to pose for a picture but unfortunately my camera wasn't working...I thought it was that the battery hadn't charged but lo and behold, 4 days later I find out it was because I had inserted the battery the wrong way and thus it wasn't seating correctly. DOH! So, unfortunately no race day pics for this race!

As starting time approached (everyone was for the HM...the full marathoners were at a different starting point) we began to arrange ourselves behind the starting line. There were no corrals so I strategically placed myself somewhere in the back of the 2nd third of the group. The gun went off and so did we! First into a somewhat level start then into a gradual descent...I had actually expected more of a downhill...this did not bode well for the remainder of the race. Not even a few miles into the race there were men already pulling off to the side to answer nature's call. I on the other hand felt my stomach gurgling and getting that sinking feeling that the "runner's trots" were about to provide me with my very first experience with the issue. I had never had gastrointestinal problems with any of my previous long runs but man...this time it almost became a do or die situation. By the time I considered jumping behind a bush we had landed in open fields and I just had to hang on for dear life. I think it was at about mile 5 or 6 that I finally came upon a port-a-pot which only had one person in line for it. I waited as patiently as possible before I was able to take care of business...which wasn't actually too bad...and continue the race. By this time the downhill and flats of the race were pretty much done. As I looked ahead all I saw was rolling hills, something I had noticed in the drive in but, for some reason, hadn't registered as potentially being an issue during the run.

Luckily the weather was being cooperative being cooler than what was anticipated due to a nice breeze (not really a wind) but one that was enough to make the high in the mid-70°F (by the time I finished) feel several degrees lower. The sun also stayed hidden for a lot of the race keeping the running temps even more tolerable. After the first few "small" hills...remember, I live where it's flat so any incline is a hill...I came to the realization that the only way I would finish upright was to walk up the hills and then run down so that's exactly what I did. Heck, there were even points on the downhills or the in between flats that I walked just from being so tired. Again the only goal was to finish...finishing before 3 hours would be nice too. As I trudged along past the last several miles the full marathoners began passing me by. It's always a little disconcerting to realize that people who are running double the distance than you are likely to finish before or fairly close to your time. Oh well. In the last mile and a half or so...close enough that I could see the stadium where we would be taking our final lap...the Half Fanatic that I had seen through the bus window caught up to me and we walked and chatted for a bit. We noted that we seemed to be the only Fanatics there although we had both seen several Marathon Maniacs pass us by. As we got closer to the finish, John (at least that's what I think his name was), trotted off to finish the race at about the same time the new half marathoner passed by in the truck that he was riding in on his way out and yelled, "Great job!" I assume he got through and ran the whole race like he wanted to...since he didn't think he'd probably run another one unless he got a hip replacement (a long standing problem for him).

As I walked towards the stadium in the last half mile...not due to cramping, but just due to fatigue and the hope to be able to at least run the one lap around the stadium...the first 4 or 5 full marathoners passed me by. Great. One day I'll actually beat the first full marathoner while I'm doing a half marathon!! LOL!! Anyway, as I crossed the entrance to the stadium I started a slow jog and gradually picked up a little speed the closer to the finish line I got. It definitely was not a full blown sprint but at least I was actually running to the finish line! :)

After crossing the finish line I got my medal (one of my favorite so far since it's pretty substantial) and stopped to get my very first finisher's shirt (or at least one provided by the race...that I didn't have to purchase separately). I happened to come across John and we chatted for a bit more before I left to try to find the results, had a finisher's photo taken and signed in for a massage. I figured that after running a double I deserved to be able to wait and get one!! So as I waited I went to drop off my excess gear in the car and get my post race snacks (banana...got a 2nd one from the race too...teriyaki beef jerky, low fat chocolate milk) to eat while I waited for my massage. The massage therapist that I got was also a runner so we talked about my crazy schedule, doing doubles and her experience with the full marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. As soon as the massage was done I headed back to the hotel with a quick stop at a c-store to pick up 4 ten pound bags of ice since I had the double tub. Unfortunately my key card wasn't working so while I got that fixed some of my precious ice melted a bit in the car...I'm sure the housekeeping ladies were not fond of the little mess I made in the back entry way!

Thanks to the pre-arranged 2pm check out that the hotel had arranged for all marathoners, I was able to take a leisurely ice bath of 20 minutes (the longest I will stay in for) and finish packing. But tell me...why is it that housekeeping will still knock on the door if they know that you'll be checking out late? It's happened to me on more than one occasion! Anyways, right at 2pm I was on the road headed back home only to find myself running over the wake up bumps on the side of the shoulder 3 times before an hour had passed. I decided to stop at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX overnight just to be safe and thankfully had a good night sleep and was able to drive the remaining 5 hours home the next day with only a brief nap about halfway into the drive.

It was done. My first double. It didn't kill me, but I did really wear me out. I was walking on Monday and had a little discomfort on Tuesday but nothing like I imagined it would be. I had another race to look forward to the following Saturday and another double the week after. OMG...what have I gotten myself into?? LOL!

What I didn't like about the race: Hills! I really wanted to believe in the "mostly downhill" description...but I guess it was "mostly downhill" if you look at the percentage of uphill versus the percentage of downhill! The fact that I didn't have a bib number assigned even though I had registered weeks in advance.

What I liked about this race: Scenic...in a country type of way. Nice temperature...no excessive sweating resulting in cramping. Nice medal and finisher's shirt. Plenty of massage therapists...eight total if I remember correctly.

Would I do this race again? Yes. Give me 2 years. Maybe I'll try to beat the hills here after I try to beat the hills at the Arizona Distance Classic!

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