What's a Fella to Wear?
Crunch the data and decide: long or short sleeve shirt (or more than one); tights or shorts; hat, visor, neither; gloves; buff; gaiters, headlamp; handheld bottle or bladder; gels or other nutrition (and how many); sunscreen or lip balm; salt tablets and ibuprofen; tissues; handkerchief.
A wet spring and rain on
Friday assures that the course will be wet, so gaiters to keep the mud out of
the shoes. Cool temperatures to start suggest a long sleeved shirt;
sleeves can be pulled up as the day warms up. Running vest and bladder are
a no-brainer to carry nutrition and adequate supplies of liquid. The
relatively cool temperatures and breezes mean it won't feel too warm to wear
|Ready to start|
Tights are a closer matter. The temperature generally weighs against them, as after an hour or so it will be warm. But I live in dread of ticks and poison ivy, and the course has both, at least when I previously ran it in June. The switch to an April date means the grass won't be so high in some of the fields so there is less chance of ticks, and the poison ivy will have had two fewer months to grow. But the tights will provide warmth in the beginning and protection from those things I dread, so I go with them. I figure I can take them off during the race if need be - I wear shorts over them. Besides, the Eric Clifton-made jester tights always garner compliments.
Mud? We Laugh at the Mud!
A bit of rain Friday and Friday night promises to leave the course soggy on Saturday, and sure enough, the start of the race at 7 a.m. has use stepping through soggy grass around the soccer field at the start used to spread out the field and plodding through mud in the early going.
But after the mudfest that was Seneca Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K in March Emaad and I don't find the course particularly troubling. I urge the more cautious runners around us to just run through it: "You're going to get wet and muddy today, so go ahead and get it over with now. Remember all those times your mother told you to stay out of the mud? Well today you get to play in it."
After a few miles of somewhat muddy conditions, the partly sunny day and breezy conditions work to help dry out the course, although there still is some mud in the last few miles, but less than was there when we were outbound in the morning.
|In Riverbend Park (mile 21)|
"Congratulations on your finish," I say to Sara, "Now you are no longer a [is there the slightest hesitation in my voice? Does she notice it?] rookie." Although I ran the 50K race and she ran the marathon, we leapfrog each other the last 8 or 9 miles and I chat with her during times we are running together. Not only is this her first trail marathon, it is her first marathon on any surface and I provide morale support and practical advice as we run along. She tells her non-running boy friend that my support helped her to the finish.
For some reason, this race attracts what seems to be a large numbers of first timers, for all its distances. It is very well organized, and the course is just challenging enough with some short but steep climbs along with its single track. The switch to April from its original June date means its less likely (but not impossible) to be brutally hot or humid, or both. And the addition of the Fraser aid station eliminates what used to be a 7 mile stretch without aid.
A few miles in I catch up to a runner and ask him if it is his first ultra. He replies in the affirmative. He is running without a water bottle or any form of nutrition, flashing red clues that he has never done one before. He says that with aid stations only 3 to 4 miles apart he will be OK. I don't argue with him, but after a bit of leapfrogging he soon falls behind and we last see him in the loop in Great Falls Park, where he is probably a few miles behind even our leisurely pace. And I don't see him at the finish, even though we hang out there awhile.
Somewhere between the Carwood and Frasier aid stations (around mile 23) I get passed by three young men. Two are wearing Navy-themed shirts, the third is bare chested. I complement one for the slogan on the back of his shirt: "If you want to go far, run with someone. If you want to go fast, run alone." I salute them with a "Go Navy" and get a "Beat Army" in return. We leap frog a bit but they are generally faster and soon disappear from sight.
|Great Falls Gorge Overlook (mile 19)|
Later on, they will catch up and pass me individually. As the last of the shirted runners goes by, he says, "I've got to catch up with Crampy," - a nickname earned and deserved.
"Rookie" was almost not the word I said to Sara. Ultrarunners refer to first timers as "virgins." But maybe that's socially incorrect (especially with someone you only met on a trail) particularly with her boy friend next to her.
At about mile seven a runner comes up on Emaad and me. Emaad says "Hi, Dean," and as he does I recognize that the runner is legendary ultrarunner, race organizer and author Dean Karnazes. His 2006 best seller, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, made him famous and popularized the sport - if you consider a sport whose largest events do not attract 1000 participants popular. But he is not just a celebrity, he's the real deal, with wins at Badwater 135 miles (2004) and the Vermont 100 milers (2006), and a four top ten finishes at Western States 100.
Remarkably Dean slows down to run with us for the next couple of miles. We chat like all trail runners do, about races we've done and what we have upcoming. Dean is going to Greece in September to run the Spartathlon, a 250K race from Athens to Sparta. He says the hardest part is the first 50 miles from Athens to Corinth, a distance of 50 miles that has a 9:30 cutoff. Apparently he isn't concerned about the 105 miles that follow that. We tell him of our plans and discuss a 100 miler; he suggests trying a 24-hour race to get a flavor for it.
|Dean Karnazes with me (mile 11)|
We discuss the Washington pollen (predominately tree pollen at race time) and when I start coughing he offers me a gummy bloc to suck on to stop the coughing. It works.
We ask if we can take pictures with him and he graciously agrees, so we stop to pose. After awhile he says that while he would rather be running, he needs to get back to the start/finish in time to give out awards at 2 p.m. and takes off. I guess that he ran the marathon distance between his duties at the start of the races and the awards ceremony.
When we finish I go and check the results in the off chance I've won my age group, 65+. The real time results show that I'm 3 of 3 so that's that. The next day I scan the complete results to see where I stood. One runner finished after me and the results have me listed as 3 of 4. I search for the two ahead of me. The second place finisher is 66 and an hour ahead of me. I keep scrolling upward for the first place finisher and finally find him finishing 40th overall (35th male) about two and a half hours ahead of me. But what is most remarkable that his age is listed as 118.
I send an email to the timer: "I'm used to being beaten by people in my age group (65+), but not by the world's oldest man" identifying the unbelievable speed of the centenarian. I n a few hours I get a response: "Ha...good catch :) This must have imported incorrectly, his birthday was entered in as born in 1901." Turns out he was 30, not 118, so I wound up 2 of 3.
Emaad and I run the last few miles together. At the finish we retrieve our drop bags, change shirts and go to get our post race meal. Rather than have a meal line like in the previous years I did the race, there are four food trucks - pizza, fried fish/BBQ, halal and kabobs - each offering a number of offerings for your ticket. I elect BBQ ribs while Emaad goes for the lamb and rice from the halal truck. We take our food to the beer area and redeem our beer coupons for the offerings from Sierra Nevada. Then we buy a second beer to drink while talking to a husband and wife who (of course!) just finished their first 50K. He has done triathlons, and says this was harder. Leaving the beer garden I pick up a Sierra Nevada pen and Hop-N-Mint lip balm.
|Swag: Shirt, Medal, Bib, Collapsible Cup, Finisher's Bottle, Pen, Lip Balm.|