Great Olympic Adventure Trail Marathon, September 6, 2014 [ Goat Run on Facebook
www.greatoatrun.org ] The finish area…
I agreed easily. I love “camera runs”–pauses for this and that and my mind barely on running. That would not work today. I would need to not pause, not search for old trees, mosses, ferns, and lichens; not look for eagles when I could hear chittering; not pause… today I need to run; in whatever shape running may present itself.
The years and miles have passed with my having retained just enough conscious awareness of their lessons that I am aware of certain lackings. I have some endurance, but it won’t be enough. I have some strength, but not as much as today’s climbs will demand. I have almost no speed–the three days of work each week have eaten into training time and speed is the least forgiving and most conducive to injury, so it was ignored. The word “racing” was banished from even the most creative of fantasies. No racing.
I should probably do this in some sort of chronological order.
In early May (2014) I saw an announcement for the Great Olympic Adventure Trail Marathon (GOAT Run) on September sixth. My first official paid-a-fee trail run was on the northerly end of the Olympic peninsula a not-so-short 29 years ago. Heart strings were tugged, memories rekindled, rational thoughts pushed aside, and another entry blank was sent in (okay, it was a Web registration–I miss getting to mail entry blanks).
Without using my fingers I can count June, July, August, and September as an almost four-month training period. By ignoring the idea that my three-day a week job is more physical this year than usual and just plain lying to myself about my current level of fitness, another not quite grand adventure is started. Kathy’s comment about poor arithmetic because the two-week taper means … never mind. The Goat Run is on.
The training, such as it was, sort of went well. There were “long” runs of 3-hours, 3½-hours, a 3:58 that was a good push, and a 4-hour, but nothing to drive away the nagging little fears that the old days of 30-35 mile longer runs two of every three weekends banished. Some days of good running only lead to introspection that enhanced the doubts. In the last few miles of the four-hour run I was on three miles of pavement to the house. I knew where the one-mile and the two-mile marks were—should I do just a tiny little test? Okay, not a push, but a hold steady, no kicking, just keep… 9:02, 9:11… Hmmm, elation is quickly followed by the voices that scream, “Sure, that’s good for two miles, but you can’t do that for several hours.” I agreed and shuffled on home.
The finale, the victory for those screams of doubt from the inner demons came on the Wednesday ten days before the marathon. I was inside the two-week taper and full of all the doubt, fear, dread, trepidation, and misgivings I could muster. I could blame it on Kathy being gone to her writing group meeting. She would have stopped me. I filled the CamelBak, stuffed a handful of Endurolytes in a pocket with the Milky Way bar, and headed for the forest — blah blah blah yak yak yak — a little over five hours later I was home. As I unlaced my shoes a voice from the kitchen put things in perspective.
What time did you leave?
John… five and a half hours… ten days out.
I know, but…
Naught that can be done now. (I just did that so I could use “naught”.)
The ferry crossing and the drive to Port Angeles were done. We met Josh and Iris Sutcliffe — e-people that became real people that became friends — a good meal, better conversation, and all too soon it was time to go.
A starting line where I knew no one–an oddity of old times, typical of today. At other times I could turn and look at where we would go. Today I did not know which way to look. Time to go. Even in the first mile there was no plan yet to be viewed. I made sure to be at the rear. The worst thing I could do was get caught up in other peoples’ pace and day. I needed to stay “inside” and wait. A strange annoyance, something never heard before, offered to accompany me. I had dumped a lot of ice in the CamelBak, fearing the forecast heat, before adding the magic powders (another untried something or other). The ice “rattled” when I ran. Bleah. I am hyperconscious of intruding in other people’s running. I slowed down so the noise would not intrude. I passed through the first aid station, slowing only enough to say “Thank you” to the volunteers.
The numbers game came calling as a sign saying “3 Miles” was seen and passed. I should not have worn a watch, but I was worried with cut-off times and, although I did not know what I would be able to do if something needed to be done, not only wore it, but had hit “Run” when we started. I glance down at the numbers: 33:23 — uh… I am running elevens? Uh oh. That is way too fast. The first half of the course has the most climbing. We are in sort of long rollies, but I can tell we are climbing. I also know I am not walking some of the things I should be walking. Ratz. I am running with “them” instead of with me. I am on the tail end of a train of six people. What to do? Let the demons come to the surface and have their say? This early?
Okay, as another eleven-minute mile passes I give up on the marathon and (only a couple of small voices of protest) decide to run for a decent half marathon time. A few climbs, a few almost flats, lots of little switchback things, and the train that slowly separates from me take me through the first half of the course. I passed the 13-mile post at 2:44:07 and pretend to hold that effort for a bit farther. At 2:45 on a conveniently placed climb I give thought to the rest of the day. I am very happy with the half marathon time, but I am in the midst of a beautiful forest instead of a finish line. What to do?
The doldrums in my mind screamed for attention between the 13 and the 16. There were three climbs, each about four miles long during this stretch. I was having a few problems, but could not isolate them. I decided my right hamstring, left sartorius, twinges in both shoulders, and a hangnail on my right thumb would probably bring me to a halt. I wondered if the sweep would have a means of getting me to a convenient dumping spot. The loud scolding from a Stellar Jay shook me awake. If I am still moving enough for a bird to notice, maybe … would I be on Plan B or C… anyone… H? Really? Okay. If I can get the shuffle going and roll on into the aid station at the sixteen… they’ll have a truck I can ride in to the finish line? No. No no no. If you can get to the sixteen, you are inside double digits. Oh. Okay.
The sixteen-mile aid station and a life-saver appears (not the goats). The kindest of the kind, a young woman I have never seen before is slicing oranges just for me. How did she know? I ate several, added a couple of pretzels, smiled at the goats (not longingly), noticed the spasms were quieted… hmmm. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. Off across the clear cut I went. The only ugly part of the course. Clear cuts are saddening for me. I love trees. I touch some of them as I pass. These stumps, all that is left of a life that had begun six- or seven-hundred years ago, distracted me from my misery and that helped. My mind returned to what was left to do. I am inside a double-handful of miles. I left the clear cut as the trail took me inside a stretch of old growth forest. Huge cedars and ferns, coolness and moistness could be felt. Some of my shuffling was almost running. I patted the CamelBak, wanting to know if I could drink more. Could I drink enough to decrease the deficit, maybe get a bit of energy back… a mile post…18. I am only two miles from the 20-mile station. A brief recollection of the profile flashes in my mind’s eye. All the major (as in “steep”) climbs are behind me. No? No no no… are you sure… no, between the 15 and 22ish I am never sure of anything.
Oh boy! Another orange slicer. Yay for strangers with sharp knives and a box of oranges. I drink a few cups of pink stuff, eat a few slices of oranges, and ask if they have enough I could fill the bladder. Yes, take all you need. There are only a few behind you.
What! There is someone behind me (other than the sweep)? I have been expecting the grim reaper to round a curve and catch me for several miles. There are “others” back there? I put the lid back on the bladder, bid farewell and headed down the trail. The last not-really-a-major-climb finally ended. The trail changed to an old logging road going downhill. A downhill whose help I could not accept. I could not run fast enough to appreciate the descent and having to hold back made the long ago mentioned right hamstring protest more than I could bear (I take wimpy to a new level every year). Since there were no cameras in sight I started sort of weaving from one side to the other, trying to avoid using the hamstrings for brakes, getting on down the hillside to… another road. This time it is a real road, gravel, but wide and… Aha! I am on the road that is alongside the creek that empties into Lake Crescent. I am inside four miles to go. I am … there is a truck coming up behind me. Glancing back, I decide I should step off or eat dust. Truck stops, guy with a badge asks, “What are you doing?” “Getting out of the way so you can go by.” He looks at me (remember I have on running shorts, running shoes, snazzy running cap, CamelBak, lots of salt stains) and says, “Is there a race going on?” Hmmm, well, there was until you destroyed my concentration and the whole thing is falling apart while you think you are doing some sort of harmless talking. “Yes.” “Okay, well, I better go. Have a good run.” “Thank you.”
The whole regrouping, restarting… ratz and phooey and… okay, you can walk, right? Right! Walk hard. When you crest the hill, switch to shuffle to jog to run, right? Right! A milepost–24–is 6:30 still within reach? I think so. The last aid station came in view. I had been listening to the water from a good-sized creek down there in the trees. I asked the aid station folks when the road would quite climbing. He muttered something about it flattens out a little, not completely. Oh. I left, tried to run, felt the twinges, switched to walking. A last bit of consciousness allowed me to understand I was walking uphill at under fifteens. Stretches of shade and a breath of cool air from the creek were godsends as I concentrated and walked as hard as I could. The idea that the creek originates in Lake Crescent and I was to climb all the way hit me about the same time I saw the pavement. A woman with a nice smile and cheerful face pointed to the left. I looked at another uphill section. I looked at her, asking does it ever go downhill? “A little, but you only have six tenths of a mile to go.” What!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I looked at my watch: 5:58 and six tenths to go. Really? I was standing there. I looked at her, “Really?” Out loud this time. She smiled, “Yes,” and sort of waved her hands, shooing me away toward the orange cones along the side of the road.
Smaller goals — cone to cone — run the downs and the flats, walk to the uphill ones… whoa, run two cones? Sure, piece of cake. There’s a guy in a folding chair, hmmm. “Are you going to point me downhill?” Smiles and points downhill. And then the whole thing goes away. The spasms stop. The endurance was almost enough. The strength was for walking and it was enough. There was no speed, but it didn’t matter. It is downhill to the finish line and there is someone there to hold me up again.