Saturday, May 12, 2007


This is actually a picture from one of the first years. Its of Greg Meyer, local runner, Boston Marathon winner, 7 time Riverbank run winner.

The first year, Bill Rodgers won the race, Greg was second. Both were back this year, although not in contention for any top prizes.

But I would guess you want to know about me. I finished. Now, I'm sipping on Sangria and listening to the recap on the radio. Finish time: 3:27.

Looking back on my "training," I definitely wouldn't recommend minimalist training, but somehow I got through it. After I thought about it, realistically, I never started seriously training until the middle of April. To be exact, I had 5 training runs leading up to this 25k: two 7 mile runs, one 8 mile run, one 10 mile run, and one run of probably 11 miles, broken up in two parts. Then 15.5 today. Under these circumstances, I can't complain about the outcome, but I definitely hope it NEVER takes me this long to finish this race again.

Here's a recap of the experience.


I crossed the street from where I work to the expo. Just how much more convenient do you have to get? Without planning it, I timed my arrival to be in between the lunch crowd and the after work crowd. I was still a little hesitant about feeling like I belonged in this race, so I was looking nervously around for someone who was waiting to ask me what was I thinking, doing this race! But no one questioned me, so I picked up my packet. I was committed. This expo, as has the race, has improved 100% over the last 5 years, which should be expected for a world class event. This race has finally graduated from the local, small town run into the national championship race it should be considered. My daughter called me on my cell phone right after I arrived, and I had forgotten she was going to do the walk with my grandson. She refuses to run, but with her skinny, wiry build, if she actually trained I have to bet she would stand out in her age group.

Evening before the race:

I got my things together for the next morning: race belt, chip strap, picked my outfit for the run, gathered clothes for after the run, and got my fanny pack ready. I was really tired all day, and my low back and shoulder conveniently decided to spasm while at work, so I used the tennis ball and did some icing and heat and just lolled around watching TV after dinner. Went to bed about 10 pm, with a 5 am wakeup call planned.

Pre-Race morning:

I actually slept pretty well, but woke up at 4:30 and after lying there for a few minutes, formed my plan when I would leave for the race, and decided to just get up and start the coffee. I decided that I would head downtown and get a parking spot in my building lot, which, conveniently, and dontcha love it, was right at the start line! I knew I had to be in the lot no later than 6:30, but nervous prerace jitters sent me down there early, and I arrived at 6 am. It was still dark, yet I could see the preparations in motion for closing off the road, putting up the runner barricades, and people who were actually tailgating already in the lot. Even more convenient, I was able to park right next to the door to the building, which is also where my gym is located. I had decided to take a shower ahead of time and leisurely get ready. Hey,if you know you won't finish fast, at least you can finish looking good! And I was congratulating myself on going off on my own, instead of with Don who wanted to go to the Y, allowing me to park at the start, which also was as far as I wanted to walk after the race.

I was enjoying a leisurely shower when Jan arrived with her daughter and an entourage of her friends, so the locker room started buzzing with activity. It was fun, actually. Jan put on her Boston running outfit and said, "Do I have to be fast to wear this?" Yeah, right Jan, as if you aren't! Her daughter was so-so trained, one of her friends was trained, and one was basically around for the ride. We all joked about how we would be lucky to finish in 3 hours, but I was completely serious when I said I knew I wouldn't!

A lot of the stress was lifted from me when I found out they were actually extending the official race cutoff to 3:30, so I wasn't worried any more about finishing.

I had arranged to meet up with Don and Corey, my daughter, at 7:30, a block from the start line. When I walked out of the building, I was glad then that I had chosen a short sleeved wick-away shirt instead of a singlet, because while the temperature was perfect, there was thick cloud cover and the wind had picked up as the sun had come up. It was cool but not cold or chilly. While Thursday and Friday had had temps in the high 80s, a cold front had come through Friday evening, bringing in some blissfully cooler air. It was absolutely perfect for running, and the humidity was below 50%! So it was dry too. The winds were out of the north and east, meaning cool weather, but this always triggers my nose to drip constantly, which even with an allergy pill, still happened the whole race, and is still happening now. If that doesn't affect your breathing!

Don and I made one last pit stop--so conveniently INSIDE my building with no lines and real running water. Got to love the perks! Then he headed out to line up and I went back out looking for Corey, whom I had not met up with yet.

Five minutes before the race was to start, I started making my way through the crowd. At last count, there were over 5,000 25k runners, a record number. Give us good weather and we will come.

Before I knew it, the gun went off and we were on our way. It took over 4 minutes to cross the starting mats.

Early miles:

I felt comfortable, and my legs felt good, as I started into the first mile. It was still cool, windy, and cloudy, but that was okay. The longer it stayed cloudy, the better. My original plan was to follow my training schedule: 8 min. run, 2 minute walk. When I figured what pace I needed to finish in 3 hours though, it indicated 11:35. I knew there was no way I could keep that up the whole way, mainly because of my lack of training. For 3-5 miles maybe, but 15.5? Probably not happening. So as I'm getting close to the 8 minute mark, I start doing some rethinking and also notice NO ONE is walking at this point, and besides it would be a major inconvenience to either stop suddenly or make my way to the side of the road. So rather than to stop and walk, I decide I would just slow down, at least for a couple of minutes. Once I did that, I hit a pace that I started wondering if I could keep for a longer time, and made the decision right then and there to just slow down completely. And the payoff? First mile: 11:37.

Problem one occurred then. Even though I had gone to the bathroom 10 friggin minutes before the race, I had to pee badly at the start of the race, and after the first mile was getting extremely uncomfortable. The first porta-pot had people waiting, so I continued on, thinking and hoping somehow the extra liquid would get worked out as sweat or something. But, no such luck. I really had to go by the time I reached the next porta-pots and decided to stop, rather than be distracted by this annoyance any longer. The result here was almost a 5 minute delay. But it couldn't be helped, and I headed to the second mile. The second mile and I already have to stop!

I now was with a totally different pacing group. It was kind of nice actually though, being WAY back in the pack, because there weren't those annoying crowds or people who drive you nuts in races. After all, I was going to be out there for a LONG time, and didn't want to deal with weirdness. Like for example the guy I ran in front of the last time I did this race, who rang a cow bell THE WHOLE WAY, and who I couldn't shake the whole race. If there was a licence to kill, that would certainly have been a justified reason.

Just before 3 miles, the sun decided to make an appearance. It was behind us, but still! "Go away, come back another day." If the sun comes out now, all these people in ALL BLACK will be cooked alive, I thought. All black, meaning jackets and tights or long sleeved black shirts and tights. Doesn't black attract the heat?

Surprisingly, by the time I reached 4 miles, I had only walked through the water stops. I had decided that there was no way I could make the 3:30 cutoff if I did a bunch of walking, so decided I was going to keep going, at a slower pace if I had to, until the wheels fell off. Better to get as close as possible if I was going to have to walk!

Making this decision, I couldn't help but notice people around me: the young woman who ran steadily, yet I ALWAYS caught up to just before the water stops and passed her. She would pass me while I did my "water stop walk," but I always caught her later. This went on until 11 miles, when I passed her and never saw her until the end. Then there were two guys who had on sweat pants and were doing A LOT of walking, yet they would run and pass me and then walk and I would pass them. I think I finally left them behind around mile 8. And the woman with a horrible running form, who as I passed her commented that she had started running at 52, and this was her first time in the race. I told her, better late than never, and continued on, barely squeaking ahead of her. Again, she passed me during my water stop walks, but by 8 miles I lost her forever.

By the time I reached the halfway mark, I was at 1:28, and there was still a little bit of hope I might just double my time and finish around 3 hours, but I really wasn't feeling it. I had been trying to ignore the jolting numbness in my one foot since almost the 3rd mile, and adjusting my running cadence helped, but it still was another 7.25 miles to go, not an easy task to block out all that pain!

As for cadence, I was remembering my Chi Running lessons, particularly the cadence lesson, and applied it whenever I felt I was slipping behind. Left two three, right two three, left two three, right two three. I resorted to this cadence mantra often throughout the race, and as hard as it might be to believe, whenever I focused on cadence, I pulled ahead every time. Man, do I have to work on that!

Second half:

By 8.5 miles, the hills were starting. The course cruelly puts the hardest part of the run in the middle of the race. On a hot day, you die here. The weather was still windy and cool. And while the wind was definitely a factor in the race, it kept things much cooler this way. My hands were actually cold most of the way and started getting stiff from the cold.

At the first hill, a short, steep climb, there was a DJ with great music, pumping everyone up that hill! I chugged along, but was starting to look forward to when I could stop again. That came at 9 miles, with a water stop. Here, while I was doing my water stop walk, a woman walking passed me. She was pumping her arms so much I thought she might actually take flight soon! I called her arm flapping woman, because her shadow was hilarious! But what was really aggravating was I couldn't pass her! I tried so hard to get around her, but she just kept gliding away. And we were approaching another slight incline, so I just couldn't make any headway on her.

And there is a woman in our running circle who has, over the last 4 years, lost 200 pounds! She is truly an inspiration in her dogged determinedness in losing most of her weight from running, and had trained for this race the first time 3 years ago and then went on to do a marathon and two more half marathons, along with her weekly training. She keeps going, like the Energizer Bunny, never walking, running week after week 10-15 mile runs. And yet, she is THE SLOWEST RUNNER I have ever met. She often says she feels the reason she never gets injured is her slow pace. So as I am between miles 9 and 10, who do I see ahead of me?? You guessed it. Much as I want her to do well, I do have some pride. There was no way I could let her beat me! So I dug deep again and did pass her, but finished barely ahead of her.

At mile 10, I decide I finally need a gel. I am over the 2 hour mark, the fat burning mark, the endurance building mark, and today, the energy depleter mark. I need to wait for a water stop though, and it seems like it takes FOREVER to get there. And wouldn't you know it? The water stop is on a hill, so while I am glad I can walk up this one, it doesn't end soon enough and I have to start running again on the hill.

At this point, I am glad I have reached this far, but have to face reality that I still have 5.5 miles to go. The major hills are ahead of me. I need to hold on. One mile at a time. And this truly is the hardest, hottest, and hilliest part of the whole race. From 11 to 12, there are a series of 4 hills that are deceiving. Having run this course probably hundreds of times in 18 years, I know better than to be lulled into thinking the worst is over. Its not over until you can see the downhills! And its apparent that the unaware think its going to end sooner than it does, because by the second to last hill, they are walking. I chug ahead, not really making that much progress but not walking. I an holding out until I see over the top of what I KNOW to be the last hill. From there on out, it is flat again. Yeah!

Just before the last hill ends, there are two people walking backward cheering on the runners. I hear them before I approach and curse them to shut up! By this point, I hate loud noises, voices, or whatever else is annoying. Just shut up! But as I pass them, they are most encouraging and I am grateful.

Here, there is a sharp downhill (ouch!) to the 12 mile mark. OMG, 12 miles! I am so thankful. So here, I have to decide: continue on or what? Go. Do not stop. Collect $200. Wait, that's monopoly! I'm getting delerious!

I want to stop in the worst way, but again, the time factor keeps me moving. My achilles hurt, my legs are feeling weirdly weak, yet my pace continues. I am getting annoyed with little things, like a race volunteer on a bike who whizzes by me without saying anything, startling me; like the sag wagon who continually comes up right behind you before tooting its hort and scaring the crap out of you--on the opposite side of the road by the way! Like no more gels at the aid stations and the aid stations closing down. I can't wait for another turn to get off this road, a road where there are no cooling breezes.

We finally turn, and I realize what the objective here is: find a pleasantly appealing street for the race to go down, so it will reflect well on the community. We were in an area now where the houses are a mixture of old Polish and white trash, meaning neat, clean little bungalows or ones with a junk yard dog chained to the porch, or broken cars or bikes in the driveway, or worse. We are approaching another park, and the fact that we had wound around to roads away from the park and yet had to go through it increased a slight agony in my head to getting done. I didn't know fully the rest of the course, so I was guessing, and again, it was getting hot here. We went through the zoo park, another area I had run in probably hundreds of times in 18 years, and yet I was really starting to stress a little, and wanting to be done. When we entered the park, I again reassessed myself and decided I needed desperately to get to 14 miles before I fell apart, and yet it seemed an interminable amount of time before we were even half-way through this mile!

Tbere is a water stop, so I am so thankful I can stop and walk here. Porta-Potty man, the guy who seemed to stop at every one, gets ahead of me here, again, yet I know I will pass him again soon. People are getting in the way, however, sweeping, and picking up trash, and I am having to dodge them and again am getting annoyed. Another young couple, who were walking for at least 1.5 miles, were now passing me. Just why am I running if all these people are passing me??

I am hanging on to get to the 14 mile mark. I am at a marathon shuffle pace, but still running. I am so thankful it is a cool day, and at the same time am getting weepy, something that happens to me sometimes on these long, grueling runs. Pull it together, keep it going. I had to keep repeating the cadence drill to: left two three, right two three, etc. My lower back was aching, spasming slightly actually, and I was getting crazed to get this thing done!

I hear foot steps behind me and figure it must be Porta-Potty man, whom I passed again after the last water stop, but once again it is someone power walking. Just what is the point of running? I have to ask myself. I can't help but think that by now the Kenyans are finished, showered, and half-way home.

I grasp at whatever straw I can muster to get past the 14 mile mark and then push myself another half mile, almost kissing the ground when I see the 1 mile to go mark! My back was not good here, and my mind was losing it too, so I held on until I got to a traffic light and had to walk here for the first time, without a water stop. I walked about a minute and started realizing each step meant I was getting closer to being done! One more mile. One-half mile. One-quarter mile.

And here, Frank, a tri-geek, whom I had passed before mile 4 walking the whole way because of severe arthritis in his hip, was coming up behind me! "Frank, you might actually beat me." He mumbled something or other, and I started running again while he walked, an even pace. With 3 blocks to go to the finish, he suddenly says, "I've only got 2 1/2 minutes before they shut the clock down. I might actually have to run!" I look at my watch and think we actually have 5 minutes, but then I remember that the clock shuts down at 3:30, and if we want a medal we have to finish then!

Frank sprints ahead, and I finally do the math and sprint ahead, gettig my butt moving. I cross the finish line in clock time: 3:30:01. I get a medal.


WADDLER26.2 said...

great race report!!!I can relate to the mental part of wanting to quit. but you didn't-way to hang in there and get that medal.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Way to hang in there and get it done. Congrats on the medal!!

bunnygirl said...

Good job! I'm so happy you ended up running. I knew you'd finish, once you made the decision to go for it!

Fe-lady said...

Yeah Vickie! Congratulations! You deserve to be sipping on the wine and now you have the race under your belt! Whoo-hoo! No more worrying about it!
What's up next for you!????
And thanks for the "shout-out" about my tribute to my mom. I got the idea from Misty@ Athena Diaries.
She's a really good writer!

TriFeist said...

Most excellent race, girl! You avoided any cow bell people, outlasted the hills, and hung on for the medal. Well done!!!