Saturday, July 4, 2009

I ran the 2009 Sauvie Island Marathon and all I got was pain.

These dramatic bottom and top views of my fresh new blood blister are only the first entries in the cavalcade of pain that was my experience of today's Sauvie Island Marathon, which I completed in a time of 3:26:06 (7:52 min/mi pace).

The cavalcade's second and most loathsome entry is how this is precisely five minutes, seven seconds slower than I wanted, and number three would be today's proximate cause of the failure -- an emerging classic on this precious, precious blog -- cramps. Cramps took my left calf out of the effort somewhere in mile 19, converting those last 7 miles into a mix of futility, physical pain, and the emotional distress associated with the growing recognition that I would not reach my goal. There was also no small emotional distress from the recognition that mile 19 through 26.2 of a hot-day marathon is a terrible time to try to improvise a fast running stride that doesn't require the left calf.

Number four is a top candidate for secondary cause -- the sun. This is a flat marathon, but also a very sun-exposed one, and today in Portland has been hot, cloudless, and bright since sunrise -- I can assure you this is so, as I watched it ascend over the fields of Sauvie Island not long before the race began, and felt it drain me for several hours thereafter.

Suffice to say that for all the preparation and training I poured into this particular marathon, I did not fully account for the sun and heat. I'm not sure how I could have done so since the sun rarely shows itself prior to right about this time of year, and these last few days have been the year's hottest.

If that sounds like an excuse, please know that I make no excuse. I failed.

Sigh. The outcomes weren't all bad, I suppose. For starters, I came home with a medal and a commemorative bib:

I don't feel good about my result, but I cannot fault my effort. I tried very hard, and even over those last miles, when cramping was becoming more frequent and I realized the goal was receding from my grasp, I did not give up. I continued to run, hobble, and should it have been necessary, crawl forward, and do so with as much speed as I could muster. I worked to convince myself that maybe, just maybe, my timekeeping was off and that I still could make my goal -- delusions have their momentary purposes. Even as I rounded that last corner and saw the official clock with its bleak readout, I continued with maximum effort to the last inch.

My thanks go out to the many volunteers who lined the course with offerings of water and foul-tasting but effective nutritional booster pastes, who thus endured the same unremitting sun as we runners did without even the chance at "the thrill of victory."

To the race organizers: thank you for putting this together, and for giving out non-white event shirts. Brown! I love it! That the shirts sold out should give you a clarion signal that "unconventional" t-shirt colors are a good and welcome thing. How about orange next year? Perhaps a nice shade of yellow? There are many shades of green and blue unexplored in this connection. Also, purple is so underrated.

I offer thanks also to the people who live and work on Sauvie Island, who so patiently endured the traffic hassles and overall strain of ~2000 runners and hundreds more volunteers, spectators, and hangers-on.

Last but not least, to the woman who offered passing runners a spray from her hose as we passed along Sauvie Island Road around mile 16 or so: you are like a new grandmother to me and I love you.


Zennalathas said...

Those pictures have convinced me to never run anywhere ever again...

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't think I am old enough to be your Grandmother (still under fifty)but you are more than welcome for the spray from my hose.

Dale said...

Anon, you make a good and fair point. As I remember it, hazily as I do, I don't have a clear idea of how old or young you looked. I was rather busy cultivating a blister and working up a fabulous cramp.

My apologies for overstating things where I had no business doing so.

At *my* age, I should know better than to make confident declarations about women's ages unless I'm looking directly at their official ID papers -- and have a darn good reason to be making the declarations (and looking at the papers).

All that aside, above all, and quite seriously and sincerely -- thank you!

Anonymous said...

Your more than welcome. If the route comes by my lavender farm next year - I'll be there with my hose.

Anonymous said...

I also ran it this year and I think the biggest problem (other than the heat, which we unfortunately cannot control) was the stupid 300m of loose gravel road with a sharp turnaround...I think that slowed a lot of people down. hope you've healed by now

Dale said...

Anon, good point. I do recall a bit of a gravel-related worry added to the day's miseries. It wasn't my top-ranking concern, but yes, I do agree with you -- gravel is not good, especially when you're already so shaky and exhausted from the overall effort.