My 100 Marathon!

The next morning after the Big Cottonwood Marathon and fresh off my Personal Record, I set my alarm to get up first thing, lace up my shoes and go out and run my daily 5 miles. After not much thought I decided, I had a good amount of drink still in me and decided against it. I flew home and decided to run that night. I was a little concerned that night as I headed out that night as I was in the middle of a five mile streak and running five miles did not sound like a good or fun idea. It was not. I went from averaging 7 minute miles to 12 minute miles in one day. And it felt worse than the time indicates. I was looking forward to the next day when I would feel better. I did not – 13 minute miles.

And when I “improved” to 12 minute miles again by Tuesday I was getting very concerned. I had scheduled my next marathon for that next Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Though this may not normally be that big a deal… Air Force Marathon was going to be my 100th marathon! And I was having a hard time walking right much less running. I was able to see my chiropractor by Wednesday and get a little better but even by Thursday I had yet to break a ten minute mile. And I was not alone. Stephanie and Jennifer were struggling with their daily mile as well. Karen was hurting but she was lucky enough not to be streaking so she only had to feel it every three days or so and she chose to skip a running day to avoid that pain as well. Their pain was the only thing helping me feel sane.

I left early from work on Thursday to get to Dayton early to enjoy the expo and the day before. It was a good decision because even though it seemed like I would get there earlier I arrived about two. Karen had a better plan to get there early, arrived on time, and met me at the expo. We were able to catch fellow runner and friend, Dan Semsel, just as he was finishing his shift working at the marathon! We wandered down to the floor of the expo and breezed past almost all the booths with the exception of one where I looked for new shoes.

When we got to the floor I was truly disappointed that I did not have Bib #100. Dan is an Air Force member and thought he may be able to get some pull and get the number for me. There was an email earlier in the week with my bib number (that was not 100) but there is always hope, correct? Karen and I left the expo quick as Dan was now in full guest mode. Every year Dan invites at least six runners to stay at his house the night before the marathon and Karen and I had taken him up on the offer. We were some of his easier visitors (not that he minded any extra effort mind you) and he still had people to go pick up at the airport.

There was a burger place kitty corner from the expo and even though the drive took much longer than it should (awful marathon traffic) to go two blocks, we made it in time for me to eat by 2:30 or so. The burger was not that great but the beer menu was fantastic! And after a couple beers we left to go over to Dan’s where it was another small reunion with Dan and this time with his wife and daughter. In the next couple hours as groups would come in and out and we would have at least three more small reunions. We were also able to make a small trip to the grocery store and pick up all our needed marathon supplies.

That night we were able to eat dinner at Dan’s house as they made spaghetti with two sauces, salad and Karen and I made ourselves responsible for the beer. Dan’s family and we were joined by Karin, JC and his wife Jeanette, and Jen. Not everyone could make the dinner as we were joined later in the night by others as well. The pasta and beer were good (a couple local brews!) and everyone seemed pleased. Later on Jennifer and Stephanie would stop by and give me my 100th present which was a stuffed ferret and a five pound bag of Haribo gummy bears! It is over two months later and I have yet to make it through them. On top of that, it was great to see Marathon Maniac President Steven Yee and Patty stop by as well. That night all four of us Big Cottonwood marathoners made our way to bed with dreams of just finishing in our heads.

The next morning we awoke and made our way to the race. We received preferred parking and that was awesome! We were able to get to the marathon just feet away from the check in. Furthermore when we got to the Port a Potties there were no lines and the bag check line was non-existent as well. Arriving early was so nice. It was also incredible to see all the jets they had out for us to see that would ultimately be lining the finish line. I considered taking a picture with one but restrained from doing so. There was plenty people to see before the race and I tried to run into everyone I could. I am sure I fell very short of that goal but made sure to take a pre-race picture or two. I did a last minute bathroom stop and lined up with Jennifer and Karen with the four hour pacer to start. I had ran better the day before while travelling. I was hopeful, but was still pretty scared about my reaction from Big Cottonwood.

The gun went off and as usual, I had nothing to worry about! I took off and by the quarter mile point I was passing a lot of people. I was able to pass by JC and running celebrity Jen Metcalf by the half mile point and was just having a generally good time. At the half mile point I did notice one thing that must be commented on. What is it with people at marathon events lining up in front of the 4 hour pace and then going out and start walking immediately? Especially those marathons that deal with the armed forces?!? This practice is very upsetting to me. I deal with this every year at Marine Corp as well even running a ten minute mile to start this year. However I get it at Marine Corp where the wait can be over 30 minutes to start but at Air Force the wait is not more than ten minutes in the back of the crowd and you are not doing yourself that huge of a favor. As a matter of fact you may be endangering yourself as faster runners are not always considerate when they try to get around you. If you are going to walk in the first mile please get to the back of the crowd. And if you are part of this practice please let me know why you do it.

After one mile I was done navigating walkers and we were heading up a hill. I found a pacer at 3:40 and easily passed the group. I was shocked at how well I was doing! My legs were feeling no sour effects at all. I found Michelle Walker with the 3:35 pace group, smiled and said hi and kept going. I kept looking for Fast Jen Bakula as well but forgot about her soon enough figuring the race was a little large and I may have just missed her.

The race started off nice enough as we meandered through the air base. There were a couple good bands and not much crowd support (for obvious reasons) but there were huge water stops and everyone was very positive. Also where spectators were allowed, they were quite numerous. I was shocked to see Chuck Engle at the out and back around Mile 9 which was put him two miles in front of me. He was not supposed to be here (I had asked him if he was coming and he said no), but he was not looking as strong as usual either (side effect of Big Cottonwood? – I think so!) However when we got to Mile 10, that was when everything turned fantastic! This mile and a half section is called the Fairborn Fly Zone and boy do they come out to cheer us runners on! It was seriously like a tunnel of noise! I was so into the crowd I could barely notice the pacers or where the other runners were in comparison to me. By this point I was on a better than 3:30 pace and when we got to the out and back I noticed there was a pacer still a good 2 or 3 minutes in front of me. Was that 3:30 or was I missing something? And who was the pacer in front of him?

I was able to see all my friends on the way back and they all seemed to be doing well considering how much we had feared this race. And when I got to the Alien Water Stop complete with volunteers dressed as aliens and look out for alien children warning signs, I was positively beaming! Seriously, I enjoyed it more than Mile 10. And then at Mile 13 the inevitable happened – I caught the 3:30 pacer. I looked at the clock as we passed it and he said, “We are a little fast.” We were more than a little fast. I was over 5 minutes fast for a sub 3:30!

And I kept on moving, passing people and feeling great until the wheels came off at Mile 17. I drank some Gatorade and chatted with a couple runners. One was running his first marathon and I found it very funny to be talking to a first timer on my 100th! They were feeling the heat – that can be a downside with Air Force – we run around an air base and it can be very unshaded. However and somehow, when I heard “Groove is in the Heart” at Mile 18 I knew I was coming back and some of the people I was walking with were now left in the dust. I still felt good but the legs were dragging. There was a Christmas based water stop I loved and wish I could have spent more time at, but I was seriously still on pace to get a sub 3:30! And on a day when I was just hoping for a sub 4? I would take that one! At Mile 20 I was at 2:31. This was going to be easy.

But it was not. My legs did give in. I had the hardest six miles of my life and the hills really kicked my butt. I just had to keep thinking “take it easy so you can run another day.” I kept waiting for that pacer to pass me but he never came my way either. I passed the finish line just short of 3:31 and have never been that close to a goal time, but by then it did not matter to me. I was just happy to finish. I felt that awful. One poor volunteer followed me around thinking I needed serious help. None of my friends ever passed me so I knew I had to be one of the first ones in and just went for some rest. I tried to find the beer but could not find it. I ran into AJ Hacker and talked to him for a bit. Finally Michelle Walker came in and gave me two more gifts – 100 cookies and a 100 marathon club finisher shirt!

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We talked for a while and then Jen and JC came in smiling and looking great! We took plenty of pictures and I texted with Fast Jen to find out she ran a 3:20 and came in top 10 women overall! Karen too had fallen apart and Jennifer had stopped to walk her in, but they were available to do plenty of Bearfaces during the race and just have a great time. Stephanie had one of her slower races and cursed Big Cottonwood as she struggled along. We all did.

bearface

After that, it was a party! President and Patty came in and we had a large congregation just outside the finish line taking tons of pictures and enjoying a couple of beers apiece. There was photobombs galore! We had a couple other maniacs join us and some people from Dan’s place as well. Dan came in and we all congratulated him on his excellent day. Everyone had plenty of cookies and I wore my brand new shirt (thank you again). We spent way too much time there for as little beer as we had. It was that much fun.

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That night Karen and I left Dan’s house and decided to catch drinks with Jennifer and Stephanie for dinner that night. They had brought their dogs to the hotel and were going back early in the morning. We decided to stick around and make a night of it as well. They said they were going to bed early and Karen and I have never been much for going to bed early with so many friends in town. So in that tradition, we went out with Fast Jen and her crew and had drinks at a local watering hole.

A picture with Eddie Vega. He is running all 50 states barefoot.

A picture with Eddie Vega. He is running all 50 states barefoot.

I know most other people enjoy their 100th with a large party and plenty of people. I decided to keep mine mostly low key so much so that a good friend asked me a couple weeks before when my 100th was coming up and I had to tell her it was Air Force and a month away. I never intended to make a big deal out of my 100th marathon and when it finally came up I never planned on anything different. I am thankful for all those that showed and appreciate everything I got. To me it was the perfect way to get my 100th marathon completed even if I did struggle through the last 6 miles. I ended it my way – with a few friends and a good time.

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