About a week and a half ago was the Idaho Falls Marathon. I was pretty excited for my first one in four years, and the culmination of the most intense training I've done. As the race approached, I looked more at the information I would need for that day, like the details for getting my bib and more specifics on the course.
I was generally familiar with the course, but there were a couple strange things about it. Most marathons (okay, the two I've done before) are big loops that are pretty simple to follow. This one started way up in the hills east of town and came into the city, as one would expect. But there were a few strange twists and turns once we got there. Here's one such area.
|A little weird|
I knew this was a fairly small race, so I thought it might be good to familiarize myself with the course in detail so I knew where to turn if there weren't a lot of supporters. For the last few days beforehand I spent time on Google Maps going over the city portion of the course in street view, and I even printed a little sheet of directions to keep with me.
The race was slated to start at 5:30 a.m. Everyone had to ride a bus to the starting line, which left at 4:15. That meant I had to wake up at 3 to be ready and here in time. Although I tried to get to bed early, according to my watch, I got just over two hours of sleep. Not a great start, but not wholly unexpected either. I tend to get anxious before races.
I caught the bus without a problem, and we got to the starting line at about 5. What surprised me there was that it was still quite dark. About a minute before start someone asked about markers. The guy running the show said to stay on the right side of the roads and we'd see orange arrows telling us where to turn. One alarm bell in my head went off when he said there was only one set of arrows. I knew from looking at the course online that the half marathon started at about the halfway point (duh) but they had some different turns. So this didn't make sense.
Then we were off. The first mile was dirt road, which is just asking for someone to break an ankle in the dark. But after that it lightened enough to see okay. I knew the first ten miles was up and down, before a pretty good decline for the next five, then things were flat once we got into town. I didn't realize, however, that there were 1,000 feet in elevation gain during that ten miles. I made it through okay, though.
On the downhill portion we started to pass the slower half marathoners, many of who were already walking several people abreast in the road. So that was a little irritating. At the first turn I noticed the marker arrows were small orange things about six inches long that you could only see if you were close. And because of the way people hug turns and just follow the person in front of them, that meant most people then started running on the left side of the road.
At the first major road crossing there were some missionaries who had a stop sign to walk into the street and stop traffic, which was nice. Missionaries also helped out at a number of the aid stations, which was interesting.
The first hiccup was one particular neighborhood we were supposed to turn into. Everyone was still on the left side of the road, and I don't think the half marathoners were supposed to turn there. Which meant most of the marathoners probably just followed them. I was alone on the right side and saw the arrows indicating the left turn, so I went through the neighborhood. I didn't see a single other runner the entire time, until I came back out onto that street again. So that was interesting.
By mile 20 I my legs were hurting quite a bit, which has happened in my other races as well. It wasn't a problem during training, but I had been going faster and had done all that climbing. I had also started taking in some food fairly early to try to keep myself going, but I knew I was in a little trouble. I pushed on for another mile before I had to walk a little bit. So for the last 5 miles I walked for about 3 or 4 minutes and then ran the rest. I hate doing it, but it was a good way to feel like I was employing a strategy so I could push through.
The most ridiculous part came at one of the largest intersections in town, about half a mile before the finish line. By that point people were pretty spread out, so there weren't crowds crossing the street. We had to take our chances with the traffic (by this point it was about 9 a.m.) or wait for the light to change. I was incredulous that there was no support there. But I made it to the finish line.
My GPS indicated that I ran 26.4 instead of 26.2 miles, which could have been their weird course or just me weaving back and forth a bit for a few hours. But I had a coworker who also ran the marathon. He ended up getting mixed up with the 5k crowd, which was doing a totally different route, so he ended up running an extra mile and a half. I would have been LIVID if I were him.
I ended up finish in about 3:37, which was a little slower than I hoped but not too terrible all things considered. One nice thing about having only 100 or so runners is that it's easier to place in your division, and I got second place in the 30-39 group. So that was cool. And my family met me at the finish line, which was great.
I was super sore for about three days but did manage a few short runs last week to try to maintain some conditioning. It felt kind of weird to not have specific distances or pace that I had to achieve. My knee seems okay but perhaps slightly stiff again, to a much smaller degree than before the surgery. So I need to decide what my future running goals are and how I can keep going as long as possible. I did calculate that I could get in 1,000 miles this year, which would only be the second time I achieved that, so that's probably my primary goal for now.
Thanks for making it through this long post.