Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wasatch Back Marathon 2011

Sooo, this post is long. Really long. I know only about 1 1/2 of you will actually get through it. It's mostly a journal moment for me. But if you do read it, thanks. You're awesome sauce.

Five hours, fifty-eight minutes and thirty-four seconds. I could drive to Vegas in five hours and fifty-eight minutes. I could get a semi-decent night's sleep. I could watch 1/2 of the Harry Potter saga. But I chose something much different.

Last Saturday, I ran my first marathon. Pounding pavement, then trail, sometimes rock, sometimes a grassy trail, but pounding, pounding, pounding none the less for twenty-six point two miles.

My morning started at 3:45. I sprang out of bed with my alarm. And when I say sprang, I mean, I ambled to the bathroom. My ride would be here in 45 minutes and I needed that long to pull myself together. At 4:00 am I had a toast and peanut butter breakfast with a glass of water. Gathered up my things, got dressed and pulled my camelbak out of the freezer. (I drained all 50 oz. I ran out at about mile 24.) Honey stinger chews, check. Camelbak, check. Shoes, check. Ipod, check. Recovery drink, check. Nerves, (gulp) check. Ok. I'm ready.

My ride shows up right on time. My faithful running partner and fellow insanity sister, Stephanie picks me up with her husband and two girls. I tried to pretend I wasn't nervous but I was. I was thankful for her teenage girls cracking jokes as we approached the parking lot at the starting line. "I can throw a football over them mountains..." I eyed that mountain. Even back in '82 I couldn't throw a football over it, but I had to run up it. I said a little prayer in my heart.

We hustled over to the packet pick-up. Mosquitoes were out in full force, I thought if I ran through them, they couldn't stop and have a drink. It was a good way to get loose too. This being the first year of the race, there was no line and picking up a packet at 5:50 was no problem. Back to the van, I geared up. Loaded my pack of chews on my camelbak (which I would lose somewhere between mile 9 and 12) and put on my visor. I think I also secured some extra courage to my heart because we were t minus five minutes from starting this thing. No turning back. No more training runs. Time to do it.
At the starting line. It was cooold. We don't look nervous, right?

We met a dailymile training friend that I had been talking with over the last few months. We exchanged virtual high fives and encouragement during our training. This was also his first marathon. We joked how we sure picked a doozy and told each other, we'll see you at the end! His cute wife even took a picture of us that he posted on his DM account.

We lined up with the other 200 or so people making this their adventure for the day too. Some would run the whole 26. Others were doing the three man relay. A few instructions from the race director and we were off.

I had so many tiny, tender mercies from God that day. One of them showed up in the form of an incredible sunrise. The eastern sky was purple. I've never seen a sunrise quite like it. We headed in a north east direction for the first few miles, so I really couldn't have missed it. Steph and I both agreed it was absolutely incredible and it helped take our minds off the fact that we had started this race of which we were only hoping to come out the other end in under six hours.

This was one of the last places to cheer for runners. Somewhere around mile 7 I think. After this it was mountain roads. Water stations and runners only.

At the first relay exchange (mile 9) there was also a water stop. We slowed and began walking to the table. Some guy, who had the best of intentions, thought we were relay runners and said, "Hey! Don't stop! You're almost there! You can do it!" Steph laughed and said something like, "Uh, nope. We have 17 more miles to go!" He looked genuinely shocked when his eyes bugged out and said, "Oh! You're running the WHOLE thing?!?" Yes, sir. We are.

Maybe he knew what was coming. Maybe he knew the next six miles were not just "uphill," but up-mountain. This is where the asphalt started to become sparse and the trail really showed it's gravelly face. But we punched it out. Mile after mile we showed that mountain we were strong and tough and so into conquering. So at 8800 feet, Steph let out a conquering yelp over the mountain tops. Now it was time to head back down. Sounds awesome, right? Meh, we'll see...

So on the course map, the down hill looks great. It looks like it's just straight down hill. Nope. You lose elevation, but this is a mountain! You still are rising and falling each mile. There was even this nasty hill around mile 18 that was just plain cruel. You could see it in the distance. It looked worse from far away. Like a big evil villain trying to stop you from finishing by totally demoralizing you. "HAHA HA HA HA HA HA HA BWAAHAHAHAH! YOU CAN'T FINISH! LOOK AT THIS HILL YOU HAVE TO CLIMB UP AFTER YOU JUST CLIMBED UP A LOT OF OTHER HILLS!" (He's not a very creative villain, very poor with words.) But we did it. Just one more piece of a conquering tool we can add to our ever increasing arsenal.

Beauty seems like a little, piddly word to describe what kind of views and scenery we had for the duration. It took your mind off the climb. The wildflowers were a welcome distraction between each passing mile. Absolutely incredible. God's country.

Around mile 24 it started to get silly. Like, hot, I have no more liquid in the pouch on my back, I'm starting to hallucinate, I can't read the numbers on my garmin silly. Another tender mercy we experienced that day was the weather for the first 15 miles. It was overcast, cool and soooo nice. It even sprinkled a little bit. Perfect. But then the sun started to shine. Hard. It was like being in the Twilight Zone to be so close to the end, but yet so very, very far away. Those last two miles were the hardest for me. We really wanted to come in under that six hour bench mark (for the dang finisher's medal!) and the clock was relentless. The seconds ticked and the sun beat down.

We finally made it into the last 1/2 mile of track in the Soldier Hollow venue. It was used during the 2002 Winter Olympics for cross-country skiing and the biathlon. So it was pretty cool to run on those same tracks. HOWEVER! Who had the idea of putting two serious looking hills yards before the finish line? I want to give them a slap with a wet noodle. Or my foam roller. Seriously. That was just mean. Especially since it wasn't necessary. I clearly saw another track that could have been taken straight to the finish line without the extra hills at the end. My watch even showed we went 26.5 miles after all was said and done. But, once again, we climbed the hills and made our way to the finish line.
Here we come! Big smiles. We can see the end.

Aaaand, we finished just under the 6 hour mark.

My husband, mom, dad and little brother were all standing by the poles. I could hear them cheering our names. Steph's husband Steve and her girls, Amber and Heather were also there, big cheers for our finish. Had I really let the moment take hold of me, I would have fallen to my knees and cried like a little girl. I was so happy to be done and so proud of myself for doing something that hard. But having loved ones at the end of something so stinking difficult to tell me I did a good job was an incredible thing. I think I would do it all over again just to have that feeling again.
My cheerleaders! McKay, Me, Mom and Dad. Also fellow Ragnar runners only 6 short weeks ago.

Steph and I sharing a few emotions here. Long journey together!

Steph: Hey! Wanna do that again?
Me: Yes, in 364 days.

We just climbed a mountain. Watch out.

This ice bath was seriously the best thing at the finish line. Steve joked that there was other people's feet sweat and dog slobber and bugs and whatever else. I did not care. It felt like pure heaven to me. (So proud of that little piece of hardware around my neck too. I didn't want it to get wet!)

Chatting it up with my dailymile buddy, Matt. He came in a whole 30 min before us. I think, maybe more than 30. But it was his first marathon too! The kiddie pool ice bath felt like a resort spa. Aaaaah.

Steph's girls were so sweet. They really did make it a spa experience. They hand delivered donuts and chocolate milk while we were soaking our swollen joints.

Steve went on some training runs with us. He was a great support.
Steph is holding her prize for being #1 finisher in her age group. Woopty woop!

Who wouldn't be happy to see this cute face at the finish? My sister Shauna and her husband Rich watched the kids so Chris could give me plenty of attention at race end.

My ribbon, you ask? That bad boy is for coming in 4th for my age group. Holla!

So, I did it. I set a really impossible, hard to reach goal six month ago, and I did it. I absolutely feel like a conqueror. Of course I didn't do it alone and I have scores of fans, supporters and running partners who helped me get to that finish line. Which is the way it should be. None of us can do really difficult things by ourselves. If you think you can or you have before, your vision is narrow. Look around! Take stock in what you have. We are never really alone.

I think I have more things to say about this experience. But my words went done got all used up. For now.


Kim said...

You are the one that's Awesoms Sauce! Way to go, girlie! That sounds like one heck of a journey, but you did it!! You're my hero!!

Karen said...

Wow!!! Is it silly that I cried a little reading this post? Seriously such an awesome thing you did. So proud of you Kara!! You go girl

MrsD said...

Booya! Those that really get this post, are those that have done what you did. So proud!

Mindy said...

Freakin' awesome! Nice report, and well done on the race!

michael. mindy. dane. said...

woohoo! that is so awesome. so glad you wrote about it! i hope you're recovering well. it's really cool that summer is almost over and we've hung out almost 2 times. sheesh. now that you're done with training runs (right??) we can hang out! good job! so proud. so impressed!!

Megan said...

Loved reading this! When the running bug bites it bites hard...I can't wait to work up to 26. 2 again...a year from now. :) Love you Kara. You really are an inspiration to so many people in so many ways. Not just as a runner, not just as a mother, not just as a wife, but as an all around rock star! See you in September sister.

Kelsey said...

I've been waiting to hear! Serious, way to go. I cried a little too. duh.

Hamblin Family said...

Impressive Kara!! You are my hero! I wouldn't even know where to start for a race like that. I guess I will have to stick to my 5Ks. Nice work!

Lorflor said...

Um. Hero. Wow. I already thought the world of you...I might need to expand that to universe.

The Colbys... written by Erin said...

3 kids and a MARATHON?? Who are you!?? You look FANTASTIC (as usual!) and I'm so proud of you. You are an inspiration to US ALL!! ( a little dramatic? good. that's what I was hoping for)