Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wildwood Marathon

This is going to be an interesting test. Since stopping my ultra training about three months ago, I haven’t really run any ‘long’ runs. My training for this marathon consisted of, “Oh s**t, I’m running a marathon in three weeks, I guess I better up my mileage, at least.’ And so I did: doing a wee bit more of my ten mile loop, plus adding some ‘doubles’ (running twice in one day). Plus, though I ‘tapered’ this week, I went up to Seattle to visit a friend and of course walked all over the place talking and trying to solve the world’s problems. In fact, I just got in yesterday evening. Good thing this race is so low-key that the packet pickup/registration is just before the race.

I do have some advantages, maybe. One being that I’ve run a bunch o’ marathons now, so have the ‘mental’ edge. As in, I know I can run them, with various degrees of hurt after. Also, I have the home court advantage: this is in Forest Park, my stomping grounds here in Portland, where I do the majority of my runs. I love being able to walk out my door to the start.

There has been a last minute change though: We were supposed to start down in Lower Macleay Park, a nice big open grassy area, but apparently the Forest Park trail crew is doing trail work up in there, and no one bothered to tell anyone else. So, we’re nearby, but at this small little trailhead up in the residential area, with no parking, so they had to hire some shuttle busses to get folks up, and it’s kind of a cluster, with people registering for the half-marathon and 10K, while us ‘real men’ (and women) doing the full wait around.

Not sure how many are doing the full. I seem to remember 150 was the cap, but doesn’t seem like that much here, now. But anyways, the weather here is nice. Perfect almost: Cool enough to be a little cold with just a t-shirt and shorts. Will heat up later, but in Forest Park, one is basically in the shade all the time. I don’t really know the route, but when a woman (one of those Marathon Maniacs) explains it, it confirms that the route I was running out here for the ultra training was WAY more than 26 miles.

We line up, and this is kinda crazy: We are starting out going uphill. Like, a pretty good incline. Macleay Park would have given us a little warm up before a hill. Here, when the organizer dude says go, it’s just up a gravelly trail, which I (and I suspect everyone else if they were alone) would walk up, but since we’re all gung-ho to run a marathon, we all start out at a trot. Ugh. This first bit is and ‘out and back’, more like an ‘up and down’ that gets us the ‘.2’ of the marathon (and maybe a little more) out of the way. But, the hill definitely separates the men from the boys, or the adults from the children. I take my time, staying in back, trying to hold on to some kind of sanity, walking even. The race leaders come barreling down, all young and no body fat, and on my way down, I do the same, using one of the few advantages I have as a barefoot/minimalist runner: the ability to use gravity and maintain a (relatively) light touch, though with these Luna Leadvilles I fear I’m slamming the joints just like a shod person. I may regret this later on, but for now, it catapults me past many of the gung-ho hillrunners. And gets me going at a pretty fast pace even on the flat areas, which, again, I may regret, but that’s why I do these races: to get me to run faster than I would alone. By myself, I trot. I don’t get into the fancy watches and paces, just kinda meditating and enjoying the scenery. Which is why I never get down below four hours on a paved marathon, when I probably could.

No, if I could, if I could afford it, I’d run more races, even short ones, to keep myself honest. But at this point, I can’t. Though I’m already thinking I enjoy this stuff too much and money be damned, I’ll splurge for the a couple marathons this Fall. Plus Hood2Coast is coming up!

The majority of the race is on the Wildwood Trail, which runs the length of Forest Park. It’ll be an ‘out and back’ here too, meaning there will be cross traffic as the faster runners come back. I’m already starting to settle in to the group of people who are running at about the same pace. Or not, since I tend to come on strong in the beginning and then bog down in the second half. We’ll see. I’m kinda surprising myself at my pace. Surely this can’t last!

The route takes us uphill, on a sidetrail, Fire Lane 1 to be exact, for a short out and back/up and down, at the top of which is the first Aid Station. But man, I’m glad I’m not doing this barefoot, these fire lanes are just straight up gravel roads. And yeah, I walk it. But there are some lovely goodies, which I unfortunately just don’t feel up for eating, but I nibble on some PB&J chunks, orange slices, and one potato chip for some salt.

Down the hill! Still able to use gravity to my advantage, and pass some more folks, though also getting passed. Seems to be the key to fast versus slow runners: the fast ones are able to run fast downhill. And back on Wildwood, which, here, is actually a pretty barefootable trail, and I’ve enjoyed it that way. It’s just that there are patches of gravel, for when the this place gets soaked in the Winter and becomes a mud line. Could I do this race barefoot? Probably, but doing so would add at least another hour to my time, and I’ve been there before: coming in when the organizers are already taking down the tents. That sucks.

Oh, interestingly: Coming uphill on Fireline 1 were already the halflings: the lead runners in the half marathon. Nothing like getting ‘lapped’ by the halflings, but they will turn around at this point, while we marathoners continue north(westish) on the Wildwood. Runners are now fairly spaced out, though so far I’m not finding myself by myself, like happens with some trail marathons, where I sometimes wonder if everyone has just gone home. I’m passing some folks on the downhill, but they’re just as much catching me on the uphills. I’m alternating between walking hills, and going into ‘granny gear,’ as I learned from Scott Jurek (in his recent book). But, that can get ridiculous sometimes, when someone is walking just as fast behind me as I am running. Good verification that yeah, walking the hills doesn’t really lose you much time.


Holy crap that was my right foot! I just smacked right into something, not sure what, maybe a root. Like, hard. Like, there should be some pain. But there’s not. That’s gotta be a bad thing. I’m still running, but there’s like a numb feeling coming from my little toe. Damn, I do not want to look. But no, I have to: Oh crap. My little toe is out almost at ninety degrees. That’s not good. That’s like, broken. I’m going to have to go to the hospital. With no insurance. ‘Well Mr. Yohe, how did this happen?’


‘With your shoes on?’

‘No, um, in these sandals.’

‘What kind of dumbass runs in sandals?’

Or something like that. Anyways, can I get through the rest of the race this way? With my little toe flopped off to the side? Am I about to feel a lot of pain soon?

But, I keep running, and experiment with trying to move all the toes. I can’t seem to move the toe sideways, like to pull it in, but curling all the toes seems to work, and in doing so, kind of draws it in, so that it starts to look somewhat normal. Somewhat.... I guess I’ll go on. Maybe it’s just dislocated? Maybe I won’t need a hospital visit?

Still fairly strong pace, up until I get to the second Aid Station, which is again at the top of a side trail. I’m gulping more water—probably should have been gulping more already—and the downhill isn’t so barrely—the quads are starting to scream. And the bottoms of the feet.

But yes, that was the halfway point. Actually a little beyond because of the original out and back. Check my watch: 2:30. Ok, that’s good. I’ll take that. So, looking at over five hours. Would be nice to slip in under 5:30, way more than I expected even, but yeah, I’m a little tired now. A little weary. But, home court advantage, I know that from here, it’s all (mostly) downhill! Which helps. Helps me keep up the pace just by gravity. If this were just a flat straightaway, I’d be trudging, but here, now, I’m still running fast. Or, faster than normal, faster than I would be by myself. Can this last? Or is my no training going to lead to a total bog down?

The people I was running with (or nearby) have all pulled away. I’m seeing others coming up the trail on their way to the aid station, everyone being very encouraging, though I get a little worried when I see an older woman with a half-marathon bib. Uh oh. Did she take a wrong turn at Albuquerque? Imagine her surprise when she learns she’s about to run a full marathon. Eep.

I settle into a back and forth with some new folks, including a couple, the woman seemingly stronger at this point than her boyfriend, though, after we each pass each other a couple of times, and get up to the fourth (which was also the second) Aid Station, and back down, the guy asks me, ‘How you doing?’

‘I’m ok.’

‘My legs are screaming.’

‘Yeah. We’re a three quarters of the way there!’

But then even the girlfriend seems to bog down, and I lose them. And others are also doing some walking at this point: I catch up to some guys that had passed me a while back. Me, I’m amazingly still going steady. Legs aching on the downhills, no barreling anymore, but keeping steady, now into very familiar territory, I can visualize exactly how much longer we have to go. I wonder if that’s really an advantage? Must be. Another Marathon Maniac woman runs with me for a while, then finally makes her move. ‘We have to be getting close, aren’t we?’

‘Yes. We’re real close.’

That’s all she needs to hear, and she speeds up. I do too. A little. We pass another guy who’d been with us for a while, he seems to be cramping, but then falls in behind a little bit. Hm, I wonder how old he is? In my age category? Can’t let him beat me then! That’s my hope, that this race is small enough that I might actually get in the top three in my age category, and therefore a second medal (all the marathoners get a finish medal). Probably not though, since seems like every man in his early forties is now running marathons, but maybe. It’s enough to give me a little motivation, a little burst of speed. Plus that trailhead is coming up.

I hear it first: clapping. Yep, almost there. Just down this last little section, then, a sharp left and the Finish is downhill a hundred yards. I want so much to give my customary final burst of speed, but it’s too downhill-y, and gravelly as f**k. I can just picture myself biting it at the last minute, so actually have to put on some brakes. But yeah, the folks at the finish see me and clap and cheer. Small crowd, but still nice.

I cross. Check time: Holy crap. 5:08! I’ll take that! That’s actually a really good time for me, considering. 44th overall, 12th in my age group (sigh).

My toe seems....ok. Swollen and red, but I can move it a bit. I think I’ll tough it out with no hospital visit.

And more food and drink. Wish I was hungrier, but I think the heat combined with the exertion (and the toe?) are combining to make me a little queasy. Still, a cup o’ lentil soup and a cold root beer makes John happy. I stay to cheer in some of the folks I ran with, but now it is time for me to limp home and collapse.