Monday, July 18, 2016

Loonies Midnight Marathon RR: A Cartwheel PR

I don't even remember when the suggestion of Loonies Midnight Marathon came onto my radar screen. Likely a week or two before Merrill's Mile and my head was so wrapped around getting through a 12 hour race that I couldn't see beyond June 3rd.

I came out of Merrill's unscathed and despite a little bit of residual soreness, I was running again that Tuesday. Nothing was fast or long, but I felt good considering I had just obliterated a bunch of PRs on a hot Georgia night.

When the subject of this Midnight Marathon business came up again, I actually looked at my work schedule and discovered that I might be able to make it happen. Unfortunately, the deeper I get into this running thing, the harder it is to say no to an opportunity of random adventures. After a bit more finagling and a push by my co-workers, I had Friday off work to rest up before the travel and race.

I checked the weather forecast on Friday morning and discovered that Livingston, Tennessee is actually in Central Time. A quick text to my running buddies Dan and Hal and all of us were a little relieved we'd have more travel time. Only later would I realize the flip side of that was a 1am start and an extra long morning.

I putzed around most of the day and got absolutely zero adulting things accomplished. I painted my nails (the phases of the moon), obtained beer and coffee, and took a nap.
We met at Hal's house and piled up the car with runner gear around 5:30p.m. The drive was supposed to be about 4 hours, but we made a couple of pit stops. We had dinner at Crapplebee's in the bustling metropolis of Dalton, Georgia where I consumed a chicken wrap thing with potato chips. I was aiming for mild and anti-fiber. However, I couldn't resist the Starbucks across the street and proceeded to drink a large iced coffee which was likely a contributing factor to later issues.

There were rainstorms through Chattanooga and then we had a beautiful sunset drive just beyond the city as we headed north. Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, we were blinded by dozens of police vehicles' flashing lights at a DUI checkpoint. Pretty sure the police officer was like, WTF? when we told him we were headed to run a Midnight Marathon, but he allowed us to continue on our journey. After one more quick stop at Wal-Mart, we pulled into the parking lot of the race start/finish.

Small races have their benefits and we were able to back in and create a little aid station right along the course. It proved useful for all of us. There was still plenty of time to get ready so we talked with other runners nearby until it was game time.

There was a Marathon Maniacs picture, a speech by the town's mayor, a briefing by the police chief, and the National Anthem. I decided to shed my tank last minute as it was 82°F at the start and shoved a few ice cubes in my sports bra from the cooler.

With the gun, Dan took off and I maintained the middle spot while Hal stayed within sight for the first few miles. My primary goal was to get another night training run and knock out some more mileage. I was far from PR shape after 100K 2 weeks' prior so I aimed to stay in the 8:00s from the beginning and let my body dictate the pace as the night wore on. I could negative split if I felt good or just finish another marathon if things went awry.

The first 1.2 miles took us back to the start/finish and then the course consisted of 5, 5 mile loops. A lot of it was out-and-back so it was a good thing this was in the middle of the night (re: boring). Actually, the loops didn't really bother me much and it was the perfect amount of elevation change. Mostly flat with a few teeny rollers. Garmin and Strava say 702' of elevation gain.

I felt good the first hour or so and though my legs were not super fresh feeling, nothing hurt. I grabbed my handheld that I stuffed full of ice from the cooler when I came around for the first lap and immediately felt so much better with something cold on my hand.

By the end of the second lap, I started to feel the familiar pangs of nausea combined with stomach cramps. My mental state was not as funky as Midsummer's Night Dream, but I had also already relegated this race to a training run with a medal at the end. I knew there was a porta-potty at the 1st hydration stop so I decided to wait until then to go.

It was not a moment too soon. Phew! But I felt immediately better for a couple of miles and was in a much happier place mentally.

As I neared the end of the 3rd lap, I grabbed an icy towel that they were handing out. Unfortunately, the one I got was about washcloth sized and I couldn't wrap it around my neck like I had seen other runners do. I squeezed the water all over myself and picked off a few ice cubes to suck on. Writing this reminds me how funny it is that gross stuff like eating ice off a towel from a bucket is such a non-issue in the world of running.

At our car aid station, Dan was finishing up changing shoes and I tossed the towel down on the cooler. We ran together for about a quarter mile and then I stopped to walk a few steps as I was certain that I was about to have a porta-potty accident outside of the porta-potty. I scanned the nearby area thankful that it was dark and then magically, the feeling disappeared and I started running again. I caught up with Dan and we grunted at each other for about 3/4 of a mile before he trickled behind me into the night.

I was trying to not get too wet while pouring water over my head as the wet, soggy shorts experience was kind of a downer at Merrill's. I would fill up my handheld with water when it got low and I was trying to sip regularly. The thought of Gatorade made me incredibly nauseous and I could stomach any more GU after miles 5 and 10. My hydration levels and electrolytes were definitely off, but I couldn't really figure out what I needed other than to stop running a marathon in the middle of the 80° night.

I stopped at the porta-potty again before finishing the 4th lap and fortunately never had to revisit it again. Things started to level out after that and though I wasn't moving quickly (relatively of course), I knew that I was going to finish it in under 4 hours. I grabbed a big icy towel (yay!) and headed out for my final lap. I saw Hal at the car and he was already in a different shirt. Ugh! 

His DNF weighed on my mind a bit as I went back out, but it made me determined to gut out what I started. When I saw Dan headed in the other direction, he told me that he was finished too. Double ugh! Now I really have to finish to make our trip worth it.

The idea of being on my last lap and feeling much better was a complete turnaround for me. I was shuffling along with a grin on my face and thanking all the volunteers one last time as I passed by the various intersections and hydration stations. As I made it to the back half of the course, I felt relieved that the only thing separating me from the finish line was the journey back.

I high-fived a few of the intersection volunteers as I exclaimed, "thank you for being out here! This is my final lap!" The song Salute by Little Mix had shuffled into my iPod mix and I played it about 5 times on repeat over the last few miles. I was far from my PR, but I was proud of myself in a different way.

Hal and Dan were standing right before the finish line as I came in and I tossed my icy towel at them so it wouldn't get in the way of my cartwheel. New fastest marathon with a cartwheel at the end? Sounds like a good enough PR to me!

Final time: 3:49:32. 1st in my age group. 5th female. 17th overall. Cartwheel PR.
I really wanted to sit in the parking lot and drink celebratory beers after the race. But my stomach was revolting still and it was 5am Eastern Time. It was enough to put on dry clothes and stay awake as official navigator. Both Dan and Hal took naps, but I was the only one who didn't drive so I think that was fair?

We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Chattanooga and likely looked as though we were incredibly hungover in our stinky, exhausted state. I ate a few pieces of french toast and felt slightly better. Finally, back at Hal's house, the start of the trip, the 3 of us dug into the cooler for a 10:30am breakfast brew and raised our cans to end of an adventure.


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