Last week during the mountain run with my buddies, one guy said, while laughing “Get ready for your first 2.5 hour 1/2 marathon.” I thought he was joking, how in the world could it take 2.5 hours to run 13 miles?Well today I can tell you.
I was excited to “Run the Caldera”. In case you don’t know, a Caldera is a collapse of land following a volcanic eruption.
Each year there is a 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon. The actual race, at least the 1/2 does not go into the Caldera but rather it is run in the mountains, beginning at 7,853 ft and going to 8,857 ft. I checked out the times from last year, to see who the competition was. The fastest woman was 1:45, the second fastest 2:01. The fastest man 1:39 second fastest man 1:47. The fastest woman in my age group ran a 2:18. Wow, I thought, this is really slow. I should do okay; my last 1/2 was 1:44 on the road, and so on the trail I figured 2:00 or 2:10. I failed to look up who these people are, only their times. Boy am I naive.
I scouted the start the day before. It is 63 miles from home and I wanted to make sure I got there on time. It was a beautiful drive that goes through the slightly creepy slightly intriguing Los Alamos. It only took 1.5 hours to get there and was easy to find.
Race morning I woke nauseous and with overactive intestines. I could not eat anything and was most worried about dehydration. I woke several times during the night with a dry mouth but I continued to drink electrolyte water, maybe too much electrolyte water. In the morning I ran the dogs, got dressed and was out the door. I felt better during the drive. I arrived five minutes after the marathon, and had just under an hour to wait for my start. During that time I ate a banana, went to the port-o-john four times and jogged for about ten minutes and did a few drills.
At the line up, everyone stood around casually. The only people to go right to the start line were Los Alamos Cross Country high school boys. We were given directions that we would run on logging roads, over a substantial amount of grassy fields without any trails, up extremely steep inclines of soft sand and rocks and over rivers. He forgot to mention though a field of prairie dog homes with random big holes. I had been forewarned to walk the hill and that I will catch back up to the people who tried to run them, and that was my plan.
I started easy and slow, taking my time. My first mile was very slow, a 9:44 but by mile 4 my overall average was 9:15 as I was able to speed up to 8:00. I thought if I could average 9:15’s miles give or take I could finish in around 2 hours. Then the big hills started. In the next two miles I climbed just under 1,000′ and was at 8,857′ of elevation. Mile 6 and 7 took me 13:30 and 18:21. The hill was so steep I was almost on my hands and knees. The ground was soft sand filled with rocks. It was a slow going but with awesome views of the mountains. For the next two miles the decent started but my technical downhill running on rocks and soft sand is not good so I was not able to take advantage of it. In mile 10 I went back up 254 feet. And speaking of feet, mine were killing me! I have to buy trail shoes. The bottoms of my feet hurt, my hips hurt, my quads hurt, everything hurt and I was alternating walking and trotting. I met lovely women from Albuquerque. She talked about the trails in ABQ and invited me to come down. I passed her on the downhills but she later caught up with me on the grassy flats and took off. I could not catch her.
In the last mile I promised myself I would only run, no walking. But when faced with another 105 foot uphill I walked. I just couldn’t take it. Then I looked at my watch. In 4 minutes it would be two hours and thirty minutes. I had about a half mile to go. I had to do it. I picked up the pace, I passed two people, then I passed another guy, suddenly I saw the little house on the opposite side of the start, I ran faster. A guy hobbling on the trail stepped aside. A crowd cheered and a guy yelled,” that is the way to finish it. ” He must be talking to me, I thought. I pushed harder. My legs got going, I passed 5 people, and I saw the clock and finished with 30 seconds to spare. My lungs felt like they had stuck together. I crossed the finish line and had the same feeling I had when I fell off a tire swing flat on my back as a kid and got the wind knocked out of me. Luckily it only lasted a couple seconds and I was handed my shiny new metal. My fastest pace on the last mile was 6:39.
The final results are not posted but I know was lower than 24th woman and beyond 4 in my age group. There are a lot of super athletes and ultra runners there. A woman who ran the 2004 Olympic marathon trials won the marathon. Once I know the full results I will post them along with the pictures.