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Running Up That Hill

October 2010

Tucson, Arizona

Friday:

Got my favorite massage therapist to beat me up real good. She even got rid of my lingering achilles problem!

Saturday:

I found the Tucson Mall and packet P/U without any problems - no race info in the bag, so a good thing I got all my info off the website! Hm, they want me to write an emergency contact on the back of my bib? Uh-oh. I stopped by The Folk Shop to pick up a ukelele and made my way across town to my condo. A quick recce to make sure I could find my way across the golf course to the bus loading area in the dark next morning, meeting a few jaded cottontails along the way. Dinner: whole weat linguini with flor de mayo beans in marinara sauce, steamed broccoli and a small piece of baked salmon. Laid out all my stuff and slept well, only waking up once during the night.

Pre-race:

Alarm went off at 7 minutes to 3:00. Breakfast: Weatbix with skim milk and fruit cocktail (hey, served me well cycling across Australia). "Is there anyone here who does NOT want to run the HALF marathon?" asks our driver. Nervous laughter, then we're off on our ride up the mountain in the dark. We stop at 6000 feet at Windy Point, where a single bank of lights illuminates a row of porta-potties. Half the bus piles off and makes a beeline, only to discover the doors are still wired shut! That was pretty hilarious. The lights of Tucson twinkled far below. It was about 45 degrees. Most of us clambered back on our bus where it was warmer. About 5:30 we got kicked off as all the busses headed on to the top. The P.A. system is broken, so the announcer has to shout - are there any professional singers in the crowd? There are no other volunteers, so everyone crowds around as I creak my way through the national anthem, eyes on the sky just beginning to lighten behind the hoodoos. Then the Beat Cancer Boot Camp rep gives us our rah-rah speech, and then - oh, is the race starting? Alrighty then!

Race:

The sun is rising as we round the bend and are treated to our first breathtaking view of the slopes and desert floor far below us. I'm ticking off the milestones as I go: 3 miles, that's about 5K, my Wednesday weekly run; 4 miles, that's my first race, 6 miles, that's about 10K, my longest race so far. By this point I'm walking and running, and in good company. Earphones are banned on the course, but outboard speakers are not - at various points I'm passed by "Margaritaville", then pace for awhile with a gal whose device keeps telling her when to walk and run. (I would get so annoyed with a bossy device like that!) I'm feeling all this uphill in my lower back, especially on my right side. Switching my water bottle to my left hand while I run helps some. Then - Mile 8! Woo hoo! Over half way there, and I know from the map that the first uphill stretch is over and we have a couple miles of downhill before we climb again! It's kind of mind-blowing seeing an "Elevation 8000 feet" sign when you're running downhill! I lose a few minutes and the folks I've been pacing, waiting for the loo at the next aid stop. BTW, the volunteers were fantastic at this event - at this particular spot someone had even thought to bring hand sanitizer (which I totally forgot)! At one point I passed spectators wrapped in heavy coats and scarves and thought "is it really that cold"? Checked in with my skin and yes, it really was that cold; I was just generating too much heat for it to penetrate! All right, 9 miles, that's further than I've run before, and now we're heading uphill again. Summerhaven and the finish are in view, but wait - there's still two miles to go! Oh noes, they're directing us to the right, up the steepest hill yet, for a two mile turnaround! No kidding, this is climbing-out-of-the-Grand-Canyon steep, and my calves are bricks! "I object!" I say to fellow racers in Vail T-shirts, and they agree. They pass me on the slog up (*no-one* is running at this point), but I pass them on the way back down again because frankly my leg muscles can no longer resist gravity. Cowbells are ringing, people are cheering, and I blast across the finish line, high fives down the chute, and finally come to a stop against the Muscle Milk truck. Official time: 3:05:19, 285/380, 17/24 for my division.

Post-race:

The first full marathoner crosses the finish line eight minutes after me! Wow! Coolly, there are a couple monitors set up in the finish area, scrolling race results for the full and half. I wander in a daze for a bit after picking up my t-shirt and nifty terracotta medal, then clamber onto one of the busses heading down the mountain. It gets about a mile down the course before we have to sit and wait forever for the pilot car. All the passengers are in a great mood, though, cheering for the racers as they pass by and laughing at some of the chatter over the radio. We finally get the goahead and start down again. Holy cow, there's a marathoner with a knee brace and walking pole walking the damn thing! Finally back to the dropoff area at the high school. After sitting so long I stagger zombie-like off to my condo.

Post-mortem:

There is a single, two-lane road from the base of Mt.Lemmon to the ski village at the top. Closing off one lane, controlling traffic on the remaining lane, bussing racers to and from the start and finish, was a logistical nightmare that as might be expected for an inaugural event had some snafus. The only thing about this event that made me *facepalm* was that they cancelled the Sunday night awards dinner - and failed to notify the participants. It's a real shame, because for many people their last memory of a great day is standing around outside a restaurant griping.

Overall I had a great time and I'm so glad I chose this race for my first HM!

Note: This was originally posted in the 1/2 Marathon Trainers Race Results thread.

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