I am a 50-state marathon finisher!
There is a reason that South Dakota was the last state of my 50-state journey: (1) nearly impossible to get to; (2) elevation, elevation & elevation; and (3) elevation.
This has been an incredible journey, but I can guarantee you one thing…that I will never, ever run another race in elevation. As I continue to run races (no, I’m not going to quit running marathons…), there are three crappy conditions that I will avoid at all costs going forward. They are:
- Crappy condition #1: A race with altitude over 2,000 feet? Not for me.
- Crappy condition #2: A race with temperatures below 25 degrees? Not for me.
- Crappy condition #3: A race with temperatures above 80 degrees and humidity above 70%? Also, not for me.
The past year of finishing out running a marathon in my remaining states has been really difficult. Almost every single race had one of the three crappy conditions. Let’s recount the suckiness:
- 7/28/18: Revel Mount Hood in Oregon – Crappy condition #1: Elevation from 5,620 down to 862. Couldn’t walk for a week. For reals. I didn’t need Oregon, I just needed a July race and this was just a bad decision. Nish will remind me of that next year when I’m trying to find a July race and it’s slim pickings. I actually had to skip my September race becasue I needed more healing time from this bad decision of a down hill free-fall.
- 6/24/2018: Kona Marathon – Crappy condition #3: 87 degrees at the finish. There was even the addition of another crappy condition not listed above. Wind @ 30+ MPH. Who knew that Hawaii was so freaking windy? While I snailed through this in 6+ hours, it actually felt faster becasue I knew going in that it was going to suck and be sucky and slow. The wind was so loud and strong, I couldn’t even hear my music from the earbuds in my ears (YIKES).
- 6/9/2018: Hatfield & McCoy Marathon – Crappy condition #3: 85 degrees at the finish with 90% humidity. Like, this was a race where I had such a hard time breathing in the heat and humidity, I needed an inhailer. Trying to run the last 10 miles of this race was completely out of the question, so I ended up walking. When you walk a race that you’re trained to run, you actually hurt your legs more than if you were running. I was broken after this.
- 4/16/2018: The Boston Marathon – Where do I begin? I still have PTSD from the hpothermic windy and rainy conditions…but I’m going back this year (more to come on that…).
- 2/28/2018: Ft. Lauderdale Marathon – Crappy condition #3: 88 degrees at the finish. Baking in the sun and pruned from the humidity, it was my second worst time of all. Florida sounds like a good idea for a race in February, but when you’re already conditioned to 32 degrees, 87 degrees is just a bad idea. I have completely rethought my ‘chasing warm weather races’ strategy becasue of this.
- 1/14/2018: Bermuda Marathon – Crappy condition #3: 85 degrees at the finish. When I finished the first loop, I was booking this in my head for next year. When I did the second loop in the extreme heat, by myself, and fighting for my life in terrifying traffic on a busy road with no shoulder, I was done.. I even got lost. Brutal.
To this point, Run Crazy Horse Marathon was my 9th marathon for 2018, and 6 of them have sucked. The few marathons I ran in between these sucky races have been slow and hard becasue I have become so used to slow and sucky. I still cannot believe that in four-year’s time, I have run a marathon in all 50 states. I know that perfect conditions cannot be guaranteed, but running in shitty conditions over-and-over again–by CHOICE–definitely takes a certain kind of person. If I ever have enough guts to get a tattoo–and this came to me during this race when it was below freezing and sleet was pelting on my face–it would be the word GRIT. It was mile 22, and I was so cold from the wind, freezing temperatures, snow and sleet, that I was starting to shiver. I knew that I needed to run to keep warm, but with the elevation, I couldn’t breath. When you can’t breath, you can’t run (imagine that), so I ended up walking…yet again. I was all by myself and I just kept thinking to myself, “ugh, you did this to yourself; no one feels sorry for you; you’re almost done; just suck-it up; just get this done; no one wants to hear your sob-story; just grit your teeth and get this done; you never have to choose to run in elevation again.” I also said f*ck outloud a few times. It felt good. Four years ago, running 50 marathons seemed impossible. I now know that it definitely takes a special kind of dig-deep to be able to do something over-and-over again when you know it’s going to suck. Enjoyment of torture or character-building in getting it done? Maybe both, but running marathons over and over again is definitely my choice. This I know. The mental challenge…the GRIT…is doing it…knowing breathing is going to be an issue becasue there’s no oxygen or it’s too humid…knowing it is going to be freezing and running in cold when your wet from sweat is suckier…knowing it is going to be sweltering hot and humid…knowing it is going to be pouring rain and chafe–and the scream when the shower water hits your chafe after–is inevitable…knowing it is going to be snowing or sleeting…knowing the elevation gain would feel like climbing a mountain or an elevation drop so drastic, walking for a week would be hard…knowing it is going to be so windy that running sideways would be the stride for the day…and finally, knowing that with any one of these elements, there is no way I was running 26.2 miles in less than 5 hours (sad face). THAT was my mental drain, and it took grit for me to be able to accept ALL of this and keep going. These factors were present in almost every race, but I learned that the hardest challenge for me is not muscling through the sucky conditions, it was knowing that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t getting it done in a time that I felt good about. My finish times were depressing this year, and to be honest, the slow and shitty finish times drained me. There have been tears, ask Nish.
It will take a little work, but my goals are simple: (1) keep running races until I can’t; (2) focus on choosing races with conditions that are manageale to get back to times I feel good about. Days of a sub-four hour marathon are far gone with how little time I have to focus on training, and let’s be honest, my age. I’ve been marathoning for almost FOURTEEN years. I am looking foward to just getting back to the good ol’ days where I was dissapointed with a 4:40 (LOL). I can’t wait to run the whole time and feel accomplished becasue I didn’t walk. I’m going to keep on going–hopefully get to 100 marathons before my next, ahem, “milestone birthday.”
Regardless, I did it. I finished a marathon in all 50 states. I used to say, “I’m RUNNING a marathon in every state,” now I get to say, “I’ve RUN a marathon in every state.” It’s pretty freaking cool.