Featured Runner – Julie

Some people think we’re crazy for running long distances. Often times, we are not doing it for ourselves, but instead to support good causes. And sometimes we do other crazy things to support good causes.

 

In February, Julie ran a 5k to support the Special Olympics of Colorado. And then she took a Polar Plunge, jumping into a freezing pool at the Denver Zoo!

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Congratulations on your splash and your dash, Julie!

Julie 3 (February 25)

 

I am really enjoying my running journey to 40 races this year, but I’m also loving hearing the stories of so many men and women with amazing running stories of their own. One of those people is Libi, who ran the Snowball 5k in Virginia last weekend.

Libi is one tough lady! After losing some serious weight in 2016, she had the courage to sign up for her first half marathon, coming up in March. She intended to use the Snowball 5k as a training run, but just a couple of weeks before the race, Libi got pushed off the pavement and injured during a charity 2-miler. She continued to push through for a trail race the very next weekend, and wound up in the orthopedist’s office. By three days before the Snowball, she was in some serious pain, and contemplating dropping out of the race.

On race morning, the unseasonably warm 65-degree temperatures in Virginia beckoned her, and wearing two knee braces, Libi set off for the race, telling herself she’d even walk it if she needed to.

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Libi, showing off her hard-earned third place medal.

Libi not only ran the entire 5k, but she did an extra .5 mile (as a volunteer sent her in the wrong direction), and still placed third in her age group! Even more fantastic, all the pain in her knee is gone! And this is especially good news, because Libi is now less than one month away from the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon.

Congratulations on a great race, Libi, and good luck with your final weeks of half marathon training. You’re going to be great!

Bib #12 – Black Canyon 100k

Sprinters are drama queens. Have you ever seen a sprinter come in second and not throw themselves to the track in a fit of ridiculous, self-important sobs? Marathoners are more resilient. When Team USA’s Meb Keflezighi slipped and fell just inches from the finish line of the 2016 Rio Olympics, he did push-ups before getting back up. Marathoners are my people. Ultra-runners are also my people, with their combination of intense self-determination and a touch of laissez faire, so often mistaken for just plain crazy.

“Have you been hypothermic before?” The EMT asked me from his seat on the cafeteria bench next to the cot where I lay prone, covered in a wool blanket, two sleeping bags and a mylar runner’s blanket. “Not that I’m aware of,” I answer, honestly. This is not the first race I’ve finished with blue lips; it’s just the first one where I’ve been cornered by the EMTs, made to strip and lie down, attached to an oxygen tank and told if my blood ox levels don’t improve they’d have to send me by ambulance to the hospital.

An hour later, long after my lips had turned back to their naturally rosey hue (my body having responded well to the threat of hospitalization), I can hear Jeremy, a runner wrapped like a burrito on the cot by my toes, telling Lloyd the EMT that he’s fine to go home. The blurry spots in his vision are still there, but he thinks they’ll improve once he gets outside [into the pitch black of midnight with the sideways rain]. And Shelly, on the cot behind me who has her legs elevated after fainting in the bathroom, telling another EMT that, while she’s still a little nauseous, she’s sure it will subside over the 40 mile drive back to her AirBNB. We’d all completed the Black Canyon 100k, and in times fast enough to qualify us for the 2018 Western States Endurance Run lottery, my personal goal and reason for running the race. (Check out my live, start-line video from Mayer High School).

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Runners make final preparations while dry inside the Mayer High School cafeteria. Upon their departure, much of this location would be transformed into makeshift clinic for the bloodied (in addition to the typical skinned knees and shins, there were at least two bandaged face wounds that I saw) and the hypothermic.

It was a precarious race, even before it started. On Wednesday, Race Directors made the difficult decision to alter the original course, a point-to-point with four river crossings, to an out and back with no river crossings, due to potential flash-flooding in the area. This alteration would keep runners safe from the potentially raging Agua Fria River, but it would do nothing to shield us from the other effects of an Arizona desert downpour. 53 registered runners did not even start the race.

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Runners on the Mayer High School track starting line, already soaked in the walk from the cafeteria.

“Shoe-sucking mud” is neither a euphemism nor an exaggeration. I’ve run in it most recently at the 2016 Rut 50k in Montana, where race-day snow and sleet-storms forced organizers to cut nearly 6 miles off the alpine course, leaving 26.3 miles of muddy sludge resembling brownie batter.

But this was different. The mix of mud and clay not only had runners, early in the race, expending significant energy with every, sliding step, but the clay stuck to our shoes. For every 50 meters we managed to move forward, we were rewarded with a ring of clay around our soles like thick, heavy flippers, forcing us to beat our shoes against surrounding rocks to loose it.

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There is mud, and then there is this, less than 30 minutes into what is, for most, at least a 12-hour running day. (Courtesy of SweetMImages on Twitter)

By the time I reached the Antelope Mesa aid station — the first of 9 aid stations and just 7.3 miles into the race, I was already 10 minutes behind pace for the Western States Lottery cutoff. While I kept going, 19 others would drop at Antelope Mesa, 54 miles short of the finish line.

The day improved, as runners discovered the course beyond Antelope Mesa infinitely more runnable. By 11:30am, four and a half hours into the race, the rain stopped completely. Lowering my rain hood, I heard the quiet of the desert for the first time (rather than the monotonous swoosh swoosh of nylon against my ears), and took in the view from my previously-blocked peripheral vision. For the first time all morning, I thought the course might really be a nice one.

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Six hours of dry skies reveals the beauty of Arizona’s Black Canyon. (Courtesy of Aravaipa Running on Twitter)

The seven mile stretch between the Gloriana Mine aid station (number 4), and the Soap Creek Provisional aid station at the half-way point turn around was a long one. I’d made up the original time lost at the beginning of the race, but as my watch ticked nearer to my goal turn-around time, I began to once again become apprehensive about the prospect of finishing within the Western States lottery cutoff. Every corner and hilltop held the promise of the turn-around point. But my goal time passed, and I could still see neon runner raincoats far into the distance. By the time I checked in at Soap Creek, I was an hour behind schedule.

And I was hurting. I’d expended so much energy in the early miles, first in trying to gain purchase in the slick conditions, and then in inadvertently running hard to make up time. I was apparently not alone. By the time I checked in at Soap Creek, with 13 hours left until the race’s official end, 44 runners had dropped out.

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Runners are welcomed to the Bumble Bee aid station, which served both miles 19.1 and 42.2. (Courtesy of @jonchristley on Instagram)

The rain began again in earnest as I approached the Bumble Bee Back aid station at mile 42.2, with 19.1 miles to the finish. While still comfortable in my Geoduck Gallop Half Marathon long sleeved tech t-shirt and rain waterproof pullover, I used the opportunity to put on another layer — my North Face winter running jacket, underneath the pullover. Night would fall in the 6.7 miles to the next aid station, and I wanted to be prepared. In my preoccupation with remaining warm, however, I neglected the one item that was written on three copies of my race plan, highlighted in yellow — to take my headlamp with me before departing the aid station.

I was less than ten minutes beyond Bumble Bee when I realized my mistake, my audible “oh shit,” catching the attention of the man behind me, who I’d heard the aid station volunteer call “Stu” before we left. “What’s wrong?” He asked. “I forgot my headlamp at the aid station,” I said. In fact, my brother Stephen, acting as my crew for the race, had it in a bag he was carrying with him, and had departed for the car in the downpour immediately upon my walking away from the tent. While I was not too far away to go back to the aid station, my headlamp, I knew, was already gone.

I have never made such a potentially disastrous mid-race mistake in my life, and the following 6.7 miles played out as a mini-drama unto itself. Stu had an extra headlamp on him, his back-up, which he generously gave to me. He vowed he didn’t need it, but admitted that he wasn’t certain the lamp was waterproof; he thought it could possibly short out in the rain, and advised I try and wear it under my baseball-style running cap, as opposed to on the outside as most people do. While grateful for Stu’s generosity, I was still terrified of being caught in the dark without a light. I planned to just stick right behind him and draft off his waterproof headlamp when the time came. That is, until Stu announced he needed to make a bathroom stop. I had a choice: stand around and wait for a strange guy to pee against a cactus within eye-shot and potentially get cold in the process; or keep moving forward, relying on the non-waterproof headlamp. If I kept going, I knew I was likely to pull far enough away from Stu that he couldn’t catch me; but I was also far enough behind the next runner that I wouldn’t be able to catch and draft off him, unless I ran faster, expending energy I didn’t feel like I had, and convinced I would misstep and face plant in the process (a very real fear for ultra-runners on tired legs). In the end, my fear of getting cold outweighed my fear of being alone in the dark. Stu stopped, and I kept going.

Whether or not it was waterproof, the headlamp got me safely to the Hidden Treasure Mine aid station, where my brother was waiting. Still a little freaked out, I took not only my headlamp, but also my waist-mounted lamp which I’d brought as back-up. I would wear both for the remainder of the race, which I still thought I could complete within the Western States cutoff.

But this would be the last I would see of my brother. With nightfall upon the race and the rain still pouring down, Race Directors advised crew to abandon the aid stations entirely and go directly to the Mayer High School cafeteria and finish line. “The driving is really bad out there,” my brother told me. “I might not be at the last aid station.”

I could say the next 12.5 miles were a blur, but that’s not entirely true. I distinctly remember marching. Stomping, in fact, through ice-cold puddles as much as ankle deep, seeing nothing but the slop just feet in front of me. A couple of times the puddles reached across an entire jeep trail, and I heard someone off to my left utter, it’s a lake. (Video of this solemn march in the blackness was taken by runner @cierrecart on Instagram).

During this time, there was a fair bit of self talk, which for me comes in the form complementary, drill sergeant-like commands. You are strong, and this will only make you stronger! Not everyone can do this; but you can do this! You will not be weak! You are not in pain, you are resilient! And the chanting of names from my online running group, in a kind of Arya Stark reverse hit list. Channel Reggie, because she does funny race dances. And Julie, who is “growing and becoming.” Remember when Andy finally broke his 5k goal? Delia walks 3-5 mile blocks at a time and hashtags it #chunkingwithdelia. You are totally chunking with Delia right now. Ronald, Patrick and Gary are fast; be fast like them.  And Sal is my spirit animal because he ran 100 miles in one day all by himself. The other Andy is going to kill the Buffalo Marathon…

And delusion. I walked into the Antelope Mesa aid station, looked around, and found I was too cold to actually do anything there. I still had half a bottle of Gatorade and three small bars in my pack, enough fuel (though maybe not enough fluid) to last the final 7.3 back to the high school. Despite the fact it had taken 1 hour and 40 minutes to slog this stretch at race start, I decided it would take precisely 90 minutes on the way back, as the ensuing rainfall had diluted the clay significantly, and I no longer cared about trying to step in a “good” place.

In truth, I needed the trek to last no more than 90 minutes, at least mentally. I was so wet and so cold, I could think of nothing but the high school. I was also hungry and thirsty, but the thought of biting into another packaged bar made my stomach lurch, and pulling my water bottle out of my front pocket (where it rested for easy access) felt like a bridge too far. I routinely completed 90 minute training runs without food and water, surely I could walk 90 minutes without it, I thought.

After 60 minutes, I could see the High School lights in the distance, and I decided again that I would be there in another 30. When that time came, I found myself, along with 6 other runners shadowed by their headlamps, continuing through town on what would be an additional 30-minute journey. It took me 2 hours and 1 minute to travel that last 7.3 miles. I crossed the finish line at 11:01pm with a time of 16:01:12, and good enough for the Western States Lottery.

By 11:05, paramedics where stripping me of my clothes, fumbling with vest straps, lamp hooks and watch band as I tried to describe how they worked, but otherwise looked on, a little dumbfounded. “I’m sorry I’m not more help,” I said, repeatedly.

I was treated for symptoms of hypothermia and hypoxemia, making for a great story, but sounding far more dramatic than I feel like my race warranted. That’s another characteristic of ultra-runners: we have incredibly short memories. From her cot (between trips to the bathroom to throw up), Shelly talked about the 500-mile race across France she’s doing this summer. I told her about the 81-miler I’m doing in April. And while I’m wondering if I should lay off the cold-weather races for a little while, the truth is that I’ve been a victim of bad weather, more than bad race picking. The Black Canyon 100k was 90 degrees in 2016. Maybe I’ll come back next year and run it under normal conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

Bib #11 – My Better Half Marathon

The last time I ran in Seward Park, I was crying. I was 17 miles into the 2014 Seattle Marathon and, despite double-layered gloves and mittens, I’d lost the use of my fingers to Raynaud’s Syndrome, a disease causing the blood vessels inside the fingers to close in cold temperatures and stress, rendering my hands virtually useless. While you don’t technically need your hands to run a marathon, it’s awfully hard to take in fuel or water without them, hence the frigid, painful crying at mile 17.

Today was different, and not just because I’d since discovered the joy of hand warmers stuffed inside my gloves. My Better Half Marathon is a 5k, 10k and half marathon event drawing teams of two in the Lovers, Besties and Bromance divisions, as well as solo runners in the Lonely Hearts Club division. More significantly for me, it was my second half marathon in as many days. (Check out my live, start-line video!)

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Mt. Rainier, rising more than 14,000 feet in the distance signaled a clear day for runners in Seward Park.

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5k, 10k and half marathon racers ready to go in a sea of red, in honor of Valentine’s Day later this week.

I have run longer on consecutive days before. There were the back-to-back marathons I’d completed in Utah and Wyoming in 2015 to earn admission to the Marathon Maniacs, the 6-day, 120 mile stage race across the Colorado Rockies, the half and full I’d completed during Disney’s Dopey Challenge earlier this year, as well as numerous training runs totaling well above 26.2 miles over two days. It was not two half marathons that felt remarkable to me; it was the fact that they didn’t feel remarkable.

I don’t know when, precisely, this happened. I remember the first time I ran on two consecutive days. It was August of 2011. After a handful of half marathons over several years, which I’d trained for by running 3 miles on Wednesdays and a “long run” on Saturday progressing up to 12 miles, I’d decided I wanted to get faster. I signed up for the Runner’s World Half Marathon in October and bought my first training plan, which called for 4 days a week of running over twelve weeks. An unfathomable four days of running. I ran 3 miles and 4 miles on the first Tuesday and Wednesday; a total of 12 miles by the end of the first week. The persistent leg and glute pain didn’t subside until I got to week 4. But on race day, I shaved more than 5 minutes of my personal record. I’ve not run less than 4 days per week since.

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Me and Runner’s World Editor (and 1968 Boston Marathon winner), Amby Burfoot, after my first Runner’s World Half Marathon personal record in 2011. I’ve run the race every year since, and the course is the site of my current half marathon PR, set in 2014.

Much has changed in the years since that first back-to-back run. I became a wife and a marathoner. I moved from the east coast to the west coast. And then I became an ultra-marathoner. With race tattoos (plural).

In 2015 I added a fifth day of running to my training plan and, in 2016, a sixth day. This weekend’s back-to-back half marathons were the races punctuating my taper for next weekend’s 100k, where I hope to qualify for the 2018 Western States Endurance Run lottery.

But I still cry at races sometimes when I’m really cold and can’t feel my fingers. More often, though, I cry because I am so happy, and I’m reminded how remarkable runners are. And how proud I am to be one.

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One more medal for the collection.

Bib #10 – Green River Half Marathon

When you run enough races, you learn to anticipate the crowd and the atmosphere based on the web sign-up alone. Rotating photo-banners with multiple tabs and pages tend to be large races, with high-quality t-shirts and well-crafted medals where you can expect a post-race smorgasbord and, if you’re really lucky, beer. Less sophisticated sites usually mean less aid, but a often a friendlier, more low key crowd in attendance; people indifferent to the trappings of “big race” flash. The website for the Green River Half Marathon is sparse, to say the least. Some of the links didn’t work. Registering involved sending an email to the Race Director with my name, address and date of birth, and bringing a $20 suggested donation for Northwest Harvest, a local food bank. This wasn’t a race; it was a group run. (Check out my live start line video here!)

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The Race Director provides final instructions at the “start line.”

In races like this, it’s not uncommon for participants to run in groups of two, three or more, happily acknowledging others they are passing, or who are passing them. If a high school hallway was a blissful, judgment-free utopia, it would be a run like this.

I came up on Tyler around Mile 3. A fellow member of the online running group, Run The Year, he recognized me from posts on the site. Strangers less than an hour before, Tyler and I spent the next 10 miles together, regaling one another with race stories. On April 30, Tyler will run his 100th half marathon in just five years, reminding me there are amazing people achieving amazing goals everywhere.

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Me and Tyler, post-race.

There were no mylar wraps or tables of bagels and bananas at the finish; just a handful of dedicated volunteers, a jug of Gatorade, and someone blowing a train whistle. And plastic medals, leftover from the Race Director’s signature marathon last June for those who wanted one. “Sure!” I said, happily bending over so the volunteer could place the medal over my head. I don’t need any more medals, but I got a kick out of receiving a 2016 marathon medal for finishing a 2017 half marathon. In fact, the race ribbon says “5k” on it.

There are people for whom this kind of race is not worth getting out of bed. I am not one of those people.

“Is there a race up there?” I asked the woman running down the steep, grassy patch cutting the corner on the intersection between Lake Washington Boulevard and Interlaken Boulevard. “Um, yes,” she responded. “You go up and across 24th. You have to cross back over 24th.”

I said, “thank you,” but what I meant was a four letter word, starting with F. I looked at my watch. This race was starting in five minutes, and I couldn’t find the start line.

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The elusive start line. The Interlaken Icicle Dash is the last race in the Northwest Trail Runs Winter Trail Series. Nevertheless, Seattle saw four inches of snow the following morning, knocking out power to 90,000 around Puget Sound. It turns out the rabbit is no smarter than the groundhog.

Just 2.5 miles from my house, the Interlaken Icicle Dash 10k offered a chance to run close to home, on a course with which I was familiar. The road portion of this course is on one of my regular long running routes. It has undulating hills, under a canopy of moss-covered trees. It feels damp and lush all year round. But when I left my house, intending a slow, 2.5 mile jog to the start, I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly sure where the start line was. When I hit 2 miles I thought I’d begin to see parked cars. At 2.5 miles I made the poor decision to keep running straight when I didn’t the race to my right, as I thought I would. At 3 miles, I ran into the woman who pointed me in the right direction — .25 miles up a hill with 6% grade and across a busy street — another .5 miles away and back towards the way I’d just come. F.

The race clock clicked to 2:02 when I finally crossed the start line. I’d arrived at the bib tent with seconds to spare, but by then I had to go to the bathroom so badly it didn’t matter. Unlike larger road races, smaller runs are not chip-timed. Everybody’s clock starts in time with the official race clock. My finish time would reflect this additional 2:02 during which I’d been relieving myself in the porta-potty.

The race, a 5k and 10k, featured multiple, 1.5 mile loops through Interlaken Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. While the paved portions are wide enough for cars to pass in either direction, the trail portions are narrow, and include stretches of what is known as “single track,” narrow footpaths un-runnable on either side. This means if you get caught behind someone slower than you, it is impossible to go around them. You need to wait until a widening in the trail, or at least a safe spot where they can step off to the side for you to continue through. Golfers yell Fore! when they’ve hit a ball into another path. Trail runners give a friendly yet stern, On your left! In other words, starting a trail race two minutes behind the entire field is not a test of endurance to catch up; it’s a test of patience to go slow.

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The first major climb on the course, 1.5 miles in. Still well behind runners at my preferred pace, I’m forced to stand in a long line of runners waiting to ascend. I snapped a few photos to pass the time.

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The official race photographer catches me skipping the stairs in favor of the downhill slope where I can run faster, passing more people. As I assured my husband, “legal” in a trial race.

I was 2.5 miles into my race when I finally reached those at my pace, and continued the race unencumbered.

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Inside the last mile, and running with “my people.”

Given the slow start, and the +2:02 I mentally removed from my official time (oh, and that I ran a half marathon yesterday), I thought my finish wasn’t all that bad. In fact, the official results would show that I finished 20th out of 40 women in the 10k. And had I completed 2:02 faster, I would have been … 20th. (Check out my live finish line report here!)

I made the short, happy jog back to my house.

 

 

The Flying Pig. The Heartbreaker Half. The Wattle Waddle. Grandma’s. The Zoom Ya Ya. The Quad Dipsea… Sure, plenty of runners race the “New York City Marathon,” but even more run races with names that have no discernible connection to, well, English sometimes.

The Geoduck Gallop. Pronounced “Gooey Duck,” for the uninitiated. 13.1 miles around the Evergreen State College campus in Olympia, Washington. And home of Speedy, the Geoduck. (Check out my live start line report here!)

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Me and Speedy the Geoduck, post-race.

Despite this mascot caricature, geoducks look less like adorable snails, and more like radioactive phallic clams. Or something.  The Geoduck is the world’s largest burrowing clam (fun fact), and is named after the native Lushootseed tribe’s word for “dig deep,” a feature that made it attractive to administrators when searching for a mascot, according to the Evergreen State website.

It is a symbol of the essence of the college: accessible to all who are willing to dig deep. – Evergreen State College website

Kind of like a race bib.

I am so excited to have the opportunity to share the experiences of others running “with me” virtually on my quest to complete 40 races in 2017 for my 40th birthday. One of those amazing runners is Stephanie who, over the weekend, completed the Frost or Fog 10 mile trail run in Chico, California. Make sure to check out Stephanie’s full race recap at her blog, Run Strong Run!

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Stephanie, ready to go at what looks to be a less frosty and more foggy race start.

There are two kinds of distance runs out there – road and trail. And, no disrespect to the road runners (I am proud to be one), but trail running is where the wild things live! So to use a trail run in January to test year-over-year fitness gains says something about how strong and determined Stephanie is.

One of my favorite January races is the Frost or Fog trail run located in Upper Bidwell Park in Chico, California.  It is a fantastic race to help show me my level of fitness at the start of a new calendar year. – Stephanie

Accompanied by her friends, Stephanie took on the hilly, wet course. Check out her YouTube video of the run!

As for the course, it was once again a challenging course for someone who doesn’t run trails very often nor does hill repeats very often.  I looked up our elevation gain and it was only 585 feet.  It definitely did not feel like only 585 feet!  My heart rate topped out at 196 beats per minute! – Stephanie

While she didn’t set a personal record, Stephanie had a great race, as evidenced by the on-trail photos and post-race shenanigans!

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Thank you to Stephanie for her fantastic race recap, and for running “with me” for my birthday!

 

 

 

“Beat Bekele!” Sam, a member of my online running group, Run the Year, wrote me just before race start (check out my live start-line broadcast). Sam was referring to Kenenisa Bekele, the elite Ethopian runner  who was making a very public attempt at the World Record – 2:02:57 – at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. I laughed, knowing I wouldn’t yet be at the 21k split, the race’s half-way point, in 2:02. It never occurred to me that, when the race was over, I actually would have beaten Bekele.

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10,000 runners ready at the 6:30am start.

The Marathon course is an out and back. Runners exit the start and make a left onto Al Sufouh road and after approximately 5k, turn around and run back the way they came to 26k, and turn back around again. That means I would have two chances to see Bekele running at me as he made his epic run at history.

The lead men’s pack first passed when I was around 2.5 miles, already a full three miles ahead. Elite runners, effortlessly moving together at a sub-five minute pace, are breathtaking. And, while I couldn’t pick Bekele out of the pack, I looked forward to seeing him again in another 10 miles, where I hoped he would be leading.

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The men’s elite field just beyond their five-mile mark. I have a clear photo, but this one more accurately expresses the feeling of watching them pass. Runners on my side of the street, three miles behind the elites, actually stopped our races, standing on the grassy median to watch what most of us hoped would be history in the making.

In fact, Bekele never led. When the race’s eventual winner, Tamirat Tola, came by me at my 10.65 mile mark with, as it turned out, just 19-minutes left to go, I didn’t know who he was. I just knew he wasn’t Bekele.

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The lone lead runner, Tamirat Tola, with approximately 20 minutes left to go in his race. He would go on to set both a personal record and a course record at 2:04:11.

I wouldn’t learn until my race was over that Bekele actually dropped out around 21k. I watched the video of him falling at the start, where he’d gotten tangled up in the other runners, hurting his elbow and calf. In that fall is the intersection between elite, professional runners like Bekele and the rest of us. How many times do we make big race plans for ourselves, and at what point do we give them up?

My Dubai race plan was simple – have fun and don’t worry about the clock. After three consecutive days of racing in Walt Disney World, I’d almost hit a marathon PR myself on day number four, and that was just twelve days ago. Like Disney, Dubai was not an “A race” for me. Rather, it was a training run along the way to the Black Canyon 100k, just one month away. I expected to finish in 4:30-4:45, an “easy” pace with photo stops.

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The first turn around near the 5k point.

I have been running long enough now to be able to accurately estimate my speed and adjust accordingly without looking at my Garmin (although I wear it), a feat facilitated by the fact that there were kilometer markers on the course, but no time clocks. So while I knew I was running faster than a 4:30 pace (10:20 per mile), I also expected to naturally slow some as the race wore on. Early-race excitement is a trap for inexperienced marathoners – those that think they feel good at 10k or the half and continue to push, only to have the wheels fall off at 18 or 20 because they’d been running too fast the whole time.

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The light played tricks during the sun’s first appearance above the horizon. It would disappear behind cloud-cover for nearly another hour, before appearing for good, high in the sky, raising the temperatures to around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees C)

I knew this “excited” feeling well, and told myself, not for the last time, to slow down.

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Runners pass by one of the city’s architectural landmarks, the Burj al-Arab, the fourth tallest hotel in the world.

I looked at my watch for the first time at the 21k split, the half-way point, and did some quick math. I had been running faster than intended and was on PR pace, but barely. To actually finish with a record, I couldn’t slow down at all for the next 13.1 miles, an incredibly difficult task in the marathon. I was not optimistic, nor did I particularly want to turn this “fun run” into a race.

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One of many mosques passed along the route, most with groups of men or women in traditional dress politely clapping for marathoners outside. For such a public course, there was little crowd support, and much of it from foreigners cheering on family members. In the background, the downtown Dubai cityscape, including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, immediately to the right, standing at 2,722 feet (829 meters).

Rather, I continued to run at a pace that “felt good,” telling myself that I would check again at 32k, the 20-mile marker. In the meantime, I began picking out and picking off runners – finding someone in the distance who looked as though they were running slower than me, and then passing them, a mind game many runners play to entertain themselves during races.

At 32k, the place where many marathoners will tell you the race actually begins, I checked my Garmin again. My legs hurt. I was tired, having been in Dubai less than 48-hours and my body still believing itself back in Seattle where it was approaching 10:00pm, well passed my bedtime. If I sped up, not an unreasonable amount this late in the race, but enough, I could set a personal record. On the 7th race day, I thought in my head, triumphantly, I set a marathon PR. I sped up.

After the race, Bekele said of his DNF (Did Not Finish, an official race designation), “I like to think of many scenarios, but [falling at the start] was definitely not one of them! See you in London in April!” Or, in layman’s parlance, “It is my job to come out here and win races. It’s not smart to continue to push, risking further injury, when there is no longer a clear up-side. I have a bigger agenda.”

At 37k, mile 23, I abandoned my short-lived PR quest. I’d not sped up enough over the preceding 3 miles, and now needed to run my fastest 3 miles of the day to finish with a record. Still not completely out of reach, but certainly not in alignment with my bigger agenda – doing well at Black Canyon next month.

I finished Dubai in 4:18:31, slower than my PR BY 4 minutes and 52 seconds, 1:37 behind my Disney time and my third-fastest marathon ever. Well ahead of “plan.”

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Race #7 finished, and in front of Kenenisa Bekele.

I see a tired runner in this photo; missing the spark and some of the post-race high. But I also see a runner who is fit to race another day which, with 33 races left in 2017, is the bigger agenda.

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Bib #6 – Magnuson Series 15k

Damn, I thought, as he flew passed me on the right during one of the trail’s brief straightaways. What is it, like four and a half miles? I looked down at my Garmin: 4.68. I got lapped.

I’ve run the race series at Magnuson Park in Seattle several times. A 3.1 mile (5k) loop course, runners can sign up for the 5k, 10k or 15k distance. I have a course PR from last March — a personal record in the 15k against which I can measure every run there. It’s a way, objectively, to tracks my progress or how I’m feeling on any given day, whether or not I want to.

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Just one mile into my commute to race start, the day was promising to be a beautiful one.

Saturday’s race was meant to be one part of a 15-mile training run, which I fulfilled by run-walking the six miles from my house to the race start. I am into the final four weeks of training for the Black Canyon 100k on February 18, one of two “big” races I have planned for the first half of 2017. Just six days off of a near-PR at the Walt Disney World Marathon, the fourth in four consecutive days of racing, my legs were fatigued. But running on tired legs is a key component of ultra training so, all things considered, I was fine with taking the 15k at Magnuson slow and easy. (Check out my live, start-line broadcast).

Until I got lapped by the eventual men’s winner at just 4.68 miles. And the second place finisher just shy of 6 miles. I’ve run this race four times previously and never been lapped by anyone, never mind two people in the same race.

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On a clear day like Saturday, you can see Mt. Rainier across Lake Washington from the start/finish line at Magnuson Park.

I finished the race more than 9 minutes slower than my personal record, approximately 1 minute per mile. I faltered when a very nice man and his daughter, rested after their own 15k finish, asked me how I did. Upon realizing far too many words were coming out of my mouth to answer such a simple question, I defaulted to, “but it’s a beautiful day. How was your run?” They had a great race, they said. “Awesome,” I responded, and I meant it. I accomplished exactly what I set out to accomplish. Getting lapped didn’t change my race, it only made it more memorable.