Nicole, Gail and Me Before the Start of the RaceMy Lovely Wife and I Prior to the Big Race
The run started at 8:00 am sharp at the Treherne Community Club and the weather was perfect for running, not to hot and partly cloudy. It was definitely a good day for a run. I did get some looks as I headed in and out of the community centre, not sure why, could of been the kilt, could of been the VFF's (I like to leave the shoes on till just before the race for the dramatics bom ba da da). I will say I was a little surprised I only had 2 or 3 people come up to me and ask me about the kilt, I was actually expecting a little more. I think Nicole got more questions and comments about her VFF's, which she always answers with a smile.
I want to do this report a little differently this time, expanding on the emotions listed above, it might give you a view inside my head, not like I need another voice in there (just had to include that from Gail's last post about the shirt from Queen City Marathon, makes me laugh every time), as I worked thru the marathon.
This one is easy, I have been looking forward to this run for about 4 weeks, and we were finally on our way driving down the highway from Winnipeg towards Treherne. Gail was driving, I was in the passenger seat, and Nicole was tucked away in the backseat. Nicole and I knew this was going to be a good day for a run due to the following reason, earlier in the morning after packing the kids in the van and heading over to Gail's house, 'Run to the Hills', by Iron Maiden came onto the radio as I started up the car. Nicole caught the irony right away, I was singing along, and it took Nicole to point out what I was singing. This was definitely going to be a good day.
The hour drive out seemed to take forever, but we made it by 7:15 am, enough time to wander around a bit. When we got to Treherne, we were directed to the run location by numerous locals at every corner pointing the way to ensure no one got lost (seems hard to imagine in a town of under 700, but I guess its possible). We got to park about 200 yards from the start/finish line, this was interesting to see this as we pulled up. I could not wait to start the run.
I am finding that this happens to me every run, I get those little thoughts in my head, like '26.2 miles, your going to run that, are you crazy', and 'your knees are not going to hold up, why are you doing this to me?' and my favourite 'you could just pull up a lawn chair, have a beer and watch all the crazy people run!'. This is where I think, well I am one of the crazy ones and I don't want to be left behind. Butterflies in the stomach seems to be a common thing for me at these runs, but I find if I get myself lined up to start, and once I cross the start line at the start of the run I am fine, but I have to remind myself not to go out to fast. The nervous energy always seems to propel me to go to fast at the start, which causes me problems later down the road. I was determined not to let that happen this time. So to help curb the nervous energy, I decided I was going to start this run barefoot, to make me concentrate a little more and hopefully pace myself (did I mention that the majority of this run is on gravel/dirt roads).
The 'Start' warning call was made, and the 70 or so full marathoners lined up ready to go, with Nicole, Gail and myself lined up towards the back as per usual. The official start was called and we were off, we started south from the community club on a dirt road out to the asphalt street, and did a quick tour of the town prior to heading out onto the dirt roads. My feet were responding well to everything that was thrown in front of them for terrain, and the dirt roads were in awesome shape with some good tracks and not to many sharp stones. I had a lot of interest in my barefoot running once I caught up to the back half of the half marathoner's, and struck up quite a few conversations along the way until they cut off of our route. The kilt came up (no pun intended) a few times as well. I was quite happy with my progress, I maintained a 9:00 minute mile thru town, but slowed down to a acceptable 11:00 mile once I hit the dirt roads. I was able to carry this for the first 10 miles or so, slowing down when I hit a hill (I am actually faster going up then going down, which I find interesting) climb and descent to about a 13:00 min mile. I used the hills to pass numerous runners that were walking up them, I think this shocked a few people as a guy with no shoes and a kilt raced by them on a hill climb.
I was so happy with my feet, they felt great, and my confidence sky rocketed and the determination kicked in. It became my goal at that point to not only finish the marathon, but finish it barefoot. It would be the longest run I have done barefoot, as my previously best was 16.0 miles, and that being on a mix of terrain but mostly concrete sidewalk (this was dirt/gravel road).
I will say it was kind of a weird feeling as I approached the point where the half marathoners split off from the marathoners (this was about mile 10). I was running with a group of about 30 to 40 runners and then I headed south, and Everybody else kept going straight. Wow, suddenly I was alone, I could see another marathoner way off in the distance, but it wasn't to long before they were gone too. Boy they are right when they said it is a lonely feeling to be a marathoner, but this made me more determined to push on, but it was honestly harder to gauge my progress and my pace even with the garmin not having some fellow competitors to run with.
A Little Bit of Embarrassment
I can only start this section like this, IT WAS VERY WINDY, I had a hard time keeping my kilt down as I ran along the course (of course it was not a wind that blew in one direction only, it changed directions frequently). For the first little while, I was running with one arm arm holding my kilt down, this obviously impeded my speed, as I was unwilling to give everybody around me a free show, considering I was running 'au natural' under the kilt (what can I say I am Scottish). Once I broke off from the pack, it appeared that the wind died down so I was able to go back to a typical running gait with both arms pumping in time with my legs, this of course allowed me to increase my speed. This of course worked great until I reached mile 13.1 thru mile 16.0, here we were on a wide open prairie road and the wind was absolutely crazy. I had to concentrate a little more on my feet placement because the road was getting rather rough in areas and some pretty nasty stones and rocks kept appearing. Because of this, one good gust of wind hit me at just the right moment, and my kilt lifted up, and I swear it was around my neck. I pushed it down quickly and took a quick peek around to see if anybody by chance saw my 'peekaboo I see you' imitation, and I was quite glad that it appeared that no one did. This brought me back to holding onto my kilt a little more often (I must find a way to deal with this on those very windy days), for the duration of the race.
As the saying goes, "No Pain No Gain", well normally I am a big believer in this statement, but on this day, I hit my limit and on a surface I was not expecting. After running, I would say 14.0 plus miles mostly on dirt and gravel roads and my feet felt as great as they did, and seeing the asphalt road ahead, it was no wonder I was smiling as much as I was. Boy, that was a mistake, I hit the road with a vengeance expecting to be able to fly over the asphalt with not having to pay as close of attention to miss all the rocks. Well let me tell you, the first 20 yards was ok, then I hit the unexpected, the asphalt was in such bad shape it felt like I was running on a cheese grater, serrated side up. I danced around the asphalt trying to find a good line that was not all broken and jagged, moving from the right side to close to the middle (did I mention this was a secondary highway and I did see some traffic along the way). To top the bad surface off, the wind started howling again, and it almost felt like I was going farther backwards then forwards, as I expelled a whole lot of energy trying to maintain a decent pace while trying to hold my kilt down. This stretch was about 2 miles and I was thankful when I saw the next water station and the restart of the gravel road. My feet were more soar then when I ran on the fresh gravel previously. I stopped at the water station, grabbed a water, answered a couple questions about the kilt and the no shoes, then started down the gravel road, with a sigh of relief for the moment.
So lets see, I finished 16.0 miles barefoot as I set forth on the start of the second leg of gravel road (this being more gravel than dirt), and now the bottom of feet felt like one big bruise (two if you count both feet). I made it down the road about a 1/4 of a mile, dancing around and not having much luck, even the small stones that I normally glide over with no issue, felt like daggers in the souls of my feet. Disappointment set in as my thoughts of finishing the entire 26.2 barefoot curl up the chimney like a puff of smoke (and then they were gone). At this point I was wrestling with the possibility of putting the VFF's on and decided it might be for the best. So I came to a stop and tried to put a shoe on, imagine someone hopping around off balance on one foot trying to slip a slightly swollen foot into a shoe, while trying to keep the kilt from blowing up and exposing more to the world then I wanted too. At this point Gail caught up to me, so needless to say, being a little embarrassed I gave up trying to get the shoe on, and decided to carry on barefoot a little longer. I started running again, dodging the rocks as best I could for the next 1/4 mile, but not very quickly, in fact Gail was leaving me in the dust, and Nicole was gaining on me quite quickly. At this pace, I was getting nowhere, so with a final sigh of defeat, I kneeled down and started to get my shoes on, it took a little bit but finally success, they were on. With that I was off and running again, you would be surprised with the difference that that little bit of rubber between your feet and the ground makes protection wise. I was able to pick up my speed again to a modest 11:30 mile, sore feet, near exhaustion and all. I know I should not be too disappointed, as I did run 16.5 miles barefoot, and not to many people can say they have achieved that, so I did sneak a smile or two along the way.
Not only was the distance a source of exhaustion, but the wind was causing havoc with the progress that I was making. I was expelling more energy than I was expecting as I hit a gust of wind head on more times than not. It was definitely challenging, and any thoughts of completing this run under 5 hours had just gone out the window, I just wanted to finish as strong as possible. I will admit, some doubts did start to cross my mind, as the exhaustion started to set in, but I decided I was going to push thru it and give everything I had, until I could not go anymore. I decided that I would start to walk up the hills to save some energy and use the momentum of the run down to propel me further. This seemed to work, I was able to push myself further ahead by doing this, another mind game I started as well was to break the run into 2 mile increments (from water station to water station), this seemed to work as well, as the exhaustion was there but it became manageable as I started to break the race into pieces and focus on the small piece rather than the sum of all the remaining pieces. I think I had found my second, third and possibly my fourth wind, and my legs started to move not as fast as at the start but they were still moving. This carried me thru to the 24.0 mile water station (that and 3 Gu's, and some encouraging words and comments from the volunteers throughout).
Some More Grit
By the time I hit mile 25.7 and the last water station (yes they had the last water station at the edge of town), I was almost spent, but with some last words of encouragement from the volunteers, I dug down deep and picked up my pace as I hit the town's asphalt roads. I was determined to use every little bit of grit I had left to finish this race running as fast as my tired legs could carry me. Rounding corners and running up the residential streets as quickly as I could until I saw a curious sight, two direction arrows together going in different directions, not completely sure what it meant (was I to go around the first sign before turning in towards the finish line?). All that was going thru my head was a HHH reference, as I thought, damn it if I am going to shortcut this, so I wheeled around the sign pointing in the wrong direction and headed into the community centre entrance area. By this point, my legs were really starting to feel heavy, but I dug down and ran straight for the path to the finish line.
As I saw the finish line, Gail came sprinting out to get a picture of me as I worked my way to the finish line, I lifted my arms in mock premature celebration prior to her snapping the picture. I was just focusing on the finish line, as Gail yelled something about a beer and beer fairies and at the time it did not register, just the sight of the finish line. As I drew nearer to the end, the announcer called out my name (and got it right) and added the fact that I was wearing a kilt. I was elated with emotion and exhaustion as I gave him the thumbs up and crossed the finish line in 5 hours 25 minutes and 54 seconds plus or minus (now I have a PB to improve on), not the time I was hoping for but I finished and now I can say I am one of the few who has ran and completed a marathon.Me as I approached the Finish Line and Yes I am Still Smiling
Nicole as she sprinted to the finish line to complete her 3rd marathon
Ecstatic From Achieving The Ultimate Goal
All I can say is 'Woot Woot!' I did it. Now I can focus on the next goal for next month completing a 50 km trail ultra marathon at Vulture Bait. But I am high on life at this point and will not forget this race anytime soon. It was a whole lot of fun, and I will be back again next year.
Kudos to all the volunteers from the start of the race, to all the water and aid stations, thru to the volunteers at the end. Also a big thanks to our beer fairies (Glenn and Jamie), who shared a cold one with us at the end, we look forward to providing the refreshments next year.
And a big kudos to Gail for finishing her first marathon as well (and kicking my ass to boot), you were one of the driving forces to helping me finish this goal. But the biggest kudos goes to my wife Nicole, who not only finished her 3rd marathon after signing up 4 days prior, but also accomplished a PB by more than 5 minutes, she never ceases to amaze me with her strength and perseverance in all that she does.