Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mammoth Half marathon

June 22, 2014, Mammoth Lakes, CA

For my 50th half marathon, I wanted to find a race that would be challenging, yet have a great course. I picked a good one, as Mammoth Half Marathon fit both those wish list items. Aidan and I flew into San Francisco on the Thursday before the race. My mom met us near baggage pickup and waited with us while we searched in vain for our suitcase. Once again (second year in a row!), the airline had misplaced out checked luggage. Thankfully, I had packed my running shoes and race gear in my carryon. Otherwise, I would have been super upset! We filled out the necessary paper-work and then headed out. I knew getting our bag this year would be a pain, as we were not going directly to my mom’s house, but going to Mammoth Lakes, 5.5 hours away, first. We left the airport, stopped a couple of hours later for lunch, and then at a Target to pick up a change of clothing and supplies, before continuing on our journey. A couple of wrong turns and a total of 8 hours later, we finally pulled into the parking lot of the condo in Mammoth Lakes.  Friday, we spent a fun day at Mammoth Mountain, walking the trails and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Saturday, I met up with Kathy at the expo. We met Deena Kastor, who was going to lead the 1:45 pace group during the race Sunday. This was my goal pace! I was really excited, even though I wasn’t sure how the very high (9,000 feet) altitude would affect me. Deena talked race strategy and said the altitude might not affect me. Kathy and I hung out for a bit, before I headed back to the condo. Later, Aidan and my mom and I went for a drive up the mountain to where the race would start. Beautiful!

Kathy, Deena Kastor and Me!

Race Morning: I got up at 5 am, after a ressless night of sleep. I headed over to the starbucks for a cup of coffee, before going back to the condo. The shuttle from one of the host hotels, was 2 blocks from the condo we were staying at. This was also the location of the finish line, so Aidan and my mom could walk down and see me finish. I headed over to the shuttle at 6 am, waited in line for a bit, before catching the next shuttle which took us to the start. The start area was at a lake, about 8 miles from the finish. I found a small group of half fanatics by the lake, so wandered over to get a photo with them. I then found Kathy, near the porta-potties, after a photo, we headed over to the checked bag area. They were giving us mylar blankets to use, once we checked out bags. This was a great thing, because it was pretty cold up there at 9000 feet! I had on a tank top, skirt and gloves. I didn’t wear my arm sleeves because the weather channel said the temp was low 50s, and I knew I wouldn’t need them once I started running. Well, it must have been cooler higher in the mountain, because I could have used them! About 5 minutes before race start, I said goodbye to Kathy, before getting into corral one. I could see Deena off to the side, outside the corral. I wasn’t sure what she was going to do for the race, maybe head in right before the start? I didn’t see a sign with her. Most pace leaders hold a sign showing what pace they will be running. The announcer made some statements, the national anthem was sung and then Deena walked to the front of the corral, right before the gun went off!
Miles 1-3: Right away, I tried to pick up speed, so that I could catch up to Deena. But I could tell, that the altitude was going to hurt. It was really hard to keep a fast pace, right from the start. About a mile in, I finally caught up to Deena and her small group of runners. I stayed with them for only a few minutes before backing down and trying to catch my breath. My lungs were hurting! And, my heart felt like it was going to burst from my chest. Just before mile 2, there was a steepish hill. Normally, this early on, I would have pushed up it with no problem. Today, I had to walk! I could not catch my breath. I knew then, that this was really not going to be the race I wanted. We ran a loop around the lake, before heading back to the main road. I knew once we got to the downhill section, I had a chance of making up some time. Splits – 8:27, 9:39, 9:23

Deena Kastor, on the right, leading the 1:45 pace group.

Miles 4-7: Once I started the long run downhill, I felt stronger. I was able to breath better. Not sure why, but it just felt easier. I was running faster and faster during this stretch. At the mile 6 water stop, I tossed off my gloves, because I was finally starting to feel warmer. Up to this point, my lower lip and left side of my face were numb from the cold. Of to the right, we had a great few of the city of Mammoth below us and the tall, snow peaked mountain range. We reached the bottom of the hill, which was at the edge of the town. We turned right, where the road flattened out. Right away, I started to have a hard time with my breathing again. Just before mile 7, we hit a steep uphill. A couple of medical/first aid volunteer runners stop and walk with me, asking if I’m OK. I have a hard time talking, even while walking, but tell them I’m ok, just trying to catch my breath. They ask me if I need any water or food, but I tell them I’m fine and the continue on. Since I am walking, I figure it’s a good time to take a GU. It’s my first one of the race. Normally I take one every 5 miles, but my stomach wasn’t really up to eating anything until now. At the top of the hill (mile 7) I start running again. Splits – 7:49, 8:09, 7:57, 9:33

Miles 8-10: We turn into a golfing neighborhood. We follow a road for a little while, before making a u-turn and running along the sidewalk next to the road. We weave through the development and then join the Town Loop, which is a paved running/biking trail that I had discovered near our condo a couple of days before. We stay on this for a bit, before getting back onto the streets. We are now running on a rolling uphill/downhill course. I run the downhills when I get a chance, but I have to walk the uphills, even though we are at a lower elevation, around 7500-8000 feet. It’s still not sea level! We pass a fire station, that is spraying water into the air for the runners. The sun is out and it’s probably pretty warm for a lot of runners, but for me, I am still kind of cold! My lip and left side of my lower face is still numb. I run to the far right side of the water, so I don’t get wet. We come up to mile 10, where we can see the start line for the 5K. All those runners have left by now, of course. Splits – 12:27, 10:23, 9:17

Mile 11-13.17: We enter the Town Loop pathway again. This is familiar, since it is the same area I walked a couple of days before. Lots of small up and downhills still. A lot of people are walking them, so it makes it easier for me to do it too. I glance at my watch and realize there is no way I am going to make it in under 2 hours. Kind of disappointed about it, but decide there is nothing I can do. This isn’t a mental thing that I can push through. I can’t help the fact that I can’t breath! The last mile is tough. It’s all pretty much uphill. It’s not steep, but I still have not been able to get my breathing under control. I do a run/walk thing for the last mile. Once I turn the corner and see the finish line, I tell myself to start running at the beginning of the finish line shoot. That’s what I do. I hear the announcer say my name and where I’m from, which motivates me to finish strong and with a smile on my face. I raise my arms in the air as I cross the finish line. Splits – 10:36, 11:25, 13:44, 2:09 
Finish - 2:11

After I finished, I walked around a little bit looking for Aidan and my mom. Since it took me a lot longer to finish, they were not there, but back at the condo getting everything packed up. We had to be out by 10 am! I finished at 9:41. Thankfully I was close to the condo. I got back with 10 minutes left to wash my face, clean up a bit and change my clothing. I stretched a little before getting in the car, but not enough. Of course, my compression pants, that I had planned on wearing on the long drive to my mom's house, were in the suitcase that was still M.I.A.

Overall, I would recommend this race. Just don't plan on a PR! It's a beautiful course, lots of water stops, great set up at start and finish line. Very nice finisher medal. Long sleeved shirt and drawstring backpack given at packed pickup.

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