I Fall Down, Go Boom!
The running of my third full marathon was a glorious event, to be sure. Despite a few mishaps and delays along the way, I was still able to shave over 20 minutes off my PR, and finish with more fuel in my tank then should be possible after running 26.2 miles. Amazing!
We had a very cool start to the 5th Missoula Marathon, with temps in the mid 40’s (Fahrenheit) I had T position me at the start behind the 5:00 (5 hour) pace group.
I felt good and well-rested, and I could see well enough (for a blind person, anyway :) )for more than the first half of the race. It’s not until I got into town that I had to really slow down, due to all the turns, parked cars and other potential obstacles. So I didn’t have to use my white cane during the first 16 miles of the marathon.
This year they had put out orange safety cones all along the course – a good idea – but when I learned about it, I was a bit concerned. Those little guys can give me grief and trip me up. So I knew they were there, but believe it or not, that awareness didn’t keep me from tripping on one half way through the race.
I was feeling really strong, and when T met me at mile 9 she told me I was just ahead of the 4:45 pace group. I was shocked that I was doing so well; I thought it was the 5:00 pace group I had passed. After an electrolyte drink, a honey pack, and a pit stop, I was on my way into the very shady and beautiful Big Flat area of the course.
Now, the placement of the safety cones along the route was based on how much shoulder there was on the road. As I run along the course, I use the white line as my guide, staying on it as much as possible. But when I have to pass other runners and walkers, I pass on the left, because I don’t know how much shoulder there will be on the right, and I don’t want to twist an ankle on the edge of the road.
It was just after mile 13, before the only hill on the course that I came upon two runners on the white line. I went around them on the left, and I tripped on the bright orange safety cone that naturally just happened to be there!
Down I went: hands stretched out in front of me, taking the brunt of the road rash! I got up, moved off the road and surveyed the damage. My right palm had a pretty good sized chunk of skin flapping off the wound, so I bit it off and spit it out with a growl!
The passing runners who had seen my fall graciously stopped and asked if I was okay. I assured them that I was, and thanked them for stopping to check on me.
Well I licked my wounds, literally and saw that my race number was torn a little, but not too badly. Of course, I was feeling a bit deflated after the fall, as I had been feeling so-o good beforehand. It kind of took the wind out of my sails.
Then, with an abrupt shift in attitude, I made a conscious choice, and decided that I was not going to be defeated: I was going to use this fall as a catalyst, to propel me like a warrior into battle. I charged up the hill and was passing other runners that were using the the hill as an opportunity to walk and rest their weary legs. But not me! I was determined not to let my lack of eyesight bring me down again!
As I was descending out of the Big Flat canyon, I noticed that my legs felt great, not at all sore as they usually feel when going downhill. I think this was due to the fact that we had been climbing to the “M” several times in the weeks before the marathon. That’s a 620 ft climb over ¾ of a mile with 14 switchbacks…I’m sure that hill work is what had helped to strengthen my lungs and legs.
As I approached mile 18, T called out to me. I slowed to a walk, and as I got closer I told her I had fallen. She looked at me worried and asked me, “Are you okay?” She then looked down at my hip that had a dark stain creeping down the front of my shorts. “Are you bleeding?” she asked with more than a little concern in her voice.
I showed her my palms and replied nonchalantly, “Well, maybe a little on my hands.”
“NO! Your hip!”
I looked down at my right hip, and it was wet and dark. Then T got a closer look and felt the spot. It was sticky. “It’s HONEY!“ She laughed. When I fell, the honey pack I had in my “SPI” belt had burst open, and for the last few miles, it had been creating a sticky trail down the front of my shorts.
I hadn’t even realized it, but Oh, now that I knew it was there, I needed it to be gone!
I had never done this at any race in the past , but luckily I had packed an extra pair of running shorts for T to keep in the van. Why? I had no idea – it’s a real mystery to me. But the day before the race, when I told T that I wanted to bring extra shorts, socks and Body Glide in the van for the race, she had asked me if I had read this tip somewhere. I just said, “No, I just feel like I want to.” So I did! And I am so glad of it! And of course, now I know why.
We walked a couple blocks to where the van was parked ahead on the corner of the race course. I got in the back seat, whipped off my sticky, gooey shorts and slipped into the clean ones. T cautioned that I better not linger, as there was a police officer directing marathon traffic near the van, and I might get arrested for indecent exposure!
So after my cleanup, I had my last honey pack and electrolyte drink of the race.
T met me one more time at mile 21 where I declined the electrolyte drink and honey that she offered, reassuring her that I would get some delicious gummy bears at mile 23. Ultimately, the gummy bears never happened. The race information had said that they would be there, but I didn’t see any. You know, being blind sometimes sucks! But not to worry, I didn’t need the replenishment as I was feeling really good at that point. Normally I would have hit “the wall” by mile 20 or so…but it didn’t happen this time.
Another part of the race course that can get a bit tricky for me is along a very shady street lined with parked cars and round-a-bouts at several intersections. At one point I think I was lost in a forested round-a-bout, fighting off shrubs and tall grass, when a spectator yelled for me to move to my right. “Go right! More right – right - right, now straight!” she yelled. I thanked her. I was going along okay until a little later I drifted over too much to my right and ran into a parked car! Lucky for me it was a small compact car, and I bounced off it, only banging my right knee a bit.
This incident inspired a fellow runner named Daniel to come up alongside me to offer his much-needed assistance. He mentioned that he saw me hit the car, and he was going to help me through this part of the course, if that was okay with me. How nice was that?!
So Daniel and I ran, him giving me verbal commands, as to when to turn and kept me from straying off towards other parked cars!
With all the delays and mishaps and wardrobe change-out, I thought for sure I was going to finish, like in the previous years, in around 5 ½ hours. But to my delight, I did the full 26.2 miles in a PR of 5:06:55!
Making me oh so very happy! Couldn’t have asked for a better experience all the way around!
Tell me about your best adventure – Leave a comment!
How ‘bout it?
- Vision Runner