Monday, March 23, 2009

Pasadena Marathon/Half-Marathon race report

The bad news: There was a torrential downpour right at the start of the Pasadena Marathon/Half-Marathon this morning.
The good news: I stayed warm and dry.
The bad news: I was still in my car, stuck in traffic, when the gun went off.

Flashback 2 years ago: my friend Craig started walking on a regular basis just for general health reasons. For his birthday, I made him a coupon good for one free entry to a local race event and I would be his walking buddy. I figured we'd do a 5k walk-a-thon around the Rose Bowl for cancer research or something. Nothing ever came of it.

One year later, Craig and his wife Jana show up as guests in my home holding the ticket. Guess what? Jana has been secretly running and is doing the Pasadena Marathon in November. Craig is going to walk the Pasadena Half and I have to be his walking partner. I gave him a coupon expecting to do walk just 3 miles with him and now I had to do 13? But what could I do? He was holding a coupon.

So they trained and trained and trained, and then on Race Day the event was canceled because local fire filled the air with soot and ash. I felt sick to my stomach for both of them. The race would be rescheduled for some time in March. That was fine with me, as long as it wasn't the weekend of March 21-22 because I was going to Las Vegas that weekend for a festival. (If you must know, it was a festival celebrating an 80s TV show about a talking car. Do not judge me.)

I was not about to miss Vegas, so I drove out Friday morning and went to the festival. Spent two days on my feet running all over the place. I left Vegas around 9:30 Saturday night and got home around 2:00 am. Woke up at 4:45am, left for the race at 5:05 am.

The starting line was about 7 miles from home with a 6:30am start time. At 5:15, I was 1/2 mile from the freeway exit and traffic came to a standstill. It took me over an hour to get off the freeway, and then I still had another mile to the parking garage. Amazingly stressful. Craig called me and I had to tell him "just get yourselves to the starting line and go. If I need to go Bandit and cut the course to catch up with you, I will. Just GO!"

I inched into the parking garage at 6:40. There were people everywhere still trying to get to the starting line, although I was surprised how happy everyone seemed. Between the absolutely horrendous traffic-flow problems and all the rain, everything about the race was so miserable that people couldn't help but laugh. Craig called me and told me that because of the number of racers, he didn't officially start until 6:40. I fought my way through the crowd of 5k runners lined up for their 7:00 am gun and officially started the race at 6:44. I wasn't planning on doing any running at all today, but I sprinted out and caught up with Craig about 1/2 mile out. I was much relieved.

The rain stopped for a while, but we had another huge downpour around mile 3. But it was the downpour at mile 6 that killed me. We were by the Rose Bowl, surrounded by wide open fields and the wind blasted us. I was soaked head-to-toe, not wearing anything waterproof, and the wind was freezing. By far, these were the worst race conditions I've ever been in. There were moments when I was thinking "I can't do this. It's too cold, this is potentially dangerous being out here." I was terrified for Jana and the other marathon runners because the emotional drain must have been brutal. Fortunately, things started to dry up and warm up after that.

Craig was pretty much in high spirits the entire time, and although he later said he thought we were moving pretty slowly we actually maintained a pace 30 seconds/mile faster than he planned. I was very excited and proud to watch him during that last mile and see him cross the finish line.

We recovered for a while, then when it was getting close to Jana's expected arrival I went back along the course to around mile 25.5 with a "Hooray for Jana!" sign. I wanted to give her an extra boost for the home stretch, and then I would call Craig and tell him to get in position to see her. Funny thing: a little bit earlier, Brazilian Ben (aka Road Rash Ben) was in Pasadena, saw my Tri jacket from a distance and called me. I told him where I was headed down the course, and he came out and met me there. I was worried that when we saw Jana she would be limping and miserable from the conditions of the day but when we saw her she was jogging and all smiles. Now to call Craig and tell him to get ready: my cel phone died. Remember those 2 days in Vegas? I hadn't recharged my phone. Thank goodness Ben was there so I could use his phone instead.

I was able to take a different route back to the finish line and saw Jana complete her first marathon. Amazing.

Jana went to the medical tent to have them take a look at some blisters. One had popped so they put some magic goo on it. The other one hadn't popped, but wow it was doozy. It basically took up the entire side of her foot. Enormous. Funny how running 26.2 miles in wet socks can do that.

This is the scary thing, and I know many of you have been in the same boat. They were cold, and wet, and exhausted, with blisters, and during lunch they started talking about what they'll do differently next year. NEXT YEAR?! They're hooked.


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