Marathon No. 10: Spread your wings and fly

If there ever was a race that I’d like clone, it’s the August 2007 edition of the Mesa Falls Marathon in Idaho. Obviously I was in good shape for this one. And it was no accident.

This was the year I tried to run as many races as possible because my wife and I were going to be traveling to China in December to adopt a little girl. Knowing I wasn’t going to have as much time and energy to run once our new addition “arrived,” I became a bit of a serial racer.

I started the year training for a 50K that was held in April in Spokane, Wash. We started training in January and worked up to a four-hour run about six weeks out. We must have covered 30 miles that day.

The 50K went well, I finished in just under four hours. From there, I ran the Devil’s Backbone 50-miler as part of a relay with distance extraordinaire Don Demetriades. Twenty-five miles in the mountains south of Bozeman took 4 hours and 20 minutes. And the Bridge Ridge Run was a four-and-a-half-hour ordeal in early August.

I also faithfully went to the track at Montana State U. for Wednesday morning workouts. Another distance star, Nikki Kimball, religiously attended these meetings. Even after running a 100-miler on the weekend, Nikki would be there at the track on Wednesdays yelling out my splits.

The combination of all this distance and track work got me in great shape. When it came time for Mesa Falls in late August, I was sooo ready.

This time, instead of foolishly attempting to sleep in my car, I took advantage of a runner-host program the marathon had set up. I was able to sleep at a race volunteer’s home near where the buses leave for the start.

There were no bus troubles this time and we started on time. I fell into a steady, somewhat aggressive pace early on. The cool weather allowed me to run 6:50s through the first half. The 13.1-mark is on a wicked downhill and leads runners onto a trail along a river. I hit halfway in 1:28 and kept my foot on the gas from there.

There are 2 ½ miles of hills beginning at the 17.5-mile mark. It’s a lot like Boston, without the spectators – and the Heartbreak.

The hills are on a curvy road, and since you can’t see them all at once, they aren’t so daunting. You round the bend and there’s another one there, but there are flat breaks thrown in.

At Mile 20, there’s a right-hand turn and a water stop. At this point, I dropped my long-sleeve T-shirt and checked my watch. Usually if I’m shooting to break 3 hours, I need to be at 2:17. I was at 2:16.

My next mile was run in 6 minutes flat. I was flying. Granted it was all downhill, but to run my 21st mile in 6:00 was spine-tingling.

I knew I wasn’t going to hit “the wall.” I knew I was going to finish in under three hours. It was just a matter of how low I could go.

I finished in 2:58:50. It was amazing to see “6:49” as my overall pace on the results page. This time I placed second. The winner was nowhere to be found after the first mile. He ran a 2:39.

My time was a personal best and was the first time I ran under 3 hours in five years. I was starting to think it was never going to happen again.

Besides the huckleberry shake, the race added some more perks. Instead of having race goodies in a clear plastic bag, the items came in a potato sack. Genius!

They also gave out trousers to a random man and woman and deemed then the “overall” winners. Classic!

The entire experience had me walking on air afterward. With fatherhood approaching, I didn’t want the feeling to go away. My recovery went well and with Lewis and Clark approaching in just a month, I was thinking …



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