Sunday, December 15, 2013

Road Marches are Fun?!

A couple months ago, Ocean stood on top of Mt. Spokane.
Not sure what was going through his head but something clicked, and shortly afterword we sat down to plot his training for VT 100 in 2015.  He needs a sub-12h 50M by fall 2014, and though he’s not one to do organized races for training, I convinced him to sign up for Bataan Death March in 2014. Since doing it “light” in 2010 (see 3/2010 entry), I’ve wanted to go back and do it “heavy” (w/35 lb ruck); it would be all the more an experience with a pack, and with a teammate.

After a summer of mental and physical sluggishness, got back into routine so that I wouldn’t break my Quadzilla streak (4th one done 2 weeks ago). But despite running 2 x 50 milers and a 60k/26.2 double in under a month, I’m losing the Battle of the (middle-aged) Bulge. I had dropped 30+ lbs when I started running 9 years ago, but slowly 15 of that has crept back on. Maybe it has something with my diet, like the fabulous Bacon Brunch I had while in New York last month

(yes that’s 3 types of bacon with a biscuit/ bacon butter and unlimited mimosas, bacon mac & cheese,
followed by bacon brownies.... mmm)
OK I just had to find some excuse to post those bacon pics for posterity.

Last week’s Midweek was my first march with 35 lbs since last DC. Ocean and I walked about 4 miles, while Dyno grilled paninis (apparently he didn’t get the road march memo and didn’t bring any shoes). I could not even put the pack on my own back without assistance. Nothing like a 35 lb pack to slap some reality into you. Despite the best intentions of going on evening road marches, did not get back out until Thursday.

The sheet of ice from the morning had nearly melted but it was still treacherous, I had visions of lying on my backpack like a cockroach, with a broken vertebra and unable to get up. The 6 miles with 16 lbs took me nearly 2 hours. The Dearborn steps don’t mess around…. but the view from the top never gets old either.

Not sure when I decided I’d do this week’s run (Ghost of Birch Bay Marathon) with a pack, maybe when Ocean decided he would come along and do his own road march. I picked 17 lbs as a nice round number approximating half the weight I would eventually need to handle, though it was a slight cheat because some of the weight was water. I started 20 min early on my own, concerned I might not meet the 6 hr cutoff on this hilly course.

Shortly before the half, I was passed by 3 of the Usual Suspects, other MM women I see nearly weekly at races, talking about who will be at this year’s ATY, but they stopped to chat and take a pic….

Got through the half sub-3, promising. 2nd time going up the big hill I was passed by Cheri (MM #12) and her friend Rich from N.C. (MM#1776). I put away my latest game of “words with friends” on my iphone and scrambled to keep up with them. They are both in their 60s and hard core. Cheri has been BQing for over 20 years, has done nearly 400 marathons in every state and continent, multiple WS100s and VT100s, and still runs 4:20 marathons. Rich has done over 400, every state and continent 4x including 42 countries, and just ran a 4:10 a few months ago at age 63. They met on the Inca trail some years ago and have done runs on Kilimanjaro and Antarctica together. 

I ask Rich what was his favorite marathon, it was in Nunavut Northwest territories, where he saw actual polar bears on the course! I get to pick their brains about planning the logistics of finding a run to do in Sweden/ Norway the week after Comrades in June. And finally after several miles, he asks about the pack.

“I’m training for the Bataan Death March in March”

As it turns out, not only is he a retired Colonel, but he did the march heavy and in uniform in 2010, the same year I did it, in 7:42. He did at least 4 marathons with a pack to train for it, including a 4:20 finish with a 10.5 lb pack. His advice was to use sugar packs wrapped in duck tape, because the granules are soft/ mold to your back unlike the canned goods they recommend. I tell the Colonel about my fascination with the military, and my agreement with Ocean that in reality, I would not last 5 minutes in the military, as I can’t handle the slightest discomfort. I’m a whiner and proud of it. Cheri shakes her head, doesn’t think people who dislike discomfort do things like run Quadzillas or marathons with backpacks. It’s easier to run with company, managed a negative split with 5:27 finish. It's not as bad as I feared, and it sure felt good to take the pack off. I realized how much better I would feel if I lost that extra 15 lbs. But is it worth a life of no bacon?

Afterward, the Costco Hotdog at the finish line which makes those Northwest Ultras among my favorite low-key events. Ocean has done 18 miles with his 35 lb pack and tells me he feels like he was just crushed between one of those junkyard compactors and can’t wait to curl up in fetal position.  We start to feel human again after Ranger Candy and coffee at the Starbucks drive-through, ready for a Grapefruit ride the next day.

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