Flew into Long Beach Airport yesterday around noon. Picked up rental car and drove to packet pick up. The expo was in an industrial type neighborhood. There wasn't too much vendors. Did look at an enlarged poster of the course map and elevation profile. Whoa!!! What did I get myself into? The first half was like falling off a cliff, then there were some major uphills in the second half. This looks alot like Mt. Nebo reversed! Yikes. Drove to check out the finish/bus pick up area then to the hotel. Had lunch at Marie Calendar's next to the hotel before checking. The hotel was not offering a shuttle to the bus so we drove around to check out the roads/traffic pattern and back to the shopping mall close to the hotel and had dinner at TGIF. Ate way too much for lunch (beef stroganoff) and dinner (steak and lobster).
Since the bus pick up was at 4:00-4:30, I set the alarm at 3:00. Went to bed at 10:00 but got woken up by some kids running out in the hall. I tossed and turned and finally looked at the alarm clock faintly saw a 2 thinking I still had an hour before the alarm goes off. But in reality it was 12:xx. Dang! I could not go back to sleep. So got up and ate a yogurt and tried to get ready quietly. Finally woke hubby up to drive me to the bus ride at 3:45. The hotel had a brown bag breakfast of banana, bagel with cream cheese, water for the runners in the lobby.
I got on the 2nd bus seated next to a young guy who looks like a fast runner on the first seat right behind the driver. This gave us a perfect view of the course in reverse. My, the canyon road is so narrow and winding that the bus ahead of us kept knocking over the traffic cones placed in the middle between the two lanes road. Our bus driver was rather experienced and still brushed the road shoulder so close that the branches of the pine trees would hit the top of the bus which by the way was the plush tour-bus, not your rickety school bus. We got a bit concerned everytime we went down which means it'd be an uphill climb for us in the later miles. There was two miles of serious climb around mile 16-18. This bus ride reminds me of the Mt. Nebo one, taking an hour or more to reach the start.
The bus dropped us off on the road before the start line and we walked about 0.2 miles to the Crystal Lake Campground which serves as staging for the start. I made a bee line to the portapotties with an hour before start time. The campground host got a fire started in the outdoor fireplace with many log benches and tables around for the runners to sit and keep warm. The temp was probably in the low 30s. Under the moonlight I could see the pine forest with gigantic ponderosa pines. I have never seen such huge pine trees up close. It would take 5 persons holding hands to hands to succumvent the trunk of one of these. I shared a log bench with some runners, chatting and eating our breakfast of bananas and bagels. I made friends with a girl whose bib has "Beat PTS" on her bib and a Chinese guy from Hong Kong who is now a California resident. I made another p-o-p visit 15 min before the start. Soon the announcer told us to drop our gear bag in the truck and make our way to the start line.
It was so cold that most runners kept their space blankets on walking and then reluctantly gave it up to the volunteers before crossing the starting mat. I was so tired from the lack of sleep that I just wanted to stay back with the blankets and take a nap. Haha! I found myself walking with the last pace group (the 6 hour cut off) toward the start line. A few hundred feet after crossing the start mat, the pacer barked: "Well, people!!! You need to run now! It's a marathon race...not a walk in the forest!" We groaned and started trotting down the mountain! One older man would run and count out loud 1...2...3...4...5... Then he'd stop at 60 and walk a bit and start the running/counting out loud cycle all over. It was so annoying I decided to ditch the group.
At mile 3 or so we turned onto the main road where I saw a girl sat crying on a big rock by the side. I asked if she was okay, she didn't say anything and waved me on. A volunteer was coming up towards her and uttered that they have got emergency personnel coming. A few min. later I saw an ambulance driving up. So sad for that girl! The first 10 miles were so steep that my quads took quite a beating. No amount of downhill running could prepare me for this and I have run 4 downhill marathons since June this year (UVM, Mt. Nebo, Huntsville and St. George; Morgan Valley was the only non-downhill one). There are a lot of switch backs and one can see the runners winding down below. The scenary is breath taking. Soon, we left the forest and the vegetations changed which feels a lot like running in Utah's high desert canyons.
The first uphill came around mile 12 for half a mile then down to the Half start. I've been running with a handful of people, a couple who speak Spanish, a Korean and a Japanese lady, an Asian man and a Mexican fella. We encouraged each other. I stopped a lot to take pictures and mostly to give my legs a little rest. Just before we reach the Half, a young Asian fella running really fast passed me. He has a very athletic build...and I was surprised that he's running from behind. I called out some praises as he ran past to which he replied, "No, I'm not running well, I'm hurting bad." Soon I caught up to him when he started to walk. He explained to me that he's not a runner but a cyclist. He's cycled this canyon many times. He thought he's fit to run this marathon but found out quickly that he's not properly trained. When we reached the Half start, he told the volunteers there that he has to DNF.
The second half of this course has so many uphills...we'd run up to the reservoir then down it...then up another pass and down it. Like most canyons, it got windy as you approach the mouth of the canyon. Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely hate running into the wind? My breathing became labored and the temperature started to climb. After leaving the canyon we found ourselves running on this straight, long road lined with tall tall palm trees on both sides. It was quite beautiful, and a "wake-up" reminding me that I'm not running in Utah, but in Southern California. Too bad that there were zero spectators, and the runners were strewn far apart. At mile 21ish I passed the 4:30 pacer who was walking dejectedly. He's from a local running club. He told me he should've never paced the Full as his legs were not prepared for this brutal hilly course. I passed a few runners who were crashing badly. My watch sent out a low battery signal and then died completely after 23 miles. By now I was so tired that I just wanted to sit down on the curb and take a nap. There was another incline which felt like a huge uphill before mile 25 going over a bridge with the railway below. I called hubby to inform him that I'm walking the last mile in so he wouldn't be worrying. The splits alert he received had me coming in at 5 hour. It was a death march to the finish. My legs were heavy, my body was spent...I was so so so tired...I have never experienced that kind of tiredness in all my previous 68 marathons, even the 50 miler I ran did not leave me feeling this exhausted.
I came in so late (5:30) that they ran out of pizza, so they gave me two pies which I did not feel like eating. In fact I felt nauseous. Hubby gave me a few sip of his diet coke. He drove me back to the hotel and we barely missed the late-check out. Hubby had arranged to get a towell for me and I was able to freshen up and change into clean clothes in the lobby restroom. I promptly fell asleep in the rental car as hubby drove to Long Beach to return the car and meet my sister and her husband.
My quads were totally trashed. It's gonna take awhile to recover. This course is very beautiful but is such a beast with the severe downhill in the first half (many runners said they got a PR half) and nasty uphills in the second half. I don't think I'll run this one again...not with these old tired legs of mine!