I arrived in Tucson the day before the Marathon and was thrilled to see the magnificent hotel we were staying at! The Hilton El Conquistidor was surrounded by mountains with a glorious long-drive entering the compound. I splurged on the room as this was my 50th birthday celebration to myself!!
We all met up at the Expo and got our race bags. Coach Lisa was manning the table with race accessories to buy, so I introduced myself! It was great to finally meet her!! She introduced me to her friend, Greg, who was helping her out and running his first Marathon the next day. And she introduced me to one of her clients, manning the Muscle Release Spray booth, also running his first marathon. I, of course, bought his product to keep in my drop bag for the end of the race (it works to relieve muscle aches and pain).
Afterwards, my running group went for snacks in the hotel lobby (where this pic was taken) and shared our excitement for the next day. Three of us were running the Marathon, the other four were doing the half marathon. One was shooting to qualify for Boston, as she obviously couldn't do it at the Chicago Marathon, and this race offered us disappointed Chicago Marathoners a discount for entry. Thanks Race Directors!!
We all had signed up for the pasta dinner, so after running back to our rooms, we met back there. It was a fun dinner, the MC was very engaging and almost all of us got prizes! I got mine for having a close birthday (a hat and a running bottle with a handle!).
A crazed gal ran into the room while all this was going on and stated she had just been proposed to! It took her awhile to catch her breath and state this, and the MC was pretty nervous as to what he was dealing with. She flew out of the room as quickly as she flew in, and we were all in a state of amazement over her looney approach. The MC regained composure and we all had a good chuckle over it.
Shortly after we all went back to our rooms to prepare for a hopefully sleepful night. I decided to order room service then, as it wouldn't be open at 4 am (we had to catch the bus to the start by 5am). Luckily, they were okay with getting me a pb&j sandwich and a banana (Elvis would be envious).
I slept well, woke up, got dressed and headed out to the buses. I wished the half marathoners good luck and we parted ways. I didn't know anyone on the bus, so I chatted with the gal next to me (running her first marathon and hoping to BQ) ate my breakfast and watched outside for the sunrise. The driver stopped a couple of times to check his map. Ohoh! Sure enough, he got to the top of a mountain, tried to turn around and then asked us all to disembark since he was stuck in mud!! Now this was an adventure!!
We all got off the bus, cheered him on as he got out of the mud and tried to get our cell phones to find service as the driver was lost! Well, no luck with the phones--but the driver called to the front of the bus one of the runners that had told him she had driven the course the day before. He found the correct turnoff (he was wearing s Sox hat--so no wonder he couldn't find his way!!!) and we finally got to the lineup with the rest of the buses with 45 minutes before the start.
I stayed on the bus to remain warm, sipping on my newly won water bottle and watching the sunrise. Well, if you've never been to the Southwest, do put it on your list!! The sun rises creating all different shades of reds, oranges and the shadows on the mountains just leave you breathless. No wonder Georgie O'Keefe settled close by to paint her magnificent portraits.
I finally got off the bus and trecked up the hill to the first two buses which were where we had to leave our drop bags. I lined up at the back of the runners, knowing that this was my first non-flat race, and the hill was probably going to be my great challenge.
We listened to the "On your mark, get set, GO" guy, and took off, realizing that we never sang the National Anthem!! ohoh---don't let us be jinxed now!!
I had my running orders from Lisa---just run/walk for the first five miles at a pace that allows you to talk. Okay---talking down the mountain was a challenge, so I walked more than I would have liked. I found myself at the back-of-the-pack quickly and started chatting with three big guys who were running together and having quite the good time. I also met a former Chicagoan, doing the relay, who filled me in on his new life in Tucson. (Did I mention that I was considering Tucson as a place to retire and this was one reason for coming here???) So he told me how much he loved it here, and I discovered I was running waaaaay too fast and slowed myself up ( 1 1/2 minutes faster than I'm supposed to!! ohoh)
We all kind of ran close to each other and soon picked up another guy at our pace. This guy was all bundled up around his head and stated this was his first marathon and the longest he'd run was 13 miles. I told him to stick with me and I'd get him through. After chatting a bit, I realized he was one of the guys Coach Lisa introduced me to, so we now had a lot more to talk about.
He, Greg, was carrying two water bottles and was not a happy camper over how much Lisa had told him to drink. He soon needed a potty break, with no porta potties in sight. I told him to just head off the trail a bit, and I'd walk so he could catch up to me. Well....when he caught back up his legs were all scratched and bleeding!! My "Nursey Hat" immediately flew on my head, and I offered to clean him up, but he refused, stating he was really okay, it was just stinging. So I "chucked that hat" off and resumed being a runner. Meanwhile, Greg started entertaining me with some of his wild life stories, and I found myself not paying attention to my watch and giggling and loving the scenery way too much!!!
The 10-14 mile section of the race is uphill and downhill and I decided to mostly walk the uphill. We soon found ourselves at the back of the runners, with about only 7 people behind us!! We also had to stop at each porta potty so Greg could get rid of all the water Lisa was pushing down his throat! Though I must admit, one stop had me using the potty too!! Well, I realized I was waaaay behind the time I was shooting for, so I decided this race was going to be about totally enjoying myself and just getting through it.
I started to get tired around the 21 miler mark, and Greg, who probably could have taken off ahead of me, stayed with me to keep me going!! Boy how quickly the tables can turn!! We met up with two guys, one who was 19 and not trained for the race, but being coached by a friend, and kept up with them a bit, but the competitive Lora decided to blow the 19-year old out of the water, so Greg and I took off, leaving him to eat our dust! (in reality I came in only about 2 minutes before him but I just love that "eat my dust" saying!!).
At around mile 24, the medic on the bike came by us to see if we were okay. By now, the truck was coming by to pick up the cones off the street!! I yelled at the driver, but he ignored me! Hey---we're still out here!! And we didn't know where to go!!! The biker Doc said he'd meet us up ahead where the turn into residential streets was supposed to happen.
Well, we got there ahead of him, but saw him up ahead, so we made the turn. The truck that follows the racers was there and asked us if we wanted a ride in. NO WAY!!! Greg didn't care about his time, he just wanted to finish. So we just trudged in, and at around mile 26, I got a call from one of my Chicago runners asking if I was okay. I told him I was almost there and they all came to see me run in. Greg finally took off ahead of me, and made it in one minute before me.
So my time???? 6:22!!! Crazy I know---but I just loved this race, I had a wonderful time and didn't care that I blew my goal AND the race ended at 6 hours!! Know what?? I just love that I can be out there, meet new people and have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery that Mother Nature has bestowed on us. I also love that I have this attitude. Gratitude! That's what it's all about for me now. Thank you legs for letting me do all these races! I'm happy where I'm at---and I have lots ahead of me in terms of running. I'll fill you in soon!
In the meantime----I'm training for Rocky Raccoon 50-miler! It's another present to myself. Fifty miles for my 50th year!! No time constraints!! I just want to get out there and do it without any injuries. So here we go again...............