Saturday, May 19, 2012

Carey's Excellent Sunflower Adventure

Last winter I was inspired by talk of the Sunflower Marathon with Carey Gazis; it was to be a grand goal and a great kick-off to the summer training season.  Alas for me, life got in the way and it didn't happen.  Carey stuck with it, though, just because she's that kind of person, and last weekend she reaped the rewards of several months of focused training and ran the Sunflower.  I so wish I could have been there, but reading Carey's cool story is almost as much fun as doing the real thing!

In late January or early February, I got the idea of training for the Sunflower Marathon and immediately tried to convince Debbie Kolp and Anne Johansen that it was THE thing to do. I made up a training plan that involved one long run and one “quality” workout (tempo or interval) per week and nothing much else except whatever cross-training I felt like and an occasional 3 or 4 mile run. In the past, I would run 5-6 days a week and worry about my weekly total mileage; now my back and joints have been telling me not to do that.
 I plodded along in my training, barely succeeding in the long runs, but not often finding time for the “quality” workouts. Debbie and Anne switched their goals to the marathon relay and we started recruiting other women (Lisa Boveng, Holly English, Kalyn Owens and daughters) to join us for a fun weekend in the Methow. It was going to be really fun: a bunch of women camping out and telling stories, running whatever distance they chose in the relay, etc. 
 Fast forward, race day: Carey stands at starting line. No Debbie, no Anne, no Holly, no Kalyn, no Owens daughters. It just wasn’t meant to be this year, but I did think about the weekend we didn’t have for parts of the next 5 hours. I did hook up with and hang out with a group from Bellingham and also saw some women from Leavenworth and a couple of Bovengs from Montana. And my supportive husband Jeff came up and cheered for me and our Bellingham friends. He had wanted to race too, but he had tweaked his calf the previous weekend at the end of a half marathon. Although he now felt better, he knew a marathon was probably not a good idea. 
 The Sunflower Marathon course: 26.2 miles, with 1700 ft of elevation gain and 2200 ft of elevation loss, incredibly scenic in places, many balsamroots (sunflower family) blooming, all on dirt roads and trails. Starting in Mazama, a chunk of the first half of the course is on the familiar ski trails including the hills behind Brown’s Farm. After that, there is a steep climb up to Patterson Lake and then the course meanders around the lake and through alpine meadows beyond until the final descent to the finish in Twisp. Some of the course is on tiny single track trails that seem to only exist for this race – the linkage of all these trails really does only exist on this one day because some of the land is privately owned. 
 My race went pretty much as planned, as much as you can plan for these things. I held pretty steady for 22 miles, then the last four miles of mostly descent were not pretty. After some moderate downhill on dirt roads, there is an annoying uphill switchback at around mile 23 or 24 and then some steep downhill. At this point my legs were stiff and yet jello-like. About I mile from the finish, I started to get sharp pains in my right knee. Deciding between walking, limping, hopping, and “running”, I chose “running” because I wanted to get to the finish faster. In the grand scheme of things, I figure that I only lost 5-10 minutes in that last four miles which really isn’t that bad. My time of 4:51:31 put me at 37th overall and 6th in my age group. Given my training, I am happy with that. Now I am wondering if I really want to do the Grey Rock 50K in July…Does anyone want to join me?

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