Can you tell by the expression on my face ?
YES…. I finished my first full marathon ……and it only took me 9 hours !! (8:50:56 to be exact)
Can you imagine that ? Nine Hours !!! Heck, I did my last 1/2 marathon in 2:52 . Multiply that by 2 …should equal 6 hours tops! not 9 hours. (some of my Ultra friends do marathons for warm up practice.) Nevertheless, I think I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. Besides , I didn’t come in last …I came in 50th to last. The very last person came in at like 11 hours.

I was breathing OK the morning of the race and I had done all the grunt work earlier in the month, so what the heck happened? I’ll tell you what happen…Prednisone happened!!! I hate that stuff, but I had to take it to make my breathing better. Wouldn’t you know……. the drug is notorious for causing muscle cramps. It sucks the calcium right out of your bones. Couple that with overused muscles, and there you have it.
The bottom line is that I limped my way through 26 miles. Thats why the 9 hour finish. Actually, I’m pretty proud of myself for being able to walk as long as I did. At best, I thought I might be able finish 13 miles. You see , I went into to this race with the wrong attitude. I was thinking survival instead of do your best . As much as I pampered and massaged my legs in the days preceding the marathon, they were still bothering me on race morning. I was so preoccupied with the thought that my legs would seize up , that it was hard to focus on anything else. To make things worse , I somehow became dehydrated. So to compensate , I had to drink more fluids –which made me had to stop at the porta potties more often . I had to down more electrolyte caps–which made me nauseated, and last but not least, I had to stop and stretch my legs every 1/4 mile along the way to prevent cramps which chipped away my finish time. Even my normally fast walking pace was hampered because my calves were so sore and crampy that I couldn’t toe -off properly. I had to rely totally on my hips to propel me forward (not a very efficient way to walk.) I knew by mile one, that regardless of how far I walked, it would be slow going. It was apparent then, that a six or seven hour marathon was out of the question.

Before I get into the race report ( or should I say the cramp report), I just want to say THANKS! to the event organizers, and to all the volunteers and friendly residents of Portland Oregon… You guys sure now how to put on a marathon! Hands down.. This is the best marathon I’ve ever been to. Somehow you found a way to treat all 9,000 of us, like we were all elites. You have a beautiful little city and I’ll definitely be back.

Speaking of Portland people, my friend and marathon walking partner Anita, aka Phatgirlwalking, was born and raised there. In fact, it was because of Anita’s high recommendation and entry into this event, that I chose Portland for my first marathon.
Unfortunately, Anitas ankle was giving her tremendous pain and she was unable to complete the entire course . But despite what must have been a terrible let down for her, she continued to cheer me on all afternoon long and treated me like a super star when I finally finished. To swallow ones pride and let the others experience their moment? that took guts , and I will always be appreciative. BTW, Anitas sister Barbara, went on to finish the marathon 6 hours 15 min.

OK, now to the so -called race report . I didnt want to sugar coat it, so I warn’s not pretty. The name of this post should have been ” 10 ways how NOT to walk a marathon”

Rule # 1……. Always make sure that you feel like crap at the starting line.
Rule #2……… DRIVE 600 miles immediately before and after a 9 hour walk.
Rule #3…….. Never quit a race just because of severe leg cramps or nausea.
Rule#4……… Make sure to not get any rest for at least 5 days prior to the event.
Rule#5……… Always walk at least a mile to the starting the line.
Rule#6……….Never bring Sunblock.
Get the idea?

The start of the race was awesome- and the crowd was massive. Unlike the San Francisco marathon, at this event , most of the 9,000 people start at the same time . So,with an inhaler in each hand….I waited till they were all in front of me and then I proudly took my place as far back as I could , where I remained for the next 8 hours and 50 minutes.

Mile 1. No major problems with my legs yet, but I could feel something stirring inside my gut. All I ate was a bagel, and lots of water before the race.

Miles 2-3. Something happened,that has never happened to me before at a race, I started having abdominal cramps, and yes , the unspeakable…… diarrhea! But the worst part? well, have you ever seen how long the potty lines can be at mile 2 or mile 3? I shit you not ( sorry for the pun), I waited in that line for 17 minutes . I can’t tell you the crazy things that were going through my mind at that time, but, panic might be good word. Just at the moment of no return , I scoped out a public restroom located across the street at this park. I made a b-line for it and made it just in the nick of time. ( Thank god for that park) After that I felt better and I was able to walk faster and make up a little time. I got all the way to mile 6 with an average pace of 13:50 per garmin.

Mile 7. ( around the 2 hr mark), That’s when everything really started to fall apart and that’s when I should have called it quits. Even though I was taking the Salt Stick caps on schedule, I started to develop this nasty thigh cramp in my right leg. When I stopped briefly to stretch it out, my entire leg locked up and it caused the most excruciating pain you can imagine. I had to stand there frozen with a grin on my face until the people behind me were kind enough to stop and help me stretch it out… After about 10 minutes of stretching and massaging, I was able to finally start moving again. But, that single cramp set the stage for the rest of the walk. I knew then, that if I wanted to pursue this walk, it would be with this severe leg pain and the constant threat of cramping ………..for the next seven hours!

Miles 8-10 Boring boring boring and flat and I’m nauseated again. That was one of the switch back segments of the course. It’s funny , the people looked more like army troops to me than athletes. Anyway, at mile nine they gave out gummy bears.


e 11. This is where Anita called me to tell me that she had to withdraw from the race because of her injured ankle. At first I was almost relieved by the news . I thought to myself….”Well, now it’s OK for me to quit. ” “At least we’ll both be in the same boat.” I thought for sure , that mile 12 would be the spot where I call her! But, before I knew I it, I had already passed mile 13 and was still moving.
I told myself.. “Try to tough it out a little longer –You can do this” “You’ve already gone further than a half marathon.” Well, I said the same thing again at mile 15.
At that point I increased the electrolyte caps to 2 per hour and also forced myself to drink more. The more I drank , the more I had to stop at the porta potties . Ironically, that was probably a good thing, because those brief pit stops allowed me to compose myself enough to continue on to the aide station. Boy….I looked forward to those stations. Like little islands in the ocean .( how corny can you get)

{ BTW, one of the advantages of being a slowpoke in this race– is that after about the first six miles , there were no lines at all, at the potties. Excellent! because from mile 15 on , thats all I could think of or ask for… where’s the next toilet? }

Mile 16, I had managed to hobble my way to the aid station when one of the medical people saw that I was having a hard time and offered to massage my legs. While I was lying on their table I got nauseated, sat up and proceeded to puke all over the place. LOVELY … I thought for sure that they would pull me off the course right then and there, but the nurse didn’t seem overly concerned about the cramps or the vomiting. Apparently this happens from time to time. She thought my blood sugar might be low and gave me some glucose, then checked my blood pressure and made me sit down in the shade for 10 more minutes ( OK.. so much for an 8 hour finish)

Mile 17-18 The St. John Bridge. This is the part of the course which most people fear because of the the long steep incline (and because happens 17 miles into the walk). Amazingly, it was no more difficult for me than flat section. I had to stretch more often during the climb ( appx every 100 feet) , but it didn’t end the race for me like I thought it would. Must have been all that hill work I did in SF.

Miles 19 through 21 , OK..this is the point where not only my body felt like it was breaking down, but also my head. I felt dizzy and had a hard time walking in a straight line. Believe it or not, there was a police car actually tailing me , going 3 mph , watching my every move I made and asking me periodically ” Are you Ok? ” Have you had enough yet? ” It felt like they were just waiting for me to collapse on the side of the road so they could scoop me up and call it day. Surely , I wasn’t the last walker on the course…. maybe it was a pace car , but I never heard of a police pace car. Anyway, it was weird , and at that point I just wanted to go home.

Miles 21-23 More mind games… I felt like I was in the twilight zone or something. I was walking through this really picturesque residential neighborhood and it would be eerily quiet with no other walkers in sight. Then as I’d turn a corner, out of nowhere, a group of heavy metal musicians would start blasting their music at full volume, following me with their eyes till I was out of range, then they’d stop playing. Kinda like the pirates of the Caribbean ride , where the animated figures come to life until your boat passes by ( weird huh) . This happened over and over again. They were of course, there to entertain the runners and walker, but I was feeling so crappy, I didn’t want anyone to see me.

At mile 24 , I was in so much pain, I just wanted to die and to top it off I was getting more short of breath by the minute. I had already consumed 12 electrolyte caps , 6 motrins and about 20 hits off the inhaler . It was almost 4 o clock and now… and I had to deal with the afternoon sun……..Which I was walking directly into. “Please let this be” over.

Mile 25.5 I run into Anita’s Brother in law , whom she had sent out on a possy to look for me. I was so out of it , I didn’t recognize him. God..he probably thought I was nuts.. Anyway, he was kind enough to escort me across another bridge and down to the finishing area.

Mile 26 Anita , Dana and Barbara hook up with us , and the five of us walk to the finish line.

Mile 26.2 I feel like I was finally put out of my misery and went to heaven. Everyone was fussing over me like I had just won an Olympic gold metal. Somehow those last few moments make you feel like it was all worth it.

As promised, I was treated to my favorite foods and chauffeured directly to my hotel. At which time, I ate, made some phone calls , fell asleep from exhaustion, woke up 4 hours later and drove 11 hours back to the bay area.

The Bad Stuff>>>>Being on my feet for 8 hours, 50 minutes and 27 seconds.( 3 hours slower than my goal).

The Good Stuff>>>> Laughing at this stinking disease and already planning next years trip so I can make up those 3 hours and cheer Anita on.

Hey..nobody put a gun up to my head and said WALK. I take full responsibility for the torture I put myself through. If I had any sense at all, I would have bowed out last week after being so sick. No….not me . I have to do everything the hard way. The good news is,…….. I always get it right the second time around. ( hint hint)

This walk is dedicated to my sister Suzanne and to Barry for 30 years of beautiful music.

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