The course consisted of 3 sections, with the Half Marathoners and Marathoners all starting out together on the Track.
The first section wound around Kenyon College, and put you on to the Kokosing Trail (to the right) for an out-and-back section. On the way back, the Half Marathoners would turn left to the college to finish on the Track, while the Marathoners continue straight on the Trail for another 7 miles or so before turning around and heading back to finish.
Nancy, Ty (her son) and Leopold (my son) were set to run the Half. Nancy's sister, Christy, was going to cheer them on as they left the collegel, so she'd be seeing them twice. Then, after they finished, they would all go to a point further down on the trail to cheer me on (again, I should see them twice as this was another out-and-back section).
So, we're off and running. It was supposed to be rainy, but it was sunny and warm. The first section of about 4-5 miles was very hilly. As we left the Track for the first hill, I was reminded of H.S. Cross Country, as the courses are usually at a school. And usually head out to a very big hill. What I'm trying to say here is that the first hill was THAT big.
It was pretty crowded once we hit the little walking path that intersected the college, and it seemed that no one knew how to run single file. I encountered group after group of 4-5 side by side runners. It was a little frustrating, but didn't last too long. This whole first section was just nerve wracking in that I could not establish any kind of groove. My pace was all over the place.
Finally, we left the hills, and I said good-bye to 10:35's followed by 8:40's kind of pacing. We made our way to the nice flat, Kokosing Trail. We took a right onto the Trail for the first out-and-back portion. It was warm and humid, and I had already adjusted to my 'B" goal of 4:05, but was leaving room to adjust it back to sub-4 if I could. At the intersection of 229 and the Trail, I did not see Christy as I expected to.
About a mile further down, I began noticing my left hip was getting a nagging sore feeling. Half a mile later, my right knee began emitting a sharp pain directly in the center of my knee cap. It panicked me a little, because I have never had knee pain in my life. I was wondering if this was just one of those weird "phantom pains" you sometimes get in a race, and I was hoping it would disappear as suddenly as it came on. I was not so lucky.
My First DNF
This right-knee/ left-hip pain continued to worsen steadily, to the point I knew I was dealing with a serious issue. The Trail seemed to have a slant to it, which must have been causing these pains to set in. However, with runners on both directions of the trail, I could not run on the other side where I could get off the slope. Long story short, I made the decision to DNF at mile 10, as the knee pain seemed like an injury in the making. Oddly enough, I felt fine with this decision. I was looking forward to seeing Nancy, Ty and Leopold, and cheering them on.
I met up with them at their Mile 8 (my Mile 10, as the turn around was at Mile 9) and told them the story. The crowds were much thinner now, so I could find the even surface on the Trail, and the knee pain immediately went away. The boys were doing 3 minutes of running followed by 1 minutes of walking, so I stayed with them and was having a really fun time. Nancy told us to go ahead, as she thought maybe the boys were staying with her and could do better.
A New Plan
At around Mile 12, Ty took off and I think he ran the rest of the way in without stopping. At this point, Leopold said he wanted to keep going and finish the whole thing*. After much discussion, I was assured he could do it, and thought he should be given the chance. I agreed to go with him, and I suggested he scale down to a 2:1 run/walk ratio. We passed the turn off for the Half at about 2:35, and switched race numbers.
Leopold was really enjoying things, and was basking in the recognition and cheers he was getting from the oncoming runners. We weren't talking much but he seemed to be in good spirits. As for myself, I was beginning to be aware that you use different muscles when alternating running and walking, and my legs were feeling thrashed. The hip was noticably present, but no knee pain at all.
I noticed the first change in Leopold starting in to Mile 17. Whereas he had remained relatively silent for the previous miles, now, when I shouted encouragement to other runners, he began to say things like, "Stop doing that. You should tell them they're doing BAD. Tell them to just drop out." Aha! My little cherub has hit the grumpiness stage (labor's equivalent of "transition"). How cute! I flagged down an aid on a bike, got an extra couple of Gels and a granola bar. (Thank you "Michelle who works at Kenyon College"!!).
It was also around this time that I was pretty sure I saw AZ, which put him at about Mile 20-21. AZ is much taller than I thought! He looked strong at this point- he was not loving it, but definitely getting it done. (Later, when we were at Mile 21, I'd think of him again. The flat, monotonous trail really, really gets to you).
Mile 19 - The final turn around
We finally hit the last turn around at Mile 19. Leopold seemed to be fine, but he later told me this was the hardest part for him. He realized he had to make it all the way back at this point, and he was really discouraged. We slowed quite a bit, and it began to be harder and harder to start running again each time the watched beeped at us.
Mile 20 -21
Mile 20 -21
The monotony really set in here. The Trail was so flat, we began to both have weird halucinations. If you looked at the trail just right, it would seem to move in a really weird way. Sometimes elongating, sometimes appearing to move closer. I have to say, I was a little concerned, and suggested we stop trying to see the road "move". It was hot, and we had just hit a patch of wind. Now, suddenly, the road was moving, there was thunder, and I swore I saw lightning. We had just had several episodes of furious rain that lasted mere seconds before suddenly stopping. Famine and locusts could not be too far off.
Soon, more aids on bicycles came by and told us there was going to be a cart coming by to pick us up as it was now RED conditions for the course due to lightning. They told us that if we had any metal in our pockets, etc. we should dump it and come back for it later. I think Leopold laughed, as he said, "Dude. You know you're on a metal bike, right?" The (metal) cart that eventually came by didn't even bother stopping as the bicyclists surely warned them Leopold may be armed and dangerous. Mentally incapacitated at the very least.
It was getting pretty hard to keep going. (That's one of those statements that non-marathoners read and it means nothing to them. Well, I'm not talking to those people. You guys know how hard these miles were). We were running 1 minute, walking 1 minute, and it was torture. Leopold had descended into a 'marathon shuffle'. He said nothing hurt, except his feet. They felt as if they were being pounded to death. He was past insults. He was pleading for a quick death.
A plane went by overhead. It looked like a military something or other. He looked up into the sky and begged, "Kill me! Please!!"
Miles 24_ 26.2
I honestly don't remember getting to Mile 26. It was just suddenly there. The college was on our right and you could see the Track. We were nervous,because we had never seen Christy, and had no idea if they were waiting, or what had happened. It was coming up to 6 hours that Leopold had been at it. We were both exhausted. Yet, Leopold hit the Track and ran the whole way in.
Final time: 6:23. (A 5:05 age-equivalent adjusted marathon).
* Leopold ran his first Half Marathon at age 8. The Earth Day Challenge was to be his 4th. Ever since his first one, he's told me that someday he'll just decide to keep going, and that is how he'll do his first Full.