Friday, November 8, 2013

Best Marathon I've run with my worst marathon time

Early this year I signed up for my "A" race of the year, the Detroit Free Press Marathon.  It was a bit of a long process on the computer, as one has to input the passport information. I've wanted to do this race since I've heard of it and decided to add a new state with a portion in another country, would be excellent.   The race, if you are unaware, starts in Detroit and runs a few miles to where runners cross the bridge to Canada, continues to run along the river street in Windsor, and then comes back to Detroit via the tunnel for many more miles in the US.  FUN!

Then the year progressed and my energy levels still weren't up to where they were in the spring of 2012.  Last fall my doc said I was "over training" and then mom died in December and then earlier this year my doc said my she couldn't find anything wrong and that I was just depressed over mom's passing. . . be that as it may, it doesn't explain why I had this last year before she passed, nor does it explain why I'm ccccold all the time (being cold is not a symptom of depression), as well as my legs/muscles feel like I've run ten miles after having just run three. 

One small worry was the passport. We renewed our passports last fall in preparation for The Mike's Tour Divide bike trip.  However, I just got the book, not the card.  When I started to register for this race, The Mike laughed and laughed, and said, "Guess you need the passport card after all". Right. Because I didn't want to run with my passport booklet in a ziploc baggie 'just in case' I had to show it at the border!   The local office said the photo from last year would work just fine, so I sent in my passport only to get it back about six weeks later saying the photo was too old and I needed to get redo the photo and send it back in.  Thankful that I was doing this early enough that there was time still to get the passport sent to me, and that it happened before the gov't shutdown!   


So here I am with my training so-so and my desire to still run this race and The Mike and I set off after work and get as far as we can stay awake and find a hotel, or rather, try to find a hotel. We completely forgot about those leaf peepers when planning this trip!  
Peeping the leaves
  We had just crossed the time zone line and had to stop.  The third hotel at the interstate offramp had a few room vacancies and we were happy to score one--even one that served breakfast in the morning!   The next morning we were on our way through the sprinkles and rain; I was so thankful the race wasn't that day!  

It seemed like quite a long drive to Detroit due to the almost constant road construction.  As we neared Detroit, we saw these large 'creatures' in the distance. It was only as we got closer we realized it was a  set of bridges. In the meantime, we entertained ourselves with thinking they were creatures from War of the Worlds. This side view at the off ramp doesn't really do it justice. 
Interestate bridge on the way into Detroit. From the distance, 
when all you can see is a round top
and "legs", the bridges look a bit like the space creatures from War of the Worlds
Once into Detroit we had the scenic "ooh, this is nice" mixed with the eye sores.  We arrived at the hotel via navigation in the car. . . I'm sure there was a 'shorter' way to get there, but the navigation system likes to keep us on the interstate for as long as possible. 
Slight view of the Detroit Tigers baseball field from the hotel room
None of us in the group are sports people and didn't realize until that night's 

news that the Detroit Tigers were in the playoffs to make it to the World Series
(They lost to Boston) 
After heading to the Expo to pick up our packets and do some shopping.  I got a race glass and a new pair of CEP sleeves for the calves. . .and a reminder to always take cash to the expo. I saved $5 by paying cash instead of credit.  The sister got some new socks and GU.

Next, we headed back to the hotel, picked up The Mike and using Find Me Gluten Free app, we found Passport Pizza. It's a small place, corner store front with two tables, a couple actual pop machines and then the counter to order your pizzas. We were overwhelmed with toppings to put on the pizza and The Mike had a ton of selections for type of pizza as well.  The gluten free pizza was cooked/served on tins, ensuring it was GF, and the hubby's (gluten) Detroit pizza on thick crust.  Their webpage here.   

Passport Pizza on Woodward Avenue
As we left the pizza place, I realized the street looked slightly familiar. No, it wasn't from being on the street an hour before!  In reading up on Detroit on Wikipedia, I recognized the street/buildings from a photo. It's the last street in Detroit to lose its streetcars(1956). 

Beautiful old theater building on Woodward Avenue. 

Dinner the night before was from the hotel, as we didn't want to venture out with no specific destination.  Salmon with a cream sauce of cream, garlic and spinach.  Hubby had some left over pizza, so he just got dessert of pie and ice cream.

Prepping for the race the evening before,  I had my clothing laid out and  was spazzing about the temperatures. It was going to be colder than I had read when I packed. . .don't let the photo fool you--I had a long sleeve shirt and gloves as well. I decided to wear my new calf sleeves to help against the cold. 

I had packed my skort, tank, bra, long sleeve shirt, shoes, socks, mittens and visor. . .

I neglected to pack:  earband/headband, running knickers, common sense. 

As an inventive measure, I pulled the wide elastic band of my Road ID visor down over my ears to protect them from the chilly wind and ran with "loose hair" until later in the race when the sun and sweat was making it heavy and hot; then I pulled it into the ponytail.

~~~~RACE START~~~~
One of the things that surprised about Detroit was how many old buildings are just left in ruin.. . and a moment to remember the urban flight that afflicted so many large cities.  One of the first large buildings you see in downtown from the airport is an abandoned grand building 10, 11 stories tall, the abandoned Amtrak building.

Start of the race. So dark, so cold. brrr. 
38º at the start of the race!  Race Course Map  There wasn't much wind which was nice, but I had been reading weather reports of 45º for the start.  Sigh.  I didn't want to buy anything the day before at the expo to wear for 26.2 miles for the first time either.  

****FYI: Running when you're really cold and your body is trying to keep you warm and expel energy for your race is not good!**** 
just in case you needed the obvious stated!  

There we were at the start line with thousands of our closest running friends. We could see runners still arriving via the "People Mover" system.  The race information said that once the last corral of people left, no one else would be allowed to start late.  The environment started really PUMPING for us and the crew put on Eminem's song Lose Yourself!   Really got the blood pumping.  There was a count down "clock" for each corral as well. . .by clock I mean a large screen that would be at home in a movie theater, with digital count down for each specific corral.  

Then we were OFF and moving down the course.   I was feeling good and didn't start run/walking until the aid station in Canada to refill my bottles.  

As we neared the start of the border crossing we had to run in a bit of a circle up the roadway to the  checkpoint windows and then wind our way on the long bridge approach. As we passed through the checkpoint windows/gates that looked like individual toll booth stations there, leaning against one, was SANTA CLAUS!  He smiled, chuckled and waved when I yelled, "HI SANTA" while other people looked at me like I was nuts. . . later, when I mentioned this to my sister, she said, 'He DID look just like Santa and if he didn't want people to compare him, he shouldn't have been wearing a RED suit'.   The race course entertainment, Santa did have a long sleeve red shirt, I don't recall his pants color.   
Climbing the on ramp to the Ambassador Bridge, mile 2
Getting closer to the border crossing. There were scores of US border patrol at this point watching all racers and using the car speakers to inform us our race numbers had to be exposed, or else we would be pulled aside and searched. . .  
The bridge, the posts on either end say 'Ambassador Bridge'.
The bridge was still open for traffic. Semi drivers were honking at us (okay, many of us were doing the standard "arm honk" to encourage them). While we ran on one half of the bridge, there were"two lanes" open on the other side; however, only one lane was actually used by traffic with the second lane as a buffer between cars and racers. Felt bad for traffic, as the tunnel was closed until 10am and the bridge was one way traffic for them, but it was VERY safe running.
As we came down into Canada, the Border patrol there was a 180º from the US patrol, they were on their loud speaker welcoming us to Canada, high five-ing runners and mentioning that we got beer and donuts on the course because , 'hey, it's Canada' and "if you twist your ankle, no worries, you'll be covered under Canada healthcare, you'll just miss the race sitting in the medical office all day".  The sister heard a different message, but agreed, they were a HOOT, eh!

By the time we reached Canada, we were at mile 4.  We ran under the bridge approach and past an old cemetery where we turned to run along the river.   

Along the riverfront in Canada
Feeling good along the way, not much wind at this section, the riverside, miles 5/6.  

Heading into the  'underwater mile' zone  
Mile 7 to 8 I was a bit freaked out here and did a bit more 'turbo running' than I should have so early in the marathon.  As I was approaching the passport clearance area for us, there was a runner with a basic walking jacket on in beige and he had his hands clasped behind his back as if he was out for a stroll. I peaked behind me as I ran and he did have a number partially showing. I thought the border agent who was there might stop him. I was glancing between her and this runner guy and back and forth. I don't know if they did or not, but can say, "that's not normal runner behavior".  

As we entered the tunnel I was amazed at how HOT it was! I stripped off the long-sleeve shirt so it wouldn't get soaked and I concentrated on busting on through the underwater mile area.  I didn't even stop at the border crossing area, I had my cell phone out and just snapped a picture as I walked past.  I was still freaked out by the runner guy I saw on the Canada side.  My underwater mile was my fastest mile in a LONG time.  Seriously, even though it's downhill for the first part, I went through the tunnel at about 81/2 minutes/mile pace, something I rarely can accomplish!  I just wanted out of there and to be away from that creepy guy.  
Last actual race photo. . . the dividing line in the middle of the tunnel
Coming up out of the tunnel is hard mentally because you just keep climbing slowly and then you are turning and still cannot see any daylight.  I have no recollection of seeing a photographer there, but the photos on the website show there was one. 

I passed through a car path corral area as I exited the tunnel area. . .as I did, I notice the US Border agents talking to someone and (sorry, but she was) a blond woman trying to take a camera shot. The US Border kept saying NO, NO, NO. and the lady kept trying to take the picture until one agent started walking towards her and then she took off running.  Interesting race!     As I came up out of the tunnel area and into the street there were corrals holding back spectators from the runners and I heard my name announced. That was really AWESOME!  Hubby said he missed me here and I said I was scanning the gates for him, but never saw him either.

Next up was "Mexicantown" and it was sweet and nice to run through here. The wind seemed to be picking up some, but there were actually people out in their front yards cheering us on, as well as "no parking, Marathon Sunday" signs in both English and Spanish. There was a gorgeous old church there with multiple out buildings and it looked a bit in disrepair, but still gorgeous bones in the building.

About Mile 11 I stopped for the loo, which I haven't done since my second race, but I had to stop this time. Only three people ahead of me for the one portajohn and this guy comes up behind me and asks how long I've been waiting, because he doesn't want to lose much time in the race, but he has waited four minutes before. All I can think is, "really, cause I don't care how long I have to wait, I am not going on until I can use it".   I am FREEZING at this point and the skin exposed on the thighs is not happy with me, not pins/needles sensation, but just the realization that they are wicked cold, and realize that standing still, stretching is NOT helping me in the 'keep the body well' category.

We run along the course, make some turns and come to Corktown, which apparently is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Detroit and named for the Irish from County Cork (which I assumed when I was running past, but did confirm with that fabulous Wikipedia!) .  Lots of great signs along the course/bridge overpass area here, including the first of several "Smile if you're not wearing underwear" posters I saw in the race.  Obviously made by a spectator 'cause we all know the term is 'commando', right?  Then we had a long open /straight path for a few miles where the roadway opened up from being a two lane neighborhood street to a boulevard like course. Along this straight away from mile 14 to 16 or so we passed an amazing high school band/flag corps out there wearing mostly black uniforms and doing some "get down" moves while sounding their trumpets and trombones. Quite impressive and the dance/flag folks were great too. Really helped pep me up!   

Just before the turn past mile 16 was suppose to be a GU station. . .but, alas, as usual, all the GU was gone. I was really wanting it, as one of my GUs dropped from my waist band and I had repacked the band at the hotel and forgotten to put in the Cytomax gels.  The track runners did have bananas, so I took one of those for in a bit. 

We turned onto an awesome road that reminded me of the movie Home Alone and American Beauty scenes of the streets with wide streets, large old and tasteful/elegant homes.  It was interesting and sad to note that there would be four or ten fabulous houses with the next one being something that looked like it hadn't been touched in twenty or more years, and it was repeated.  This was the "Indian Village" neighborhood of Detroit. I didn't know what it was before running there, but afterwards found out it is one of the older neighborhoods and had homes owned by Ford, etc. 'back in the day'.  My running was still going so so here and I was run/walking and feeling good. The citizens came out with beer and polka music. An elderly man sat on a whimsically painted straight back chair cheering us on. Another man was out there with a squeaker horn? I'm not sure what they horn in his hand is called, but I said, 'You look like a Marx Brother' and he honked at me :-)   A few houses down a resident pointed to me and said, "you look like a beer person, come on over" and I said, "Gluten free" to which she replied, "we have Whiskey!"  oooh, I was sooo tempted, but didn't want to chance it with ten miles to go!  

Turning the corner and running into mile 18 we passed more gorgeous homes, There was one I wished knew the address of, it would have taken up a whole block in my city with the fence, distance to the garden shed, large house, etc.  Beautiful architecture here. . . As I ran down the street more residents were out, one had Jelly Beans and pretzels, another had (thankfully) M & Ms which I had to run back for (they're GF) and enjoyed with my banana for fuel treat.  

Up to this point my time was pretty decent for me.  Sadly, I started to drain here. Mile 19 and I was losing energy and pep. I didn't know how I was going to finish, but, by golly, I was going to do so!   We crossed MacArthur Bridge and headed onto the Belle Isle in the Detroit River. Gorgeous place, but my mind was trying to figure out how far we had to run on the island (it's only two miles, but one thing I should NOT do when running is try to do math!).

As I headed down the last stretch on the island there was a poor sole sitting on the side waiting for the medics to come, not sure what happened but I had reason to be thankful that wasn't me and I realized that the ankle/calf I hurt a few weeks prior to the race stumbling on a tree root wasn't hurting me. (maybe the compression sleeves were helping in that regard?).  This gave me a bit more pep in my stride, as did the family giving out Jolly Ranchers as I neared the bridge to exit the island.  

At mile 23 those around me and I realized they were starting to scale back the course. They had us running on the sidewalk for a bit, but I ran on the street unless cars were coming.  Mile 23 1/2 we ran along the river front and I was freezing as the wind came whipping across the waters and hitting my bare arms. I had tossed the long sleeve shirt at mile 14 as it was wet and I didn't want it tied around my waist, flapping and annoying me.  At this point I was screaming at myself for being a dummy and getting rid of it.  Ah well, someone can find the shirt and aim to do the Des Moines Red Flannel Run :-)   Even a course worker remarked "aren't you cold?"  

Knowing we only had 2.2 miles left helped some and I continued my run/walk method to get me to the finish line.  As we closed in on mile 25 I had to stop at a light. Just disgusted with myself that I was still out on the course at this point, but I didn't lose much more than maybe thirty seconds waiting for the light. Ohh, wait, I should say I lost a few minutes there, wink, wink.  

Then the last bit came on. I came upon mile 26, had to turn the corner and run to the finish line. As I came up the hill near just before the turn the spectators were inching out farther and farther into the roadway. I looked a guy right in the face and said, "I'm NOT moving over" and he scooted the three feet back to the curb. 
My Super Girl (with cape) finish photo for the family.
Runner finish area: OMG this was the BEST finish area/goodie line I've ever seen (Sorry Trekman!)  The sack I'm holding above has goods in it. I got a couple of chocolate milk (Yes, they had chocolate milk at this late in the race/finish area), a HUGE container of Hummus, as well as a couple smaller containers, a couple bags of "Food Should Taste Good"  chips, individual bags of carrots and sliced apples, mini Larabars and a few other things as well. This bag was seriously YUM for a gluten free runner!  

FINISHED:  Time, not happy with it, but since my body was off this year,  I was cold, running on a bad ankle/calf, and my knee just started hurting a bit towards the end, I was satisfied to take the time and getting out there and doing it!   It was my slowest time for my fourth marathon.  However, I felt the race itself was AWESOME. The other three marathons I've done were all Rock n Roll ones and this one had such a different vibe and was great. 

I loved the course, the spectators, the city, the architecture, the views, and even the spectator dude at the end who I had to tell to get out of my way on the course. Memories of the race! 

The old Detroit Free Press building.  

Alice in Wonderland chairs we spied as we walked back to the hotel.
In the background , to the right and behind of the pink chair,
one can barely spy the tops of giant cheese board pieces, about a foot tall each.
Special room key

The glory

Phew, that's a LOT of steps! 
After cleaning up, stretching some and snacking on those apples and chips, I decide I'm hungry and wanted food. The Mike said, 'Be sure to get something before 4pm" and Sis and I were like, 'why'.  Oh, right, the football game at the stadium nearby a few short blocks away!  We got the directions for Five Guys burgers in Greektown, and we managed to get inside just before the neighborhood is swarmed.  With our food in hand we head back to the hotel feeling like salmon swimming up stream for our lives. Lion fans are walking on the sidewalks so we take to walking on the street, after all, it's not like the cars are going to be able to go anywhere with all those pedestrians!  
The fabulous dinner/snack.
I laughed at the thought we were going to Five Guys.  I had never been there until Sis was coming back through North Dakota with me this June (from dropping The Mike off in Banff for his bike ride/race).  Then I had it at the airport in June in DC, and then again here.  So wonderful to have a burger and fries!  The fries are the only fried thing in the restaurant and they use peanut oil as well.  

Red race entry shirt, it has the course outline on the back. The shirt is very cozy and soft as well. It is now one of my favorite shirts (behind the Park to Park shirts--which, if you're interested from reading about that even in Runners World, in 2014 it will be a half marathon only).  The blue is my finisher shirt, the first "finisher" shirt I have managed to buy. Most events they're sold out by the time I finish. . . Strangely, in my mind, people were buying this shirt at the expo.  My glass is near the ribbon of the medal. The medal itself I thought was nicely done, it's heavy, and the ribbon is USA flag/maple leaf design.  
My Detroit goods.

We took sis to the airport to grab her flight, headed back to the hotel to pack up and relax before heading out early the next morning. 

We stopped for lunch in Battle Creek because I told hubby I was starving and going to take the next town exit, but he found a place for us in Battle Creek, MI.  
The entrance sign you see, once you've driven the few miles off the
interstate on Sojourner Truth roadway

It was so very nice to be able to order at a restaurant and have someone there understand Celiac/gluten free and have experience with it.Arcadia Ale Brew Pub in Battle Creek, MI. Menu  Our waitress hadn't worked there long and wasn't sure of all the things on the menu, but her child is celiac and so she understood the requirements!  She got the bartender, who was able to help me with the menu as her boyfriend is Celiac!  Great attention and we got there just before the lunch crowd, so perfect timing for additional attention from the staff.  
Gluten free tomato stew
Very tasty 
The Mike had a chili type soup that sounded fabulous, but they put some of the ale in the recipe. 
Brisket with mashed potatoes and broccoli.  (Gluten Free)

The Mike's "Cuban" sandwich, not gluten free.
While waiting for the food to be served we had a nice time watching the bottling/capping process in the brewery through the windows separating restaurant from processing rooms. 

Great adventure in Michigan, but afterwards on the loooong drive home, I had to question why I didn't just fly into Detroit!

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