Marathon from Hell Part 1

Completed marathon #3:
X-Country Marathon in Alafia River State Park Nov 17, 2013

Started with hubby, Alyssa, Jenni, Hea, Mike, and Zach. The course was two 13.1 laps around the park.

Completed half due to injury: Hea

Completed half due to no desire to finish this ridiculously unfun trail race, plus didn't care whether he ever finished a marathon in his life: hubby

That means we lost two out of seven people in our group alone. There were likely a lot more DNFs at this race.

I imagine there are worse marathons. The Sahara Desert Marathon, for example. The hills in places like San Francisco make it difficult to even compare to the X-Country Marathon in Florida. There are inclines, not hills. Therefore, I resisted titling this post Worst Marathon Ever. It was my worst ever, but there are so many factors contributing to why some races are tougher than others.

This one was tough, first of all, because it was 85 degrees and humid. Total fluke. No one's fault. It didn't help that the race started at 7:30 AM, but the organizers can't control the weather. However, the rest of the factors were primarily the fault of the organizers, who did not impress. With Fit2Run as the major sponsor, it's surprising someone doesn't shape up this race.

The lack of ANY medical stations was downright foolish, if not illegal. Should be for a marathon. The minimal number of water stations would have made the race challenging if it had been 70 degrees. At 85, it was a nightmare. Between mile 6 and 9 (a solid three-mile stretch) there was no water station. Because this race was two laps, that was also true for miles 17 through 20. The lack of shade for a trail run was completely shocking. We assumed that 90 percent of this race would be shaded, but only about 10 percent had shade. The rest was full, blasting sun, making the scenery irrelevant because I didn't care. All I wanted was some shade and some water.

This is the majority of the race, trail open to the sun. There were lots of pretty spots, but I wished we were running through the woods versus open trail. Pic by Jenni.

In that three-mile stretch of no water, one man wandered off the trail and passed out in the woods from heat stroke. He was luckily found by a fellow runner who had to run two miles to the nearest water station. An ambulance came, but I have no idea how long it took from the onset of heat stroke to him being put in the ambulance, but the assumption is a long time.

Our friend, Jenni, stopped sweating around mile 17. She knew that was a bad sign (and hubby confirmed that is a sign of heat stroke). Then she started hallucinating, a sure sign of heat stroke. She saw a giant black and white bunny on the side of the trail, and she quickly realized it wasn't real. Then she saw a man standing in the woods with a jacket, and she decided that at the next water station (about two miles away) that she would stop and dump water on her head and drink for five minutes. That probably saved her from passing out like the other guy.

As for me, the fact that Alyssa, hubby, and I made it to the starting line seven minutes late was a minor factor in the scheme of things. Although I felt stressed about it at the time, looking back, that was the least of our worries. The race was so small (about 150 people) that we had to really search for the start sign.

Mike, Hea, Jenni, Zach. So......yeah.....Brian, Alyssa, and I aren't there yet. Hea's cam pic.

This is apparently what the start looked like when everyone was there. By the time we got there, there were only cars driving in and a few people walking the other way toward the finish area. Luckily we found the tiny little start sign on the right side of road. Pic by Jenni.

Now I know why this race is so small. They can't possibly have returning runners. But that also made it feel like we were the only people out on the trail. Sweet Hea and Jenni waited for us at the first water station. Hubby caught up to the two guys and bowed out at the halfway point. Smart man.

That's Hea ahead while she and Jenni made their way to the first water station. Pic by Jenni.

The four of us women (Hea, Jenni, Alyssa, and I) ran the first ten miles together. That was pretty fun, at first, with the feeling that we were the only ones there. We chatted and enjoyed each other's company.

From top left: me, Hea. Alyssa, and Jenni. So much fun early on. Pic by Jenni.

Again, at first.

Quickly, we realized how little shade there was and how few and far between the water stations were. The inclines (which we assumed would be minimal because of the course description on the site) were frequent and some were fairly steep for Florida. None of us trained for that thanks to the website's "easy trail" description. The trail itself was extremely difficult to navigate. What I mean is that you had to pay attention to every step because a misstep could mean a twisted ankle.

And it happened. Poor bride-to-be Hea hit a pothole and twisted her ankle three weeks before her wedding around mile 6 (guessing). She pushed through until about mile 10, and then started feeling dizzy. She needed to walk, and we told her not to feel bad if she had to stop because it wasn't worth messing up her wedding day. She decided to stop at the half. Smart woman.

The late start and the lack of any mile markers threw me off a bit, too. There is something kind of cool about not knowing how far you still have to go, but none of us had a watch. We had no concept of our pace, and I suspected it was too fast for me.

It's strange to look back and say, wow, I did it, and at the same time have to warn others not to bother.

Coming up next....

Marathon from Hell Part II and It's True: Alyssa and I have lost our minds and signed up for the Clearwater Marathon Jan 19th.

Thanks for the pics, Jenni and Hea!