The Chances

How a 250+ Pound Couch Potato Got Healthy

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon, 10-31-10

A few months ago, I was looking for a half marathon to run in October, a little while before the California International Marathon. I saw an advertisement for the Hooker Oak Trail Half in Chico, and thought GREAT, this is it! A few days later, I found out it was an extremely hilly trail run, which would be alright if I wasn't training for a full, but this just wasn't going to cut it.

Around the same time, I stumbled on this picture of a Halloween costume.

I thought it was cute, kind of funny, but didn't really think too much about it... that is, until I happened to be at Fleet Feet, complaining about the Hooker Oak. The guy at the register mentioned the Lake Natoma Half, which I had heard about but hadn't really researched. He mentioned it was on Halloween, and almost immediately I thought about the costume. The seed was planted.

A couple days later, I ordered the costume, and on Halloween, I had myself a race. The night before, I taped up the PVC inside the costume to make sure the frame didn't come apart during the race. There were probably 12 or 14 joints that I taped, although in retrospect, I probably should have used glue.

As I parked and was getting ready, it was obvious there weren't many people in costume. The costumes I did see were pretty simple, like orange colored clothing, or hats with knitted pumpkins on them. One guy was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume. I came close to ditching the costume, since I had a shirt I could use (the technical shirt they gave with race registration, the one I brought to put on after the race was over). I decided to go for it after seeing the guy in the TMNT costume.

At the starting line, there were two waves, one at 8am, the other at 8:05. Being in the 8:05 wave, I was standing at the starting line for a little while. A couple people started chatting me up, talking about my costume, why I was running in it. We joked about how it was a good thing there wasn't much wind, laughed about nipple chafing, and the fact I wasn't wearing any Body Glide despite the fact that I wasn't wearing a t-shirt under my costume.

A couple people weren't as kind. One guy told me good luck on finishing. Another said he didn't envy people trying to pass me as I ran. Still, most people were positive.

With the number of people in the race, the start was extremely slow. Normally in a race, you can easily move left and right to pass slower people in front of you, but this wasn't really possible with a Wheaties box around me. I just did the best I could with what I had.

The first few miles were almost entirely downhill. The guy I'd been talking to at the start turned to me and said, "Thank God for gravity." The temperature was just about perfect, and I mentioned that it'd be nice if CIM would be the same. Not likely!

Right around the first mile sign, I heard a clunk, and one of the joints came loose in the costume frame. It wasn't long after that half the frame fell down and was hanging below! I had to do something, so I grabbed it in one hand and held onto it.

After a minute or so, it was pretty obvious I wouldn't be able to carry the PVC for 12 more miles. I started disassembling the frame as I ran, but some of the tape was still holding pretty well. I twisted it, around and around, trying not to hit anyone as I went along. I heard one girl behind me say, "Duuuude", as I tossed some PVC aside.

It quickly became obvious, though, that this costume was a big attention-getter. I was cheered on by spectators, by the volunteers at the water stops, even by the other runners.

It was interesting hearing the reactions of the other runners. "I just got passed by a box of Wheaties!" "WHOA!" "Go Wheaties Man!"

At mile 4, I crossed the first bridge, which I found out with a lot of pain was soft and bouncy. The runners crossing the bridge caused the bridge to move up and down, and as I ran across, I lost my balance, landing flat on the ground. I tore up my knee in two spots and brused my hand, and a lot of runners stopped to make sure I was ok. I was fine, gathered myself, and kept going.

By the 5-mile point, I'd tossed most of the interior frame. All the was left for the rest of the race was the very top, which made it difficult to run. It was constantly falling forward over my eyes, and I'd pull it back so I could see. This went on the rest of the race.

It was also because of this that I couldn't listen to music, since the frame kept pulling the headphones out of my ears. I finally stashed them in my fanny pack, which was hidden inside the costume.

On the uphill portions, I slowed a bit, but concentrated on keeping my pace and not panicking. I even managed to pass quite a few people during these sections, and as openings would come up, I tried hard to stay away from clusters of people and stick to more open spots.

The American River Bridge on Hazel Avenue was probably the worst part, extremely steep, slowing everyone down. The volunteers in this section were in costume, and each one high fived me as I went by. One zombie volunteer as I ran by refused to eat me, saying that she only liked human flesh.

At each water stop, I walked, and drank water rather than the Gu drink they were supplying. I'm sure it was just my fatigue, but it seemed like the water stops were more sparse past the 10-mile point than earlier in the race. By mile 11, I needed to walk and finally gave in. As one guy passed, he told me to keep it up, that the guys giving negative comments about running in costume earlier were wrong, and that I was doing great.

I'd been expecting the last mile to be uphill, but it was really the last two miles. The problem is that the race route leading up to the finish was designed as sort of a spiral walkway up towards the Folsom Zoo. As a result, this made for a steep finale, making everyone slow towards the finish, and the crowd to yell even more for people to keep it up.

As I approached the finish, I had to make a show of it, and put my arms in the air in celebration. I did it up right, because hey, I needed the photo op. It worked pretty well.

After wearing a Wheaties costume the entire time, on a hilly course, falling down once, and walking in mile 11, I managed to PR! I broke 2 hours, finishing with an official time of 1:58:38, beating my last half marathon by 6 minutes, and finishing under 2 hours for the first time!

See the activity on RunSaturday
Type:Run - Race
Distance:13.22 mi

In the week following the race, the support from the online and people I know in general has been fabulous. One person told me today that a friend of theirs had run the race and remembered the "Wheaties Man". I'm not saying I'm going to race wearing a giant box again anytime soon, but it was well worth it. Even if my nipples are chafed.

1 comment:

Jose said...

You rule! Imagine if you weren't running around in a cereal box - you'd PR by even more! Of course, you could also say that this is your first cereal run so by default it's a PR. :) Great post - congrats!