Note: Frequent readers will be appalled that real names are going to be used in this post. The Blog is too tired to be clever.
A group of us from the San Jose Stay Fit winter program headed up to this year's Avenue of the Giants Marathon. Andrew, Ann, Diane, and myself made the trip, and we all finished standing up!
They used a sandbar along the Eel river as a parking lot (the sign that "4 Wheel Drive Recommended - our Corolla is not even vaguely for off road adventures, but it worked out OK). We thought we would be early, but a LOT of people were already there.
It was not a trivial walk from the "parking lot" to the starting line. Sadly, this was the only creek crossing of the day. And we were far from being the last to arrive.
There were lots of porta-potties. A bit of weirdness was that some were designated for men and others for women (which I imagine had running water and rose petals on the floor).
We had gotten separated from Ann and her friend who had just flown in from Russia, Masha, in the parking chaos (which was actually not all that chaotic - just very busy with some nervous people driving fragile cars) and were happy to finally find them again.
Diane and I under an Avenue of the Giants sign.
Andrew warming up. The Stop sign survived.
Nearly the entire 26.2 mile route looked something like this - huge trees making the runners look very small. It was awesome.
There were also lots of small waterfalls along the route.
This was what you saw if you looked up. The weather was stunning - not too hot with just a bit of a breeze to keep you cool.
It was a paved course (although the first section was some of the roughest pavement you'll ever see) with occasional mud along the side. I couldn't resist wandering into these areas - I'm pretty sure I was the only runner that ended up getting a bit muddy.
The route had two out and back sections, and this is the first turn around at about mile 6.5. The cool thing about this arrangement (as opposed to a looping course) is that we all got to see each other multiple times even though we were a bit strung out.
Here are Ann and Diane heading to that first turnaround. I was about a mile ahead of them at this point.
Andrew was just a bit behind them. Everyone was still perky and cruising along.
This was the fiercest creature I saw along the route.
This was the end of the first leg, at the turn where the Half Marathoners finished. It was a large charge to go through this area, with all the runners that had already finished and a variety of others cheering wildly. I felt like I could fly at this point.
That feeling left me about three miles later when I had to stop to put moleskin on some trouble areas of my feet. (I missed one area and ended up with a blister anyway, but it would have been much worse if I hadn't covered the other areas.)
Miles 16 to 19 were very hard.
But then I reached the turnaround for the second leg (about mile 19.5) and felt a bit rejuvenated. The volunteer at this station was fantastic - she was bubbly and encouraging (she picked a flower and handed it to the woman on the left as she went by) and provided a much needed boost. By this time, most of the volunteers had been out there for a long time, and the only people still on the course were us slower runners/walkers. I can't thank these people enough for hanging in there to support us.
Once I finished (weirdly, I failed to get any pictures of that) and rested a few minutes, I headed back out to find the others. Andrew was the first I found, still being fairly perky, although since he was on the tail end of a cold, not as perky as normal.
And a little bit behind him, approaching the 25 mile mark, were Ann and Diane. I'm not sure perky is the right word, but they were still plugging along and anxious to be done. I carried Diane's pack and sticks the rest of the way in - they were moving at a pretty good clip and I had to work to keep up. In fact, Diane took off running to catch up with Andrew as we approached the bridge over the river - we were all shocked that she did that.
The race people were great, even with those of us who took so long to finish. By this time most people had cleared out, so it was just us walkers that were hanging around, cheering in the last few as they came in.
Finally we got to the point where there was one final walker on the course. We drove out to her to make sure she was doing OK, and she assured us she was. So we gave her a bottle of water and headed back to the finish line to update her husband - this was followed by a refreshing jump in the river.
Ann and Masha packed up and headed home (I can't imagine making that five hour drive after all that walking, but Ann is built of much stronger stuff than I am). Masha was amazingly patient, hanging around all day while Ann walked the course.
I soaked my feet in the ice cold river (which we called the Shrieking Eel River, due to the noise you made when touching it), but that was as bold as I would get.
Andrew, on the other hand, went for it. With no shrieking.
This is as close as Diane got to getting in the river.
Once we fished Andrew out of the river, we headed back up to the finish line - we were just in time to cheer Meredith in. That is her amazingly patient husband who had grabbed some of the finish line balloons to greet her with.
And there she is!
And that was about it. We headed back to our motel room in Eureka, and later, enjoyed a nice dinner while we moaned about all of our aches and pains. Here is the shirt with the finisher medal and patch.
I'm so hugely proud of Diane for finishing this event, her first marathon. She swears this is her last one, but we'll see. Ann was a great help to her, providing encouragement and keeping things moving. (This was her fourth marathon! For Andrew, this was his fifth.) When passing the Half Marathon finish line, it is extremely tempting to call it a day, but they both kept on going.
And I'm extremely thankful to the San Jose Stay Fit coaches, especially Paul, Andrew, and Curt, who worked so hard through the winter to get us to the point where we could handle this challenge.
Now to start working out the next one. There's this ET thing in Nevada...
That's it - move along...