Just to bring you up to speed...
- Teresa and I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico
- I didn’t run for almost five months • I ran my first 2012 ½ marathon in an miserable 1:32:00
- I rebounded a bit with a 1:21:00 20K performance in Des Moines
- Teresa and I went to South Africa for the Big Five Marathon in June
Alright, now you are all caught up. Sort of.
Teresa, my niece Haley, and I flew in to Dubai for 4 days before going to South Africa for the marathon. The Dubai details are for another blog post on another day. Stay tuned...
After flying out at 2:00 a.m. we arrived in Johannesburg South Africa 2 days before the marathon. A quick 4 hour ride in a van and we all landed at the Entabeni Game Reserve in the northern region of South Africa in the Limpopo Province. Breathe.
Immediately upon arriving at our “camp” we rushed to our cabin, dropped off bags, and jumped on a topless Toyota Landcruiser for our first of 4 game drives. Awesome. Within 20 minutes of arriving at the reserve we were following a herd of 7 elephants and then ended nearly face to face with them. 30 minutes later we are tracking and watching 6 lions chill out, roar, move, and then chill out some more. We missed the ever elusive giraffes – but we would have our day. Those buggers are sneaky. I underestimated their sneakiness.
Next day we didn’t do a game drive per say, but we did do a route inspection. Back in the topless Toyota and drive the 26 miles (or as every other person there said, 42.2 kilometers) of the route. I wish we hadn’t. When it takes 2 ½ hours to drive a marathon course you kind of know you are in for a long marathon day. A very long day.
Hurry up and talk about the race Chris.
By the time race morning came along I was already tuckered out from the travel and rides in the topless Toyota. But Feldo always told me not to make excuses and saddle up for the day.
The start sucks. I don’t have a more articulate way of describing the first 4 miles. Out of the gate we ran on sand / dirt roads and were running slightly downhill. That didn’t last. The sand did but the downhill was gone. We were greeted with 777 feet of elevation gain in the first 4 miles. Sweet. Thank goodness it was windy too so that I couldn't run too fast. 50+ Wildebeests ran across the course around mile 3.5 which was cool because I could take a quick break.
The good news is that we were on downhill ground for the next 2 miles or so. At this point we are on the top of Mount Entabeni in a cool prairie / valley section. Very pretty. It was cool because as high as we were (about 5,000 feet) the winds really picked up and made running in the sand less than easy. I didn’t come all this way to have an easy race right? (I kind of did…oops) At this point I was still feeling pretty good and thought I might rule this course.
I was running with the 3rd place dude and even though he was a faster, younger, stronger, better looking runner than me – it was better than being out there by myself. The pack was strung out by mile 3 pretty good.
Usually I enjoy a good downhill to let the dogs rest but this was a real doozie. In mile 7 we descended 765 feet and the only paved section of the day. This was way harder than I thought. I only ran an 8:18 mile on a paved downhill section. But we had the breaks on to stop us from dying. It was crazy steep. The sad part was that it wasn’t really registering that we had to run back up this beast. Yeah!
The next 10K was at the bottom of the mountain in a really sandy section that was probably the most scenic. I say probably because my head was down looking at my feet the whole time. Somewhere in this section #3 broke away from me and I was in lone 4th. It was fine with me because I could run my own pace and try to get my legs back a bit. I was still feeling ok – but the uphill was looming.
On paper that hill doesn’t look bad. In person it is extremely intimidating. Long, steep, no reprieve. This hill was just under 2 miles long (1.8) and gained 1,147 feet. Ugh. Right at the foot of the hill 2 dudes passed me dropping me to 6th. No worries…I rule hills. I had visions of awesomeness and tearing up this hill. Chris Brooks from Albuquerque New Mexico was going to show is skill. And I did. For about 150 meters I destroyed the hill. And then it destroyed me. 30 minutes later I reached the top. A broken middle-aged New Mexican.
The reward? “Hey buddy, congrats you are at the half way point.” “Only 21 kilometers to go!” Son of a B%$!
Ok, sorry it took me 888 words to get to half way point. Hang in there readers, I’m gonna wrap this gem up soon.
I was done. All I could do was “jog” at a 12:00 clip. I didn’t even know that it was possible to actually still be jogging at that pace. It is. And it was painful too. So I had that going for me.
I kept praying for some Lion or Water Buffalo to find me delicious looking and eat me. Cool ending to the story I think. Sadly the Lions and Water Buffaloes had high level Lion and Buffalo meetings that day and I wasn’t on the agenda. So I just kept moving.
Somehow I caught the guy in 5th place and hung on to 5th until 5K to go. When the German passed me for 5th it took the tiny piece of desire, motivation, and spirit I had left. Farewell German. Then a Venezuelan dude passed me and an Australian. Apparently it was United Nations day to pass me. But I just kept moving. I ended up in 8th and there was quite a gap after the top 10.
The End End
This was the 2nd hardest marathon I have ever done (Pikes Peak 1st) but it was close. Mentally this race was a real test. I just kept moving and kept praying for Lions. Thank goodness not all my prayers have been answered. Teresa did great and had a much better day than I did. She could even walk the next day while I was limping around and crying. This race may have beat me – but I beat 192 other participants. Why did they all look so much better than me after the race?
Until the next race.