Dr. J on Running

31 Run For The Troops Marathon, Dubuque, IA

22 June 2013

I flew to Quad Cities courtesy of an earlier overbooked Delta flight, then I drove into Iowa for some relaxation and psyching. I picked up my race packet from the Hodge Company, and I sampled various Paleo meals at local establishments.

After a brief stop at McDonald’s for non-fat latte, I arrived early at the Heritage Trail parking lot. Jordan greeted me and directed me to park on the grass off the trail. In the following hours, I had a lengthy chat with her on fitness and nutrition. A nutritionist by trade and an accomplished triathlete, she gave me useful hints on Paleo living.

I sat next to Maniac Shawn on the bus ride to Dryersville. A local Iowan with 3:14 credentials, we exchanged race stories on the bus and later in the potty lines. Shawn went on to run 4:18 in Dubuque, a notable achievement under the circumstances.

The weatherman forecast thunderstorms for race morning, and his prediction proved right. After the photographer took a picture of the Maniacs at the tank, Connie ordered us all into Heritage Printing for shelter at 6:30.

The skies turned dark and thunderous, and heavy rain fell around us. Two hundred runners and volunteers huddled in the small print shop, as we rearranged ourselves into a serpentine line for the only toilet.

At 8 o’clock, Connie informed us that she would make a decision by 8:30 whether to cancel the race or to start at 9. Fortunately, the skies cleared, and we reassembled at 8:45 for a two-hour delayed start. The storm had covered portions of the trail and blew away many mile markers, and the volunteers frantically tried to fish out of the creek the tents at the transition areas.

The race grand marshals welcomed us to Dryersville, and a tween moved us with an a capella national anthem. An old Army Jeep led the way at 9:05 for the start of our long journey back to Dubuque. The two-hour delay denied us the shade that the tree-lined trail would have provided earlier in the morning.

We ran the first mile out-and-back on the main road to thin the field, then jumped onto the Heritage Trail – a rail-to-trail conversion with fine crushed stone that I would empty from my Minimus four times along the way.

I carried a cold bottle of diluted Gatorade, and settled in a 4-and-4 shuffle. The heat and humidity reduced my forward motion into a survival shuffle of 12 minutes per mile. I drank early, and drank often. Five relay transition areas offered water, Gatorade and snacks. Volunteers on golf carts traveled up and down the trail with stocked coolers.

I felt dizzy, lightheaded and disoriented around Mile 11. I resolved to run through the halfway point, then walk the rest of the way. I ate half a Powerbar, and drank more fluids. I ran pretty much alone, and reached 13.1 miles in 2:38. I remained hopefully of finishing in the top 100. The sun came out, the mercury rose and the humidity crept up. I alternated drinking water and Gatorade every time a cart passed me, and I stuffed ice in my shirt and shorts. Oooh that felt good. I walked to Mile 17 where I met Dan, also on a survival shuffle. Dan had weak ligaments around his knees and planned to undergo surgery, but he hoped to get in one more marathon. Dan and I walked the next three miles, but his pace grew progressively laborious. We stopped often, drank a lot, and swapped stories. At 20.53 miles, Dan crumbled. I hooked my arm under his armpit and held him low. I helped him back on his feet, but we both knew that it was the end of the road for him. He could not take an additional step forward.

I waited with Dan about 6 minutes for the golf cart. We exchanged good wishes. The volunteers helped him onto the cart, and drove him to the nearest road crew for transportation to the finish line. I took leave of Dan, and attempted to resume running. I harbored illusions of top 100 and sub 6-hour finish.

Sun, heat and humidity took a toll in the last 5 miles. The temperature hovered around 90 degrees with a heat index of 94. I latched onto a relay runner from 21 to 22 for a sub-10-minute mile, my fastest of the day, then I reeled in a straggler in mile 24.

The end came not a minute too soon. I crossed the finish line in 5:56:22 to the cheers of the volunteers. Connie gave me a hug. I walked around for a couple of minutes, then headed for the locker-room to freshen up for the road trip to Illinois. A woman waiting for her boyfriend to finish offered to help me change into dry clothes – a friendly bunch those Iowans.

PS – the trip home went without an incident, but my body broke down forty-eight hours later. I developed a runny nose, cough, sinus infection, sore throat, and two painfully inflamed kidneys. Sleeping 30 hours in a day-and-a-half and drinking a bottle of C-Boost got me back on my feet. I took a week off from running, then started training for my next marathon.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed his 31st marathon and 31st state in Iowa, at one of the best organized and most meaningful marathons ever. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2013 Dr Kamal Jabbour

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