Dr. J on Running

45 Crater Lake Rim Marathon

9 August 2014

Sarah moved ACE graduation to Wednesday to allow me to attend and fly to Oregon on Thursday morning. Except for a three-hour ground stop in Denver due to lightning, the trip to Medford was routine. I spent Thursday night at the Courtyard Medford Airport, across the parking lot from the terminal.

Friday morning, I picked up a rental car and followed Route 62 for 75 miles to Crater Lake National Park. The drive reminded me of the Adirondacks - two-lane road and many boats. Inside the park, crews laid fresh asphalt and gravel.

I stopped at the rental office at Mazama Village, and confirmed that I could check in early. Then I drove to the rim for sightseeing and lunch. The incredible beauty of the park gripped me, and I got psyched for the race. For the first time ever, I drove the marathon course. It rose and dropped hundreds of feet at a time, but the scenery grew in beauty by the mile.

The cabins at Mazama Village had no cell service, but the free WiFi allowed adequate connectivity. I dined on ribeye, potatoes and carrots at Annie Creek, and retired early.

I found myself on the same bus to the start that Mike had boarded in Klamath Falls. We chatted during the 20-minute ride, then shivered awaiting sunrise. We met several Maniacs, including 80-year old Paul running his 15th Rim Run. With local favorite Paul in the race, the director assured me that there will be no 5:30 cutoff. 

A late bus delayed the start by 10 minutes. The race director welcomed us, and told us repeatedly that this run was gonna hurt. Then, with little fanfare, a countdown from five sent us off.

Within a few steps, a runner behind me stepped on my heel and sent me crashing onto the pavement. The packed field and the total surprise denied me adequate reaction. I hit the ground hard, face first.

Mike and Maniacs came to my rescue as I scrambled up on my feet. The right knee hurt most. The upper lip felt huge. The shoulder stung. My confused thoughts focused on my nose. I would drop out if it was broken or if the bleeding continued. Fortunately, the nose drip was phlegm not blood, and the blood came from outside the nose.

I ran in pain assessing my injuries. Mike gave me a curt enumeration of my bleeding: nose, lip, mouth, hands, knees, left elbow and left shoulder. I urged him to run on, as I struggled to a 9:40 first mile!? My right knee hurt a lot with every step. Evidently, riding the course before the race brought me bad luck.

I found an ambulance around mile 2. The EMT cleaned my wounds, and reassured me that my nose was not broken. She noted that my worst lacerations were the lip, right knee and left shoulder. She wished me Godspeed over the next 24 miles of sweat in wounds. The Lafayette church newsletter carried a relevant quote: if He led me to it, He would guide me through it. So, I ran with endurance the race that was set before me.

The first water stop presented a new challenge - drinking. The lip was still bleeding and swelling, so I could not quite close my mouth around a cup... and the Gatorade stung. I managed to stick to my strategy of running to the mile and walking to the 13-minute timer. My knee became numb, and all my wounds stung. My runny nose dripped salty yuk onto my cut lip. The race director was right - we were barely minutes into the race, and I hurt.

The uphills were steeper than I remembered from driving the course, and so were the downhills. Nevertheless, I pushed on. I hammered uphill, and coasted downhill. I reached mile 5 under an hour, and mile 10 just over two hours. The scenery was heavenly, reminding me that only God could have created such beauty. I was starting to enjoy the race.

I recalled reading somewhere about the antiseptic powers of urine – or was it saliva? I peed in my shorts hoping to speed up the healing of my knee wounds. That was a bad mistake. As I motored up the 4-mile hill towards the halfway point, I noticed that my Timex was stuck at 10.68 miles and 7,711 feet, although the time marched on. It remained at 10.68 till the end of the race.

Annoyed with the loss of GPS, I transformed my run-walk strategy to a walk-walk routine. My knee thanked me for walking, but my hip complained. I passed the half in 2:50-ish, and saw Mike ahead of me at the 14-mile high point turn.

An 8-mile long downhill followed, taxing my swollen knee to the max. I alternated hip-painful walking with knee-painful running, careful not to let either pain turn the race into a DNF. 

The course turned eerily lonely after losing first the 10K runners and then the thirteeners. I passed a couple of tourist-runners and chatted with a couple of Maniacs, but I spent the next 10 miles essentially alone admiring God’s beautiful creation.

The course departed from the rim after mile 19, and followed a side road downhill the next three miles. I reached mile 22 in 4:41, and turned onto Greyback Road past the finish line onto the infamous sand dune. 

For the next two miles, we climbed straight up on a sand trail at an 8 percent grade, then turned back for two miles downhill to the finish. I walked up at a steady pace, after ruling out all reasons for running. I caught up with Mike at the turn around, and we ran-walked together downhill with a spoken desire to finish under 6 hours.

The relentless sandy uphill from 22 to 24 miles took a toll on my legs, and took out of them any energy to run downhill. Nevertheless, we ran in short spurts, and lifted high our heads as we crossed the finish line in 5:50-ish for a top 100 finish.

I picked up my finisher medal and T-shirt, and proceeded to the ambulance. An EMT cleaned my wounds, and covered the right knee and left shoulder with antiseptic ointment and bandage. In the meantime, Mike met up with Deb and Wally for some well-earned watermelon.

Deb drove us to Annie Creek for lunch, then I picked up my car and drove back to Medford for another night at the Courtyard. When I tried printing my boarding passes for the return trip home, I discovered that United had canceled the MFR-DEN flight, and booked me for the Monday morning. A phone call to United got me a Sunday evening departure to SFO and a red eye to ORD.

After a 30-seater standby ride from MFR to SFO, and a window exit seat next to a Crossfitter from SFO to ORD, I got some zzz’s at the Chicago Hilton for the night, trying to convince another Mujibar at United that I was not in no-show in MFR, 90 percent done with the 50-state challenge.

Dr Kamal Jabbour completed his 45th marathon and 45th state at Crater Lake, and filed his intent to graduate in December. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour