Dr. J on Running

46 Pocatello Marathon

30 August 2014

Right knee pain marred the training in the three weeks leading to Pocatello. Recent DPT graduate Dr. J4 diagnosed it as an irritated meniscus from the fall in Crater Lake. I practiced walking a lot more than running, and took eventually a week off from running. Fortunately, my 4-mile run on Wednesday was painless, reviving my hopes for an honorable race.

I flew on Delta to Salt Lake City via Detroit using frequent flyer miles. On the DTW-SLC flight, I met Danie – a Marathon Maniac from Michigan on her way to pace the 3:40 group in Pocatello.

We landed on time in SLC, and I rented a car for the 168-mile drive north to Pocatello. I did not like the handling or the visibility of the Nissan Rogue, and I liked even less its fuel efficiency. The 80-mile per hour speed limit resulted in a 3-hour ride that included two comfort and food stops along the way.

I used Marriott points for my first night in Idaho at the TownePlace Suites, and I spent the second night at the Clarion Inn, the race hotel. I ate well, walked little and slept a lot in the 48 hours leading to the marathon. I picked-up my race packet from the race expo at the Clarion Inn. I liked the Adidas duffle bag, the 5 pounds of Idaho potatoes and the long-sleeve race shirt – except for the dark blue lettering on dark red fabric. I saw Maniac Andy – whom I met at Charlevoix – on his way to Titanium.

I gave thanks for a pre-race dinner of steak, Idaho baked potato and grilled vegetables at the Brass Rail Steakhouse in the Clarion Inn, and I retired early to bed. However, a bunch of foreign-speaking children with fat parents screamed their way in-and-out of the hotel pool outside my room. At 9:55, I called the front desk to voice my complaint, and the attendant assured me that the pool closed at 10. Closing it did, and the foreigners relocated their screaming to the room next door to me!

I called it a night couple of hours later, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed a banana and a 20-gram Protein Plus PowerBar. I verified my late check-out, and rode the 5am bus to the start line. There, I saw Danie, Cindy, Angie, Bob, Andy and two dozen Maniacs huddling in the brisk morning. A nice a capella rendition of our national anthem sent us on our way in the dark at 6:15am in cloudy 50 degrees.

The course started at 6,600 feet, dropped to 4,200 feet in the first half, then leveled off the rest of the way. I decided strategically to run the first 3 miles, and adapted tactically to 12-minute run/walk intervals – running to the mile marker and walking to the 12-minute timer beep. I noticed runners hogging the median of the road, and learned of an incident last year when runners disturbed a family of skunks that got even by spraying the runners.

I ran partway with Cindy and Erin, and learned of Erin’s theory of my origin. Following my comment that sunrise can wait, Erin traced my accent to Eastern Europe, Transylvania to be precise, presumed that I preferred to run in the darkness, and that Dr. J stood for Dracula.

The scenery was beautiful, but the downhill pounding took away any enjoyment of the surrounding country. Running the Gap – the moto of the Pocatello Marathon – was just that: running 10 miles down a gap between two mountains all the way to Pocatello. The Western side of the Rockies has comparable beauty to its Eastern counterpart in Morgan Valley, Missoula and Aspen.

The temperature crept into the low sixties when I reached the halfway pain-free in 2:32, and projected optimistically a finish of 5 hours. I hit the wall shortly afterwards, and revised my finish estimate to 6 hours. Forgetting about the altitude did not necessarily negate its effects. I walked 0.9 mile, then ran barely 0.1 mile before returning to walking. I tried to increase gradually my runs in the direction of 50/50 run/walk with mixed results. I reached 20 miles, and reassessed the situation – a sub-5:30 finish was in sight if I could maintain a 13-minute pace.

I threw caution to the wind, which picked up to 20 mph in our face the rest of the way, and I alternated erratically walking and running. I ran as far as I could, typically a fraction of a mile, then walked until I could run again, then ran until I could no more. I repeated this process several times per mile, and got to 22 miles in about 4:40. Covering 4 miles in 50 minutes was doable. I wanted badly to break 5:30 for the first time since New Jersey. This is increased my determination to endure, and I hammered even harder.

With a mile to go, I had it in the pocket. I ran the last kilometer alongside Jessica, a first-time marathoner, and we crossed the finish line in 5:23 – way faster than I imagined possible 13 miles earlier. Jessica took off with yards to go, and monopolized the focus of the photographer. Photographers must know that a first-timer in black jeans is more likely to buy a finish line photo than an addict in a Marathon Maniac singlet.

I liked the substantial medal with colorful ribbon that we received at the finish. A cramp-full stair climb into the bus led to a short ride to the Clarion Inn, a fallen toe nail, a nice shower, and a good coconut-milk cappuccino at the Snake River coffee shop near the Clarion Inn before I pointed the Rogue south towards SLC. I stopped repeatedly for food, drink and walking, and arrived to SLC in time for a strip steak, potatoes and broccoli before the restaurants closed for the night.

I spent a restless evening in the terminal awaiting the 1 am red-eye flight to Atlanta. There, I enjoyed Fresh-to-Order salmon and eggs – except for the home fries that tasted like reheated left-overs from the previous day. I got home midday, and napped a lot.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran 6 marathons during the 100 days of summer to complete his 46th marathon and 46th state at Pocatello, ID. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour