An Unexpected Change of Events – the Holualoa Tucson HALF Marathon, December 11, 2011

My intentions were to do the full marathon here in Tucson, but circumstances unexpectedly changed. After a peaceful Thanksgiving with my family and a relaxing but very active Disney cruise with my oldest son and his lovely wife and beautiful 3 year old daughter, my husband and I returned to Florida with serious colds. I’ll spare my readers the lurid details, but suffice it to say that we were completely wiped out as a result of scratchy throat and the sneezing, coughing, and sleepless nights that accompanied the illness.

We were supposed to leave early Friday morning on the 9th. Only one of us made it to the plane. An hour before the flight, my husband decided that flying was out of the question for him. I, on the other hand, decided to head to Tucson despite my intent desire to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. There were several reasons why this race was so important (aside from the practical matter of having already paid for the airline tickets). For one thing, our friends Karen and David had generously offered us accommodations at their Tucson timeshare, thus saving us the expense of a hotel room. Also, Karen and I had done the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage this past June; it was her 48th state and my 50th. During the autumn, Karen had completed her final two states, West Virginia and Maryland, and now we were both ready to receive our trophies at the 50 State Club reunion meeting the day before the race. I had hoped my husband would be there to see me receive my award but it looked like that would not be possible now.

I left for Arizona feeling sad and ill; I was especially unhappy that my husband – who has been my right-hand man through all my racing adventures and my #1 advocate and champion – would miss seeing me get my trophy. At some point during my two flights, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have to get my award at this reunion. There are four reunions every year and the next one would be at the Georgia Marathon in March and I was already signed up for that race. I decided right then that I would go to Tucson to support my friend Karen at her 50th state finisher celebration and would simply postpone mine until the spring.

My friends met me at the airport and I relayed the news about our illness sidelining my husband and bringing just me, hoarse and coughing, to visit. They were wonderful hosts, gracious and understanding, and as a result I had the best time possible under difficult circumstances. It was Karen who suggested dropping down to the half marathon from the full so I wouldn’t have to stress my body more than necessary. She was nursing shin splints and said she would not mind doing the half herself. Do a half instead of a full? Unthinkable and normally not something I would ever do, even feeling miserable. However, I did have a 50k the following weekend, so changing to the half seemed prudent . We drove to the expo at the El Conquistador Hilton Resort and the change was easily made. We got new bibs, our goody bag, a short sleeved gray tech shirt, and a pair of socks. The expo was a fairly decent sized event and we wandered around the booths for an hour or so. Karen bought some shirts and a pair of shorts while I just browsed. The highlight for me was visiting with Marshall Ulrich who was standing by a table with a stack of his book, Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America. We had recently added this book to our library’s collection and I had just finished reading it – and here was my chance to purchase my own copy and get it autographed by one of the world’s most noted ultrarunners. Unfortunately, I had completely lost my voice and could only squeak out a few words of praise to Mr. Ulrich but at least I had enough presence of mind to ask David to snap a photo of us together. Back to the time share to rest and meet up Karen’s sister and husband.

The reunion was set for 4 pm, so we all drove back to the hotel later in the day. We met more of Karen’s family and enjoyed the meeting itself, with Steve and Paula Boone and the other board members giving the latest statistics on members, updating us on merchandise and future reunions, overseas marathons and such. We went around the room so all of the members could stand up and introduce themselves and then the serious business of awarding the trophies took place. Lots of photos and laughter and stories and then, the meeting was over.

The next morning David drove Karen and I to the spot where the half marathoners were to be bused to the start. We managed to get on the earliest bus and at a few minutes past 5 am we were off. It took about 45 minutes to arrive at the starting line; full marathoners were bused 13 miles farther north and then completed their final 13 miles over the same route we were to take. It was freezing cold but there were heaters set up for people to gather around; unfortunately if you were not right NEXT to the heaters, you were just out of luck, but Karen and I managed to work our way close enough to stay reasonably warm. There were plenty of portapotties (locked at first until someone managed to pry the locks open) but I only made one pit stop as soon as we arrived. I did not want to give up my spot at the heater!

And so we waited for 2 hours, until the start of the race at 7 am, and then everyone sprinted off on a mostly downhill course. Desert scenery was all around us, with dawn lighting up the sky in those early morning hours. I have to admit that a half marathon is just about the perfect distance for a race. It’s long enough so one can feel it is a real accomplishment but not so long that one gets tired or sore or hurt. Even though I coughed and sneezed the entire time, I enjoyed being outside and moving. Just about mile 26, I heard someone call my name and there was Karen cheering me on. I managed to dig a bit deeper to hasten my way to the finish line, with a time of 2:44. David took a photo of the two of us at the finish line and we made our way to the car. Colorful medal and lanyard but not much food for finishers (and this was only 3 hours into the race); however the lack of food was not a problem for me since I wasn’t really hungry. I just wanted a shower and a nap! We did stop at a local bakery on the way to get some fresh bread; in our goody bags we had received a coupon for a free loaf so we bought some yummy pastries and turned in our coupons for some delicious bread.

A restful night and I was ready for my trip home early the next morning. Arizona is a long way from Florida, and the 2 time zone changes nearly did me in this time, but I managed to get home around 5 pm and went straight to bed. I had to go to work early the next day and, with a 50 k set for the following week, I needed to put this illness behind me quickly!

4 thoughts on “An Unexpected Change of Events – the Holualoa Tucson HALF Marathon, December 11, 2011

  1. “I have to admit that a half marathon is just about the perfect distance for a race. ”

    I think I know what you mean – although I’ve only done one full – it’s like night and day comparing the two. After doing a half, it’s still pretty easy to go out that night but not so after a full…

    • That is so true, Scott. A full marathon is a real committment of time and energy and persistence. A half marathon certainly requires a similar level of committment but it doesn’t leave you with that feeling of total exhaustion.

      I can see myself prefering to do half marathons exclusively at some point. Half Fanatics, here I come!

  2. Marsha, congratulations on another great race and congratulations on your 50-state award. I can’t even begin to imagine the work and dedication that went into that accomplishment. I’m sorry to hear about your cold. You must have been miserable. Regarding Marshall Ulrich, I read his book in the week leading up to FANS last June. It inspired me to greater things and I share your admiration of him. Again, congratulations. I wish you a merry Christmas. I look forward to reading more of your accomplishments in 2012.

  3. Thanks, Dan.I am glad you enjoyed Marshal Ulrich’s book, too. I was so excited to see him at the expo – someday I would love to walk across the US (or even one or two states!). He does mention some ‘pedestrian’ walkers and after some web research I found a mention of a whole core of cross-country walkers. Now to just find the time and money to do that.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

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