Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon - A Unique Experience

Another marathon completed, not as I wanted, but still COMPLETED! I am learning as a runner, that things don't always go according to plan, and I have to be flexible. I knew going into this marathon that it would be iffy that I would even be able to do it, much less finish it, but I WAS hoping I could at least run most of it. It was not to be, sadly. However, I DID finish it, even though I had to walk most of the distance.

The Bizz Johnson Trail is a lovely place to be, no matter what you're doing. Running a marathon on it seemed like such a great idea. I knew that the altitude might be a problem, but was hoping to overcome that by getting to Susanville a few days early to acclimate. I arrived on Thursday afternoon about 4:45 pm, after a 7.5 hour drive from Salem. Friday I picked up my bib # at the Historic Train Depot and then spent the rest of the day just relaxing at the motel. The Bizz Johnson Trail is an old railroad bed that runs through The Lassen National Forest from Westwood to Susanville, California.

Saturday morning I volunteered at an aid station for the 1/2 marathon. I had never done any volunteering at a race so it was a new experience for me. The volunteer coordinator, Marissa, was wonderful, as were Brian and Wendell, who are race directors for Pacific Coastal Trail Runs. Everything was explained very well and then I was asked to drive my car to the location, not a problem, but so much for my clean car. lol It's very dusty up there! Howard (my volunteer friend) and I had a great time providing drinks & snacks to the runners as they came through. We were located at mile 4 of the half marathon; at what would be mile 17 of the marathon. It was nice to see at least part of the course ahead of time. Here's some pictures of that area:

When we were done, we went to the finish area to see if they needed any help there. It was nice to get a look at where I would be finishing the marathon (I PLANNED to finish!).

That night, a twitter friend, Michelle and her husband Glenn arrived. They are from the Portland, Oregon area and had just run the Portland Marathon the week before. They were going to run this one also! It was great seeing them again; I had met them at the Newport Marathon. Here we are the night of the marathon, after dinner.

The marathon was the next day and we were leaving the train depot at 8:00 AM on buses, the marathon started at 9:00 AM, a little later than I'm used to. We were bused to Westwood for the start; some of us remained on the buses (which, by the way, were charter buses - so great!) to keep warm because the temperature at the start was 29*. I love running in the cold, but we knew that the temps were gong to reach at least 66 by the end of the day so I dressed accordingly. - shorts and a sports bra top. I also wore gloves & arm warmers. The gloves & arm warmers came off before the first hour was up. It warmed up fast. At the end it was 70* - that's an increase of 41 degrees!

Notice my Newton running shoes. This would be the farthest I had ever gone in them. They are great! I also wore my Zensah calf sleeves. They help so much!

This was a small race - only 445 registered, but about 9o didn't show up so we started with about 360 or so. We did a quick out & back of McCoy Road to make the race a complete 26.2. (The Bizz Johnson Trail is about 25 miles long.) I was feeling pretty good, kept my pace at about 12:30 for the first mile, 13:00 for the second & third, hoping I could take it easy for the first 7 miles since they were slightly uphill. Mile 4 was at 13:30, and then about mile 4.5 my Garmin started beeping that my heart rate was too high. That meant it had to be over 200, since that was what I set it for. I was also experiencing heart PVCs (I get them all the time - non-life threatening) so I knew I wasn't going to be able to run anymore, at least not during the uphill part. I began speed walking, but still couldn't get my heart rate down. I started feeling really depressed, because I had wanted to finish in about 5.5 hours. No way was that going to happen now!

I kept toughing it out, speed walking and finally started to feel better about mile 10. I attempted to run a few more times, but realized that the altitude was just too much for me. I normally run at 500' and we were over a mile high - started at 5300', went up to 5619' and then slowly came back down to 4200'. So much for getting there early to acclimate. :) I also needed to remember that I had suffered a concussion just 3 weeks ago, so my body was still in recovery mode.

Once I accepted that I would be walking the majority of the marathon, I began to enjoy it more. I knew I would finish it and just hoped to do that before dark. hahaha! I kept getting passed by everyone so I wasn't sure if anybody was behind me, but I didn't really care.

At mile 14 I starting having a silent migraine, which is painless, but affects my vision. I just kept on walking and it went away at about mile 14.5. Yes, I'm probably crazy, but I am MORE stubborn! :)

The aid stations are placed 2 miles apart, which is really nice if you're running mostly alone, because it gives you someone to talk to once in a while. All the volunteers were great and so friendly and encouraging.

At about mile 20 or so, I caught up with Amber, a 28 year old who was running her first marathon. We ended up passing & catching up to each other for a couple of miles and then just stayed together for the last few. I was glad for the company even though we didn't talk a whole lot - we just wanted to put one foot in front of the other AND to be able to breathe also. :) I'm glad she was there because for some reason, the volunteers at the aid stations at miles 22 & 24 decided to leave early. They left the supplies, but didn't stick around. I'm not sure why, but it was weird.

Amber & I kept encouraging each other - "I know the mile marker is just around the corner." and "We ARE going to finish - look, there's mile 26, .2 to go!" At approximately mile 26.1, there is a detour off the main trail to the finish at an area called Hobo Camp. We had a small uphill section & then it was downhill for the last 500 feet or so. I let Amber go ahead of me - her small son & husband were there to cheer her on. I was one second behind her. I remember smiling as I crossed the finish line. I had done it, completed my second marathon. I didn't care how I did it, I had done it! My time was 6:45:12. No wonder I was so tired, that's a LONG time to be speed walking, with no breaks. Whew!

I remember telling Marissa at the end that maybe someday I would actually "RUN" a marathon. LOL.

I will never get tired of the feeling of accomplishment on completing a race, especially a marathon. I makes all the pain worthwhile. I know I've done something that few people ever do, and something I thought I could NEVER do. It is SO true about runners getting a high after running! I love it!

Yes, I will do another marathon - I'm registered for CIM on December 6. Who knows - I may actually get to run most of it. Whatever happens, I WILL finish!

Oh, and by the way, I WASN'T the last to finish - there were 8 people behind me. The last to finish completed it in 8:16:40

This is a wonderful marathon, but I don't think I will run it again. The altitude, coupled with the long drive down, just makes it too difficult. However, I've learned to never say "never". :)

This is a picture of Mt. Shasta taken on the way home Monday. I felt like I could reach out and touch the mountain. It's SO lovely!


  1. Congrats on finishing the marathon! Sounds like it was a tough one since you just had that bike crash - terrible! I hope the CIM will be easier. : )

  2. Congratulations! Great report! Sounds like a great race.

  3. Thanks for the comments everyone. I'm still pretty sore, but hope to start back running next week. I sure look funny trying to walk. :)

  4. Wow! You are de WOMAN! Such vim and vigor! I am always impressed! You are an inspiration to many of us! Thanks for the report and the pictures! A friend wanted me to run this one, but I just couldn't fit it in!
    Mile high? I do all of my running at that elevation! What's the problem?
    (I'm kidding!


  5. You would do great at that altitude, me not so much. :) I grew up at an altitude of 1500', but that was MANY years ago. I guess I'll have to move to Denver or better yet, visit my son in Salt Lake City for a month before. Nah, probably won't happen. :)

    Seriously, you should run it sometime. It's a great marathon!

    I'm really hoping I can actually "run" CIM, or at least most of it. It's the right elevation for me.

  6. wow, Gina, you are such an inspiration. truly! With all you have gone through recently, I am so impressed with your determination and spirit. Congratulations on finishing your 2nd Marathon!

  7. Thanks, Nina. I guess I'm just REALLY stubborn! :)

  8. Way to go with the marathon lady!!! I didnt know you were running CIM! I am too! Looks like i will SEE you there!!!

  9. It will be great to meet you, Nicole!