Monday, January 21, 2008

The bad comes with the good

I think the two of the most preferred weather types down here are cold, blizzardy and warm, sunny. We like the cold and blizzardy days because Antarctica is supposed to be a harsh, cold continent. When it snows, it also covers up all the dirt and dust of the base and makes this place look less like a mining camp. I don't think why we like warm and sunny needs much of an explanation.

When we get these two weather patterns back to back, we have an extra danger to watch out for across base - washouts, mudslides, etc. The snow is great, but when the sun heats things up for 24 hours a day we can get some pretty serious snow melt around base. Normally, this just results in small streams beside the roads. When this first started happening, you could see people stopping and staring at the water because it was the first free moving water they had seen in months outside of a shower drain or checking out the mythical Coriolis effect in a toilet.

Serious snow melt.

Around December 14th, a pool that had been forming at one of the higher elevations on base broke open allowing a ton of water to pour out in addition to what was already coming down the roads. This almost caused us to lose our lower road down to the Ice Pier. The Ice Pier is the brown rectangle in the bottom left corner of the picture and is probably the world's biggest (man-made) ice cube. It is big enough for fuel tankers to tie up to.

The lower ice road down its best to wash out.
On a more personal note, the mental and physical anguish of the marathon are coming to a close. I'm finally walking close to normal. My IT band still hurts to run on, but a long sauna session and some yoga set the rest of my muscles straight. I'll be going for a short bike ride and long stretch to get the last couple kinks out later today. I'll probably only be riding on the road, but I'm so excited to be riding a bike again. I have one rented out for the entire week!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


My ice marathon is complete. I feel like my marathon can best be summed up by a Violent Femmes lyric, "Second verse, same as the first!!" If you aren't into running (and even if you are), this will probably bore you.

On May 20, 2007, I ran my first marathon on Colfax Avenue in Denver, CO. I had completed an abbreviated training schedule with the help of Pam Campbell (especially in the early stages). I had run a 22 mile training run about a month before the marathon and then sprained my ankle two days later. I did not run again until the day before my marathon when I ran 2.5 miles around Sloan Lake.

The day of the marathon, I felt ready though. At 1/4 done, I was on track for my goal of a 4 hour marathon. At 1/2, I was still on track for 4 hours, but something was going on in my legs that I think was caused by compensating for my sprained ankle. At 3/4 done, I had slowed to a four and a half hour marathon finish. During that stretch something else started hurting a lot in my legs. I would learn later it was my IT band. I had to slow to a walk which quickly evolved to a limp because I kept trying to run on it. At Sloan Lake, the 3/4 mark, I was a very short distance to my house and six miles from the finish. Perhaps because it was my first marathon, perhaps because I'm stubborn, I chose to limp out that last six miles. I kept trying to run, but it never worked. It made matters worse.

Major points to John Bain who gave me a ride at 4am and then, thinking that I would be finish in 4 hours, waited until I drug myself across the finish line at 5:28:03 (Net Time 5:27:45 whatever that means). I was happy I even finished considering how little training I had done the month before the race, but a small part of me was still bummed because it had looked like I was going to meet my goal.

Fast forward to January 20, 2008 as I'm about to attempt my second marathon. I was training like a machine. My primary goal was to be able to run the entire race, unlike last time. My secondary goal was to run it in 4 hours, but that seemed unlikely across snow and ice. However, one month before the marathon I turned out 25 miles in 4:10. I felt great all through the training run and realized that a 4 hour marathon may be within my grasp. I got excited and entered my taper phase.

I ran two short runs the week after the 25 miler and then did a 17 miler the three weekends before the event. The week after that, I did one short run and then 8 miler with an hour of ultimate in the snow on the weekend. After that, I had two full weeks before the marathon. I had planned on running the next to final week and weekend but didn't because I had two roommates quarantined with the flu and didn't want to risk lowering my immune system and getting sick for the marathon. I was worried that I had tapered too much, but I still felt good and the conditions were perfect.

Getting ready for the big start.

I went out alright and shared 2nd place for the first hour with Dave Z. The guy in 1st must have been a mile ahead of us. Stud. At the start of the second quarter, Dave and I were passed by a group of three runners. We decided to catch them by the halfway point and surged back to them by mile 12. However, that was the last I would see of any of them. My IT Band started to hurt then (different side than my other marathon). I kept running hard until the half way point which I reached in 1:47. If I had been able to keep up, it probably would have been 1:40.

Running beside Dave Z (I'm in red.)

I was excited, but also realized that the same thing was happening. I could run myself into a limp again or take it easy and walk jog the rest of the race. I chose to try and take it easy. Another racer, Richard, had the same problem with his opposite leg. We considered attempting to do a three legged race, but instead just ran together until mile 22 where he was able to keep moving along while I broke into a walk-limp because I had tried to run one too many times. I even attempted to power walk which I've often wondered the point of. I think the point is this - by really pumping your arms, you remind yourself to keep going faster. When I didn't pump my arms a lot, I let my legs slow down as well. I believe I finished in 4:51:21 to lots of cheering from fellow racers and event staff. I couldn't believe I had finished in under 5 hours, but I guess power walking is faster than limping. The winner crossed in 3:26:30.

Major kudos to the event staff, recreation department, and spectators. They put on a great with tons of support for the 75 or so people who ran or skied the full and half marathon events.

Finishers and voluneer t-shirt.