I don't even know where to begin with this one. Today, a long run was on the menu-40km. Coach and I figured well I could do it at home in the woods at 6AM(not so hot) or run the marathon (42k) because it's more fun w/ company. I chose the latter option. Belochka was my first Russian marathon back in 98 when I first won it when I was just beginning grad studies at Moscow State in the summer. I have done Belochka 5 times and won 3 of them and been 3rd the other two times. I have been on hiatus from this marathon since 2006 for one reason or another. So, today, 13 days off the 50K, I decided to go out and do it as my long run.
The weather- 32-33C in the SHADE( that's lo mid 90s for the Farenheit minded)!! Of course only in Russia do they start a hotass hell race at 11:30AM! Jeez, I should consider doing Badwater sometime....NOT. Heat and I have never gotten along. Ok whatever I was planning an easy run anyways . I was allowed to have an I Don't Care Race today.
Ok- all was fine until about 8k into the race. I was running with a group of guys as the course was very poorly marked and in key spots on some of the trails there were NO MARKINGS. Well we got to a turn where a guy was telling ppl where to go. I haverun this course 5 times and remember you always follow the little yellow arrows on the paved parts and the trail portions are marked and some markings are on the trees. So turn comes and we see the little yellow arrows are pointing to the R I G H T and after we asked to make sure the guy told us no, we had to turn L E F T. Ok if you ask the dude directing traffic at the turn he SHOULD KNOW WHERE TO SEND PPL. 15 minutes later we end up back in the same spot! OH FECK! We have just added 3+k. Nice and now instead of being in the lead group, the frontrunners(all of which were misdirected including little ol' me, are now running behind the grannies who run some 5 hrs and slower runners. BLOODY HELL! The course is not rocket science -first loop just under 4k then 3x almost 13k. I often get stuck running alone in the final loops as ppl drop back and have never ever messed up because things were always well marked. it's one thing to get lost on your own if it's your fault, but when the ORGANIZERS AND PPL MANNING THE TURNS TELL EVERYONE TO GO THE WRONG WAY, IT'S SHEER INCOMPETENCE! At this point I was just mad as hell as were all of the other frontrunners.!@#$%%&*&*$%#&&*^#$@#@!@!^&&**(()^&$@#@#
I knew that meant at least 45-6k today. Who the hell knew if we'd get DQed (nice dq ed for an eff upb y the ppl what were supposed to know their sh!t!). Coach was waiting for me at the end of each loop to hand off 1 half liter bottle to drink as I entered the stadium each time and then as I left the stadium he handed off another to carry with me.Major thanks to him as he came out after being on 24 hr shift to crew for me. There was VERY LITTLE WATER as usual and only 3 stations with itty bitty half full cups. Slower runners said by the time they were on the last loop that the water had run out! NICE:-( If not for having my crew and own bottles I would have likely had to drop out from dehydration. Leonid(coach) was wondering what the hell had happened as to why it took so long for me to finish loop 2 so I told him that all of the frontrunners and a few midpackers got sent on a 3+k wild goose chase!
Loop 3- at the same turn where everyone got sent the wrong way the guy was standing there asking evveryone if they had run the extra loop or not and then sent those who had on a shorter loop and the rest on the standard loop. Everyone was on the honor system here as to who had run extra and who hadn't. So the guys I had been running w/ and I took the short loop to compensate. Ok that was fine and dandy but just after 25k they started to drop back. Damn, guys PLEASE don't do this I will be on my own and likely eff up AGAIN! It was clear they wouldn't be able to stay with me so I just followed the little yellow arrows I remembered the best I could from years past and was ok.
Going into the final loop I was totally alone. So I told Leonid if I wasn't back at the finish in about and hour that something bad had happened AGAIN (hell, send a search team). Gads, when I was still running w/ the guys we asked bypassers in the park along the way if they had seen any runners ahead and if the answer was yes, we breathed a sigh of relief. Now, I was left to do this for the next several km! Better to ask after I make a turn then to go way the hell the wrong way and have to backtrack. So that's what I did. At about 34k I started picking ppl off who had gone out too fast and this also was relief mentally as I knew I wasn't lost. I continued picking people off all the way until nearly the finish and each time I picked one off I could see the next not far ahead. It's so unerving to have to run under duress like that not knowing if you are going the right way because things were not well marked and it was really easy to miss a turn.Plus, to have to deal with that crap in extreme heat was no picnic either. Those little yellow arrows were old and worn because this course has not been used since 07. In 08 they had to reroute, in 09 things were officially cancelled, and last yr they had to run the reroute they did in 08. My Garmin clocked 43 k and change. I ended up 2nd overall. I ran with a cold wet sponge in my top I replaced at each aid station and took another cold sponge to wet my arm sleeves to keep my arms cool. The only saving grace was that most of the course was in the shade, otherwise I would have just died. The sunny spots were just killer! Top 3 women are all 100k and or 24 hour runners. First and 3rd woman are on the Russian Team in the 100k and 24hr. Seems like it was a day for ultrarunners to go on a long training run?! Lena Simutina-top woman today and I have taken turns beating each other at Belochka and other marathons we have done for training runs over the yrs. She is really nice too. Irina Koval was 3rd and she is an awesome 24 and 48 hr runner. She is on the other side of 50 too! If only I could have a figure like hers when I'm 50! She so does not look her age!
One thing I do like about this race is the medals for top 3 are cute. They always have a cute little friendly squirrel on them. In 98, when I won, one of the prizes I got was a stuffed toy squirrel. I still have it but it's at my brother's house now with my stuff.
Big thanks again to Vitargo Russia for keeping me supplied. I was drinking it like a fish today and it really does make a difference. Despite all the mess, I was still able to hold an even pace today and even pick up in the 2nd half.