Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zoom Yah Yah Marathon (Loooooong Version!)

WOWEEE!! Who would have thought running 150 laps could be so much fun?

In fact, I think it's the most fun I've ever had during a marathon. Really! My apologies in advance for the lengthy report but this experience was truly like no other.

The Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon was held at St. Olaf College's Tostrud Field House. 150 laps around a rectangular 282 meter track (5.7 laps = 1 mile) that was curved and slightly banked at each of the four corners. Due to limited space on the track, only ~40 runners were allowed to participate making this the smallest race I've ever done (there's a lottery to get in).

We started behind a line of tape placed on the track. There was a race clock at the start/finish as well as a row of dedicated St. Olaf women's track team members who were there to record your laps and splits so you didn't have to keep track yourself (they're on the opposite side of the track in the photo above). One counter per runner and all of the counters were young and good looking!

Mine was named Allison and before the race she told me to say something to her each time I passed to make sure she counted me. I asked her what I should say thinking maybe we'd have a code word or something. She suggested that I say something different each time. Oh My! I told her I'd do the best I can.

We self-seeded ourselves and were off and running in the counter-clockwise direction soon after Race Director (RD) Dick Daymont gave us some final instructions: Unless you have a dire emergency, please let your counter know if you leave the track to use the restroom so she won't think she missed counting a lap. Every 30 minutes we'll switch directions. The procedure is to finish the lap you are on running on the inside track, go around a traffic cone that will be placed where the race started (so another very tight turn every half hour!) and then run on the outside track until you've passed the last person running the opposite direction.

I had no idea how easy or hard it would be to run on the track. In training, I only ran some loops once to get a feel for the monotony of running laps but the loops were not so small. I ran the first three laps of the race in 1:30-1:35 (a 1:36 avg was needed for a 4-hour marathon) and could tell that was too fast for me with all those turns (I begin iron tri training next month and can't afford any injuries!). So I slowed down some and then put my body into cruise control. My mind, however, was racing with excitement!

Am I really doing this? This is CRAZY! People are cheering every lap! WOOHOO, GO SHIRLEY! Hey, thanks for coming out! You guys ROCK! Hi Allison, it's ME!


I raised my arms and cheered too whenever people cheered for me and soon became known as the happiest runner on the track. The RD had asked us to submit our favorite songs so they could compile a tape to play during the event and the music was a real treat (I don't usually listen to music when running). I also think the RD must have handed out a sheet with people's race numbers and names on it because some of the spectators knew my name and it wasn't printed on my bib.

Along the track, there was one spectator wearing a gorilla suit (with the face on backwards) who would make me laugh often (see above photo). Friends of runners were stationed in 2 or 3 different places and a couple of them were handing out snacks. There were also some funny signs to read that changed periodically. There was a big window on one side of the gym so you could see what it looked like outside and be glad you were inside (view from the window in the photo below). Many runners were giving each other encouragement as they passed. And every time you passed the lovely lap counters, they would cheer as well. There just never seemed to be a dull moment!

Look at all that snow outside! Ooh, theme from Rocky, a Meatloaf song, Queen! Keep it up, Shirley! Thanks, you too! Allison, help me, I can't stop smiling!

Initially, I tried several times to count up to six laps to get an idea of my marathon pace (6 laps in 10 minutes would give me a 4:10 marathon) but it was no use. There were so many distractions that I kept losing count. We'd change directions and I'd lose count. But, really, did I care about my pace? Nah. I just asked Allison occasionally if I was coming up on a milestone (25, 50, 75, etc.) to get an idea of my progress in the race.

The first time we changed directions, though, running the other way (clockwise) felt very strange. I got an ominous ache in my left foot and left hip. OH NO!! I slowed down my pace a bit more and soon it disappeared. By the time I finally got used to running in the clockwise direction, it was time to change directions again. The direction changes were good, however, as there was a new leader every time (at least for a while) and they helped break up the monotony of running laps (not that I was ever bored ;-) and give one side of your body a little break (your right side works harder going CCW while your left side does so when going CW).

Then about an hour and a half into the race I heard the RD call out "ShirleyPerly? ShirleyPerly?" I yelled out from the other side of the track and Dick said that Sunshine was here. COOL! She, Don and Sweet Pea had done the race before and were kind enough to come down to cheer for me and watch me finish (they live about an hour away). But, oh my, they were so early!

As I continued running around and around, I told them that I was not even half way done yet. Not to worry, they were planning to do some running of their own on the 200m oval track downstairs. So now I had folks cheering for me from down below as well and since the downstairs track was smaller and Don was running separate from Sunshine and Sweet Pea, I was sometimes yelling and waving to them twice a lap. No wonder my vocal cords and shoulders got such a workout!

GO SHIRLEY! Hi Don! YAY SHIRLEY! Hey Sunshine & Sweet Pea! Still going strong! Yep, I feel like the Energizer Bunny! Allison, are YOU dizzy yet?

Another very different thing about this race was that it was BYOA: Bring Your Own Aid. You could bring any food and drinks you wanted and place them on any one of four tables that were at the corners of the track (in the video above, you can see one table on the left). Rather than put stuff at every table, most folks chose just one table and everyone's setup was unique. Some people brought big bottles, others brought lots of little bottles, one guy had a box top to put everything in, another had an ice chest, some people used bags, others just left things out. I brought one big 32 oz bike bottle filled with my favorite Gatorade concoction, another 24 oz bike bottle and two 10 oz Fuel Belt bottles filled with Nuun and just set them on the end of one table. I found it pretty easy to slow down, grab a bottle, sip and carry it with me for one lap and then put it down next time but some people chose to make full stops to drink/eat and then continue. I wore my Fuel Belt to carry small things with me (gels, lip balm and a couple salt tabs) so I wouldn't have to grab them from the table, which would probably require more skill. There was a drinking fountain along the track if more water was needed and garbage cans were also at each corner to throw stuff away as well as do other important things (like spit and blow your nose).

Restrooms, unfortunately, were not as close as I would have liked (something like 60 meters off the track) but there was no waiting at all which was good. I lost 4-5 minutes making my two pit stops but chances of finding a big rock or tree to hide behind along the track were slim ...

As the three hour mark approached, I began to hear people chanting. "Chris! Chris! Chris!" What the heck???

It was echoing all throughout the gym and I realized they were cheering for a guy who was on his last lap. I looked for the fastest person on the track. There he was, on the other side and nearly done. I joined in the chanting and watched him finish, 2:51:31, a new course record. Very cool to see the winner of the race finish too as usually I'm nowhere nearby when it happens!

Well, it'd be a while before I'd be doing so as I had just over 50 laps to go but time and laps just seemed to be flying. I had no signs of dizziness. I was still feeling fresh, smiling and cheering. Periodically there'd be another person on his last lap and everyone's adrenaline levels would rise a bit when the chanting began.

"Dar-rin! Dar-rin! Dar-rin!" "Ran-dy! Ran-dy! Ran-dy!" "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" HA, just like on the Jerry Springer TV Show!

Many of the folks who had already finished were now walking or hanging around the track and I began congratulating them. Some were hobbling pretty bad, unfortunately. No doubt all those turns took a much bigger toll on those who ran fast.

Another change in direction at 3:30 and soon thereafter I hit 125 laps. 25 to go (4.36 miles) and time for my countdown to begin!

I began picking up pace a bit. Having run very conservatively and because that indoor track surface is MUCH easier on one's joints than asphalt or concrete, I had none of the usual late race aches or pains. And I was still barely sweating. Weird!

24 - 23 - 22 - 21 - 20 ... With each lap done I felt like I was getting stronger. I'm now passing a number of folks since most of the faster people have already finished and many of those still out there were slowing down.

15 - 14 - 13 - 12 - 11 - 10 ... Dick, the RD, asked me how many laps I had left. Less than 10, I said, and he told me I should do 15 more because everyone loved seeing me running around so happy. HA, yeah right! Sunshine, Don and Sweet Pea are now back upstairs cheering, taking photos and helping me count down. I kept losing count!

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 ... Allison, one more? Yes, one more! GO SHIRLEY!

OK, this is it! I kicked it up into high gear and felt like I was flying around the track. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

One last lap to thank all the wonderful spectators who had been cheering for me for hours. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

One last lap to encourage everyone else who was still out there. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

One last lap to soak in this crazy, wonderful marathon experience. "Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!"

One last lap to ...

And, before I knew it, my last lap was done!

4:18:49 (9:53 avg pace)
4/10 F, 1/2 F45-49
Winner of the Miss Congeniality Award per the RD :-)

Laps 1-25 40:30 (9:17 pace)
Laps 26-50 44:11 (10:07, incl. bathroom break)
Laps 51-75 43:28 (9:57 pace)
Laps 76-100 46:21 (10:37, incl. bathroom break)
Laps 101-125 43:07 (9:53 pace)
Laps 126-150 41:12 (9:26 pace)
Final lap: 1:21 (7:42 pace)

Thank you Sunshine, Don and Sweet Pea for coming to cheer for me and for allowing me to use your photos and video. (Photo below, L to R: Don, me, Sweet Pea & Sunshine)

Huge thanks to Race Director Dick Daymont for organizing this zany little race (pictured below with me). And to my counter Allison (who had to leave before I could get a picture with her -- bummer!), and to all spectators and my fellow runners for making this a very unique and awesome experience.

Thank you Minnesota for all the snow. I don't want to live here but it sure was great visiting and now I know what my friends up North must deal with every winter!

And thank you, dear readers, for making it all the way to the end!


Wendy said...

Great race report Miss Congeniality!!! (That comes as no surprise to your bloggy peeps, I must say!)

Well done!

jen said...

Shir-ley! Shir-ley! Shir-ley!

Yay!! Congratulations! What an exciting report. That sounds like such a fun and unique race! I can't believe how exciting and fun it sounds and not boring at all. You totally rocked it! I bet you really made it a fun experience for a lot of people with your smile and enthusiasm.

The logistics of this race are fascinating to me- the switching directions, the aid station tables, the counter volunteers, etc. They even thought of giving you somewhere to spit (garbage), how smart!

Great work and thanks for sharing your report. Great race! :)

Molly said...

Congratulations! What an awesome race report!!!! Wonderful job!

Jenny Davidson said...

Great race; great report! You have made me smile...

Karen said...

Shir-ley! Awesome job on the marathon. Amazing

Tammy said...

Your brave to go outside in shorts in the winter LOL, I wore 3 pairs of running pants to keep warm today!!!! (It was 18 degrees) Way to go on that finish you totally rock and I loved the quick video as well. Must be nice to place your pick up your bottle than drop it off later in the same spot. You never have to worry about carrying a ton of stuff with you when you run. Great Job on the strong finish, it looked like you had a ton of fun!!!

Smithposts said...

What fun! Months ago when you announced this race, I wondered about running a marathon on a track. Your sunny peronality and positive attitude resulted in an exciting race (and report). Congrats on another great marathon!

RBR said...

What fun and what great pictures! You are definitely the happiest runner!

Great job! I love the snow shot. That is the best way to see snow, when you get to leave!

Congratulations again!

Kevin said...

Great race report. Definitely soounds like an interesting experience

Sunshine said...

Thanks for the super report.
Cheering you... and you cheering everybody back... was definitely an all-time highlight.
I will cherish your cheer and your smile when I run for a long time.

Thanks for your inspiring visit to Minnesota.
Tomorrow the high may be 10 below zero here. Will be thinking of you in Florida. Enjoy.

Don said...

Hi Shirley,

Thanks for your comment. We'll keep in touch - maybe our paths will cross again at some marathon somewhere.

Zoom Yah Yah was a fine time for all of us, even if you did all the work!


Stef said...

This has to be one of the coolest races ever! I admit I had my doubts when you first blogged about doing it (all those times around the track).

Wonderful job Shirley it would have been so fun to have been there cheering you on! You are an inspiration!

Cory said...

What a great race report! Nice job!

Susan said...

What an enthusiastic experience! And how truly unique! And having your own personal lap counter/cheerleader must have been WONDERFUL! Too bad you couldn't get a photo of her.

How lovely to meet D, S and SP! I know I love to go cheer people on.

Also, how encouraging that everyone got a "standing ovation" of sorts when finishing. Very cool!

KodaFit said...

Great report!

I love reading all your reports because I almost feel like I get to run the race along side you, except I still feel pretty fresh when it gets done - and this one was no different! Thanks.

Maddy said...

Fantastic Job and a great race report! It sounds like it was a lot of fun!

Road Warrior said...

Wow! You weren't kidding. You really did smile the entire time. So glad you had a blast. Great job! That's number 40, I think...

Shannon said...

I loved your run down. Your a better woman than me, I just don't think I could run a marathon on a track.

What tracks did you submit for your listening pleasure? You rock sista!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

Great report. It sounds like you had a BLAST!

MarathonChris said...

Wow, sounds like a really great race!!! And it sounds like you had a really great time!

It is cool to see just how very different the race is from a "typical" marathon!

PLANET3RRY said...


What a cool race, it makes the fact that you are running on a track... alot, not that bad! And just THINK, your arms raising and such was just training for the ironman swim training!

With all the mention of how good looking the counters were, there were no pics???

Arland said...

OMG Shirley, a marathon distance is hard enough but to do it on an indoor track is amazing and takes a lot of mental toughness which you obviously have! Congratulations on finishing such a different race.

BreeWee said...

You always find the most fun races! I have never heard of an indoor marathon... awesome! Way to kick off 09, only you!

Kelly said...

Great job Shirley!! And always with a smile, something I need to learn :-)

I still don't see how a track marathon could be fun even after your fantastic race report. Maybe it is something you just have to do to beleive.

I want to race with you sometime!! Your smile is infectious.

Gotta Run said...

What I am amazed is that it was a lottery race to get in. Big congrats for completing that many laps!!!!!

You are amazing!!!

X-Country2 said...

I can not believe you did a marathon on a shorty track like that! What a rockstar! Fantastic race report, and of course you smiled the entire time. :o)

Rural Girl said...

Congratulations not only on another successful completion but on the mental stamina needed to keep going around and around and around....!

Petraruns said...

What a fabulous race report but even more what enormous enthousiasm! I can FEEL your smile all the way over here - you sound like the whole thing was just one great adventure. Fantastic stuff - as always, keep it coming!

Vickie said...

Shirley, congrats. I've met Don, Sweet Pea, and Sunshine at a marathon here in Michigan, and know what a treat it was for you to meet them. What a fun way to take in the Minnesota winter! Good luck on reaching your 50 states goal.

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job, Shirley!!! I'm so bummed that I had to miss that!!

Glad you had a good time in MN! And GREAT splits!! I love that everyone chanted for anyone who was getting close to finishing - that sounds like MN to me!!

Congrats again!!! One more under the belt!!

Girl on Top said...

That indoor marathon sounds like fun! I would have died! :)

Marathon Maritza said...

Great job, Shir-ley, Shir-ley, Shir-ley! I absolutely loved every word of this long recap!! I felt like I was there!

What an awesome, exciting, unique experience! Congratulations on a great marathon! And what can I say...I am SO NOT surprised you won Miss Congeniality :)

lizzie lee said...

Shirley. What a wonderful race and report. I didn't know you were doing it. Thanks a lot for sharing, I could feel it.... great race!!!

RoadBunner said...

What a great report. It sounds like it was a unique and crazy experience! I am also not surprised you were the happiest runner there!

Brent Buckner said...

Nifty marathon!

"600 aid stations" - hee hee.

Sunshine said...

Oh Shirley, we didn't realize you are coming up to Fargo!
We are sorry to miss being among the lucky ones who will see you.
We 3 did Fargo Marathon three years ago and had a great time. Hope you have fun.

Spokane Al said...

What a way to run a marathon. Congratulations, you truly do possess the strength of your lemon tree.

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on your indoor marathon! It sounds like they did a good job to make all the laps around and around fun. Sorry I didn't get to meet you at Disney either, but who knows...I may be back next year..??

peter said...

Now that sounds like a cool marathon! I remember my high school had an elevated wooden track above the court and running all those laps before bball practice. Just tack on another couple hundred! My Dad went to college in Northfield, what a place for snow! I did a marathon in OH in Feb. a few years back (zero degrees at the start) that was a mile square around an industrial park, and it was hard to keep track of 26 laps, let alone hundreds.

Viv said...

Shirley what a tough mental challenge! CONGRATS that is just so...I can't even find the word of the determination that takes. just like your lemon tree you have become the sweetest lemonade!

Anonymous said...