One eye on the finish

By Mike Perry

Perhaps this story belongs in the do’s and dont’s section considering that I started off with a big don’t, “Don’t foul up setting your alarm for race morning.” That being said, I left my home in Denver promptly at 6am for the 7am race start in Manitou Springs (I think I burned all my available adrenaline before leaving the city limits). Fortunately there wasn’t too much traffic or any speed traps early that Sunday morning and I made it to the starting line as the gun went off. I was off... to the registration tent and then to carbo-unload. All said, I crossed the start line 6 minutes behind everyone else and commenced and eerie solo run down the deserted Main Street Manitou. At Ruxton I encountered the fire truck driving sweep behind the last official starter who was several times my age and walking. I did my best to pass the walking throngs before reaching the trail but there was only so much I could do.

The first few miles of the race were pretty stop and go for me and I couldn’t find my pace because of traffic, but I ended up with my pace group shortly before Barr Camp. I think carrying a half filled camel back aided me in passing the mobs at water tables. All the way to tree line was pretty uneventful for me other than stopping once to dump some debris out of my shoe. However, by mile 11 a rogue contact lens that had been fussing for a bit removed itself from my eye and no amount of coaxing would get it back in. So on I plodded, one eyed, but feeling good.

From tree line to the top was again uneventful other than excessive huffing and puffing and a greatly diminished pace. I topped out just after 3:51 and thought with envy about the leaders who would be finishing in a matter of minutes. I think that I had just made an artificial cut-off whereby the fast people who topped out before me were easy to pass, but as the group I was in descended forced many ascenders to wait for us to pass the tight sections. I had specifically done some downhill running in training to prepare for this descent and I think it ended up paying off... even though I began suffering from an enormous blister before reaching tree line again. My heel kept telling me to stop immediately, but my head told my heel that the faster we get through this the sooner I would stop stepping on it. I figured if I went all out I would take considerably fewer steps and have it over with much faster.

By the time I got back into the trees I realized that my problems were compounding. The pain from my heel was excruciating but the mottled shadows in the trees were really throwing my vision for a loop. If I closed the eye that had lost it’s contact lens, I could see clearly. However, without both eyes open my depth perception was shot. So I settled on alternately opening and closing my bad eye so that one second I could see the obstacles clearly and the next second have a better idea of how to stride over/around them.

At the W’s, the pain was really overcoming me but I knew that these too would pass and I continued to bite the bullet. I stopped a few times to make sure the guy who was shadowing me for several miles was all right each time he took a tumble. Finally we hit pavement, normally something that I hate being a trail runner at heart, but I knew that I was close now and thankful to be pounding the hard stuff. I got a little overzealous and started kicking above the Cog Railway hoping that the finish was right around the bend. Yes, right around that gentle bend in the road that last for what seemed like 2 miles. My mind shut everything out and I went to a place where I was just hovering above the road and really moving (I wish I could have found that place about 10 miles earlier). But I found it all the same, just in time to make that sharp left to the finish line and looked up to see my official time just 20 seconds under 6 hours (a good feeling for me).

At the first aid tent one of the nurses removed a 3"x4" blister from my heel (bless her heart) and congratulated me on having “the blister of the day,” which must be some esteemed honor in a race like this... Those who saw me limp around the office for more than a month afterwards must think I’m crazy when I say that it was a great race and one I’d like to do again.

Mike Perry
2001 marathon 5:59:40

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