For a little bit of background, for those who may not be familiar with Northern Nevada and the Reno - Sparks area, McCarran Avenue is a street that encircles the cities or Reno and Sparks. In a car, I'd guess that it would take 30-45 minutes to drive the whole loop, in regular traffic. On Saturday October 2, 2010, I ran the whole thing with a group of friends.
Running the McCarran loop was something I heard about shortly after joining up with Reno Running and Fitness last February. McCarran Boulevard circles the cities of Reno and Sparks, and is about 23.5 miles long. When i heard that people actually run the loop I thought to myself "Why that's crazy!... I must do that someday."
Well 10/2/10 was that day. At the end of session party the week before, I heard one of the group leaders, Michael, talking about the "McLoop" as it came to be known, and that he was taking a group of runners out the following Saturday. I'd been training with the marathon group for the past 16 weeks, I'd just done 2 twenty mile runs in the last month, one of them quite challenging, and it was on Saturday - a day I can actually participate and not have to take a vacation day. I was sold. My wife tried to convince me with rationality - noting that on the previous Saturday I'd run the Tahoe 20 miler, and my knee was still sore, and the very nect day after the McLoop I was supposed to run a 5k. "Bah," I scoffed. "I'll recover this week, do the loop, get a good night's sleep, and be fine to walk the 5k, if I needed to. It was for charity, and I'll just go for fun."
During the week prior to the McLoop, I'd pretty much avoided running, and just focused on recovery and icing my knee. I got a decent night's sleep on Thurs, but of course, on Friday I didn't get to sleep until 10p - and I had to be up at 3am; the run start time was 4:30am! The maxim held true again - "The night *before* the night before an event is when you'll get your best night's sleep."
So there we were at Michael's house. At 4:30am. I was still slogging the sleep from my brain, and trying not to contemplate what I was about to embark upon. One foot in front of the other - that's all it really was. For whatever distance. I didn't *have* to run the entire thing if issues cropped up, and there was no penalty for taking it slow. Equipment checked, backpack loaded; we were off, starting on our warm-up to the park near Baring & McCarran.
Baring to Las Brisas - 8 miles. This first stretch starts flat, but then starts to climb. Over the next 7 miles it gains about 1000', but it's not too bad, and everybody was in great spirits and the miles went quickly. Amongst the discussions were my camelbak backpack, and my fondness for finding places to stuff things like band-aids, shot blox, energy cookies, etc. I even came up with another idea for my camelbak, but that surprise will have to wait for Bay to Breakers...
Onwards to Walmart, our first pit stop, just shy of mile 8. After a quick break, it was off to Caughlin, near mile 10, where I knew there was a support station near the Starbucks there.
Caughlin & McCarran - Mile 11. Pretzels! And then it was onward, to the next section, which promised to be a grind. The next 2 miles were steep, and we power walked it. It was amazing to see the other runners in our group just keep on going, like energizer bunnies, up & up that hill. It's 500' over 2 miles, and I felt every foot. But soon, it was time to descend again, and I knew after that, the rest of the trip was all flat. With 1 minor hill when I had to cross I80 again. Piece of cake. Some interesting conversations took place as well. I run with a number of teachers, and two were discussing rewarding students with prizes and such, and how it can be a mark of pride for even a high schooler to get a sticker for doing something well. I observed that I too was doing this for a sticker. Ever since I saw the "23.5" stickers that were created for those that had completed the McLoop, I knew I'd be getting one.
Lakeside & McCarran - approaching mile 16. Starbucks II! Wait... We were DFL, so that means everybody was waiting for us. That means, well,no break for us - let's keep on going. I knew that there was another aid station at Mira Loma, and that was another 3 miles. Easy peasy.
Mira Loma & McCarran - 19 miles. Potatoes! Boiled red potatoes & salt are like crack. That is all I can say. After a slightly longer respite here, it was onward - 7 more miles to go. Then, I lost my running parter. We'd been doing a run/walk for the last couple of miles, and that wasn't working out for her. She caught a ride at Mira Loma, and I started on again.
McCarran & Rock - Mile 20. Pain, and self doubt set in. The tops of my feet were killing me. My calf was a bit troublesome, and my knee was getting irritated. I started walking again, and met up with a couple of RRF runners that were hitching a ride back at Mill st. Their goal today was 7 miles, and they met it! I bid them farewell, and started running again. 1/4 mile later, I was back to walking. Then i got a phone call. It was Michael, and he was waiting to run me in about a mile ahead. I told him I was run/walking, and that I'd see him in a little while. He assured me that was ok, and he'd hang out and wait. After about another 1/4 mile I started running again, and then before I approached the Glendale intersection, I could see him up on the overpass. Buoyed with a boost of energy, I ran (slowly) up the last little hill and got a little pep talk, before we started our descent, and the final approach. Michael had said on the phone that run/walking was ok, but we ended up running the whole way in. He took me from over 13 min/mile to under 10 in the last 2 and a half miles. That's what eliminating self doubt can do. Michael humming the Rocky theme after we passed Prater helped as well.
Back to Baring - Mile 22 and onward. I knew after we passed Prater, that I had this. D'oh! I forgot about Greenbrae. I was one stoplight off. No matter, I could see the intersection at Baring and knew the finish line was near. But we got to Baring, and we were still running... and I asked during the last few hundred yards "When do I stop?" and Michael said "keep going. You're almost there." I finished at the Park, where fellow "loopies" cheered me in. We congratulated each other, then someone suggested Slurpees. There was a 7-11 right across the street. Best.Idea.Ever. I opened the door to the 7-11, and in my ravenous state wanted to eat everything in sight. I settled on a Crystal Light slurpee, and a banana. I had an EAS AdvantEdge somewhere as well.
Back at Michael's house we enjoyed our slurpees, received our stickers, and then set about on the rest of our day. It wasn't even yet noon. Wow!
We are the few, the proud, the Loopies.
Facebook album here.
Flickr (originals) here.