Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 24 April 2012 15:34
For Kodi Panzer of Marion, the best birthday present she could give herself was completing a 45-mile race before she turned 31 on April 17.
She did that and more earlier this month at the Cedro Peak Ultra in Tijeras, N.M.
“My goal was to run an ultra marathon and I achieved it with 10 days to spare,” said Panzer, who operates a chiropractic clinic in Hillsboro.
An ultra marathon generally refers to distances longer than traditional marathons at 26 miles.
Panzer started the race at 6 a.m. April 7 and completed the course in 13 hours—despite a significant setback.
“I actually did the 45 miles in 11 hours and 38 minutes,” she said, “but it took me 13 hours because I went off course and ended up doing a 50-mile.”
Panzer said the mistake was her fault. When she arrived at the 12-mile aid station she saw two runners ahead of her and assumed they were going the right way.
“I ended up doing a big loop and was back at mile 12, even though my watch indicated I had ran 18 miles,” she said.
Panzer wasn’t the only runner who went off course. She said the course was vandalized the previous night and several flag markers were taken down.
Of the 69 people who started the race, 49 finished; 20 dropped to a shorter distance or because of injuries.
“Definitely my competitive-side was heartbroken,” she said, “because getting lost put me out of placing. I am not going to lie, I cried twice.”
Beyond the course mixup, Panzer’s tears were prompted by the course terrain.
With elevations of 6,500 feet to 8,000 feet—compared to Marion County at less than 1,500—the run was tough.
“Those mountains were big,” she said. “On one of them I was literally sliding down it sideways, realizing I would have to get back up that thing (to finish).”
Panzer said that incident happened at about mile 32, but technically it was at 26 miles because of the course mistake.
“By then I had to use my hands because I was so short of breath that I ended up walking the majority of that mountain just to get up it,” she said. “That was the slowest point of the race.”
A lot of runners encountered similar troubles with that particular mountain; Panzer said she saw photos of runners sliding and falling.
As she continued toward the finish line, one of her biggest concerns was finishing the race in the 13-hour limit.
“I was able to backtrack and take a mile off, so it ended up I only ran five miles extra,” she said.
Panzer said that in hindsight she did some things wrong.
“I ate 900 calories in 13 hours, I didn’t drink enough water and I burned up about 6,000 calories,” she said.
Consequently, by mile 38 she said she started hallucinating.
“I was so fatigued by that point that my eyes were blurring,” she said. “The tree stumps I would think looked like an animal. I would see tree limbs and think they were snakes. I saw my pet weiner dog and I saw cars (that weren’t on the trail).”
Panzer said she knows a lot of runners have hallucinated, but it never happened to her until this race.
While on the course, she said she was grateful to one runner who had gotten lost from his group. For about 20 miles they ran together.
“I knew I was far behind everybody else after getting lost, but I told myself I am going to go until he (the race organizer) tells me to stop,” she said.
Panzer said even though her newfound friend spoke very little English, she turned to him, waved her arm in the air and said, “Vamonos!” and away they went.
Panzer said there were people from several different states taking part in the race.
Two of her friends, Jason and Anna Taylor, who live in Albuquerque, were also there. Jason took fourth overall and Anna was a volunteer.
Panzer said she learned a lot from this race and is already planning future marathons, although she isn’t sure she’ll be returning to this particular one.
“I wanted to quit six times (during this race),” she said, “and four of those times Jason and Anna talked me out of it.”