Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marathon post

Little late, but now's as good a time as any. Earlier this month, May 3rd, my past 4 months of training culminated into 1 morning of running. I followed this training program, almost to a T. By the last 2 months I was actually running the recommended/example speeds (Tempo 8min/mile, Speed workouts under 7min/mile) My longest run, an 8 mile, straight 8 min per mile pace, felt just attainable. However, the guide said that same 8 min pace would be my race pace for the whole 26.2 miles. Haha, impossible! In regular over-competitive fashion, I nearly proved myself wrong.

It was literally a perfect day for running. 60 degrees, sun, little to no wind. Victoria and I awoke around dawn and went through a quick runner's morning routine. As I clipped on my race number to my old highschool track jersey I started feeling the pre-race tingle I had known so long ago. That anxious feeling that something big is coming and you'll either crash and burn or soar above the clouds. A couple weeks before the race I saw my company's physical therapist after I injured my heel. She happened to be very experienced in running and biking long distance and marathons (told me she ran around 3:30 times). She gave me a ton of good advice, but also gave me a little tooo much. She swore by having a fuel belt (4-6 8oz drink bottles on a belt) half with g2 Gatorade and half with water. When I found out these things were $45+ I decided I'd stick to the basics. I bought 5 HammerGel packs. 1 during warmup, and 1 every 6 miles. Since I hadn't been drinking any gatorade during my long runs I decided to stick to water at the water stands, and not drinking too much, mostly wash it around and spit it out. Also, a secret tip from Dr. Therapist, after your first poo of the morning, take 2 Imodium AD, and this will make sure its the last of the morning.

We arrived and I dragged Victoria along on a 15 minute warmup, 35 minutes before race start. I told her I would meet her somewhere as we broke off towards the end but that didn't happen. I stretched alone, and began getting the pre-race adrenaline flowing. Fell into the zone and tried to visualize how the race would go. I found my spot in the pace markers at the starting line, somewhere between 9 and 10 I figured so then I could be passing people most the race. I then spotted V and her race pace buddy for the half marathon at the 8 min mile group. I quickly ran up by them and started chatting. Before I knew it we were moving.

First mile I started getting in competitive 10k mode and tried passing people and told myself to shut it down, take it easy. I slowed and found V caught up to me again. We ran together for another mile or 2 and I realized that we were pushing 9:30 pace, which sadly was not going to be reaching any of the lofty goals I set for myself. We had stopped chatting so I gave her a wave and focused in on my pace and got back into the zone. (I specifically remember being mesmerized by Metallica's Master of Puppets) The miles all came one after another. As I approached a mile I would multiply it by 8, and say that was what my goal time was supposed to be at. At first I was at mile 4, and instead of 32 minutes, like I wanted, I was at 37ish. I told myself next mile would be better, and it kept on like that. Every mile it would become math time. I kept sliding closer and closer to my goal time. It was a good driver to keep going, but I worried that this fast pace might be too aggressive.

Then the marathoners split from the halfers at the 5 mile mark. Right before the first Gel stop. I took the 2nd of my own from my pocket and almost choked on it. I dunno why the pre-race one had been such a better experience. Now with a dry mouth it made me gag. Thank god I had taken it before, and not after, the water stop. I quickly grabbed some water and washed it down. I also remember looking and seeing its crumbled remains in my hand as I passed the last garbage from the fuel station. I quickly threw it on the ground, I don't know why, but I noticed 2 people picking up trash 10 ft further down the road looking at me and I felt really bad that I littered right in front of them. (It's humorous because if you see these fuel stops its just empty cups everywhere, and I shouldn't have been so worried ) To note: my future gel intakes were less of a surprise and went better.

As I mentioned the day was great, and the crowd thinned out now that it was only marathoners, (213 marathoners vs 1036 halfers) I ran along rural roads through the northwoods of Wisconsin. Every 2 miles was a pack of volunteers and people cheering or handing out water. It was a great experience, I was also passing people at a good pace. I daydreamed as I ran, wondering which place I was in, how many people I had passed, how many more ahead of me. Right before my half way mark a girl yelled out "Come on! 125!" and I thought that was my place. So for the next 10-15 minutes I tried to calculate if that was my place, and how many more I would pass before the end. 5-8 miles later I realized 125 was my race number. Which reminds me that I was glad I wore the freedom jersey instead of something plain. A dozen bystanders cheered by shouting "Freedom!" at me which made me more identifiable.

Yes, I know I look like a Dbag, this was mile 21. :-(

I crossed my half marathon at 1:50:11. Right on pace for what I thought I should be at. I wondered if Victoria would be finishing soon, Probably a little closer to 2:00. I kept on and I began to feel the cold grip of reality take my body. I kept on. At mile 16 I noticed I had began to start to feel the burn of a runner chafe just south of my armpits. I had prepared by taping my nipples and wearing compression shorts for my thighs, but I had forgotten about my under arms. The gods must have been smiling though, because within 800m of me thinking this, a random bystander (not even a volunteer) stood just past mile 16 with a huge jar of vaseline. He waved it at me as I approached and I gave him a huge smile and nod, possibly even a thumbs up. This guy was so helpful he actually started running before I got to him so I didn't have to slow down. I took a huge gob in 1 hand and thanked him and said something like "Thanks man, I hadn't even thought of this". I spread it on the worrisome areas and everything just felt right.

I kept wondering when the "wall" would hit, and as I finally forgot about worrying about it, it hit. Mile 21-23 are on a beautiful trail through the woods, but the problem is there isn't many spectators back there. And in miles 18-21 I felt like I was running in a parade, people everywhere. This new lack of cheers, despite the scenery, was a killer. You'd think I would leave the woods at 23 and the final 3 miles would be a breeze... Or at least the last mile? No. None of them. I had used everything in my gas tank and I was simply running to keep myself from walking. Every corner wondering how close I would get to taking that dreaded walk step. The fact that I kept passing some people may be my only savior. I ran up a hill 800m prior to the finish line. Didn't really know if I was going the right way (guy ahead of me was long gone) and got directed to the finish chute. I picked it up and sprinted by some of the halfers (walkers) and nearly collapsed at the finish line in 3:34:27. (an 8:12 min/mile pace)Good enough for 26th place. I remember being worried if I was drinking too much water, or if I was standing too still, or not stretching out enough. Lol! Once I calmed down I was able to bask in the accomplishment that was my first marathon. I felt good (good being a loose term. Immobile probably fits better) and it was as quick as the next day I was able to convince myself that another marathon would definitely be in my future before I leave this earth.


Gregor said...

Glad you finally wrote about this, and nicely done! 8:12 pace is flying.

MrB said...

ha, i'm lucky if i hit 12/min... and i'm dead after 3 miles...

Nice job on describing the event. Draws the reader in and makes him realize what you went through.

Ric said...

Congrats on your first marathon! Awesome pace too.

I signed up for the Lakefront on Oct. 4. A co-worker of mine who runs a lot (EVERY weekend -- marathons, Ironmans, 50Ks, etc.) said a marathon is two parts: the first 20 miles, and the last 6. ::big gulp::

I definitely agree with the cheering. Spectators and other runners were my driving motivation for the half.

Joe said...

Funny, I thought I looked like a d-bag in my picture too. Blame the photographer.

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