Sunday, October 26, 2008


Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

Updates forthcoming... after I've gotten some more rest.


So, hey.

Been playing a bit of catch-up, less due to time for recovery after the race, and more the work that hasn't been getting done with all the getting sick and everything. Not to say that I didn't need to recover from the race, but things were actually feeling pretty good just 3 days later, although I did get a nice 90+ minute massage from a friend and have been getting some good rest despite working some long hours the last few days.

So the last time I had an update, it was Sunday night and I had put off my last long run for one more day, hoping that one more day of rest would finally let me turn the corner on the cold, and hoping that it would be a little warmer.

Turn the corner -- there was once a lot of talk about turning corners a few years ago, and I guess this wasn't much different. Anyway, it was warmer, but wasn't feeling much better. I ran anyway because I was running out of time. It felt terrible. I barely finished. I wanted to stop after 7. I wasn't sure I was even going to finish the 10 and was pretty sure I wasn't even going to make it halfway through the marathon happening less than a week later.

My original plan called for 20 mile, 13 mile and 10 mile long runs over the final 3 weekends leading up to the marathon as part of 9 runs, including interval and tempo runs, totalling about 68 miles all told. After getting sick at the beginning of the month, we dialed it back -- and then dialed it back again when I got sick again. In the end, I managed a little more than half of the planned distance, getting in only 2 runs (a junk 3-miler and that 10-miler) in the last 2 weeks.

I was reseting expectations. I didn't have to run the marathon on Sunday. I didn't have to finish the marathon if I started it. It was ok to fail this time and try again next year.

It's one of the lessons that I learned many years ago. We all know it: try, try again. But in truth, I'm fortunate that it doesn't often come to that. But it's good to remember. And I had resolved that it was ok to have to start over again if I wasn't up to the challenge this time around.

And when I gave myself permission to fail, my cold got better. Go figure. Wasn't 100 percent. Wasn't even 80%. But, better. And better was good. Still coughing, but by the time we got down to Falmouth Saturday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good about my chances of finishing. Interestingly, I felt worse Sunday morning before the start, but I was still feeling well enough to give it a go.

The weather was basically perfect. The forecast was all doom and gloom -- cold, rainy and windy. By the weekend it had warmed up, but there were still threats of rain and wind, which came during the night, but was gone by morning. At race time, it was 62 degrees and only overcast. It stayed that way for most of the race (with a brief drizzle early on) until the last 3-4 miles. Then blues skies. A beautiful day for a race.

Given that I was still feeling a bit out of it, I figured I'd be conservative and try to keep my pace slightly slower than 9-minute miles. I walked the water stations.

When I was feeling really sick, most people were telling me to just run it -- that the adrenaline and the crowd would help carry me through it. (most people -- there were 2 or 3 people that kept reminding me how bad marathon running is for the human body and that I should just call it quits.) Anyway, the crowds and the cheering did pick me up. Which turned out to be a good thing. And a bad thing.

I was still feeling a bit unsure of myself at mile 3, but by mile 11 I was feeling pretty good. A little too good actually -- because every time I passed a bunch of cheering crowds, I found that I was running too fast. Way too fast. Which made a big difference on this course which is relatively flat and fast on the first half and really kind of brutally hilly on the back 9. Particularly on the guy who was too sick to train regularly over the last month before the race. I was actually well on pace to break 4 hours. But then the feet started complaining first, somewhere around the halfway point, and at mile 16 or so, the adductors were the first muscle groups to start cramping for real. Started running out of gas around 19/20 when I started walking the hills. Around 21, the calves started cramping.

Marathon training is funny. I always figured that to properly train for a given distance, you want to train at longer distances so that the race distance becomes easy. But I guess conventional wisdom is that after you hit 20 miles, any additional mileage is much, much harder on your body. That mile after 20 is a lot different from the mile after 13.1. So most training plans I've seen max out at 20 miles and then taper. Again, the conventional wisdom is that once you've run 20 miles, you know you can finish. You know you can run 6 miles. It's just 6 miles after all. Which is interesting, because in my mind, that's almost another hour of running after you've run 20 miles.

Nevertheless, when I hit 20, I did tell myself that I only had to go 6 more miles and that I could do 6 more miles because everybody says you can always do 6 more miles. Which is bullshit. Because running 6 miles after you've just run 20 miles SUCKS BALLS. Especially when you haven't been able to train enough. (actually, when I hit 16, I was already mentally shouting at myself 10! 10! 10! 10 miles to go! You can do 10 miles!) I did it at 20. (6 to go. 6 to go. 6 to go. 6 to go.) I did it at 21. (5 to go. 5 to go. 5. 5. 5.)

At 22 miles, I was mentally screaming "4 miles to go! 4 miles is easy!" and my body was screaming "BULLSHIT!"

I pretty much hit the wall at 22.

I started gasping just trying to maintain 10 minute miles. 11 minute miles. I walked. I ran. I gasped. I hobbled. I tried to change my stride and my calves cramped up. I stretched. I ran again. I remember wondering to myself whether it counts as "running a marathon" when you end up walking a big chunk of it. It felt a little weird, walking during a race. But at that point, running wasn't happening anymore, and walking was better than stopping.

The spectators, the other runners were great. Encouraging. I remember tripping up as my calves cramped up again and a guy coming from behind gave me a friendly pat on the arm as he told me I was almost there and that I could do it. Kind words from a guy running the relay.

I was really hoping I could run the last mile. When that didn't happen, I hoped I could run the last 1/4 mile. And when I finally could see and hear the crowds on the final 0.2 I went for it.

And every muscle started to cramp up.

And the finish was 50m further than I thought it was.

And I grunted.

And wheezed.

At the top of my lungs.





I'm kind of surprised I didn't fall down. Stopping didn't exactly feel great, but it was orders of magnitude better than trying to continue moving. Thank god there are people there to untie your shoes to remove the timing chip and then retie them for you.

So, so grateful to all the race volunteers, the spectators, the other runners -- so, so awesome.

It took me a minute to finally remember to stop my stopwatch.

Unofficial/official chip time: 4:08:30.
Gun time: 4:09:10.
My watch: 4:09:58.

I'm a little bummed that I didn't break 4 hours, but still really happy that I finished reasonably close. Especially after all the drama over the past few weeks with the sick/coughing/feeling-crappy business.

So now I have to decide whether or not I'm going to do another one. It was supposed to be "one-and-done" but when I chucked my expectations for this race, I told myself that it'd be ok to try to hit my goal pace (closer to 3:30-3:40) at another race in the future.

Dunno. Maybe I'll try to qualify for Boston in 5 years, when I get another 10 minutes off the qualifying time.

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