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Where accomplished & discouraged intersect

by John on November 10th, 2014

Saturday, I mostly rested. Saturday night, I prepared my breakfast as I made dinner, went to bed early, & mostly slept well. For the day before a marathon, I was far-better prepared than I’ve ever been, previously.

I got to City Island, got my bib, prepared myself.

The horn went off, and I started running.

I wish I could tell you tales of accomplishment & how I “kicked asphalt” all along the way. But I can’t.

It was cold, but not too cold right at the start. I felt extraordinarily good. I was light on my feet.

I found myself, from miles 1-4, hanging out with the 3:45 crowd. I was hoping to break 4-hours1, but, again, I felt good, and never thought about slowing down.

I knew I had been neglecting my long runs . . . it was intentional: my plan was to make my body stronger, make myself leaner, not burn myself out running on the road. I had hoped to be strong through mile 18, when things started to get hilly. I planned to be running at mile 20, when things got flat once again. From there, I planned to ignore the pain and “just run a 10k”.

I got more discouraged than I had anticipated when I saw the faster runners working their way back from the HACC campus to Wildwood Park.

I knew I’d slow down over the hills – it was all in my plan. And I did slow down on the hills. But, speeding back up didn’t happen.

When I exited Wildwood Park, I sipped some Gatorade. Both of my hamstrings were twitching. I tried to move faster. I thought I was moving faster . . . but looking back on my splits, I was not.

The Gatorade sat, fitfully, in my stomach. I started spitting more than usual2.

But I continued running.

I started thinking about punching any spectator who was telling me that I was “almost to the end.” But chose against it because punching someone would have taken a lot of effort, and I didn’t trust myself to start running again, if I allowed myself to stop.

I accidentally unplugged my headphones, so I took them out.

My shirt started to hurt against my skin, so I took it off.

I started running along the river for the last time.

And then I knew I had an issue — something was going to come up & out of my stomach, whether I wanted it to, or not. Stopping held little interest. Again, I didn’t trust myself to get started, if I stopped. But trusting that I’d be clear of a runner if I puked while running? Well, I can ensure that I don’t spit or blow a snot-rocket on someone . . . but I wasn’t sure what might happen here.

I puked into the Susquehanna

My hamstrings, upon being allowed to break, rejoiced.

I started to try to run. It didn’t happen.

All told, I think I walked for about two, maybe three-tenths of a mile, before I urged my legs into a trot, once again.

I climbed the hill to the bridge, and gave everything I had for the last two-tenths of a mile.

I finished.

My time was 6 minutes, 11 seconds more than my target time.

I’m proud of myself . . . I went out & ran a marathon. I bested my best time, at the distance, by over 40-seconds-per-mile. I bested my best time for this event by over a minute-per-mile. I didn’t allow getting sick to stop me.

But I wanted to break that 4 hour barrier, and I didn’t.

I’m signed up for a marathon in the spring — life got in the way of my plans3, this year . . . I had hoped to win the “Road Apple” award between the Garden Spot Village Marathon & Bird-In-Hand Half-Marathon4, but didn’t run the latter . . . so, I’m trying for the same, again, in 2015, but I was giving serious consideration to retiring my attempts at the full-marathon distance. I’m so far away from qualifying for Boston that I can, honestly, call such a goal little more than a pipe dream5. I can “pull a half-marathon out of my ass,” to this day, but the full — well, yesterday told me that I’m still far away from considering a marathon “just another run.”

Last night was a rough, rough night. I believe my “this shirt is bothering the fuck out of me” and stomach issues were a direct result of dehydration. I started consuming fluids, as quickly as possible, after the run . . . and I’m wondering if I may have over-hydrated (while I didn’t have a LOT of wine, I’m sure the wine that I did have didn’t help). Last night, I put myself to bed far too early, waking up almost every hour, on the hour, to pee and/or retch. Regulating my body temperature was…difficult, to say the least. All in all, I was in bad shape (I’m feeling far better today . . . my knees aren’t exactly fans of taking the stairs, sitting down, or standing from a sitting position; I have chafe marks & blisters on some of my more sensitive areas, but all of that, I anticipate, will be remedied by tomorrow).

Despite the suck, though, I’m not done. I’ll be back on the course. Next year, I’m breaking 4 hours.

1 15 minutes, over a 26.2 mile race, might not seem like a huge time differential, but, trust me, it is.
2 Yeah, I spit as I run, especially during long distances. I’ve been known to blow a snot rocket or two. And fart. Don’t you want to run with me?
3 A close family friend got married . . . so I went to the wedding, rather than run the race. Because family always wins.
4 Both of these runs head through Amish country, meaning that there are a good number of horses on the road, and with horses on the road, there is horse poop on the road, so runners are best served avoiding these “road apples.” If you run both races, in the same year? You get the “Road Apple” plaque, which is a plaque with petrified horse poop shellacked onto it.
5 I say that, yet I have improved my marathon time by over three-minutes-per-mile from my first marathon (though it’s hardly been a linear progression), when I hit 40, the times for Boston Qualifying start to turn to my favor . . . so I can say that qualifying for Boston isn’t a goal of mine, and it isn’t . . . but the damn idea is in my head.
  1. Congrats on the finish! Even though it wasn’t completely the experience you wanted, tons of us are still in awe and proud of you. Get some rest. 🙂

    • Thanks — today, I’m limiting myself to pull-ups, dips, a few small walks, and I’ll get on an exercise bike (to just loosen up the lactic acid in my legs) after work for a bit.

      I’m me, I’m not good at rest, but I’ll take it easy today.

  2. Congratulations on your finish! It sounds not just like dehydration, but maybe low magnesium or potassium as well. I hope you bounce back quickly!

    • You know, I ate an INCREDIBLE amount of potassium the night before, but didn’t do much, aside from having some fresh fruit and french fries, to replenish potassium yesterday.

      Magnesium, alas, I don’t track . . . so it’s entirely possible. I was hoping that the Gatorade I was drinking on the course was replenishing electrolytes, but, well, maybe I needed more. In either case, I’m feeling FAR better today than I was last night.

  3. My marathon times are 4:17, 4:22, 4:13 and I KNOW what a big deal shaving 15 minutes is. It’s really damn hard.

    And tempting. And after my third marathon, I heard a small voice in my head saying, “Next time, break four hours.”

    It’s dumb, but I think that’s part of why I stopped training for long runs.
    I got the idea that I was wasting my time if I wasn’t trying to improve my overall pace. But I also knew I didn’t have the time or desire to speed train.

    So. Now I run maybe three or four times a month. A ten minute pace.
    Totally lost my edge.

    I know muscles have memory and that I can get it back faster than it took to gain in the first place. But I’m scared that my best pace is behind me. That I’ll be disappointed in what my 46-year-old body can accomplish now.

    • My times have been 5:26, 4:43, 4:29, 4:23, and now 4:06 . . . I like the direction things are heading, but, damn, do these races take a LOT out of me.

      That said, I’m so close that I feel like I *need* to do this, if only for me. We’ll see . . . while part of me wants to “hang up the laces” at the distance, until I can’t just pull a half-marathon out of my you-know-where, a part of me says “people can run a good 3 minutes per mile faster than you, and they’re far from the elite,” which tells me that I can do it.

      As it stands, I’m stopping any/all long runs until the weather starts to get a bit warmer next year (I’m hoping to add swimming to my winter cardio plans, but, again, we’ll see), and I have a full marathon early on in the year. But, I have it during the morning, and then Easter Vigil services that night, so I’ll, likely, be awake for 24 hours . . . that may be enough for me to say “fuck it, I’m not running this distance ever again.”

      Time will tell.

      But I’d run any distance with you, should the opportunity present itself.

  4. This is just how I feel about almost every race I’ve ever done. I am proud and satisfied to have finished, but always fall just a little (or a whole, whole lot) short of my goals.

    You’re right that family, friends, life comes first, though. And usually, when something goes physically wrong, like your dehydration, it’s a good – if somewhat unpleasant – learning experience. So glad you are feeling better!

    Congrats on finishing and on your time!

    • Thanks, Missy!

      Now that some time has passed, I’m not so much discouraged by my time or finish — shit happens, you know? But, I’m disappointed that I set this goal for myself and, well, I’m not going to hit it.

      Is it wrong that I’m hoping for a window of free time & beautiful weather so that I can run 26.2 & see if I come in under 4 hours?

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