Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hartford Marathon- Praying to the Plastic Gods

It's a lot easier writing up these blog posts when you have a good race, but hey, if you are going to blog your racings it really isn't fair to just blog the good ones, is it ?

Racing for the six straight weekend, I really had five good weeks. Even Firmman, where the time was a little slow, the overall result- second in my age group- was not bad.

I got up to Hartford almost 90 minutes before the marathon yesterday. It was a perfect day- the air was already warming up from what had been (for this year anyway) a cold night. I didn't want it to be cold- I'm not particularly subject to the cold anyway and I'm not one of those people you're going to see with a plastic bag and gloves when it's in the 50s (or ever. The day you see me with a plastic bag covering my torso at a road race, kick me in the knee and shove me off into the grass. If I try to get back up, kick me again...)

I was able to get about 6 rows deep from the start. For those of you who don't know the (latest) new course, it now starts up in the same area as the 5K and you blast down a hill. While this certainly is a fast way to start (and creates a course that probably has a very slight net downhill, might not be the start that everyone wants. I was back and forth early with Maureen Terwilliger, a great runner and a teammate of mine from Hitek. We went through the first mile under 6:40- a little too fast for me.

This would start a pattern. I ran the first 5 miles in the 6:40-6:45 range, which was a little too fast for me.

I was back and forth with a tall guy at this point in the race and a few times I settled in behind him and let him break the wind, but I don't really like running that was. At three miles a guy tried to pass me on the right just as we were about to make a right hand turn. I squeezed him off- the first of several times. I think I'm been doing triathlon too long because I cannot tolerate someone trying to squeeze by on the right hand side at a curb (or kerb).

I took a cliff shot at 4 miles and kept sipping at my heed. I recently got a container of Strawberry Heed and after doing two races with it I can say that the flavour or something simply doesn't mix with Cliff Shots or Gu. More on that later. At Mile 21 or so...

The miles ticked off pretty quickly. Five, six. I was back and forth with a tall guy at this point in the race and a few times I settled in behind him and let him break the wind, but I don't really like running that was. So I pulled even with him now and then and finally I dropped him.

Around mile 8, after going back over the overpass and heading out towards the out and back, I told Maureen that I was going to drop off a little bit. The pace was too fast. the conservative thing to do would have been to go out running 6:50s and then hold them.

Instead I ran a bunch of 6:40s and then had to take it down a notch.

My other long running races have been successful because I held back until late.

By mile 9, I could tell I was going to really be cutting it close on the three hours. The math isn't that hard to do. It's the same as the Ironman. The math becomes a sort of hostile entity when you aren't going fast enough, but you have to put it out of your mind because otherwise you have 'the thought'.

I only had 'the thought' once during the run. Around mile 11 I thought to myself 'Why did I want to do this?'

This is the killer question. Get this in your head and you might as well go home and stick pins in your feet. Why am I out here, why did I want to do this, etc...

In my defence, I did not spend a month or two training for the race. I did not, to be fair, train for the race at all. I had run 90 minutes outside of races only once in the preceding six weeks and that was the day before the New Haven Road Race 20K.

I had literally signed up for the race the day before. I mean, who does that ? This was a marathon after all, not a 5K or something. So I had to bin the thought a lot more forcefully than usual, because I didn't have the usual 'I've spent months getting ready for this, this is my big day, etc' to call on.

Fortunately, a fellow triathlete came up along side me and asked me which raced I'd done this year. I told him Lake Placid and then he told me that he was doing it in 2011 and that he really needed to work on it because the bike was his week leg. I gave him some advice based on what he said his weaknesses on the bike. We ran together for about a mile and then I let him go. I was definitely struggling as I went through miles 11 and 12. I took my Cliff Shot at 12 miles and ran through to 13 right on 7:00, which was a bit slow. But the miles were still going by.

However, I was not feeling good, and I knew why. It was ironic because I'd just read the article in ESPN magazine about intestinal distress. The brain does not want the body to stop at moments like this, but the body functions less and less efficiently the long you go without relief. And the brain can be a powerful thing- the inclination to never stop is so strong. It's a race. The idea that you'll spend race time sitting in a porta-potty praying to the plastic gods while people are burying you is so poisonous that.

I ran like this, debating it for about 40 minutes, then finally after downing my 16 mile Gu, I pulled into a porta-potty. It took me twenty seconds, and let me tell you, it was worth every second. I'll spare you the gory details.

After that I ran well. Yes, a lot of people had passed me but I quickly started reeling people in and I had three really good miles after that.There's no question that the plastic gods answered the prayer my bowels prayed that morning.

Mile 20 was the deciding mile of the race. I was starting to slow, but ironically, I was still passing people. As the wreckage accumulated around me- one guy running the wrong way with a number on, another woman sitting on the side of the road, her boyfriend urging her to get back up- I just kept that forward progress up.

I'd decided the day before that mile 20 would be a fuel-optional nutrition point. I wasn't sure I could take five gels- that's pretty aggressive. But it seemed like all my fuel stores were either exhausted or just off-line. I needed the calories, so I opened the gel and squeezed it all into my mouth. I immediately gagged. However, like I've done in numerous races, like I will never do again, I swallowed the gel. I am a stubborn human being.

I'd forced myself to go the bathroom. Good move. I forced myself to eat.

Bad move.

I continues to blunder forward. I was running pretty crappy, but I was still amazingly passing people, and I was basically not being passed. I couldn't believe it. I started thinking about visiting the loo a second time, but that well was dry. That wasn't the problem. I kept moving. I kept running. I-

I got two steps away from vomiting, and that's when I stopped running and started walking. Look, I never want to walk. Ever. Never. It cuts me to the bone just to admit that I walked. But if I hadn't stopped to walk I would have almost immediately stopped to vomit, and that would have ended my race.

I walked about 400 meters. People encouraged me by name to get moving again. Lee Bradley ran by me going the other way. Jamie went by me. I started running again before the on-ramp- or off-ramp, it's some kind of frakking ramp. I wasn't running hard and got passed by some more people and dropped by others, but as I ran back into the city and towards Bushnell Park I started passing people again.

I finished in a 3:07 something. As always when I'm embarrassed, I have not looked at the results. So yeah, I'm embarrassed at not breaking three hours, for walking a quarter of a mile.

I also recognise that I ran a 3:07 with no training at all, raced six straight weeks ending with this marathon, and hey, I got a big ass medal and a decent shirt. And I didn't have to wear socks thanks to my Zoots.

Verdict: It could have been worse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


you're an animal! way to gut it out, pun intended. Rest well.