Re-blogging & Post-Marathon Thoughts
If you’re a regular follower of my blog (you’re not), you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t exactly done a great job of consistently posting content in about three years. In that time, a lot has happened. Fortunately for you, I’m not going to bore you with paragraphs about the intricate details of my life. Just believe, as you should, that I accomplished a great many things and generally lived a great life.
I’m writing this post, because frankly, I miss writing. I use to do it often, but then I started caring about things like grammar, commas and what people would say to what they read. Fuck that. Especially the commas.
When 2013 rolled around I had a few goals in mind. One of those was to be “more bold.” As in, stop worrying so much abut what people think and just go out and be a boss. Life is too short to do otherwise. So… I’m writing again (the Canadian in me apologizes if you don’t like my writing – would you like a doughnut?).
I realized upon re-reading posts from my past that even though what I was sharing may not have been entertaining, the posts are extremely important to someone like me who often struggles with recalling memories.
So I’m sitting here, hyped up on Harris Teeter Zero Calorie Cola, and sharing my thoughts on my most recent life event: running in the 38th annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. on October 27.
Before we begin, understand that a part of me will always be disappointed in how things ended up in D.C. that day. I walked away from that finish line frustrated and immediately regretting some of the strategy decisions I had made. For a great many people, finishing a marathon in just over 4 hours and 30 minutes would be a monumental achievement. I try to remind myself of that when I think of my time as a failure. For some perspective, let me take you back a little bit.
I remember the first time I had decided to run a marathon. It was way back in early 2011, and my awesome wife and I were looking for a challenge. We decided to partake in the Mistletoe Half-Marathon. 13.1 miles seemed like a impossible task, but my sister had just run one so it couldn’t be that hard. We diligently trained all year and that winter I finished with a respectable time of 1 hour 47 minutes (looking back, I have no clue how I did that), and decided we’d run in the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. What’s the harm in doubling the distance? How hard could it be?
After a summer of training and preparation, I was ready to take on the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. I had a goal time of 4 hours and all of my training pointed towards that goal being easily attained. My thighs had other plans. At mile 16 every muscle above my knees and below my hips seemingly turned into stone. I jogged, walked and stumbled my way to a 4 hour 35 minutes finish and sought answers. I didn’t cross-train enough. I didn’t pace-train enough. I drank too much water. I drank too much Gatorade. I didn’t drink enough Gatorade. I ran in a pack. I went out too fast. I went out too slow.
Either way, I had lost to Oprah.
I decided the answer had less to do with my actual diet during the race and more to do with my pacing strategy and lack of pace and cross-training.
So 2013 rolls around: I’m going to beat Oprah.
I trained all summer following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan as diligently as possible. Maybe missed 2-3 runs all summer. I bought a better bike and started cross training. I gave myself plenty of rest days and made sure to keep muscles loose.
The big day arrives and I’m completely relaxed. No rocking pump-up music. No “getting in the zone” moments.
I took the approach that my training had prepared me to easily accomplish my goal and now was the time to relax and enjoy the moment. I wasn’t even nervous. I was in a great mood and nothing was going to stop me. I didn’t care that my back had been hurting for a week, as long as I stayed upright everything was peachy keen. I danced waiting for the start.
After the most spectacular display of skydivers flying American flags I’ll ever see, the Howitzer sounded and the marathon was underway. Everything was going extremely well.
I ran the first 9 miles or so with my father-in-law and training partner, Jim. We ran at a good pace as the crowd loosened up, and kept up a good conversation and were in generally good spirits. However, I noticed that our respective paces had started to differ and I would find myself about 10 feet in front of him if I zoned out for more than a few seconds. This was starting to stress me out, and I had a very strict “No Stress” policy. I was concerned as well that my legs would again lock up if I kept limiting my pace. So I got his permission to break the fellowship, gave him a hearty “Good Luck” and let myself pull away.
I proceeded to follow my attack plan. Run at a comfortable pace. Stay relaxed. Enjoy the scenery. Walk through the water stops. The next ten miles were pretty fantastic. I laughed at the signs (my favorite was “New PR = BJ” that a woman had made for her man in the race) and high-fived the little kids that held their hands out.
But mile 20 brought a familiar feeling that I had feared all year. Thighs = Rocks. If you’re an athlete, I’m sure you’ve felt this before. The mind and lungs are willing, but the body is not. I immediately began a new plan of attack hoping to walk out the cramps. It seemed like things were working, the thighs were loosening up and I had some mild success for 2 miles or so. Jim caught up and this inspired me to forget the cramps and rejoin him for the final stretch.
“Hahaha, think again, asshole,” my thighs replied after only half a mile.
This time it was worse. There wasn’t a muscle in my left leg that wasn’t locked and my right leg wasn’t much better. Jim tried to encourage me on but there wasn’t much hope. He went on, as he should, and left me by a tree as I tried to stretch things out.
I have a policy in life, “it could always be worse.” And as I watched people pass me by as I hobbled along for the final miles, I reminded myself of this often. There wasn’t a chance in my mind that I could beat Oprah and I should enjoy the sights and sounds of the finish regardless. I even enjoyed a doughnut along the way.
Of course, in hindsight, maybe I should’ve pushed myself a little bit harder. My official time was 4:30:47. Oprah’s time was 4:29:15. ONE MINUTE AND THIRTY-TWO SECONDS. Over twenty-six miles! That is, literally, less than 4 seconds per mile.
Needless to say, I’m not happy.
Yes, Oprah had a coach with her. Yes, Oprah probably had folks clearing room for her so she didn’t have to deal with crowds. Yes, she probably released bees to cause general mayhem. Yes, it was 1994 and not everybody had a cellphone (they had these things called pagers).
But still, I’m that guy. That guy that couldn’t beat Oprah in a marathon. And that sucks.
My wife and father-in-law? They beat Oprah. Of course, my wife is an Ironman, so she SHOULD beat Oprah. And my father-in-law did an incredible job of pacing himself. They’re awesome. Even if they didn’t beat Oprah they would still be awesome in my book. I can’t help but be jealous of them.
To make matters worse, the official photographers of the marathon captured some fairly depressing photos of me looking defeated. “Look at this loser, he looks ready to die!” is probably what they said as they sorted the photos. I’ve contemplated buying the series and framing them. Just look at this sample:
I should use that photo for motivation in my training. I’ve got to do better.
So I’m running another marathon. I said that I was done with long distance after this MCM. But I cannot be the guy that lost to Oprah. I haven’t chosen which one I will do, probably not the Marine Corps (even though it is a GREAT race), but I will do one soon. And I WILL beat Oprah. But until then, this is what I picture when I look at my MCM medal: