Monday, October 14

Rode That Horse

But that's how it goes with runners: through pain, we find serenity.

The greater the agony, the greater our eventual absolution.

~ The Oatmeal 

The Post-Leadville half marathon training is over.  We're now in the Post-Iron Horse era of life.  

I had a post started that was the same as my usual fare.  And then this morning I totally and unexpectedly discovered The Oatmeal for the first time ever.  And there, on his front page, was the comic entitled “The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances” which I have quoted at the beginning of this post.

My coworker Betsy was the first place female runner at the Iron Horse.  She finished in just under 1:30.  I was like the 9 millionth male finisher.  I walked some.  In fact, I felt worse yesterday than I did through all of my training runs over the past ten weeks.  I cramped.  Didn’t cramp in the previous weeks.  My legs felt heavy and dead after 10 miles.  Hadn’t had that happen during any of my training runs.

I could say it was God’s way of telling me to check the day of the week next time I sign up for a big run/ride like that and not wait until two months before the event to realize I’ll have to skip church because the 13th is on a Sunday.
Anyway, being a bad example aside (it’s is just that easy to sweep it under the rug) I felt like I ran a relay with myself.  There were two mes out in Midway yesterday.  Double the forsaking.
Mile 6 was my fastest at 9:06.  I’ve had faster mile paces on shorter runs, but a 9-10 minute pace has been pretty consistent for me over the past few weeks.  The digi-board displayed 1:03 when I passed the halfway point.  I was feeling good, and seeing that time made me very hopeful that I might be able to bust 2 hours on my very first half marathon!
Mile 9 was almost two fully minutes slower.  I “ran” mile 11 in 11:40.  I went from a 9 minute mile to an almost 12 minute mile.  So what happened?
Right after I passed the halfway point my left calf started to cramp.  Before I reached the 7 mile mark it was full on seizing up.  By mile 9 my left thigh was cramping even as the calf was loosening again.  But then by mile 10 and the loosening of my thigh muscles my legs felt heavy and dead.  My right knee started to hurt like it never had.  It felt like bees were coating it and stinging it at their massed leisure.  I felt tired.  I wasn’t bonking, but bonking would have been a welcome relief at that point.
Speaking of nutrition…
“I’ve got to eat really well this week.”  That’s what I said to Mandy a week ago.  And I proceeded to eat junk, junk, and more junk.  There are reasons for this, none of which I feel necessary to throw out in my defense.  Suffice it to say I lost sight of the prize.  Combine that with the two final weeks of stalled training and you can see that I was setting myself up for a suffer-fest of epic portions…er, proportions.
The morning of was no better.  I choked down as much of a banana as I could manage.  I wasn’t nervous, just reacting negatively to the sensory assault that is eating a banana for me.  There was little in the house that I had the gumption to prepare for myself, and Mandy had decided not to eat, so I ate a crunchy granola Clif bar to chase my half a banana.  And that was all.
I had meant to bring a Clif Shot or two, but somewhere along the way I forgot to put them in my hydration pack.  Yeah, I ran with a bladder.  I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t want to carry my phone through the whole race but I did want a record of my first half marathon.  That seems a silly reason to carry a hydration pack, and I really had no other justification, but I’d been running with it on all my longer runs and I never really noticed it there so it didn’t seem like a bad decision.  And it wasn’t.
So I started the race as a strong, well-prepared, mentally strong endurance racer.  And at mile 6 I handed the baton off to the slobbish, lazy, self-destructive wannabe athlete and suffered for the next five miles.  But then on the way back as I climbed up the steepest hill on the course (none were as bad as Granny Moppet or Steamshovel) I found a little bit of reserve, the pain subsided just a tad, and the now worn down strong, well-prepared and mentally strong athlete took back over.  By then the damage had been done.
I couldn’t up my pace—even on the downhills—but I was determined to run the rest of the race.  You see…fatty had walked.  In all those weeks of training I only walked a few times, and usually it was a strategic resting tactic to get a bit of rest on a climb.  But during the Iron Horse fatso-slobbo took to walking whenever the pain got to be too much.  
And to get away from the run-walk-run-walk-run-walk participants.  That drove me nuts.  Especially the guy who sounded like a bull elephant in heat.  He just kept running past me and then slowing down until I passed him only to run past me again, all the while breathing like he was getting ready to explode.
On the second half of the race I was fairly certain I’d blown any chance of hitting my predicted 2:15 finish time.  I was fairly certain I wasn’t even going to make the 2:30 my family had predicted.  At one point—around mile 10—I wondered if I just started walking if I would be able to finish before getting pulled.  I held onto that thought for a mile or so until I decided to toss it.  I was in Midway to run.
By mile 11 I was passing no one and I felt like I was moving slower than a walking pace.  And it hurt.  So why not walk?  But I kept on running hoping the pain would wash away and the mental and physical tightness would loosen.
Mile 11 was my slowest, and most painful, but the long downhill toward town had begun.  Mile 12 was a little faster, and mile 13 was a little faster than that.  The spare change at the end I managed to run a 10:11 pace according to Strava.  And then I was done.
I came around the final corner with a couple hundred yards to go and saw the digi-board over the finish.  In shock I saw “2:14”…so I picked up my pace.
My chip time was 2:14:02.  I crossed the finish still under 2:15.  Unbelievable.

Tomahawk was helping with the medals at the finish.  I dropped off my pack and then went back to watch for Laurie and Mandy.  Laurie crossed with a chip time of 2:37:23.  She wanted to break the 2:40s and she did.  That was pretty awesome, even though she did hurl on the railroad tracks later.
Mandy called me from the course as she walked up a hill.  I was worried for a second, but she said she just wanted to see what my finishing time was.  She predicted she’d be coming in right at 3 hours and she did, and she ran strong over the finish.  I was so proud of her for sticking with this lo, these past few months!  For a first half marathon she did phenomenally well. I could see the emotion in her face that I felt after crossing the finish at Leadville.  Seeing that medal hanging around her neck makes me infinitely happy.
I told Tom I would never do one of these things again.  He said I’d forget in a couple of weeks.  He’s probably right.  Commiserating with Betsy and a couple other coworkers this morning I was already thinking I wanted to be running again and to not take a week off like I promised myself yesterday.  Then I came back to my desk and stumbled over that Oatmeal comic. Take a few minutes to read it.  I can relate to it much to well.
My next goal is pretty ambitious.  The Saturday after New Year’s I’m going to do a 16 mile trail run in the Gorge.  I’m going to begin at Martin’s Fork trailhead and run Rough Trail all the way to Swift Camp Creek Trail and finish on it at Rock Bridge.  It’s going to be hard.  It’s going to involve suffering no matter what kind of shape I’m in.  But I’m going to do it.  No entry fees.  No awards.  No crowds to cheer me on.  Just me, the trail, and the desire to make it happen.
After that I’ll have to reassess and come up with some new scheme, but the truth is I don’t think I’m going to keep doing the organized events…biking or running.  I’ll go and support Mandy, but I need to lay off of the for a fee activities for a good long while.  I’m not going to sign up for Leadville this year.  I may consider doing the Mohican again, but I’ve not decided.
I have confidence that I can come up with plenty of free schemes to keep my little self occupied for a couple of years.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding job on getting it done in under 2:15 even with the troubles you were having! Way to push through and keep on going!

    BTW Love the finisher's medal!

    Keep up the good work!