>> Sunday, June 22, 2008
Or, “This course smells a lot like dog doo and dead animals.”
Or, “So that’s what the inside of a Medical Tent looks like.”
I really want to start with a HUGE THANKS to everyone out there that has sent me advice of one form or another regarding all this marathon training hubbub. It has really meant a lot to have people checking in to see how things have been going. When I started blogging about 2 years ago, I thought it was going to be more of a one-way “lecture” and not so much of a great discussion. Thank you all for helping me! On longer runs, I really feel pushed by all of you - I think to myself, “Well, if this doesn’t go well, I have to answer to the blog-o-sphere!” Thank you all for being a part of this trip with me!
Many of you commented on my last short post. I want to get the first half of the story up so that you all know that I’m doing just fine. This post will start out fun (as usual), but then it will head south quickly. I’ll finish the marathon story in the next post. I’ll try not to be too long-winded, and there will be lots of photos (as usual).
Friday: the day before:
Borsch, came over. Shortly after that, Steph got home from work. Then Pharmie called to let us know that she was done with work and we could come pick her up. We were all off to Duluth! This was going to be my first stand-alone marathon, Steph’s second, and Pharmie’s 9th. Borsch was coming with his bike in tow so he could ride near us on the course and carry any goodies we could desire. How sweet is that?!
It didn’t take too long on the road before the girls were wiped out:
It opens on the other side, Steph...
Water, athletic drink, and boxed wine
After the meal, we went to the expo to get our race day stuff. While we were down there, I had to buy this sweet, sweet triathlon magnet:
We were all ready to hit the hay, so Pharmie and I pushed our 2 single beds together. Just for cuddles. Not “adult” cuddles.
We awoke around 4:45 am. Well, we had our alarms set for 4:45, but I was wide-awake around 4. And it took me a while to get to sleep the night before, so I was going to be working on a solid 2-3 hours of sleep. We all had our pre-race oatmeal, lubed up with sunscreen and Body Glide, and got all ready to go.
There was a bus (well, a HUGE convoy of buses) that took everyone from campus to the starting line in Two Harbors, MN. Here are the sisters walking to the bus:
The line ends on the other side
of the building in the distance
In Two Harbors, at the starting line:
All 3 of us got off the bus and instantly got in line at the porta-potties. I left a nice little present there. We sat and stretched, and waited for Borsch to arrive. While we were waiting, Jeremy found us. Jeremy is fellow St. Paulite who ran the Winter Carnival half marathon with me, and is currently training for IM WI this fall. We chatted for a moment, and then Borsch arrived. He snapped a photo of everyone hanging out, along with a bit of “port-o-john row”:
The starting line is behind the toilets, well right of the
yellow tent, but you can see people backing up for blocks.
Out of nowhere, an air-horn sounded, and we were off. I knew I needed to stay calm and stay on (or near) the pace chart on my arm. I was really excited at this point. The crowd was very heavy, and I wondered how long it would take to disperse. I did VERY GOOD at not jockeying for position - I tend to run through a pack of people at a race, only then to try to run through the next pack. I was not doing that. I was staying calm and cool, hanging out just behind the 3:10 pace group.
Mile 1 - 7:13. Perfect. Right on track.
Mile 2 - 7:05. A little fast. I eased up a bit.
Mile 3 - 7:13. Sweet.
At this point, I was feeling great! I had passed the 3:10 pace group, but I was just barely running in front of them (not going too hard). I was running easy and keeping the pace right where I needed to. I wasn’t trying to push too hard, and I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. Just after the 5K mark, I spotted Borsch with the camera:
Mile 4 - 7:06. Again, a little fast, but not out of control.
Even though some of these times were 10 seconds faster than I had on my pace chart, they weren’t TOO fast. In fact, 10 seconds faster per mile would drop my 3:04:25 expected finishing time to just under 3 hours (as highlighted above, near the photo of my pace chart wrist band). So I was still right where I needed to be.
Mile 5 - 7:09. Doing good, just 6 seconds fast.
A quick check of the pace chart showed that I was just 32 seconds faster than what I needed to be at this point. Again, just a little fast, but not CRAZY fast. I felt good.
Just after mile 5, I saw Sven Sundgaard from Kare 11 News in the Cities (local weather-guy). He was a spectator. I said “Hi Sven!” and he shot his head up and said “Hey there!” He looks fit and toned on TV, but in real life he’s down-right buff! And super tan! He was there with his buff and tan “man friend.” (If your from the Cities, you KNOW what I’m talking about!) And a few miles later, former Saturday Night Life funny man Al Franken was cheering for everyone (for those of you from out of state, Al’s making a run for Senate here in MN - he was raised in a Twin Cities suburb). I shouted and waved: “Hi Al!!” He waved back, all smiles. Around that point, I also cut all the way across the course to high five two boys with their hands out. “Are you guys waiting for high-fives??” I shouted as I ran over to them. Their mom was just past them, and she remarked “What a smile!...” When I ran past. You know me: all smiles.
Mile 6 - 7:08. Feeling good.
Mile 7 - 7:07. Feeling good.
Mile 8 - 7:09. Feeling good.
Look at that consistency! The last five miles were all within 4 seconds of one another! That was a confidence booster! I was in control and still going strong.
I did a little something dumb at the mile 7 water stop. If you look in that photo of me at mile 3, you can see the 2 gels I was carrying. At mile 7, just before the water, I ate one of the gels. I followed it with some water. A bit after the aid station, I looked at the 1 gel left in my hand. It was the one with the top torn off that had just been consumed. I had thrown the full, unused gel on the ground in the sea of paper cups in the water stop, and I had kept the empty one that I just ate. Damn it. I hoped that I would be OK until mile 17 where they were handing out gels. Oops.
Mile 9 - 7:15. A little slower than the last few miles, but right on pace. Good.
Mile 10 - 6:53. What?
Things got weird around mile 10. It wasn’t one thing; it seemed like little bits of everything. I just stopped feeling like myself. I couldn’t figure it out. I had gone on plenty of runs at the pace for much longer than this, so it wasn’t the speed. It was a little warm, but the heat usually isn’t too big of a deal for me. I was drinking water, but not too much. I had a good nutrition plan that has worked fine for other long runs. Nothing made sense. At this point, I already started running mile-by-mile, where you simply try to make it to the next mile marker.
Mile 11 - 7:10. Hurting.
Mile 12 - 7:08. Hurting. But not knowing why.
I didn’t even know where I was hurting from. I had a little side-stitch, but nothing horrible. My heel had gotten a little sore, but again, nothing horrible. Why did I feel this way?!? I was pissed off at myself.
Mile 13 - 7:20. Dazed, confused, weak, pissed.
I knew I was nearing the end of my day. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I thought to myself “If my achilles snapped or my knee really hurt or I fell and got all cut up, then I’d know why I feel like I have to stop. Now, I really just don’t have a reason for feeling this way!” It was more than frustrating.
I ran through what I thought was the next mile marker: mile 14. But it was just the 13.1 mark (the half way point). I wasn’t watching my watch, and it felt like those 46 seconds and 0.1 mile were another full mile. Looking back, I think I was in worse shape than I thought at the time. It was a little scary later that night when I realized I didn’t run just over 14, but just over 13.1 instead. My mind was gone.
Half marathon split - 1:33:48. I was still 22 seconds faster than my goal time at this point.
I was done. I stepped off the road, and out of nowhere, I threw up. Let’s just say that barely digested Endurolyte capsules (salt tabs), Power Gel, and a Power Bar do not make for the prettiest barf. Monochromatic, yes. Pretty, no. It was fairly, oh, let’s say “gelatinous.” I’ll spare you the gross details. Yes, I, Steve in a Speedo, known for being gross and nasty, will leave out the gross and nasty stuff this time.
The salt tabs were still a little intact, and everything else was this repugnant, white, foamy mess. I watched it drop down between the long grass blades in the ditch. It was like a buffalo load of rotten semen. Oops. Did I just take it past “gross and nasty” as you’ve come to expect from me? Well, I was dropping out of a race, but it wasn’t taking my sense of humor.
I jumped across the road to an opening in the trees that had a GREAT view of Lake Superior. I went towards the breeze. I thought I’d see if the cool lake breeze would help. I also had the thought that Homer had in an episode of “The Simpsons”: he was about to receive some bad news, so he asked “Can I get the bad news in a happy place?” Then they cut to Homer having fun on a roller coaster being told some bad news. (I think I have that right; I don’t remember all the details.) So I thought, “If I’m going to drop out of this race, I’ll do it in a scenic spot.” I haven’t said this enough in my life: thank you Homer Simpson.
I was looking over the lake for a few seconds, just above this little rocky ledge. I quickly became a little faint, and backed away from the mini-cliff. “Not smart to be right here,” I thought. Someone from a nearby Med Tent saw me swooning, and he ran over.
“Are you OK.”
“I think so,” I said. As I said it, I nearly started crying. Wow, that came out of nowhere.
“Do you need medical help? Can I get you anything.”
“No, I think my... I think my day is done. I’m done.” Now I was fighting back tears. “Can I stop here?” I asked.
He went on to tell me that it’d be a long wait here, but if I walked up a mile or so, there was a bigger Med Tent that had a drop-out bus that was going to be taking people to the finish line. He asked if I’d be OK to walk to the next stop. I said yes. I think he radioed my number in and officially took me out of the race.
As I started walking, I started thinking that I could still salvage something from this race. I thought I could start running again, even slowly, and still finish my first marathon. How quickly my options changed from “slower than 3:10,” “better than 3:10,” and “maybe even sub 3” to simply “finish” or “not.”
I started running again. Pretty quickly, my vision started to dim. Everything slowly started getting darker and darker. It was like they were turning down the lights to about 40%. I wasn’t feeling faint, I was just slowly going blind.
“Holy shit. Time to stop.”
That was that. No more running. Just get to the next station, hop on a bus, and call it a day. Don’t die. Kaeti, a local blogger, gave me the advice of “Aim for not dying,” and I e-mailed her to thank her, because it was surprisingly simple, good advice!
I was fighting back tears. When I finally stopped to walk knowing that my day was done, there was no one around except for one guy about 50 feet ahead. He gave me some encouraging words as I passed, and I noticed that he had an IM WI 2007 finishers shirt on. Talk about fate punching me in the face.
Here’s where it got hard. As I was rounding a corner, walking up to the Medical Tent, there was another cross street, which meant another big group of spectators. I had walked that last mile with no one around. Now, there were people right next to me telling me “You can do it,” and “Stay strong,” and “Over half way there.” Those are all great, generic things to hear while running a race, but hearing them while in the process of dropping out sucks. The truth was: I couldn’t “do it,” I wasn’t “strong,” and I was already “there.” I kept my head down to avoid eye contact because I was really tearing up and feeling sorry for myself.
I’ve never treated spectators so shitty. Just a few miles before, I was cutting across the course to give high-fives; I was waving and thanking bands; I was waving at kids who had cowbells and screaming “More cowbell!” Now I couldn’t even look them in the eye.
I didn’t know it at the time, but as I was walking through those people, Borsch had spotted me in the distance. He snapped a photo:
Cropped in on me
That was it. I couldn’t take another “Hang in there” from the crowd, as I knew there was no way I was going to finish. I jumped the guardrail, turned my back to anyone nearby, and let it all flow in celebration of my first DNF: