Grandma’s Marathon: Part 2

>> Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fellow blogger Tea was racing in IM Coeur d’Alene this past weekend. She was sick, coughing, and exhausted, and she took herself out of the race half way through the bike. Here’s what she said on her blog:

“...I decided that I would ride to the halfway mark and turn in my chip. I was ok with my decision until I had to tell one of the race guys. I couldn't even get the words out because I was crying so hard...”

I can totally understand that exact scenario because of my experience this past weekend. Now, on with my story.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So, I ended my last post with photos of me balled up in the fetal position, wallowing in my own crapulence. Borsch had snapped those photos of me in the distance. Then he came running up to me along with someone from the Medical Tent that I was heading towards.

“, do you need this?” Borsch held out my “emergency” Power Bar that he had in his backpack. He said it quickly, as if all I needed was that Power Bar, and then I’d be off to my BQ race.

“No... I’m good... I’m done. My day is over.” I was still choked up and not speaking real clear. “Borsch, when you see Pharmie and Steph, do NOT let them know that I dropped. They don’t need to worry. Don’t tell them until they’re done. OK?”

“OK... yeah... they don’t need to know right now,” Borsch replied.

The man from the Med Tent walked me the last 100 feet to the tent. We were on a little embankment, and he walked on the lower side of me, expressing his concern that I was going to topple over. I assured him that I was going to be fine. I got to the tent, and I was offered a pickle. I almost laughed at the time, but now it makes sense (good way to get some salt back into a body). “No thanks,” I said. They offered me a seat, but I wanted to see if I could spot Pharmie, Steph, or any of our other friends running by.

So I went out near the course, behind some volunteers and spectators, and squatted down. I wanted to try to spot Pharmie, but I wanted to be out of sight so she wouldn’t see me and get worried. I waited there, going in and out of teary moments. The young man from the Med Tent kept coming over, touching me on the shoulder, and asking if I had seen my wife yet. “No,” was always my answer. Then, each and every time, he would offer me a pickle again. His persistence in offering me a pickle started to make me feel better. I mean, how many times can you offer a guy a pickle in an hour? He was really trying to be helpful, but all he had was pickles. (Wow, that last sentence was weird...)

I never saw Pharmie, Steph, or any of my other friends go by. I think I just missed them all from my low, obstructed view. I finally went and sat in the shade in a camp chair at the back of the tent. People were running in and out, needing Vasoline, pain killers, band-aids, etc. Someone radioed in my number: “1749, male, hates pickles.” OK, so he didn’t say “hates pickles.” I was officially out of the race.

When I was feeling pretty much back to normal, I walked back through the tent and thanked all the Med Tent volunteers. Then I walked out the back of the tent and hopped on the bus. There were only about 5 people on the bus, but it filled up quick (including a wheeler and a pro).

We only had about a 15 mile drive back into town. The first 8-10 miles were fast. The last few were really slow because of detours around the race. The entire ride was about an hour and a half. We got dropped off, and I went along the last half mile of the course looking for Pharmie to come in. I didn’t know that she was nearly an hour off her goal time, so I just kept looking. I was walking toward the finish line, just off the course. Apparently, one of the event photographers thought I was still trying to finish, because I found this photo of me on the event website:

Walking to the right, looking to the left

Borsch was still out there, snapping photos of the girls. Here they are around mile 14:


Steph waving

He found them again around mile 20:

Pharmie, looking strong

Steph, looking a little beat

I kept looking for the girls. I got into the finish area feeling really guilty. I was surrounded by finishers, and I was just the bum that got a ride back to town. I stood just beyond the tee-shirt tent and waited for Pharmie. She came in, and I was so excited to see her. She asked how I did, and I told her the story. There were no more tears, just a factual story. It was over it. I tried, but it just didn’t happen for me that day. So be it.

A little later, Steph came in, and the 2 sisters sat and rested in the finishers area:

Our friends did well too, and I snapped a photo of some of them while we were hiding from a brief downpour under a tent:

Pharmie, Jess, and Maddy

Here’s my version of why my day went so horribly wrong: I got in 2 good 17.5 mile training runs (both in just over 2 hours), but I never got in the 18, 20, and 22 miler that I had on my schedule (due to my achilles). I lost my 3 longest runs, but I didn’t change my goal on race day. Stupid. I think the pace was just too fast. That accounts for about 70% of why I barfed and started to lose my sight. But it doesn’t fully explain it. I’ve run plenty of runs over 13 miles at the very pace I was running on race day, and I didn’t crash and burn like I did this past weekend. Something else was off too. I don’t know what that was. I can’t explain the rest of it. But the majority of my problems were due to having to adjust my running schedule, but not adjusting my predicted marathon outcome. That’s what I think.

After the race, I felt fine. I actually jumped down and did a few squats to show Pharmie and Steph that my legs weren’t even fatigued that evening. I had a mondo headache for the rest of the day and in to the next day, but everything else was A-OK. Including my spirits. It sounds geeky and stupid, but I DID learn a lot from that DNF. It seems so generic, but I think it HAS made me stronger. When I got injured nearly 2 months ago, I almost threw in the towel and stopped training for Grandmas. I’m very proud of the fact that I trained around my injuries and at least gave the marathon a run for it’s money. Something is learned at every race, finish or not.

Would I have loved to finish? Of course.

Am I second-guessing my decision to drop out? A little.

Could I have walked my way to my first marathon finish? I think so.

Do I get annoyed when people ask and then answer their own questions like I’m doing right now? Damn right I do. So I’ll stop.

The next morning, Pharmie, Steph, Borsch, and I got up to go to the Black Woods Bar and Grill. We went there the night before, and it was DELICIOUS. So we thought we’d hit the Sunday morning brunch. We pulled into the lot about 2 minutes before they opened. As soon as I put the car in park, the “Immediate Seating” light turned on. Borsch and I exulted in unison: “The ‘Immediate Seating’ sign just lit up! LET’S GO!” The girls laughed at us as we ran to the door.

And then we ate:

Plate 1: omelet, french toast, bacon,
sausage, potatoes, and kielbasa

Plate 2: ribs (that’s right: RIBS!),
roll-up thing, and french toast

Plate 3: bread pudding, muffin, and another omelet (I thought
I was doing dessert, but there was no line at the omelet chef...)

Plate 4: chocolate mousse

Then we drove back to St. Paul, and we ate again. I grilled, and the girls made some veggies, fresh salsa, and cut up a melon:

I had WAY more melon and salsa
(and notice, I finally had that pickle... HA!)

So I think I’ll have to institute a new Steve-ism:
“All’s well that ends well with food!”
So true. So very true.

Well, now I’m off and training for the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon that Pharmie and I are doing together in a few weeks. I hit the pool this morning for a good 24 lap swim, and I’ll be hitting the bike tomorrow for my first ride since the Apple Duathlon (yikes!). And Pharmie and I can’t wait to head out to WI this weekend for WIBA (Wisconsin Ironman Brick Adventure). I’ll have photos and stories from that as soon as I can! Happy summer!

p.s. Thank you all so much for all the encouraging comments on my previous post. It really means a lot to me to have so many of you stopping by to make sure everything is OK. Words really can't explain. Thanks again!


Tea 8:30 PM, June 24, 2008  

When I did my first half iron, I met a guy in transition. He had done 15 ironman races and finished 9 of those.
I've never forgotten the advice he gave me. #1 Ain't no shame in walking. #2 Sometimes a finish just isn't in the cards.

I never really appreciated that advice until this weekend. Ironically, I felt worse for YOU than for me. Because I knew how you felt and what you were going through, and I wished that you didn't have to go through it. We both know that it was the right decision. I think it takes alot more strength to call it quits than to push on.

It shows a confidence and basically, I'm saying we're both old.

Trisaratops 9:13 PM, June 24, 2008  

You just rock.

That's all I'm sayin'.

That, and WIBAWIBAWIBA!!!!!!!! It's been WAAAAAAYYYY too long since I've seen me some Steve and Pharmie!


SM 9:37 PM, June 24, 2008  

The pickle was the first thing I noticed on your

a.maria 9:40 PM, June 24, 2008  

i just love the pickle guy. he obviously really REALLY wanted you to eat his pickle.

and that just makes me laugh.

glad you're in good spirits!

Unknown 10:00 PM, June 24, 2008  

You did the right thing... glad you are in good spirits.

Have you ever considered that maybe you had low blood sugar? My husband is a Type 1 diabetic. When his sugar gets low (which happens to anyone), he has the same symptoms as you - loss of vision, upset stomach, things just not being "right"., etc. When I told him about your blog the first thing he said was "sounds like a hypo attack. Just a thought...

Viv 10:36 PM, June 24, 2008  

You hung on as much as you could. I think you rock for knowing when to stop. The girls looked great, and Pharmie looked super strong!The food is making me hungry darn it.

J~Mom 11:33 PM, June 24, 2008  

Thanks for sharing the whole story with us! It really sounds like you made the right decision..except you should have had the pickle. You probably hurt the guys feelings!

Unknown 11:58 PM, June 24, 2008  

Steve, I love your blog. Your self-deprecating humor is great. My wife and I used to run road marathons only. Then, we both began experiencing the same things you did at Grandma's: vision problems, headaches, barfing, inability to keep going.

My wife just about gave up running. I was demoralized but not that bad.

Then, someone told me about salt tablets. I thought it was nuts, but I tried 'em. Incredible!

Hope you keep running.

CoachLiz 12:28 AM, June 25, 2008  

OMG you ate a lot of food! I was kind of jealous with all the good wheat goodies but I got over it with a piece of chocolate.

You said the gals were an hour off their pace. Did they run into problems as well?

Glad to see that you are feeling better and back to training.

Donald 12:43 AM, June 25, 2008  

I think your analysis is pretty accurate - there's really no substitute for repeating those long 20+-mile training runs (with the last several miles at race pace, if able), to toughen your body up for racing the marathon. The fact that the breakdown happened early in the race may have been a mental thing as well, as you subconsciously realized how much longer that kind of effort would have to be sustained.

I have no doubt you'll break 3 hours someday, probably soon. Running a marathon to finish is one thing, but racing is another. You've definitely got the racer's mentality, and that will carry you a long way. Keep your head up.

ShirleyPerly 1:12 AM, June 25, 2008  

Saw on Sunshine's blog that it was also like 60+ degrees at the start of the race, which is pretty warm for running a marathon to most people. That could also have caused some problems if you've not been used to training in such warm weather and did not adjust your pace accordingly.

Whatever the case, I hope you enjoyed all that food and the pickle!

duchossois 6:24 AM, June 25, 2008  

I am really sorry you had such a bad day at Grandma's. It hurt to read the story.
Please reconsider your analysis. Your lack of long runs would have certainly limited your ability to finish strong, but should not have affected you in the first half of the race, especially if you were keeping to a pace you previously have run for that distance. Colleen's explanation is a better match with your circumstances and symptoms. Low blood sugar is possible. Also, taking salt so early in the race was not only unnecessary, but may have contributed to your problems. I would not recommend a salt supplement until at least 15 miles or more.
I hope you give another marathon a try, and do it as soon as you can. You will finish, and you will celebrate, and the native will rejoice with you. Go Steve!

duchossois 6:35 AM, June 25, 2008  

Oops! Sorry to have to breach blog etiquette, and double-reply but I forgot to add something. The anxiety and adrenaline of race day can have unexpected effects on your body. In addition to the nausea, these things can also mask the signs of an illness. You may have had a virus of the 24 hour variety. Just another thought.

Also, I forgot to add congrats to Pharmie, Steph, Jess, and Maddy.

C 7:27 AM, June 25, 2008  

You truly are inspiring. If I could look on my goal attempts as learning experiences instead of failures, I would be a much happier person. I'm learning from you. Thanks.

Good luck in your future races. You'll kick ass! :)

Anonymous,  8:43 AM, June 25, 2008  

You have a great attitude. I know you will have some awesome races ahead...sorry this one had to suck.

Great sister pictures and (of course) love the food pics, too!

Go get 'em in the next race!!

Kim 8:50 AM, June 25, 2008  

hiya buddy. i wish that guy tried to shove a pickle into your mouth! again, im so sorry that grandma was such a coldhearted bitch to you this weekend. you have a fantastic attitude and i know this wont be the end of you!

p.s. can i get me some of that brunch?! yummooo!

Meg 8:59 AM, June 25, 2008  

Glad to hear you recovered quickly and are doing well. You have a great perspective on the day, it is inspiring!

:) 9:23 AM, June 25, 2008 makes EVERYTHING better. I keep telling my wife that! You are the man Steve, and I have no doubt that a BQ marathon is in your near future. So it wasn't your day that's coming.

Love ya, man!

Sunshine 10:51 AM, June 25, 2008  

Hope you are doing OK. So sorry for your disappointment.
PS... Actually, yes, we all talked about that "dead" smell.. and you are right... definitely something was dead at one point along the first half of the course.

Marcy 11:17 AM, June 25, 2008  

Dude, I have no words for the pickle part LOL So many things to say yet I'll zip it :P

You're the man, homie! Finish or no finish!

sRod 1:06 PM, June 25, 2008  

I can't even imagine. I would have beat myself up ten different ways if I couldn't finish my first marathon. You're strong Steve. Keep on providing the good example.

Kevin 2:16 PM, June 25, 2008  

Hey steve, want a pickle?

You definitely have a great attitude. A DNF is always better then a DNS or a DNL.

I would think this is less about your mileage leading up to the race and more physical or nutrition. If this was about mileage I think your legs wouldve given out.

But nearly blacking out? You may want to get a physical make sure your bloodwork is ok and look at your nutrition before and during the race

Tri-Thomps 2:34 PM, June 25, 2008  

All's well that ends with food. Looking forward to dinner with you and Pharmie at WIBA.

Thanks for the recap. It's hard to have an objective view of it so close to the event. It is especially difficult when you have invested so much. It bodes well for the future that you can reach a level of acceptance with the day's result as quickly as you have. I look forward to reading about your continuing journey.

Brian 2:57 PM, June 25, 2008  

Again, don't worry, there are plenty more marathons up your sleeve I have a feeling.

Like you I trained through my injuries. I think there are times when I should have bailed and I see others doing the same. Bail out before the race before your injuries get worse.

Lastly, I'm a midwesterner, but some of those meals make me more nautious then any other pic you've posted to date.

Stef0115 3:16 PM, June 25, 2008  

Steve, again so sorry about the way things turned out here but you have written about it so well and you seem to have a good handle on it.

I'm not sure that it's cliche at all to say you have learned from this experience, sucky though it was. I think you HAVE to take that perspective in order to move on.

It is too easy to beat yourself up or second guess what you did out there. I mean, doing that is natural to a point and you can probably learn from that too, but ultimately, acceptance is where you need to get to and you seem well on your way, if not there already.

I have a feeling that when you nail your next marathon all of this will have been worth it. . . .

Teacher Pursuits 4:23 PM, June 25, 2008  

This is such an inspiring and humbling report. Its a reminder that we're all subject to unexpected elements... no matter how well we prepare.

But, kick that race to the curb and look to the future... there are many more races to come. :)

teacherwoman 4:32 PM, June 25, 2008  

Always an inspiration! Glad to see you are jumping right back into training... awesome aweseom awesome!

jen 5:14 PM, June 25, 2008  

Love the pickle bit. You'll probably think of that every time you have a pickle now (or at least when someone offers you one!). I'm so glad you learned something from your DNF. I don't think it's cheesy at all, or maybe I'm just cheesy. You are probably right about your injury causing you to miss too much training, but something else was up too.. you may never know. Just wasn't your day.

Your sad picture in the last picture broke my heart but the "Immediate Seating" one picked me right up! You guys are hilarious. And also, YUM. I friggin heart brunch.

Unknown 6:08 PM, June 25, 2008  

low blood sugar or dehydration came to mind when you mentioned dim vision and barfing, but I'm not a doctor.

glad you are feeling better now.

want a pickle?

KK 7:42 PM, June 25, 2008  

I'll never look at pickles the same way again.

Glad to see your back to your ol' self.

I agree with the others, sometimes it is harder to pull yourself out of the race. I admire your tough decision. You'll get 'em next time!

Molly 7:56 PM, June 25, 2008  

I gotta pickle, I got a pickle, I got a pickle, hey hey hey!
(only funny if you saw buckwheat say it in the newer Little Rascals).
I READ about the food on Borsch's site and now I have to SEE it...torture...and YUM-O.

Erin Leigh 8:25 PM, June 25, 2008  

Thank you for writing this all out for us. You really sound like you have a great handle on everything.

chia 6:35 AM, June 26, 2008  

I see others are commenting on the blood sugar drop - when I told a friend at work what I was reading that made me look like someone shot my puppy he just said "cinnamon roll" and walked off. Apparently he keeps an emergency brownie or cinnamon roll as his "secret butt pack weapon" for his distance races because he doesn't seem to respond to the sugars in bars nearly as quick as shitty sugars.

Have a great weekend! Great pics of the ladies! Sorry some dude kept trying to throw you the pickle

Anonymous,  7:09 AM, June 26, 2008  

Glad to hear you are feeling better and the symptoms you were having went away rather quickly.

You can tell such a great story. The pickle part mad me laugh. Wouldn't be the first thing I would think that would be offered! Great pictures too.

Mendy 8:35 AM, June 26, 2008  

too funny about the pickle.

I still think you made the right decision, but I'm not sitting in your shoes.

Know that you inspire many of us in this running/triathlon sport. Keep your head high - you did what you had to for you and I think that it takes a strong person to decide to do what you did. It was smart!

Nitmos 9:12 AM, June 26, 2008  

I can certainly understand the disppointment. Also, when I've had to walk due to some major cramping, the last thing I wanted to hear was encouragement from the crowd. In my head, I was handing out throat punches liberally. Outwardly, I was smiling.

Fizzgig 10:00 AM, June 26, 2008  

your still my hero. I couldnt even come close to half what you do!

TRI TO BE FUNNY 10:21 AM, June 26, 2008  

Dude--all of that food didn't make you barf all over again?!?!?! WOW!! Thanks for sharing your story...

A lesson we can all learn--stop putting so much damn pressure on ourselves! A DNF is not the end of the world. In fact, it's just our body's way of saying, "Chill the F*ck out."

You'll be back and stonger than ever!

Jade Lady 11:28 AM, June 26, 2008  

Thanks for sharing your story - i'm glad you're ok - I can tell after knowing you ate all that food!

I think your gut instinct told u to do the right thing for your body - no need to second guess.

John 11:53 AM, June 26, 2008  

I'm always amazed and inspired by your positive attitude… great race report! You always have the best food pics!

triguyjt 1:17 PM, June 26, 2008  

Now, i am gonna bring some pickles on my half iron..haha..

obviously you have digested this tough experience...(sorry for choice of words) and you are moving on...

you will rock your next race..

wanna pickle
wanna pickle
wanna pickle
wanna pickle

Spokane Al 9:55 AM, June 27, 2008  

I was catching up with your blog and found your marathon story very moving.

The other commentors have said it better than I could but I did want you to know that I feel for you buddy. And I have been there, walking back after a DNF and not wanting to make eye contact with anyone, especially the cheery spectators. I even took my number off so others would not know I was in the race.

Take care, and as you know more than many, tomorrow brings more smiles, sunshine and adventure!

Ryan 4:55 AM, June 28, 2008  

Wow, mixing corn, black beans, and watermelon, on top of a brunch buffet; you must of sounded like "Steve's 10 piece Horn Band" for the rest of the day.

RBR 9:39 AM, June 29, 2008  

The hallmark of a true champion is one that can have a bad race, yet go on to not only celebrate with his friends and loved ones, but eat four times their body weight in food at brunch.

Impressive, on so many levels!

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments! Have a great day!


Follow steveinaspeedo on Twitter

Facebook Fan Page

All content and original images copyright 2006 - 2024 by Steve Stenzel, AKA "Steve in a Speedo." All Rights Reserved.
Want to use something seen here? Just ask - I don't bite.