To start things off I should say that the marathon is one of my many Achilles Heels. I despise this distance with every ounce of my being, in fact; I'd rather be running Grouse Grind repeats for an entire weekend, or water running with nothing but Jack Johnson on my iPod, I rather be cycling...gasp...than running another blasted marathon, but somehow I have attempted this distance six times. Never failing, every race, as I bounce up and down, minutes before the gun, I find myself muttering; “What the **** am I doing here again???”
Coming off a pb at the Sun Run I thought I would definitely be cruising in sub 2:29 country, after all, a 31:38 10km translates to a 2:28 something, according to the random google marathon calculator. I actually checked a few of these devices out, and was relieved to find that each one gave me a slightly different time. In fact I had a projected range of 2:34 – 2:27, so I figured anything in that range should be quite satisfying.
My coach had me shooting for a sub 2:30, (it has been my goal for the past four marathons), but every time the same thing happened; I'd run a brilliant “spot on” pace till about 30km, then the wheels would fall off. At Sacramento I had to stop at 30k... total exhaustion, at NAIA Champs in Kentucky I shuffle stepped the last 10km, (the worst part being that after 30km my support crew ran out of positive things to say, and resorted to the “silent slow clap”, or utterances of “catch that girl ahead of you”), and of course Vancouver and Ottawa, both of which saw me in the first aid tent after finish line collapses, “spilling” my gels, and Gatorade all over my feet, and the IV!... Why do they always decide to do an intravenous PK on my arm? I always seem to get some 16 yr old nurse who wants to use my arm like a pin cushion, I crawl out of those first aid tents looking like Sid Vicious on a Sunday.
Anywho, I digress, race day is upon me, and I'm my usual miserable pre-race self. My folks have stayed over (Mom's running the half) and Dad's going to walk around the course with Katrina. I still have to do a double take when I see my pregnant wife in the morning, she looks like she's smuggling something, Paula R. you just wait... I munch a fig newton, half a banana, half liter of water, cup of coffee, and we're out the door. Two weeks prior I raced a hard 10km, and ended up bruising the ball of my foot pretty bad, nothing structural, just superficial, but I pop 200mgs to be on the safe side, kiss my beautiful wife goodbye and start my warm up. Hats go off to all those runner moms out there who have to watch their husbands train while they're pregnant, mentally I can't imagine, it must be tough.
I see a couple of mates round the bend of the half marathon, I give a hoot and holler then put my race face back on. Shaking my legs out, my focus shifts ... I'd already visited the toilet once, “Did I really need to go again?”
Bouncing in the line up I see Ken Myers doing the same thing.
“Are we running together today?”
The usual droning pre-race exchange, don't want to reveal to much. You'd never hear a runner say before a race “Yeah, I'm in such great shape, in fact I think I'll run backwards!”
It's funny to see all the people queuing for the toilet, It's even funnier to think that half of them don't even need to go, they're going to sit there and hope for some sort of miracle. If God has time to grant B-Ms to random marathoners, his priorities are in need of serious adjusting. That's not to say that I haven't looked to the sky once or twice before a race.
Into the Johnny-On-The-Spot! In my rush I forget to lock the door. One of those things, I lock the toilet in my own house, why not here ... go figure. So it shouldn't have surprised me that while in mid movement the door swings open. My face rises to meet hers, some poor woman, maybe her first marathon, probably left her kids with her husband, they're at mile 6 waiting patiently. Probably thinking, that she's making her way to the start line about now, or getting some last minute advice from her running partners, certainly not imagining her looking at a cherry faced man, his drawers on the floor, power gel in one hand, balled up TP in the other- and if she had taken the time to look behind her she would have seen a sea of grins, gasps, and scowls. The door slams back in my face quicker than it opened.
Now besides running, the other thing that I do that makes no money is theatre. Missing queues, lines, entrances ... you always have to find ways to regain the confidence of the audience. I couldn't just walk out of the John with my head down, no, this was more than pride, I was about to run the marathon of my life, I couldn't start the race with shame, I had to come out of this on top. So I did what any good actor does for his audience, I stepped out with grace and bowed for the crowd, “Now that's what I call a public toilet!”. Truly, a bad joke, but on the seat of my pants (pun intended) not too shabby. I left the laughs behind me and made my way to the start.
Kenya, Kenya, Kenya, College, College, US, US ... well I ruled out winning this thing right off the bat. Kind of liberating to know that it is humanly impossible to find yourself in the lead. Shake a few hands, smile at some friends... “What the **** am I doing here again?”
“Oh, ****, gotta run, gotta run, run slow, run slow, too close, the pace is slow, why am I up here, why are they back here, what kind of shoes are those, is that Katrina, slow down, hey there's Hayden, “Hi Hayden”, stay with Ken, okay, yes, stay with Ken till the pace gets too quick.
The race started very conservative about 5:38 mile pace, 12 of us in the lead pack for the first two miles, then things spread out. The leaders dropped the group, I think Kenya went 1,2,3. First through in 2:15 something, I'll spare you the drama because it is beyond my knowing. I am what my training buddy Brad would call a “pro-sumer”, Professional Consumer. Not quick enough to win big races, but Dammit, I'll be the hardest working “second front pack filler”. You don't see pro-sumers dropping out of races, but you don't see them on the podium either, they're the ones too quick for John Stanton, but to slow for Brooks-Hanson. Like the awkward teenager, they slip through the cracks, beautifully unknown, the pro-sumers are the Gary Buseys of running. “Who's that?”
“Nope, but kinda... in a weird way, he had that movie...”
Anyway, me and Gary, we'd be tight.
The beauty of running is there is always someone faster and someone nipping at your heals. Your nemesis; that fella who always shows up to race at the last minute ... the “oh ****, that guy”. On the flip side, someone else has their eyes on your back. As runners we are all performing gutsy heroics at every level. Of course if any of these delusions of grandeur enter my head I know the game is over.
By 10km the field has thinned and myself and a feller from the US are going stride for stride. Like a couple of pack horses chasing glory, we round the bend near Hastings, and I am reminded how close we all are to true defeat and shame. I meet eyes with a “Binner” dropping cans into his cart, and for a brief moment I feel a sense of futility and shallowness in my efforts, those feeling quickly pass as I know all to well how self destructive second guessing can be. And in fact I had already accepted years ago that running was in fact futile, and that the futility was the beauty of the sport, an addiction of lesser evil ... or not.
Water station near 15km, I feel ready for anything - Oh nuts! My stupid Electro-light tablets had fallen out, one left. I pass the water station and down some fluid. Forgetting to take the tablet with the water and crunching it in my mouth was probably the beginning of the end. Not because I ran with the taste of vomit and bleach for the next 15 minutes, but because the focus had begun to slip. When something goes wrong in a race I usually speed up, that in combination with seeing my wife gave me a sudden burst of “KENYAN!” - I felt light as air, and nervously slipped to my toes and began to put some space between my pace buddy.
Up until 19 km I had been on pace to go through the half in 1.14:55, instead I dropped my km pace to roughly 3.20s and went through in 1:14.32 .... oops. The wheels briefly fell off here, no big deal, once I crested the hill near Pipeline I was back in form, not feeling Kenyan anymore, but rather back to my normal pro-suming work-horse self. Hearing the half marathoners cheer me on certainly gave an extra boost. It feels good to be a small part in something so big. As 30km and the dreaded Burrard Street Bridge approached, a couple of things happened:
I realized that I was cramping, I noticed that USA had started to close the gap on me, I began to see a lot of familiar faces.
That was it, creeping up the bridge I checked my watch, noticed the gas barge below and felt a spasm shoot up my quad. Had my muscles decided to pack up and leave? Was my leg giving birth to some sort of alien spawn? No it was the electro-lights ... again. In the days that proceeded this race I came to two big conclusions: Nutrition and Nutrition. I have yet to figure out the puzzle of replenishing as you go, I drink when I'm thirsty and eat when I'm hungry ... unfortunately marathoners are expected to do something called “planning ahead,” missed that training session I think.
Coming down the bridge I feel my friend from before, breathing like a rhino down my neck, he's hurting too, I can tell, but a good hurt, like when you find that 5th gear again, amongst strands of pain and swelling, a salvageable 5th gear, rusted and loud, but still there. I was grinding my 3rd when he stormed past, I tried to get pulled into his wake, but a longer kick and reality spat me back out again
Here in no mans land I was, again, knowing countless “grinders” where only minutes ... seconds, behind me, a big target on the back of my head and their predator eyes upon it - running can be so callous and fierce! If it wasn't for Paul Krochak, standing on the side of the road, blanket around his shoulders (probably hiding his IV bag) face yellow like corn, cheering his guts out, I probably would have slowed to 2nd gear right then and there. Paul Krochak the man who less that a week ago had been knocked off his bike by a car, going god knows how fast, who had been in intense intense surgery only days ago, thought I needed his support? - “Okay, no quitters today.”
It's truly amazing how we can set and negotiate new goals for ourselves throughout a race. We have our ultimate goal, realistic goal, and goal we'd be satisfied with, and are in a constant state of flux between them all. I set a new goal, to see how long I could hurt for ... Quite long apparently.
I never reached my sub 2.30, I didn't even hit a pb, but I hung on, and for that I was proud. Cornering onto Pacific and hearing friends and colleagues shout my name, I put aside my failed attempt and relished in them witnessing some of the best “hurt” marathon watching can provide. Like watching someone slowly pull a giant band-aid off of a hairy body part. And you know, the last 1km didn't feel too bad ... until the finish line. Two bags of saline, a shot of Gravol, diarrhea, vomiting, hypothermia and 4 hrs of first aid tent bliss, I am back in the wonderful arms of my wife, eating a Vera's Burger, and Whoa ****! that is a good burger.
Here's the kicker, it's two weeks later and with Knee Knacker looming and 9 weeks of hard work ahead all I can do is laugh. One part of me is crying to be rid of this beautiful addiction, and the other is stirring and giddy in the gates. The wheels are in motion, and the race in essence is already run a million times over in my head. Laughing, yes, another big race, sure why not?
`Assault on the World Record' on page 128 of the June issue of Triathlete. It's a story about some of the fastest female Ironman competitors today and who is poised to break Paula Newby-Fraser's now 14-year-old world record.
Tons of people! FAST PEOPLE! I jumped right in there with the speed demons…headed out for the 5k three loop run, just used the run as a warm up…then got on the bike…and hit the HEAD WIND! I swear it took me 40 minutes to ride out and 20 minutes to get back. It was like riding into a brick wall!
Got up to the top of the mountain we had to climb…caught the tail wind…turned a corner and saw a fellow racer drop to the deck..after
hitting a DEER! Yeah…a deer. The deer was fine…so was the rider though I stopped to make sure he was ok until I could get him help…then I got back on my bike, saw a lady in her car and flagged her down and she went to the fallen rider…he was ok.
I headed back into transition and headed out for three more loops…then I was all done.
I think I was 8th Female overall (not bad with my little break in there) 1:45 for the 5k run 32k bike and 5k run.
Wow, I was just checking the last two blogs I uploaded and can't believe the number of spelling mistakes I just made. The worst of it is, I thought I had checked it thoroughly - I guess it is true, as long as all the letters are there, our brains are able to decipher the correct word. Yeah, that's my story - anyway, my apologies.
It looks like a few of us were racing around BC this past weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Charlene and I toed the line at the BC Duathlon Championships. The normally warm sunny Okanagan weather was far from present as some strong winds blew off of Skaha lake making the outbound portion of the ride a bit of a challenge. A couple of times during the ride I felt like I ws hardly moving, until I saw a couple of birds going backwards in the wind
As usual, there were some very strong competitors ranging from Ironman winners (Tom Evans) to ITU World cup winners (Samantha Warriner of New Zealand). The opening 5k was a three loop run. Nothing too eventful, I followed my race plan and used the HRM to make sure I was not redlining too soon (I knew the wind on the bike would have me doing that soon enough). Following a smooth transition (something I spend time working on throughout the year) I was off on the bike and straight into the headwind. Suffice it to say it was tough going out but FUN coming back with the wind. Unfortunately I had knocked the wheel magnet while unracking my bike - therefore I was only able to see riding time - no speed ..... :_| . I finished the bike strong and once again had a good transition and headed off on the final 5k run. Perhaps due to the phase of my training, I found myself a bit sluggish coming off the bike - I normally get me legs sooner than I did ..... Oh well, something more to work on
All in all a successful race - unfortunately I did not stay around for the official results as it was getting late and cold. I was unofficially 2nd in my AG, and as I always say - "First was definitely in my reach".
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