Sunday, March 28, 2010

3.28.10 Knoxville Marathon

Alright so I know a lot of people were looking for me to hammer out a great time, and I had every intention of doing that, but sometimes you just have one of those days where absolutely nothing goes your way.

So as for my training for this thon' it wasn't anything special, in fact I was surprised I was knocking out 18 milers at all considering where I was in January, barely able to run 4 miles without stopping. The reason for that was literally no training in November and December, the months where I really should have been building up a decent base I did absolutely nothing and lost a ton of fitness. I knew this going into the race, but my training recently suggested that I did still have hope. I was running the same times I was last year on my daily and long runs and I really felt good on my longer runs too so it seemed like the waters were fine to jump in.

Race Morning:
This started off magnificently. I was awake at 5 ish and had a light breakfast, my usual nothing out of the ordinary. I pinned on my bib which somehow never turns out level. Checked the weather and it actually just showed cloudy for 2 hours into the race! Considering it was raining while I was reading that I didn't have a lot of confidence in that prediction. Drank some gatorade before heading out the door, right on schedule.

I get downtown to the parking garage and for some reason the cars are backed up forever. It took at least half an hour to finally get into the garage and get parked, ugh I waited forever and without realizing it lost a huge chunk of warmup time. Surprisingly none of the people in that car line were running it seemed because they drove right by the garage. Now normally I have April or somebody around, but since she is pregnant and days (hours?) from popping out our baby it was the best thing for her to stay home. Still I like to have somebody around to talk to before the race because it relaxes me.

Anyway I decided to go find the bag check, which I didn't see because I really needed to use the bathroom. The lines for the porta-potties stretched from the start line to the finish, so I decided to go to another inside. Unfortunately some bright person decided to lock that one and so there I was with essentially no bathroom. I waited in line, 10,15,20,25 minutes. All I could do was stand there and kind of stretch. Meanwhile the clock is slowly ticking down toward the marathon. By the time I made it in and out I had maybe 5 minutes left to warm up, and so I had to skip the bag check and run my junk back to the car. It was pretty tense, but I just tried to stay calm. I swear time just felt like it was flying by 1000 miles an hour the entire time today. So I run up 5 flights of stairs to the car, which actually wasn't there. I must have parked on another level.

The Race:
I heard the friggin national anthem and said screw it. The first person I saw I said will you take my stuff. She memorized my name and #, and I said "I'll see you at the finish" then I ran like hell back to the line. I didn't make it. Things just get better from here. So I run TO the start, just so I can turnaround and start with like the 9:00 pace group, which wasn't bad, but there were a TON of them so I had to snake everyone until I could find an open sidewalk. I wasn't even thinking at this point, I was literally having an out of body experience, Crazy!

Finally we get into the race and of course the hills. Rollers and more rollers, but I was actually feeling good despite starting late. How late I didn't know so I just had to listen to other people to find out what they were running. That's pretty unreliable though and so I just tried to run at a good clip and not worry about the time until I saw the 10k. Chugging up and flying down hills. There are tons of uphills, but each one goes back down, then right back up. It's a wearing first 6 miles that is hard to describe. You want to go fast, but you know you shouldn't. So 10k reads about 42 right as I cross. Okay, not where I want to be exactly, but on pace nonetheless, especially with a late start. And what'ya know is up next, good old Noelton hill. Ugh what a beast. I did pretty well although it's a serious punch to the legs.

I was expecting flooding on the greenway but it was the nicest part of the race and the paths were dry. This was the part of course where I tried to conserve energy for the second half. I tracked a few people, but mostly just tried to maintain and relax. I was doing well. Mile 10 came up with Tyson Park and I took a GU here, and by the way there wasn't a water stop where I didn't drink at least a few sips of water or powerade. Right as I went to go up the final hill of the half, at 11 miles something just hit me. My stomach dropped and I felt like I was going to die. I really wanted to find a bathroom quick. Alas there were none to be seen. I went through the half directly at 1:30:00. Not good but I had slowed down a lot due to my ugh, condition. I was eagerly and desperately looking for a porta potty. I also managed to see the woman who was holding my jacket and things at this point, she recognized me and hollered "Go Ron!", crazy day.

The Second Half:
But it never came, until mile 16. I slowed Way The Heck down inbetween then, thinking I could make up the time after by conserving but it was really hard to focus and a few people passed me here. Finally thank the lord I found the first porta-potty in 7 miles and spent good 5 minutes there. I hate to stop during a race, but it wasn't even a choice at this point. Directly after this I kept feeling something and hearing it go click clack click clack on the bottom of my shoe. I thought it was a rock and tried to the the 'swipe' method, but it really didn't come out. So I finally had to just stop and pluck the dang thing out. It was some sort of washer or something, no idea. But I was like oh great, yet another something else to slow me down. Crazy!

So I get back on track actually running again. Things still weren't good though. My stomach was still tied in a knot and now I get to fight the wind for the rest of the race. It literally hurt to run. and at mile 18 I think it was the first time I ever really considered dropping out of a race. This was simple torture. Each time I tried to run my chest tightened up and I felt like I couldn't breathe. So I took my first hill walk at 18 or so.

Still a shard of hope remained. I just kept telling myself it will pass and I'll get a second wind. I reached 19 and was like, okay 10k to go, I still might be able to hit 3:10, which is a BQ. I figured I needed some secondary goal because after the stop I knew I lost way too much time and so that became my next motivation. But it didn't last long. Running across the bridge I was being blown all over the place and I couldn't have been running more than 8:30 or 9:00. I mean I was barely getting one foot in front of the other and said heck with it I might as well just walk. So I did. Just friggin' walking out there. I was a mess, but my only hope quickly became finishing this thing. I knew there was nothing I could do. This race was completely out of my control and I felt like it wasn't even me running, and it wasn't, I never run like this!

My right calf was now cramping and I stopped a few times to stretch it to no avail. My legs obviously weren't fresh, but I could easily run at pace until my heart felt like it was going to explode again. Over and over I would get up to pace, hold it for a few minutes and then just feel like I was going to die. Yo-yo'ing everyone, but mostly the yo-yo never returned. People along the course were great, other runners, volunteers, just people outside giving out fruit, sheer awesomeness. I felt bad for walking through their stations. I've never done that. It felt like I was insulting them.

The finish:
Still there was nothing else I could do. It was a battle that I had pretty much given up on. I would walk some, run some, walk some run some and do this as much as possible. I wasn't quitting though. There was no backing down, and I was finishing this if I had to crawl to the line. The only nice part here was the wind at the side and knowing that there is just two miles left. Two miles isn't even a warm up but Lord those two miles hurt. There were a few hills that I walked, but I actually gained some ground here and found a second wind. Probably about a minute slower than my normal runs, but hey it was consistent and I was actually maintaining so I'll take it.

I passed a few people here, but it also started to rain. It got cold so I put my arm warmers back on. Legs were pretty trash but I found a nice little group to latch on to and passed them up by 25. I bolted back across the start line (make that 3 times for this race) and went on down a nice steep hill, which of course leads right back up the nice steep hill on the other side and into the finish. I managed to pass one or two marathoners here, but most of them were halfers that were coming in. I actually felt good here and I suppose it's because I knew it was almost over. I crossed the finish line and really didn't feel anything. I guess it's because I knew this race was over for me a long time ago and had pretty much accepted it by then.

Despite all that the post-race was the worst. It was a total downpour and I was freezing. I puked numerous times, behind the uhaul, in front of the uhaul, in the bathroom, in the porta john, pretty much if there was a place to puke I found it. Funny though this never ever happens. Maybe it was the GU or something that didn't sit right, but I really just felt sick the whole race and it hit me afterward, hard. I drank something and of course you can imagine how that went. I didn't even bother eating. Ugh I was miserable. I don't even know how to describe the emotion. It's kind of an anger/helpless/wtf/astonishment all rolled into one. It just felt like everything was out of my control on this day and there was nothing I could do to prepare for it.

Please don't believe that I'm giving you excuses, that's not the point of all this. I ran what I ran and I'm confident that I could do no better on this day, and I'm happy with that. My training was not the best. I knew this going in but I'm confident that my goals were achievable. Having ran a 2:59 last year I know that I CAN do it, and I really think I still could on a better day, and I don't just mean the weather. In hindsight I wish I would have ran the half. I nearly switched yesterday when I heard someone else switch at the Expo, but it's just not in my character to back out or back down regardless of the situation, and if you've read this far that should be pretty obvious.

My original goal for this race was simply to start and continue training again and I accomplished that. I even made it back to 80 mile training week by the end which made me very happy. The problem was I saw some light at the end of the tunnel and unfortunately put an expectation on this race instead of just having fun with it. I just have to remind myself that the race wasn't the end of my training cycle, it just was the beginning.

To all my daily mile fellow runners, you guys are awesome. I appreciate and ingest every word and advice you have, no matter your pace or accomplishments. Believe me I listen to and respect you all. Congrats to those who ran along side of me (and a few in front of me) today at the race.

The Lesson:
So what did I learn from this insanely crazy day in my running journey? Well firstly, you can never be too early or prepared for a race. I learned that sometimes you don't need to PR (big for me) and that sometimes you just have one of those days and that's okay. Another thing is that I will be properly trained for my next marathon. I knew I was jumping into this one with minimal training just starting from January 1, so I probably should have just done the half. Oh - and I also learned that GU doesn't like me one little bit apparently, I don't know though my stomach still doesn't feel right.

But mostly I learned that there are some really good people out there. The woman who had my stuff found me afterward and returned it to me. I mean how amazing is that? I let her know that she was an awesome person and it was so nice to have met her. I offered my artistic services to her as repayment of her kindness. Such a cool thing happened from what I consider to be a stupid risk or incident. Whatever you want to call it I am glad for those silly risks and incidents so that I can still be amazed by just people, it was far better than any PR I could have ran today.

Knoxville Marathon
3:21:06 (7:40)
chip: 3:20:37 (7:39)

fasttwitch 182


Sam said...

Holy smokes, I thought I had a tough day? Sounds like your day was absolutely miserable. That's one tough course. Pretty impressive to go 3:20 with as many troubles as you had. I'm surprised I don't remember seeing you, because there's no way I didn't see you on the course. We were way too close together out there.

Ron said...

I look down a lot when I run, mostly to avoid potholes and stuff, but still it's a habit. I notice very little during races, my brain kind of turns everything else off so I probably saw you and didn't even know it. I liked your race report Sam :)

Greg said...

Ron - thanks a lot for sharing this experience. I know it was a disappointing day for you but there is no doubt you are one of the most accomplished runners on dailymile, so I knew that it must have taken a strange combination of events for your marathon to turn out the way it did. As Sam says, 3:20 is an amazing accomplishment (that would be my second best marathon), especially for all the barriers you had to overcome.

With my first marathon in over 5 years coming up in a little over a month, and one I've never run before, I'm going to be sure to scout out the parking situation in advance (this will also be the first time I've run a marathon where I had to park a car first) and immediately get in line for the port-o-potty whether I need to or not.

You have set a lot of ambitious goals for yourself this year, and I wish you the best of luck in achieving them. At least your training thus far has gotten you off to a solid start.

Ron said...

Well I wanted to leave out the embarrassing parts, but that's the way it went down so no need to sugar coat it. Sounds like you took a few bits from it so that is good. The marathon is a huge undertaking, congrats on getting back to it. Your training has been going well I think you'll be ready to BQ.

Greg said...

Thanks Ron - it's experiences like yours though that make me want to keep getting out there and building in a margin for error (while hopefully avoiding over-training) - you can't take anything for granted in this sport.