This past Sunday I ran one of the biggest races in I have ever done. Biggest not in the since of distance, but just the amount of fellow runners, TV coverage and spectators. It was a very exciting day. Let me begin by saying I am happy with my time. I had a goal of under 4hrs. I fell short of this. Unlike many other people I saw flopping to the ground kicking and crying because they did not qualify for Boston (yes, I saw 3 and one 1 on "The Bridge"), I was happy with how I performed because I knew I did my best this day.
The morning was rough. I did not sleep well, typical. It was colder than I thought it would be. I took the Metro into DC. I ended up playing tour guide to some people from out of town. "Um, sir. You may want to step back some, the trains come in pretty fast...they wont stop fro you!" From the Metro stop to the starting area was quite a walk. No one was very happy with this, at least the people around me. I had the feeling I was taking my kids for a run or something. I noticed a lot of great costumes. Some were classic and some were extreme. I should consider a costume at least one time I think. Once at the starting area, I took care of business. Made all my checks, made sure I had everything, dropped my bag off and off to my coral. I huddle there watching the jets fly over and going over mentally what I was going to do. I was starting to over think things. And I knew.
The race starts. Opps, hand jerked and started my Garmin a bit early before I crossed the start line. Oh well. A mile in felt something in my shoe. I tried to wiggle it around and then I realized it was in my sock! I had to stop. Some how a rock got into a brand new pair of socks. Huh? So I pulled over got my shoe off, sock off, shake, back on, tie the shoe and off again. Lost maybe, 45 seconds. It happens. At least I wasn't one of the fools running off to the trees to pee. First time I even saw women running off to do so.
I will spare you the details of every mile and skip forward some. But I have to say one of my favorite parts of this race was Georgetown. I was awesome the amount of people that were out and the excitement they had for us. You did feel like a rock start. I even turned my ipod off at this point. This is where I was more concerned about taking in the whole experience. The joy of running. I was just having fun. My time was looking good too. At the halfway point, my time was 1:57:06. My four hour goal was looking very possible. And then, mile 20.
If anyone follows me on Twitter, Dailymile or read this blog, you know I have always had some sort of knee or calf issue. At mile 20, my left knee start to hurt. Now, being used to this knee issue gives a certain amount of tolerance for pain and knowledge on how to deal with it. Out comes a couple Advils. A few minutes later the pain was going away. Then my old friend started to talk to me. My right calf. I felt the twinge. A slight spasm. Again, knowledge kicked in. I knew two things. If I stopped to stretch, I would not start running again. And I knew if I kept running, it would get worse. I shortened up my stride and took a 30 second walk break until that twinge went away. It did. I started to run again. A mile later, twinge again. This continued for the rest of the race. But I was still moving. I did not stop. When I took the short walk breaks, they were power walks. Long strides with full arm movement. No dangling my arms to the side. No short stepping it. I was walking it out like I was marching in the Army again.
The Bridge. I have ran this bridge before in races. I am not new to it. In the Army Ten Milers, I was known to charge up this bridge. Today, there was no charging. Calf pain now added to a new pain I have never hard which was my hamstring. I felt as if I was falling apart. This was doubt "the wall". That moment of despair in your mind. When everything around you is telling you to stop. I dug deep. Others, were not able to dig so deep. I started to see body after body. Laid down on the side of the bridge. Some smiling and waving others on. Some in pain with a Marine medic racing down the bridge towards them. Some, crying. I dug deeper. I ran half of the bridge and power walked the other half. I made it over the bridge, on to the finish line.
Once in Crystal City, it was pretty flat. I kept a slow pace. I was preparing myself for that last hill before the finish line. I knew I wasn't going to make my four hour goal. But I was fine with it. Honestly, I get the same medal if I ran a 4 hour marathon. I was having a great time. Even though I was in pain, I had the feeling of accomplishment. I was doing my best, and my best was better than some men that were younger and in better shape than I was. I am 38 and just a little heavier than I should be. I was beating guys in their 20s. I was beating guys a foot taller and skinner than I am. I am not very competitive, but I am competitive. Someone put a cup of beer in my hand. I looked at him and he just smiled. Why the hell not? I drank 3 big gulps of beer and smiled. Thanked the guy. "Go get em!" Is all he said. I could not even tell you what he looked like. Where I was. I just remember he really helped me at that moment. There was one other too. The sweet lady with the Gummy Bears back near the capital. Love me some Gummy Bears!
That...hill at the end. My opinion...totally uncalled for. That is one of the steepest hills I have ever ran. This hill reminded me of the hills in the North Face Challenge race. Steep and unforgiven. To put that at the VERY end of the race, where you are getting ready to have you picture take...just cruel. I made it up, spitting cuss words along with a few other runners. However, the crowd was roaring as we made it up. That was cool. No other word for it....just...cool.
The finish line. I made it across running and limping. I stopped running and the wind blew. I start to shiver. I thought something was wrong. Started to worry about being one of those having to be carried off. I got my space blanket and felt better. Getting the medal I was looking at the Marine. Some people were very....dismissive of these guys. Now, if you have been not been in the military you won't get this. I know, I know...some like to claim they understand. You don't. I am very patriotic and a big supporter of the military. So, when it was my turn to get my medal I let him put it around my head and said "Congratulations". I looked him in the eye, offered my hand. He looked a bit surprised. I shook his hand and said "My family and I appreciate your service." The marine looked surprised, smiled and said "Thank you sir!". That's all they want. A little acknowledgment. So, when Veteran's day comes on the 11th, buy a soldier a beer.
Things I did right:
1) Trained for long distances right. Pace was on the money until the calf cramp.
2) Ate right. Had steel cut oats with a banana at 4:00 AM.
3) Took the right types of gels.
4) Didn't forget anything (used a check list).
5) Dressed right.
6) Used the porta potties at the right times. Once when I first got there. And then 15 minutes before race.
Things I did wrong:
1) I don't think I made any mistakes.
Things I learned:
1) Check the inside of your sock before the race.
2) Take more gels. I took only 5, could have used another one. The Sport Beans given out worked well!
3) Do more hill work.
Things I want to try:
1) Salt tabs
2) Calf compression sleeves