Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lessons in 26.2

Ah...the long-overdue race report:

On December 2, 2007, I finished my first marathon. The mile-by-mile account was half-finished for a long time and not all that interesting. Instead, I want to share the enduring memories from this experience – by way of quotes and t-shirts.

First things first: I want to give a heartfelt thanks to my friends, Scott and Ana, for taking such good care of me both physically and mentally in the days surrounding this race. IMHO, having this kind of support is just as important as training. (In my case, it was a good substitute!)

Distance Creep – Last year, GeekGirl and AndraSue wrote about this phenomenon. Even though my training leading up to race day had been spotty, I still fell victim to The Creep. Once 140.6 was on the table, 26.2 seemed somehow lesser, like it wasn’t a big deal. Even though I didn’t know if I could finish, and even though I thought I would start hurting at mile 13, I didn’t feel like anything about me would fundamentally change if and when I crossed the finish line.

Oddly enough, this attitude toward the distance kept me calm at the start line (I have dry-heaved at the start of more than one race). It also took DNF off the table. I knew that only an injury or a freak storm would keep me from the finish line, even if I had to crawl.

And then I took walking off the table as well.

The start line is probably no place to start setting goals, but just before the gun went off a little voice in my head said, “You know you’re going to finish – wouldn’t it be great if you RAN the whole thing?”

So I did. And it was.

The last 10K: "The marathon's about being in contention over the last 10K. That's when it's about what you have in your core. You have run all the strength, all the superficial fitness out of yourself, and it really comes down to what's left inside you. To be able to draw deep and pull something out of yourself is one of the most tremendous things about the marathon." - Rob de Castella

So I’m obviously not a contender of any sort, but this thing about the last 10K is no joke. (I've also seen shirts that say a marathon is just a 10K with a 20-mile warm-up -- also true.) Once I hit Mile 20, my mind started checking out of the race. All I could think was "All right! Just another 10K and you're done -- you've done that before." This is when the real pain started to set in.

Scott cheered for me on the course at miles 18, 20, and 22. Boy, was I glad to see him! At Mile 18 he said, "Hey, you're really going to finish this thing!" At mile 18 I agreed -- I still felt pretty good. Mile 20 was a little different. I honestly didn't know for certain if I would finish between Miles 20-24. There were moments when I thought, "I have to keep running because my muscles will implode if I walk." And "How lame would it be for me to DNF at Mile 24?" Mostly I thought, "How on earth am I going to do this AFTER riding 112 miles?" But I kept moving and about 10 minutes later I reached Mile 25 and then it was ON.

Remember what I said before about The Creep? It completely disappears at Mile 26. When I got there and could hear the finish line around the corner, I picked up the pace -- partly to get the damned thing over with, and partly to look like a "real runner" as I crossed the line, if only in my head. Thoughts of "I really did this" emerged.

The Last Point-Two: The CIM course makes two left turns at the end, each a block apart. After the last turn, you have one city block between you and the finish line. Whenever I imagine crossing the finish line at Ironman, I know I will weep. Perhaps it was The Creep, but I only thought I would feel a moderate sense of accomplishment crossing the line for this race. But when I caught sight of the finish banner, I teared up a little. Then the announcer called me by name -- which I did not expect at all. My arms shot up in a victory-v and a smile washed over my face.

For all the mind tricks and nay-saying -- I DID IT and it felt FANTASTIC! My inner ass-kicker moved a little closer to the surface!

Chip time: 5:21

Is it bad that I'm happy about beating Katie Holmes' time by 8 minutes? I'm going to say no.

Parting Thought: Scott drove me to the start line in Folsom. He said, "You know, we live at mile 21 or 22 and we have been on the FREEWAY driving to where this thing starts for A WHILE now...I can't believe you're going to cover this distance on foot."

Believe it.


Theoutofshapeguy said...

Congrats on an awesome job!

Andra Sue said...

Late congrats to you! Marathons are always an accomplishment, whether preceded by swimming and biking or not. ;)

Tea said...

That was WELL worth the wait!

And distance creep....SO true.

Brent Buckner said...

Good work!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not gonna lie, I teared up a bit at the end of that post...


bettymountaingirl said...

Congrats, man. Killer.