Sunday, May 3, 2009

A 26.2 Experience...

Do you know that somewhere from 0.1% to 2% of people in America run a marathon each year?

I am officially a part of that statistic...twice.

A marathon isn't something to laugh at, no matter how long it takes you, or the person next to you. You know what, if you can laugh at yourself after the race is over...then I say more power to you.

I recently completed my second marathon in Nashville clocking a blazing time of 4:44 and change. It was close to 30 minutes slower than my first attempt in Philadelphia. There were a lot of differences between the two races, differences that changed my race. But either way, 26.2 miles...not everyone can say they did once.

The second time figure that you're more prepared as you can be for 26.2 miles of straight running. But I'm not really sure that you can ever be fully prepared for a marathon...ever.

My training was better, but still not nearly as much as I need. The mental focus seemed to be better early on, but wained as the marathon got closer, maybe because I was trying to run on my own...but it faltered. I bought new shoes, the same style of shoe i wore for my first go around, broke them in...but my feet hurt so bad it was hard to move after mile 15. The walk to the starting line is a mistake I will easily avoid on my next trip as well...I'd rather not get into that.

There are so many factors that are also out of your control. One big one, Mother Nature. The average temperature at the time of my marathon was 60 so odd the past. The day easily started in the 70's and had to be 80's+ by the end of my day. You know how we all hate to run into the wind during a run? The wind was the only nice thing about the weather all day. Once the sun rose over the buildings in Tennessee, there wasn't much shade to be found. Sun meant heat and the warm temperatures made each water station farther and farther away. The sun even took a toll on those tables as well...some of the water and Cytomax (like Gatorade, but not really) was warm by the time I was reaching for a cup.

If you could believe salt packets were being handed out...for athletes you can understand the necessity of salt in your system when trying to perform at a high level. I had 3 packets of salt with water during the run because the Cytomax was upsetting my stomach. I even had to stop and go to the bathroom once during my run...something that probably added close to 5 minutes (I actually enjoyed sitting down in a port-o-potty for the first time in my entire life)...and was something I did not have to deal with in Philly.

So far I have yet to have prime running weather when attempting a marathon. Philadelphia was easily 50 and below, rainy, and overcast. Nashville was the complete opposite. Yet both set of conditions, with different techniques about them...found ways to cramp my legs in ways I have never felt before. Both were conditions that the body was not entirely prepared for. Training in weather that is 10-15 degrees hotter or colder than your racing temperature...well that does not make for a fun day.

As I mentioned before, my training partner and friend who was going to take on the city with me could not participate, at least to his best, in the 26.2. He did manage to eek out 10+ miles with me however, which I greatly appreciated, and Mr. Knapik I have nothing but good things to say about you in that regard. But running alone...and running alone with the knowledge that no one on your course knows who you are, is something I did not have to deal with at Philly either. I ran with Kyle there as well. We separated around mile 15 or so and I saw him once after, excusing himself behind some large tree in these people's front yard. But the whole time after we separated I knew someone out there, trudging along at the same pace as almost comforts you in a way...until you get to those licorice sticks around mile 22...then I could give a damn about anyone else...but I digress. After he left me around mile 11, it was me, and me alone out there. Well me and the couple thousand of people hammering the streets...for the full go at 26.2...with me.

I saw some interesting people, heard some interesting things, and talked to a few guys who were moving better, worse, and about at the same pace I was. That was definitely a new experience to me. The first guy, middle aged guy around 40 or so...just came up behind me around mile 16 and asked who I thought the Titans were going to draft this year. I proudly told him I was a Cleveland fan (HA)...and didn't know who the Titans would draft. We talked football for a little bit and I brought up the weather...and how unforgiving it seemed to be. We exchanged some more small talk and I went on my way. He passed me within the next 5 minutes during a walk break of mine.

I can't remember now if the second guy passed me or I was passing him during another walk break of mine...basically on the same stretch in the INDUSTRIAL park...(not PARK park, like Knapik told me I would be running through)...but our talk was pretty brief. He asked me if I had cramps in my legs, which I actually didn't at that point, just incredibly sore feet. There wasn't much else to the convo besides how sore and terrible we felt...and that gave me the motivation to trot along for awhile. I needed to get away from anything that was going to make me concentrate on my broken feet...I actually re-passed him around mile 20, not sure when he caught me again. But I gave him a pat on the back, said "how are the cramps?" and then said "good luck" after he gave me a look that either meant he didn't know who i was, or one that showed how good his cramps were actually doing. It was good to see Kinches and Chad right after that...

The third guy, named Ben...was a first time marathoner. He was from Tennessee...stocky guy, but definitely one who was in shape ("look at the buns on that...yea, he must work out"....anyone? anyone? ahhhhhhhhhhh). We talked about where we were from (this was during a much longer walk break, which we both seemed to need and enjoy at the time) and he went on to say this was his first marathon. He and a buddy had started together but his buddy was "long gone" after they started out a little fast...Ben told me around 8-8:30 pace, which ultimately put him next to me. We talked for quite awhile...probably around a mile or so...I told him all we had to do was get over the bridge and river. That would signal about 6 miles to go. Ben was the one who left me early this time...which was probably a good idea for the both of us. Once he got a little bit out of sight with his slow trot, I took and breath and started my own attempt. Ironically I caught Ben as we were crossing the bridge. Gave him a pat, retold him about the bridge, and he gave a "hell yea brother, about 6 miles." Wished each other luck and that...was that.

A marathon definitely isn't for everyone...but it is something everyone can do, I truly believe that. From young to senior the the those pushing the's something you can, and see people, do. There are risks...people have died. A soldier who ran out race tragically passed away sometime after the marathon was over...which I did not find out until recently. Everyone knows about New York and the extreme heat, race cancellation, and a few deaths that occurred that day as well. A marathon is something everyone can do...but is not for the faint at heart.

I look to possibly complete my third within this year...most likely it will have to wait. But it is something I am passionate about. My grandpa, who recently passed on from cancer, holds our family record. Somewhere around the 2:50 mark. It would be great to know I could compete at a level as high as my grandpa...he was quite an would also be great to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I think I have to run around 3:10 or so to do that. But a third, fourth, fifth and so on marathon is in my future.

Wont you join me?