Sunday, April 29, 2012

Eugene Marathon

Goal was to qualify for Boston. Even had "Boston" printed on my race number instead of my name; I figured it would help when spectators read it and hollered, "GO BOSTON!"

That would require a sub-3:25, or about 7:50 pace. Ouch: I'm old and feeble. But I've been working since October toward this. And my daughter was crazy about the idea of going to Boston.

Training was going great, lots of tempo runs and track work to get the legs used to rapid turnover. That is, until March 8th when I pulled a calf muscle. Overwork; more mileage than I've ever done, fast stuff, and not enough days off. So nothing for 3 wks except ice, yet the calf wasn't improving by early April.

The race was 29 April. Time was a wastin'.

Finally went to physical therapy in early April and told my story of woe. Basically, I needed to know if I should even run the race. Mandon, the PT extraordinaire, said, "No problem, we'll get you there. Just don't count on a personal best."

Ultrasound, electrical stimulation, targeted exercises. But little running. Since the injury, I did maybe 25 miles in 7 weeks leading up to the marathon. Not good. And I caught a cold this week.

The night before the race, could not nod off. Stomach fine, no nerves, just no sleep. At least I got a good rest the night before.

Plan was (what the heck), go out slow, then catch up to intended pace of 7:50, hang on for dear life, and try to at least get a half marathon best before throttling back. When I drop off the pace, STOP. Walk, stretch, then resume at 9 minute pace or so.

At six miles, I see the worst thing I've ever seen in a race. Dad and his son (9 or 10 yrs old), running together in Vibrams, the son's feet slapping the asphalt hard while they run at 8 min pace, and the son is wheezing, groaning, near tears, and literally staggering. I hear Dad yell, "DON'T MAKE ME SLOW DOWN."

Vile. Just vile. There's a kid who's quitting the sport tomorrow, although any activity with dear old Dad is bound to be horrible.

Across the 13.1 mile line in 1:42 and change. An 11 minute improvement, and on track for Boston. Smoking!

Problem is, I have another 13 to go, but I've recalibrated the goal, remember? Even though I take an extended walk break and pound some calories, my hamstrings have quit on me. Or, rather, they've become very vocal. And as we cross I-5, my left shoulder begins to ache like I've been punched several times. What??? A sore shoulder?? I'm not doing pushups out here.

The race organizers have a cruel sense of humor. The 16 mile point passes about a mile from the finish. There is a serious debate going on between my ears: I don't want to re-aggravate my calf, I already ran 5 miles farther than I've ever run that pace, and I want to be in one piece for the upcoming summer. I have no problem with a DNF (did not finish).

Actually, I do.

But I'm wearing my secret weapon; those less than stylish compression sleeves. The physical therapist harped on me until I bought some, and by God they work. No problems in the calf.

I sally forth and decide to finish. Hamstrings need regular attention (a well-placed knuckle), and I'm able to keep going, sort of. But there goes the 3:35 pace group, and the 3:45. It sure would be nice to break 4 hrs.

Friend Jeanne comes past at about 22 miles, looking steady while I'm falling apart. I tell her to go for it while I keep looking over my shoulder for the 4 hr pace balloons. 2 miles later, I see her coming back, so I yell her name. She needs at least 10 seconds to turn around; uh oh, she's hurting. We run side by side and try to maintain.

My Lake Stevens Ironman host, Kim, is now alongside. She wanted to run but also had health problems so she's a reluctant spectator; I told her we should write a book about how not to prepare for a race. She's urging us on, and I keep asking her where the pacers are. Hint: they are coming, those relentless enemies of the faltering.

I feel like a pirate with a sword, fighting off the insurgents. But I know something they don't know: I am not left-handed (which movie?).

Finally onto Agate, and we have enough cushion. Jeanne moves out, and I'm like De Niro in The Untouchables (I GOT NUTHIN'!). But we hit the track and I see the clock reading 3:59:20 or something. One last push and across the line. Since it took about a minute for us to reach the starting line at the beginning of the race, we're actually better off.

Jeanne's husband Dave broke 3 hrs for the first time, he's just a machine. Needless to say, the only time I saw him was before the start. Fellow triathletes Tim, Shellie, and Kim all did great, with Kim finishing her first full marathon. Her husband Frank was all over the course shouting encouragement.

While I didn't hit all my goals, I was very happy to finish in one piece with a huge half marathon PR, especially with my last 7 weeks on the disabled list. Big Kudos to Mandon at Rebound Physical Therapy for stitching me back together again.

Oh yeah, I also cut 36 minutes off my full marathon time. And while I didn't make it all the way to Boston, I was halfway, so my daughter can now enjoy a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska. Go Huskers!

After driving  myself 130 miles to get home, my wife rewards me by making fresh mango smoothies.

With vodka. :)

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