April 12, 2014 — Abilene, KS
I don’t want to write this. Everything I’m about to write will be an embarrassment. It will be hard to put a positive spin on any of my thoughts from this race. But I’m a firm believer in learning from experience, both positive and negative. So here goes.
This was a bad race. A bad day. Bad conditions. Bad mentality. Bad memories. All bad.
I was prepared. I was more focused mentally than for any of my previous five marathons. My brain was ready, my heart was ready, my legs were ready… I had a goal going in of 3:42. I knew it was optimistic, but was certain I’d at least run my first sub-4, and I never really even entertained the notion that I could possibly do any worse than my PR of 4:12:37. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.
I started off a hair faster than planned, but it was a sustainable pace for me. I felt comfortable. My first four miles were solid; ahead of schedule with a pace of 8:02/mile.
Mile 1-4 — 8:02, 8:06, 8:00, 8:00
Slowed down a bit the next few, and tried to settle in. I did just that, and still felt good through nine miles with a pace of 8:10/mile.
Mile 5-9 — 8:09, 8:21, 8:11, 8:12, 8:31
Somewhere around that ninth mile, I started to feel a little weird. I was having trouble breathing. A couple big hiccups (a trend for me; usually kicks in around mile 15) caught me off guard. The wind was picking up, but I knew I was going with it until mile 13. It was getting warmer. I figured it was just in my head, and tried to shake it off. But I slowed down as I neared the halfway mark, where I’d turn around and repeat the 13.1-mile loop. Pace at the half marathon mark was still 8:26/mile… I needed 8:28/mile, so I was still on track, but slowing down big time. I kept telling myself that 3:42 was optimistic, but I was still on track, and I just needed sub-4 or better.
Mile 10-13 — 8:56, 9:02, 9:03, 9:04
After convincing myself I still wasn’t done, and that I still had a lot to shoot for, I made the turnaround for the second half of the race, and headed into the wind. It was like a punch in the face, and I never recovered. As the temperatures rose, and the wind picked up, the hiccups got worse, and so did my ability to breathe. Every breath was a deep, painful inhale and a strain to exhale. Worse than usual, even. I wish it was something I could explain. Some weird form of asthma? Acid reflux?
*Web MD search makes me think it might be something like Exercise Heartburn, but I’ll read more into it before I jump to conclusions*
That 14th mile was my final mile that was under 10 minutes at 9:52. Most of the race was spent walking, as I never could regain my breath. The most frustrating part about this race is that my legs actually still felt pretty good for another 5-6 miles. But it’s hard to run when you can’t breathe.
Excuses aside, I needed to be better for this race, and I just wasn’t. The marathon is not my favorite race. It’s the longest race that I care about how fast I’m running, which is why I plan to find an ultra or two before I get married this fall, as well as find my way back onto a basketball court — aka: my happy place. I don’t like things I’m not good at (who does?), and I am just not good at the marathon. For now, anyway.
I finished last place in my age group — LAST. That has never happened to me. Granted, four of the six in my age group smashed my goal, so even at my best, I would’ve come in 5th of 6. But it’s still frustrating.
I will try again. Likely not until 2015 after I’ve become a married man, and had some time to research and reflect — but I will try again.
Since I feel like this post has been extraordinarily whiny, I will end this with a couple of positive notes:
My beautiful fiance Kami was, as always, incredibly supportive. She posed for a couple pictures, took a few of her own, made and displayed signs for me, handed me drinks, food, etc — even got yelled at to get off the course by an old grouchy lady who didn’t seem to care that Kami was helping me stay standing, as well as supporting hundreds of others, while being in no one’s way.
Lastly, my good friend Mike was a beast on this day. Under the tough conditions, he, unlike myself, was able to fight through them, and finish with a PR of 3:10. He also missed his goal, but a 3:10 is no joke, and neither is a PR, no matter what it is. He also came back to mile 24 or so and helped me hobble across the finish and narrowly avoid my personal worst. His selflessness is always appreciated.
Not signed up for any upcoming races just yet, but I’ve been shooting more hoops, and may check out a nearby 50K next month — you know, just for fun.
Until next time,