Saturday, May 5, 2018

Strolling Jim, The "Marathon", 5/5/18

Four years ago I raced the 40M (41.2M)  and had a fantastic day. I just ran my heart out, powering through the hills until I hit the wall hard and suffered in the heat at the 50K and ran/walked my in to a 6:35. This was a time I was proud of, despite some sloppy execution.

Today I wondered if it might take me 6:35 to run the marathon distance. I was initially registered for the 40M, but last week I took a real hard look at myself and knew I was not prepared for 40M. 

When in shape, the 40M is my favorite distance. It is my best event, that and the 6 hour, which I can cover  40-43+ miles in that time. I want to protect my love for that distance and not destroy my positive experiences by doing something I am woefully under-prepared to do and feeling miserable. I am also still rebuilding my endurance and fitness. 

I always run. I can always "cover" a marathon on foot, maybe not by running every single step but I can get through it. Marathon training is the hardest thing I can do and when done well, I can fly.  But right now I am still in my base-building-just-show-up-and-pin-on-a-bib phase of training.  I enjoy getting my long runs done at races where I can actually relax and be social when I feel like it ... or I can practice race day skills without some important performance goal on the line. 

I took nothing seriously about today's, well except that carloading. I carb-loaded like a champ! That was fun. ;)

The race weather was predicted to be rainy the entire day. I rhetorically asked Alanna if maybe I could just run one marathon soon NOT wearing a poncho ;)

But race day morning turned out to be lovely.  It was much more humid that I am used to but the 60 degrees felt so nice. I wore more than I would have preferred mostly because my skin is not ready to handle long runs in rain and humidity and not get chafed raw. I ended up in bike shorts and a tank top to save my skin.his worked.  

I really do not love racing in a vest. I feel like I am too heavy with a vest on and often the vest makes my back hurt. But the rental car keys were GIGANTIC and two of these monster-sized key fobs were tethered together making it impossible to put them in my small zip pocket. I also decided to carry a bottle since aid stations at this race tend to be gallons of water left under a tree every few miles, with some random real aid station dropped in along the way.  It can be a long way between drinks.

So once weighted down, I knew I wasn’t going for time today. I just wanted the climbing and the long time on my feet. This marathon delivered on all accounts.

Early in the race, I ran next to a guy who looked a little flustered. He explained, worried really, that he was diabetic and his monitor was reading very low.  He was trying to eat something but he was concerned.  I asked if he had enough calories on him and he said “probably not enough. I thought I was good, but this is low so I have to eat now”  We were at maybe mile 4?  He was running 40.

I had two gels on me and gave them to him. He wouldn’t take them but I did insist. I was “only” running the marathon and I could grab soda or something with sugar from the aid stations. I told him I had set a carb-load PR yesterday so I really don’t need them.  I insisted that he take them.

We passed the first aid station and with only a quick glance, I did not see any fast sweet things. Water and SWORD… what the heck is that and where was the coca cola or potatoes or anything I could eat. Oh well. I was ok, and not running fast, so I proceeded on my way. There were slim jims and pork rinds. Pork Rinds. I know I didn’t race ultras last year but are pork rinds at aid stations at thing now?

Oh well, I don’t remember eating much during the Boston Sharknado Marathon so I felt like I would be ok. I would have liked some sports drink. My pace was a blazing 10:30 pace so I felt I could sustain that on water and something palatable from an aid station along the way.

By mile 18 I was still feeling good and with only 8.6 to go (b/c this is Strolling Jim so nothing is what is supposed to be, which is ok with me). The hills crush my soul. Adding few extra tenths is nothing to fret over.  At 18+ we hit a downhill and I wondered if I could push my pace to the finish. So I tried. 

I make it to 20.5M and I hit the wall. Slam right into it. My legs power down like a transformer blew. I have no energy. None. Nothing hurts, but I just can’t “go.”   The humidity was high but I have been in worse and the cooler air helped mitigate that.  I just ran out of glycogen and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had grabbed a few things from the last aid station but didn't eat because I really just wanted to see how far I could go on water only. I like to do tests like this. The sudden crash was clearly due to under-fueling.

 So at 21M I decided to eat the Nature Valley granola protein nut bar because it had a little of everything (carbs, fat, and protein). I walked a lot while trying to wait to see if it helps. As I walk it my legs are made of lead. I have no motivation to power through. I have 5.6M to go and they are feeling like a million miles. I am alone, so alone on the course I start to wonder if I am off course. But keep walking and running and walking.

By M22 I feel about 50% better which is good but not great. At this point I decide that I have done my job for today. I got a good long run in and depleted my glycogen down to 0, nothing hurts, and I feel like I made the smartest choice I could have made when I asked to drop down to the marathon from the 40. There was absolutely no way I was running 19.2 more miles like this. 

The drizzle that started at the end is refreshing. I finally find my way into meditative practice.  I feel a complete sense of acceptance of my pace and with myself as I approach the end. I wonder if I will break 5 hours and then wonder why a number matters at all. What matters most is that I push my body further and harder than I have in many many many months, even if on paper the numbers seem “slow” to others. What others think doesn’t really matter.  I am at peace. I am pleased with myself and my work.  

I turn the last corner and see the finish and the clock is ticking down 4:5x…. I cross in 4:54. I feel so grateful to have been able to do what I just did today. Someday I will not be able to run hilly marathons. Someday I will not be run flat marathons. Someday I will not be able to hike or walk marathons. Today is not that day. Today I did my job and it felt realy good to be present and to do work.

I sat under the tent eating a gigantic grilled chicken thigh when the sky opened up and thunder cracked… and my heart broke a little for Alanna, who was and still is out there on the course tacking the 41.2M distance as I type this race report. I am very proud of her.  I know it stinks to run in a deluge. I did give her one of my ponchos. I bought them in bulk. :)

If I hurry now, I may be able to get back to the race to pick her up. I think I will be a good friend and bring her a warm tea as her prize for persevering thought this rough patches. 
Maybe if I am lucky I might get a poncho photo for this report. :)