In less than 72 hours, I hope to put up a good time crossing the finish line of the White Rock Marathon, culminating the best running day and year of my life.
I hope to do away with the demons that happened nearly a year ago, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007, which was the WORST RUNNING DAY OF MY LIFE.
It took me 5 hours, 20 minutes to run the 2007 White Rock Marathon. The makings for this disastrous-marathon run had begun in November of that year. I was feeling real confident about my training up until that point, having run a then-pr 1:52 at the 2007 DRC Half Marathon. I finished out the pre-taper training with seven consecutive weeks of running at least 40 miles, and I figured I’d at least do better than my first marathon (4:41) in 2005, when I only had 1 week of at least 40 miles.
Still, something wasn’t feeling right. A week after my half marathon, I tried to run an 18-miler and could only get through 15 before cramps got the better of me. Oh, well, I thought, maybe my body is still tired from the half. A week after that was my last 20-miler, and by Mile 18, I was feeling so bad that 10 minute miles were hard to maintain. When it took me 7 minutes to run the first half mile of Mile 19, I just threw in the towel and walked the last half mile to my car. If anybody was ready for a taper, it was me.
Three weeks later, I toed the line at the 2007 White Rock Marathon and had little idea what was in store. I didn’t help myself that morning by eating a big bowl of oatmeal with chocolate soy milk (didn’t know at the time that ALL milk products were bad for my running); didn’t help myself by getting to the marathon just 10 minutes before the start (traffic on I-35 was backed up; didn’t help myself by starting the race very very thirsty, lips dry and parched.
When the gun went off, I tried concentrating on keeping a 10-minute mile pace. (Its funny to type those words right now. I’ve gotten so much faster and can’t remember the last time I ran a mile _ any mile, warm-up or recovery _ that slow). But I should have known even that would be a struggle. During training for the 2007 marathon, my heart rate would soar to over 80 percent max when I ran a 10-minute mile. Yet on this morning, I tried to soldier on. Because there were so many people at the start, I hit the first mile in 10:53. Miles 2 and 3 came and went at about a little more than a 10-minute mile.
I could never get my stride right, could never sync up my breathing. At Mile 4, I stopped to get the rock out of my shoe. Stopped twice, in fact. At Mile 6, I stopped for the first time to eat some sport beans and use the bathroom. Unlike my first marathon, where I was enjoying the surroundings of all the bands on the marathon course, this trip was miserable. It was cold and I was just not feeling it. Still, I thought I’d be okay when I ran a sub-10 minute mile at Miles 8 and 9. “Ok, I’m finally going to be ok,” I thought as we hit the lake section of the marathon.
I started feeling this weird sensation in my right quad and knew instantly that cramps were coming on. “Cramps. Cramps WTF. Its 40 degrees. Ive tapered. How can I be cramping so early.” I stopped and stretched during Mile 10 and started feeling a little better. Miles 11 and 12 were right at 10 m/m and then I felt the cramp again, so I stretched during Mile 13 and then got through Mile 14 in under 10 minutes.
It would be my last sub-10 minute mile of the race. I had taken a gu at Mile 12 and was already feeling tired again during Mile 15, breathing was laboring, quad was spasming up again. So I took another gu at Mile 15, which took me 11 minutes to finish. And that was my last sub 12-minute mile.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was just hitting the halfway point of the race. Not in miles, obviously, but in time. It had taken me 2:36 to complete 15 miles and it would take me a little more than that to complete the last 11.2. I was feeling so bad at this point. so bad. Both legs were cramping. My head was fuzzy. I was dispirited. When it took me 13 minutes to complete mile 17, I said, “That’s it. I quit.”
I tried finding a medic who would help me and I couldn’t even get that right. By now I had stopped running and at some points I just stopped walking, hoping someone would see me and get me out of the cold. By now, the winds around White Rock Lake were picking up and so here I am, cramping, tired, hungry, mad, and sad. But I couldn’t find a medic to help me, couldn’t find anybody to help me get out of my misery.
So I just kept walking forward and every once in a while, I’d jog alittle and then the cramps would come and Id stop. The worst was the first mile after we got off the lake area. The Dolly Parton Hills. My garmin recorded a 17:35 for Mile 20 and a 14:06 for Mile 21. I couldnt even walk fast up those hills. But I kept moving. The sadness and despair was now being replaced by anger and it was at this point I made a deal with myself, that I would not quit, that I would get that medal. And so I literally would walk a 10th of a mile and run a 10th of a mile. I got through Mile 22, which was mostly downhill, in 12:42, and thought, “Yeah, me.”
But Mile 23 took me 15:26 to complete. I think I only ran one tenth of that mile because my quads were hurting so bad. Still, I knew the end was near as we hit downtown Dallas and I just kept going. Miles 24 and 25 were done in the high 14s. At Mile 26, I gave one more burst of energy, walking and running to a 12:51 mile. Finally, with the end in sight, I limped the final two-tenths of a mile to the finish line.
Even though it was my worst day as a runner, i was proud that i didnt quit and gladly accepted my medal. It would take me a few months after that to figure out what went wrong. And I cant wait to see how all my hard work pays off this Sunday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* Diet. I didnt know just a few months ago, but I ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT HAVE DAIRY in the days leading up to a key run. No milk, no soy milk, no rice milk. I know the last two products are not really dairy, but they affect me the same way. No cheese. Nothing. But there I was on the morning of the marathon with my big bowl of oatmeal and chocalate milk.
* Training. Yeah, I ran 40 miles for seven consecutive weeks, but my total mileage during the 16 week training period for the 2007 marathon was actually LESS than the total mileage during the same period for the 2005 marathon. At the begining of the 2007 marathon training program, I wasn’t running much because my son, Noah, had just been born. So I was busy waking up every two or three hours to change a diaper or tend to a cry. I wasnt getting any sleep, and when I would finally get to sleep, I was in no mood to end my sleep to go running.
Also, I ran all my miles slow in 2007. I wrote earlier that in 2007, I only had 11 total runs _ 11 _ where the average pace per mile for the entire run was less than an 8:30 mile. I didnt do any tempo runs, no hill work, no intervals. I ran the 2007 marathon slow because I trained slow.
*Cramping. Even when I figured out I couldnt have dairy, and even when I figured out I needed to run more fast miles, I still didn’t get the cramping under control until late this summer, when a friend recommended I try Hammer Endurolytes. I started taking them in August, two every hour during a long run. Hadn’t had one cramp since.