Random Rantings and Ravings from a Slow-Poke Runner in the Heart of the South. (A Weeekly (sort of) Blog about running and just about anything else)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Marathon Post


Post Marathon blues!

It has been hard to blog about the St. Jude Marathon because I felt it took so much out of me! It had been a long eleven weeks of training to get ready for this thing but I made it and here are the details.

I didn’t write a whole lot in the weeks leading up to the marathon because my ankle had been really bothering me and I was getting discouraged. In hindsight, I should have blogged much MORE about this and your encouragement could have pulled me through it. I am sure that many people feel the wearing down on their body a few weeks out from their first marathon but it was discouraging. I felt I had to tone down my weekly mileage to prevent myself from getting so injured that I had to scrap the race all together.

Due to work conflicts, I had to miss my 22-miler so I had only completed a long run of 20 miles, which was 5 weeks from the marathon. I ran a 16 mile long run two weeks away and I was scared I might not have the endurance I would need to get through those final few miles. In the days leading up to the marathon I only ran two 4-milers, but my ankle was still a bit sore.

I also noticed that the “old man” had not exactly left. The Austin business trip, Thanksgiving holiday, and other church dinners and company lunches had wreaked havoc on my eating! With the extra eating and reduced mileage, I had actually put on a few pounds in the last few weeks of my training. I could feel it but didn’t really think no one had noticed until my mom made a comment about it at dinner one evening. Thanks mom!!

For the marathon, I did probably one of the biggest no-no’s of running in such a big race. I bought a pair of running tights that I did not run in until the start of the marathon! A cold front came through and brought temps down so I would need them, but I did not have a chance to run in them before the race. While I had some problems during the race, none of them had anything to do with my tights. They worked great!

The race start was at 8 AM and there were thousands of runners in line. I heard they had almost 9,000 runners in the marathon, half-marathon, and 5k races combined! I wore my new “in-sport” tights, running shorts over them, a long sleeve technical running shirt, technical Adidas pull-over, hat, and a cheap pair of gloves. It was cold but I felt perfectly dressed at the start. I was a little concerned I might warm up and get uncomfortable later on but that was never really a problem.

I thought I lined up in the 4:30 corral but I would later learn that I actually lined up in the 4:45. They did not have signs explaining which side of the rope you should be on but it would really make no difference for me over the course of the race. It was crowded in the corral and I didn’t do much talking.

I pulled my ipod mini out of my pocket and put it on. I had prearranged a complete playlist for the race including some of my favorite podcasts. I ALWAYS use my ipod on long runs because it helps me zone out and ignore the tiredness in my body. I had been saving up podcasts so I would have some good stuff to listen to and was actually excited to listen to some of the shows I’d been saving. I got it strapped on and turned it on when….



My ipod was NOT working!!!! Nothing. I had checked it that morning and it was fully charged. It is pretty old so I am not sure what happened but my ipod was not coming on and would not work the entirety of the race! I am not sure if the cold affected it or not but this was a huge blow to me. I am accustomed to listening to my ipod for every workout. It has dragged me through some rough miles and I was not sure how I was going to get through 26.2 miles without it. I had my cell in my pocket and text messaged my wife to get some encouragement. I did not have much time to think about it because, in a matter of minutes, the race was on.

I lived in Memphis for years before moving to Mississippi so I was pretty familiar with the race course. I was excited to run down some of the roads and take in some of the views. I love the view coming off the hill and on to Riverside Drive with the Mississippi River on the left and downtown Memphis on the right. I was excited to run down Beale street and by the FedExForum. I even thought the stretch down Second street beside the Peabody Place and Autozone Park was awesome. There was a huge crowd cheering us on through there so it was much different than any kind of race I have experienced before.

Despite my ipod problems, I was enjoying the first few miles of the race, particularly with all of the crowds. The only problem is I really had to pee!!! I didn’t want to stop at a porta potty because all of them had lines, but by mile 4 I had to succumb to the pressure (pun intended) and wait in line. I timed the wait and it was a bit over 2 minutes to complete the stop. I hate that 2 minutes of my marathon time was a bathroom break but I bet I did better than some people. Plus, when nature calls there is not much you can do!

I had taken it really easy the few couple of miles and I was feeling good as I crossed through the first 10K. My 10K split time was 1:01:44 with a 9:58 per mile pace. Crossing at about 60 minutes is about where I had planned to be which, with the bathroom break added in, meant I was about on pace.

I actually experienced a negative split the second 6 miles. I know part of this was the crowd thinning out and no bathroom break but I was really enjoying myself. I was not missing the ipod yet and the crowds were great. All along the course there were people holding pictures of children treated by St. Jude Research Hospital. I was feeling myself energized by thinking about what I was running for.

I talked with a guy through mile 10 who had run several marathons. He was wearing a crazy pink flamingo hat and chatting it up with everyone around. I told him it was my first one and he encouraged me to not worry at all about my time. “The first one is just you against the distance and no one else,” I remember him saying. “Time doesn’t matter because it is such a big challenge. Just focus on finishing.” Turns out I would need that advice later on!

Mile 10 or 11 went by the Target House, a home away from home for the patients and their families of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Several of the patients stood on the side of the road and cheered. Some of them wore surgical masks to protect them from the germ-filled air outside. I couldn’t help fighting back tears as I thought about how blessed I am with my two healthy children and what the families living inside the Target House must be going through right now as they battle for their child’s life against a deadly disease. I was energized by the moment and ran my 11th mile in just a few seconds over 9 minutes. Soon after someone cheered, “Come on! You only have less than two miles to go!” I looked over and said, “I wish!” She smiled and said, “Ooops!” It was a funny moment.

Heading back toward Autozone Park, the half-marathoners split off from us marathoners and it was a lot less crowded around me. I was feeling really strong at this point and was encouraged to acknowledge the progress I have made in my physical fitness. I can now comfortably run a half-marathon! I knew I would be just a few minutes above a two hour time and I think a sub-2 hour time would have been almost attainable had I been going that distance. My official results reflect a time of 2:09:48 with a 9:55 minute per mile pace. I was on target with a 10 minute per mile pace, I had long since passed the 4:30 pacer, and I was feeling strong. But I knew the hardest miles were yet to come and, sure enough, it would all hit me pretty soon.

I had been walking through the water breaks since mile 6 but around mile 16 I noticed it was taking me a few extra seconds to get motivated enough to start up again. I was starting to tire and realized that I was probably getting close to the height of my endurance level. The smaller crowds and lack of the previous buzz also made things harder, particularly since I didn’t have my ipod keeping me company. My wife and family had planned to meet me at mile 18 so I kept thinking about staying strong until I reached them.

I walked through the water stop and mile 18, took time eating one of my energy gels, and started up again when I saw my family up ahead at the curb. My wife, two kids, next oldest brother and his family, and parents were all there. They were all excited to see me and I was excited to see them too. I dropped off my ipod and hugged my wife who is always a great encourager. I felt like hanging out for a while but reluctantly started running again. I told myself, “Only 8 miles to go.” For some reason that thought was not very comforting!

It was about a mile later that the race quickly got much harder! I know I started slowing way down before mile 20 because my pace at that point reflects that. I crossed the 20 mile point at 3:27:39 with a pace per mile of 10:23. Over the previous 7 miles my pace per mile for the entire race had been slowed by almost 30 seconds per mile! I tried to keep split times using my watch and had slowed down to above 11-minutes per mile by mile 18 and was approaching 12 by mile 20. Missing the 22-miler and the reduced volume in weekly training miles was starting to affect me. My ankle was starting to hurt and I looked at my hands and could tell my fingers were swollen. I was hurting. I began to tell myself that my time was not important. I wanted to finish relatively comfortable. Looking back, I can’t say I regret that decision. A time of a few minute faster would have been nice but not really important enough to kill myself over!

I was walking for a minute or so after each water stop. I was taking in powerade at each stop, although it was significantly watered down by this point. I crossed 13 minutes for a couple of miles there at the end and was just trying to jog from water stop to water stop. Everyone around me was struggling too. Everyone else was stopping and walking and joking about stopping and walking. I overheard one lady complaining to her friend about her shoes and how she felt she was running directly on the asphalt. I passed an older couple who sported t-shirts about running a marathon in all 50 states. I was passing several who looked like they should be doing much better than me, and was passed by several I would have thought would have been much further back. That’s the marathon for you – the great equalizer!

I called my wife to tell her I was off pace and would be in after 12:30 pm. She encouraged me to continue on and I began text messaging her at each mile marker to keep her informed.

I had been passed a long time ago by the 4:30 pacer when I took in some pretzels at mile 23. I was energized by the salty carbs and I picked up the pace just a bit. By mile 24 I was really hurting but still keeping a slow jog. My ankle was killing me and my legs felt like pudding. I was wondering if I would see the 4:45 pacer when she ran up beside me at 24 ½ miles. She encouraged me to stay up with her and we chatted briefly. I told her it was my first marathon and she asked where I was from. She then began to call me by my hometown name and she became my encourager the rest of the way.

After mile 25, she began drifting away and I had to start walking again. The pacer turned around and waited briefly. She refused to let me go and yelled at me to catch up. I felt like I was running an 8-minute mile to stay up with her but then turned the corner and suddenly saw the 26 mile marker. It was just one more turn into AutoZone Park and I knew I wouldn’t have any problems in there. I don’t know who that pacer was but she really helped me finish strong the last couple of miles. I may have had it in me the whole time but I sure needed someone to pull it out of me!

It was an exhilarating feeling running around the outfield warning track to the finish line. I heard my name being called and I lifting my hand in triumph! I was finishing my first marathon! I crossed the finish line and hurt the beep of my time. I would forget to hit my watch so I wouldn’t know my official time until the next day. They put one of the silver blankets on me and hung the finisher’s medal around my neck. I was ecstatic. I had done it! The thrill was starting to set in! After having my time chip cut off, I headed up the steps to the stadium’s concourse. Walking up the steps I thought of all the weeks of training, all of the successes, all of the disappointments. I thought about all of the encouragement and support my family has given me. I thought about what I had just accomplished.

After reaching the top, I immediately saw my wife, my two small kids, and the rest of the family. When the hugging began something unexpected happened. Something I had not imagined and would not anticipate. I began to cry. All of the emotion from the race; seeing all of the pictures of all of the children battling for their life; those children in surgical masks at mile 11; all the hard miles I had to endure and the physical pain; the 4:45 pacer that pushed me near the finish; and my loving family and the support they provided all along the way, through all the weeks of training; it all came washing through and I didn’t have the strength to hold the emotions back. My brother snapped pictures, but luckily, they didn’t take too well and there is no pictorial evidence of the tears! I had finished the race. My official time: 4 hours, 44 minutes, 51 seconds. Not the time I had been hoping for a couple of months ago, but the accomplishment was still there.

Once I had waded through the emotion, I was HUNGRY! And this might have been a big mistake for me – not taking enough calories in during the race. Of course, I ate the mandatory pasta dinner the evening before, but I only ate 2/3 of a Powerbar that morning and 4 gels throughout the race. At my fitness level, and for the amount of time I was pounding the course, I think I should have eaten way more gels than I did. I scarfed down two pieces of pizza and was ready for lunch. We went to Huey’s – one of the best burger joints in town and I had no trouble downing a big burger and fries.

Five days out from the marathon I am still a bit sore but I am getting better. The main concern is my ankle that just doesn’t seem to be getting better. I am going to take two weeks off from running and try to do more cycling. I am currently reading a book on triathlons and hope to get more involved in multisport during the new year. Hopefully, less of a frequency of running will help. We will see.

I also plan to try this same marathon next year but try to build up a base of running more gradually. My body rebelled those last few weeks and I know the lack of training hurt me. But now that the race is over I feel like I am just getting started. I see the marathon as simply a “kick off” to all of the fitness goals I have dreamed about the last few years. The old man is not dead yet, but I got him on the ropes!

If you want to see my official marathon race pictures, click here and type in my bib number – 1842. They are all in the last mile. I will post others when I get them uploaded.


Blogger Jim said...

Congratulations! Thanks for separate email telling me of your success.

Your story reminded me of my first marathon, bringing tears to my eyes (NO, I am not a girl!). It has been 17 years since my first marathon yet I remember it like it was a few months ago. I also still tell everyone that finishing the first marathon has to be one of my top 5 or 6 "emotional" moments in my life. You have births, deaths, salvation. After that . . . MARATHON! Enjoy it! I promise you will never forget the highs and lows. Please keep sharing the story . . . it may encourage a newbie to run one.

So now what? I know you said you want to run the same one next year. Good plan. What about striking while the iron is hot? Come to Birmingham and run the Mercedes half with Susan and me! I'll be happy to put you, your wife and kids up for the weekend. My house isn't huge but it is only me and one little dog.

Relax and enjoy your Holiday. Merry Christmas.

5:14 AM

Blogger PLANET3RRY said...

Awesome Awesome Awesome!

What a great race report! I was excited for you while reading.

Isn't it an amazing feeling when you see the finish line? All of the finishes are special but there is something about your first (isn't it always like that) that you cherish.

You have plenty of time to rest that ankle for triathlon season.

Welcome to the marathon club!

6:25 AM

Anonymous S.Burton said...

Reading that made me cry Shane.
We love you. So proud of you.
Pray for me that I'll get serious.
Your Mom in law.

12:55 PM

Blogger Phil said...

Congratulations on your first marathon Shane and thank you for the great race report. This is one great accomplishment for you and is no doubt but the beginning of many great races to come.

6:09 PM

Blogger Ricky said...

Cool, bro! Way to go -- now take it easy for awhile.

8:35 PM

Anonymous leonard said...

Very well said!
Well Done! Congratulations!
BTW the pics turned out great too!

1:00 PM


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