Sunday, April 26, 2009

Country Music Marathon...Quiet Possibly One Of The Hardest Things I Have Ever Done

A friend sent me this:

"Perhaps the genius of ultra-running is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

Several times during the course of yesterday's race, this came to mind.

How does one completely and fully train for his/her first marathon? How does one completely prepare for the unexpected? What could I have done different? What could I have done better? Did I do to much? Did I do to little? Did I do it just right?

First off, physically and mentally I came well prepared...or so I thought. When the gun went off several minutes after 7am on Saturday, April 25th I felt good...really, really good. I was ready for whatever the course could throw my way...or so I thought.

Leading up to the big day I had my plan; I had worked my plan. Only set back was the few days after the IT Band issue hit me. Immediately prior to the marathon I had worked hard at getting this resolved. I felt good. At the expo on Friday I had my knees Kineseo taped. I was hopeful.

On Monday the weather man predicted heat, lots and lots of heat for the race. Hydration was the order of the day and the week. I kept a close eye not to over-hydrate. I did good.

The race directors had thought it a good idea to redo the course for this year's race, something about taking the runners through the sights of Nashville. I had heard that this change, which was mostly in the first few miles, would make the course more hilly and challenging. I really had no opinion on the matter because I really didn't know what to expect.

On the corner of Demonbreun and Fifth, right after mile 2, I saw the paramedics tending to a runner that had collapsed. They were trying to keep her alert. At this point I realized it was going to be a very busy day for the medical staff.

All the water stations were busy, very busy. As time passed we could feel the temperatures slowly rise. I grabbed either water or sport drink as I saw fit... still I was feeling good. I took my Hammer gel every 4.5 miles as I had planned.

Up until mile 11 and change, at the half/full split it was business as usual. My pace was steady and was going as planned. Did a quick body check and everything was still feeling good. I was encouraged. At the split point as I saw many runners veer to the right to take them to the finish of the half marathon, I briefly wondered if I was doing the right thing. Briefly because the excitement of finishing my first full was strong. "This IS what I've worked so hard for... now let's roll" was what I quickly thought. All was still good.

I continued on but was feeling my pace slip. My oldest daughter was volunteering at water station 10, between miles 14 and 15. The idea of seeing her there, cheering me on was a picture that kept me going. I must admit at this point it was getting tough.

Then somewhere around mile 15 it all went downhill. I started aching in places I had never ached before. The knees were getting sore, the ankles were beginning to hurt. The calves and hamstrings tried to cramp, so I stopped often to stretch hoping this would prevent a full blown episode. At every medical station that I passed I had seen at least one runner getting help, even the back of ambulances had runners in the stretchers. I was sure hoping everyone was alright and thanking at the same time that I had done the training I did.

I consciously decided to give up my goal time of 4:30-4:45 in lieu of a "finish". I knew that a decision to push to meet my goal would be a decision I would regret for the rest of my life. The idea of "not finishing" my first marathon was not something I was willing to even consider. At one point every runner within my sight was walking, every runner was feeling the heat and the pain. Along the course I saw a minimum of 6 folks down, getting medical help. It was turning out to be a very tough day for all. It became mind over matter and in the long run, mind won.

Just after I left Metro Center I thought it would all be downhill from there. I had also heard that this was the toughest part of the course. I sputtered along all the way past downtown Nashville, over Woodland St bridge and soon found myself at the gate of Shelby Park. By my own estimate, miles 22-25 were the hardest. Each mile seemed to get longer and tougher. I don't think I was able to run further than a tenth of a mile without having to walk another tenth. I saw mile marker 25 but I was going in the other direction. Still gave me hope.

I heard a volunteer say: "right over the curve, past the bridge is mile 26... and you're home"! WOW! I was almost there. I had run and walked over 25 miles and I was soon going to complete my goal of finishing a marathon. I got goose bumps!

But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw just as I approached the last bend prior to the finish line. My wife Monica, was waiting for me. She ran those last few steps alongside with me, we crossed the finish line together. That, my friends... made it all worth while.

On the way to the car my calves could not take it any longer and cramped, big time. Knocked me down and wouldn't let go. I can't remember the last time I hurt so bad. Today, they're sore, very sore.

Later on in the afternoon we heard that a 26 year old male collapsed and died after crossing the half marathon finish line. Cardiac issues were reported by the media, but not confirmed. Over 40 people found their way to local emergency rooms. Yeah, it was a tough, tough day.

Would I do this over again? Not sure. I have registered for the Goofy Challenge in Disney World. That will take place January 9-10, 2010. This I will do. As it stand right now, I will concentrate my efforts on finishing an Ironman 70.3

Friday, April 24, 2009

Less than 24 Hours

Two things: First, I'm trying to figure this mobile blogger feature, so please bear with me.

Second: Less than 24 hours to go until the gun goes off. Today I'm staying busy visiting some clients/customers, a trip to the office and later to the expo to pick up race packet.

Woke up early this morning and immediately I took a "pain" inventory. It seemed like everything was aching; ankles, knees, back, hair, etc. Then I realized that I should get over it really kick. I have.

My mantra for tomorrow will be: "Screw it, run through it".

My daughter, Juliana will be volunteering at one of the water stops. Can't wait to run into her. My other daughter, Marcela told me yesterday she wants to run a mile or two with me, but also wants to be at the finish line! Do I have great daughters, or what? I love you both and I'm proud of you.

My wife will be driving me to the start and will be waiting at the finish line as well. Do I have a great wife, or what? I love you .Monica! Couldn't begin to imagine all this without your support.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"The Willies"

In just five short days all the training, hard work and many sacrifices that went into the training for my first marathon will be put to the test. Right about now "the willies" are settling in. You know, that feeling of uneasiness that goes with uncertainty.

Have I done enough? Have I done the right thing? Have I gone far enough? Should I have run that extra mile? Did I run one mile to many? Undoubtedly these questions and more will be going through my mind over and over during the next 120 hours, and the answers will not be apparent until I cross the finish line.

In my mind I don't think I could have done anything different. In my mind I think I've worked my plan. Now, at race time, it's all up to me. I need to run my race, my pace, my time. If I do this, I should be okay.

But how difficult will this be? Not getting caught in the emotions of the big event will be a difficult task, but at the same time, enjoying the big event is part of the plan.

Only thing left to do is to trust and have faith.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Country Music Marathon #16137 - Corral 16

For the good part of the last sixteen weeks I have been training long and hard for my first full marathon, which by the way, is just 12 days away.

The road has not been without pain. Physical at times, emotional as well. The physical pain I have documented in previous posts. I just hope that I have followed instructions well and that my body is ready. The emotional challenges tested my dedication to this journey more often than I care to admit.

For the most part I stayed true to goals. I trained as I knew how and as I had planned... for the most part. Adjustments were made to allow the knee(s) time to recover. At times I tried to keep up with the Jones' and this threw me for a loop. I do not do well trying to follow others' steps. So back to my plan I went.

As I sit here and write this, I feel that I have done everything I have set out to do. I have run my miles, I have rested when needed and pushed when I had to. The taper is something that I have learned to enjoy, although I must confess that I feel guilty at times not pounding the pavement for that extra mile.

My plan told me that I had to run 12 miles last Saturday. 13 I ran. Wanted to push to 15 but I knew that would be wrong. Today I ran a quick 5.5 miles. Seemed like just a warm up, when I was getting in the rhythm, it was time to stop!

Earlier I pulled my Final Confirmation Sheet for the Country Music Marathon. My bib number is 16137, which means I will be in corral #16. Same as last year, however last year I ran just the half. This place in the pack I liked. I'm hoping for the same outcome this year.

I have begun to ponder the many lessons I've learned during these past three months. I will have to wait to digest it all once I cross the finish line.