June 2007 Archives

Last weekend I ran the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon. Here's how the weekend went:

Saturday morning I got up and packed my marathon gear and a change of clothes and headed for Irvine. My college friend Greg is a running fanatic and he offered to run along with me in San Diego - we were meeting for lunch and heading down to the palatial Motel 6 room Greg had reserved for us. The drive down was uneventful and we got checked in to the hotel.

Ah, the hotel. Greg booked it, and he had two criteria - (a) reasonably priced and (b) not too far from the start line. The room was $90 a night and it was 3/4 of a mile from the start line, so he nailed the requirements. However, we also got a little more than we bargained for. The San Diego airport runways were about a block away, and the Amtrak tracks were about 20 feet from our room. I could only laugh as we watched planes on final approach fly over our hotel moments before landing and listened to trains whistle and rumble by.


After we checked in we headed over to the convention center to pick up our race packages. Race check-in was extremely well organized. With short stops to pick up our race bibs, timing chips, event t-shirts, and goodie bags, we were in and out of registration in less than ten minutes. After a quick stop in the expo area to buy some Body Glide we were on our way.

We met some of Greg's running club friends for the traditional pre-race pasta dinner, stopped by the grocery store for breakfast and last-minute snack supplies, and headed back to the hotel to try to get some rest. After enjoying the second half of a network-edited version of Office Space we turned off the lights and went to sleep.

Our wake-up call came at 5:20 and we started getting ourselves geared up for the day's activities. It was a great morning for a run - I was expecting it to be a little colder and a little damper but it was very pleasant. We ate a little something, got ready, packed up, checked out, and started walking toward the start area.

We got to the race start with about five minutes to spare. The national anthem was being performed as we found our start corral and got ready to go. At this moment I took off the long-sleeved tee I was wearing for warmth and revealed the "I BLAME GREG" sign I had pinned to the back of my shirt (props to Neoprene Wedgie for both the idea and the sign). Greg took one look and moaned a quiet "oh, no..." as he saw it. See, I would be happily running on my treadmill without a care in the world if it hadn't been for Greg calling me up one day a few years back and saying "Hey Spud, Devo is playing at the finish line of a race called the Run Hit Wonder - can you run three miles?" It was my first race and I have been doing them ever since. It really is all his fault.

The start gun went off - or so I was told, we didn't hear a thing what with 10,000 people in front of us - and we were underway. About 4 minutes later we came across the starting pads and were officially On Course. Woot!

My goal for the Rock and Roll Marathon was 4:20. Personally, I recommend this as a goal because the math is extremely easy - 10 minute miles. For some reason, when I get an hour or so into a run I lose the ability to do simple math problems. It can take me a mile or so to figure out what my per-mile times have been and what my overall pace /predicted finish times are - and then I have another mile to contend with. It's painful.

Anyway, with that in mind we set a pace at around 10 minute miles and tried to settle in.

Now seems like a good time to mention my general health on Sunday morning. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had some kind of stomach bug all week. I won't get into the specifics but I was not eating much all week and had actually dropped 3 or 4 pounds. Saturday's lunch was the first big meal I'd eaten since the previous weekend. Sunday morning I felt great but I wasn't sure how long one lunch and one pasta dinner were really going to last me. (You can only carry so many gel-packs...) Greg and I talked a little about it and I decided that we might as well give it a shot and see how long I could go.

The first ten miles went quickly. We picked up a little time here, gave back a little time there, and basically ran our pace. The route was packed with people - I just couldn't believe how many runners were out on the course. We got through Balboa Park and the Gaslamp District before heading out onto the freeway for a few miles.

It is very bizarre to run on the freeway. We walked a little here as we headed up some of the only decent sized hills of the course but got all that time back and more on the downhill side. Before I knew it we were passing the 13.1 mile timing standard, right on pace for a 4:20 marathon.

This was, however, the beginning of the end for my 4:20 dreams. With no reserves to speak of I started to flatten out, and by the time we got to mile 18 we were walking as much as we were running. At mile 20 or so Greg - who had said he would "run with me the whole way" told me he was going to go and that he'd find me around mile 25. I told him to get going and that I wasn't running anyway. (In hindsight I should have offered him a quick rendition of my oft-rehearsed monologue of Gloria Gaynor's biggest hit.)

I made a couple more half-hearted attempts to get into a running rhythm that I could sustain but it never lasted more than a few minutes. I was able to maintain a brisk walk - 13-14 minute miles - and so I purposefully strode towards the finish. I won't lie to you - I was bummed that I wasn't going to reach my goal - but the mind is amazingly flexible on some things. In this case, it was a very smooth transition from 4:20 to 4:45 to 5:00.

At the Mile 23 marker I did some quick calculations (the extended walk had restored math function to my brain) and figured I was on pace for 5 hours if I didn't lag about. "It's just a 5k" I told myself as I tried once again to run - my body said "screw you" and I returned to my aggressive walk.

Let me say one more thing about the number of runners. No matter what your pace was there were people everywhere. People, people, people! I was walking faster than most of the walkers and slower than all of the runners - although some of the runners seemed to be expending a lot more energy than I was, only to be moving 30 seconds per mile faster. The funny thing was that most people seemed to be traveling with friends, which made conversation much more limited. Why talk to strangers when you can chat with your friends? I got a few comments about Blaming Greg - some from guys named Greg - but it was not the big conversation starter I was anticipating. In the end, the crowds of runners and volunteers were there but they didn't seem to play too much part in my race. I've heard people say that the loneliest they have ever felt was walking down a crowded sidewalk in New York City and I think there's something of that in running a mega-event like this one. (I will say that the volunteers for this race were plentiful and extremely appreciated.)

My new revised revised plan for the race was to walk to the Mile 25 marker and then burn whatever was left running the last 1.2 miles. It certainly wasn't "before I knew it" but eventually the Mile 25 marker and water station appeared around a corner and it was Go Time.

Walking in to the water station I gave myself one of the world's greatest pep talks. It was definitely up there with my favorite example from literature, the St. Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's Henry V. Unfortunately for you the reader, in addition to being deeply motivational it was also deeply personal and I will not share it here. Suffice it to say that I was physically stirred (goosebumps) and filled with the last rushings of adrenaline my body had to offer.

The Mile 25 water station water was Ice Cold. This was not so good for sipping (can you say stomach cramps?) but the cupful I dumped on my head felt Wonderful.

Cooled and motivated, I scared several runners around me with a loud "Let's GO!" before bolting off through traffic.

As I turned into the Marine base for the last 3/4 mile Greg came back onto the course to finish with me. In spite of the time he lost strolling with me he still managed to turn in a 4:30 marathon, most impressive - and still come out and run some more. The last stretch involved a lot of blind turns so it was nice to have Greg along. Here's how the conversation went:

Brad: Is that (observable landmark) the finish line?
Greg: No

(Repeated about five times.)

Finally the finish line was in sight, and I checked my watch. We had a couple hundred yards to go and I realized that I had 60 seconds remaining if I was going to finish in less that five hours. So I did what all foolish runners who are motivated by arbitrary time intervals do - I picked up the pace as much as I dared. From an academic perspective it was an interesting exercise - how hard can I run without throwing up? If I were to throw up, what would vanilla gel packs taste like the second time around? Luckily these questions both remained unanswered as I stayed below the Vomit Threshold and came across the line in 4:59:39. Woot!

Once you finish a marathon, it really doesn't matter any more how you got there. Done! DONE! Yeah!

Here are some pictures of my exciting day at the races:


After receiving my medal and turning in my timing chip we gathered up our free food and drink before wandering off. The shuttle lines for the buses looked to be about an hour long so we ended up walking back to the hotel - 2 more miles thank-you-very-much. Once back at the hotel we jumped into the pool to cool off, got dressed, and headed out. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

I am still a little disappointed that I so completely blew through my original time goal but I think that my illness made it extremely unlikely. However, by the middle of the week I was feeling much better about the whole thing - I was not sore at all. To run a five-hour marathon and have a three day recovery is not so bad, really. In the words of Neoprene Wedgie I have "no unfinished business" with the marathon - and now I am on to shorter and more varied adventures. I will keep running but I plan to focus on 10k's and half-marathons for a while. Frankly I'm looking forward to a little less distance in the training plan.

Ah, tapering. The best part of the training program.

I was enjoying my taper - short weekend runs and weekday runs that barely warranted lacing up my shoes - when my worst nightmare struck. Six days before the race I got the stomach flu. Oh geez.

By Friday I was feeling better but I really wasn't sure how it was going to go on Sunday. I decided that as long as I wasn't spending all my time on the toilet (one way or the other) I was going to run the race. I've often taken ibuprofen before a long run, but never Immodium. Hmm.

20 Miler

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At this point the marathon is done but there are still many stories to tell. I'll tell them in order, yes indeed.

So, let's begin. When last I typed, I was stressing out about my pending 20 mile run. Well hey, guess what - it went great.

I took it easy for the first few hours, running easy 12 to 12.5 minute miles. I felt great as I turned for home at the 15 mile mark so I picked up the pace to 9 - 9.5 minute miles. I finished strong and walked home feeling very good.

Bring on the marathon!

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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