Monday, January 21, 2013

Marathon Post-Mortem

Well, it's over.  Unfortunately, not a happy ending. I started the Charleston Marathon, and I looked great through 13 miles, good through 16, not too bad through 19, and by 20 knew that my hopes of a decent time were long gone. I ended with a DNF (Did Not Finish), which I am not sure if I have ever done in a race before.  To be honest, I am still not 100% sure how I feel about that.  I definitely could have walked/shuffled the last 6 miles and finished the race, but I gave up.

That sounds really bad.  But it's not like I bailed out as soon as it became obvious that my hoped-for time of 3:59 was going to be 4:01.  I was physically toast, and it was going to be upwards of 4:20 before I limped in.  Had I never completed a marathon before, or even if I could have salvaged a 4:11 and claimed an "age adjusted" sub-4, I would have soldiered on.  But I already have a marathon finish.  Indeed, I already have a marathon failure.  Looking at another 70+ minutes of agony to produce an identical twin of my previous disaster was just more than I was willing to do.

When I raced the USMC marathon in 1996, I was 27, but I really did not train adequately.  I thought I had this time.  However, in every training run over 16 miles, I suffered.  Even when I completed training runs of 19 and 20 miles at a good average time, that average ALWAYS was including everything past 16 being a death march.  I told myself that this was probably a nutrition issue; I never took in enough calories or fluids while training.  But on race day, with Gatorade every 2 miles and carbohydrate gels every 5, I thought it would be better.

In the end, it wasn't.  At least I was consistent. I can honestly say I have had the exact same outcome of every run over 16 miles in my life.  The weather was perfect, my pacing was good, I took in fluids and gel at every stop, without even breaking stride.  Yet I crashed anyway.  People talk about hitting the wall in marathon running, and pushing through it.  Somehow, I never have been able to. I don't know if what I feel at mile 17 is the same as everybody else and I am just mentally weaker, or if physically I crash worse than the next guy.  That's the thing that hurts worst of all.

Several folks have asked two good questions: "Do you think your time goal was too ambitious? Will you try another one?"  Those two are related.  Regarding the first, maybe.  Had I run my goal pace, I would have been top-20 in my age group (out of 72 finishers).  Maybe that's a little over my head.  I feel very confident that if I "ran" slower, took walk breaks, and set out to just finish, I could do so.  But like I said earlier, I already knew that I could do that.  I finished in 1996.  But I wanted to see if I could run under 4 hours.  Apparently, the answer to that is no.  And that being the case, I currently am not at all interested in doing this sort of training again to chase a lower goal than that.

That may sound pretty defeatist.  But I really did not/do not enjoy marathon-style training.  I think after this race, it's safe to say that my body is cut out for something else. I am in great shape; my resting pulse rate was 49 this morning.  I can run 5k, 10k, and even half-marathon races and enjoy them more than this.  So, for now, I am done with the marathon.  However, several years ago, I took about three years totally off from racing after being disgusted that my aging body could no longer cash the checks my brain wrote.  Eventually, I mellowed, and have come back with a different attitude.  I won't rule out the possibility that I may one day find a way to toe the line in a marathon and take pride in just finishing.  But not yet.  And not soon.

I will carve out one little exception to my "no more long stuff" resolution.  I will continue to crew for my brother-in-law, Adam, as he runs ultramarathons.  I actually am beginning to understand better why he enjoys them, and although I don't care to actually run them like he does, I don't mind putting in 30-40 non-consecutive miles in a weekend if it's part of one of those.

Thanks to everyone who has wished me well throughout this 5 month process. I do wish it had ended more successfully, but I am very, very glad it's over.


Adam Fitzgerald said...

How many of those top 20 finishers would be capable of or even consider staying up in the freezing cold for 24 hours and logging upwards of 30+ miles in the process? Probably not one and I'm sure they think your crazy for doing so.
I totally get that not reaching a goal stings and stings badly. I know I would be crushed if it were me. Try to put things into perspective though. If (when) you complete 30+ miles in less than 24 hours, you join a very very small group of people who can claim the same. I think you have one more in ya. If not, the half marathon crowd better watch out.

MichaelPolutta said...

You have encouraged me in my resolve to never pursue 26.2. I'm sorry you did not achieve your goal.

So just plan to run on 4/6 in Janie's memory.

Coach Sal said...

You might do far better than me at 26.2. I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying it, and I am glad I did. However, I have discovered that I am not very good at it (that's being charitable). So, lesson learned. Wish I could join you for the bridge in honor of your mom, but that day is already double booked. If possible, I hope to fly out to Arkansas and watch David compete in a track meet on his birthday weekend. But if I have to stay in town, we have a track meet.