- 3:50 finish -- FAIL!
- Sub-4:00 finish -- FAIL!
- PR finish -- FAIL!
- Finish -- Success!
Things I learned Saturday:
- I'm always right
- Cramps suck
- I can still have fun in the face of failure
No worries. I was still going strong, clocking some good miles through the park. My 25K split was 2:19:46, an 8:59 pace with a predicted finish of 3:55:32. However, that was at the entrance of the second park, Sand Run, which is where the second-half uphills get serious. And for the next three miles, the support was minimal.
I knew I was slowing down. But in the space of two seconds, the 4:00 and 4:15 pacers surged by me. My spirit was beginning to falter. And then the stabbing pain in my legs began.
I've never had muscle cramps before during a race. Stomach cramps, yes, but never muscle cramps. At first I had to walk. No big deal. I exited Sand Run to the chorus of raucous fans along Revere Road.
The crowd boost got me running again, but shortly afterward I had to stop fast as my legs jerked and jiggled, stiffened and spasmed. I must have looked like I was performing an interpretive dance to illustrate the mating habits of the red-crowned crane.
I stopped to rub it out, the cramp, but the pain returned every couple of miles for the rest of the race. My quads, hamstrings, calves and even my toes got into the act. Sometimes I'd stop. Sometimes I'd run through it. Nothing seemed to cure it.
It was devastating and frustrating and aggravating and I wanted to punch babies and trip runners who passed me and I felt like all my training was wasted and for nothing and that I was an utter failure to myself and everyone I know and everyone who reads this blog.
And then I took a deep breath and let my goals go.
And I remembered something I read a long time ago in Runner's World by Kristin Armstrong. She had asked an old man at a race if he had a good run. The man replied, "Any day I can run is a good day."
You know what? It was a good day. The weather forecast had called for rain, but it was clear the whole day. Maybe a little warmer than ideal for a marathon, but it was a good day. I may not have been running my fastest, but I was running the best I could muster. And I still had my loved ones rooting for me at the race and in spirit. I rubbed the charm pinned to my shorts and decided to just have fun. Or at least try.
My friends were camped out just past Mile 23. Friday night, I had dropped off some supplies for post-race drinking and had asked the erratic epicurean to hand me some beer when I passed. The cramps got me just as their party was in sight. I stopped to regroup so that I could run when I passed them.
They all stood up at once to cheer and there was no pain. Then ee trotted onto the race course with a Styrofoam cup, on which she had written "don't shit your pants." Inside was the Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, which I sloshed into my mouth and splashed onto my front.
Sadly, it was a bit more than I could take down mid-race, and I felt wasteful for throwing the rest away. But it was good and much appreciated.
A few hundred feet down, I saw my young neighbor riding her pink bicycle up and down the sidewalk, shaking maracas for the runners. I made my way to the curb to grab her attention. I gave her a big grin and waved. In her singsong voice, she said, "Hi?" She paused a second and then, recognizing me, she was like, "Oh, hey!"
On Market Street -- the part of the marathon where people like to tell you it's all downhill but it's not -- I passed the most amusing traffic cop of the whole course, somewhere before Mile 25. He was loud and animated.
He screamed at a motorist who was trying to cross the road, "Are you ready? When I signal you, jump on it! Do not slow down these runners!"
To the runners, he yelled, "It's all downhill from here! Any hills you see are an illusion of your deluuushional mind!" And of course, just up ahead, there was a hill -- perhaps the last real daunting one of the race.
Around that time, the 4:30 pacers had caught up to me. The pace leader was good. He kept nagging me to keep up with them. His prodding and knowing my family was up ahead helped me keep running despite some more cramping and the overall exhaustion.
My family was at the last turn before we headed into Canal Park for the finish. I didn't see them, but I heard their encouraging shouts. I managed to push a little, passing a few runners for a moral victory. I finished right around 4:30. The sub-4:00 remains my white whale.
Aside from the water ... erm ... I mean, Michelob Ultra, I had some tasty post-race beers. My thirst-quencher was Ommegang Hennepin with the Gonzo Imperial Porter as my carb replacement. I joined my friends with the party already in progress. I slipped into the cushy comforts of a wide chair and set sail for the safe harbor of Blackout Island. Later, I was nudged awake and sent home with a boxful of fried chicken and sore legs.
Recent Whereabouts of the Viper
As you may have noticed, my last post was Thursday. I took Friday and Monday off, which means I had no access to the innernetz unless I went to the library and, seriously, who goes to the library? Nerds. Not me.
So, the point is, I didn't get all your great comments and good wishes until today. Thank you, very much to all of you, who stopped by in the last few days. And I appreciate the concern for my extended absense. I'm OK, just a little pain in the pride.
As for meeting up with Laura? That didn't happen. However, I was given notice that she would be wearing a peach-colored running skirt. That peach running skirt passed me somewhere between Mile 21 and the Garman Hill. I had high hopes of catching up to her and introducing myself, but that was a pipe dream. She finished 10 minutes ahead of me. Great job, Laura! Sorry I missed you. Don't worry though, I drank your beer.