Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Race Report: Damn You, Akron!

Akron Marathon goals redux:
  • 3:50 finish -- FAIL!
  • Sub-4:00 finish -- FAIL!
  • PR finish -- FAIL!
  • Finish -- Success!
It was not my day. But it could have been worse, as my friend reminded me when she sent me this kind salutation from someecards.com.

Things I learned Saturday:
  • I'm always right
  • Cramps suck
  • I can still have fun in the face of failure
I still have not solved the Howard Street downhill or the second half uphill. Up until the turn onto Howard (Mile 11), I was keeping stride with the 3:50 pace group and feeling good. I slowed down and tried to take it easy down the steep hill so I wouldn't destroy myself. I watched the pace group pull away and leave me alone as I entered the Towpath, where the spectator support drops off to almost nil for the next four miles.

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.

Post-Race Revelry
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.


Teacher Pursuits said...

CONGRATS VIPER!! Great report. And you are way cooler than me... I would've vomitted that late-in-the-race beer all over the place.

Ian said...

Posts like this make me question my decision to run a marathon.

Congrats on finishing, congrats on seeing the bigger picture that it was just a good day to be running. I'm confident that you'll slay the sub-4 hour monster soon enough.

Vava said...

Great race report, and sorry to hear it didn't go your way. That library crack hurts though, but not as much as your cramps seemed to, so we're square. Way to finish in the face of adversity.

Laura said...

Congratulations! It was surprisingly a rough day condition-wise... the humidity was killing me in the early miles. I think if you can do around 4:30 in those conditions, you can hit sub-4 under better ones.

I can't believe I missed you... I was eyeing every guy in a yellow shirt and black shorts VERY closely, but there were a ton of them. Next time you really ought to run in a pink shirt that says "LAURA, LET'S DRINK!" on the back... that would have caught my attention!

Hopefully we'll meet at a race or a bar soon :)

Unknown said...

Congrats on finishing. I hate those races that half way through you realize you just don't have your race goals in you.

Anonymous said...

Good job finishing! I'm so jealous of those of you who are on the other side of the finish line.

But, man, what a good beer to send to your hell bucket! Sigh, at least you gave it a try. I have a feeling I'd not be able to drink a beer, much less a porter (and I love porters) near the end of the marathon.

Sun Runner said...

You finished under your own power. That's really all that counts, isn't it?

I hate to break it to you, but...you have a blog. Which, by default, means you are at least some percentage of nerd. Additionally, you knew that cranes perform a wild and crazy mating dance, and knowing anything about birds beyond "they have feathers and lay eggs" makes you an additional percentage of nerd. Oh, wait...

You've run two marathons which is more than, what, 99.9% of the Earth's population. I wouldn't label that as failing in any department.

No one's going to be handing me any beer on the streets of Detroit (unless I attract a wayward wino or two) so your cheering section totally kicked ass. And congrats on not wimping out with some weak-ass light beer. Imperial stout? You fucking rock star you!

Like we say in Cleveland, "Wait until next year." ;)

Jess said...

Congrats on a great finish! I can't believe you managed to drink beer on the run...oh lord I would have puked everywhere.

Marcy said...

ROFLMAO at Sarah! True dat!! Welcome to Nerdville my friend :P

CONGRATS homie!! I know it wasn't the time you were looking for BUT shiz I can only hope to pull out a 4:30. And I hope you don't find this offensive (because I totally don't intend it to be that way) but this actually makes me feel better about my marathon. Not that you missed your goals but the fact that marathons are brutal to even the best of runners (Xenia is going to kill me for the compliment :P) and really you just never mo foing know what you're going to get. I am certain that you will hit a sub 4. You're the man! Way to rock out and still have a good time ;D ;D

C said...

I don't think I've ever 'heard' you sound so happy before. Hell, I didn't think you were even capable of smiling. I am just floored by your attitude both during the race and after. I doubt I would have been able to push through like you did. I don't know how it's possible to be so proud of someone I don't even know, but I am. Well done, Viper.

C said...

Marcy, today is an exception to the general rule. Compliment away.

MissAllycat said...

I know everyone else is leaving laudatory comments and blah blah blah....but the thing that caught my eye was...

"I stopped to rub it out..."

Mind in the gutter? Check.

Congrats on your race. :)

Tyger Lily said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter.

I'm with missallycat, that line caught my attention too.

gutter, gutter, gutter.

Congrats on the great attitude adjustment and finishing the race!

Adam Dunn said...

Finishing a race in such adverse conditions is almost better than getting that elusive PR. Nice display of not quitting. Good luck with the recovery brews, and planning the next race.

Nitmos said...

Sadly, I'm all too familiar with the dance of the red crowned crane. Once the cramps start, there seems to be no curing it (though, if the medical tents have Biofreeze, I highly recommend using it).

Way to gut it out and finish with what you had left in the tank! There are more races to run.

Spike said...

Congrats on finishing the marathon and not giving up, your will break 4:00:00 soon enough.

But, best of all, now you and Nitmos are bffs, and can co-blog about marathon cramps.

the erratic epicurean said...

next year - smaller cup with less beer. got it!

i'm very proud of you viper - you finished the race without shitting your pants! great job!

Sun Runner said...

P.S. You like Okkervil River?! We should talk tunes. Drop me a line.

("For Real" is so fucking awesome.)

S said...

I'm sorry you didn't meet the sub-4hr race...but I think it sounds like you did fantastic.

Also, I'm glad I wasn't alone in the gutter noticing the "rubbing it out" line.

Congrats on a great race!

Unknown said...

Hey Viper... Job well done. I second with all those bloggers who left the comments in there. They stole every conceivable words of mine. Just kidding!

Hat off to you for getting the job done.

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job just getting the job done!!

Marci said...

Good job, your day will come for your sub 4 hour. Good race report.

AddictedToEndorphins said...

Wow! I totally feel you. You train and train and then you wake up one morning and it just doesn't end up being your day! You ROCKED it, man. Seriously.

Keep chasing that whale;)

Ms. V. said...

I finally got around to read your race report. You actually got all Zen and spiritual with "there are other races" bit.

I'm so proud. You sound downright Californian.

Namaste, Viper. You finished. You rock.

Jess said...

Congrats on finishing and not punching any babies.