This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........
Monday, November 8, 2010
Chasing a PR....and a Dog?
It's funny how things work out. When I started running back in 2006, it was all about losing a little weight. As things progressed it turned into a desire to compete in a few 5k's. I read EVERYTHING that I could get my hands on and listened to every podcast out there. I wanted so bad to learn the secrets and pick up tips from the pro's. I followed training plans as best I could and tried speed work outs at the track. Pearl Izumi, Saucony, Brooks and Asics replaced my Nikes and a Garmin Forerunner took away the necessity of measuring my route beforehand with my truck.
This worked pretty good for a while but it seemed like I got stuck in a rut last year. My 5 and 10k times had leveled off and the marathon times were always between 3:15 and 3:30. Late in the year, I was guilty of taking on more than my training would allow. After a 50k in September, a 25k in October and 2 marathons in November- I was done. A calf strain during the 1st mile of the Mtn. Home Marathon left me limping for the next 25 miles and then sitting on the couch for a week or two. Genius stuff. This is when I decided that something had to change.
I thought about what I wanted to do and HOW I would get there. What I came up with was simple, put in more miles, more long runs with less speed and incorporate some strength training. By the end of January of this year, I was hitting 50 mile weeks consistently and had my first 200 mile month. In February, the weight training and core exercises started. I went back to my Nike Pegasus, scrapped the iPod, forgot the training plans and canceled the subscription to Runners World. In April, Charley and I ran the Ouachita 50 miler and I started really seeing the benefits. In June, the 54 miles during the Relay for Life didn't kill me and I was running again after 2 days off. Things were falling into place.
PR's in the 5 and 10k and some faster paced long runs left me confident that the plan was working. There has been zero track work outs, just some faster paced 6 and 10 mile runs- nothing mind blowing but faster than average- a couple of times per week. A few tweaks in my diet helped shed a few extra pounds and provided stored energy for the long hauls. All of this was leading to a potential PR in the marathon.
Last week, I managed to have a great 50k trail race with negative splits. With the exception of the 50 miler, which was my "perfect day", I have ALWAYS bonked on the second half of any long distance race. Finishing in just under 4 1/2 hours was a huge boost to my confidence coming into the Bass Pro Marathon on Sunday. I knew that if I recovered in time- there would be a PR. I might have even stated that publicly a few times.
Last Friday, as I finished an easy 6 miler, it felt like somebody punched me HARD in the my hamstring. I limped and hobbled home, unable to run and was scared to death that I had royally screwed up. I could feel a little nagging pain all day on Saturday and by that night I was on edge but I went ahead with my pre-marathon rituals. Lots of food and a few beers to chill. Must have worked because Sunday morning, I felt nothing. No pain, no hint of anything. Was it just wishful thinking?
My race day breakfast is ALWAYS 2 sausage biscuits from McDonalds. Why? Because 1 isn't enough and oatmeal sucks. Of course a large coffee to wash it down is necessary too. My wife and I arrived early and met some friends for pre-race photos and well wishes and then it was time to line up.
The weather was perfect- about 40 degrees at the start- and the event is pretty small so there wasn't a huge pile up at the line. After the first 1/2 mile the packed thinned and the running lanes opened up. I started out at a 6:45 pace and within just a few steps the hamstring was talking. Not a BAD pain but enough to notice. This freaked me out and I convinced myself just to maintain my pace and not speed up. Just maintain and see what happens.
By mile 5 I had enough of the stupid hamstring issue so I decided to forget about it. There was NOTHING I could do about it and if it decided to cramp, knot, pull or whatever it is they do- there would be NOTHING I could do anyway- so I might as well set it aside and just run. I just went with the plan- maintain the pace, don't speed up, don't slow down- just stick to the plan.
I always carry a water bottle and this was no exception. It was filled with Gatorade so I made sure to get water at every aid station. Each station was 2 miles apart and I walked through each one because I am not coordinated enough to run and drink out of those cups- no matter how I fold the top. It ALWAYS ends up on my face or chest, so I just like to take a few seconds to walk. Of course, every time I did this, other runners would pass me. Not really a problem- because I generally passed them again within a short distance.
I hit the half at 1:30:10. This was actually a PR for the 1/2 by about 30 seconds(I have not ran a 1/2 since 2008)but I was a little discouraged because my Garmin had the distance at 13.4 miles. This meant my pacing was off and I could not rely on my time. I stepped it up, just a little, and waited for the hamstring to start whining. It did but not too bad. I settled into my new pace and started passing some of those speedsters that flew by me early on in the race.
I was NOT concerned with passing people- I had decided that the only race I was in was with the clock. I had dreams of a sub 3 hour marathon since my first one in 2007 but it had always been a distant dream and not very realistic. 2007 was the year of my PR, a 3:13 and 2008 and 2009 were 3:15's. That is a lot of time to make up- but I was on pace to come close. I knew that I COULD squeeze in IF the hamstring held up AND I didn't hit the wall as I always have in the past.
At mile 17, I passed one of those speedsters from earlier. He was puking on the side of the road and for some reason this made me smile. Sure, that's not nice but I couldn't help it. I had to smile because there he was, puking and done, and I was feeling better with each mile. Sorry dude....
At mile 21, where I typically hit the WALL, something cool happened. I crossed the 2,000 miles for the year mark and felt energized and rejuvenated. I thought this was a good time to make a move and blow through the last 5 miles. WRONG!! My hamstring SCREAMED at me, so I backed off and maintained. That was the plan and I was sticking to it.
Coming down the last few miles, a big black dog started running with me. It was weird because there were so many runners on this part of the course. The 1/2 marathoners shared these last few miles and it was crowded. The dog chose ME to run with, sometimes cutting right in front, causing me to hit him with my legs. I yelled and even barked at it. Nothing. Finally I just laughed and realized what was happening. Bob and Joe. They were looking down and getting one final laugh as I acted like a fool with this dog. I thought about my two friends that had lost their battles with cancer within the last week and how much they had impacted my life. Bob and Joe were with me as I pushed through the final two miles toward the finish line. I KNOW they were because it was almost effortless and I was able to push the pace a little more.
At the mile 26 marker, my watch had 26.2 and I knew the time would be close. I became a little distracted as I was trying to do the math in my head and the next thing I knew there was a crowd of people in my way. What is going on? Get out of the way dummy's! WHY are you blocking my way?? Then a friend in the crowd ran over to me and told me to get back on the road. What? The road? Oh, I get it.... I had been so wrapped up in trying to figure out the time and pace that I had ended up on the sidewalk where the crowd had gathered. My bad.
I popped out just in front of my family and my wife was taken by surprise. She got an excellent picture of the road after I passed. Turning into the final stretch, I could see the clock and knew for sure that I had made it. Turning on the jets- I sprinted across the finish line in 2:58:52. Good for 7th overall, 1st in the 35-39 age group AND negative splits. The dog finished about a minute behind me.
The hamstring turned out fine and I think it was just a minor scare. A few days off and I'll get back to it. I've got a new PR to beat and a perfect opportunity to do it at the White River Marathon on November 20. Yep. I'm begging for trouble. That's how WE roll....