Overall: 19th out of 224 finishers
AG: 1st out of 19
First, read this.
“NEVER try anything during a marathon that you haven’t tried on a long run.” -Everybody
“What? I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my ignoring you.” -me
Remembering the steep, rough roads of Blue Ridge and the misery of recovery after the Mistletoe Half, I opted for the aquas (no glue). Iris suggested I try a pair of her drymax socks.They fit a little small, but decent enough. There’s not much to them, so I figured they wouldn’t get too waterlogged.
Iris also somehow acquired a free pair of compression calf sleeves, so I figured why not. Wouldn’t want a jiggley calf to slow me down. Never ran in them before, and from what I understand the science behind them is still in the anecdotal phase, but I’m a sucker for a costume. They made me feel like a gladiator or some such archetype of badassery.
During the race I drank lemon-lime Nuun from a 20oz handheld, emptying it with a swig at around mile 17. When it started getting low I grabbed cups from brave volunteers, practicing my gulp-on-the-go technique before it became my only source of hydration. On-the-go because there was no way I was stopping.
I ran the whole damn thing. Well, until…
Where are my manners? I’m getting ahead of myself. The evening before, we met up with Johnny O and his wife, Jennifer, for dinner:
Very nice people. I felt bad to have played a part in what John was about to do to himself by offering up the free entry, but he actually finished his first marathon strong, shedding his Walmart Aquas at mile 22.
Race morning was soaked. I knew I was going to like it once we were moving, but since I wasn’t moving yet, I didn’t like it. That was the goal, actually – keep moving. I wanted to avoid the post wall crawl, especially in that weather. I figured 10ish minute miles up the hills, 8ish minute miles down, 9ish the rest of the way, maybe get a sub-4 hour race. That would be awesome. Hopefully no cramping.
Slight delay to get everything in place… and we’re off! I settled in to an easy pace, passing some runners and letting others pass me. I was going a little faster than planned, but the effort felt right. I was letting myself fly down any descents, and worked as little as possible on the ups. The rain bucketed, then stopped, then misted, then bucketed again. I was in a good groove, chugging up to the top of the first climb in just over an hour. At mile 7 it was time to run down the other side.
There were two choices. Really, really slow, or really, really fast. I chose fast. Get down the hill as fast as possible and try not to think about it. Down. Mile 8: 7:12. Down. Mile 9: 6:51. Halfway through mile 10 I slammed into a wall of an uphill, but still managed a 7:30. I felt committed to that effort level. It had stopped raining, and a dense mugginess settled in. With memories of cold winter still fresh, I enjoyed the warmth even though it taxed my body. Running past mile 11, a volunteer yelled out “23rd!”
Blink. Blink. Did he just say… Don’t think. Just keep going. Man, I kinda would like to pee.
I steadily chugged up to mile 13 and the top of the second climb in 1:48, passing three runners. “If I heard that guy right, I’m 20th right now,” I thought. “I mean, I don’t have to have to pee, but it would be nice if I could.”
Then, down again. Not only downhill, but downpour. Torrential. At mile 14 while cruising at a 7ish minute mile down a windy path of steepness, I had a thought: “Well, why not? I’m soaking wet anyway. It’s going to rain for a while. Is it possible to pee while running?”
It is, my friends. It is. And it was wonderful. I smiled the smile of the naughty kid in the pool. No one was around. The rain was pouring down so hard, my urine was diluted out of existence in seconds. Nothing but tiny, solitary urine molecules here and there, spread throughout the nanoverse.
Let’s pause for a moment so that image really sinks in.
Got it? Good. Let’s continue. At mile 16 I see John’s wife Jennifer. “You’re about 30 minutes behind the leaders!” she yells. “Holy crap I’m going too fast!” I yelled back. I don’t slow down, though.
The legs were getting heavy as I readied myself for the last big climb. I was tired, but didn’t feel too roughed up. I was way farther along the route than I expected, so I figured I would take it extra easy for a little bit. Ahead was a short but steep downhill. Instead of flying, I whoa’d up. CRUNCH! went the first step.
I pinched the hell out of my ITB. I almost fell, but somehow managed to catch myself. Now I’m not flying down the hill, but crashing. Fortunately the down was short and I started climbing again. The knee was sore, but moveable. My legs were toast, though. Both sets of quads and hamstrings were quivering, waiting for me to cramp. This is where I would have stopped to walk normally. But I didn’t. I was pissed. Ha ha. No, seriously.
Mile 18, another steep downhill. I was so tired, but I can’t go slow. I tried to be gentle, but that just made my right hamstring cramp. I didn’t stop. Instead, I swung my leg out to the side to get it in front of me so the string could finish it’s little hissy fit. I heard a little girls say from under her umbrella, “He’s not running good, mommy.” I laughed.
Back up the steepness, the hamstring quivered but behaved. My quads screamed. The ITB knee was biding it’s time, waiting for me to try to be “gentle” again. I sped up my cadence, as if to punish my legs for complaining. “Is he serious?” the gams asked each other. “I think he’s serious. He did just pee on us a few miles back.”
I slowly passed a few runners, not believing the pain I was putting myself through. If I though about how much farther I still had to go, I would despair. So I focused on the present. “Can I keep doing this now? Yes? Then keep doing it.”
Down the last big descent. I just ignored my legs protestations and raced a runner down the hill. Stomp stomp stomp. I could do nothing else. She passed me, then I caught up. She kept trying to shake me, but I stuck around. Even though I was dead, I sprinted past for a little bit. She eventually caught me again and steadily pulled away. Mile 20: 6:36.
I put my brain elsewhere and stayed in the 8-9 minute mile range the rest of the way. I don’t remember much, other than an increasingly strong headwind. I also remember sometime after passing mile 25 that I ran into a wall. Not the figurative kind – I’m talking a wall. I missed a turn.
I had only a vague idea of where I was, and my sense of direction is pitiful under normal circumstances. I run around a pretty much empty downtown (there were tornadoes and thunderstorms on the way) following the echoes of cheers and a loudspeaker. I see a slouchy dude. “MUSEUM! WHERE’S THE MUSEUM?” I yelled. He looked at me like I was about to hit him. “I… sorry, I dunno,” he shrugged. “THE TAUBMAN MUSEUM WHERE ALL THE CHEERING IS COMING FROM!” “Oh!” he said, suddenly empathizing with a lost runner looking for a finish line. He probably wrote a poem about it. “That way!” he pointed valiantly. So I went that way.
I run down the street to find myself behind the spectators at the finish. “Pardon me, excuse me,” I say as I squeeze past people and jump back on the course for the last ten feet before crossing the timing mat. I was done.
Next, the aftermath.