Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chicago 2006 - The Jason Report

And now we get to the not-so-pretty side of running.

The first 18 miles of this run will seem remarkable similar to Leah's. It was amazing. Amazing how easily I was able to run at such a fast clip. Usually, for me, starting out a run at a sub-9 minute mile make me feel as if my legs were dragging the rest of me along for the ride, my torso flopping around a few paces back. It just never feels comfortable. This time, however, I wasn't entirely sure that my feet were touching the ground.

This continued for a long, long time. Miles 2-8 were basically me trying to reign in these new, speedy legs in an effort to maintain a consistent pace. Leah and I were constantly talking back and forth about how we just needed to keep a consistent pace for now and then we could think about making a move at mile 16 if Boston was still in reach (and we weren't exhausted).

Miles 8-16? Yep, still easy. I was still running easy with a smile on my face. I found myself making the occasional "chugga chugga" sound effect as I felt like an unstoppable train. It was long, easy strides and enjoying the spectators and bunnies and Santa Claus and you were there and you were there...

Anyway, things started to go south around mile 17 or so. I developed a pain on the insides of both of my quads which was increasing the effort of each stride dramatically. I had something similar last year (only on one leg last year and started at mile 22) but it was pretty manageable since we were only pacing 10 minute miles. This year, with the faster pace, my quads were a lot more necessary. The difficulty in taking a full stride while trying to maintain pace with Leah was getting to me and I was having a really hard time keeping my breathing steady. I spent the next mile trying to my relax myself and keep it steady, but I think the fact that I still had 8 miles to go was too much for me.

The thought of fighting to keep this pace for 8 miles seemed impossible.

The thought of hold Leah back was unthinkable.

When stretching my quads didn't help I told her to move on. She was doing too well to slow down for me and we had agreed to run our own races. And so off she went and we were running two very different races.

I was doing okay for the next 3 or so miles. I just slowed my pace down and made a deal with myself that I would just walk through all the aid stations to reward myself for running through the pain. Again, this worked for about 3 miles. I trudged along at what must have been a 9 minute pace and watched the big, yellow 3:45 sign recede into the distance. At mile 21 I saw our spectators again and gave a half-hearted smile, grateful that they had waited for me to pass after Leah went by. I wasn't really expecting it, but it was nice to see. Thanks again to all the people who came out and watched. It was so tremendous.

After mile 22, things got a lot worse. The quad pain was now mirrored in my hamstrings and it was becoming more than I could take. I body started rebelling against my mind and not letting me run all the way to the next aid station. The spectators on the sidelines were treated to a look of bewildered frustration as I keep telling myself to just go, run. I would run a bit and then, no, time to walk. Kind spectators exhorted me to run hard, I was so close, but I just shook my head in disappointment. I had no idea why I couldn't run through this pain like I had all the others in training, but something was different. I couldn't ignore this pain.

I slowly ran/walked on, feeling like a branch in a river as waves of people flowed past me. The 3:50 people surged past me, making me feel like I was just falling backwards. My math skills (addition) told me that I was a lock to finish in under 4 hours and achieve my primary goal, so I
do think some of the incentive to push myself super hard was gone. I don't know. All I know is that I couldn't get my body to so my bidding and that was quite frustrating.

As mile 24 approached I was passed by the 3:55 people and stepped it up for a little while trying to keep up. That didn't last for very long. For the last two miles I was one of "those guys." I was the guy who was so close to the finish but still walked. I was the guy talking to himself while shaking off the kind words of the spectators, feeling quite the opposite of whatever they were saying.

Eventually I finally hit the one mile to go sign and at 800 meters I stripped off my outer shell to get my finish photo. For awhile I had tried to push myself hard enough to get a clock-time under 4 hours on my finishing shot, but that was not in the cards either. I continued the death march as the turn up Roosevelt approached, preparing myself for a smile at our spectators to let them know that I had survived and that they could go ahead to the meet-up place. Apparently my layer-strip threw them off and most of them didn't see me, but I caught someone's eye and hit the hill.

Or, I suppose, the hill hit me. Either way, oh my god. I've heard about people saying that the hill killed them, but it didn't bother me last year and I didn't see how it could bother me now. Heading up that slight grade I felt like a new-born deer. My legs wobbled under me and at some point someone affixed a piano to my back, dragging me back down the hill. I couldn't believe that I had to walk part of the hill. I really never thought that would happen. My face was one of utter disgust that I couldn't make myself run the entire hill, that I had lost control of my body to this extent.

So I walked a few paces, and then ran, and then maybe walked again. Frankly, I don't entirely remember. But finally the hill ended. And I ran. I ran for the entire 0.2 miles just to make it end, to get my shiny blanket.

Clock time: 4:04. I had made it, this was a guaranteed sub-4. Thank god. At that point I just wanted to get through the crowd and congratulate Leah as I knew she would have finished strong. I was so proud of her.

Although I was pretty disappointed with myself while running I pretty much refuse to be disappointed in myself now. I set a PR by almost 23 minutes and made it through an extremely difficult training program, all having only run for about 3 years. I've got lots of miles left on these legs.

Now I've just got to get them healed up enough to start running and weight training. I've got lots of work ahead to make up 12 minutes and then gain an extra 15 so I can finish with Leah when she easily BQ's next year.

So lets get running! You know, as soon as I can walk.


LeahC said...

I am so proud of you for getting through the race (in under 4 hours no less) even though you felt so horrible. For someone less tough than you they would have forgotten even about the 4 hour goal and walked most of the end.

Nicely done hubby!!

Lana said...

Congratulations Jason! I think it's awesome that you pushed through all that pain to come in under 4 hours. There's no way you should be disappointed in that - Great Job!!

Ryan said...

Way to persevere. I know the lonely feeling you described as "that guy". I've been there. You sound exactly where I was a few years back. With the two of you pushing through the Pfitz program for the next go, you'll be running sub 3:30's in no time. Great job to finish strong.

Bob said...

Jason I am sorry you had a rough day. I see no problem with you and Leah running that 3:40 together in the very near future.

I believe that we all need days like these to realize what it takes to do these things. You hit the wall that many others have hit, you are not alone. But now that you have seen it you know what to expect, you will be ready for it next time.

Congrats on a sub 4 that is still one hell of a run in my book. Speedy recovery to you.

Scott said...

Way to stick with it to get your sub 4 marathon. Let's face it... it HAS to be harder to run a 4 hour marathon than a mere 2 hour one!

Jason said...

Ryan -

Thanks, that gives me great hope given your awesome BQ.

Bob -

Well, it wasn't the wall. I saw some people who hit the wall and they were in a *lot* worse shape than me. It was just plain, old leg pain. I had plenty of energy.

Firefly's Running said...

Jason, you did awesome. I hope your quad and calfs are feeling better. Way to ROCK on!

Danny said...

that sounded like my marathon... except an hour faster!!

sounds like you had a tough day, but still hung in there pretty well.

(btw, i was annoyed when i was disappointed after my marathon, and nobody could really understand that and kept congratulating me. so maybe i'm annoying you - but for crying out loud, you did set a pretty big PR, and you did finish sub-4. so congrats!)

Josh said...

Like we said ... our finishing time starts with '3'. The race may not have been kind to us towards the end, but you'll forever have the '3'. Great work and nice meeting you. We'll have to run next time I'm up.

Thomas said...

Your report reminds me of my first marathon, with the notable exception that I missed the 4:00 cut-off by several minutes. I fell apart after 18 miles (cramps), and had to run/walk the next 8 miles to the finish, all the while willing myself on, and all the while being disappointed at not being able to run properly.

I know the feeling. But it's so great when you finally cross that line, isn't it?

jcerunner said...

Jason, I think you have done a really good race. You have finished the marathon, and that is enough to be proud. I have only run a marathon but after reading so many experiences of people running this race, I think that it is a lottery, there are so many issues involved that it is very difficult to know what is going to happen during the race!! I think you have demonstrated your strong mind been able to finish in these conditions and even improving your PR!!! You have time enough to prepare several marathons in the future!!! Congratulations!!

Full Metal Lunchbox said...

Wow, what a rough race!  I'm impressed by the level of toughness you showed, pushing through all that pain to still get your sub-4.

I have a lot to learn from you.

Jason said...

Thomas -

It's really helpful to know that you and Ryan were both once where I am now. You guys are both so speedy. It'll take a while, but I'll get myself to boston eventually.

Danny -

Yes, very similar. I didn't even include the part about how I had to stretch my hamstring first and then my quad to keep from cramping. Sound familiar?

Josh -

Well, it certainly helps to have a nice, big buffer once the breakdown occurs. I have a lot to learn too. Luckily we're both pretty much beginners.

yumke said...

'feeling like a branch in a river as waves of people flowed past me...'.. well said, but you know what, you pushed through. I now know what it's like to push though.. good on you.

Laurie said...

Congratulations Jason! Very well written race report. I felt like I was running those last few miles with you.

Theoutofshapeguy said...

Congrats on the PR buddy. You did an amazing job, and should be extremely proud of your sub 4.

Arcaner said...

Nice job on the PR. It looks like you really gutted it out towards the end. You'll do fine next time. It was nice meeting you afterwards.

Susan said...

Congratulations on the PR Jason!!!! You and Leah are awesome!