Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bonking at Bayshore

Blogging Marathon: Day 11

Bayshore 2004 Race Report: Revenge of the Marathon

Previously on Running Down...
In case you missed it, I have already chronicled my first marathon, which I finished"accidentally" and without any actual training. Except for an IT band failure at mile 23, everything went well, and I hobbled to a finish in 4:08.
While this was somewhat miraculous, it was also a curse. Over the next 5 years, the marathon would get it's revenge and teach me respect. 
The first of many learning experiences was Bayshore. 

I quit my 100% trail running routine and hit the pavement.
I did lots of road miles, including the requisite 14, 16, 18, and 20 milers.
My legs were killing me, and I had to stop and stretch my hamstrings during runs. My knees become permanently swollen with "runner's knee".
But I did it. I had followed the training plan and was ready for the marathon this time.

The Bayshore Marathon is a very nice, flat, and easy course in Traverse City, Michigan. I traveled there to run the race with my sister Monique as I had done in Detroit, but this time I was actually signed up to run the full marathon.

My plan was to simply run the entire race with my sister. I didn't really know how fast that would be, I just assumed I could do it. The was no thoughts of any details like pace, or eating or drinking.

We had perfect cool weather, and took off fast. I was feeling good.

At the first aid station I noticed that the Gatorade tasted strange.
The reason, I learned later, was because it was actually "Ultima". A sugar-free sports drink.
This makes sense, I guess, because no one wants to gain weight while running a marathon.

As the miles ticked off, I noticed I was breathing harder and harder.
Since Detroit, my sister had gotten faster but I had not.

Near the turn around I could not keep up any more.
"You go ahead", I said, and she took off.
I continued to get slower and slower as my legs got heavier. There was no pain, but I seemed to be filling with concrete.
Around mile 16, an octogenarian in an American Flag outfit whizzed by me, and saw that I was struggling.
"Come on! You can do it! I'll run you in."
Even my voice was in slow motion, "Thaaaaatss oooooh kaaaayyy...", I slurred, waiving him off.
He shrugged and took off ahead.

Out Of Gas
Eventually I came to a complete stop, like a car stalling out.
I stood there and clutched my stomach, and realized that I was starving. I didn't eat much for breakfast, fearing cramps. I had taken one Gu, but it had not been enough.
In the previous marathon and my training runs, I had been drinking sugary Gatorade. It never occurred to me what would happen without it.

I started walking. Several times I tried to run, but only made it a few steps.
After a mile of walking I hit an aid station around mile 20.

Let Me Eat Cake
"Ultima?", they asked, offering a cup.
"Ug.", I clutched my gut, "No thanks. Anything to eat?"
A woman pointed to the table. "Yes! We have orange slices, and bananas, and pretzels."
But my gazed wandered past the table, past the woman, to the bed of a pickup truck.

The aid station volunteers were tailgating, cooking some hamburgers and hot dogs for themselves.
I peeked behind her, "What do you have back there?", my mouth started to water, "Is that crumb cake?""

The woman was taken aback, "You... you want some?"
"Could I please. Please... can I have some crumb cake?"
She took a piece, put it in a paper cup and gave it to me.
I stared at the small morsel, "Could I have a little more?"
She gave me another cup.
"Could you just give me a big piece?" I said holding out my hand.
She hesitated, then cut off about a third of the cake and gave it to me.

I stood there for a minute, mashing the cake into my face with both hands, crumbs cascading down my shirt.
"Thank you so much!"

I started walking, eating the rest from the cups. Soon I started running again, and continued to pick up the pace to the finish line. My time was 4:03
Despite all the training, I was only 5 minutes faster than last time.

My sister Monique had cruised to a finish in 3:35, setting a PR. I wouldn't match that for another 4 years.

Lesson Learned
Marathons are hard. Bring some cake.