Friday, June 24, 2011

Bonking at Bayshore (Again)

Blogging Marathon Day #6

As I hobbled down the road, past the 21 mile marker of the Bayshore Marathon, I looked at my watch.
My time read 2 hours and 56 minutes.
"Looks like I won't get that sub-3!", I laughed to myself.
When I had signed up for the race 6 months before, it was my hope to run under 3 hours there.

But things did not work out that way. It had taken me exactly 20 minutes to walk the last mile, and at that pace I still had another 1:40 to go. I have come to Bayshore 3 times because it is a flat, fast race, but have bonked 2 out of 3. Previous reports: 2004, 2009.

This day, the weather was a damp 55 degrees, which was perfect for running, but not so great for walking slowly in shorts and a t-shirt. I shivered and rubbed my arms, "Well at least it didn't rain like it was supposed to", I thought.

Right on cue, a light rain started to fall. I looked up at the sky, expecting to see some kind of deity giving me the finger, but there was just dark clouds.

Just then a van drove by with the words "SAG WAG" spelled out on the back.  "Hey!", I waved my arms frantically. I was ready to throw in the towel, take a DNF and a ride back. But the van didn't stop. Sigh. I even failed at quitting.

What happened?

Well, let me back up and start from the beginning.
On the plane to Michigan, I oscillated between trying to run the marathon and sitting it out:

PRO: It would be fun to run a race with my sister Monique and Shannon again
CON: The last 3 months I had only managed 20-30 miles a week, and my two longest runs were 12 and 13 miles.

PRO: But, in the last month, I set an Owls Roost PR, took first masters at Philosophers Way, and ran a pretty decent 5K at the airport
CON: I had to take a handful of Tylenol to run those races, and maybe pushing through those races were making my knees worse

PRO: I was traveling a long way, and spent a lot money to be there. What else would I do?
CON: My last run was 2 miles, and I had to walk most of it

PRO: Hey, couldn't hurt to try!
CON: Actually I could hurt myself a lot worse.

Should I run the marathon?
Lauren couldn't say at the moment. He was having his lunch.
(Taken in Traverse City)
My dad pickup us up from the airport. He asked about my knees, and I told him about my aches and pains (long whiny post here).

He told me about his lifelong experiences with rheumatoid arthritis. He had never talked to me about it before, because he is not one complain about such things, but I had heard stories from my mother.

When he was a child he suffered from crippling arthritis in legs and back. They gave him a series of cortisone shots which were experimental at the time, and for some bizarre reason put both his legs in casts for a year.

Today he is in great shape. He walks and jogs every morning, no matter what.
"My knees hurt like he'll when I get up", he told me, "but you just get out the door and get moving and work through it." He is 73 years old.

I flexed my fingers which had been feeling arthritic lately, and wondered if it was connected to my knees, the back pains, and the "idiopathic uveitis" that had attacked my eyes. Had I inherited his rheumatoid arthritis? I certainly hadn't inherited his stoicism.

It was then I decided I was going to try to run. If it was arthritis, resting was not going to help it. Besides, after talking with my father, I had no choice but to suck it up.

Even after not running the last 5 days, my legs were more stiff and aching than ever. As I walked from the hotel to the race start with Shannon and Monique, I had to laugh at how ridiculous it was to be limping to the start of a marathon.

Still, my last four races had started this way. After the 4 acetaminophen and the adrenaline of the race kicked in, who knew what would happen?

I have a long history of complaining of aches and pains before setting a PR in a race, so my Shannon and Monique where encouraging me to go for a that sub 3:00 PR. But I knew that was simply impossible, so I decided to hang with them as long as I could as they attempted a 3:19.

After about 3 miles, I was warmed up and the drugs had kicked in. I pain was pretty much gone, and I was feeling great. I did not get too excited, as I had a few training runs that started this way, and ended up with me stopping at 8 miles and walking home.

On the flat course, we were trying run an even 7:35 pace. We had to hold back my sister who gets impatient and wants to get it over with. Shannon was struggling mentally, unable to accept the fact that we were no faster than she was. "You guys are so fast!  I can't keep up with you!" So she dropped back.
So she ended up running about 30 feet behind us for most of the race. I would turn around a wave to her periodically.

Mile 15
Slowly my quads became more and more sore. I stopped to walk at an aid station and my quads started to cramp. "Go ahead, I'll catch up to you", I told my sister.

After a short walk, I started up again, and found a faster 7:00 pace actually felt better, and was easier on the quads. It was odd that such a slight change in speed would use different muscles.

I held onto that until mile 19. I had almost caught back up to Monique when my legs started to quiver, so I stopped to walk again and drink some Gatorade. When I tried to run again, my quads seized up. So I walked. Shannon came by, concerned about me but I waved her on.

A Good Day
After about 30 minutes of walking, my teeth started chattering, and I needed to generate some heat, so I decided to see if I had recovered enough to run again. But with a single step my legs buckled, and I almost fell over. I was done running for the day.

I was jealous of the speakers, who were staying dry
A steady stream of marathoners and half-marathon walkers were passing me. I fell behind a couple of walkers, hoping to draft off of them. But even a brisk walk was too much for my legs and they started to seize up. So I slowed back down to my 20 min pace, and resigned myself to a long, cold shuffle.

I scanned the side of the road, hoping to find some discarded throw clothes that I could scavenge for warmth.
The past few races I have taken my shirt off, but now I was looking to put a few more on. I was officially resigning from the "shirtless douchebag club".
 I came across a beige sweatshirt laying on the grass. It was soaking wet and had a muddy footprint on it. I stood and stared at it a while, appreciating the ridiculous situation I had put myself in. I decided I wasn't that desperate and hobbled on.

A spectator on the side of the road was cheering on the marathoners running past "Good Job! Way to go! Looking strong!", until she saw me limping by. "Are you OK? Having a bad day?"
I considered the question carefully, and smiled "Actually... I'm great. It's a good day".
Which was true. It had gone way better than expected.

I had assumed my knees would give out, be they were fine. Instead, my quads had failed me simply from lack of training. My lack of knee pain made me happy, and I strolled the rest of the way and had a good time with it.

I treated the next aid station like a super market and took food from every person holding out something. I got 4 pieces of licorice, 3 cups of pretzels and 2 cups of M&M's. I had my arms full, waddling along munching as a steady stream of runners passed me, pushing themselves hard. "Suckers.", I said, my mouth stuffed with food.

I passed a bunch of guys at a table handing out cups of beer, but no one was taking any.
They all cheered when I took one.
"Ah! Man that's really good!", I finished it and took another one for the road. "Thanks!"

It was a long walk, but I finally made it, so amazed and happy to have finished. I managed to run a few steps across the finish line with a time of 4:36:40 (4:36:31 chip time!), where Shannon was waiting for me.

Shannon had a slightly off day, and missed her goal but still managed a great 3:23:36. Only seconds off her PR.

Monique had a great race, running a perfect even split for a 3:17:22. She was 15th out of 641 women and 3rd in her age group. Most impressive is setting a 4 minute PR at the age of 43.

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