Thursday, November 1, 2012

Des Moines 2012: The Aftermath

Check it.  I actually found time and motivation to put together a new blog post.  Try not to pass out.  I have been sporadically updating this blog over the past year, basically since I ran that first Disney Marathon, mostly because I don't think anyone wants to hear about the mundane running routines that come with marathon training.  Following the same posts that read "Oh, had a nice four mile run today" for 18 weeks on end turn my brain off, let alone the brain of someone that isn't me.  I'm not interested in blogging about the real world, so in between significant running events, we get this lull, and for that I apologize.  I'm certainly as boring as I appear.

Now that we've got that cleared up, let us talk about the 2012 Des Moines Marathon.  After Disney, I swore I would never, ever run another marathon.  But as time went on, I was able to analyze why things didn't work out as well as I had wanted.  First, mainly, was experience.  Having not done a full 26.2 miles before, nothing could have prepared me for the "wall" that you hit around mile 20.  Yes, there are numerous accounts out there of people hitting the "wall", but until you actually hit it for yourself, you just can't be ready for it.  Second, the issue I had with my shoes.  I had switched to some fancy Brooks shoes that absolutely did not work with my foot and orthotic insert.  They were far to narrow, and they were causing my feet to sit in the shoes improperly, almost angled.  This led to me hurting in all the wrong spots on my feet and knees.  Third, the travel.  Working overnights had altered my sleep schedule to the point that I had to either try to sleep on the flight to Orlando, or just stay up and hope to quickly return to a normal sleep schedule.  Neither really happened.  I was unable to sleep on the flight, and really not very able to sleep overnight.  By the time running the race came around, I was pretty gassed, and adrenaline could only take me so far, as I lumbered through the last 8 or 9 miles just hoping it would end. 

So why would I sign up for another marathon after swearing them off?  Well, mostly this running business has awoken some sort of competitive fire that I never knew I had.  I mean, I've won an age group and a men's division in two separate 5K races in the past three months.  I constantly want to improve on my running times, and have been very diligent at sticking with my training plans and goal times, while also figuring out when to push myself, and when to just run an easy run.  Having said that, my goal was to improve, but also to improve at a rate that would have me running where I thought I should have been running back in January, as naive as that thought would appear to be at this point.  I originally thought I could run a marathon in 4 hours, which seemed laughable after that first one, but I knew after the fact that conditions were not favorable for that to occur.  Would things be different in October for Des Moines?

It started out with a great plan, and a commitment to accountability.  If I was going to run the race I wanted, I needed motivation and help.  Enter Sparky, who originally asked if I would consider running the Des Moines Marathon back in April, I think.  I agreed, but was determined to give it everything I had this time around.  I got off track for Disney after sustaining a few knocks, so having less than ideal training backfired on me, too.  That was not going to happen this time around, though.  We set up a schedule of running long runs together on Sunday's, either in Lawrence or KC, as well as a few track workouts scattered throughout the 18 weeks, with the idea of making sure to hit all the runs and keeping tabs on each other.  If someone was missing workouts, the evidence would be seen on Sunday's.  For 18 weeks, things went about as flawlessly as could have been possible.  Throughout the first 14 weeks, Sparky did not miss a single run, while I was guilty of only missing two or three (I got married and then honeymooned, so I suppose I had a reason).  Times were improving, long runs became easier, and before we knew it, it was go time.  Of course, I had to throw a wrench into my plans by spending a week in Boston for work, but I had reached a point, especially mentally, that I wasn't worried about it at all.  I had already put in the work, even including a solo run of 20 miles two days before my flight to Boston, so I knew I was in good shape all the way around.

We got to Des Moines on Friday, after I had taken a short nap in the AM, and proceeded to hit up packet pick-up and then eat Jethro's BBQ until I felt I would explode.  Damn, that place was good.  I was fortunate enough to be allowed to sleep the next day as per my usual sleep schedule, as well as getting in a pre-race nap from 3 AM-5:30 AM, which is exactly what I needed.  Fresh legs and rest.  It was a brisk 48 degrees or so when we got outside to start warming up, but really any more, unless it is really cold, I don't notice it that much.  Part of that mental toughness, I think.  Sparks and I set out through downtown Des Moines on a perfect 9:30/mile pace to allow the crowd to stretch out.  It took less than .20 miles for us to run right up on some asshole who decided that even though race directors in Des Moines and everywhere else around the world, as well as basic runner's courtesy, say to start in the back if you are going to walk your distance, this prick thought they were special and probably lined up at the very start of the pack to make sure they got in the most people's way that was possible.  People like that should be arrested on the spot.  After that, things got going well.  Miles 3-9 featured pretty challenging rolling hills through some terrific neighborhoods.  Lots of older, nice houses with large yards and good views from the tops of the hills.  We had lots of periods of time here to slow up our runs, as there was no point in powering through these hills when we still had 22 miles to go. 

After I stopped and walked a couple of times, we had reached the Drake University track, site of the famous Drake Relays.  We ran a lap on the track, and then proceeded to run through the rest of campus.  At the halfway mark, Sparky took his first walk break and I ran on ahead.  I figured at this point, both of us were content to run the rest of the race on our own pace, so I ventured on ahead.  We had hit the halfway point at 2:00:44, nearly right in line with my goal of 4 hours.  As I was running through some more neighborhoods, and down the straightaway that would lead us to a prolonged downhill, I could start to feel some fatigue in my legs, and what I can only describe as an impact pain in my left foot that felt like my foot was going to split in half between the big toe and the other toes.  It wasn't a blister, though, but it made handling any sort of turn absolutely brutal.  But, I had come this far, I was going to power through it.  I had amended my previous "run until I couldn't run" strategy to incorporate several walk breaks, as I had said before, so my legs were feeling as good as they could have been by mile 17, when we circled a lake in a park.  The amount of live music and bands they had playing throughout the course was astounding.  It always gave you a little boost of energy when you would run by some band playing The Doors or Weezer.  That got me through to mile 20, and I was faced with the prospect of actually running a 4 hour marathon, having cleared 20 miles in 2:59:59.  All I needed to do was run the final 6.2 miles in an hour.  I had never run a 10K before that took more than 57 minutes, so I knew I was on track.  I just had to gut it out.  Things were going pretty well until mile 23 hit.  I should say, until the "wall" hit at mile 23.  I thought maybe I had been past that, but that was not the case.  I had cleared 23 miles in under 3:28:00.  3.2 miles in under 32 minutes, a 10 min/mile pace. 

But I started to cramp, and my legs cried out for rest.  Over the next 3.2 miles, I could slowly see my overall pace catch up to my goal pace, and even though I hated to walk, my legs would not go on without the rest.  I started to cramp in my calves, hamstrings, groin, and quads.  So, basically everywhere.  The final two walk periods were my ultimate undoing.  I was able, after my final walk, to gut it out for just over a mile and finish with a time of 4:01:23.  I'm certainly not upset.  I gave it everything I had to get to that point, and just finished a touch short.  My overall improvement was more than 43 minutes, so really, I have nothing to be upset about.  Sparky ended up dropping nearly 25 minutes off his time, so overall, it was a great day.  It took until Wednesday before I finally could walk without a tremendous amount of pain.  It really is amazing how sore your legs gets the day after a marathon.  All in all, I would consider the entire training cycle to be a massive success.  I did put on a few pounds towards the end of the 18 weeks, but other than that, I stayed in terrific shape, avoided injuries, and had a great run and several great training runs. 

As opposed to last time, I feel much more ready to attack another marathon.  Traveling wasn't bad, and I'd certainly be willing to travel again.  Next year, another fall marathon is on the docket, just not entirely sure of where.  Hospital Hill is June 1, and I'll be for sure running in the St. Patrick's Day 10K, Brew-to-Shoe 10K, and Poyntz Avenue Mile race, all in Manhattan.  I've got some lofty goals for next year.  I'll come back at some point and lay them out so that they are in the air and can be used against me.  Only way I'm going to hold myself to those times, right?  Thanks for reading this massive update, and until next time...later.

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