Friday, October 15, 2010

CM10: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

It’s taken nearly a full week to completely digest all that went down at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, but as the dust, and my stomach, has settled I now know that this race was definitely not the prettiest or my fastest, but it may well have been the toughest I have ever run and my most meaningful as a runner.  Seriously, this is not that imposing a course to run. It’s flat, it’s fast, and there is an outstanding crowd to support you, all the makings of a phenomenal race and PR. And yet, who knew what exciting and unexpected adversity awaited me on such a beautiful 10/10/10? …? … Well then, allow me to enlighten you with ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ of my Chicago Marathon.

Opening Credits:
Being one of the 5 World Marathon Majors, one would assume that getting to the start and the seeded corrals would be pretty simple and without too much stress. Something for which you would expect to give a lot of credit to the organizers for, but alas this was not that day.  Hahahaha!  In fact, it could NOT have been further from the truth!  Race day morning I intended to arrive at Corral B at 7:00 am to meet two other runners, Josh (@jdhollandsc) and Susan (@susanruns), but once I got out of the hotel and headed toward the seeded corrals I realized that this was never going to happen.  People were meandering about slamming into everything within arm’s distance, like a an overzealous kindergarten class all getting off of a merry-go-round going 90 mph at the same time, it was rather chaotic.  This was then further compounded when I realized the Seeded Corral entrance was on the other side of the park and that myself and about 11-gagillion other people were all trying to get through a bib-check-gate about the size of a broom closet!  This was the slowest moving pack of fast runners I have ever been in, but to be fair to them, it wasn’t their fault.  It was rather amusing to watch the numerous individuals auditioning for the role of Spider-Man by climbing the 10-12-foot tall chain link fence separating us from the path to our corrals. It was pretty ridiculous. People were PISSED!  I just didn’t care so long as I got there before the gun went.

The Good:
Ok, so not the best of beginnings, but it got better! After quickly watering a tree, I entered Corral B ready to rumble.  I was calm, collected, focused, and felt loose and well prepared despite all of the little nagging voices in the back of my mind reminding about my knee over the last few weeks and missing my last good long run.  In that moment, I channeled my inner Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth from Pulp Fiction, “Bitch, be cool!”  “Be cool, hunny bunny.”  Once I was back on the level, it was go time and the good times DID roll.

The first 16-miles could not have gone better.  I was perfectly in-line with my pace plan and just hammered out the miles almost effortlessly.  Check out the splits:
Mile 1:  7:02          Mile 9:  6:48
  Mile 2:  6:48          Mile 10:  6:36
 Mile 3:  6:48          Mile 11:  6:42
 Mile 4:  6:36          Mile 12:  6:33
 Mile 5:  6:41          Mile 13:  6:39
 Mile 6:  6:42          Mile 14:  6:43
Mile 7:  6:38          Mile 15:  6:48
Mile 8:  6:33          Mile 16:  6:54

Even At mile 16 I still had plenty in the tank and in the legs and was ready to keep hammering out the miles … that is until IT happened …

The Bad:
Shortly after mile-16 is when IT happened.  I hit the aid station for both Gatorade and water and then proceeded to take my next vanilla GU.  Somewhere in that next half-mile did my best impression of Lard Ass from Stand By Me and proceeded to projectile vomit on the side of the course!!! This, my friends, was a first for me and was oh-so-much worse than the incident with the fly months and months ago.  Now, this pit stop was REALLY quick!  I wasn’t about to let my whole race disappear because of this, so once I was done I was done and I got right back into rhythm and on course, but my head was recalculating EVERYTHING as I was now going to be running a high pace with a severely depleted system.  As it turns I didn’t lose a lot of time over the next two-miles, but I only had water for the next couple of water stops, just to be on the safe side. 

At mile-19 I start to feel the effects of running with a tank that is pretty close to be completely empty, if it wasn’t there already, and I feel my head starting to get a little light and fuzzy. I decide heading into the next aid station that I’m going to WALK, something I NEVER do, and suck down some Gatorade and water, since I’m sweating like Ted Striker in Airplane!  As soon as the Gatorade, which was thicker than semi-congealed red Jell-O, hit my stomach I knew that something was not right at all and I rushed to the water station hoping to dilute it quickly, but it was all for not!  The second volley of regurgitation struck shortly thereafter and I now knew that my sub-3:00:00 marathon goal was now out of sight.  Even more disconcerting than the lack of nutrition going on was the fact that my vomitotiousness had now tapped out my muscles (core, hips, legs) and everything was starting to tighten up on me.  This all happened very quickly, but I decided I was going to run as much as I could and keep fighting.

The Ugly:
Over the next 2-miles I went to wipe my forehead, thinking that with the heat constantly rising I would be sopping wet, but I wasn’t.  What I ended up doing was merely flaking off some salt that had dried up on my face.  Crap!  I needed some water and some salt and I needed them FAST.  I stopped at the next medical tent I saw and asked if they had Endurolytes or salt tablets or anything of that sort so I could try something other than syrupy Gatorade or GU, but as it turns out not one, not two, but THREE different medical tents that approached were not equipped with anything of the sort.  So, with no alternative left to me, at mile-21 I tried downing Gatorade again with a quick water chaser, but it yielded the same result … GROSS!  Well, I guess the third time is the charm, because after that last episode there was no more puking!  Then again, there was no more drinking Gatorade either, I just stuck with water and … um … water!  Regardless of it all I kept running, or what could at least mildly be discerned as running.

So, there I am, completely depleted, muscles on fire and tightening all the time, stomach ablaze, and with a head that kept getting foggier and foggier ever half to three-quarters of a mile.  Every time I start to run again it takes so much out of me just to get into any sort of rhythm and my legs are just fighting me with every stride I take.  I reduced myself to a run-walk regiment, with walking gaps of no longer than 30-seconds, just so I can keep my head from fogging up too much and giving me the spins and I am able to manage this for the majority of the rest of the race. 

Closing Credits:
During this long, long, long final 10k of this race my mind is whipping around with all kinds of detritus, which had been bouncing off the insides of my skull and accumulated in my brain since mile-16ish.  I had started keeping a running tally of the number of times that I felt like quitting and just packing it in, which by final count was like 738 times.  I thought about the logistics if I DNF’d when I first wanted to bow out and how the hell I would have even made it back to the start/finish.  I thought about how much work I had put into this race, the amount of pressure I had placed on myself to hit my mark.  Then, I finally came around to it and I thought about my runners, all the members of Team Sasquatch and my Tues/Thurs Night Torture crew that I talk to about all of the things that can happen in a race and how to handle them, and it is in that moment that I find some inner peace and I start seeing things clearly.

One thing that I have always said and that I truly believe is that if you can truly wrap your mind around what you need to do you can make your body do anything, and this was a moment where I felt myself truly grasp that concept.  With each mile marker that I passed I kept my eye on the total time and in that moment of absolute clarity I knew that Boston was still within reach, but I just couldn’t let myself be dragged in the minutia that my body was forcing on me.  With about 1.5 miles to go I hear the crowd lining the streets start yelling, “Yah! Come on Boston pacers! Finish Strong!”  At which point I start talking to myself out loud, which @mattsix can vouch for since he saw me doing it, and simply say, “You can’t walk another step until this is done. Move your ass, get yourself out in front of those 3:10 pacers and don’t look back!”  As the words slip past my lips rather softly one of the pacers smiles a little and I turn up my pace just enough to get out in front of the both of them.  I get to that miserable, stupid hill within the last half mile, which is just so insignificant as hills go, and I just push it out with whatever I have left.

As I hit the finish line mat my watch reads 3:08:50!  I quickly think to myself, “Mission Accomplished,” and then I look up to find the nearest medical staffer as I am once again fighting off the spins!  The guy grabs me and walks me through the finisher’s area asking me if I want a wheel chair or to get an IV and I kindly brush him off and ask him to just walk with me to get some ice, water and anything to eat.  I was just hoping that the fact that I was no longer running would allow things to settle nicely in my stomach, which it fortunately did. 

Humbled & Happy:
Now, with it all said and done, I have to admit that this race may have been my finest moment as a runner.  Gross?  Yes.  Absolutely humbling?  For sure.  But, I can’t help be feel an incredible sense of pride in the fact that regardless of how many times I wanted to quit and how much it hurt I didn’t.  I fought tooth and nail for everything on 10/10/10 and managed to pull something off that under the circumstances I didn’t think I could. 

In addition to that, I have to give major shout outs to the Team Sasquatch runners that also participated in the Chicago Marathon and did this coach proud: Suman (@runnrgrl), Lisa (@bemadthen), Andrea French (@drefrench), Maddy Hubbard (@maddyhubba), and Steph (@bkcalamity – part of the Tu/Th Crew).  You were all amazing and I am so proud of what you all did!! I would also like to congratulate and give a shout out to some of the other Tweeps I had the honor of finally meeting: my PiC Samantha (@skdickey), @Diva_Marci, @MikeMoore924, @MissBojana, @LadySuann, @RunningCouple, @CrossFitRox, @Jenn_if_er, @Chathana, @DrewVoo, @OnTheWineRoute, @MLindzy, @RunnerNavyMom, and @TinyJenna.


Sue said...

It was a tough day for a race. So impressed that you pushed through and still had such a great finish time. Kudos to the 'squatch!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm convinced the Gatorade was spiked with poison.. I had the same issues with it.
Congrats on getting through it, and with an amazing finish time! You ARE tough as nails!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Josh!! Wow 3:08!!! I am loving these race reports. We were all on the same course, yet we all have different epic tales!

Samantha said...

What a great reminder that some things are just out of our control, yet we can still push through and perform great!

wino66 said...

An excellent recounting of a fiercely torturous day. I had a parallel timeline of deterioration, circa mile 16, and was just happy to cross the finish line of my 1st marathon!

Jamie said...

Josh like I always are a true inspiration. I'm so very proud of you & am lucky to have you as a friend. CONGRATS!!!!!!

The Crazy Runner said...

You were AWESOME in Chicago Coach! Takes the heart of a champion to push through those conditions like you did, and to still finish in 3:08! All I can say is WOW!

kizzy said...

Congrats..great job..Keep it up!!

"Sport is not about being wrapped up in cotton wool. Sport as about adapting to the unexpected and being able to modify plans at the last minute. Sport, like all life, is about taking risks."
- Sir Roger Bannister ~smartwool