Sunday, March 20, 2011

LA Marathon (the worst day ever?)

Running my first marathon was more than I expected, not in a good way. I expected to be slow, but not this slow. I expected it to be difficult, but not this difficult. I also expected it to be uncomfortable, but I certainly didn’t expect the torrential downpour I had to run in for most of the 26.2 miles. I also didn’t expect the 50 degree temps coupled with 20 mile per hour winds. In fact it was so cold and wet and uncomfortable that at mile 15 I declared this run to be the worst ever. I can’t think of worse conditions… Suffice it to say, I was beyond miserable… but I pressed on.
The course itself was difficult. Steady hill climbs at mile 16, 20, and then 22 made me question my sanity… each climb I thought to myself… “I paid to do this?” The streets turned rivers didn’t help either… but I guess it was a blessing that my shoes were soaked through as my feet were so cold, I couldn’t feel the blisters that had formed and then popped on my feet during my run. I’m certain everyone had the same sentiment about the day… going through the same pain. I heard more than a few people cursing the day. At mile 22 on the dreaded climb uphill, people did more than curse in fact… they grunted in agony and a few actually wept in misery. The streets were littered with people in fierce battles with themselves… mind versus body… and I was one of them. Limping in sheer pain like so many of my fellow runners… grimacing with every step. I had to walk mile 22… I had nothing left like so many around me. It was then the noise from the crowd started kicking in… the screams of “You can do it!”… The crowd of people braving the same elements we were, calling people’s names… “Go John!” Total strangers would call, kindly offering their encouragement… so I started to jog at mile 23… that jog turned into a steady yet painful run. In pain, I focused on the ground in front of me and said a prayer asking for a little strength. My slow jog then turned into quicker steps and soon I was running again. Mile marker 24 came and went, and my body was growing more and more unhappy, but I kept going… mile marker 25 brought more cheers from the crowds with a few hi-fives. “One more mile!” the crowd shouted… so I pressed on. The last mile seemed to last for eternity... running toward the finish felt like the longest mile of my life... but I finished… I ran 26.2 miles. Wet,cold, in pain, tired... but oddly satisfied and happy. I can't wait for the next one!

(By the way, to give you an idea of how cold and miserable it was… one of the guys I carpooled with was taken to the hospital having suffered from hypothermia… that’s right! Hypothermia! Sadly, there were quite a few people in the hospital being treated for the same thing…)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


My wife bought me a display for my medals and racing bibs. I have them all proudly displayed in the loft against an empty wall. I like looking at them. They are physical reminders of what is possible through commitment, determination, hard work, focus, and maybe a little bit of crazy. They are finishers medals… given to anyone that finishes an event. As long as you walk across that finish line before the cut off time, you’re assured one. The fact that all finishers receive one doesn’t make it any less valuable to me though. From the fourteen year old sharing a moment alongside mom and dad, to the 75 year old grandmother celebrating life… every finisher gets one… and I like that. After all, to be a finisher not only means I started… but I persevered to the end. Yeah… I like my medals.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dumb training mistakes... the importance of fuel...

I keep making mistakes with the most basic of things when it comes to training… This entire weekend is a great example of how little I put in to use the small bits of training knowledge I have learned over the year. Maybe it’s that I suffer from that horrible affliction known as “middle-aged-guy-forgets-he’s-not-18-anymore-itis” (look it up, it affects most men over the age of 30). But although I have read the basics of training and will even talk to that knowledge in any number of circles, I don’t always practice them myself… simply put… sometimes, I’m just dumb.
I went for a moderate ride yesterday. Short distance of an out and back route of an hour and a half. First half of the ride is uphill, which means having to grind it out… which honestly, I’m not very good at. I chose a spinning gear and went to work trying to keep up with my training partner who made the ride seem easy. After about 45 minutes we finally hit the steepest portion of the ride to where our turnaround would be… he made it first and I slowly followed, but he looked fresh and I looked like a wet rooster that was just de-feathered. I had to unclip and climb off the bike to get my bearings… light seemed to fade in and out momentarily… I was getting light-headed… I started losing feeling in my extremities… I was done. I knew my mistake… I underestimated the ride and over estimated my fitness… I didn’t fuel before leaving the house which is maybe the rookiest of all rookie mistakes to make. Luckily I was smart enough to bring electrolyte gel and water. I downed both… and after spending a few moments laying on the bike path I felt my energy level come back… I was ready to ride again… mistake behind me.
So, I woke up this morning swearing I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. I gave myself plenty of time to eat and stretch before heading out to run 18 miles. In fact, I gave myself so much time the sun was shining pretty brightly and it felt unusually warm. But, I had to get in 18 miles today so I headed out with 2 electrolyte gels and 2, 12 oz bottles of water strapped to my fuel belt. I ran from Lake Forest up Irvine Blvd thru the city of Irvine to the city of Tustin… the heat wasn’t horrible, but I found myself needing the water… I was thirsty and by mile 12 I was out of water… Another dumb rookie mistake. I didn’t drink enough water the day before and had nothing more than a glass of water during breakfast… I was thirsty and I had 6 more miles to run and it was getting warmer. I had no choice but to gut it out and finish my run… by mile 16.5 I started feeling the cramps in my left calve… my body stopped sweating and the salt on my skin was dry… I was dehydrated for sure and my body was letting me know it was not happy with me. I finished my run though… but I felt even dumber…
Maybe I needed this weekend… maybe it will sharpen me for the upcoming LA marathon and my training leading up to the OC Tri… Maybe? If anyone sees a guy laying on the side of a trail somewhere with the stink of utter stupidity… please slap him…