Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finish Line: Is that... is that Billy?

Marathon. A word that has always scared me, a distance that I once believed to be too far to run my mere mortals. Yet on this day, I was running the Marathon, along with many of my friends and thousands of others all gathered to accomplish their own personal goals. Mine was to finish.

The traditional origin of the marathon comes from the story how a herald named Phidippides ran the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory and died on the spot. This fact creeped into the back of my mind the last few miles of the race, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Its November 27, 2008, Thanksgiving Day, 18 days until race day... I have yet to run since the Prairie Man where I had set a new life time distance running record with 13.1 miles. I embark on 11 mile run in desperation to get ready for the White Rock Marathon. This would be the longest run that I do before the race, along with 4 other "training" runs that I would get in before the big day, not enough.

I wake up after a restless night of sleep to see that my poor Summer is sicker than I ever remembering seeing her. She can barely talk and is trying to get up to come cheer for me in the race. You think I am stubborn, you have no idea what stubborn is... I beg her to stay in bed because its not worth coming to see me crash and burn in my first Marathon that I have no business ever running in the first place.
Brooke arrives and we head down to the ACC together as we talk about how the race is going to go, wondering where Billy is, and what kinda under armor we are going to wear to Frisbee next Saturday. We get in line in the A coral right near the front of the start, and I am climbing on these mechanical lifts looking for Billy. The national anthem is played and the F-16 flys over our heads... I laugh like a little kid because its so cool. Then I realize that the race is about to start...

As the wheel chair group starts I get very calm but excited because I heard they will be shooting confetti into the air at the start of the race. Well they were not kidding, the gun goes off and here we go, confetti everywhere!! I have my mouth open like a kid trying to catch snow on his tongue in the winter time, I'm sure I am getting many odd looks from those around me, including Brooke. I make my way up towards downtown as I am dodging slow runners, DART tracks, and mounds of horse poo all the while trying to keep my nerves down because I have a long race ahead of me. The first few miles go by in what seems like a couple minutes, wouldn't that be nice for the whole race to feel like this, right. The weather was not what I was expecting, I was ready for freezing weather, not high humidity and 25 mph winds. Luckily there was not much wind to deal with..... that was until you got to the lake.

There was a point during the run where I felt like my stomach was about to do its back flip routine like it was practicing for cirque de soleil. And right about the time I got to the lake it all went down hill from there, I had to stop 6 times during the run around the lake, and I felt bad every time cause Brooke waited for me. I know she was going for a time and I did not want to be the one to slow her down. Thankfully we were making good time so we didn't loose much. My legs are still doing well, we are right on pace and I think that I might just be able to stick this out to the end. At the halfway mark we pass with a time of 1:48... or so... still doing well. But I get around the halfway point, it hits, the wind is here and blowing right into my face. There was actually one point where the wind blew so hard it stopped me in my tracks... now I don't know if that is an account of how slow I was running or how hard the wind was blowing, I like to think it was the wind.

So I told Brooke that I would keep her on pace and run with her for as long as I possibly could, not knowing what I was going to be capable of I did not promise that I would be there at the finish. I tried to make things positive in my head and not thinking my body slowing shutting down, little things like saying "New Record!" after every mile marker we went by after mile 13. I did not want to let her down so I pushed myself as far as I could to stay with her... but with the wind and lack of training... that limit was reached at mile 17. My legs were turning into stone and my heart rate had jumped up to 170. I walked through the next AID station making sure I get enough Gatorade and water as Brooke looked back to slow down for me. I waived her on and said, "I will catch up to you, keep going."... she exclaimed, "You better!"... but I knew it was over for me. I come up to mile 18 and fumble my way off the course and throw up beside the lake, my legs seize up and I start to contemplate the idea that I might not finish this race. But, I am too stubborn to just give up, so I get back up and get back in this race.

I tell everyone I don't have any goals going into this race, or its just to finish, blah blah... but that's a lie, I wanted to go under 4 hours really bad. After I hit the wall at 18 I started running again where the course made its way through the hilliest (is that a word?), if not then here we go: Hilliest: A region or area that is full of hills. There we go Shakespeare, new word. So I have to walk up alot of these hills, as well as all the water stations, which I never enjoyed because as soon as I got past the stations I had to fight my gag reflex for the next quarter mile to just keep fluids down. I passed a small beer station, and from what I hear its tradition to have one, so I did... it was terrible... but I did it. To this point it has not only been a physical challenge but a mental one. It was obvious my body wanted no part in finishing this race, neither did my head, but I did not have the heart to quit and as bad as these last few miles have been I am still in position to make it under 4 hours. At mile 23, 5K left, I make the decision, I will make this.

After mile 23, something happened to my legs that I have never had to deal with before, cramps and muscle spasms. Now I have had cramps before but that usually happens when I am in a deep sleep after trying to keep up with Billy in a mini tri the day before, and I am rudely awaken by a nice calf cramp. We have all been there. Well this was happening while I was running, if I pulled too hard my hamstring locked up, if I pushed of my toes to fast my calfs cramped, if I bent my knee too much my quads seized... it was a night mare. With two miles left, I felt like I was running like Forest Gump, straight legs, little motion, goofy look on my face. At one point a hamstring cramp hit me and brought me to the ground, I got up and tried to stretch it out while standing, this in turn made my quad lock up, and then I pulled so hard back my hamstring AND calf spasmed haha. I imagine it looked like Elaine from Seinfeld on the dance floor.

FINISH LINE: Is that Billy?!
I just passed the 26 mile mark... its almost over... I can relax, or can I? Coming down the home stretch there is no part of my life that wants to keep chugging along but I can see on my watch that I am 30 seconds away from 4 hours. I come within 100 yards of the finish and I see the clock reads 3:59.42..... 43....... 44...... Oh no, I am not going to make it. I am not about to just not make it, I did not just run 26.1 miles to miss 4 hours by 3 seconds!!! So I sprint, now I say sprint, but in the video you can clearly see, that ain't no sprint, but sure felt like it. I am 20 yards from the finish and I see this guy running in a black shirt, with Billy... "Talk dirty to me" on the back. ITS BILLY!!! I see he is cruising up to the finish but I only have 10 more seconds to finish. As I am about to approach him, I think to myself... "Man, I hope I don't make him mad for running by him at the last second." But I wanted to get under 4!! I know he started about 4 minutes behind me so he was all good. So I pass him and hit the finish line.... 3:59.57.... I made it, its over.... its over.

I have conquered the Marathon and I cant believe I made it.... though next time, I think I will get some good practice in before hand. Thank you to Katie and Mrs. Self for cheering us all the way home, you have no idea how much it helps to be out there and see a familiar face. Though all the Hooters girls at mile 19 wasn't too bad either. Congratulations to all who finished, you are amazing and I am so proud of everyone who challenged themselves to get their goals and reach them. After all is said and done it was honestly the most miserable experience of my life, I am still sore, still patching up bad chaffing wounds, feet are bruised, oh and I Loved every second of it!!! :)

If pain is weakness leaving the body, I must a superhero, but then Summer touches my legs and I whimper like a little baby.... so much for the Superhero part!!

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