Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Naperville Marathon: “GO”

My third-and-a-half attempt at this post. I apologize as this has turned into a mishmash of thoughts that I continue reformulating. This recap has been more challenging than the race I just ran. It’s a challenge to say what I want to say in a way that I perceive would be topically appropriate and genuine to others, while avoiding taking that wrong turn down a path that leaves everyone feeling dirty, offended or disgusted. I’d really like to assemble a humorous and attention grabbing piece that is #1 on the billboard and leaves you with a poignant message that makes you go “hmmmm…” But it’s a challenge. What exactly am I ‘recapping,’ after all? Initially it was this: I ran a time I wanted to run. Period. So let out your ooo's and ahh's now. Ooooooooo. Ahhhhhh. Everybody jump and shout. But not sure I'll go that route now. For me, in this moment, writing about achieving a time in a race feels so indescribably self-centered, I am pretty sure I have no way to do this without sounding like a total DB (dirtbag or douchebag, I guess you can take your pick). I don't want to be a DB. So maybe I won’t write about that today.

It is kind of ironic. I merely want to preserve my memories of the race and what I was feeling/thinking. If, at the same time, I can also connect with others in some profound way then mission accomplished. Sounds kind of romantic too, doesn't it? But, when it comes down to it, this is just something I wanted to do. I didn't do it for anyone but myself. I haven’t even got started here yet and see how unabashedly terrible I sound? To flip things around a bit though, I don’t want to be congratulated, I certainly don’t deserve it. Even bringing this up feels risky: the perception of entitlement, asking through not asking for some kind of prize. Good grief. Definitely not. I achieved what I wanted yeah, and it felt great, but I’m not a hero. Veterans Day was yesterday, and I’m not a veteran. (Thank you to our veterans!) It feels good to get the tweets and FB congrats. But it also feels slightly dirty. I didn't give money to the poor. I didn't spend time with my family (during the race). I wasn't saving the lives of farm animals. I wasn't running for any worthy cause this time. I was running my third marathon this year which my wife will quickly tell you is three too many. And I’m not fast. What? Yes, I’m not fast. First to admit it. I can show you fast runners, buddy/honey, and they ain't me. No speed records will ever be broken by this guy. I will keep plugging away, but I’m zero threat to anyone. I’m just a regular guy with periodic weird behavior trying to improve. So what the hell am I writing about here?

This write-up is also difficult because I was and continue to be short-sighted. I went around the Monopoly board the whole time thinking, “Get to ‘GO.’ Get to ‘GO.’ Just gotta get to ‘GO.’” And never thought about what to do once I reach ‘GO.’ Okay so maybe Monopoly is a bad example to explain my thinking. More dirt and scum to wade through here. Sorry. Anyway, I achieved my goal. Alas, I’m ungoaled. As soon as I crossed the finish line on Sunday I changed into that neurotic runner without a cause. Oh poor me, I know. Twitchy, edgy, agitated, depressed, idle, confused, and full of mixed emotion.  More poor me. So I sit here and look at this screen and wonder why you’re looking at this. Me too, onlooker, me too.

Perhaps fortunately this is not going to be my typical race recap. I have very little specific detail that I can recall from the race.  And I’m not going to drag this out by pretending to know what happened. (It really is a blur.) I took some notes on Sunday however, so let’s see what we came away with…

Two from my BRC crew, Lynton and Erin, and dog Kiku, were there at the race. They went to cheer me on. Quite simply, that was the best part of the day. They saw me at miles 11, 15.5, 19/19.5, 26, and the finish. Five or six times. It was motivating and I was just happy to see them there.  At 19.5, we even exchanged stellar side-fives that would make the likes of Jeff H. proud. They totally energized me. Later I found out Erin was giving updates to the rest of the BRC folks via FB.  And at the post-race, I got a call from two other amazing BRC'ers Meredith L. and Annabelle W. who both just rocked each of their races the day before. Totally appreciated that! Thank you again for all your support gang!
The BRC Crew
I was also fortunate to meet up with fellow dailymilers Charlyn C. and Britt K. (along with Erin) before the race. We chatted, took some group pics, and then got ready to race.

Impromptu Twitter/DM Meetup
Weather: it was chilly. I was ready for a cool race, but not a cold race. It was 30 degrees and a constant brisk breeze made it feel like the low 20’s. It seemed windy in every direction. In the last couple days leading up to the race, I struggled with race apparel, and finally decided that I didn't want to be cold wearing a singlet, so I went with long sleeves.
Weather Forecast
Hourly Forecast
Also, in the week leading up to the race, I kept repeating in my head my target pace, which was actually a range and not one specific pace. I wanted to maintain a pace between 6:40 and 6:50 per mile.  I knew I could stay within that range for 90%, and if I slowed in the last 10% I’d be safe knowing that I had already banked a nice cushion. “6:40-6:50, 6:40-6:50, 6:40-6:50…” Over and over. I stuck to my pace range pretty close, perhaps slightly faster at times, but according to the race markers it was about right where I needed to be.  The pacing strategy worked out really well. I liked having a 10-second range to play in rather than focusing on a single split the entire race which drove me crazy in past marathons.

"I wasn't the only one with this."
After the race I found that a few others measured the course at about 26.7 miles, as my own GPS watch recorded. Something was a little fishy there. If the course was exact, I ran a 6:48 pace.  If my watch was right, I ran a 6:41 pace. I’m not going to argue, but it makes you go, “hmmmm...” 

Aside from pace, I focused on staying loose, holding my form, and running the tangents every chance I got. I didn't let my neck stiffen up and shook out my arms every few miles. I noticed several people ahead of me following the outsides of curves, and couldn't figure that out. Those seconds add up and they are unnecessary. I didn't want to waste any extra seconds so I ran the tangents like a mutha. With all the curves in this race, it kept me actively engaged.

The course will wind in a large loop through paved streets and on the crushed limestone trails of forest preserves before returning to streets and neighborhood paths to finish back near the start.” The website’s description doesn't mention the couple hills in the race.  Most of it was pretty flat, but there are at least two killer hills (killer compared to Chicago’s Mt. Roosevelt anyway). One, in mile 21, was quite large and slowed my pace significantly. This hill rose and rose and the trail was the aforementioned crushed limestone, so not the best footing.  A biker had stopped to watch the race.  He watched me climb. Gravel is not my favorite thing to run on, especially uphill. I waited for some kind of snarky cyclist comment, but instead he gave me words of encouragement and it helped immensely, “This is the hardest part of the race, after this it’s all downhill.” I knew he wasn't completely forthcoming but I believed him that this was the hardest part.  It’s what I needed to hear at that point when my pace kept getting slower. I got over the hill and tried to get my pace back where I needed it to be. (Thank you unknown but kind biker dude.)
My GPS Route
What a Course! It Winds and Winds and Winds Some More - Watch Your Tangents

Right at or just after mile 26 was, and excuse my French but, one bitch of a little hill. Some evil person planned this part of the course. We may as well have been scaling a brick wall at that point, two-tenths of a mile before the end.  Fortunately it was a shorter climb even if steeper than the other one, and we hit the matching downhill immediately after which thrust you straight into the finish, assuming you didn't tumble on your way down; it was effin' steep.

The worst part of the race was something that I carried with me from mile 16 to 26.2: GI distress. I wanted to stop but that wasn't in the cards. So I did want any self-absorbed DB runner would do and held it in. I had no real intention of being one of those people finishing with something running down their leg, though if it had come to that, I wonder if I could have gone through with it.  I hoped and hoped what I was feeling was just gas, but no gas was passed. The discomfort remained but thankfully got through the remainder of the race without anyone the wiser. Although you know about it now. I visited the port-a-potty as soon as we got out of the finish area and the crisis was averted.

Another highlight of this race was that my hamstring did not bug me very much during the run. I remember thinking, “oh hey, I kind of notice it right now, yep, it’s there, but it’s not too bad, cool, I’ll just keep on going…” at about 8.5 or 9.5 miles in, but after that I don’t think I thought it about it much more.  I’m not sure, maybe I was just in a zone. But that was a first in a long time not to feel it screaming at me. (Thank you Running Institute and thank you Molly at Novacare!!!) After the race it was angry again, but I was okay with that.

I like beer
I like beer.
The next best part? Erin magically pulls a six-pack from the trunk of the car! With some behind-the-scenes fanagling they were able to stash some beer for the post-race, and voilà, wunderbar! I think I had known Erin was planning something, but I totally forgot about it that day. So when they pulled out some Founders Centennial IPA I was overjoyed. I probably would have started crying, but I’m working on building my tough guy perception (a.k.a., my gruff, macho, mustache-toting appearance) since I’m actively participating in Movember.

So those are my thoughts about the Naperville Marathon. I’ll end this without mentioning, “PR,” or other things I've already sickeningly spewed immediately after the race because once again the best parts were the companions who were there with me before, during, and after the race. (I know, I’m so sappy.) The worst part of course was my gastrointestinal woes that added fear, loathing, discomfort and pressure. The beer was the cherry on top. The rest was a blur.

After a couple years of looking forward to my own version of “GO,” and making my way around the Monopoly board, I've arrived at “GO.”

So now what? Well, perhaps that isn't so hard to figure out after all. In the game, you start over and go around the board once more...  

GO

16 comments:

  1. Great recap Ken. Congrats. Awesome job especially with those killer hills and the GI distress. I wonder how far you actually ran? I'm gonna believe you ran that fantastic time in 26.7 miles which would make it even more incredible! :) Anyway, nice surprise by Erin at the end with the beer. I hope at my next PR someone whips out some beer for me!

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    1. Dude, let me know. I would be happy and honored to bring the beer to your next PR. :) And thanks for the comment Pete. Appreciate that.

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  2. Screw how others "might" perceive you. You worked hard and achieved one kick ass goal. Whether it's sub 3, sub 4 or whatever be proud of your accomplishment! You might not have done it for anyone but yourself, but you are inspiring loads of us out there who are chipping away at various time goals. Why accept mediocrity? I'm still blown away that you were able to take so much time off on that course even with the GI distress. Without sounding too sappy you along with a few others really inspire me to do better. And that with work ethic, those seemingly far off goals may just be within reach. Congrats on the sub 3! Badass!

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    1. Charlyn you are so sweet. Thanks for that. I think you are a kickass runner. I definitely admire you because I've struggled pacing people before, and doing it in a marathon, well... that's huge props. Great to see you Sunday and hope we get to meet up again soon!

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  3. You're too self-aware for be a DB...plus I'll call you out ;) And, you ARE fast, faster than more than 90% of all runners out there. And by "out there" I mean, in the WORLD.

    You can hold your chin up for this one, it's OK.

    Also, I have a copy of wired magazine for when you want to be humbled, a great article about the Boston bomb squad...made me cry on my flight to day, and reminded me why we're still plugging away at this.

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    1. Yeoch. Well how do I respond to that AB? Thx. :) And yes, I'll take you up on the Wired article. Sounds like something I should read.

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  4. Dude. Agreed; you're much too self-aware for the DBaggery you seem to think you're rockin'. You've had an amazing year, after a pretty rocky start, and you have played such a pivotal role in so many people's training this year, more than you will ever know, my friend. Revel in the accomplishment that is the coveted sub-3; revel in the hard work that you've put in over the past year and all the years of running and racing leading up to Sunday's performance; and revel in the knowledge that you're just getting started, bro. It was a joy more than you will ever know to be able to witness and support you on Sunday. You're an incredible runner, genuinely one of my besties and closest friends, and an amazing human being. So proud of you. :) and so happy to see your racing year culminate in such a cool experience. Love you bro!!!

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    1. Thx Erin! Was great having you there at the race and seeing you and Lynton on the course. I had a great time, thanks for making it a fun experience. Definitely wouldn't have been the same had I gone alone. :)

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  5. I wish I had some new wisdom to contribute here, but I agree with what everyone else has said. It's not about the specific time. It's about the fact that you've had this goal for so long (how long specifically, I don't know), and you finally achieved it. And that is what allows you to connect with other runners. More importantly, that's what's worth celebrating and being proud of. Congrats again! Love the Monopoly analogy too.

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    1. Okay, okay, maybe you guys are right. I don't know though. It still feels strange to talk about it, but I'm gonna go with the flow here and say, okay, fine, woohooo! :) Thanks Austin. Always appreciate your support too. Next time I'm in your area you'll have to show me the trails...

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  6. We all have that thing that we do for our own pleasure—it’s fundamental to being unique, and we all think we are, right? How we choose such things, however, is a big fat mystery, but, this is neither here nor there. More important is the idea that knowing yourself as an integral part of recognizing the importance of others. Afterall, how can you expect to love others in the way you love yourself, unless you know who you are?
    So you love to run, for whatever reason--you love exploring the running capabilities of this vessel that you’ve inherited. In my mind this is reason enough enjoy your accomplishment—you now know you can a marathon under 3-hours, but even better, you know it has made you very happy, and happiness is infectious. It leaches over into every corner of your life, to the quality of your work, and to the people around you. But, if your running must be part of something larger than yourself, then I’ll give something. I’ll give you a few things. First, if you believe that the aesthetics of place influenced by running (think Portland) are superior to those influenced by driving (think LA), then you are part of an urban aesthetic movement. With enough of us, we could demand a built environment that would be great for runners. Look at what happened for bicycle commuting in this town. Second, you are a part of cutting healthcare cost. Studies of running and longevity are rather disappointing, but what it does extend is the time you can be self-sufficient. When people become disabled, they become very expensive to care for, and being a runner can help avoid disability. Third, this goes hand-in-hand with the first one, is that running is a mode of self-powered transport, and self-powered transport is a player in the salvation of our environment (of course, this only any good if we’re not driving to some place to run).
    So, there you go, but I would go back to an initial point and that is to run because it makes you feel happy and a happy Ken is best for family and friends. There’s certainly no shame in that.

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    1. Awesome points there Lester. Yeah I had totally lost sight of some of these things you point out. Think I was stuck in a dark place after the race because everything I looked forward to this year has come to an end, so to speak. I really appreciate your thoughts and taking time to read.

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  7. My pleasure. It's been a great year for you, and I can't blame you for wanting to stay in this place in time, rather than face a mysterious future with a goal you're not sure you'll attain--ever. Reminds of this great short story by Harlan Ellison about this guy who goes to this bookstore (libarary?) and finds that everyone there is completely and utterly engrossed in the book their reading. The bookkeeper (librarian?) hands him a book, and when he opens it he see this scene of him as a kid making a spectacular catch of a fly ball that was hit to him in a baseball game--the greatest moment of his life up to that point, and he falls headlong into the same story, over and over again. But, at some point he realizes that the reason why everyone is so absorbed by their books, and it's because they have become addicted to that moment and only care to live it over and over again rather than proceed with their lives. So what does the guy do? He leaves the store (library?) and drives off to live the mystery of the rest of his life.

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    1. Ha, yes, exactly. I'm looking forward to new challenges, but I suppose I'm desiring some small amount of downtime before I really settle down and decide that I'm ready to chase that next one. Thanks again!

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  8. Congrats again on your finish! You rocked that course! My garmin said 26.67 miles total, which does kind of tick me off because thats quite a discrepancy there. Maybe all those turns? There certainly were quite a few.

    It was fabulous to meet you!

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    1. Though I have an idea as to how they measure these courses even saw a vid on it, I would still like to know how accurate that measurement is. So strange that it was my longest marathon ever, ha. Awesome to meet you in person too Britt!

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