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.
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.
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.)
|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.|
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...