So, if your yardstick for success is simply finishing a marathon, then I won. On May 6, I plodded out 26.2 hilly miles through Cincinnati, Ohio for the 12th annual Flying Pig Marathon. I finished in 4 hours 23 minutes at a 10 minute pace. Add to this, I did not injure myself as I had last year. This year I even ran, slowly and gingerly, a 5 mile recovery run four days later.
To non-runners, impressive. To a lot of people, not too shabby at all. And I know the time and the finish is not.
Still, like any runner I know I am driven. My ‘I’ll be happy goal’ was under 4 hours. My super secret goal was 3:40. From either perspective, I failed. And I knew I failed long before I crossed the half-way point.
Climbing up the hill that is Gilbert Ave. into the scenic Eden Park my stomach began to roil. After I made it to the top of the first set of inclines that mark mile 7-8 of the course I knew I needed to make an unplanned pit stop. I stood with other poor runners, many other poor runners, waiting their turn as my stomach churned, watching lines of people trot past and feeling the clock tick. I lost about 5 to 6 minutes on the venture, and my pace group.
My whole plan was pacing with one of the official groups. I foolishly tried to play catch up after the detour. I never did. My stomach made itself known again right after mile 13. I lost another 6 minutes. And I cursed myself for overeating the day before.
I sucked it up after this and got back on the road, running too fast for pace trying to make up some finish time. By mile 18 or 20 (they blurred) I hit my wall. The thing is I don’t think the wall was anything more than facing self defeat. I kept seeing time from the big digital clocks along the route and I knew my 4 hour goal was sliding away quickly. And with no one to push with I finally started the run-walk routine — for at least five miles.
I finally found myself striding up beside the 10:30 pace group about a mile and a half out and stayed with them until I realized I had more than enough left to finish strong(er). My family cheered at the finish line. That big digital clock also signaled how much time went by since the 6:30 a.m. race start. I already knew, but it made me just a little more pissed.
It’s been hard to not whine a little (okay, a lot), or come up with excuses. I ran a faster race on 4 stress fractures than I did healthy!
My second marathon experience in the end, was what it was. Either I am not as fast as what I think I could be, or I need to figure out how to avoid the ‘wall’ and enjoy the pain of those last six grueling miles. Oh, and maybe watching what I eat and drink pre-race as well.
My start to answering some of those more pressing questions is to focus on my next marathon in the fall. I have four races I’m considering. The Indianapolis Marathon and Columbus Marathon are both relatively flat, and on the same weekend. Other choices include raising money for the Marine Corps Marathon ($500 to get in for charity registration) or Detroit. The last two are races others are targeting for the fall.
In between making up my mind there, I’m contemplating a million little ways to improve.
I signed up for hot yoga. I am swimming 1200 to 1600 meters at least twice a week. I’m considering adding spin classes to my run regiment. I am trying to cobble together a strength training routine, while not knowing what the hell I’m doing at the gym. Basically, I am trying to move beyond just running as part of getting ready. All the cool kids seem to be doing it.
I want to add enough new conditioning, to change my training just enough that I might get faster, that I might leap over that wall. And if I do not, well I will probably keep trying, or I will find, realistically, where my fitness sits.
Of course there is also the mental aspect of it. There is always the mental aspect of it. To get beyond the wall, I must see beyond the wall. Very zen, so to speak. And I know it has only been two weeks, but that’s been rough.
Each short run I attempt (three total as of this writing) has been me grumbling and stomping and saying “I don’t wanna” in my head. All the little negative voices, all the insecurities, creep in and whisper along stride with me. I’m not saying I will ever qualify for a race like Boston, but I at least want to know I can run a sub four-hour marathon with confidence. That’s all.
Of course, is there a training program to combat a negative mentality?