Monthly Archives: December 2009

Identity Pt. 3?

“Do I look like a runner?” – Prefontaine

Holding a primary identity as a runner is such a funny thing in it’s ability to completely consume both your mental and emotional state. For the first day you skip a run you feel like you left running behind for good. The first day of a week off is like you were never a runner at all. The first day off of a month of forced recovery, a needed one, is like you never heard of running in the first place. The first moment of a day where you know you won’t be running you embody the “Once a runner” line, except not in the romanticized “Once a runner, always a runner” sentiment, but rather the “I was once a runner” self-loathing.

It’s inevitable, no matter how fit you might be, no matter what PR you just set, no matter what milestone you just hit, when you aren’t running the last thing you feel like is a runner. You begin to doubt your self-worth and wonder what other interests you have that might replace that great gaping hole in your soul that running once fulfilled. Ultimately, for some of us, we come up empty in that consideration.

I remember in an interview with Ryan Hall where he took some time off to recover he stated that it was good not to run, that he realized he could walk away the sport, that running wasn’t his complete identity. Umm….what the F ever. The only reason he could say that was because he knew all along that he would be back running, that his break was entirely temporary. Sure, maybe he went through that wave of self-doubt during the break and probably at some point accepted his fate and came through with a sense of contentment, but he knows that running was always at the core of his identity. If he had to TRULY walk away from the sport, not ever fulfilling his marathon or olympic dreams, I guarantee he’d have a countless number of sleepless nights.

So, this is all to say that the past 3 weeks have been consumed with a sense of emptiness, not that my life was worthless by any means, but rather that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) engage in an activity that I enjoy so deeply that I simply felt off. My routine was gone. My achievements over the past two years seemed in jeapordy. Overall, without a definitive re-start date, I couldn’t be 100% sure that I’d ever run again. I know, I know, this is a terribly exaggerated statement, but that’s what it felt like. I just wanted to run so bad, partly because it was hard to feel like a runner, and I wanted that feeling back.

But just like that, I’m back. I took 3 complete weeks off after Tecumseh to let my groin/surrounding area heal in time for the next buildup to intense marathon training, and after all that time I tentatively got out sunday for an easy, easy, easy 4 mile run. And it felt good. I mean, my groin pain isn’t completely gone, but it is entirely manageable and not growing worse with each day of running, which is a great sign.

Let me tell you though, for 3 weeks I didn’t feel like a runner. I worried about my less than lean abdomen. I could almost feel my lungs shrinking. I swear my leg muscles shriveled up. But the very second I ran up the road toward the Monon trail everything came rushing back in. My legs turned over with an appearance that advertised their experience. My arms swung robotically. My face showed only a dedication worn in with every step of the past 2 and a half years. No matter how much fitness I have lost since Chicago, I was now a runner again, and it it’s only a matter of time before everything starts working like it once did.

It’s important to always keep in perspective what become essentially obsessions to us, but in contrast to becoming detrimentally consumed with one thing, it’s also pretty terrible to deny what we love all the same. One day “I was (once a runner)” will ring true, but for now it’s, “Once a runner….always a runner.”

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The tentative plan…

Michelle and my good friend Kevin bought me Matt Ebersole (sounds weird eh?) for Xmas. Matt is the coach whose workouts I loosely followed leading up to Chicago, but now he’s my specific coach for the next year. This week is a very basic 30 mile week, just feeling out my groin to make sure it’s good for more effort, and making sure I’m also mentally back in the game for more mileage. I can already say, without a doubt, I’m ready for more mileage mentally, but I’m not making any assumptions about my physical state until the week is over. So far, so good though.

Other than that, I still haven’t discussed this with Matt yet, as it’s still early in the game, but my tentative plan is to shoot for the Traverse City marathon on May 29th. This would allow me to run a May marathon, giving me 4 – 5 months of dedicated training as well as allowing me to run the Indy Mini-Marathon. The one concern is that this is too close to training for Chicago in relation to recovery time. These considerations will all be hashed out later though.

For now, we’re just getting started. Stick around.

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Tecumseh Trail Marathon 2009 – Race recap – 2nd half

When I passed Kyle I kept on at the pace, just to make sure he was going to drop off for good, which as I mentioned he did. I’m not gonna lie, despite my ever-tiring legs and concern for what was to come during this second half of the race, overall my mood picked up considerably. No matter what finishing time I ended up with now, I was pretty excited that I had a really good chance of entering the final stretch around Yellowwood lake alone and then finishing in first place. I rode that wave of positivity for the following stretch of miles that pulled me back into the twisting turning singletrack of Tecumseh. Again, all alone I pushed on down the trail and although I had a few minor ankle rolls along the way, nothing was shutting down my pace. Still, I hadn’t forgotten about the competitor behind me and I kept this in mind while I tried to keep moving strong, hoping it would always be just fast enough to make it out of the woods first.

Then the hills kept coming, which I expected. Each one began breaking down my spirit and pace as I struggled to climb each winding path, worrying about just how slow I was going up them and how much 2nd place might be making on me if they were running stronger than I. Then suddenly I noticed that the turns and hills looked rather familiar and soon enough I realized I was now on the portion of the course that I had been training on for the past month, which I knew would only benefit me as I could flow through the turns easier, knowing which way the trail darted after crashing across streams and creek beds. I found myself on a longer stretch of flattened trail at the bottom of the hills and I pushed as hard as I felt was safe enough to go considering I still had a good number of miles to cover, with some pretty rough hills up ahead too.

I came through the flat ground and started towards a group of volunteers manning an aid station when I heard one of them call out, “Good job Kyle!” Then with a tone that attempted to cover their mistake, “Looking good..Scott?” Apparently word had not spread that Kyle went down and dropped out. I went through the station without grabbing any fluid, but pulled out the 3rd Gu packet from my glove and did my best to choke it down. I passed another volunteer who questioned to me, “You passed Kyle?” “Yeah,” I breathed out, “I don’t know what happened to him.” “Me either!” they yelled back. I ran further down the packed dirt road and heard that familiar second cheering coming from behind as the next runner came out of the woods. Just then I darted back into the woods, ran through the deepest stream on the course, filling up my shoes with icy water, and jumping out the other side to begin a long windy climb upward. Halfway up I had a good view of the road 2nd place would be coming down, but no one was there yet and I was sure he was comfortably far enough back to continue on without too much concern.

I struggled up that hill and started pushing through a rolling portion of the course that continued to rise steadily, but always kept my pace slow enough to build frustration deep within. I wanted to run faster, but my legs were getting sapped more and more with each hill. Every hill got slower and slower and I found myself grabbing onto trees to push myself up, using every advantage to save any strength I might need as I continued to eat up trail. I looked up and noticed the tree line top out and heard a truck roar by on a road just up ahead. Each portion of the course was more and more familiar and I savored the relief I felt when I popped out onto the pavement that would bring me to one of the last stretches of the course, marked by a couple of the more challenging hills. I took a quick peek back into the woods, but still saw nothing.

I took a turn on the paved road and began descending a steep downhill that would turn back upwards and enter a packed dirt road that brought me to mile 18.5. Of course, just as I took that turn onto the dirt road I heard a spectator yelling for 2nd place, who had obviously made up considerable ground during that last stretch. He was coming and coming hard. Now I was concerned….and seemingly helpless to do anything about it.

I moved up the road and came to the aid station that stood at the last entrance to the trail, of which I passed without grabbing any fluids.

So let me explain something here. I had 3 Gu’s in my gloves and 4 pinned to the inside of my shorts, none of which I pulled out to ingest. Then there were aid stations every 2 -3 miles, which offered cups of gatorade and water in non-pinchable styrofoam cups. Maybe the cups deterred me, or spilling the first few onto my face and hands, or the inability to grab them with my thick gloves, but ultimately I ingested about a total of 1/2 a cup of gatorade the whole race. Aside from that I had choked down 3 Gu packets…..and that was it. THIS, was a huge mistake. I don’t know why I was so lax on not taking fluids, especially considering how paranoid I was about it for my Chicago marathon. For some reason, I just hoped I could run through it, or maybe I thought the cold somehow diminished the need for fluids, but whatever made me decide not to take fluids during the race….it was just plain stupid.

I continued pushing along the familiar trails, anticipating when the hills were coming and started tackling them one by one, trying every mental trick to get up each one. Through all the fatigue and exhaustion I was experiencing I got by simply by making sure that, no matter what, I didn’t walk any portion of the course. Sure, some of the hills had me moving at a pace that was slower than a walk, but with each step I was pushing myself upwards as much as I could muster. I was still grabbing trees to pull me around turns and pushing off of, but at the very least I was making it to the top of the hills and doing my best to recover and let gravity pull me down the declines. Something about the attempt was working because I still couldn’t hear 2nd place at my back, even though with each climb I got more and more concerned that he was coming.

Then soon enough I found myself climbing what I knew was the very last severe climb of the race. There was both a sense of relief and dread filling me as I worked my way up the climb, fighting the urge to put my hands on my legs or just walk enough to rest my weary lungs. Finally, I made it to the top and struggled to find a quicker gear that would bring me down the trail, but not risk bringing me to the ground. My stride was so compromised at this point that I feared tripping over the smallest obstacle and either knocking the wind out of me or something a worse.

The trail then turned sharply down a quick set of stairs and popped me out onto a fire road marked by two pick up trucks and the final aid station, of which I again stupidly ran by without helping myself to any of the nourishment. I caught the volunteers off guard and they did their best to yell some encouragement as I moved up the fire road, but then I heard them yelling again, sooner after I passed, which meant 2nd place was now right on my heels and about to overtake me. So be it, my race was done.

I knew at this point that I was going to be passed and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t going to be able to fight for the lead and I wasn’t going to be able to even hang on. He was the the stronger runner today and I was completely spent, just playing mind games to get me through the final 4 miles. We ran along the last fire road and I was surprised how long it took 2nd place to catch up to me, making me wonder if he wasn’t hurting as much as I was, but then right before we were to turn back into a declining stretch of single track he came up behind me. I was caught. “You’re awesome, go get sub 3.” I managed to gasp out as he jumped in front of me just before the trail. “Way to go man.” he said as he started the descent that would pull him away from me.

We started the winding descent and although I was completely spent I found myself actually staying close enough to be in attacking position if something untapped within me arose to the surface. We popped out at a road crossing at the bottom of the descent and a group of spectators yelled out to us as we passed by, a mere few seconds apart. We now began the run around the lake that would bring us to the finish line, just 3 miles of rolling trail marked by stretches of exposed roots, muddy banks, stream crossings and ankle breaking rocks. Unfortunately, that untapped reservoir of energy was completely dried up and my competitor began his run away from me with each step. I was completely defeated.

Each step was torture as my paced slowed again and again, and this was just the beginning. As I moved around the lake time seemed to stop and every time I looked up it seemed like I hadn’t gotten anywhere at all….the lake just kept stretching and stretching and stretching outward. I was dreading how much further I still had to run. I just wanted to be done. Considering how slow I was going I had even resigned myself to getting passed by a couple more runners, who I was sure were coming up from behind.

Then it got worse.

I noticed a sharp sensation in my stomach and a deep one as well. I wondered if I was going to throw up or completely collapse. I just know I felt terrible. Then it seemed my left eye had filled with fluid and frozen. I tried to blink it away, but nothing happened, so I rubbed it with my glove and found myself wincing with a pain that hit me deep in my eye socket for a good 5 seconds. I was only lucky the trail didn’t turn or I surely would have went down. Then I rolled my ankle again. It was like every function of my body was completely breaking down. I actually found enough strength to laugh at my predicament and maybe that was enough to keep me going, but I found the will to keep stride and slowly move my way through the woods, just hoping no bigger obstacle or rough portion of the trail would take me down, because at this point I wasn’t sure I would have the will to get back up.

Then, like magic, I saw the lake end, which meant the trail was about to spit out onto a dirt road that would mark just over a mile to the finish. I looked at my watch and realized I would not break the 3 hour mark, but all I wanted now was simply to finish…without walking at least. I was relieved to only have a smooth road to contend with and one last relatively small hill to climb. I started working my way up the hill and as I peaked out I felt a strong constriction in my quad muscles, but not enough to keep me from picking up the pace for the last portion of the course.

A couple spectators cheered me on. “Good job Scott, looking good.” I muttered out to them, “That was absolute hell.”

The course turned off the dirt road onto a grass covered stretch that wound through a campground. A very small 5 foot incline brought me into the grass and I joked to a couple spectators, “Damn. Another hill.” They laughed and assured me it was all downhill from there.

I found the will to pick up the pace for the last stretch and ran down the final chute for the finish, unable to work up any sort of sprint and finally crossed the line to a group of cheering spectators. I wobbled to the fence and held myself upright so my number could be pulled from my shirt. I was relieved to see Michelle standing at the finish, certainly for the comfort, but maybe more to have someone hold me up.

I managed to walk myself over to a set of stairs and although I know it wasn’t a good idea, I sat down. A feeling overcame me that would then consume me for the rest of the day, extending into the night even. I found myself completely depleted and began shivering uncontrollably for a good 30 minutes. My back hurt, my ankles hurt, I was incredibly nauseous. I couldn’t imagine eating anything, but I forced myself to take in some bananas and cookies. I started downing cups of water and then realized just how thirsty I was. This continued on for quite some time and things really only felt worse from there on out. It was only when I got a good amount of dinner in me that my world started to return to normal. Even now though, 2 days later, I still have bouts of nausea related to eating. This is what I get for denying fueling during a race.

Lessons Learned….

1. Never, ever, no matter what, underestimate the need for fueling during a marathon. The basis for running a great marathon lies in proper training, such as speed work, hill work, long runs, etc., but ultimately this means nothing on race day if you don’t actually run the race properly. In order to have a good marathon, you have to race it as well as you train for it. This means fueling. You can only run for so long banking on the amount of training you’ve put in, but at some point you are going to have to supplement what you’ve expelled during the race. Duh right? I don’t know what I was thinking, but as I think back more and more on the race, I’m starting to kick myself more and more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I did….I mean, it was still a full marathon I finished….but I can’t help but wonder if the only reason I was passed was because I bonked. If I had taken the time to slow down and take in fluids, I may very well had enough to press on as things got rough. But I didn’t. Lesson learned.

2. I can still run the marathon distance, even with a lack of consistent training, and minor injury. It’s not recommended, but at least I can still do it. I feel accomplished.

3. It was good to be humbled. It was good to do things wrong….because now I know directly the importance of running the race properly. Now I know EXACTLY how it feels to crash. I know how terrible and demoralizing it is. I know what it’s like to have victory in hand and blow it on poor preparation. I know what it’s like to have a foot in my mouth. I now know that I don’t ever want to feel that again and exactly what I must do to avoid it. Coming off Chicago I was concerned at how well the race went, because I didn’t know how to top it, if I could repeat a race that went so smoothly, but now that I’ve crashed and burned, I know what it feels like to run a good race and a bad race. And I know what race I want to run in the future. It’s good to understand the spectrum of the running experience.

And now…….rest. Resting until my legs are without hesitation healed and ready to go again. And by the time that comes, it should be the beginning of the next cycle of training for a spring marathon. Just in time. See you then!

Final Results

Tecumseh Trail Marathon
2nd (out of 700)
3:04:41

Tecumseh Marathon 2009 – Race Report – 1st half

When Michelle drove the truck into the packet pick up parking lot, which was also the finish line for the race, the temperature gauge on her truck read 15 degrees. FIFTEEN! The meteorologist said the low would be 24, not a billion below! For any other day, such discrepancies can be forgiven, but when you’re about to put your body through 26.2 grueling miles of forest, mud, and water, I’d like a more accurate read on the air temperature. For leading up to the race I was fretting enough about what exactly I should wear for the race, ultimately settling on my short shorts, arm warmers, RATT t-shirt and 2 layers of thin gloves, but all it took was a few minutes in that temperature of air and I added leg tights, thick gloves and a long sleeve tech t-shirt under it all. I’m very VERY glad I did.

I boarded one of like 8 buses that drove us almost a complete hour to the start line where we would begin the push back to where we just came. After getting off the bus the lines for the port-a-potty’s quickly formed and everyone’s pre-race rituals commenced. There was stretching, warm up jogs, taking off of clothes, putting on of clothes, nervous laughter, internal freaking out and all other manners of weird runner behavior. After getting ready myself I took my first precarious steps in a grassy area near the start line to start some warmups when within 5 feet I manage to roll my left ankle on an uneven piece of ground. I couldn’t believe it, but fortunately with a little more jogging I ran through the concerning twist. I still felt it about 10 minutes later, but just figured it wouldn’t become a problem. Foreshadowing? Let’s see.

I stood on the start line about 15 runners across, with 600 plus people gathered behind us. I hear someone behind me say to a friend, “Let’s step back away from these….crazy people up front!” I guess yeah, maybe a bit crazy, but still sane, so we’ll call it even.

The race director starts a brief countdown and hits the siren button on his megaphone, sending the front line forward down a stretch of pavement that brought us to a fire road that essentially marked the gates of hell for most of us. Not daring to look back I listened for the numbers of feet hitting around me and was surprised to only hear a couple runners hanging out, breathing strong in the cold air. We turned off the pavement and into the fire road, which would pull us a good mile or so before actually entering into the singletrack that was the Tecumseh trail itself. We beat along the path and that’s when I realized there were only 3 of us together, not another runner even close. One of us I knew of and expected to win this race, the other guy I had no clue who he was.

We pushed along the fire road, bouncing along on leaf covered ground and patches of icy ruts dug into the ground by trucks and foresting machinery. Then after a few quick inclines and drawn out hills I noticed it was only two of us. I felt pretty good considering and it seemed my breathing was in much better control than my competitor as we ran side by side down the wide open fire road. Then all of a sudden we hit a volunteer directing us into the single track that immediately descended on a back and forth snaking downhill. My competitor (Kyle) got out in front of me before we hit the course and started along the trail….precariously. His pace was not what I was expecting and I found myself right at his back, not only far too close for comfort, but also unable to get a good sight on my footing, which concerned me since I didn’t want to risk rolling on my ankle again, or going down as I had during training. I knew what this terrain was like and not having a good sight line is a terrible way to run the course.

Kyle and I picked our way down the back and forth descent when all of a sudden the third place runner who had dropped off came barreling into my peripheral vision. He was absolutely charging down the hill and I was annoyed that we were not going to get away from him. With a kindness that even surprised myself considering the context I said to kyle, “Mind if I take the lead?” of which he obliged. Instantly I surged ahead and started tearing down the hill trying to put more distance between us and 3rd place. Soon enough we bottomed out and started a snaking trail that turned upward and started pulling the breath right out of our lungs. We burned up the hill and spit out onto another fire road when I tried to make my case to Kyle. “Looks like he’s going to…..try and move on us…..on the downhills.” With a response that sounded too cocky for my tastes, he says, “Yeah…he thinks that’s his thing.” Maybe it was his thing, but I’d rather not give him the opportunity to use it against us.

Now, this course didn’t have mile markers, but there were supposed to be aid stations every 2 to 3 miles, which still isn’t very good for gauging where we were in the race, but this time around I preferred that. I didn’t want to know how many more miles of grueling hills we were going to have to endure. So, for quite sometime Kyle and I ran along by ourselves, myself still holding the lead and pulling us through all sorts of craziness, whether it was snaking uphills that killed our lungs and legs, speeding downhills that trashed our quads, or precarious cold water stream crossings that filled our shoes with icy water. We just kept running at a pace that trail running usually dictates for me, but honestly was probably a little too fast for the full marathon distance. I was just expecting one of us to break sooner or later. Guess who I was rooting for?

We continued on alone through the woods, not exchanging a single word between us, when suddenly something broke the eery silence. Was that banjos? I couldn’t help think to myself, “Is this a joke? Is someone pulling a ‘Deliverance’ prank on us? But as we drew closer to the music a familiar tune came from the woods….”Run Run Rudolph”. Suddenly we ran by a number of yard signs that had the lyrics posted every 20 feet or so. We pounded out of the woods to a road crossing that had a fluids table manned by jolly volunteers fighting off the cold air with xmas music blaring from loud speakers. Maybe I became distracted by the change in environment, but when I went to grab for a cup of fluid all of a sudden I heard people yelling at me. I turned to find that Kyle had darted into the woods and I had completely missed the trail re-entrance, which was forgiveable seeing as how the fluids table was placed AFTER the turn. Taken a back I quickly bushwacked through some saplings and made my way back onto the course, trying to make up the ground I had lost without sacrificing too much strength.

We instantly hit a winding hill trail and I estimated I was now 5 seconds back. This seemed to be a window for Kyle as he made a move to lose me on my screw up. And it worked. At the top of the hill we hit another fire road and suddenly I was 8 seconds back and continuing on I was then 10 seconds then 15, then all of a sudden, like magic, he was gone. I hadn’t slowed down our pace really, so it was obvious that he made a move to leave me behind and really laid it on. I could only hope it was too much. Now I was all alone, trying to move solidly down the hills and quickly back up, just hoping that I was slowly closing the gap on him again, but every time I looked up the trail I saw…..nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was like he vanished into thin air. My only consolation was that no one was in sight behind me either. I was simply all alone.

And so I ran all alone, through all the ankle rolling roots peeking from the leaves, through the icy stream crossings, up all the snaking hills and down the other side, just like I had done every weekend leading up to this race. I don’t know how many miles I covered like this, but it went on for quite some time. And it wasn’t even half-way yet.

Then I heard something, someone yelling encouragement, then silence. And soon enough I popped out of the trail to another group of volunteers manning a fluid station, which meant Kyle couldn’t have been too far ahead as I heard others yelling for him, and as I ran up a short stretch of paved road I looked up to see Kyle accelerating over the top of the hill. Turns out he hadn’t disappeared, or gotten lost, or even ran away from me. He was still in relative reach. I started moving up the hill trying to make up more ground and was hitting the top when I heard more yelling from the volunteers below. “Crap, someone’s not far behind.” I dared not look back.

I moved my ever tiring legs along the road before it turned onto a packed dirt road that ran by a handful of rural houses and down a hill to a major road. I came to the busy back pavement and just as I was about to cross on auto-pilot a 4×4 comes barreling down the street and I have to hit the brakes lest I end up like so many deer that line those hidden roads. The truck flies by without slowing for a second and I make it across before turning back onto another dirt road that would bring me to the half-way point. I move down the road when all of a sudden a volunteer coming the other way vehemently warns me about the ice on the coming bridge. “Be VERY CAREFUL, the bridge is VERY ICY. Be VERY CAREFUL!” You got it. I come to the bridge crossing, about 15 – 20 feet across and notice it’s surface completely covered in ice. I find about 3 feet before ice stretched the whole way. Somehow I stutter step and pick my way across without even so much as a slip before making a sharp right hand turn……right into a wall.

Well, so it seemed. I had heard about the infamous hill at half-way, but had yet to really encounter its magnitude. I turned right and was faced with a dirt road that seemingly shot up 90 degrees and just looked like it wasn’t going to ever end. I really can’t convey the severity of this hill, in both grade and length, without you actually seeing and experiencing it. Oddly enough, my only reaction was like, “Oh well, here we go” and I dropped my head to start the rise upwards. And as soon as I start the incline I see Kyle not too far up ahead, still working his way up the hill….walking. Someone was right next to him giving intense encouragement as he struggled up the hill, sometimes jogging sometimes walking. A woman next to me yells, “I don’t think I have to tell you who your competitor is now! You’ve got him in your sights!” I had no breathing room to switch focus from the task at hand so I simply continued moving up the hill, at which point I just told myself, “Don’t walk. Whatever you do, no matter how slow you move, just don’t walk.” I figured that was my best bet at making up more ground on Kyle. He continued to jog and walk, jog and walk as I pressed on.

Then as I made it to the top of the hill I realized that, actually, this wasn’t the top of the hill at all, for when I reached the summit, it abruptly turned and shot uphill again, so I went back to work and continued onward, and when I reached the top again, I realized yet again, this was not. the. top. Adding insult to injury the hill turned YET AGAIN upward. I now fully realized the intensity of the descriptors people used when retelling this part of the course. It was pretty unbelievable. But finally, I reached the ACTUAL top of the hill before it made a turn downhill and veered back into a fire road. I was ecstatic to have that behind me and moved quickly down the hill, Kyle now just seconds ahead of me. We bottomed out and started pulling ourselves up the fire road when without pause I was just a couple strides behind him. Something definitely seemed off with him and I wondered if he had twisted his ankle or something, because I know he was strong enough not to have already blown up halfway through the run. I moved up aside him and questioned, “Are you ok?” He said nothing for a second or two and then replied, “Not really.” And I passed him, never to see him again. I don’t know at which point it happened, but he soon dropped out.

As it turns out, whether this was the defining moment or not, Kyle came across that icy bridge and bit it, apparently pretty hard. I don’t know if it knocked the fight out of him, or injured him, but soon enough he was done. And now it was just me, hoping the next competitor was far enough back that I’d make it to the finish line first.

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Race Results

I’m still way too messed up from the race to write a full report, but expect one soon. In the meantime:

Tecumseh Trail Marathon

2nd place (out of 700)

3:05 and change

It sounds terrible until you know what the terrain was like. As a summary, I led the race in the beginning, then missed a turn at a water stop and lost the guy I was running with. Then he bit it hard on an ice-covered bridge and dropped out after I passed him. Then I led the race all the way to mile 23 before being passed. The winner came in at 2:59 and change.

More details to come.

In all, I’m stoked with my run, even though I felt like utter shit when it was all over. It took me a good 30 minutes before I stopped shivering uncontrollably. But then it was about 6 hours of feeling like I was going to vomit. Running is awesome!  You should try it! 🙂

Pre-race thoughts

Technically, I am not a “marathoner”. As it stands I can only say, “I have run a marathon.” And until I actually finish Tecumseh, that’s about all I can say. Once I cross that finish line though, I can start defining myself as a “marathoner” seeing as how I’m looking to start training for upcoming marathons as well. Then, as meaningless as it is, I can start saying “I run marathons”.

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I did my race packing tonight, which I’m discovering for out of city marathons, is quite an ordeal. I have to pack my pre-race clothes, race clothes, and post-race clothes, including my Gu’s, extra safety pins (for Gu’s), toiletries, shoes (!), body glide, english muffins, pasta, etc. etc. etc. I can’t help but always think I’ve forgotten something. Oh yeah! Arm warmers! For this race I’m breaking out a shiny new pair of arm warmers “comped” to me by my favorite local running store. Ultimately, I’ve got the essentials for the race…..everything else is just supportive items.

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Race day weather is a low of 24 degrees and a high of 38. I’m guessing we are looking at 26 degrees come start time. I’ve decided to forego the tights to keep from any unnecessary friction and resistance and to avoid any material that might absorb any more of the freezing creek water that I already will. Seriously, some of the creek crossing are almost knee high, but Saturday they’ll also be running at freezing temperatures. As if the terrain wasn’t brutal enough. Aside from my trail shoes and trail socks, I’m wearing my short shorts, arm warmers, gloves and liners thin enough to (hopefully) grab onto some gu’s and cups of gatorade, and…..dun dun dun….my circa 1987 “Dancing Dangerously Tour” Ratt T-shirt. Hey, it’s a trail race…I need all the help I can get. Let’s just hope I don’t get hypothermia.

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Among everything else I’ve done “wrong” for this race, there is one dynamic that may be my biggest mistake. Not my lack of training. Not my problematic leg. Nope…it’s my soundtrack. I had a pretty brutal metal band lined up for the race, but my Ipod was left at a friend’s in Chicago and as it turns out this race was scheduled post-thanksgiving, which means one thing…xmas music! I don’t listen to anything except Xmas music after t-day, and although I’d make an exception for a scenario like this, without my ipod I’m just sticking to my normal routine. So this time around, I might have a Stevie Wonder xmas song stuck in my head, or if I’m lucky, the Carol Of The Bells performed by Trans-Siberian Orchestra or August Burns Red. That is, if my brain hasn’t frozen shut.

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As said to me previously, “Oh yeah, that guy is going to beat you silly.” I needed that. Now we throw all expectations to the wind….or better yet, in the freezing creek, and just run run run. That’s all we can do now. I’ll see you all on the start line!

Come Clean

Ok, so when I first decided to run the Tecumseh marathon I thought to myself,

“26.2 miles…on a rugged trail…in the winter. That sounds crazy! That sounds awesome!” And I signed up.

My whole attitude going into this was like “this is going to be absolutely insane, so the pressure’s off…let’s just go out and have fun and run like crazy through the woods. It’ll be a party! A party filled with lots of pain and ridiculousness.” I was looking at it like a situation where it’s so nuts that you can only laugh.

Then I ran Chicago and a couple things happened. One, I realized I can run the crap out of that distance and two, I started putting pressure on myself to run Tecumseh well. I was and still am pretty confident that I can go sub 3 hours on this course, easy, even without seeing the first half, but then my post-Chicago ailments simply wouldn’t subside. So my attitude for the race began to change from CRAZY! to OH CRAP! Still, I kept trying to lay down as consistent mileage as I could, always trying to at least get 2 hour trail runs in on the weekend. The “training” was always up and down and I could never get a grasp on just how setback I am from Chicago, but still I continued on.

Then something else happened, the completed race registration list was posted and I saw that not only do I have competition, but I have competition that may potentially use me to clean out their mud packed trail shoes. So then the inherent competitive nature in me kicked in and I REALLY started freaking out, way too late in the game. There was really nothing else I could do anymore at this point, except hope for the best.

So now my attitude went from party, to crazy, to serious, to competitive, to worrisome, to freak the hell out….and now…well, now I’ve kinda went over the edge and fell all the way back to party. Which is where I wanted to be in the first place.

See, I have done this all wrong. Since Chicago I have not put in one second of speedwork, aside from letting loose when I felt strong enough. I’ve also not put in one second of hill work, aside from the occasional incline during my daily runs. I’ve also been pretty inconsistent in my running, mainly due to my still strained leg muscles. About the only thing I’ve done right is put in consistent long runs on the weekends, but that’s been about it. I’m throwin a prayer to the wind on this one.

Admittedly, I’m still going to try and break 3 hours and still have a lot of confidence in that goal, but my freakout attitude on trying to fight to win this thing has, thankfully, fallen to the wayside. I’m out to party now. Hell, I even regret passing on those knee high argyle socks I was thinking of wearing during the race. That’s ok, the party will be in my head, as I moan and groan and struggle to stay positive as each hill attempts to explode my lungs and break my will in two. This time it’s still going to be about running competitively, but with a much heavier dose of positivity than I’m accustomed too.

So yeah, although I’ll still be shaking in absolute fear (and cold) at the start line, I’ll also be embracing the insanity of the effort and, hopefully, laughing on the inside all the same.

Hell, who knows, maybe the Ratt shirt will make another appearance this time around…just to fit the mood.

To everyone running Tecumseh on Saturday….y’all are crazy! This is going to be fun eh?! I’ll see you in the woods!