Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sollicitudo: Funditus Viator Sursum Affectus


Anxiety: Totally Messed up Emotions. Winding down the racing season of 2010 seasoned the door to an open chest of curiosity: Killing that cat sought a refuge. Positivity and stemming confidence sought sanctuary, to dive deeper into understand more why I do anything: Why running lives within; why love feeling the pulse of racing? Miami two-K-one-one was French toast; the sugar sweet unhopped malt concentrate began fermenting an awesome tasting experience one year prior.

Well, 364 days to be exact. Miami half marathon, 2010, was quite an adventure. A total of 14 of our running friends and family made the adventure, and what a time we had. We all predestined a race (at least which was the excuse), as arrival in South Beach was our party vacation. Old news only warrants a blurb… I ran the January 31st 2010 Miami Half Marathon in 1:41:44 and following which I swallowed my last alcoholic beverage on the beaches of South Beach. Every Rose has its Thorn.

Signing up for the 2011 Miami marathon filled me with anticipation, anxiety, depression and excitement: Reflection. Too many thoughts wanted out of my head, and somehow my body mind and soul had to push myself to the finish line. The trip was booked and the group of Dustin, Zero, Elf, and Kevin set journey for a fist pumping French toast experience.

Saturday morning stood out among the highlights of the weekend. Kevin and I woke & watched Dustin run a 15:54 2nd place finish in the Miami 5K. Dustin put on a monster kick and closed the gap of 30 yards in the last tenth… scantily being thwarted. Had the race been 5 yards longer it was a blue ribbon. Later that day, the Everglades National Park, and of course the wonderful South Beach weather and palms, did not disappoint. Saturday night I opted to go out by myself to dinner, eat early, and get to rest.

Up at 3:00am I showered and found a breakfast full of hot water oatmeal from the bathroom sink, a little fruit, maybe a banana, coffee, and @ the race some power bar and power gels leading up to the start. Everything was perfect. Our crew got to the start early and I was feeling calm, relaxed, and super ready. I trusted the taper. The taper paid off.

About 5-minutes before the gun sounded I asked my Lord and Savior a few things in prayer. “Dear God, please grant me strength, some courage, a few pounds of guts, and may my effort today help other be encouraged. May you please grant me your Grace? Amen.”

Gun sounds at 6:20am. All of the hard work over the past 364 days is about to unfold. Without any true expectations, my objective was uncertain. I knew I had to run my heart out or I wouldn’t be happy. I wanted to break 3 hours. A week prior to the race I found out the New York City marathon qualification time period ended the day after Miami; 8 days before the race my new goal was NYC, a 2:54:59 or better.

In the first 5k of the race I felt so comfortable that I thought the 3rd mile was only the 2nd mile. I was totally comfortable and breathing fine. The race weather was favorable, in the high 50’s @ the start, and roughly 5-miles in the dark of night keeps the temps low. I crossed 5k in 21:11, and felt great. Although my right foot was a bit sore, I thought nothing of it, passed it off as a shoe tied too tight. Starting a race with 3,600+ marathon runners, and another 10,000+ half marathon runners gives one quite a group to compete against. My very conservative start put me in a pace group after 5k that allowed me to do nothing but mow people down the rest of the race.

My pace elevated, and I was clipping along. I took a tangerine power gel (2x caffeine) at mile 4. My stomach wasn’t great, but it kept me trudging along.

At mile 6 I looked up and Dustin was there to help guide me along. He asked how I felt, and I said great!! Dustin jumped in, and ran stride with me to help keep me paced. Hitting the second 5k split in 20:35 (total 41:47 after 10k) I felt great. I had begun eating the power gel energy blasts at this point, along with continuing to accelerate and clip off more and more runners. Nobody was passing Dustin or I, half or full runners, and we were clipping off miles. We came across the 3rd 5k, a split of 19:03 (1:00:36 @ 15K), and I was like WTF Dustin. He said, “Don’t think”.

Somewhere around the 11th mile I heard Dustin say I am dropping back. I hadn’t realized it, but I was clipping mileage in the very low 6-min pace range. At this moment I realized I was having a great day, and also got very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to hold on. Don’t think, just run, don’t think and just keep moving! I mean, Dustin just ran a 15:54 yesterday, and understandably he was fatigued from the effort. But to hear his say that lifted my spirits. The only bad thing was my stomach was playing games, and I knew I had to stop. Pulling into a port-O at about mile 12.5 took 45 seconds, but gave me a lower back stretch, mental refreshment, and minor break. Exiting the blue bomber put me right by Dustin once again, and we kept running onward.

Rolling through the 13th mile is a parade of crowd support. The half marathon ducks off here, and there is a flurry of fans and spectators yelling & screaming. I got very emotional through here, and had to ease off my pace. This choked me up. Having Dustin by my side was crucial at this point, as he was able to help me put on the brakes and ease the pace, until the excitement quelled off. We pulled through the half marathon split, running the last 3.8 miles in 25:29 including a 45 second splash, cumulating 1:26:05. This was now the second fastest half marathon to date I’ve run: Time to hold on for another.

About mile 14 Dustin headed back to the hotel. He had helped me with 8 critical miles in the early-mid phases, and I cannot thank him enough. Now it was up to me, in the last 20 kilometers, to gut it out, to dig to the source, to Make Z Proud, to break the shell that encloses my understanding. God is holistically wonderful when the door is opened for him. Something just felt right today.

At this point of the race I was running all by myself. The half marathon crowd had ducted off, and there was single file runners spread out in front. Maybe a handful every mile I would catch, but no more. I was up front. I had no idea where in the pack. I didn’t care. I wanted to run the eeF out of my legs; which at this point still felt great. My energy was mostly good. I had eaten a few gels, and took my 3rd one when I crossed about mile fifteen and one half. I was still eating the power gel energy blasts, and slugging Gatorade and water at every stop. The race was getting warmer, but somehow or another there was a lot of shade. The early start helped the weather temps. Crossing over Mile 16 in 18:25 for the last 2.9 miles in 1:44:30 total was a new personal best at 16-miles. Continuing to search myself I pushed through the grit, the endurance, the mental state of not being a quitter; Make Z Proud. Make your friend Chad proud. Show others what a difference just 364 days can make.

Do the things you fear, and the death of fear is certain. About this point there were three motorcycle cops sitting there, and as I ran by with fist pump and arm high I yelled give me some siren; more cowbell. They lit it up for me. I was having fun. This marathon has not yet begun; but soon to entering the last 12 critical kilometers in sharp spirit, focused mind, and keen understanding of my physical body. I had 10-miles to go. Nothing to it; just stay relaxed.

Crossing mile 18 in 12:26 was a 6:13 pace for the last two miles, and a 1:56:57 18-mile split, yet another personal best. I was really looking forward to the 30-kilometer mark. This is what I prepared for. This is why I ran the ultra last year. This was the part of the marathon I could never attack. I could never hold it together. My marathon finishes of past have been a dismal effort at best. And now I’m entering the last phase hungry, intense, ready to get some. My legs were starting to feel pain; this made me smile. I wanted to feel the burn, in a twisted sadistic way, I wanted to hurt. I didn’t want to float through this race; I wanted to know I ran it out on the course.

Crossing the 30-kilometer mark was a rush. I crossed the mat in 2:00:41, running 3:44 for the last six tenths, and had never even come close to running this fast for this far. With 7.6 miles to go I knew I would have run my best marathon today, even if I did crash and burn. That is what the ultra did. It allowed me to run my legs into pain and keep moving and mentally deal, cope, and motivate to continue and push. Emotion was building, mentally I was running the game; the marathon had begun.

Mile 19 was the beginning of the bad. My stomach was feeling queasy; it was acting up again. The sun had begun to boil a bit brighter. This is the no man’s land of racing. I was only passing 1 or 2 people every mile, mainly because the field was so spread out. Also, there was little to no crowd support. This was perfect for me. I didn’t want cheered on. I wanted to grit my teeth and get Amazing Graced coupled with For Whom The Bell Tolls ringing in my ears. It was just that. Except there was no port-O around, and I had to go. This was so frustrating, my stomach would not let up. I just couldn’t keep moving without going. I debated just pulling aside; but there were so many cops all around holding traffic at side streets. Damn stomach.

2:09:39, my fastest 20-mile time to date elapsed as I ran 8:57 for the last 1.4 miles. Although I was feeling pretty miserable in my stomach, my legs were feeling decent. At last, before mile 21 I spotted one, and ducked inside. My 60+ second stop was totally necessary. Down time or not, it recovered my breath, stretched out my lower back, recovered my queasy stomach, and got me back on my feet. Now I began to pass people I’d already passed. Ugh.

But something wasn’t right. My stomach didn’t have to ‘go’ per say, and I didn’t need to stop, but I was just not feeling right. My body needed a drink. It was hot. The sun became scorching hot before mile 22. The water stop here was ridiculously necessary. I had not felt that exhausted in the race today, but mile 20-22 was hard. The 2 mile stretch of the 21st & 22nd mile took me 14:14, which included a 60+ second stop. My pace had suffered to approximately a 6:35 pace per mile. But I just came through mile 22 in 2:23:54, posting yet another personal best. Holy crap, I’m definitely going to go sub 3-hours. My mind just tore open with jubilation, but that’s not even the right emotion. It’s just been such a long journey I’ve taken with this marathon distance. I ran my first in 2002, in a dismal 3hr 44min. In 2003 I ran my second in a heartbreaking 3hr 59min. Today, 9 years after my first, I’m finally going to break 3 hours. If I’m tough enough I can run 26-min last 4.2 miles I’ll cross under 2:50. My head wanted it. I had to test my body. But it’s fatiguing, I’m 22 miles deep, my legs are gripping the pain, and my energy level is on the brink. And looking ahead there is a nasty bridge – ugh, luckily I found out I did not have to go up. Come on. Hold on. Don’t think. Hold on. Sub 3 today! Sub 2:55?

The mile 23 turn around on the pier, 6:21 for the last mile, a 2:30:15 @ 23 miles, was yet another personal best, as I passed a runner I previously passed around mile 20. Heading back to the city I knew I’d have to run sub 20 for 3.2 miles to break 2:50. Deep down I knew I didn’t have it. But I had to find out. I pushed my throttle as hard as I could. With about 4-kilometers to go my stomach started to knot up again. I kept pace, but was hurting all over. My body was now finally feeling it all. I had been running smartly, boldly, with guts. I was proud of my effort at this point. I had no idea how it was going to play out, but I knew at this point I would get my NYC qualifier. Goal and objective complete. Now, I’ve got a little less than 3 miles to add some gravy. Don’t break. Don’t think. Run hard. Hold on. Sub 2:55! Sub 2:50?

Footsteps began pounding behind me. I was in disbelief. I hadn’t been passed by anyone since the race took geometric shape around mile 2. Now I hear it… and then two women were side by side with me, hammering it hard. I was impressed. We are 4 kilo remaining, some 91% complete, and they are kicking a new gear. It wasn’t long before I realized they must be going for a money prize. Top 5, which results later showed there were 6 females in front of my finish. Power snatches just kicked my ass hard.

Mile 24 couldn’t come too quickly, as my stomach was messing with me again. I saw the water stop and took my last shot gel here, and the strawberry calmed me down. I had 2 miles left, and ran the last mile in 6:43 and a 2:36:58 personal best 24-miler. I tried to pick up my pace. I could not. This was what the Green Dodge Dart had left. With little under 2 miles to go I tried to pick up my pace. I just had to try & break 2:50? No more holding on… Push. Pick it up. Guts = ouch.

Mile 25 surprised me in 6:41 and total time 2:43:39. Another personal best didn’t set my mind at ease, as I thought I was running faster. I was running as hard as I could, though. I was up on my calves, using my gluts, extending my hamstrings, and swinging my arms. I applied what I thought to be an all out kick; this is a relative term in a marathon haa! I had to run basically my fastest mile of my life, for 1.2 miles, in order to break 2:50. As Dr. Death has told me, run ‘til you blow.

With about ½ mile to go there is a bridge to climb, and then a descent into the finishing chute. I look up and Kevin, Zero, and Elf are screaming at me. Barf! Barf! Jarf! Joel… Barf… Meanwhile I’m thinking I hate that nickname… How about Joel? I quietly looked over, put my hands low and put a finger over my mouth for them to be quiet. Ryan was super pumped for me, and I could hear it. But one ounce more of emotion & I was going to drop right there. I would have keeled over if the emotion I had during the half way point with the crowd had hit me in the last quarter mile. Rustling through emotion of the French toast crew, my turn-over at mile 26 came in 2:50:03, a solid PR, and dropping my last mile in 6:23.

The finish chute was spectacular. I had just about qualified for NYC, had run as hard as I could, heart left on my shirt, tears deep inside were starting to seep, and knowing from whence I came a year ago I was charged and mystified; elated to run down the finish approach, a grandstand of cheering crowd supporters, and an outstanding feeling. I held one hand high, forefinger #1 high, and a strong fist pump action of the second hand.

Running the last two tenths in 1:17, I crossed the finish line strong and passionate. The back half I ran in 1:25:16 crossing the line in 2:51:21, the last personal best of the day.

The emotion of the race took its’ toll. Crossing through the timing mat I slowed down to a halt and my legs dropped from under myself. Laying down I began to cry emotion, shake with freezing cold chills, and smile from the accomplishment. The finishing time awarded me a top 25 male, and 5th in my age group, and 31st overall finisher of some 3,600 finishers. The memory remains.

Almost, Finally

So, I've been writing & need to just post my Miami marathon write up... In a few days or less hopefully. Then there is the dreaded turn of bad luck with running & whatnot. Sometimes humility is the basis for finding a new fresh outlook. Keeping the faith as best I can, for if I do not stand firm in faith I should not stand at all. Isaiah 7:9