Earlier this year, I wrote about my attempt at bettering my personal record in the marathon. Without spoiling the drama, I think we all know that I would have blabbed a personal best the moment it happened. This, then, would be the excuse post, where I explain how my training was a little off or how it was too hot. I could conclude by saying how confident I am that I'll get 'em next time.
Well fuck that script. I'm just going to tell the truth: I sucked out there. Sucked hard.
There are literally no excuses to proffer up. The conditions set up for a nice race. The weather was good. I had just spent two weeks in Colorado, training at altitude (that's right. I - a middling-at-best runner spent good money to live in the mountains, where I underwent a Rocky-style training montage). Going in, I'd run more miles than ever before, including two weeks where I'd run over 100 miles (one at 111 miles, which I'm certain will never happen again!).
The first half of the race was OK. The second 13.1 miles was not. Running on the ragged edge of your abilities carries some risks. Just past halfway, I started to fade. Every mile was seven secords slower. OK, this wasn't going to be a PR day. Then things really hit the shitter. The outside of my right foot flared up from the pounding, steadily growing worse. I hobbled to 21 miles, losing steam and motivation, then it became a slog to the finish consisting of mostly walking with a few jog breaks. First half 1:35, second half 2:11. That is 37 minutes slower than my best. Ugh.
After much consideration, I believe I've identified the real problem: It's seems that I'm trapped in the body of a shitty athlete. Aesthetically, I am far from being biomechanically sound. I have an ugly, shuffling stride, and it looks as though I am in pain when I run, even if I've just begun an easy jog. I'm tall and I weigh a lot. And my lungs have the aerobic capacity of a toddler.
I will not be getting 'em next time, because there ain't gonna be a next time, not anytime soon. Spending the last hour of the race feeling like ten pounds of shit crammed in a five-pound bag was one thing. Puking your guts out after finishing a slow race is one thing.But the worst part was my internal monologue, which was working overtime to let me know just how shitty I was doing. My brain was essentially a passenger that made useless observations on just how bad things were going. Hey Noah, I just saw guy dressed as Batman just passed us - can we keep up with him? No? Oh, look at that guy going by, he's not wearing shoes!
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think I need a break from running for time.
Since there's not much else to say, I will now further pummel my own testicles by sharing this little fable:
A Random Shameful Story Involving Running
More than ten years ago, I was running a 15-kilometer race in near Gainesville, FL. It was a small race, maybe 300 runners. On a good day, I could usually plop out a time that would contend for a place in the top three in my age group. That was me: local stud.
This particular race benefitted multiple sclerosis. This was before the big boom in running for random causes, but you could spot a smattering of slower runners wearing the shirts for MS awareness and research. Anyway, the gun goes off and I'm in the first forty or fifty places. There's a woman "running" near me who is clearly in distress - she's sort of lurching along with a gangly stride that made my previously-described efforts look comparatively bubbly. After a minute, I realized that this woman was probably once a very good runner, but had MS. It certainly explained the unusual perambulation and the fact that she was going out far too quickly for the level of coordination she was displaying.
As we covered the first few miles,it began to sink in how this woman's effort was way more impressive than simply wearing a T-shirt and raising a few bucks. This chick was really going at it, giving MS a big ol' FU. Knowing that she would probably tucker out and drop back, I said something to her about how great it was that she wasn't accepting the disease and was still running in spite of it all.
The woman gave me a very, very weird look and didn't reply. I shrugged it off. Maybe it was gauche to mention a person's disabilities in such a casual way. Now wasn't the time to get into it.
The uncomfortable moment made me want to move up and leave this woman behind for good. Thing was, I was already at the maximum effort I could sustain for the rest of the race. No matter, I thought to myself, I'll just wait a few minutes for her to tire, and things would take care of themselves.
Ten more minutes go by and we're about a third of the way through the race. Then we hit the halfway point and the impossible happened - the woman with MS found another gear and began pulling away from me with her ungainly shamble.
This was not in the script. In the ensuing years, I've accepted that running is truly a sport where you truly do compete against yourself. But back then, the idea that I could lose to a woman displaying advanced signs of a fatal neuromuscular disease was inconceivable. Fuck that noise; against my better judgment I accelerated, clinging to the wake of the woman.
Exactly eight minutes later, my screaming lungs finally force my brain to accept that I was good and truly fucked. I was at the point where I would literally shit myself if I pushed any harder. Meanwhile, madame MS was a machine that refused to tire.
And that was that. Like an old man easing into a bath, she gradually extended her lead over me. Powerless, I watched helplessly as she disappeared up the road. To add insult to injury, I paid for my early efforts by accepting an invisible piano to carry to the finish.
After the race, I sucked down free food while waiting to pick up my trophy (I'd run a personal best, a small consolation for my bruised ego). All of a sudden, the emcee announces a special person is in attendance and invites them to the stage. MS woman bounds up and jogs to the podium, showing absolutely no effects from the race. The announcer declares how thrilled he is that a US Olympic racewalker is here, participating today. As they shake hands, I meet the gaze of the racewalking woman. I shrug a mea culpa and she tips me a micro nod that conveys both the acceptance of my apology and the knowledge that she made me her bitch.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.