Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Brenty Claus (sans red suit) Conquers the Martians

When you're leaving for a new destination race, even within your own state, sometimes it's just best to leave a good deal early.  This, and "don't buy any running shirts, you'll get plenty along the way" are the only 2 major pieces of advice I've come up with over the nearly two years I've been going at it out there on the road.  It doesn't matter if you have directions or not, things can happen.  The race can get moved at the last second, you could have trouble finding somewhere to park, or your registration could get misplaced.  Anything can happen.  What happened before our first half marathon was kind of interesting.

I knew the Martian races were happening at a place called Ford Field in Dearborn.  What I didn't know was that everything in Dearborn is named after Ford.  When I got to where I thought we were supposed to be, I saw a few of the 26.2 and 13.1 signs on cars, but it seemed like there weren't enough people there.  When we walked in all geared up for running, a clerk at the desk of "Ford Field" asked us if we were there for the race.  After telling her affirmative (if you take your K-9 to Human translators out we actually said "yes"), she said, and I'm not kidding "Ok, you want to be at Ford Field, not Ford Field."  Yes, really.  So after staring at her blankly, which I'm guessing happened a lot that day, she told us how to get there.

After following her directions we ran into a mass of people and no parking, but Jason eventually pointed out a "For Lease" sign on a business, which is just as good as a "Free Parking" sign.  We quickly got out of the car and followed the masses to where they all seemed to be going, and found out the place was just a big field/parking lot.  Ohhhh...ford field, I get it.  After picking up our shirts, we had 5 minutes until race time.  So we just had to slip on the shirts under what we had on, pin on the bibs, throw the rest of the packet stuff away, and get in line for the race.  So much for a warm up and a stretch, or even mentally calming down after nearly missing the start.  Like it or not this race is happening now...and, oh crap, I forgot my headphones (Coby 2) in the car.

Jason and I wished each other luck, and off we went.  The start was an immediate uphill, which tightened up the calves instantly.  In came the immediate doubt, and around me I heard a few others vocally expressing the same.  Just then, I heard somebody yell out "Brett Favre!  Brett Favre!"  I look up and there's a silver-haired, middle-aged man that could probably pass for Favre out getting his mail and crossing the street as one of the racers called out his doppelganger's name.  You could tell by his smirk that he'd heard that one before.  That got me laughing and I took the next few steps a little lighter.

Not long after, I came across an Army soldier running the half-marathon with full backpack, and figured that if he was running it like that, I could probably make it with my human weight too.  Still though, how bad-ass are our service men and women?  Me and another guy talked with him a bit (as much as our breath allowed) and found out he just got back from Iraq, and apparently this was how he was spending his down time.  Somebody deserves a B.A.M.F. on their wallet, for sure.

About mile 2 or so, I was starting to get into a groove, and we had the pleasure of running down a highway ramp, and headed into a ridiculously long stretch of straight shut down mini-highway.  It was nice to run in a place that was relatively flat, but it was also pretty open, and my face was collecting a nice film of dirt the whole way.  From mile 2 on, all I could think about was getting to the turn-around, and apparently it couldn't come fast enough, because I was pressing hard.  At one point I actually caught Jason, which was proof I was going way too fast. I was pressing into 9 and some change minute miles getting to the half point, and for the distance we were going, this was not a good idea for me.

Despite that, I kept pushing on, and hit the turn-around, only to have the mental block come in with me thinking,  "wait, I gotta do this whole thing again?"  I slowed down to a running version of dead crawl and, though I didn't stop, it was looking like I might as well have.  Then it happened, again.  It seems that somehow, whenever I feel like I'm going to fade out, I get a little friendly push or some divine intervention.  About mile 7 or 8 a bigger guy like me still forcing himself toward the halfway point threw out a low five to me, and told me "Keep pushing, you're doing it for all of us."  At that point, I really did feel that this thing wasn't just for me, it was for all us big guys out there.  I had to try to be the best of us, try to be the fastest guy my size, and get this thing done to do us all proud.

Suddenly I was back up, and catching back up to the people that just passed me in that bad stretch.  In mile 9 I made a friend and she said it was about this point that she wonders why she does this to herself.  I said that in another mile I'll be pushing farther than I've ever run before.  Then she said something about how "we" would probably have to stop in a bit.  I assured her I didn't plan on walking and kept going, eventually losing her, but Jason passed and lost me about this point as well.

Mile 10 hit, and so did the temptation.  All around me people were dropping like flies, stopping to walk, and I was passing the lot of them, but there were so many ahead, around, and behind me that just quit there.  It would have been so easy just to join them.  I thought, "Well you did the Crim distance, that's pretty good, right?  Everyone else is walking, there's no shame in that, right?  Look, everyone else is taking a break."  I just couldn't do it.  I don't know what it is in me that just refuses to let these races beat me, but I just won't surrender defeat like that.  So I kept pushing toward that Army water station I knew was up there from the trip down, and as I approached I started to realize something.  I was in uncharted waters.

I just breached the 10 mile mark, and I was still running.  Not only that, I looked around me, and there were only the skinnies.  There were no big guys ahead in sight.  I was all alone, and I was noticing the volunteers were really excited to see me up there.  They really cheered me especially hard, and it wasn't long after that when I started hearing it from the runners too.  It may sound cheesy, but it was the first time I really felt completely respected out there.  People just kept verbally tipping their cap to the fat guy passing them or keeping close to their side.

However, the real challenge was yet to come.  Every long race seems to have its race-breaker.  The one spot that is put in, by design, to break all of us and pull our running legs out from under us.  I didn't know it, but that was about to come.  Instead of going back up the ramp with a slight incline like I thought we would, we cut slightly off to the left onto a trail, and then, after a hard left, there it was.  It was a nice short, but steep, hill and a lot of races were buried there that day.  I know I passed more than 10 people just in that very short stretch.  I didn't come out unscathed, either.  I know I really slowed down from that hill, but not anymore than anyone around me, and I was still gaining here and there. A man next to me said to his son "See that girl with the water bottle, we can get her," and I followed with them to pass her in mile 11.

I continued to get a lot of respect the rest of the way.  It seemed like every other person I passed at this point wished me well, because a lot of us had been fighting each other off a lot of the way on the back side of the race.  One woman, who I had been going back and forth with for the past 5 miles told me "doing this at your size is amazing" and I didn't even take offense at all.  I just took it as it was meant, as a compliment.  It was the first time that I felt like I earned everyone's respect out there.  I know at this point that I belong, but to hear that much from others letting me know I do was just, I don't know, almost an out-of-body self-realizing experience.

As we neared mile 13, I hit the nitro.  No matter how far the race is, it seems that seeing the indications of the end make me find something left I didn't know I had.  I lost the people that had been fighting to keep in my range, and started picking off some others as I hit the last turn.  I tried to keep the sprint, and I did until i finally hit the end.  I turned and rooted on the others in my group to the end, and chatted it up with the lady again, and told her good job.  I grabbed my water, and then realized that I was a bit woozy.  I guess running for that long and suddenly stopping will do that to you, so I started to walk it off a bit and got my wits back.

Eventually I found Jason up getting some bagels and pizza, and trying to recover.  He was dead too.  I got my banana and a bagel, and stretched out for a bit.  Then we had to go get more water, and sat down at a picnic table.  There was a lot of discussion about how maybe we better not ever try a full marathon, how dead we were, how we felt, and how maybe we won't ever do even a half marathon again after that.  I guess our "10 miles is just as good as 13.1 if you feel good after 10" training program wasn't as accurate as we thought.  That last 3.1 is hard, both mentally and physically.  Well perhaps it was harder, because is was actually 3.4.  Yep, the Martians measured wrong, and we did end up going .3 long, so I have an actual time and an adjusted time (to correct for the .3 extra) for that race.  What kind of cruelty is that, you horrid aliens, making us poor Earthlings run an extra .3 just for fun?  Oh well, my actual time for the 13.4 was a 2:24:11, and the adjusted (for 13.1) is a 2:20:53.

After the race, we lumbered back to the car and drove to Miller's Bar.  Miller's is semi-famous in Michigan and is often touted as the best burger in Southeast Michigan.  After waiting about 30 minutes we took two seats at the bar, and probably lost the bartender's attention the second we ordered our drinks.  With Jason off drinking completely and me in my non-alcohol Lenten phase, the water and cranberry juice probably didn't excite him too much.  I think since we weren't boozing, we kind of got snubbed.  Our food took forever, but at least we were getting the best burger ever, right?

Well...I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.  We we're perfectly primed subjects to be impressed.  We were exhausted, starving, and completely anxious for the burgers.  They just didn't deliver for either of us, though.  I thought it tasted a little like a mix of McDonald's and this place up in Traverse City called Don's.  Not bad, but not the Excalibur, be all and end all, we were primed for.  Honestly, an average Flint or Detroit burger will blow them away any day.  That being said, though, if you are in the area, it is still worth the trip.  The cash only honor system where you tell them what you had and they ring it up is charming, and it's fairly reasonable in price.  It's just not something I would go out of my way and travel for like many people have.

After eating we headed back to the finish to get a photo of us together, and got roped into taking down a tent, which had a loose pole that popped out and hit me on the leg.  Luckily it didn't do much more than bruise me, because it could have been a nice lump or a broken foot.  Wouldn't that be the breaks, getting hurt after a race while trying to do nice and help the coordinators take a tent down off from a platform (see below).
                                                                 Finish Photo (an hour later)
                                                                      Martian Police

                                                                Shirt Front and Medal
                                                                  Back and Medal
Anyway, that's how it went, and despite the post-race whining and crying, I'm already signed up for another halfer.  I have shaken off the bad feelings and still think I want to do the full marathon, it may just not be this year.  I actually recovered from the whole thing pretty well, and was already back running the Tuesday after.  That was probably too soon and I did take a little down time the next week after a sore knee, but I got right back in gear after that.  After sifting through some photos and looking at times, I found out there was one guy about my size that beat me, but I also found out that this guy is actually a semi-well-known, fully-sponsored, fat runner guy.  So he's maybe the best of us, and you know what, I'll get him next time.

Still more to come, I haven't caught up quite yet...

*5/26/11 EDIT*

Jason managed to find us in a video from the Dearborn Patch.  Starting at about 0:56 and ending about 0:59 you can see us come and go on the left bottom of the screen and run through the frame as we started out the journey.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Brent,

    Excellent job on that half. I enjoyed reading your race recap.

    Running a marathon is a challenge for sure. But if you do the right training you'll be successful at that distance.



Locations of visitors to this page