Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oops I Did It Again (Detroit Marathon #2: Party Hard Edition)

The whole plan this year for this thing was to run less, work on some other training, and not be pushing 280lbs when I ran my next marathon.  I had success in all of those, but even still, I did not set myself up for success in Detroit at all.  Some of it was my own doing, and some was just incidental.  Between being sick, hurting, and not making time for running, I put in an extremely low 36 miles in the entire month of September.  The only real attempt to make that up in October was going out to run a 20 miler, which turned into 18.5 because I ran out of daylight (4 miles of that was in the dark).

I'll admit it, my running world and my identity still hinges on The Crim.  Success there, means I kind of blow off anything else, and it shows.  Friday night, two days before the big race, I'm at my friend Ken's pounding beers and eating cheesebread and waffle fries, and playing some form of UNO with a weird talking robot that we taught to call each of us by derogitory names.

Swearing Robot

Sure, I have been pretty much carb free during the week, so weekends are my time to cut loose, but it probably wasn't the best idea this weekend.  Saturday morning, because I'm getting old and don't recover from these things as well, I was pretty much wrecked.  Eventually, after watching Michigan State squeak by Purdue and an incident of reverse peristalsis, I was at the point where I was about to just throw up (no pun intended) the white flag.  I had about 3 more hours to get all my stuff together and get down to Detroit to the Marathon Expo and I wasn't feeling like it.  I knew my training sucked.  I probably wasn't going to make it through anyway, so why bother?  Right?

I got a text from my friend, who I was supposed to be staying with down in Midtown, about what the plan was, and I didn't reply.  I didn't know.  Eventually, I started throwing things in a bag.  At this point I'm thinking, "Just get to the expo, and decide there."  I had until 7pm to pick up my packet.  I got there at 6:15.

Large Route Map at the Expo

Even then, I'm wondering if I stay down there, or just go home and sleep in my own bed that night.  Either way, I still didn't know if I was up for the marathon.  Honestly, I didn't know if I could finish it had I come into the thing feeling top notch.  For all I know all this Friday self-sabotage was just a subconscious way of me trying to make excuses to avoid a pure failure.  If I don't start, I don't have to deal with not finishing.

After navigating the expo and picking up my stuff I sat down in the lobby of Cobo just thinking for about 30 minutes.  I was a negative mess surrounded by a sea of positive, confident, smiling and laughing runners so happy to have their packets, while my packet seemed like a burden.  In a lot of ways, that just made me feel like an asshole worse.  There are people that struggle so hard, through so much to get here and consider every minute they're healthy enough to run a blessing.  Here I am pissing away my potential, and, yeah, it pisses me off that I do this.  I'm sure some of you that actually still read this get pissed off at me too.  Those of you that haven't got to the marathon yet, and are working so much harder than me to get there probably hate me because it seems to come so easy, and those of you that are amazing runners and have put in so much to get at the next level probably are tired of me not pushing to get that much better, because you know it's in me.  I'd actually like to hear from some of you about this.  Go ahead and call me out.  I know I can do better.  I know I can be better.  For some reason, I keep choosing not to.

I got up from my seat at Cobo, and walked back to my car so my meter wouldn't expire, and I headed toward my friend's apartment.  Either way, I figured I'd hang out with him.  He wasn't home, so I waited for him to get back, only to find out he'd picked me up extra blankets and pillows from his parents' place so I would have a comfortable sleep before the marathon.  It was official, the man upstairs was telling me I was being an a-hole.

My friend's car's dome lights weren't going off after he unloaded his car, and I managed to figure out what was wrong with that.  Then I took him out and paid for food and drinks (I only had a water and a Sprite) to thank him for letting me stay over.  I felt I had to try to redeem myself as much as possible.  I ran into a co-worker who was running the Half-Marathon (I didn't know he ran) in the morning at the bar and we wished each other good luck.  While watching the Tigers/Red Sox game, there was some loud-mouth woman in the bar, sitting with him, complaining about every bad call and cheering every small good thing for the Tigers.  Then, if I hadn't had enough of her already, she started complaining about people who wanted Boston to win, and how they only wanted them to win because their marathon got bombed.  She then proceeded to say, "Maybe someone will bomb ours tomorrow and everyone will love us instead."  I almost boiled over, and I would have taken her to task for that incredibly stupid comment had my co-worker not been right there, and obviously known her.  He called her out on it a bit, but in a much calmer, and diplomatic way than I would have.  I just decided it was time we left, got my check, and we finished watching the game at the apartment (which didn't go our way).  It was after midnight, and I had to be up in 5 hours.  Obviously I was staying down there and trying to run in the morning.

My wife called me and said she wasn't going to make it down.  She was going to ride with her dad, but he cancelled on her late Saturday, and she didn't want to try to navigate Detroit on her own with a Marathon and the Lions both going on during a Sunday.  Also, Jason was riding with her and her dad, so I just lost 3 spectators, because I told her she didn't have to drive down if she didn't want to.  My support system and some of my drive to finish was wiped out.  On that note, I just went to bed.

I woke up and went through the motions getting ready for the run.  There was no fear anymore and there was no excitement.  Good or bad, I was going to do whatever I did for me.  I made the last minute decision to make my old sweatshirt the throwaway instead of the jacket I bought at Goodwill.  I just couldn't part with the Red, White, and Blue Kurt Angle-esque beauty of the jacket.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to use my American Outlaws patch to make it a US Soccer jacket.  The soccer peeps will love that.

It's wonderful!

I drove into town, parked, and walked toward the corral over an hour early to try to psych myself up.  I ran into Dominique and her husband at the portas.  She was running the relay.  It was nice to see a familiar face the way I was feeling about things.  It made me feel less alone, since I was running by myself this year.

Marathon Billboard
I stepped into the corral and froze for about an hour, even with my hoodie and tear-away pants.  I don't know how I stood out there with only shorts and a t-shirt last year (oh yeah, it was warmer).

Tons of People

The waves started and I ripped off the tear-aways, threw them on the ground, Andy Samberg-style, and they let my wave go.  There were a lot of hilarious signs right off the bat.  Signs saying we'd trained for this longer than Kim K's marriage and one saying "If a marathon was easy it would be called your mother."  There were a few more complicated ones that I really tried to remember, but your brain kind of melts in a marathon.

About 2 miles in I felt warm enough to toss the sweatshirt, and it was almost bridge time.  The bridge magically put me in a positive mood.  Then the people of Windsor out there cheering us on kept me there.  Spectators are an amazing thing.  A lot of us would never make it without them.

Ambassador Bridge
Where's Waldo?

My positivity continued until I hit the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel.  That hot, stagnant air in there from mile 7 to mile 8 is a killer.  You're barely over a 1/4 of the way through and it just makes even getting to the halfway point  of 13.1 seem daunting.  You just want to turn off with the lucky half-marathoners and call it a day a few miles later, all because of the tunnel.  Just getting out of it quickly to get fresh air again seems to be a lot of people's goal.  It really is one of the big things that make Detroit a tough race.

I took the marathon turn anyway.  It was kind of what I was there for, and they weren't giving me a half-marathon time if I cut it off.

It was time for the lonely miles to Indian Village.  This year there seemed to be a few more police and spectators, so it kind of helped get you through it.  Once I hit Indian Village, I think I was handed like 5-6 beers between miles 15-19, and I had to take them because I was wearing my Andrew WK "Party Hard" shirt.  One station even talked me into double-fisting, and I'm pretty sure those two beers were Bell's Two-Hearted Ale (a 7% ABV American IPA).

I was also starting to debate hitting a porta john at this point, but I held off and headed toward Belle Isle.

MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle

I'm on Belle Isle

After I hit the island, I knew I had to stop and hit the bathrooms.  There was no avoiding it.  I was not making it to the end without the pit stop.  That took about 2 minutes, and, even though I was already starting to slow a bit, the stop did the same to me as what it did at The Brooksie Way.  My legs tightened, my pace died a bit, and I never really recovered.

Then I had to stop again to retie a loose lace that somehow came unwound, despite having them double-tied.  Even though I was slowing up, I still didn't feel as bad as last year by this point.  I didn't have my arms and abs killing me, because I did actually work on them this year in response to how bad they both felt during last year's marathon.  Also, I'm guessing carrying 20 less pounds didn't hurt.

Was I beat up?  Sure, but by this point there was really no doubt I would make it.  I was actually wishing I pushed a bit more earlier, but I didn't trust doing so.  Even so, I figured I could do about 12 minute miles and still stay under the 5 hour mark from that point, and maybe get close to or beat last year's time.  So I just kept running as much as I felt I could.

I got to mile 25.  Part of me was hoping to magically see my wife and friends there, and I thought I had passed the spot they stood the year before.  It made me sad to think I was running to the finish and there may be nobody there for me.  There was a part of me that still thought that she and Jason would make it down somehow, but at this point I was just hoping, at the very least, Nick got out of bed to come see me finish up.

Then about halfway through mile 25, I saw her, Jason, Ken, and Nick.  My friend Ken drove Jessi and Jason down, and Nick did make it from his apartment to downtown.  I ran over to them as fast as my legs would still carry me, kissed my wife and said hello to the rest of them.

My glorious shirt


After seeing them I was charged back up.  My friend Nick handed me a Labatt's that he brought from his fridge for me (we'd discussed how awesome it would be to do this, given my shirt, the night before), and I took it with me the rest of the way.
The Hand-Off
Beer To Go

There's something special about the reaction you get from a crowd running the last leg of a marathon with a "Party Hard" shirt and a beer in your hand.  The laughter, the cheers, the looks, and the comments were amazing.  Me, I was just happy none of the police on the course, including the two I ran split between decided to do something about my obvious open container in public.  One of the race officials yelled at me, "It's not even noon yet!" and I responded, "It's noon somewhere."  

Passing down the finish shute, I held it up in the air by the crowd on the left hand side and yelled out the iconic "Winning!!!" phrase.  The crowd was loving it.  This big fat dude in a party shirt, finishing his marathon with a beer.  Tell me how I can top that. 

I crossed with my beer, attempting, and missing a high-five with one of the volunteers at the finish line, and was handed my Detroit Marathon Finisher 2013 Medal.  I took a hard right, took a finish selfie, and chugged the remainder of my beer.  I grabbed a water, and skipped the rest of the food spread.  I didn't want food, I just wanted to find my wife and friends, and I did almost immediately after leaving the finisher area.

Happy to be done.  I made it.

I felt much better at the end this year.  There was no ill feeling.  I didn't feel like I was going to throw up.  I didn't have to sit down on the curb.  I just walked it off, met my friends, and we went to Niki's for pizza (my favorite pizza anywhere...you can have NY and Chicago).  It was so nice having them all there for me.  I just couldn't thank them enough.  I was done, though, and I didn't feel like doing anything else down there, so my wife and I went home after eating while the rest of them hung out and watched the Lions lose down there.

No name or photos in the paper this time, but that's fine by me.  I'm just happy I made it, and on top of that, I got a 3+ minute PR out of the deal, finishing at a 4:50:18.  Honestly, had I trusted myself a little more, not had to make so many stops, not grabbed vanilla bean for GU (which always makes me feel sick), and not had beer, I think I could have pulled a 4:35-4:45 out of this one.  Still though, I will take it.  I'm just happy to know I can still finish a marathon, and do so with style points.
2013 Camaro Medal

Shirt Front

Shirt Back (with logo & route)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Brooksie Way: End of the Streak

Well, my delusions of grandeur of being a course record machine and renaming myself "The Iron Clydesdale" is over.  The Brooksie Way, and my still-standing half-marathon PR, is to blame. 

Honestly, I was ready to just sit back, run the Detroit Marathon with my streak of course PRs intact and hope for the best.  I did try to get in a last minute Brooksie registration in, but, by then, online registration was closed.  "Oh well, I'll just save the money, and not do it this year.  No big thing."

Wrong.  My friend signed up for it, and, with his vehicle not being able to go expressway speeds, he needed a way to get to the race.  He assumed I had been signed up for weeks and would take him, because, "We always do this race."  Not one to leave a friend hanging, or put someone into a position for a DNS for an already paid for race, I drove down to Oakland University for the expo and signed myself up.  Since I had to drive down there, I actually tried to participate in the expo and talk to some of the booths instead of seeing how fast I could navigate through the human asteroid field to my race packet, and then leave.  I scored a few free goodies, but no $50,000 home make-over (unless the drawing's still going).

Bear Tracks on OU campus

On the way home I think I stopped off at every good craft beer store on the way, and grabbed a burger from this gas station deli that supposedly had good ones (it was okay). 

Pepperjack and Jalapeno Burger

The next morning I woke up really easily and all ready to go.  Both J and I were pretty excited to get the show on the road.  This year they had color coordinated time corrals, and the gatekeepers of those were really strict.  J jumped back a corral to hang out with me, and they kept telling him to move up.  It was like a runner apartheid up in there.

Once the race got going, we were off at a killer pace.  Unfortunately, for the first time ever in a run, I actually had to make a porta-john stop, and that killed about 2 minutes and took me out of rhythm.  I got it back for the next mile, but for some reason I started tanking about mile 6.  I'm not sure if it was the stop or just that it generally wasn't my day, but I completely lost my mojo there for the second half of the race.

I was still passing most of the people around me, so I should have felt encouraged, but the mile beeps of the Garmin kept me in my funk, knowing damn well that I was doing my best and still gaining more time than I wanted.  I knew a PR was out the window by mile 7, and I tried to tell myself just to enjoy the race.  On the bright side I knew it would be my best half-mary of the year, but that wasn't a lot of consolation. 

The only real consolation was the encouragement of the crowd, and of the fellow runners around me.  I'm not sure what it is about the Brooksie race and the people in Rochester Hills, but this seems to be one of the most chatty races you can be in.  Every time I run it, I end up in several conversations with the people around me.  Maybe it's because it's late in the season and people finally have the wind to do it, or maybe it's just that the spectators are nice and even throughout the course and they keep us alert and give us things to talk about (honestly, they're some of the best I've seen).  Either way, just that part of this race makes it enjoyable, not to mention all the nice fall colors starting up, the nice mix of nature and city, and the challenge of the hills.  

At about the 12 1/2 mile area, I got a sudden burst of second wind, and honestly, I would have felt better had it never come.  I guess it's a good thing to know is there for the upcoming marathon, but on a day where I was wondering where it had been the last 6 miles, I would have felt better struggling through the rest of the entire race and just knowing I stepped up and struggled through one of the worst, longest, roughest tanks of my running career.  Instead, I'm pulling like a 9:10 pace again for the last half mile and wishing there was more race ahead of me.

Chip time was a 2:11, so a far cry from threatening my 2:05 there from last year.  Still my best of the year, and below the running average, but, again, when you have a streak going, you really only care about that.  I was pretty upset with myself, and my meddling bladder, and probably would have went home right then and there, but they were hooking us up with a free beer, so I went back to the tent.

Disco Cover Band
Sure, the beer was a Bud Light, but it's free.  We sat around and listened to the disco cover band, and scanned our bibs with our phones for our times.  Then we snuck back to the car to pop the trunk and have a good beer (Right Brain WillPow!er), and headed home in defeat.  At least in defeat, there is still beer.
Post Race Medal Photo

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