Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Run

The first few steps you take following biking 100+ miles (really 40+ miles) are some of the most awkward feeling steps you'll ever take. #1 bike cleats are not easy to walk in, but you've been wearing them normally for 6.5 hours and totally forget about that. #2 your legs are tired, but not the walking/running muscles so much, so they feel worn out and not worn out at the same time producing a very unmistakable al dente spaghetti leg feeling. And #3 your testicles are probably numb. I don't know about everyone else, but I have found I'm never more aware of my testicles than when I can't feel them. With that in mind...

I hop off the bike and a volunteer is johnny on the spot to go rack it for me (I'm not sure if I've given enough props to the volunteers at this race they were AWESOME). Another hands me my running gear and into the change tent I go. Look what I packed in my run gear bag, a towel. That's about 112 miles late, and mostly useless as I've just been through mother nature's equivalent of a blow dryer on meth. Sock change, shorts change, and sadly shirt change. Throw on the Coors Light hat and the scraggly beard I've been "growing" all month and I've transformed from the classiest guy on a bike to redneck marathon man.

Transformation Complete

Leaving the tent it dawns on me I haven't used the bathroom since 6 am or so. It's about 2:30 pm, time for a well deserved pee break. Being surprisingly hydrated (according to the color of my pee) I take off for the first of three loops of the run course, and I feel pretty good. Scarf a banana and some water at the first aid station and settle into a solid pace.

The first lap is great, I see my supporters 3 separate times, my little brother runs a few tenths of a mile with me, I find #206 (Jonathon from Boise). My legs warm up, I'm right on pace. I get confident. The aid stations feel perfectly spaced, I don't want for water or sports drink. I take down some gels, I destroy some hills, I finish the first lap cruising. I get cocky.

Finishing the first lap through a throng of my adoring fans jazzes me up, I am fully confident that I'm never slowing down. I remember thinking how silly I was to train as hard as I did for such an easy race. I'm really cruising now, there's a line up at the aid station, skip it! I feel too good for water, or food, or gels. Coke? Don't be ridiculous. I see my adoring fans again around mile 10-11. Do I need my special needs bag? Nope, maybe I should carry some of these poor walking bastards on my back to get them out of the way. Hills don't bother me. Another line up at an aid station, skip another one! No time to waste, I've got dinner reservations. I come to the finish of the second lap and don't see my fans, hahaha that's ok they're already waiting for me at the finish line! Be there soon amigos! Nothing can stop me now.

Except possibly 9 more miles of running. The Greek dude that ran from Marathon to Athens probably felt pretty decent around mile 18 also, the end of his jaunt was not as pleasant. Neither was mine.

At mile 19 I passed, for the last time, Aid station #2. Some of the aid stations had themes, two had emcees, one had music and dancing girls, one was cops and robbers, and aid station #2 had a "tune-up" theme. They had water and food and the like, but they also had a tent with in-race massages and a pain reliever cream (like ben gay or something). My legs had been a good sport about the whole finish-this-absurd-day-of-working-out-with-a-marathon thing until I blew right through aid station #2 without a second thought. Then they went on strike.

If you've ever run a marathon before mile 19-20 is about the area of the race where most athletes hit the "wall". It is not fun. Your legs are shattered, you walk like an 80 year old man with a peg leg, and mentally you hate the world, the stupid race, and yourself for getting yourself into this situation. It is a pretty rough self-loathing spiral that takes a little doing to get out of. After about a mile of walking I had to get going again. Finishing the race was a sure thing at this point, regardless of how I covered the last 5-6 miles, but I was getting passed by septuagenarians... who were walking... and getting passed easily. So I got some Coca-Cola, and Chicken broth in me and took off again, feeling surprisingly OK.

This feeling lasted 3 more miles. Through the throng of cheering fans near the transition area/finish line, across the bridge to the part of the course sparsely populated by spectators, and to the top of the steepest (and only) hill on the run course. Here the wall hit me back. I returned to my turtle-paced hobbling, and got mentally lost in an emotional black hole of hate for another mile and a half. Volunteers took one look at me and wisely decided against offering an enthusiastic "hang in there buddy" when I passed. Other racers didn't look at me twice. I had snapped, the race had beat me. I thought seriously about swimming back across Tempe Town Lake to get to the finish line faster. I tried running a few times and couldn't keep it up. I was lost. Until the first person to talk to me in a mile offered this, "It'll come back, be ready when it does."

I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but that bit of sagely advice came from somewhere in that dude that knew exactly where I was. That nugget stayed in the back of my mind until about a mile left to the finish line. My hobbling had sped up just a little, and I didn't have far to go...

Miles covered so far:

Swim: 2.4

Bike: 112

Run: 25.2-ish

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