"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Friday, October 15, 2010

10-10-10: The date to humiliate

I did it! I ran a marathon!
It took a lot of dedication, discipline, training, focus and determination, but I did it!
Charlie Ban = marathon finisher
The jubilation that someone feels when saying those words with pride is so foreign that I can't comprehend it. I'm beyond it, I'm cynical. The Chicago Marathon was nothing close to what I expected on my worst day. 2:50:04. On one of the fastest courses around. With a deep field amped to run fast.

Things started well enough. An easy flight to Chicago after work on Friday, no trouble getting to Pokey's apartment in Hyde Park. I woke up Saturday morning and took an easy 4.5 mile run, then had breakfast with Molz and a haircut, a meatball sandwich for lunch and a nap while we waited for Bethany to arrive from Pittsburgh. Our trip to the expo was efficient and dinner with the team was delicious. Sleep was a problem, though, Saturday night. Pokey's apartment was a University of Chicago dorm that didn't have air conditioning, but historical temperatures did not necessitate it.

Maybe it was three people sleeping in one room on top of the mid-day high in the mid 80s, but we sweltered. I cooled off by lying on the floor for a while, which helped. At some point, however, I evidently got up and tried to leave, getting as far as into the hallway

before Pokey woke up, asked me what I was doing, and I answered "I have no idea what I'm doing."
All three of us woke up at 5, eager to feel the low in the mid 50s. When we got outside to catch the bus, we learned that those lows wouldn't be coming. It was already in the low 60s, and it did not feel cool.
We caught the bus and I met up with Molz and Garrett. Molz was in a much better spirit than before Richmond. We got off and I parted company with everyone and went to check my bag.

I met up with some of the GRC guys for a team photo that didn't happen and headed to the start with Scott Koonce. Time started moving a lot faster as the race approached and before I knew it, the gun went off.

I realized that a lot of people were way too far ahead in Corral A because just trying to keep a 6:10 mile meant swimming through a crowd. I saw Laura O'Hara briefly in the tunnel and just went with the flow for a while. 6:07.61 A little quick, but I was barely thinking, just trying to keep my breathing relaxed and stay away from crowds that could go down if someone trips. I wanted to see in front of me. 5:46.63 Even faster- I was thinking 5:52-5:55, but there was no use getting hung up on splits this early. 5:50.25 Much better, let's just move a little faster, it will all add up over a mile. Sloane was around here, he said something, but I couldn't understand him. 5:40.93 Perfect! Just maintain this rhythm and I'll be in the right place. Keep it up until mile 21 then start pushing. Wound up with Mark Buschman from the Howard County Striders, with whom I ran part of Parks. 5:35.09 Fast, but I didn't think I needed to slow dramatically. 5:44.04 Busch mentioned it was a little slow, again, I didn't want to overreact. The fast previous mile gave me a cushion. 5:39.30 Great. Had some gu. Heard Madeline Harms to my right! 5:44.33 Cruised along in the shade. 5:36.50 Oh deary me! A little fast! 5:40.20 Saw Javed Gangjee off to the side. Yelled "Happy birthday!" but he didn't hear me, so I got close, and yelled his name. He turned, I repeated my greeting and he yelled for me. 5:39.09 Started running with a big pack that included Tera Moody, one of the better US women and one with whom I identified because of a common inability to sleep. I think hers is chronic insomnia, whereas I hope I can fix mine once doctors rip my tonsils out. 5:41.90 Feeling great- still not breathing hard, just floating along.5:52.63 Woah, I didn't realize we slowed down, but I was hanging with the pack, and for once, I was acquiescent to a mob mentality. Passed the half in 1:15:16- a 3:03 PR! I have to let the good times keep rolling! 5:56.20 Slowed to take some water and gu, but caught up with the pack a little later. 6:06.49 Ok, I rushed too much to catch the pack. My god, it's sunny out here. When did it get so hot? I thought I was still recovering from my effort to surge back up to the pack.

6:08.93 I've been dropped and am running alone. 6:13.00 The wind is getting bad. I am dizzy. Maybe my sunglasses are too tight, I'll take them off. Gosh, it's so sunny. 13:11.74 I couldn't find the mile marker, just stupid kilometers. I was terrified I had dipped into the 7s 6:35.44 hit 20 miles in 1:58:49. Still under six minute pace. If I keep this up, I can run 2:36. Took some water and gu, this will be the last one. I start seeing runners milling around the sidewalks, some sitting down. 6:58.50 Oh carp! My right arm and foot are numb. Did I have a stroke? What am I going to do? Cotterell and Murphy pass me, and I initially see Charlie Van Gombos. What is he doing here? Am I going crazy? I stop and untie my right shoe- maybe it's too tight and is cutting off the circulation to my foot. When I try to start running again, my quads seize up. This is bad. 9:11.13 I see Molz, standing my the side of the road, dripping. He yells for me. Shit, he dropped out? I see Garrett a few yards ahead of him. I start to lose hope. After a while, I sit down on the curb for a while and try to catch my breath. It's not so much of a choice as it is the only thing my body can do. I am so hot. I can't think. Three minutes pass,I have to get going.

9:57.54 I see a water stop, I pass it and pull over behind it and help myself to five cups and lean against the rail of a bridge. If I am going to have water, I am going to enjoy it! 8:31.57 Took a while to walk, stretch out my calves. Man, this marathon blows. 7:04.02 Started running more constantly. Saw a Pacers girl. Aw man, I really am falling back. Saw Javed in here somewhere, or at least heard him. He yelled for me to keep my head up, I tried to comply. 8:00.43 Back in the shade, but I am tired. Stop to walk a few times- at this point, what does it matter? Maybe Kate will catch me and I can run with her, despite her efforts to avoid ever running with me. (she ended up running 2:52, a 10 minute PR) I stop for a while, then I see Pat Hughes run by. Maybe I should try to run in with him! I start to run after him, for five seconds. Then I stop again. Aw, screw it!! I keep jogging, though. Let's finish this abortion of a race. 1:31.70 Yeah, that's over. Thank God...

As I walked around, trying to keep my legs from seizing, I analyzed everything, the wrong way as it turned out. I had run almost a minute faster two years ago at Marine Corps, in trainers, starting in the back of the pack and forced to run 7:49s the first few miles. Without the long runs, without the 100+ mile weeks, without the workouts that I did this summer. Was I that colossal of a failure that with all of this marathon training, I still wasn't good enough? I was embarrassed that the neophyte marathoner that I was two years ago outperformed the seasoned distance runner I had become. Even though my memory is unusually sharp, I could barely remember most of the last three hours. Granted, I have recounted it here, but what I have written was just a sliver of what happened. I don't remember when exactly I saw Madeline and Javed. I saw Billy and Christiam a few times. I don't know why I didn't just slow down to a crawl, totally recover and try to still run under 2:35. Because I wasn't in my right mind. I thought I could just run harder and drop time when something was affecting me negatively.

But I knew I was better than that. What about that mountain run? What about the ease with which I had run some of my long runs?

So, what happened? Did I go out too fast? No, I don't think I did. The entire time I was averaging 5:40-high between miles for and 12, I ran completely within myself. Mike Cotterell, who ran a great race for a 10 minute PR, said it plainly to me on the walk to meet up with everyone else "You aren't a hot weather runner." Evidently it was 67? degrees at the start, and most of the first half was in the shade. It was 74 degrees by the time I hit 21 miles and most of the rest of the race was in the sun. It wasn't oppressively hot, but it was much warmer than I would prefer to be running anything longer than 10k. It snuck up on me, and before I knew it, it kicked me to the ground. Now it was after the race, and I was wandering, still sweating, and I came across a fountain. When I tried to jump in, two volunteers told me it was a bad idea, and I asked for directions to Lake Michigan. On my way there, Molz called, so I sat down to take it and looked ahead, right into the eyes of Timothy James Caramore, watching the race with his lovely new wife Elizabeth. It had been two years since I had seen TC Booyeah, so it was a pleasure to catch up. Eventually, Molz and Garrett found us, and we had a nice little reunion.

Men of the Spider track team

Should I have dropped out at 21, when I started losing my mind? Probably. Once I sat down in the street -- definitely. I don't think I hurt myself, though. I came the closest when I tried to run with Hughes after a dead stop toward the end. My feet were cramped like crazy and I had bad blood blisters on two toes, but nothing terrible. The mental kick in the balls, though, from suffering through the last few miles was pretty severe.

I caught up with Pokey, who was also disappointed with his time, but to be honest, the way his legs were feeling a few weeks ago it was great just for him to be able to run. And he's over the hump of his first marathon. I never saw Eric Anish, but he ran 2:42 I think. Murphy was happy enough with his time. Reaves wasn't, nor were Bain, Sloane and Shannon. Dickson and Ernst dropped out after 21. Laura gave up, Katie Jarocki blew up, Kylee almost caught up. Jess Gangjee almost didn't make it to the finish. Medical assistants had to walk her in before she pushed them away to run her last 100 meters, but when they put the medal around her neck, she passed out and spent the next four hours in the medial tent with a 102 degree temperature.
My unnamed rival ran pretty well. I was bummed to have not even realized he was in the race.
Anne-Marie Alderson had the biggest race- a 33 minute PR, after finishing an Ironman six weeks prior.

While having lunch with Bethany and Pokey a few hours afterward, I think Pokey suggested, "why not do another one?" Then I realized, I would be in DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. The weather has been great the last two years. What's to lose? Besides my confidence? I decided then that I would give it another shot in 21 days. I took a five mile jog around Hyde Park Monday morning and a one mile sprint through the Detroit Airport to catch my connecting flight home and then started organizing people to cheer and support me around the Marine Corps Course. Then I got a great message from Howard Nippert.
It wasn't a phone call, but he looks like a badass in this picture.

Listen up, Boy.
You had a great first part of Chicago.
I was hoping you would get back on the horse and race soon, but not too soon.
I can tell you right now that you impressed me, not only convincing me that you're in the best shape I've seen you in (of course I wasn't around you guys all the time) since I've known you, but your confidence was at an all-time high. It took a bucket of balls to jump out and lead the Alumni race and make those guys come get you. Now, take that preparation and confidence, temper it with a little taste of knowledge and experience, and perhaps a better idea of what you're capable of in terms of finish time and run a smart, calculated, properly executed race.
You went all the way this weekend, so realize that there isn't going to be much training this week or even in a week or two going into MCM. You've got 2 weeks and a taste and most of that should be recovery and some stuff to shake the doo-doo from your legs. Don't tap into your muscles as they try to recover with a long run or a long interval workout. Keep things short until next weekend if you want to do something a taste longer, but not long.
The big mistake you can make that can screw the pooch is to think you can add more training between now and then. A marathon that goes "bad" takes longer to recover from than one that goes "good" because you finished and ran it the hard way. The second half takes way more out of you when it lasts 20 minutes longer and you don't back out.
Just my 2 cents.
Keep the faith, son. You're in great shape. Keep the fitness up with little short things for staying sharp that won't tap into you while you try to recover. Keep your confidence up as you go because the training hasn't gone anywhere. You're still as fit today as you were last week and you'll be as fit in 3 weeks as you were heading into last week.
Be smart and don't be scared and try to "make up" for something that was lacking (because it doesn't seem anything was) going into Chicago.

Great advice.

So, I'm ready to go. Five days later, I am feeling like I'm 95%, but true to Howard's advice I'm keeping it easy. I'm talking to Steve about some specific workouts to keep myself primed for Marine Corps later today. I'll get in a nice easy run with some GRC guys tomorrow and start in earnest to redeem myself.

I took Tuesday off, and ran a very easy 6 miles Wednesday around the Mall with Melissa. Thursday, I ran my typical Hains Point loop for 9.55, and today I will run around Falls Church until I feel I've had enough.


  1. Sorry the race didn't go as you wanted Charlie - I truly know how you feel when you put so much into something and don't get the return!! But like your friend said, keep the faith! The fitness is there - no go show everyone at Marine Corp! We're rooting for you!

  2. Great effort in Chicago. Really tough conditions. I'll be excited to track you in DC in a few weeks.