Monday, May 6, 2013

OC Marathon: Cruising To My 10th Marathon Medal

Preparing for the OC Marathon was quite a bit difficult. I hadn't exactly been feeling fleet-of-feet in recent weeks, but on April 15 I ran 20 miles and the following Sunday I ran a half marathon. I knew I could do it, just was fearful of what condition I'd do it in.

I adjusted my expectations accordingly. I decided that I just wanted to finish. I think in some ways my experience in Long Beach has scarred me and running fast now seems to me a recipe for crashing out.

Regardless, I wanted to enjoy the marathon. Why not? This was supposed to be my 10th marathon after all, and I wanted the medal, the glory, the feeling of complete elation. I did. I'm greedy that way.

Because of all that, I got up at 3:10 a.m. Sunday, got my stuff together and met up with a friend in nearby Corona at 4 a.m. After a trafic-less drive to Costa Mesa and the OC Fairgrounds, we hopped on a shuttle bus and before too long were standing near the start line.

My friend Kuuipo and I ran into another friend of ours, Vance, and the three of us set off on our 26.2-mile journeys at roughly 5:30 a.m. I felt great. We started slow, which was planned, but after a couple of miles we picked up the pace ever so slightly. I felt comfortable and wanted to stay that way as long as possible.

Shortly into the race, Vance and I had to jump into the bathroom and Kuuipo kept on going. She was just up ahead and stayed that way. Eventually we lost her. Vance had springy legs and I told him a few times to run up ahead. After the midway point, he said he wanted to negative split, I wished him luck and off he went.

I was alone, and fine with it. I knew my race was going to be slow, and I didn't want to hold anyone back.

I was cruising. I wasn't going particularly fast (the 4:30 pacer went past me around Mile 16 while the 4:40 pacer passed me around Mile 22) but I didn't care. I was comfortable. I wanted to stay comfortable. I felt like if I were to have dug deep to find that extra gear, that I'd crash out eventually and then I'd be toast.

Mile 17 came and there were no feelings of despair. I made it a goal to focus on the next mile and tried to stay mentally sharp.  Pretty soon I passed up the Mile 18, 19 and 20 markers and celebrated after each one. After I hit 20 miles, I marveled at how much different and better I felt then than I had when I'd finished my 20-mile run last month. I knew I could get through another six-point-two miles.

Sure, there were tough moments. I had an issue with my phone and phone holder at about Mile 21. I had to fumble around when Mrs. LB called me a mile later. There were moments when my legs felt heavy. But I pushed through it all. Around Mile 25 I started to run with a smile afixed on my face. I knew I wasn't going to crash out. I knew that I was going to cruise into the finish. I also knew that I wasn't going to beat my LA time but it was night and day from how I felt at the end of LA to how I felt this last mile, and for that I was happy.

People were out on the course cheering me on and I thanked as many of them as I could. The horrendous situation that happened in Boston last month did not keep these people from lining the course and supporting the runners, and for that I felt humbled. I appreciated their cheers, claps and high-fives. It really did help lift my spirits.

Eventually, I came upon sight of the Mile 26 marker. I'd had some tears welled up in my eyes, as I have had in each of my marathons. I thought back to how I was before, 300-plus pounds, and here I was now about to finish my 10th marathon.

I rounded the final corner. The finish line was up ahead. I'd been practicing my pose for a little bit and here now was showtime. I lifted my arms up, spread my fingers out and commemorated my 10th marathon that way, with a smile and tears and finally, that medal.

And afterward, the best-tasting beer I've had in quite a while.

* I finished in 4:48:30, definitely not one of my faster efforts.
* Kuuipo finished in 4:30:16, not bad considering she was worried
* Vance, who ran with me every step of LA, finished in 4:24:14 - his pace at the half was 10:12, and overall was 10:04, so he got his negative split. Proud of him.
* I love the OC Marathon. I really do. Enjoyed it last year, enjoyed it this year. Becoming very fond of this event.

Friday, May 3, 2013

OC Marathon Plan: Finish

Well, this marathon sneaked up on me.

I will be running the OC Marathon on Sunday. It will be my 10th marathon and it will be my biggest challenge.

Why is it my biggest challenge? Because it's what's up next on my plate. I am sure that no matter how well my training is going, a marathon will always be a monstrous challenge. So this fits the bill for the latter even though the former is most defnitely not the case.

I have gotten my runs in, have gotten in the miles but for some reason the training has not felt great. My recent Run Through Redlands half marathon time is reflective of that. I finished in just under 2:03. It's a sluggish time for me, and that about sums up my training - sluggish.

I considered dropping down to the OC Half but opted against it, mostly because I want that marathon medal and that sense of pride I feel after running 26.2 miles. But when I decided to go all in, I did so with the caveat that I would take it easy. So I'm planning on taking it easy.

What does easy mean? Um... well... that part is to be determined with regards to time. But I want to run at a comfortable pace early on and hope that I can maintain it. For LA, I ran at a pace that was just a tad faster than comfortable and pooped out over the last 6-7 miles. I don't want to get to Mile 19 and begin to hate life. I want to wait until at least Mile 23 for that to happen.

I mean, I'm going to get there. I'm going to reach my breaking point. I know it. I've had one marathon where I felt like I nailed it mentally, and that was OC 2012. I don't know, maybe history will repeat itself. Maybe the course will be kind to me once more. Or maybe I will start to relax knowing that I will try to enjoy myself on the course. I'm hoping that sort of takes the pressure off of me.

Whatever the case, I have less than 48 hours now until Marathon No. 10. Double digits! I can't believe I'm in this position. I know I will cross the finish line. I know I will feel proud of myself after doing so. And I know I will wear my medal with pride. I've worked hard to put myself in a position to do all of that, so why fret about anything?

I just have to start believing that last part.