Monday, October 11, 2004

For the last few days I've blogged incessantly about the Chicago Marathon. This post shall be the end-all post on the topic. With the Internet as my witness, I shall blog about that damn race no more (after today).

That being said, let's review.

Last October, nearly one year ago, I decided to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon. For a man of my advanced years, that required running a marathon in 3 hours, 15 minutes and 59 seconds. Or under. This seemed like the next logical goal in my running "career". I had four marathons under my belt and had achieved my previous goal of running one in 3 hours and 30 minutes, on my third try.

I added a bit of strength training to my regimen as well as weekly rides on the exercise bike. Doing all this was like pulling teeth, but I knew it was the only way I'd get faster. So, I went from running 2 or 3 times a week, to exercising 5, and sometimes 6, times a week. It was horrible. No sane human being should spend that much time exercising. Especially if they have a wife and child. Shameful, really. Anyways.

So, last June, I flew down to San Diego for their annual Rock 'n' Roll marathon, and rather than qualifying for Boston, I chose to demonstrate why this blog is called "I Am Prepared To Give Up At Any Time". I gave up at around mile 23, when I really really really had to go potty. I probably wouldn't have made it anyway, but still. Essentially I threw 8 months of training down the port-a-potty, missing my qualifying time by 5 minutes.

Like any half-assed athlete, I figured that the only way to succeed would be to lower the bar. Thus, rather than training harder, I set my sights on Chicago, famed for its flat course and cool weather. Runners often set personal records in this marathon.

So, at 8am, on October 10th, 2004, I started running the Chicago Marathon.

Despite my mantra of the previous week, "Nothing new, Mike. Nothing new.", I tried something slightly new in this marathon. I ran the first few miles slower than my target pace of 7 minutes and 28 seconds per mile. Wiser men than I have told me that this is the path to enlightenment, or at least to a good solid run. I've read that it's good to run slowly for 13 miles, others have said 5, and somebody somewhere mentioned 3. Personally, I find it to be disheartening to be off pace from the first step, so I abandoned the plan at the first opportunity, at mile 3. Good enough. I was back on pace by mile 10, which made my ever-calculating brain much happier.

Some folks write down all their mile split times on an armband to use as a guide during their run. Personally, when I run, I'm looking for any distraction I can get, including math. So, I look forward to doing my how-fast-am-I-going calculation and my how-fast-do-I-need-to-run-for-the-remainder-of-the-race calculation every mile. I'll admit that this sounds like a boring mental exercise, but more boring than running 26.2 miles? I think not.

The Chicago Marathon is a HUGE marathon. About a bazillion runners and about two bazillion spectators. Although none of them were there specifically to see me, many of them had signs, and many of those signs said something like "Go, Mike, go!" I decided early on (Mile 1), that I'd assume those signs were for me. Mostly having a name like Mike is a pain in the ass. Stand in any crowded room for a few minutes and you'll hear someone say, "blah blah Mike blah blah.". It gets to be annoying, so I took this rare opportunity to enjoy the spoils of having America's most common name. These signs were mine.

"Yay Mike!" - Thanks! Yes, yay for me!
"Mike's our Idol" - Wow, that's a little much, but what the hell.
"Mike, You Stud!" - You know it, baby
."We Love Mike!" - Whoa! Get a room. With the other Mike.

Some signs referenced other people. Apparently someone named Steve also ran this race, and some woman named Deidre. There may have been others.

By the halfway mark, at mile 13.1, I was about 30 seconds ahead of pace. That felt pretty good. I had been sucking down my Goo, and gulping the Gatorade at every water stop. For the first time, I was drinking the fluid while running. Usually I walk at the water stops, but not this time. Boston or bust, baby!

Soon, slightly ahead of me, I saw a large fit African American man wearing a Tibco shirt. This stuck out in my mind because I remembered that Roger Craig, ex 49er and All-Star running back, had run the San Diego Marathon this year, and had been sponsored by Tibco (which is a competitor to the company I work for. Boo Tibco!). So, I caught up to him, looked over at him, and it WAS Roger Craig. There aren't many football players I'd recognize, but Roger Craig is one of them. I'm not a gay man (despite what you may have heard), but Roger Craig is a fine looking man.

So, while running alongside him, I said, "Nice going. I've always enjoyed watching you." Perhaps in some other venue, that would have come across as idiotic, or perhaps even stalkerish, but it was the best I could do after around 14 miles, and Roger responded nicely. He said, "Thanks" and grasped my hand in a sweaty, running, pseudo-handshake. I briefly contemplated never washing that hand again. It was pretty nasty though. Anyway, I then slowly ran ahead of him.

Roger Craig!

Things went pretty smoothly until around mile 20. That's when runners are supposed to hit the proverbial "Wall". I slowed down a bit at this point, but it probably was mental as much as as physical. At this point I was over a minute ahead of schedule, so I still felt as though things were in hand. Soon, I would be using my secret weapon.

At mile 22, I popped open the caffeinated goo pack. I never drink coffee before a long run, so a caffeinated goo pack is a noticeable little kick to the system. By mile 23, I was running ahead of pace again. I knew it was in the bag at this point.

Mile 24, 25, and even 26 went smoothly. Just before the Mile 26 marker, there was the only real hill of the marathon (and it wasn't a large hill). I saw some other runners throw their hands up in disgust at the placement of this obstacle, but I was undeterred. We had just run nearly 26 miles, a hill was NOT going to stop me. They could have put in a moat filled with man-eating crocodiles, trained to devour lactic acid, and I would not have been deterred. I powered up the hill and soon across the finish line at 26.2 miles, clocking in at just over 3 hours and 14 minutes after I started.

So, I made it. I qualified for the Boston Marathon by less than 2 minutes, but I made it. I picked this stupid goal a year ago, struggled through an absurd number of workouts, and then sought out the flattest city in America, so that I could run as hard as I could for over 3 hours. I'm pretty sure that it really wasn't worth all the effort, but crap, I'll take it.

Next up. Boston. April 18th, 2005.

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