Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ogden Marathon 2014: Oops, I Did It Again!

This is a secret blog post.  I’m hoping my wife doesn’t find this, at least not anytime soon.  Last year I wrote about my experience running the Ogden Marathon in the rain and with minimal training.  As I crossed the finish line last year I vowed that I would run it again with more training.  Alas, personal weakness pulled me down this year.  I could mention increased stress at work, a new church calling with increased responsibilities, and the exhaustion of having six wonderful children…but they would just be excuses to cover my weakness.  

Jeff photobombing my selfie

Really the reason for my failure to train this year for any of my races comes down to a desire to sleep in and to watch television in the evenings. My wife has threatened me if I try to run the marathon again without training.

As the date for the Ogden Marathon approached, I again had friends and family reminding me that the date was approaching.  In the forefront of my mind was the desire and idea simply to not show for the race.  The subject of not running was broached with my father, six months back from his deployment.  With his limited training I hoped that maybe he would ratify my suggestion thus saving us significant pain and discomfort.  Three weeks prior to the race, however, he called to inform me that he had reserved our rooms at our secret lodging facility.  He said I was committed.

The bulk of my training this year consisted of some regular running in early April prior to the Ragnar Zion Trail Relay and the actual running of the relay.  Unfortunately during the trail relay I only finished two of the legs due to the weather.  Not only was I denied 8.2 miles of training, I managed to crash into the ground during my night run injuring my back.

With a recovering back and one more short run, I packed my running gear and my two boys into the car.  We left Thursday before the race for Provo to stay at my parents.  Friday afternoon, in the midst of an effort to complete the sale of our house in Colorado Springs (for which my wife did most of the work), my dad, Jeff, and I left Utah Valley for Ogden and Huntsville.

Port-a-Potty Village, aka The Starting Area
The location for the Ogden Marathon Expo this year was amazing.  Runners, volunteers, and others were well served by the Weber County Sports Complex on the campus of Weber State University.  Parking was a cinch and packet pick up ran smoothly.  For a few minutes I managed to forget the pending doom hung over me by my lack of training.

Driving up Ogden Canyon to our secret lodging facility, I couldn’t help but think of all the emotion and pain I had felt in previous years coming down that canyon.  With a herculean effort I regained control of my thoughts as they attempted to stray into the realm of “what’s going to happen tomorrow.”  At that point my ability to change anything through training was gone.  It was time to accept simply what was going to be—to be prepared to make the best of it.

Sleep evaded me for several hours that night, partly due to nerves and partly due to my extra efforts to hydrate during the day.  Eventually sleep overcame me and I was pulled out of a dream by my alarm.  Within a few minutes I was gathered with other runners in the dining area for an excellent meal.  The buses were almost 30 minutes later than normal picking us up this year in Huntsville.  It made for a shorter wait in the cold at the start line but also prevented me from cycling through the outhouse lines to relieve myself of pre-race jitters.

I ran with my dad for the first 10 miles with the hope that we could push each other to cut-offs in time and ultimately to the finish line.  Still on antibiotics for strep throat and suffering with congested lungs, he had a tough go of it.  Shortly after mile 10 he realized he may not make it to the halfway point in time to make it to the cutoff at the top of the dam.  With his encouragement, and a little bit of guilt, I left him behind.
Dad (Reed) and Jeff

As I came into Eden the day was starting to warm up (and by then the winner of the marathon had crossed the finish line in Ogden already).  Without a pause this year I pushed past the halfway point and up the hill.  Physically I still felt fine but I could feel my energy ebbing away.  From mile 15 on I had to force myself to eat when I could and to drink water and PowerAde.  I pushed some electrolyte pills and a few acetaminophen pills along the way.  Just under two miles from the dam I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t make the cut off time.  A deputy sheriff drove by announcing that we had 40 minutes.  From there I knew that even walking I would make it to the finish line before they shut the course down.  Not an overly inspiring thought, but it kept me going.

The heat became a threat to my ability to continue forward.  I forced myself to continue hydrating.

Down the canyon I struggled to run at all.  I had no timing device with me this year, aside from my phone that was tucked away in a pouch.  Due to my extra slow pace this year a couple of the aid stations were out of oranges when I arrived.  Oranges keep me going when nothing else will.  The canyon, as always was beautiful, and it was a bit more solitary this year for me.

Once out of the canyon my ability to run for more than sixty seconds at a time was gone.  I pushed when I could but it wasn’t too often.  With two miles to go I caught up with a girl who had passed me earlier.  Her name is Heather.  She committed to keep up with my walking pace.  The conversation helped keep my thoughts off of the pain in my feet and the cramps in my legs.  Running would have felt better on my feet than walking, but I couldn’t muster the energy to sustain anything worthwhile.

Again, the interminable stretch down Grant bludgeoned my mental commitment.  In a desire to get it over I quickened my stride.  Finally, with a tenth of a mile to go, Heather and I ran.  We crossed the finish line together exchanging high fives.  While my finish time consists of numbers that are more than a bit embarrassing, finishing was grand as always.  

Across the finish line I struggled to think about what to do next.  Looking ahead I saw several of my Air Force brothers and sisters in their uniforms holding the medals.  I must have looked confused and dazed.  A young, female staff sergeant caught my eye.  She held it as she raised a medal in her arms for me.  Understanding came a bit slowly to me, but with my comprehension I pointed to her and limped the twenty or so yards so she could put the medal on my neck.

Two major lessons for this year:
1.     I can finish a marathon with almost no training.
2.     I shouldn’t try to run a marathon with almost no training

Other lessons:
1.     Sometimes lessons have to be taught multiple times before they are learned.
2.     People can do so much more than they think they can.
3.     Marathons are one of the most motivational events.

My dad finished his race at the halfway point in Eden.  Our friend Jeff finished in 4:40.  Prior to the race I told my dad that I likely would run only the half marathon next year due to my training schedule.  Looking back on the race now, I want to commit to running the full marathon for the sixth time.  In order to allow myself to register in October, I have set some strict goals that I must meet.  Basically, it comes down to running regularly (and it will mean running in Las Vegas during the summer).

Here’s to next year’s goal of qualifying myself to run the full Ogden Marathon and to improving my time.  (Let’s keep this on the down low from my wife for as long as possible.)

1 comment:

Rosie said...

Awesome! I have great fear of the marathon! Running for 6 hours or more is just hard!!

Training--its a good thing!