What a whirlwind of emotions November turned out to be. The event that I trained so hard for so long was cancelled due to one of the cities worst natural disasters in their history. A once in a decade storm decimated the great city of New York. In all honesty, I do not think that the event organizers, the upper part of the city, the mayor, or myself had any idea how bad things were down in Staten Island. The natives were, rightfully so, very upset that the mere idea that this event would be held when these folks were grasping for hope and trying to rebuild their own lives.
That said, I had a very hard time letting all of the months of dedication and hard work go to waste. On the night that the NY Marathon was cancelled, a friend of mine, Nichole Roadcap, made me aware of the Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon just down the road from me in two weeks. Emotions took over and I jumped at the idea. I didnt even look at the map or elevation chart. I was all in. The following morning I went out for a grudge run (a run in which you are mad about stuff and wanting to take out your frustrations on the pavement). This was not a good idea. I went out, mad, upset, emotional, etc... and struggled MIGHTILY to run 12 miles. I probably walked a good .35 - .50 miles through a course in which I normally have no problems with. When I got back to the car, Mr. Marathon Man himself Bryan Timmons had sent me a text stating "lets do this" in reference to the Charlotte Marathon idea that I brought to his attention the night before. At that point the countdown was on. The two fellas from Wi-Sa/J-Vegas who were stoked about the NY Marathon had now turned their attention to the Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon. Those fine folks from Thunder Road even gave the NY Marathon folks a break on the registration fee. It was time to regroup. The next two weeks proved to be two of the most relaxing and rewarding weeks of running in many many months. No more pressure to run the biggest running event in the world was like lifting a million tons off of my already tired shoulders.
This cant be happening:
These two weeks did start to create some damage on the knee. A few nights after running I was unable to put hardly any pressure on the left leg due to the significant knee pain. It was worrisome but I refused to let this creep into the equation. I saw an article that advised you to taper your runs on a treadmill to save unneeded stress on the joints so I decided to join the YMCA. The odd thing about this was that my last "long run" of the post NY Marathon training plan was sensational. A 9:30mm over 12 miles was something I didnt think was possible for this 36 year old body, but it happened and it happened on a VERY hilly Elkin course. This run would have been VERY encouraging had I been able to walk the next day. That knee pain kept getting worse and worse but I figured if I can run on it for 26 miles I can deal with the inability to walk for a few days afterwards. 3 very short but very painful treadmill runs would be my final tune ups before Charlotte. I was ready (I think)
Welcome to Charlotte!
I had to take Friday off. Mentally. I used the excuse that I needed to pick up my Running packet on Friday, which was 100% accurate, but the truth of it was that I simply would have been 110% completely useless at work thinking only about the task at hand. I used Friday to lay back, have lunch with my daughter and yes, go pick up my race packet. Doubles Timmons arrived at the house about 2:00 pm and we were off. We made it down to Charlotte around 3:00 and checked into the magnificent Blake hotel which turned out to be about 300 yards away from the finish line, that we could see from our hotel window. We finished up our week long carb load at an amazing Italian restaurant in the parking lot of Time Warner Cable Arena. Baked Clams, Spaghetti, tons of bread and some free Garlic Knots courtesy of Foursquare would be my last dinner before the run. "Nervous" didnt even begin to describe my feelings on this day. I couldnt sleep, couldnt think, and couldnt focus on anything except the next day. I think I paced the room for about 45 miles that night, repeatedly looking out the window, envisioning what would hopefully be a triumphant cross over the finish line.
The green flag was scheduled to drop at 7:45am, however we decided that we would wake up at 5:30. I heard (Herd) Timmons up and rustling way before that I so just layed in bed pretending to be asleep. I dont know if it was the baked clams or the bundle of nerves, but my stomach was TORE UP. I was thinking to myself "Please be port a johns every 30 feet, please please please." As it turned out, it was nerves as it only took 3 trips to the potty and I seemed to be good to go. Timmons was even kind enough to share a bagel with me for my pre game run. Off to the starting line we go at 7:00am. WOW it was cold. WOW it was windy. I think the wind chill factor was probably -65 degrees. Even without the wind it was a solid -45 degrees or so. Cold enough to flash freeze ones vital organs, that was for sure. We werent 100% sure exactly where the start line was but it was easy enough to follow the masses. Thanks be to the city of Charlotte for opening up their convention center for us to chill out/warm up in the moments leading up to the race. Also thanks be to the gentlemen who pointed us in the direction of the hidden restrooms. That proved to be clutch. It was time to down the pre race gu and head to the starting gates. Have I mentioned yet how nervous I was? Yes. Yes I was. NERVOUS. BT was composed so I just tried to lean on him to regroup. We lined up nearest to the sun we could find so we didnt freeze to death. Then we heard a very odd sound of a race car reving up its engine. WHAT DID THAT MEAN? WHAT WAS HAPPENING? At that point I saw the masses start moving up tward the city. It was gametime!!
My goal was to maintain about an 11:15mm for the 1st 7 or so miles, and then start shaving a second or so off each 5 miles or so. That didnt happen. At all. I busted out the gate at about a 10:30mm. I literally couldnt slow down. I tried. I tried so hard but I physically could not make my body slow down any slower. That..and it was downhill. I kept thinking back to my 20 mile training run, which SUCKED, in which I ran about 16 miles at a 10:00mm pace, but the last 4 miles at bout a 12mm pace. I figured that I could probably just keep this 10:30mm pace for 22 miles maybe and then walk the last 4 and still finish in about 5:20 or so, which would still meet my goal. So thats what I did. I settled into my 10:30mm pace through the great city of Charlotte. I saw some AWESOME sights. 2 buses full of kids stopped in traffic were screaming their heads off FOR us around mile 4. I loved that. They were really into it. Other runners ran over to the busses to give high 5's. I was too locked in to get off of my course so I just stayed straight. I saw several runners in their bare feet around mile 5 or 6. BARE FEET! Earlier you heard about the arctic like weather that had overcome the city of Charlotte. Dang barefoot runners...dang. I reached mile 11, still hanging onto that 10:30mm pace and strangely enough, feeling as strong as I did in mile 1. Not sore, not tired, nothing. A mile later though was something that was a bit odd. The 1/2 marathon folks took a right while the marathon folks took a left. For every runner I passed for the 1st 12 miles, I was passed by 15 other runners, so by mile 12 I was all by myself when the 1/2'ers broke off. That was surreal. It was time for ear plugs. It was also time to pick up my pace by about :45 seconds per mile. From mile 11 through mile 19, my pace went from 10:30 to 9:58. I have no idea why this happened or how. All I kept hearing and reading was that at mile 18 I would hit this awful wall. That didnt happen either. By the grace of God I continued to get stronger as the race progressed instead of getting more and more tired. Sure, there were some nagging injuries, such as my right ankle that locked up on me about mile 4, and the blister the size of a bar of soap on that same foot was growing and growing. Mile 20 I did start to feel it a little. I was still thinking that I could walk some and meet my 5:15 goal, but only if I had to. Then, out of nowhere, came the most amazing street party I have ever seen in my life. It was the NoDa community!!! The ENTIRE COMMUNITY was outside ON THE ROAD screaming their completely drunk heads off in support of the full marathoners. I was 2 hours behind the winners of this thing but they were STILL in full force when I crossed through. It was AMAZING. They even built this huge wall that they put in the middle of the road that said "BREAK THROUGH THE WALL" or something like that. I give credit to these folks for getting me through the next 6 miles They pumped me up at mile 20 just as much as I was pumped at mile one. I love these people so much. From there, it was all me. 6 miles to victory. So many different thoughts kept going through my head. Thoughts about all of the sacrifice over the past 10 months. The bad runs. The good runs. The suckers who told me that I couldnt do it. The suckers who refused to acknowledge that I was even doing it. But mostly what went through my head was all of the support I had received from my friends, co workers, clients, wife and church family who told me that I CAN do this. By mile 23 it was obvious that I was not only going to meet my goal, I was going to crush it. I was in pain, I was tired, my feet were killing me and I was pretty sick to my stomach from some sort of gummy bears a complete stranger gave me at mile 20. That said, you would have to have chopped off my feet at this point to keep me away from that finish line. I did not walk one inch the entire way, not even through the hydration stations, not even up those hills, or the 90 degree hill up mt everest at mile 20. I couldnt wait to tell Timmons that I was finished. I couldnt wait to surprise Jana that I finished in an hour before I told her I would. And then as I turned right onto the finish line strip at mile 26 with only 2 tenths of mile left, all of that hard work paid off 10 fold. There it was. The finish line that I stared at for hours the night before. This was the victory lap that I had read about over and over. And there was Jana, screaming her head off for me just shy of that line. And then, just as quickly as this whole thing started for me on December 10, 2011 with the worst running effort of my life...it was over. I had just run a full marathon. 26.2 whole miles. There were no words to describe this feeling. I was too tired to be emotional. This was the greatest physical achievement of my entire life. I tried to downplay this thing for the last 10 months, but running a marathon is a big frikin deal. A HUGE deal even. Doubles even surprised me with the 26.2 car magnet that I was craving so badly this entire time. This moment was glorious.
Exactly 50lbs of weight loss from start to finish.
Between Timmons and Myself (Mostly Timmons), we raised $5150 for breast cancer research!
Training runs in only three states..North Carolina, South Carolina and Nevada!
Only 12 miles run on a treadmill.
Almost 900 miles from January through Marathon.
Best Run: The Charlotte Marathon, Duh.
Worst Run: Probably a tie between the 20 long run and an 8 mile training run that saw me wreck my car, get bit by a dog, walk 4 times, run face first into a sign and dang nearly pass out from heat stroke.
Shoes: 3 pair of shoes. Started in brooks pure performance, then to some Asics Gel Nimbus 13 and then some Gel Nimbus 14 to finish up.
Most impressive piece of gear: Compression shorts. Changed the dynamic of every run dramatically.
Revelation: KT Tape. I wore it once...DURING the marathon. Guess who had NO KNEE PAIN THE ENTIRE TIME?!? THIS GUY!!!! KT Tape...the stuff.
Best Motivators: Chris Freak Nix and Bryan Timmons. For 6 months we had a daily email string talking about successes and failures in our training runs. Nix trained for a marathon but had a baby instead.