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Monday, October 15, 2012

Closure on Chicago


One week ago today I was still in Downtown Chicago, sipping on some coffee and eating a [guilt-free] donut with my mom and Jessie at our hotel.  I was re-hashing the race over and over again on what went wrong.  How on earth, I thought, did this happen again?  You see in 2011 I had the same goal at Chicago: Qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:04:59 (7:03/mile pace).  In 2011 I came up short, but was pleased with the result.  This year yielded the same result, but I was far from pleased.  In fact, I was pissed off.

One year is a long time in the world of training.  One year gives you more experience and room to grow as an athlete.  The fact is that I was better prepared for the 2012 Chicago Marathon than I was for the 2011 Chicago Marathon.  I was stronger, faster, and more experienced, not to mention, the weather was about 30 degrees cooler outside.  Everything was in my favor, yet I posted an almost identical time compared to the year prior.

Similarly to last year, the wheels came off at mile 23.  Up until that point I was on track, holding at about a 6:50/mi pace, running with the 3:00 marathon pace group.  I saw my family right about mile 23 and gave them a thumbs up.  I had been mentally battling for the last 5K but at that point I thought I could gut it out to the finish.  6:50’s gave me a buffer zone, so slightly slowing wasn't a big deal.  About 800m after the thumbs up my body said “You're done.”  I became disoriented, slightly dizzy and my legs felt like someone had beaten them with a baseball bat.  The pain isn't sharp, but incredibly dull and achy (magnified to the extreme).  That was it.

See the downfall?

After post-race debriefs galore and analyzing the hell out of my performance, it was determined that two main factors were at play in my failed attempt to BQ.  The first was my nutrition, and probably accounted for 80% of the crash.  Pre-race (the morning of and the day before) fueling was sub-par at best, and fueling during the race was only slightly better.  When I finished the race I was dizzy and "out of it."  Felt like my eyes were looking in two different directions.  Two Sierra Mists and a couple of chocolate chip cookies later, and I could have gone out and ran more.  Lesson learned.  The second was mental.  It's very rare you see an athlete push beyond their physical capacity.  The logical portion of your brain usually stops you before any real damage can be done.  I was no where near any serious medical trouble, yet my brain pulled the rip chord at 23.5.  This is something I can work on, this idea of mental toughness and pushing past pain.

All in all, I was dumbfounded.  As I jogged to the finish line I couldn't help but almost shrug my shoulders at the running gods: "What just happened?  I'm at a loss for words here."  But I know what happened.  And I know what to do in order to fix it.  Adjust, press on.

So now what?  I'll spare you the details of my decision-making process and cut to the chase.  On December 9th I'm going to make my third attempt at qualifying for Boston a charm, and what not a better place than my own backyard?  How nice it will be to run the same course that many I know will be running that same day.  How poetic, too, that this was my first-ever endurance race.

Dallas Marathon:  I'm coming for you.