Running on Empty

I really want to run a marathon. It’s on my bucket list.

I’d also like to get rid of the term bucket list. Getting rid of the term “bucket list” is on my bucket list.

But, I digress.

About 2 months ago I received an email from the organizers of the pace team for the Portland Rock n Roll Half Marathon, that I was a pacer in, asking me if I was going to pace the Portland Marathon.

“Ha ha ha,” I typed, “I have never run a marathon. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Oh, you only have to pace half of it.” she replied.

So, here was a grand opportunity. Free admission into the Portland Marathon, a little bit of pacing for the first half, then I could run my own race to finish the second. It seemed like a solid plan if I didn’t take my lack of time to actually train for such a thing into account, and I didn’t.

I signed up as a pacer and proceeded to implement my training program. I don’t consider myself a trainer by any stretch of the imagination; I know I am no Hal Higdon. But, for those of you interested, the following is an overview of the training I did. Keep in mind, at the beginning of the two months I was already at a half marathon capability.

Week one: Tell everyone I know that I think I am crazy because I just signed up to run a marathon and had no time for training.

Week two: Start my running training, but note that I cannot run at night by myself on the bridge loop (Andrew was out of town) because from the darkness, the men in the park say things like “where you running off to, honey?” in gruff voices that scare the bejeezus out of me. I was so frightened it was my fastest time on the bridge loop ever. However, once I finished I called Andrew and kept him on the phone even once I got to the house,  walked through it looking for monsters, and all the way until I fell asleep.

Week three: Run about 17 miles during the week because I was serious about training. That Saturday I decided to run 16 miles. At mile 8 I called Andrew to pick me up because I really didn’t feel well at all. Also, why does my shoulder hurt so bad? I need to take a week off and get some chiro/acupuncture/massage assistance. But, at least I got 25 miles in.

Week four: So on Monday night I had the first rehearsal for Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, Tuesday nights is ComedySportz rehearsal, Wednesday nights is Unscriptables rehearsal, Thursday night Andrew took me to Chicago (the musical – It was fun, but I think they were so busy getting “named” stars that they didn’t concentrate on gathering talent. I mean, Chicago is a Bob Fosse musical. It is all about DANCE. Two of the three leads were definitely NOT dancers. If you add in Mama and Roxie’s husband then it was only one of the 5 leads was a dancer. This does not make for a stellar production of Chicago. But, I love going to shows with Andrew.), Friday I had a show, after work. I didn’t really have a lot of time to run.

Week five: Sunday was Pints to Pasta, the minimal running I had been doing in the prior training weeks seemed to have been enough to jet through the downhill 10K. I also managed to leave Andrew in the dust – this was mostly due to the fact that he hadn’t been on a run in about two months and with all of his Crossfit-ness he has gained about 15 pounds in muscle. Seriously, he is bulging out of his shirt with all this muscle-y shoulder goodness. It’s super hot. But, slow. Even on a downhill. Tuesday I went for a four mile lunch run. (That’s a total of 10 miles for the week, for those of you counting).

Week six: If it seems like week five didn’t have a lot of running in it, keep in mind I ran that Pints to Pasta 10K pretty well. Week Six’s Sunday I joined the Red Lizards in a run up in Portland’s Northwest area. I ran 6 miles and pretty much had enough. Running seems to have gotten harder since I signed up for a marathon.

Week seven: Well, here we go, I had a relay race called Gorgeous Relay. It was the inaugural year and I ran with my same group that I did the Ragnar Northwest Passage with. I ran about 13 of the 70 miles and they were easy, and good, and of course I was running better than ever because I was marathon training. I made sure to let everyone on my team know my marathon plans as well (all part of the training). On top of that, I probably had another cumulative 9 miles in this week. (That’s a total of 22 miles in one week.) I was on the right track!

Week eight: This is the week before the marathon. I was traveling to Bellevue for a work conference. Luckily there were some runs scheduled in the mornings. Unfortunately, I was unavailable to run them (read: hungover). I got home from the conference Wednesday night. Thursday I went out and ran a mile – to stay limber for the marathon on Sunday.

Saturday: I had a show at ComedySportz. I got home at 10:30 and fell asleep no later than midnight.

Sunday: I awoke at 4:30 after four and a half hours of waking up every 45 minutes to check my phone and make sure that my alarm hadn’t accidentally not gone off. I got dressed and ate a lot of foodstuffs. All of the Red Lizards pacers were supposed to meet up at 6:15 and I made it just in time. My friend Stephanie (read: Bethany), was in my same starting corral we took some pictures, made people laugh with our banter and suddenly it was time to take off.

I felt great. As a pacer you generally want to run at a slower pace than you normally would run in order to be able to motivate people. I was running in the pace group that was about 1.5 minutes per mile slower than my normal running pace. My co-pacer and I were switching off the sign holding every two miles.

At about mile 8 I took a sip of the Gatorade analog they were handing out at the water stations. I don’t really eat or drink sugar. So, inevitably, immediately after sipping the Kool-Aid like beverage I had to use a porta potty. I left my co-pacer with the sign and pace group with the promise of trying to catch up as soon as I could.

Where we were there was only one potty. It was in use. It took about two minutes – which felt like an hour – I finally got in and out (I will spare you the details) and then went to catch up with my pace group. For a mile and a half I ran at my top “conversational” speed. I caught up a little past 10 miles and grabbed the pacing sign. I slowed back down to the 10:20 we were steadily pacing.

Based on the above training regime I am sure that what happened next will be a surprise.

After another mile my body hit the wall. My legs suddenly ached, my calves were crying, my hip flexors were not having it. In truth, my body wanted to speed up. But here we were going up a hill. There was no way to pace faster. I handed off the sign and started slowing down to the back of the pace group and then speeding up to the front.

My body was completely hammered. Every last inch of me was screaming in pain. Also, I was hungry and due to much pre-race vacillation as to what the best run food would be (Sugar is really not good to my stomach – see above – and most running fuels have sugar. I think I may try to do a sweet potato nuts mix of something next time I run long distance.), I settled on bringing none.

I crossed over the halfway mark continued to the 14 mile marker, as I had been asked to do by the pacers organizer, and then dropped. I called Andrew, who was standing by expecting this precise call, and told him where to pick me up.

And that is how I trained for the marathon.

The whole thing made me feel kind of old and sad. Not so much because I didn’t finish, I mean, I was certainly not trained up and that was the best decision to make for my body and myself. But therein lies the rub. Not even five years ago I would have made a terrible decision. I would have pushed through. I would have injured myself almost irreparably. Sadly, I think my performance in the Portland Marathon this year proves that somehow, while I wasn’t looking…

I. Became. An. Adult.

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